|SAINTFIELD HOUSE TAKEN
Although it is not mentioned in W. G. Lyttle's book, the insurgents took
over Saintfield House after the Battle of Saintfield, and many military men
believe that if they had remained there they would have had a better chance
of defeating the Crown forces in a major encounter than they had at
When the soldiers returned to Saintfield the rebels had already left, but
before they were aware of this the military had opened fire and a cannon
ball penetrated the roof of the building.
The basement of the house is surrounded by an underground passage, and
the army found a drunken rebel in this when they took over. He was dragged
out and shot in front of the hall door.
The following notes relating to the Rebellion of 1798 in the Saintfield
area were collected by John Cardwell, a Tonaghmore farmer in the latter half
of the nineteenth century.
Daniel Mellin was a farmer who lived in Tonaghmore. He took an active
part in the popular side and was engaged in the manufacture of bullets and
pikes. He was also a good marksman, and he was the rebel who shot Captain
William Chetwynd at the Battle of Saintfield. (There is a mural tablet in
Comber Parish Church to the British Army officers who were killed at
Saintfield). Mellin regretted this action until his dying day.
Before the insurrection the rebels here were drilled in Tonaghmore by a
small farmer and weaver named Kirkpatrick. Sticks were used instead of arms.
Kirkpatrick was wounded at the Battle of Saintfield by a random shot, and he
stated that it was a similar shot that killed the Rev. Mortimer.
John Skelly, of Tullywest, took the oath of allegiance, but his wife was
dissatisfied with him for doing so and persuaded him to the rebels. Skelly
was present at the sacking of' Saintfield House. When subsequently arrested
by the Yeomen in his own house a silver ink-stand was noticed on his
mantleboard and recognised as belonging to Squire Price. On this evidence
Skelly was hanged.
When Mrs. Skelly heard of her husband's impending fate, she took a horse
and cart to the County Town and brought the body to Saintfield and buried it
in the Presbyterian Churchyard, where the grave is still to be seen. (The
pike which Skelly carried is now in the possession of Mrs. Caldwell, of
Great Victoria Street, Belfast, who is a cousin of Mr. R. B. Morrow of
Tullywest. Skelly's property now belongs to Mr. William Irvine).
Nothing could exceed the cruelty of the York Fencibles, both officers and
men. A detachment of them arrived at the house of James McMullin in
Drumnaconnell, and demanded cream to drink. A crock of cream was supplied to
them. They then asked for water, and McMullin, who was an old and feeble
man, proceeded to the well at the bottom of the garden to bring some. His
progress being slow, one of the Fencibles said, "I will hurry this old
fellow," and raising his gun shot McMullin through the heart. The soldiers
then burned the house, leaving a widow and daughter homeless.
Another contingent of York Fencibles visited the home of William George
in Tonaghmore. George was a rebel, and when he saw the soldiers surround his
house he tried to escape but two soldiers shot him. His wife would have
suffered likewise, but she fainted on seeing her husband shot. The soldiers
burned the house and a young horse perished in the flames. George's two sons
were "out" and fought bravely at Ballynahinch. A reward was subsequently
offered for their capture, but they escaped to America.
After leaving the burning ruins of George's house, the soldiers went a
few miles further on where they saw a poor half-naked fellow named Caugherty
herding the cows of a farmer named Jamison. One of the soldiers, levelling
his gun at Caugherty, said "Yon fellow would be a fine target to fire at".
The bullet passed through the victim's jaws without injuring a tooth. The
writer often saw him with a great scar on his face.
NORTH DOWN IN '98
JOHN MOORE JOHNSTON, who lived at Rockvale, Ballynahinch wrote in 1803
that "The rebels came from the eastern part of the county as the plague of
locusts came in Egypt." This statement is by and large correct. Some of the
rebels were from the Ballynahinch-Saintfield area, but the great majority
were from the Ards, North Down, and the Lough shore between Newtownards and
Killinchy - men like Hugh Dunn of Holywood, James Scott of Bangor, John
Morrison of Donaghadee, Robert Gowdy of Dunover, Thomas Torney of Killinchy,
James Wightman of Crawfordsburn, and Thomas McKibben of Portaferry. The list
North Down rose in revolt on Saturday morning, 9th June, and when that
evening the Royalist troops were defeated at Saintfield the whole of North
Down and the Ards, with the exception of Newtownards and Portaferry, was in
the control of the insurgents. The rebels attacked Portaferry on Sunday, and
although they were driven off, the garrison thought it prudent to evacuate
Newtownards was also attacked on Sunday. Cpl. Wm Sparks, of the York
Fencible Infantry, who was stationed in the Market House, later told that
about 3 a.m. he saw a large body of armed men march down North Street. They
were led by Samuel Rankin of Newtownards, who was armed with a broad troop
sword, and Wm. Davidson, of Greenwell Street, Newtownards, who carried a
pike. Sparks watched the rebels "form a line before the Market House and
commence an attack on His Majesty's forces stationed there. In a short time
the rebels were dispersed by the fire from the King's troops." The rebels
did not escape unscathed, as the tombstone to the memory of the brothers
Maxwell in Whitechurch graveyard, Ballywalter, testifies.
But despite the reversal at Newtownards the rebels proceeded to take
control of North Down. At Donaghadee, Wm. Blain, a carman, and John
Johnston, a grocer, acted as a town committee, while Samuel Boal, armed with
a blunderbus, was in command of the rebel garrison.
There is little doubt that although many men were forced to join the
rebel ranks, many others like Hugh Montgomery, of Newtownards, a tailor,
joined them willingly. Montgomery later said that he was standing at his
father's door about three o'clock on the afternoon of the attack on
Newtownards when John Biers, of Newtownards, hosier, called on him to join
the rebels on Scrabo Hill. He did so, and joined the Newtown Musketry, and
was drilled by Biers, who had the rank of sergeant. After drilling they
marched to Comber, then to Saintfield, and on to Ballynahinch. Montgomery
fought at Windmill Hill on Tuesday night, but ran away early on Wednesday
AFTERMATH OF BATTLE
REBEL FOUND IN STRANGFORD LOUGH
The Yeomen pursued the fleeing insurgents all over the county, and many
were caught and hanged for their part in the rebellion.
A rebel named Coulter, who was taken by the Inch Yeomanry, had made his
way from the Battle of Ballynahinch to a house on the shore of Strangford
Lough, owned by a Mr. Porter, whose daughter was Coulter's sweetheart.
The authorities suspected he might be there and the Inch Yeomanry were
sent to find him. Coulter saw them approach and ran along the shore, but he
was shot in the heel and the Yeomen were able to follow the blood marks.
Coulter swam about 50 yards across the Lough to Gore's Island and hid in a
field of wheat. The Yeomen followed and the officer in charge had the field
quartered, but a Yeoman who saw Coulter signalled him to stay low and didn't
give him away However, the officer was not satisfied and had the field
quartered in the opposite direction. The result was that Coulter was
apprehended and taken to Downpatrick where he was hanged. The field on
Gore's Island is still known as "Coulter's Field".
Before leaving. the Yeomen burned Porter's house and also the adjoining
house which was owned by Mr. George Torney, great-great-grandfather of Mr.
Thomas H. Torney, of Scadden House, Strangford. Only two chairs were saved
when the houses were burned and these are in the possession of the present
Mr. Torney. The houses stood on the shores of the lough where Mr. Moses
Neill now resides.
STORIES FROM SPAMOUNT
Mr. Samuel Stranaghan, the present owner (1968) of Spamount, in which
Professor James Thomson, author of the "Eye Witness Account" of the Battle
of Ballynahinch, lived as a boy, related the following stories which were
told to him by his grandmother, who lived in Raleagh, Ballynahinch, from
"Her brothers, John and William Martin, were Yeomen at the Battle of
Ballynahinch," he said. "But either they weren't too keen on the fighting or
their hearts weren't in the Loyalist cause. They had been given charge of
two cavalry horses on Windmill Hill the night before the Battle, while the
officers went into the town. During the night they tied the horses to a tree
and hooked it off home.
"After the battle a search party went to their house and looked for them
everywhere. They stuck their bayonets into the bales of hay and straw in the
barn, and rummaged through the houses. And all the time the pair of boys
were hiding in a double-planted clipped laurel hedge. They were never
spotted, although at one time they could have touched the soldiers had they
wanted, they were so close.
"I heard any grandmother (who was 91 when she died in 1914) say that the
day before the Battle of Ballynahinch when the soldiers were on their way
from Saintfield, they rested on the roadside at Annacot Bridge, Ballylone.
One of the officers asked the farmer, William Burrowes if he would bring
them out something to drink. He said he had a crock of milk which he carried
out in his arms. One of the soldiers noticed that he had a bandage on his
hand and suggested to the officer that probably he had got wounded while
fighting for the insurgents. As the old man was carrying the empty crock
back into the house the officer joked that they should scare him by taking a
pot shot at the crock. Instead, the soldier shot William Burrowes in the
back and he died". (See page 134).
Mr. George Burrowes, J.P., who lives at Drumhill, Ballynahinch, confirmed
this story, and said that the grave of William Burrowes is marked in Old
Magheradroll Graveyard. The farm is presently occupied by Miss Florence
Keenan, niece of the late Mr. James Burrowes, and at her decease it will
revert to the Burrowes family name.
Mr. Stranaghan also mentioned that an old man named Hugh Burns was
bringing in the cows across the bog when 'he was shot by one of the
trigger-happy soldiers. Mr. Samuel Burns Carlisle, a descendant, now
occupies the farm.
BROTHERS MURDERED AT MUNNINABANE
Mr. Hugh McCann, of Drumkeeragh, Dromara, whose late father took an
interest in the '98 period, tells us that Pat and John Crawford, sons of a
widow, who lived at Munninabane, Dromara, were discovered hiding under the
bed by soldiers. The officer in charge ordered his men to shoot them where
they lay, and the bodies were left for the widow to remove.
Mr. Edward Totten, of Church Street, Ballynahinch, lived at Oughley,
Saintfield, during the 1880's and his grandmother, then a very old woman,
told him tales of the '9'8 period in that area. One of these concerned a
servant girl who, while being pursued by soldiers, hid in a hay loft on
their farm. One of the soldiers searched the loft sticking the bayonet into
the hay at intervals and one of his "stabs" passed through the "ball" of the
INSURGENT BETRAYED AND SHOT
An insurgent called Brian McCormick, who was one of the Killinchy
contingent, is buried in an unmarked grave on the Ballynahinch side of
Tievenadarragh forest plantation between the main Newcastle/Ballynahinch
road and the bye-road which runs from near Brennan's Corner to Drumaness.
The Killinchy contingent deserted Monro before the Battle of
Ballynahinch, possibly because he refused to attack the military during the
night of 12th/13th June. McCormick may have been one of the deserters and
was endeavouring to make his way home. Seeking country which afforded the
best cover, he made for the wooded ridge of Tievenadarragh.
Footsore and weary, for it was a hot June day, the exhausted rebel called
at a house some distance from the roadway, and begged of the young woman
there for same water and food. She readily complied, but observed from his
uniform that he was one of the United Irishmen, and no sooner had she set
the stranger down to a meal than she slipped out and informed her two
They were both Yeomen, and they kept watch till the insurgent left. Then
they got their muskets and followed him. After passing over some rough
ground McCormick was in the act of jumping into the wooded park when a shot
rang out and he fell dead. He was buried almost on the spot. Local tradition
says that ever afterwards strange noises haunted the house wherein the
insurgent was betrayed.
A century later a commemoration service was held nearby, and a parade
included Artana, Magheraleggan, Erinagh and other bands. The main speaker
opened his speech by quoting the poem which runs -
"Henry Joy and Harry Monro
Who fought for freedom one hundred years ago . . . "
However, the owner at that time of the land on which McCormick is buried
was an ardent loyalist and threatened to shoot the first one who would set
foot near the grave. Nevertheless, from a vantage point on the nearby march
ditch some of the leading personalities of the demonstration threw wreaths
on to and around the grave.
Around 1898 the grave was opened by a Mr. Boyd, and part of the green
uniform and buttons with K.V. engraved on them were uncovered. These were
kept as treasures, in a house in the locality, but were destroyed during the
GLASS FROM GROVE COTTAGE
Mr. Raymond Gilmore, of Tubber House, Kircubbin, is in possession of a
pane of glass from Grove Cottage, Ballyboley, on which the name of W. Byres
is scratched. The reader will recall, as related in Chapter 29, how William
and Alick Byres drew lots as to which of them should go to the Battle of
Ballynahinch. A collector of glass, Mr. Gilmore is able to tell from the
irregularities in the pane that it was made prior to the '98 period.
CAME FROM BATTLE OF ANTRIM
A Catholic rebel called McQuillan (not a Co. Down name) journeyed from
the Battle of Antrim and fought at Ballynahinch. He afterwards made his way
to the Dunmore area, where, according to tradition, he was spotted by Miss
Roseann Burns, who was spinning outside her home. He hid in the Burns
household and eventually married Roseann. The land is owned by Mr. Neil
O'Neill, whose grandfather married a McQuillan, but the old house is no
Miss Roseann McQuillan, of 1 Mourne View, Ballynahinch, is the last
surviving member of the McQuillan family in this area, and claims she is
called after Roseann Burns.
WHAT BECAME OF INFORMERS
There are many instances of how nothing but ill-luck came to those who
informed the authorities of the plans of the United Irishmen.
Nicholas Maginn, of Lessans, Saintfield, some of whose activities are
mentioned in W. G. Lyttle's book, was a Catholic who wormed his way into the
provincial committee and reported the plans of the United men to the Rev.
Cleland, who passed them on to Price of Saintfield, who in turn took the
tidings to Lord Castlereagh. Afterwards he used his ill-gotten gains to
purchase a farm 12 miles north of Banbridge at Green Hill for £1,500. He
later took to drink and finally died in jail from his debts.
Bad luck also befell Edward John Newell, of Downpatrick, who was one of
the worst of the informers, and the Rev. Fr. James Matthew MacCrory, of
Carrickfergus, who, it was said, "would go to hell for money."
A great uncle of John J. McMullan, of Clonvaraghan, said he saw a woman
called Holmes begging at Clonvaraghan Chapel, and the people told her, "Go
home for you betrayed Monro." The Holmes family, who were well off in 1798,
were eventually auctioned out of all their property.
Same of the families of those men who played principal roles in the
destruction of Betsy Gray's grave 70 years ago have also had bad luck!
Ballynahinch Businessman Shot
We have been able to trace the name of the man who was shot in
Ballynahinch on 9th June, 1798, during a scuffle in which a suspected rebel
was rescued from a party of the Castlewellan Yeomanry. (See Chapter 32, page
119.) He was Richard Cordner, an ancestor of Mr. George Burrowes, J.P., who
lives at Drumhill, Ballynahinch. The incident occurred outside what is now
Mr. Creeny's footwear shop in High Street.
Mr. W. E. Creeny, sen., told us that according to the deeds, Lord Moira,
who then owned Montalto estate and the town, sold the house to Cordner in
1788. Two adjoining houses were also included in the deeds, which stipulated
conditions regarding the payment of rent money, and stated that the owner's
corn would have to be ground at the local mill. The ground rent was 28/- per
It appears that the suspect was receiving a rather rough handling outside
Cordner's shop. The story goes that one of the women folk on seeing the
maltreatment, declared that if she were a man she "wouldn't let them do
that." So Cordner went out to remonstrate with the Yeomen and lost his life
in the scuffle which ensued. Cordner's grave is within the walls of Old
WHERE WAS BETSY GRAY BORN? CONFLICTING CLAIMS
There is a difference of opinion as to where Betsy Gray was born.
According to W. G. Lyttle, author of the main story of this book, she was
born near the Six Road Ends, between Newtownards and Bangor, and was the
daughter of Hans Gray.
But there is a tradition in the Dromara area that she was born at
Tullyniskey in a house which still stands on the outskirts of Waringsford
village in the Parish of Garvaghy. Evidence in support of this claim has
been collected by Mr. Colin Johnston Robb, a well-known local historian, who
resides near Spa, Ballynahinch.
THE TULLYNISKEY THEORY
Mr. Robb states that a Mr. John Gray, "whom one may describe as a very
careful and painstaking antiquary," interviewed Lyttle at the time his story
appeared, to query his authority, but "the best authority he could produce
was the testimony of an old man called Hans Gray Macartney, who asserted
that he heard his father say his mother was a near relative of Betsy Gray."
Mr. Robb points out that the Rev. W. T. Latimer, B.A., in "A History of
the Irish Presbyterians" relates that a James Gray, who claimed to be a
grandnephew of Betsy's, declared her to be a daughter of John and Rebecca
Gray, who lived in the town land of Tullyniskey.
This John Gray (states Robb) appears on the rental of the Waringsford
Estate, dated 1788, as a holder of 15 acres in Tullyniskey, and according to
the marriage register of Garvaghy Parish Church, he married, in June, 1774,
Rebecca Young, daughter of John Young of Tullyniskey. And the baptismal
register records that Elizabeth Gray, daughter of John and Rebecca Gray, was
baptized on 14th January, 1780. John Gray died in September, 1795, and his
wife in October, 1813. They were both interred at Garvaghy. According to an
estate map and rental attached, dated 1822, Jane Gray resided on the same
holding occupied by John Gray, but what relation she was of his is not
Rev. James Birch Black, in a letter dated Marybrook, Dromara, Thursday,
July 9th, 1818, states: "As to the rebel girl Gray, my uncle knew her well.
He says she was a pretty lass with golden curls, a fair daughter of humble
parents." Marybrook is a little over a mile from Waringsford.
In a letter written by James Sprott, of Ednego, Dromara, bailiff to the
Knox estate, dated May 10th, 1799, and addressed to Captain H. W. Knox, York
Place, London, he states, among other business-"As directed, sir, James
Graham has now builded and slated the house of the poor widow Gray, whose
daughter Eliza was buried at the Battle of Ballynahinch."
Miss Mary Ann McCracken, sister of the famous Henry Joy McCracken, tells
us that Betsy came from Killinchy. But Robb holds that Miss McCracken lived
in Belfast and got her informa tion second hand, and that as there is a
similarity in rhythm between the words Tullyniskey and Killinchy, "it could
well be understood how the confusion arose."
Mr. Robb adds that "it could be possible that Hans Gray Macartney
(referred to by Lyttle), who resided at Granshaw, near Bangor, was a
relative of the Grays of Tullyniskey, for in 1765 Gilbert Gray, of
Tullyniskey, became bailiff under Henry Waring, of Waringsford, at Bangor."
THE CASE FOR THE SIX ROAD ENDS
Now for the evidence in support of Mr. Lyttle's story regarding Betsy's
Miss Betsy Gray Macartney, a direct descendant of the George Macartney
who married Mary Boyd, a niece of Hans Gray, was interviewed at her home in
Belfast by the head of the firm of publishers of this book.
Miss Macartney produced the last will and testament of Hans Gray, of
Granshaw, the framed oath of allegiance which he signed in 1797, and an
indenture of conveyance of his lands at Granshaw for the furtherance of
George Macartney, who had married his niece (who it appears had come to keep
house for Hans Gray after the death of Betsy and George).
This conveyance dated 1803, mentioned that the farm had been leased on
13th June, 1764, by James Crawford to Elizabeth Gray, Hans Gray and John
Gray (presumably mother and two sons ).
In his will, dated 19th September, 1806, Hans Gray left his property in
trust to his sister, Eleanor Boyd, and at her decease to George Macartney.
Hans died, 13th October, 1807, and the lands were registered by George
Macartney on 6th January, 1831, after the death of his mother-in-law,
The Oath of Allegiance, which may or may not have been signed under
duress, is dated 20th June, 1797, and is as follows: Hans Gray, do sincerely
promise and swear, that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His
Majesty King George the Third, and that I will faithfully support and
maintain the laws and constitution of this Kingdom and the succession to the
Throne in His Majesty's illustrious house. So help me God."
The "family tree", compiled by Miss Macartney from entries made in A
History of the Bible," showed that George Macartney, who married Mary Boyd,
niece of Hans Gray, had a son born on 19th August, 1895, who was named Hans
Gray Macartney, and his eldest son, born 22nd February, 1844, was named
George. This George remained a bachelor, and along with his brother William
(who married late in life but had no issue) resided in the Gray homestead
(After their deaths the house was bought by the Wardens of Newtownards,
which family still own it).
James, another brother of William and George, who was born on 16th
September, 1847, and died on 23rd April, 1919, had a son Hans Gray Macartney,
who was the father of our present Miss Betsy Gray Macartney, and her brother
George Gray Macartney (who also lives in Belfast).
"I am the first girl to have been christened Betsy Gray", said Miss
Macartney, "but a daughter of our first George Macartney and Mary Boyd was
called Eliza, which may have been short for Elizabeth. A tradition of the
family has been for the eldest male of the succeeding generations to be
christened Hans Gray and George Gray alternately."
Heirlooms which have been handed down to Miss Macartney include a set of
pewter plates belonging to Hans Gray, with "H.G." engraved on them (it is
believed they were engraved by his son George), Hans Gray's sugar tongs, a
set of Georgian silver spoons, a Georgian glass, a brass guinea box dated
1684 and a pistol of the Rebellion period.
There was only one thing lacking, that was direct mention in the records
of Betsy or George Gray, who were, according to Lyttle's story, the children
of Hans Gray. Miss Macartney considered this understandable, since both were
dead when Hans Gray made his last will, and also that it would be prudent to
keep the names quiet for a long time after the ill-fated Rebellion.
"But it has been handed down direct from generation to generation that we
are the descendants of the same family," she said. She pointed out that her
great grandfather, Hans Gray Macartney, who was born in 1805, was the person
referred to by W. G. Lyttle as "a farmer aged 80 years" occupying Betsy
Gray's cottage at the time Lyttle was writing his story around 1885 for the
"North Down Herald" and "whose mother was a cousin of Betsy's".
A LETTER FROM AMERICA
Strong support for the claim that Betsy was born at the Six Road Ends was
forthcoming in a 77 years old letter which is in the possession of Mr. H. J.
Macartney, of Groomsport Road, Bangor, an uncle of Miss Betsy Gray Macartney.
The letter, dated 20th July, 1891, was written from Sandwich, Illinois,
America, by Mrs. Sanders (whose mother was a Macartney), to her cousin, Mr.
George Macartney, who was at that time residing in the Gray's house.
Mrs. Sanders was born about 1840, and her mother in 1806.
The relevant part of Mrs. Sanders' letter is as follows: --
"Yes, I had learned of the story of Betsy Gray, and had sent to the Author,
Mr. Lyttle, for a copy and it arrived a few days ago. Our mother had often
told us all about her. I had also read about her in the `History of
Ireland'. Our grandmother, Mary Boyd Macartney, had the stockings and
kerchief that was taken off her after she was dead I saw them when I was at
grandfather's when I was an infant. Mr. Lyttle sent me the `Sons of the
Sod', his almanac. and also `Robin's Reaching' which we enjoyed reading, but
I liked `Betsy Gray' the best. I did not remember until I had read the book
that she was born in your home, but she was."
A recent picture of the Gray's Cottage at Garvaghy.
The present publishers carried out further investigations, and discovered
from an old photograph that the memorial which was erected on the grave of
Betsy and George and Willie Boal at Ballycreen, Ballynahinch, on one side
bore the inscription "Erected by James Gray, grandnephew of Elizabeth and
George Gray, 1896."
This James Gray is presumably the same person who asserted to Latimer
that Betsy was a daughter of John and Rebecca Gray, of Tullyniskey.
But what was James Gray's lineage? Mr. Robb informs us that he was a
grandson of a Mr. Gray who was coachman to the Herons of Altafort, between
Dromore and Dromara.
Mr. Robb remembers him coming to see his (Mr. Robb's ) grandfather around
1908, and he was told he was a Londoner. Mr. Gray appeared to be well off,
and paid several visits to the late Thomas Gray, of Tullyniskey, who also
claimed to be a distant relation of Betsy Gray's family. This is all that is
known of James Gray. If he was an imposter he carried his claim to
considerable length when he erected the granite monument on the grave at
Ballycreen. Of course, he may have been aided in this by public
subscription. (When Lyttle first published his book he solicited
subscriptions, to be received at Walker's Hotel, Ballynahinch, for the
erection of a memorial on the grave)
WHAT TEELING WROTE
That Betsy came from the Ards direction is supported by the following
passage from Teeling's account of the Battle of Ballynahinch in his history
of the Rebellion, published in 1810:
"The men of Ards were distinguished for their courage and discipline, and
their division bore a full share of the disasters of the day. In this
division were two young men remarkable for their zeal, attachment and
continued friendship. They were amongst the first to take up arms and from
that moment had never been separated. They fought side by side, cheering,
defending and encouraging each other as if the success of the field solely
depended on their exertions. Monro had assigned on the 12th a separate
command to each, but they entreated to be permitted to conquer or perish
"One had an only sister; she was the pride of a widowed mother, the loved
and admired of the village, where to this hour the perfection of female
beauty is described as it approximates in resemblance to the fair Elizabeth
Lyttle in his book "corrected" Teeling's statement that Betsy was the
daughter of a widowed mother, and said that it was her mother who was dead.
Writing on the history of the Parish of Garvaghy in the Banbridge
Household Almanac of 1914, J. M. Macrory draws attention to a rudely cut
small gravestone (18in. x 11in. x 2½in.
) in the Parish Churchyard. It is to a George Gray, who according to the
inscription died on 24th March, 1434. "It is very likely the date was
originally 1724," states Macrory, "the 7 having been made with an acute
angle, and a horizontal line having.got worn in the stone, the seven was
recut into a 4. There are six graves in this plot, in which is another
headstone of date 1823."
"Tradition has it", writes Macrory, "that the remains of Betsy Gray, the
County Down heroine of '98, who was foully done to death by Yeomen after the
Battle of Ballynahinch, were quietly brought from their resting place at
Ballycreen, when matters had somewhat calmed down, and interred in the
consecrated burying ground of her relatives, the Garvaghy Grays. The truth
or otherwise of his tradition cannot be vouched for by the writer, but it is
not only possible, but very probable that it is founded on fact."
As for James Macrory, we have a letter from Mr. M. Laverty, of Whitehead,
stating that about 50 years ago he visited Macrory, then an ex-bank official
residing at Rockwood, .Waringsford--"a refined old gentleman with a profound
knowledge of the local history and antiquities of the district, about which
he wrote various articles."
"He informed me," says Mr. Laverty, "that his grandfather, who was the
baronial constable for the area early in the last century, knew "Betsy" Gray
(as he called her) well, who was killed by the Yeomanry after the fight at
Ballynahinch in 1798, and described her as an Irish beauty of her time. The
high constable also spoke of her painting in Waringsford Castle, the home of
landlord Captain Knox. I see according to Burke's Landed Gentry; there was a
noted family called Gray in Garvaghy and key, and, if as tradition says, she
was a genteel farmer's daughter, she was, no doubt, related"
The only additional information of a factual nature we could glean came
from a Mr. Samuel Bradshaw, a native of the Garvaghy district. Mr. Bradshaw
recalled an old woman named Miss Mary Ann Porter, of Garvaghy, who died
around 1949, oft relating that Betsy Gray was born at Tullyniskey, and that
she was taken away from there when she was a child of three years old.
If, as stated previously in Robb's investigation, Lyttle was questioned
on the authenticity of his articles when they were appearing in the Press
(that is "The North Down Herald"), he not only maintained his version when
the story was published in booklet form, but added notes confirming his
source of information and stating that he had visited Betsy's birthplace. In
the preface to his book, he stated that the incidents related "were
collected from reliable sources", relatives of the sufferers in '98 were
interviewed, and the places written of were all visited by him.
Dr. Charles Dickson, in "Revolt in the North" says: "In 1957 I was shown,
in the house of the great-grandson of this BoydMacartney marriage, a
grandfather clock which came from the old home, and a brass candlestick and
some pewter utensils; also a grandmother clock from the house of a neighbour
named Boala relative of Willie Boal".
In relatives' homes around the Six Road Ends, Belfast, Newtownards,
Bangor and other places are other relics pertaining to Betsy Gray, or the
Gray family, but so far we have not learned of any from Tullyniskey. This,
of course, is not conclusive evidence.
Another point in favour of Mr. Lyttle's story is that most of the
insurgents at the Battle of Ballynahinch hailed from the northern part of
We have presented to readers both claims as to Betsy's birthplace.
Despite our exhaustive enquiries, we have not been able to prove either
A clue to the solution may be in the passage by Macrory that, according
to tradition, Betsy's remains were brought from Ballycreen "and interred in
the consecrated ground of her relatives, the Garvaghy Grays". This implies
that Betsy's family resided elsewhere and that there was a relationship
between the two families.
Taking an overall view, it would seem probable that, at some period, a
branch of the Gray family left Garvaghy and went to Granshaw in the Ards,
and that there were comings and goings between the families. This is the
only compromise solution we can offer.