Rivalry between the rural parish of Lusmagh and the town of Banagher goes back centuries to the medieval territorial disputes between the McCoughlans of Offaly and the O'Maddens of County Galway. This rivalry probably intensified during the British occupation of Ireland, when there was an English garrison in Banagher. The sport of faction fighting which took hold of Ireland in the early19th century provided an outlet for physical expression of this historic rivalry.
On 4th of January, 1814, the Lusmagh men served notice of their intention of
beating Banagher, i.e., a notice to the following effect (according to Patrick
O'Donnell in the parish magazine, The Lusmagh Herb: The Annals of a Country
Parish, 1982) was posted prominently in the town:
"We, the parishioners of Lusmagh give notice to the town of Banagher that
we will go in on Thursday next and give them battle. Every man jack from 12 to
60 will turn out. We defy the best yeomen of Captain Armstrong. We will disarm
them and take the town. Let ye rue the hour that we go in."
On the day, (6th January), at least 500 Lusmagh men, armed with sticks and
stones, marched on the town in columns. At 9 o'clock in the morning they came
face to face with the Banagher men, drawn up in lines on the main street, and
the battle was quickly joined. Yeomen, out of uniform, participated on the
Eventually, British soldiers, in their bright red uniforms, intervened and
placed themselves between the two factions. However, the Lusmagh men broke
through the military line and resumed the fight.
Captain Armstrong marched a detachment of the 12th regiment to the scene and
ordered them to fire on the Lusmagh men. Three Lusmagh men were shot dead and 5
were wounded. The fighting stopped immediately, and the Banagher people joined
the Lusmaghs in doing what they could for the casualties.
Thus, a good day's sport of stick fighting and stone throwing ended in
The actions of Armstrong and the soldiers was illegal, since troops were not
permitted by law to fire on civilians without the Riot Act first being
read, which was not done. However, in the enquiries that followed the incident,
the culprits were white-washed, as was customary in relation to acts of the
occupying forces in Ireland.