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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Battle of Vinegar Hill commemorated

On March 5th 1804, a group of more than 200 escaped convicts and a few settlers faced off against a contingent of British soldiers near Rouse Hill in Western Sydney in what became known as the Battle of Vinegar Hill.

Earlier this month, a commemoration ceremony was held at the Vinegar Hill Memorial in the Castlebrook Memorial Gardens, Rouse Hill, marking the 220th anniversary of that battle, the first between Europeans on Australian soil.

Blacktown City Mayor Tony Bleasdale OAM led the commemoration along with the Irish Consul General in Sydney, Rosie Kean, local historians, Councillors and members of Sydney’s Irish community.

The ceremony included the laying of three wreaths, the singing of both the Australian and Irish national anthems, speeches by Mayor Bleasdale and Consul General Kean, Irish pipe music performances and an historical perspective of the Battle of Vinegar Hill by the Secretary of Castle Hill Historical Society, Pam Wilson.

While Australia’s Battle of Vinegar Hill, or Vinegar Hill Rebellion, was fought in 1804, the seeds of the uprising can be traced to the bloody battle at Vinegar Hill in County Wexford, Ireland in 1798.

Thousands of Irish rebels were killed or captured by British troops in the battle regarded as a major turning point of the Irish rebellion. A number of those rebels were transported to New South Wales and found their way to the Castle Hill Convict Farm

On 4 March 1804, 233 convicts, led by Philip Cunningham, a veteran of the 1798 rebellion, escaped from Castle Hill Convict Farm and planned to march on Parramatta and Sydney under the banner “liberty and equality”.

Martial law was declared and eventually Cunningham’s rebels were defeated by British troops in Australia’s Battle of Vinegar Hill. The leaders of the rebels were either killed in battle or executed.

The Vinegar Hill Monument was unveiled by former Prime Minister, Hon. Gough Whitlam on March 5th, 1988.

Speaking at the ceremony, Mayor Bleasdale said: “While both Battles of Vinegar Hill resulted in defeat of the rebels by British troops, they both shared a common spirit of rebellion and the fight for liberty and equality.

“The Vinegar Hill Monument here in Rouse Hill is not only a monument to the Battle of Vinegar Hill but also a monument to liberty and equality and a monument to the pioneering spirit and determination of those early European settlers no matter what their nationality or social standing.”

Irish Consul General Rosie Kean said: “I am incredibly proud to be here, celebrating the battle of Vinegar Hill. Irish people feel at home here in the City of Blacktown and there are so many reasons for this, not the least of which is a shared culture.”

The commemoration ceremony was followed by an Irish Appreciation Day at The Fiddler, Rouse Hill to celebrate Blacktown City Council’s ‘Sister City’ relationship with Enniscorthy, County Wexford in Ireland, signed in August 2023.

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