This article was written by Samuel J. Macguire and published in the 'Galway Reader' in the 1950s. The 'Galway Reader' is available from Galway Public Library.
Bagwell, the Tax Collector
In the year 1729 Mr Hubert Burke, a professing Protestant, was a magistrate at Loughrea, and in that capacity entertained the collector of the revenue when he came to collect the hearth-money tax. Mr. Bagwell, the collector, was in bed at Burke's house when Burke's eldest son came drunk into the room with a fiddler and a servant, and held a candle to the collector's nose. Springing out of bed, Bagwell snatched a stick out of young Burke's hands ordered him to leave the room, and after a scuffle drove him out and locked the door.
In the morning young Burke sent Bagwell a challenge. Bagwell replied that he was in Loughrea on the service of the Government. He had neither time nor inclination for such fool's play as duelling, and sent the messenger about his business. On receiving the collector's reply the family considered that they had been grossly insulted. Ancient habits and manners lingered in Galway. The old gentleman told his son that "if he did not bring him gentleman's or kerne's or churl's satisfaction " out of a man who had struck a Burke, he would never own him more. In the evening young Burke gathered a number of his friends in the yard of the house, sent a message to the collector that he was wanted, and when he appeared he was attacked with a loaded whip, received a fracture of the skull, and was left for dead.
A commissioner of the revenue in the neighbourhood, being told of the attack on Bagwell, applied for a company of soldiers from Portumna barracks to take young Burke prisoner, and bring him to Dublin for trail. A civil warrant, he said, would be useless,
"for the offender's father, being a magistrate, could procure any number of villains to prevent it from being executed. Were a Burke tried at the Galway Assizes he had so many relations and namesakes that no verdict could be procured against him. Moreover, without soldiers, neither he nor his accomplices could be taken at all, or, if taken, be conveyed to the county goal."
Bagwell recovered from his injuries but retained a bitter memory of the Burkes. In 1743, he writes from Tipperary, "I have a large walk in this country, some parts of it being wild and well stocked with the vermin called Papists, who, I fear, will destroy me when I am amongst them upon my collection."
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