Some Interesting Characters

Luke Ryan – Pirate

Luke Ryan was born in Rush in 1750. At an early age he emigrated to France and obtained a commission as a lieutenant in Dillon’s Irish Regiment. After some time he returned to Rush and began operating as a smuggler between Ireland and France.

Between 1775 and 1783 France sympathised with the Americans during the War of Independence, and the French government commissioned Ryan as the commander of a privateer, The Black Prince. For several years he plundered English ships around the English coast.

Early in 1782 English forces captured Ryan aboard the Cologne. A short time later, on 30th of March, he was convicted in the Old Bailey in London on charges of piracy, smuggling and treason, and condemned to death. Ryan led a charmed life, however. Ordered to the gallows four times, four times he was reprieved. At the conclusion of the war, the French intervened on his behalf and secured his release.

Unfortunately, his nest egg, some £70,000, which he had amassed from smuggling and privateering, was appropriated by French bankers.

In stark contrast to his colourful and exciting younger days, Luke Ryan died in the King’s bench debtors’ prison in 1789, where he had been detained for a debt of £200.

Michael Collier – Highwayman

Born in 1780, Michael Collier was a highwayman who operated along the old Dublin to Belfast coach road between Balrothery and Balscadden. Collier was a reckless, generous and gallant man. He was a trustworthy friend and a hard but not vindictive enemy. He was loved by the poor, and it is believed, was sheltered by the not so poor when being hunted by the Law.

He was once caught and sentenced to death, but managed to escape. Slipping away from Trim Jail, he plunged into the Boyne and swam to freedom under a hail of bullets, escaping with only a slight wound.

Despite the price on his head, Collier lived free until 1849, when he met an enemy he could neither fight nor flee from – cholera.

Jack the Bachelor – Smuggler

Jack the Bachelor and Jack Field are aliases for a smuggler named Jack Connor, who lived in Rush. Connor was a native of Wexford. He practised his trade from the Smugglers Cave between Loughshinney and Skerries.

Connor was a romantic and swashbuckiling character, and was very popular in high society circles. One 18th century ballad mentions him in a particularly rich-worded verse:

The lover may sigh
The courtier may lie
And Croesus his treasure amass,
All these joys are but vain
They are blended with pain
I’ll stand behind Field and my glass.

A number of stories circulate about Jack’s cave, most claiming it holds treasure. One rather far-fetched version has a huge green serpent guarding the treasure. Another has two men going in search of the riches, never to be seen again. Presumably the serpent got them. Others say that the cave extends as far as Baldongan Castle.