John Prendergast – Irish rebel or convicted felon?

Over the past 8 years, during my quest to find Prendergast ancestry, a number of people have asked me “Was John Prendergast a rebel or a convicted falon?”

Slowly, with the changes to the privacy laws in Ireland and the launch of the Catholic parish records 8 July 2015 https://vimeo.com/138285559 that information is being released on line. I was delighted to be an invited guest at the launch of the Catholic Parish records and excited to be introduced to Enda Kenny on this momentous occasion. The information from these church records forms the basis of my research into the Irish Prendergast family.

Photograph of me with Enda Kenny

John Prendergast was baptised in Dublin at the St. Nicholas of Myra church. This catholic church is located in the same street that John and his family lived, Francis Street, Dublin. Although it is not publicly available on line, I do have documentation to confirm that the Prendergast family lived in Francis Street for many years.

Following several emails between Ruan O’Donnell and myself, I have been able to construct a plausible explanation of John Prendergast’s status.

In his email to me in February, Doctor Ruan O’Donnell, head of the history department at the University of Limerick advised me that Wicklow rebels and their families often hid out at Francis Street “when things were very hot” and that Francis Street is where the ‘Sun Inn’ was the meeting place for the Leinster directorate of the United Irishment. It would appear that John Prendergast was an Irish rebel and involved with several members of the Society of United Irishmen.

* Dr. O’Donnell has conducted research and studies both here in Australia and in Ireland and is a well known expert on the 1798 Rebellion. He has published several books. The title of the book I read is “The Rebellion in Wicklow, 1798. If you are a member and would like to read it, the book is available from the State Library of NSW. The CALL NUMBERS is N941.807/1

Bond, Oliver Cromwell | Dictionary of Irish Biography (dib.ie)

Oliver bond was a leader in the Leinster Directorate. Both Oliver Bond’s home and John Prendergast’s homes were situated in the Liberty district of Dublin, Oliver Bond’s home was at 9 Lower Bridge Street which was 1 minute’s walk from John Prendergast’s Francis Street home. Oliver Bond was a wool merchant and John Prendergast a weaver.

Copy of Perkin Papers document

(given to me by my mum, fellow researcher Lorna Prendergast)

Although this document is dated 20 May 1798, we know that the 1798 rebellion did not commence until 23 May, 1798. This document details the interrogation of John Pender (Prendergast) and confirms the family story that John Prendergast was a rebel. Following the arrests on 12 March 1798, 14 members of the Leinster directorate whose leader was Oliver Bond were imprisoned, the other members who got away were being watched. John Prendergast was arrested in April for a petty crime, tried and transported to Australia.

John Prendergast was transported to Australia on board the Minerva. There is a great account of that journey and biographies of most of the rebels in Barbara Hall’s book “The Rebel Ship Minerva – From Ireland to Sydney, 1800.

From when he arrived in Australia 11 January 1800 until his death 27 January 1833, records show the majority of John Prendergast’s business and social dealings were with fellow passengers/rebels who were transported to Australia with him on board the Minerva.

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