The eighteenth century was a time of great hardship in Ulster. The Irish parliament had become a byword for corruption, and, under pressure from England, crippling restrictions were imposed on Irish trade. Poverty was widespread and affected Catholics and Protestants alike. To add to their suffering, the poor were oppressed by the extortions of greedy agents and middlemen. Smuggling was rife and lawless banditti roamed the country. Inspired by the examples of the American and French revolutions, the United Irishmen fanned the flames of revolt. Authority of all kinds, secular and clerical, was assailed, and as the century drew to a close Ulster erupted in rebellion.
Michael Steven Sheane was born in England in 1947. He was educated at Larne Grammar School and Orange's Academy, Belfast, a mixed Protestant and Catholic college, and attended Trinity College Dublin. A man from Ballygally on the Antrim Coast, he now lives in Antrim. His hobbies include stamp collecting, photography and walking. He contributes to press, radio and television on Ulster affairs. He also writes for Ireland's Own, and now combines writing with business.