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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Keugh, Matthew

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KEUGH, MATTHEW (1744?–1798), governor of Wexford, born of a protestant family in Ireland about 1744, rose by his ability during the American war from the position of private to that of ensign, being gazetted in the 60th or royal American regiment of foot on 31 Oct. 1763. On 14 July 1769 he was appointed lieutenant in the 45th regiment of foot (Ireland), from which he was transferred on 14 March 1772 to the 27th or Inniskilling regiment of foot (Ireland). On retiring from the army in 1774 (Army Lists) he went to live upon his property in the town of Wexford. He became a J.P., but was deprived of his commission in 1796 for his revolutionary sympathies. Upon the occupation of Wexford by the insurgents on 30 May 1798, Keugh was chosen by them military governor of the town. Though he endeavoured to protect such of the royalists as remained, he was powerless to prevent the piking on the bridge on 20 June of 97 out of the 260 prisoners who were charged with having wronged the peasantry. When the capture of Wexford by the military was inevitable, Keugh formally placed the government in the hands of the loyalist Lord Kingsborough, hoping thereby to save the town from massacre and plunder. He was ultimately brought to a drumhead trial. Lord Kingsborough, Colonel Le Hunte, and other witnesses of good social standing stated that Keugh had acted on all occasions with singular humanity, and had tried to prevent effusion of blood, and that they owed their lives to his personal interference. He was nevertheless executed on the bridge on 25 June 1798; his body was thrown into the river, and his head placed on the courthouse. In private life Keugh was esteemed for his many amiable qualities and accomplishments. He married an aunt of the wife of Sir Jonah Barrington.

[Webb's Compendium of Irish Biography; Musgrave's Hist. of the Irish Rebellions; Madden's United Irishmen; Lecky's England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. viii.; Barrington's Personal Sketches.]

G. G.