James Jemmy Hope

Hope was a United Irishman and a socio-religious radical

James ‘Jemmy’ Hope was born on August 25, 1764, in Templepatrick, Co Antrim. The son of a Presbyterian linen weaver, Hope was hired by a farmer who encouraged him to improve his rudimentary education. He subsequently learned to read and write attending night classes at the age of 10.

Hope had a keen interest in public affairs and derived his radical policies from the Bible. He insisted that those who cultivated the land should be its proprietors, and believed that the condition of the labouring class was the fundamental question between the rulers and the people.

Hope became a linen weaver and a member of the Volunteers before he joined the United Irishmen in 1795. Soon afterwards, he sat on the central committee in Belfast, and together with Henry Joy McCracken recruited Presbyterian tenants and farm labourers to the movement.

Hope also recruited in Dublin when he was employed there as a cotton weaver. Known as ‘the Spartan’, he was described as being observant, discreet, thoughtful, incorruptible and independent. He was married to Rose Mullen, and they had four children.

In 1798, Hope led ‘the Spartan Band’, a detachment of weavers and labourers, into the battle of Antrim. After the United Irish defeat, he followed McCracken into hiding, and managed to escape to Dublin.

Hope became involved in Robert Emmet’s rebellion in 1803, and travelled to the north with Thomas Russell. He again evaded arrest and worked clandestinely in various places in the south of Ireland until 1806, when the political amnesty allowed him to return to Belfast. Living mainly in obscurity and humble circumstances, he died in 1847 and is buried at Mallusk, Co Antrim. Hope’s memoirs were published by RR Madden in 1846.

Further Reading:
The Memoirs of Jemmy Hope: An Autobiography of a Working-Class United Irishman (1972) edited by Richard R Madden; Antrim and Down in '98: The Lives of Henry Joy McCracken, James Hope, William Putnam McCabe, Rev James Porter, Henry Munro (1846) by Richard R Madden.