Approaching Plassey across the bridge allows a view of picturesque sections of the community. Swans nest near a worn pathway lined with trees. On the left is the beautiful lock house (Annabeg house) owned by the Ryan Family. To the right, fishermen cast their lines from a stony area of the river known as "Jim Stones". This is a very special spot for fishermen and is named after the late Jim Ryan who lived in Annabeg House (a private home), Plassey until the 1980s. The family still live here.
In the 1970s a technical college, which later became the University of Limerick, was built at Plassey. Thomond College of Education, Limerick was also located on the same campus and was later dissolved and integrated into the university.
McAdam directed the enemy to the place known as Annaghbeg in Corbally, which was located opposite Plassey mill about two miles up from the city. At Annaghbeg there was a ford which until recently had been marked with “two short rows of rocks running parallel to the river bank”. Consequently, the Williamite troops crossed the Shannon at Annaghbeg and went on to sack the city.
When McAdam died he was buried in his family grave in Kilquane churchyard in Parteen, the Abbey fishermen, who felt such vengeance against the man, had a shelter close to the church grounds, in which they would rest and eat. On stopping at this particular shelter they felt it their duty to visit the grave of McAdam, spit on it, and vandalize it in other ways. This grave was ritually desecrated for over two centuries until at least 1918, in an act de rigueur by the families of the fishermen who felt betrayed by McAdam.
The following poems were recited in relation to the betrayal the fisher folk felt,
One source claims that the community would take an annual pilgrimage of sorts to the headstone bearing his name and at this they would spit, throw stones, and dance on his grave, continuing this ritual until at least 1918. The first two lines of poem number one, recorded above, were etched into his tombstone, at sometime between 1839 when there was no mention of the inscription in the recording made by John O’Donovan The Antiquities of County Clare and 1866 when it was recorded by Maurice Lenihan in his History of Limerick, this inscription shows the ferocity with which this man was despised by the community involved. As “disrespect for the dead was not prominent” during the ninetieth and early twentieth centuries, in normal circumstances for Irish society and even less so in predominantly [[Roman Catholic}} communities, this man must have been extremely alienated from his society to warrant such an attack.
The historical truth of this story is that the Williamite army did in fact cross the Shannon at Annaghbeg on the morning of 10 August 1690 without “opposition”. On the previous night of the 9 August 1690, a troop was sent to view the ford at Annaghbeg where the “enemy being thus posted so very advantageously that we expected to have met with great difficulties and opposition in passing the River, which is very Rapid, and the bottom stony, but the Enemy in the middle of the Night abandoned their Station with great precipitation”. No reference to a man by the name of McAdam is found in any of the sources written at the time of the siege and quoted in the Old Limerick Journal 1690 Siege Edition.
Major Thomas Stannard McAdam, a descendant of Phillip McAdam, was asked about the tale and the receipt of the land by Maurice Lenihan during the compilation of his book on the history of Limerick. The Major produced papers to prove that his ancestors had rented the estate from the earl of Thomond long before the siege.
Another variation of this tale is that it was not a Philip McAdam, or an incident surrounding the siege of Limerick, which the Abbey fishermen refer to when speaking of the traitor or desecrating the McAdam grave. It is due to the actions of another man, Thomas McAdam of Blackwater County Clare, a possible descendant of the accused Philip McAdam, as both his and Philip’s actual descendant Thomas Stannard resided in Blackwater, Co. Clare. Thomas was a leaser of the Lax weir between 1818 and 1834. On one occasion during this period, upon catching poachers on the weir, he shot a fisherman named John Hartigan in the eye, leading to Hartigan’s death a few months later. This may have been seen as just cause to vandalize the McAdam grave. It is also possible that it was both men of the McAdam clan at whom the stories, poems and despoliation were aimed.
In conclusion, the tale of McAdam the Traitor, although not necessarily historically accurate, played a pivotal role in the social structure of this fishing community. It may have been an element in keeping the community together due to fear of the consequences of going against convention. The legends of this man were maintained through generations through the use of folklore, adapting as time went on. But the basic moral of the story was ingrained in the tale, "Do not betray your community or eternal damnation will be yours".