21 March 1801. There is an interesting etched portrait of Holt by his pupil, W. Rogers, of which there are small reproductions in the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ and the ‘Transactions of the Historic Society.’
[Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, vi. 57; Gent. Mag. 1801, i. 285, 370, ii. 793; Smither’s Liverpool, 1825, p. 424.]
HOLT, JOSEPH (1756-1826), Irish rebel, born in 1756, was son of John Holt, a well-to-do farmer of Ballydaniel, in the parish of Castlemacadam, co. Wicklow. In 1782 he married Hester Long the daughter of a neighbouring farmer, at Roundwood, and became a small farmer on his own account. His farm prospered, and to the profits arising from it he added considerably as chief barony constable, overseer of public works in the parish of Dirrelossery, deputy billet-master, and deputy alnager for the counties of Wicklow and Wexford under Sir John Blaquiere. His position shortly before the outbreak of the rebellion was one of comfort. He was a protestant, and he had no thought of rebellion. Unfortunately he had incurred the hatred of his landlord, who, in order to revenge himself, denounced Holt in 1798 as a United Irishman and a rebel. A troop of yeomanry soon visited Holt’s cottage with the intention of arresting him. Holt himself happened to be absent, but a few letters addressed to him were found, and these being construed into treason, his cottage was fired. Exasperated by this treatment, Holt became a rebel, gathered round him a number of men similarly circumstanced, and with them retired to the neighbourhood of Glendalough. The numbers of his followers increased daily, but with the exception of some Shelmaliere marksmen the majority of them only possessed pikes. Constant drill, however, did much to counterbalance this defect, and Holt’s little army soon presented a formidable appearance. His want of ammunition compelled him to manufacture his own gunpowder, but in this respect he relied chiefly upon the good services of a woman attached to his camp, who, moving freely among the British troops, seldom returned to him without two or three hundred cartridges concealed about her person.
It was the middle of June 1798 before Holt was ready to take the field. On the 20th he moved in the direction of Wexford, and at Ballymanus he fell in with a body of the Wexford rebels under Edward Roche [q. v.], who were escaping from the rout at Vinegar Hill. A joint attack on Hacketstown and Carnew followed, but a considerable force of cavalry having been despatched from Gorey, the rebels were compelled to act on the defensive. At Ballyellis they obtained a complete victory over the troops, which was entirely due to the tactical arrangements adopted by Holt. It was the first affair of any importance in which he had been engaged, and it gave him a considerable military reputation. But he was dissatisfied with the conduct of Roche, and withdrawing with his contingent, he retired to his old quarters in co. Wicklow. Crowds of starving rebels flocked to his standard, and before long he estimated that he had more than thirteen thousand men under his command. His intention was to march on Newton Mount Kennedy, to seize the guns there, and then to attack Wicklow. Seeing that the rebellion was practically at an end, he intended, after accomplishing this, to make terms with the government. His plans, however, was overruled by the influence of Father Kearns [q. v.], and it was determined to march through Kildare and Meath in order to gather fresh recruits and spread the flame of rebellion elsewhere. The scheme, as Holt foresaw, failed. Desertion thinned their ranks, drunkenness and disorder did the rest, and at Castle Carberry they were utterly routed. Holt himself managed to escape, and, choosing with characteristic boldness the road that lay directly through Dublin, he succeeded with difficulty in reaching his old quarters. He was soon joined by a number of his old followers, but his position was one of difficulty and danger. It was the end of August, the cold weather was setting in, provisions were growing scarce, the rebellion elsewhere had come to an end, and the troops were closing in upon him from all sides. The government had offered a reward for his capture, his protestantism exposed him to suspicion among his followers, several of whom were ready, if the occasion offered, to sell their leader. Holt’s knowledge of the country, however, and his resourcefulness enabled him to elude capture for more than two months, but after many miraculous escapes he surrendered on 10 Nov. to Lord Powerscourt. On the following day he was sent to Dublin and confined in the Castle. He was sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay. On 1 Jan. 1799 he was conveyed by sea to Cork, and transferred to the convict ship Minerva. Great inducements were offered him to turn informer, but this he honourably refused to do. Nevertheless, during his detention in the Cove of Cork he thought it his duty to convey to government certain information that had come to his knowledge of a projected rising in the neighbourhood of Cork (Castlereagh Correspond-