THE PORTAFERRY ATTACK
"Rebellion! foul, dishonouring word,
THE TOTAL NUMBER of United Irishmen enrolled in Ulster has been estimated at 24,000. Barely a third of these rose to follow their leaders and fulfil their pledge.
While the inhabitants of the Northern division of the Ards were assembling, those of a Southern division had marched against Portaferry, Captain Mathews, a man of bravery and experience, had the command of the town. On hearing the unwelcome tidings that a section of the Insurgent army was on its way to attack him he set about making preparations for giving the Patriots a warm reception. The only force at his command was a body of yeomanry, and the captain placed but little confidence in their courage or skill in warfare; he was resolved, however, that the Yeomen should fight, whether willing or not.
A revenue cruiser lay in the river at the time; Mathews directed Captain Hopkins, who had command of her, to bring his guns to bear on Portaferry Street; then he had the arches of the Market house filled up with a dry temporary wall, to prevent the Insurgents from setting fire to the left; this done, he enclosed his men in the upper portion of the building, and awaited the approach of the enemy.
The object of the Insurgents was to take the town; then to cross the Ferry, and proceed with whatever reinforcements they might obtain in Lecale, to the attack of Downpatrick. This plan certainly displayed some knowledge of the best tactics to be pursued; for the presumption was that the garrison of Downpatrick would have marched to join General Nugent at Ballynahinch, and this was actually the case.
When the Insurgents were within a mile of Portaferry they halted at a large and well-stocked public house, the property of a baronial committee man, They ordered out all that the house contained, and the entire stock rapidly disappeared. The proprietor, observing that the march was about to be resumed stepped out to one of the leaders and very civilly enquired - "Wha's tae pay me, sir?"
There was a shout of laughter at the question, and the only reply the poor fellow obtained was that his country would pay him, A brother of this man was in the ranks, and, on hearing what passed, concluded that he had been long enough in his present company. He accordingly hid himself behind a hedge and allowed his former comrades to proceed without him.
Confident of success, the Insurgents advanced upon Portaferry, flourishing their pikes and cheering loudly. A speedy and bloodless victory they certainly would have achieved but for the foresight of Captain Mathews. As the Ards men approached the Market-house they were met by a volley of musketry. A number of pikemen fell and there was a momentary halt. Again the Ards men advanced, and again they were met with a shower of bullets. At the same moment the shot from the cruiser in the river began to tell; men dropped in every direction. The pressure in the rere and the exposed situation of the street together with the uncertainty as to what force was exposed to them caused a panic and confusion in front, and, unable to return an effectual fire, the Insurgents fled,
Mathews congratulated his men upon their success; he feared, however a repetition of the experiment, and no sooner had the Insurgents got clear off than he passed over with his Yeomen to Strangford.
The defeated Insurgents made their way some five or six miles along the shore of Strangford Lough until they came to the residence of Bailey, of Innishargy. One of the Insurgents thus relates what took place there:----
"The airmy lay doon on the lawn, while the offishers tuk possession, of the hoose, whaur they sut doon in the parlour, an' made themsel's free wi' the contents o' the cellar. As they sut enjoyin' themsels's, me and yin or twa mair o' us went up tae the open wundey and says-'Merry be yer hearts, genteels, an' what'll ye hae the airmy tae drink?' 'Hooch,' sed this yin and that yin, `there's a water cart in the yard, tak it doon tae the river an' gie them a drink!' 'Heck, surs,' sez we `is that the was o' it. Gin we're tae be soles an' ye the uppers we may jist as weel serve King George'."
And so from the very outset there were jealousies and divisions amongst the Insurgents as might be expected.
"Lay down your arms," said Nugent,
A REIGN of terror had begun. The town of Belfast was overcrowded by refugees, who from all parts of the country had fled thither for safety. The shops were closed; the streets and avenues were guarded by the military, and no person was permitted to be upon the streets.
The following proclamation was, on the 11th of June, issued by Major-General Nugent to the inhabitants and Insurgents of County Down:
"Belfast, 11th June, 1798, 5 pm. "Major-General Nugent commanding his Majesty's forces in the North of Ireland, being desirous of sparing the effusion of human blood, and the total devastation of the County of Down, is pleased to, and does hereby, extend to the Insurgents in said County the same terms of submission and atonement that have been so eagerly and gratefully accepted by many of their equally deluded neighbours in the County of Antrim, to wit:
"That if those unfortunate persons who, by the arts of selfish and designing people, have been seduced from the allegiance to their true and lawful sovereign, his Majesty King George the Third, to become Rebels and Traitors to their country, will return to their duty as faithful and peaceable subjects, and to their respective houses and occupations, the General positively and surely engages to them that no one whatever in the county (with the exceptions hereinafter mentioned) shall be molested, or their property injured, and that, as a proof of their return to loyalty and good government, they must in the course of twenty-four hours after the date of this proclamation (making allowance for more distant parts of the county) liberate all the loyal persons of every description now in their custody, and send them to their respective places of abode, and that they also depute some persons to receive all their arms and offensive weapons of every denomination, with the ammunition belonging thereto, who shall be sent to the General to know where they are to be deposited; and that they also deliver up the principal persons who have been most active in instigating or compelling them to engage in their late wicked practices.
"Should the above injunctions not be complied with within the time specified, Major-General Nugent will proceed to set fire to and totally destroy the towns of Killinchy, Killyleagh, Ballynahinch, Saintfield, and every cottage and farmhouse in the vicinity of these four places, carry off the stock and cattle, and put everyone to the sword who may be found in arms.
"It particularly behoves all the well-affected persons who are now with the rebels from constraint, and who, it is known, farm a considerable part of their numbers, to exert themselves in having these terms complied with, as it is the only opportunity there will be of rescuing themselves and properties from the indiscriminate vengeance of an army necessarily let loose upon them."
A copy of this proclamation found its way into the hands of General Monro, who, with same 7,000 men, was in the neighbourhood of Saintfield. He read it aloud to his army, and the document was greeted with shouts of laughter. Monro immediately despatched one of his officers, named Townshend, to take possession of Ballynahinch. The task was an easy one; the garrison fled at the approach of Townshend, and the town was taken without bloodshed.
On the 12th Monro, with the remainder of his force, marched for Ballynahinch. On his way he learned that the King's troops commanded by General Nugent, and supported by General Barber's artillery, had left Belfast to intercept him.
The tidings were true. On that morning Nugent, with 700 infantry, 150 cavalry, and five pieces of cannon, marched from Belfast to attack Monro at Oghley Hill, near Saintfield, where he had been encamped. On arriving there Nugent learned of the departure of the Insurgents for the town of Ballynahinch, He immediately started in pursuit. Before coming upon the Insurgents he was joined by the column under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Stewart, of the 33rd Regiment from Downpatrick.
Not far from Montalto Monro awaited the arrival of the military. Their line of approach was painfully visible. As far as the eye could reach the soldiers had fired the country along their line of march.
The two contending forces soon came into collision. For more than an hour Monro was able to keep the Royal forces in check. He had however, no artillery except a few small ship guns - some six or eight - mounted on country cars, while the British artillery was effective and well served. Monro was at length compelled to give way. He sent instructions to Townshend to evacuate Ballynahinch, a part of which had already caught fire from the falling shells, and drew off his forces to the hill of Ednavady.
In the evening the British troops entered Ballynahinch, and began plundering, burning and drinking. During the night, exhausted by their orgies, the soldiers lay helpless in the streets. News of the state of affairs was brought to Monro, and a council of war was held. Immediate action was urged by all except Monro. In vain his officers appealed to him to march into the town, and make prisoners of all the drunken soldiers.
"No," said the General, "we scorn to avail ourselves of the ungenerous
advantage which night affords! We will meet them in the blush of day; we
will fight them like men, not under the cloud of night, but with the first
rays of to-morrow's sun." This fatal mistake of Monro's doing more credit to
his heart than his death, was the cause of his overthrow and defeat.
During the night nothing worthy of note occurred, but the morning sun ushered in a day of blood and carnage.
THE BATTLE OF BALLYNAHINCH
"The combat deepens! On ye brave,
GENERAL NUGENT succeeded in getting possession of the Windmill Hill on the afternoon of the 12th of June. He found the task no easy one to accomplish. His line of march, as he approached Ballynahinch, lay by the side of the steep hill. The ground on each side of the road was divided into small fields, and, from the acclivity of the situation, the fences rose one above the other, forming a kind of ampitheatre. Here Monro had posted some of his best musketeers ambuscaded behind the fences. These were under charge of a young officer named McCance, throughout the entire action, displayed the most steady and determined courage.
No sooner had Nugent, the head of the King's forces, advanced within range of the United army upon the Windmill Hill than he set about dislodging it. Instantly McCance opened fire from his am buscade and with such effect that the whole British line was interrupted in its advance and kept in check for more than an hour. Nugent lost many men, while the little band of marksmen commanded by McCance sustained no injury. Several bold attempts were made by Nugent to storm and carry the Windmill Hill, but so well directed was the fire from its summit that many of the British skewed unwillingness to approach it, and in the case of one particular regiment the utmost exertions of the officers were necessary to induce the men to advance.
Nugent's army now formed between the Windmill Hill and the town of Ballynahinch, presenting front to and directing their fire upon both. Monro was totally defective in cannon; a few ship guns of small calibre were all he had, and these were of very little service when opposed to the British artillery under General Barber, an efficient and experienced officer.
It was in this posture of affairs that Monro considered it prudent to withdraw his men from the Windmill Hill and to concentrate his entire force on Ednavady, preparatory to a general attack on the British line. He sent orders to McCance to retire from the post which he had so ably defended, while Townshend received orders to evacuate Ballynahinch, where some of the houses had caught fire from the discharge of shells.
When the first order to retire reached McCance he refused to obey it. A second order came, and he refused, at the same time earnestly pleading for a reinforcement from the Commander-in-Chief. A third messenger came bearing the same order. He then quitted his post with reluctance and an agitation of mind which he was unable to conceal.
No sooner did McCance quit his post than a British regiment advanced and took possession of it. And here occurred an incident illustrative of the courage and heroism of the Hearts of Down. When McCance's men retired from the hill, two of their number were left behind. One had actually refused to quit his post; the other was suffering from extreme fatigue. He had fought at Saintfield on the 9th, was incessant in every pursuit connected with the duties assigned him, but, exhausted with toil and unable to follow his division, he lay down on the ground and fell asleep. The former, on the advance of the enemy up the hill, maintained his position, and, being a splendid marksman, continued to fire with effect. At last, having discharged his last round, he leapt over the fences and joined his division in safety. The latter was roused from his sleep by the rush of feet over his body. He started up, and was immediately seized upon. He was at once brought before General Nugent, who ordered his instant execution. The brave fellow never flinched. Fixing his bold gaze upon Nugent, he exclaimed -
"I came here to die; and whether on Ednavady or Windmill Hill can make little difference!"
"Hang him upon a blade of the old windmill!" cried Nugent.
The infuriated soldiery were only too glad to have some object upon which to wreak their fury and vengeance. A rope was speedily procured, and in a few minutes the lifeless body of the poor fellow was dangling in the air, suspended to one of the arms of the windmill, where it remained till the close of the following day.
The night was one of deep anxiety with the United army. Harry Monro never thought of seeking rest. He was always on the alert, passing from rank to rank, cheering, encouraging and relieving the wants of his companions.
It was during the night of the 12th that our heroine, Betsy Gray, reached Ednavady. Despite the remonstrances of her father, he carried out her original resolution. Putting a fine mare to an old blockwheel car, and lading the car with cheese, butter and homemade bread, she started, alone and undaunted, upon her perilous journey. She reached Ednavady in safety, was immediately recognised and was received with every demonstration of enthusiasm. Her brother and Willie Boal were soon by her side, and the former, in he excitement of the moment, readily forgave his sister for her disobedience of his orders.
The summer of 1798 was a glorious one. It was remarked as a singular circumstance that, during the whole period of the rebellion in Ireland, not a single drop of rain fell. Starry nights and days of brilliant sunshine prevailed. Upon what a scene did the sun look down as he rose from his ocean bed on the morning of the 13th of June! On the Windmill Hill stood the forces of the King, trained in he ways of warfare; on the bold summit and sloping sides of Ednavady were thousands of poorly armed and untrained men, prepared to do battle unto the death for the land and the people that they loved. In the valley below slumbered the pretty little town of Ballynahinch.
At the first dawn, Monro formed his men for action, and though their numbers had been noticeably diminished during the night, they betrayed no lack of courage or confidence in their commander.
General Monro commenced the attack by a discharge from eight of his small cannon, which were drawn up against the town. Barber promptly replied by his heavy artillery. A strong division marched from the hill with the view of penetrating the town on the right; while Monro, in person, headed a more formidable column, directing his march to the left. General Nugent despatched a body of troops to contend the ground with the former, who waited their approach drawn up in a solid square, and received them with a destructive fire, which checked their advance. The officer commanding the British troops was shot dead; his men gave way, and retreated hastily back into the town of Ballynahinch.
The men led by Monro displayed great enthusiasm in their advance. They bore down all opposition; forced an entrance into the town under he most destructive fire of musketry and cannon, re peated rounds of grape shot sweeping down whole ranks which were as rapidly replaced. The pikemen charged to the very muzzle of the guns, and carried off a heavy piece of artillery.
Quite close to Monro, mounted on a magnificent horse, dressed from head to foot in green silk, and waving aloft a slender glittering sword, to cheer on the men to their deadly work, rode Betsy Gray! She dashed into the very thickest and hottest of the fight, and, with a heroism that never failed, emboldened the Insurgents by her daring of danger and of death.
Monro's ammunition became exhausted. He gained the very centre of the town, where, exposed to a cross-fire of musketry in the Market Square, and raked by the artillery, he pressed boldly on the enemy with bayonet and pike.
Above the din of musketry and the clash of steel came his cheery cry -
"Charge, lads, for the honour of Down!"
And here followed a scene so extraordinary as to be, perhaps, without a parallel in the history of ancient or modern warfare, Monro's troops, unacquainted with the trumpet's note, and enveloped by the smoke, which prevented them from seeing the hurried movements of the soldiery, mistook the retreat for the signal of charge.
In the very flush of victory, victory bloody but complete, in a hand to hand encounter with trained slayers of men, they turned and fled in one direction just as their enemies were flying in another.
That fatal mistake decided the fate of the day - the fate of the rising in the County Down.
The 22nd Light Dragoons, who had borne no active part in the operations of the day, charged the flying troops of Monro, while the infantry, recovering from their panic, joined in the pursuit.
And now began a series of horrible outrages which shall be as foul blots upon the history of Ireland through all time.
A BOY'S REVENGE
"He suffered bravely, and he fought
THE DEFEAT of the Insurgents was sudden and complete. Nugent's cannon, laden with grape shot, and fired point blank into that mass of human beings which crowded Dromore Street, cut the people down in hundreds, opening up lanes through the crowded ranks, through which, to use the words of an eyewitness, a coach-and-six might have been driven without touching a soul right or left.
In irretrievable confusion the panic-stricken Insurgents fled in every direction. The town of Ballynahinch was in flames. Only seven of its inhabitants remained in the town. Three of these were burned to death, two were shot down at their own doors, and the other two escaped. The flying Insurgents were mainly composed of men from Bangor, Donaghadee, Newtownards, Greyabbey, Killinchy and the Cottown. Escape was now their only object, and flinging down their arms they ran for dear life. Some sought refuge in the turf bogs, others lay down amongst the green rushes and waving corn which grew luxuriantly in the surrounding fields, and hundreds were thus saved from the murderous steel of the pursuing horsemen.
The cavalry was mainly composed of the Hillsborough Horse Yeomanry, which was made up of the fiercest and most relentless Protestants from South Down. To it, with the Yeomanry Infantry not engaged till the crisis of the battle, was entrusted the work of pursuit and slaughter. They did their work well, and with brutal ferocity, unequalled by even the bloody dragoons of Claverhouse. Breaking up into small parties of fours or "double threes" and armed with pistols and sabres, they spread themselves over the townlands surrounding Ballynahinch, cutting down, with fiendish savagery, friend and foe alike. Many incidents of the terrible slaughter have been handed down from father to son, and to the present day the bitterest hates exist amongst the descendents of the pursued and the pursuers. Two men, named respectively Adair and Mawhinney, natives of Greyabbey, were amongst those who stood in the thickest of the fight. Adair was a wealthy farmer, the owner of considerable property, and a man of note in Greyabbey and neighbourhood. Mawhinney was also a man of means. These two, flinging down their arms, joined in the general flight, and breathless and exhausted had reached Ballykine, when they were pounced upon by a party of the Hillsborough men, who were on the prowl for victims. Unable to proceed further, the poor fellows were easily caught, and the work of murder began. The men were literally hacked to pieces, and Adair was mutilated in a manner too horrible for relation. In an adjoining field, tending his cows, was George Jackson, the owner of the farm upon which this bloody deed had been perpetrated. He was a peaceable and harmless man, loyal to the King, and had resolutely set his face against the rebellion. Thirsting for more blood, the butchers fell upon Jackson, and speedily left him a hacked and disfigured corpse upon his own field. The body of Adair was left in so hideous a condition that those who saw it never forgot the sight. His remains and those of Mawhinney were buried by some friendly hands in a moss field, on Alexander Douglas's land. Adair's grave is about ten yards from the road leading to Lisburn. Some twenty-five years ago the grave was opened - with what object cannot be said. It was found to contain the skeleton of the unfortunate man. Hat, boots and clothing were in a perfect state of preservation. The coat, which was of a superfine green broadcloth and long skirted, the waistcoat, knee-breeches, and green silk kerchief had suffered but little by their sixty years subjection to the soil under which they and their wearer had been laid. The hat was removed to the Belfast Museum. The clothing was cut into small pieces, and, with the buttons, distributed among the people of the district, who still preserve them as interesting souvenirs of the terrible struggle. Douglas, has evinced the utmost reverence for the grave of Adair. With his own hands he built a strong stone structure to the height of about three feet. The grave he covered with verdant sods and planted thereon a sally, which now stands some fourteen feet in height.*
Amongst the flying fugitives was Tommy Burns, the lad who worked in the smiddy of Mat McClenaghan, and who was brutally tortured there on the night of the christening. The brave lad, burn ing to avenge that fearful outrage, accompanied the Granshaw and Cottown men to Ballynahinch, and now he lay by the roadside, alone, weary, hungry and thirsty. He had fallen asleep, but was aroused by the tramping of feet. Cautiously lifting his head from the dry ditch in which he lay, Tommy saw a company of soldiers marching in his on. Their bayonets flashed in the sunlight, and, as they drew near, Tommy could hear their shouts of noisy laughter as they discussed the incidents of the recent fight. He was about to crawl into the adjoining field for safety, when his quick eye recognised the features of the officer under whose orders he had been whipped and mutilated at the Six-Road-Ends. Yes, it was he, jauntily he marched at the head of his men, joining in their laughter, and evidently in the best of humour.
Tommy drew towards him a musket which he had carried in the fight, and examined the priming. It was a clumsy old-fashioned weapon, with which he had brought down many a crow and magpie. He had higher game in prospect now!
The soldiers leisurely advanced. When within a dozen paces off Tommy's hiding-place they came, unbidden, to a sudden halt as the lad started from his lair, musket in hand, and faced them upon the roadway.
"What have we here?" cried the officer, with a laugh.
"Some damned young rebel, you may be sure," replied one of his men.
"Come here, boy!" said the officer, advancing a pace.
The recognition was now mutual.
"Upon my soul," laughed the officer, "but it's the brat who was cropped by Morris. By God, were he here now he would have his other ear!"
The brutal joke was the last the fellow ever uttered. Quick as lightning Tommy raised his musket to his shoulder and discharged it straight in the officer's face. The man's head was literally blown to pieces, and his brains were scattered upon the faces and uniforms of the men nearest to him!
A moment of silent horror followed. Then there was a shout and a rush, and Tommy's body was pierced by a score of bayonets.
*The author of this story has visited the grave of Adair. While there he cut a twig from the sally, and from this twig manufactured the pen-holder which he has used in the writing of this tale.
THE SEARCH FOR MONRO
"Sad is my fate, said the heart-broken stranger;
THE TOWN of Lisburn not only supplied the noble and generous hearted General who commanded the troops of the United Irishmen, but it also played an important part in the short but sanguinary struggle. During the winter of 1797, a shuttle-maker who lived in an entry off High Street, Belfast, worked eighteen hours of the twenty-four in making pike-heads and handles. He and very many similar experts were, however, outdone by a Lisburn white smith, who, during the winter of 1797 and spring of 1798, forged upwards of 500 pikes without leaving undone any of his ordinary work.
Many years before the rebellion of 1798 the Presbyterians of Lisburn had proposed to build a new house of worship. Lord Hertford gave them a handsome site, and subscriptions were collected towards defraying the cost of erection. Amongst the contributors were the Rev. Father Magee - the parish priest - and several members of his congregation. Father Magee gave £10, and the donation was very much prized by the Presbyterians. He was exceedingly popular, and, when any works of benevolence were to be performed, he was always beside the Rev. Dr. Cupples, Protestant rector of the parish, and the Rev. Andrew Craig, Presbyterian minister.
There was wonderful excitement in Lisburn and its neighbourhood on the night of the 12th of June, 1798. A report had been circulated that. Harry Monro and a large body of his men would that night descend upon the town and destroy it by fire. Soldiers, horse and foot, paraded the streets in large numbers; the inhabitants were ordered to close their doors and put out their lights after eight o'clock, and every measure was taken to prevent a military surprise. In a house in Market Square sat an Orange Lodge. At a late hour one of the members of this Lodge looked out of the door and saw the parish priest making his way homewards. The Orangeman was a member of the Rev. Craig's Church, and he had a kindly feeling towards Father Magee, because he remembered his kindness. Stepping up to the clergyman, he said -
"You are out very late, sir, in such troublous times."
"I am, indeed, my friend," replied the old gentleman. "I have been out on a sick call."
"It is a mile to your house, and you can hardly get there in safety," said the Orangeman; "our lodge is now sitting, come in for a moment and we'll see about guarding you home."
The priest entered the lodgeroom, where he was hospitably received, and, having remained there for some time, he was escorted home by four of the members.
On that eventful day numerous arrests were made, and amongst the prisoners were quiet men, who had never joined any political institution. The prisoners were taken to the guardhouse, where they were ordered to stand with their backs to the wall of the dark, damp cell, in which position they stood in silent agony and suspense as to what their fate might be.
At the hour of midnight the tramp of a trooper's horse was heard dashing up the street; the rider pulled up his steed at the prison, held a short conversation with the Sergeant of the guard, and then rode off.
No sooner had the trooper ridden off than one of the prisoners put his mouth to the keyhole of the door and cried out -
"For God's sake tell us the news!"
"My written orders are," replied the sergeant, "that if a gun be fired in Market Square it will be the signal that the Rebel troops are at hand, and all the prisoners must then be put to death."
What a night of agony and suspense was that! Many of the prisoners almost lost their reason. Well for them it was that the rumour concerning Monro was false. Had it been true they would have been butchered in cold blood.
Parties of dragoons and yeomen were sent out into the country in quest of General Monro, and in the course of their search it fared ill with all the persons upon whom they chanced to come. They may have been acting loyally and legally in shooting down persons positively known to be rebels, but these bloodhounds shot at and hewed down nearly every person they met, without asking questions. A party of dragoons, riding from Ballynahinch to Belfast, observed a farmer digging potatoes in his field, near Dundonald.
"How far is Belfast?" shouted one of the troopers.
The man was deaf, and, not hearing the question, did not look up.
"He's a rebel, I'm sure," said the trooper, and raising his carbine he shot the poor man dead.
Near to the same place, the same party seized upon an inoffensive man, and strung him up to a beam which projected from a farm house, where he was strangled to death. That beam was only recently cut down.
A dragoon, immediately after the fight, galloped up to a house, swearing that he would have twenty lives that day before he would sleep for the murder of his brother Billy (a soldier who had been killed near Saintfield). The person thus threatened, with a child on each arm, begged for mercy. The dragoon lifted up his gun, took aim, and pulled the trigger; but the piece did not go off. When preparing to fire again he observed a man, on his right, running across a field, whom he pursued; but when leaping a stone fence his horse fell. The rider, however, overtook the man in the next field, and struck him repeatedly with his sword. The third blow caused him to fall, and, when lying the dragoon cut at him with the point of his sword. When night came two men buried him in a bog, where the grave is still pointed out. The spot, however, is now arable land.
It is well known that the same dragoon killed fifteen men on the day referred to, within half a mile of the house specified: He shot two brothers while they were swimming in Ballykine Lough. He overtook in a field a person named William Fee, and having nearly severed his hand from his wrist, and wounded him severely on the head, another dragoon came up and exclaimed -
"You have given him enough; come with me."'
A person passing through the field observed the wounded man, who, in the most piteous terms, pleaded for some milk. The person thus addressed, at the risk of his own life, brought him the desired draught. While he was drinking it, his blood was dropping into the vessel. He must afterwards have made his escape during the night, for he was nowhere to be found next morning.
Thirty years afterwards, this man saw a person leaning over a half-door in Weighouse Lane, Belfast, and thought he recognised in him the man to whom he had given the milk. He was confirmed in the opinion he had formed by looking at the wounded wrist. The Ballynahinch man asked him,
"Do you know me?" "No", was the rely. "Well," continued the other, "I am the man who gave you the bowl of milk on the day that wrist was wounded." He immediately clasped his benefactor in his arms, brought him into the house and treated him with much kindness.
The blood-thirsty dragoon above alluded to kill a poor simpleton while herding cattle. On the Wednesday morning after the battle, as the rebels were flying in all directions, General Nugent, in giving orders to the dragoons to disperse them, observed, "Now, boys, be merciful." This was much to the credit of the general; but to the disgrace of the soldiers be it told, his orders were by no means strictly obeyed. There was a fearful and indiscriminate slaughter made during the afternoon of the battle. While passing the house of a farmer in Ballylone, the dragoons stopped and asked for milk. Basins of cream were carried out to them. One of the soldiers remarked, "He (the master of the house) is a rebel; look at the cloth round his hand; he has been wounded in the battle." On uttering these words, the trooper shot the ill-fated farmer. He and his family were staunch Loyalists. Before leaving the dying man, the rest of the soldiers examined his hand, and found, instead of the suspected wound only a common boil, over which a bandage had been rolled. On seeing this, one of the party said to his comrade who had fired the fatal shot, "I'll never remain in the company with such a murderer." For his bloody deed, the inhuman soldier was tried by a court-martial, and is reported to have been shot in Belfast.
The dragoons, when "scouring the country", entered houses and hacked the cheese with their bloody swords.
They frequently seized the farmers' horses, pretending to take them away, and exacting five or ten pounds for their return. Two young men from Newtownards left the rebels on the evening of Wednesday, and saw no way of escaping but by giving themselves up to the Yeomanry stationed on the hill in the rere of the Third Presbyterian Church. The Yeomen had just taken them under their protection, when some dragoons galloped up the hill, and seeing the young men, shot one of them in the presence of the captain. A soldier standing by resolved to kill the other, but, having no weapon, lifted up a long piece of nailrod, bent it in the middle, and was in the act of rushing forward to put the two ends into the rebel's eyes when the captain interposed. The young man thus saved was protected by the Yeomen for three days, and afterwards reached home in safety. A few days before the fight, a person in Ballynahinch had a party of rebels in his house drinking. Observing some Yeomen passing, the Insurgents resolved on making them prisoners. One of them caught hold of a gun in the hands of a Yeoman, and, while wrestling for it, was shot. The Yeomen were then captured, and a guard placed over them. The sentinel afterwards fled to Newry; but, being recognised by one of the men over whom he had kept watch, he was apprehended, tried, and condemned to death. He being a tall and handsome youth, the colonel offered him his freedom, provided he would renounce his rebellious principles and join the army. He firmly refused, observing, "You have hung my father; you may do the same to me." At the place of execution, he ran up the ladder, and fixing his head in the noose of the rope, he flung himself off without the aid of the hangman.
A United Irishman, who gave his name as Crabbe, was the first person hanged for treason in Lisburn. He suffered death on a lamp post at the corner of Castle Street, and right opposite the Market house. The charge against him was that of having a pistol in his pocket and a green cockade hidden in his hat. Some reports went to say that he had been a clergyman, but no direct proof of the fact was ever brought forward, nor did a single secret connected with his history transpire, from that day to the present. He was taken prisoner in one of the bye-lanes in Lisburn, and in three hours afterwards was tried, convicted and executed. A very fine looking man, named Armstrong, was at the same time taken into custody. Several letters were found sewn up in the inner lining of his waistcoat, and the contents of these communications shewed that he must have been engaged in the proceedings of the Insurgents. As in all other cases, the members of the military court were very easily satisfied respecting a prisoner's guilt, and promptitude in trying persons being. very popular, their deliberations were short and conclusions were rapidly arrived at. Norbury himself, blood-thirsty as he wasĄ never delighted more in the destruction of human life than the members of the. court-martial at Lisburn.
Armstrong was sentenced to die, but in the hope' of exacting private information from the condemned man, he was told by persons in authority that if he gave full information of all he knew respecting the Insurgent leaders his life would be spared, and a large reward bestowed upon him. To strengthen this proposal, or rather to give greater force to the temptation, his wife was sent to him, and the poor woman, in the frenzy of her affection, flung herself on her knees before her husband, beseeching him to accept the terms. Terrible was the struggle of the poor fellow under this trying appeal; but after a moment's thought, his firmness, which had partly forsaken him, returned with renewed strength, and no influence could be brought to induce him to give any information likely to inculpate his comrades. "My life," he said, "is only one, and God will watch over my widow and children. Were I to become informer, torrents of blood would be shed, numbers of wives would be made widows and hundreds of children left fatherless. In after days many persons may brand me as a rebel, but no one will dare say I was a traitor." No matter what opinion may be held as to the righteousness of the cause for which Armstrong suffered; every honourableminded man will, however, admit that in this instance he displayed dignity sufficient to throw a halo round his memory, and that, under all circumstances, his death was that of a hero. Armstrong came from Tullyrush where he now lies buried.
Whole volumes might be filled with romantic incidents, both as regards deeds of mercy and doings of darkness.
The little town of Hillsborough was the theatre of many tragic scenes. This ancient stronghold had for at least two centuries been famed as a military depot, and to the present the head of the house of Hill retains the title of Chief Constable of the Fort. The uniform worn by castle men who are supposed to do duty there is that of the antiquated style worn by the Dutch guards which formed the personal staff of William the Third. Hillsborough lies convenient to Blaris, where for several years before and after the breaking out of the rebellion, a camp of soldiers was quartered and detachments of those troops guarded the town all that period. Immediately after the fight at Ballynahinch, a party of dragoons - that had been ordered to search the country and seize all stragglers likely to have been engaged in the battle - overtook a lad eighteen years of age, and who travelled on his way towards Hillsborough. He turned out to be a weakminded creature, most unlikely to have carried arms or taken part in the recent warfare, but on being interrogated by the troopers he stated without hesitation that he had witnessed the battle, and that he fled from the scene of strife with the united army. This confession was considered quite sufficient to justify his arrest, and he was dragged into Hillsborough tied to the saddle of one of the dragoons. After his arrival in the town he was tried, and found guilty, for having taken part with the rebels, although it appeared quite evident that his visit to Ballynahinch had been one of mere curiosity. But the fate was pronounced, he was led to the church gate - the Tyburn of the town - where speedy preparations were made for his execution.
While this part of the tragedy was being enacted the poor simpleton looked on with the utmost unconcern, never for a moment supposing that the dragoons really intended to take his life; and even when the cord was placed around his neck he said: "Now, boys, ye're jist makin' too much iv the joke." But scarcely had he uttered the words when two stout soldiers caught the end of the cord which had previously been thrown over the top rail of the gate and commenced to pull with all their might. In a moment the imbecile was hauled up several feet from the ground writhing in the death gasp, amid the jeers and mocks of the savage spectators.
Next day a poor looking traveller, weary and footsore, was passing down the hill leading through the same town, and in the direction of Belfast. The sergeant of the guard went up to him and put the usual questions, in reply to which the stranger said he had come from Dublin, on his way to Derry. Not being satisfied with this statement, the sergeant brought him to the lock-up, a small room used as temporary guard-house by the Dromore Yeomanry then stationed in Hillsborough. Some slight refreshment was given to the prisoner, after which he begged permission to throw himself on a bed in one corner of the room. The request was granted, and in a few minutes the fatigued prisoner fell sound asleep. While he slumbered one of his shoes dropped off, and was picked up by a soldier of the local infantry, who, on examining it, found concealed between the inner and outer sole a medal, or "pass"; which proved the owner to have been concerned with the United Irishmen. On finding this symbol, the Yeoman handed it to his superior officer. An impromptu court had been sitting at the time, and the mysterious medal, having been duly examined, was considered sufficient proof of guilt. The man was immediately aroused from that rude couch to learn that he had been tried and condemned, and in fifteen minutes afterwards his lifeless body swung from the very spot at which, twenty-four hours before, the poor idiot had suffered a felon's death. An antiquarian has in his possession the rebel pass which was found in the shoe of that unfortunate traveller. It is made of copper; in size it is about that of a penny piece of the old coinage. The obverse has the words: "May Orr's fate nerve the impartial arm to avenge the wrongs of Erin." On the reverse there appears the Irish harp with the spear and cap of freedom, and the motto "Liberty - remember William Orr."
THE BETRAYAL OF MONRO
"With sinking mind and bosom riven
IMMEDIATELY AFTER the Battle of Ballynahinch the followers of Monro were
scattered like sheep, and fled in all directions. The unfortunate general,
though sadly broken down by fatigue, and dispirited by defeat, was the last
to leave the field; nor did he finally abandon the scene until, as he had
hoped, the remnant of his people had got into some place of comparative
The adverse fate which pursued Monro led him to a farmstead occupied by a man named Billy Holmes, and situated in Clintinagoold, on the borders of Dromara, and two and a half miles from Ballynahinch. Five pounds in cash and a small parcel of clothes was all the property then in the possession of General Monro, and this he handed to Holmes as a reward for his concealment until the opinion of Government should be known. The fellow willingly accepted the gift, and expressed the utmost sympathy for the fugitive. Having made sure of the cash and the clothes, Holmes gave Monro some refreshment, and then led him to what he assured him would be a safe place of concealment. This was a crew and in it Holmes covered Monro with bundles of straw, assured him of his safety, and left him to his exhausted slumbers.
Holmes and his wife were cruel hosts, damnably did they betray their wearied guest. They did not for a single moment propose keeping faith with Monro, and no sooner was the general in his place of hiding than they set about thinking how to make the most of his secret. With this view Holmes' wife started off for Hillsborough, the nearest seat of military authority. Here she met four members of the local corps of Yeomanry, known as the Black Troop, as they wore no uniform save a band of white linen round the left arm. To these men she reported what had occurred. They immediately armed themselves with muskets and bayonets, and, guided by Holmes' wife, proceeded to the hiding-place of Monro. As soon as they arrived there they captured their prey and tied his hands behind his back. Monro, finding himself betrayed, bitterly reproached his betrayers, and then sought to soften his captors by stating that if they allowed him to go free his friends would pay them a large sum.
The Yeomen, however, were not to be tempted. Hoping for a higher reward than Monro could give, they refused to make terms with him, and in great triumph they marched their prisoner into Dromore, where he was lodged in the house of Brush the agent, now the Rectory.
What reward the fellows received is not known, but their miserable fate is no secret. Every one of the four possessed, at the time of the arrest, some property, yet they afterwards became miserably poor, and the longest lived of the four died a pauper.
A worse fate was reserved for Holmes. Stung by an accusing conscience, he dragged out a miserable existence. From the day on which he violated his faith to the last hour of his life he was despised for his deceit, and denounced for his treachery, and he was held in scorn and contempt by people of every class and creed in his neighbourhood, shunned in private life, and avoided in the Market Place. When he felt the hour of death approaching he sent for the Presbyterian clergyman who ministered to the congregation of which he was an unworthy member. He did so, it is believed, in order that he might make full confession of his base deed. When the clergyman arrived, Holmes requested his family and friends to leave the room, as he had something important to tell his minister. They refused to do so, and the creature died, a wretched outcast, and with the stain of the foul deed upon his soul. His descendants to the present day, although not bearing his name, have the slur cast in their teeth. His grave and that of his wife's are unmarked, yet dishonoured in Dromara churchyard.
THE EXECUTION OF MONRO
"Far dearer the grave or the prison,
THE MILITARY authorities of Hillsborough ordered out a guard, and under this, Monro, handcuffed, was marched from from Dromore to Lisburn, where he was confined for the night in a temporary prison in Castle Street.
When his friends learned of his arrest, the utmost sympathy was shewn for him. His clothes were torn, and his health had suffered much from the fatigue he had undergone. George Whitla, a Lisburn cotton manufacturer, sent him a full suit of clothes, while his clergyman, the rector of the parish, Rev. Dr. Cupples, who resided within a few doors of the guard-house, had his meals carried to him from the rectory during the period of his confinement.
On Monday, the 17th June, the trial came on before a court martial, composed of officers belonging to the several regiments then lying in Lisburn Barracks and at Blaris Camp. Amongst those officers, General Goldie, who was an Orangeman, and his aide-de-camp, McCoy, were characterised as men of great austerity. In one case it is said that when a rebel soldier was about to suffer McCoy pushed him up the ladder. The tribunal before which Monro was tried sat in a large room situate near the guard-house; and it is only fair to state that if mercy rarely found a resting-place in that august assembly, justice was rigidly enforced. Short was the period of the court's deliberations; it required little proof to convict, and it was still easier to condemn. Only three witnesses were examined for the Crown, and the deposition that the prisoner had led the native troops at the recent battles, being conclusive, the sentence of death was at once written out, and Harry Monro was ordered for execution.
Monro was immediately informed that he had not long to live, and to make speedy preparation for the death that awaited him. On his way from the judgment-hall to the place of punishment he requested to be taken to the rectory, that he might receive the sacrament. That rite of the Church having been administered to him, he was led down the street to the Market Square, where a temporary gallows had been erected in front of Ward's stationery warehouse, and nearly opposite his own dwelling house. He was dressed in a black coat, nankeen knee-breeches, and white stockings. A guard of the rd Light Dragoons under Colonel Wollarston, and two companies of the local Yeomanry, were drawn up before the place of on. During all the preliminary arrangements the condemned patriot exhibited perfect calmness and resignation. One request alone he made, and this was while the executioner adjusted the fatal noose - to beg the commanding officer's permission to see a friend who resided in the immediate vicinity of the spot where he stood. That request was granted, and when the man appeared he addressed a few words to him in a low tone just before he ascended the ladder leading to the gallows. What he said on the occasion was never known by the relations of the friend into whose ear it was spoken. The moment preparations had been made, Monro stepped from the street up the ladder, but the slight rung on which he alighted having given way, he fell down against some of the guards by whom he was surrounded. Recovering his balance in a moment, although having his arms firmly pinioned. he said, "All right," and refusing assistance, again mounted the ladder. When he had reached the required height, the executioner, whose face was closely veiled by a piece of black crape, also ascended to the spot, and placed the rope round the prisoner's neck with an awkwardness of manner that proved him to be a mere amateur in the art of legal strangulation. Without waiting for the final act of the finisher of the law, the doomed one suddenly leaped forward, and as the body fell and swung to and fro, a low wail of sorrow, which the military authorities vainly endeavoured to repress, told how bitterly the tragic end of their fellow-townsman was felt by the multitude that thronged the place of execution. Many of his acquaintances - many linen merchants, who in happier days had stood side by side with Harry Monro in the Linen Hall, engaged in the usual pursuits of their business - were around him in his last moments. And, though several of these looked upon his conduct as that of misguided patriotism, his political opponents, as well as personal friends, mourned heartily over the sad fate of the man whom every one respected as a worthy and amiable citizen. When the body was taken down, the final vengeance of the law had not been fully satisfied - the authorities, who irresponsibly wielded the powers of life and death, having ordered that decapitation should take place after the execution of the first part of the sentence. On that savage act having been perpetrated, a dragoon seized the head and flung it into the air, shouting, "There goes the head of a traitor." In this act of wanton ferocity the operator seemed to think that, in thus outraging the remains of an unfortunate fellow-creature, he performed an achievement worthy the glory of a British soldier. Monro's head, with the white night-cap still on it, was afterwards stuck on a pike, and placed on the front of the Market-house - the military authorities carrying out a custom barbarous as any ever practised by the most savage tribes of the New Zealanders. Some weeks afterwards a Scotch nobleman, passing through the town, and feeling shocked at the disgraceful spectacle, had the head taken down and interred in the Lisburn churchyard, in the same grave that contained the other portion of the mutilated body.
After the death of Harry Monro many of the disaffected party were made prisoners, and lodged in the Lisburn Guard-house. Two of these people were tried and convicted, the sentence of death following close on the verdict of guilty. One of the condemned was Richard Vincent, copper and tin smith, a native of Lisburn, and the other was named Maxwell. These men were executed almost immediately after receiving sentence, and their heads, after being cut off, were placed on the Market-house beside Monro's. Not many days after his execution, a sister of the general (one who had been celebrated as a heroine in the national struggle) was passing through the town, and when opposite the Market-house she gazed for a moment at her brother's head, and exclaimed aloud, "Ah, Harry, you will be avenged for all yet!"
A soldier's hands held the axe by which Monro's head was struck off. With the blood still reeking on its blade, the soldier rushed into a marine store kept in Lisburn by a Mrs. Griffin, and, throwing down the on, demanded for it the price of a naggin of whiskey. The woman regarded the bloody instrument with feelings of horror, but knowing how dangerous it was in those days to refuse compliance to the demands of a soldier, she gave threepence to the man, who left with her the hatchet and departed.
On the same day a Glassdrummond farmer, named Thomas Murray, was in
Lisburn selling peats. He called on Mrs. Griffin, and the poor woman begged
him to take away the hatchet, as neither luck nor grace could follow the
house that gave it shelter. Murray gave her a bag of turf in exchange for
the axe, and sold the latter for seven and sixpence to Hugh Duncan, a
carpenter in Glassdrummond. His son, James Duncan, had the axe long in his
possession, showing it to the writer of this story. It is now in the
possession of the Richardsons, of Lissue.
HE FATE OF BETSY GRAY
"Shame on the cruel, ruthless band
IT IS TIME to return to our heroine.
When the last hope of the Insurgents had vanished Betsy Gray, her brother, and lover fled along the Lisburn Road. It was decided that she should dismount from her horse and flee on foot, as there would thus be a better chance of eluding observation. The three had reached a place called Ballycreen, Betsy leading by a couple of hundred yards. She had gained a piece of high, rocky land where she would be safe from the approach of cavalry, and here she awaited the arrival of Willie Boal and her brother George.
But the murderers were upon the track!
A party of Hillsborough heroes had been in hot pursuit of the three, and gained rapidly upon them. Before George Gray and young Boal could reach Betsy's hiding place they heard the Yeomen in their rear shouting to them to surrender. The poor fellows were weary with running, and their strength was well nigh spent. The shouts came nearer. Suddenly Boal stopped.
"George," he said, "let us surrender. By so doing we may save Betsy's life and our own too. If we continue to fly we may betray her hiding-place, and she may be destroyed."
"Come on," urged George, seizing Boal by the arm; "they would never lay violent hands upon a woman."
"Ay, that they would!" exclaimed Boal, "and here I stay."
As he spoke he turned round and faced the pursuers. "Be it so," said George; "we will stand or fall together."
In a few moments the Yeomen, flushed and breathless, were face to face
with the two unarmed men. Without a single word they fell upon them with the
swords. George, for a moment or two evaded the thrusts of the Yeoman's
weapons, but Boal, less fortunate, received a stab in his neck. He uttered a
wild cry, and dashing forward seized his foe by the throat.
"Mercy!" she cried; "if you are men, spare my brother's life." Her appeal was in vain!
At the sound of her voice George turned round and begged of her to fly.
"Never!" exclaimed Betsy. "Oh, for my trusty blade now, that I might avenge the murder of my poor Willie!"
Even as she spoke she was set upon by three of the ruffianly band. One of them struck her upon the wrist with his sword cutting her hand completely off; another put his pistol close to her eyes and sent a bullet crashing through her brain. At the same instant her brother was shot, and the three brave, but unfortunate companions lay bleeding upon the green sod.
Even then the butchers were not satisfied. While some of them hacked and hewed the quivering bodies of George Gray and Willie Boal, others of them desecrated the corpse of Betsy. They stripped her of nearly all her clothing, and one brute tore her ear-rings from her ears and the rings from off her fingers.
A more brutal deed has never been recorded. An officer, who came up shortly after the dastardly Yeomen had decamped in search of fresh victims, gazed long and earnestly at the dead body of Betsy Gray.
"A fairer face I have never looked upon," exclaimed the soldier, "and, by Heavens, the fellow who slew her is a murderer of the blackest dye!"
The names of some of the participators in the foul deed are well known, they were from Anahilt. To the day of their death they were abhorred and avoided as a pestilence, alike by Orange and Green, Protestant and Catholic, saint and sinner. Their descendants suffer for the deeds of their ancestors, as till the present day they share the odium which justly attached to the cowardly and bloodthirsty scoundrels, who slew a lovely and defenceless woman and two helpless and unarmed men.
The story nas been recorded by the historian, and sung by the poet; a ballad, of which the following is a copy, is still familiar in thousands of homes:
Oh, many a noble lad and lass
On Ednavady's sloping heights,
But bravest of them all, I weep,
From Granshaw, near to Bangor town,
And when the tide of battle raged,
When adverse fate with victory crowned
Along the Lisburn Road they fled,
She reached the vale of Ballycreen -
But, ere 'twas found, she heard a cry
Then from the grassy vale she sprang
Ah, what a sight then met her gaze!
A Yeoman raised his sword to strike,
She raised her white and rounded arm
Another of the murderous crew,
He drew a pistol from his belt,
That night the murdered three were found,
No tombstone marks that humble grave,
Shame on the cruel, ruthless band,
"No tombstone marks that humble grave,
IN the farm of Samuel Armstrong, of Ballycreen, within two miles of Ballynahinch, lies a picturesque and beautiful little dell, surrounded by rocks and furze, and hidden from the eye of the traveller upon the adjacent roads.
Not far from this secluded spot was enacted the tragedy described in the foregoing chapter. On the morning of the murder, a lad named Matthew Armstrong (uncle of Samuel Armstrong) came upon the dead and mutilated bodies of Betsy Gray, her brother, and lover. He informed two farmers, named respectively Anthony Orr and William Graham, of his discovery, and accompanied them to the spot. The sight was a harrowing one. The three bodies lay quite close together, gory and disfigured. Tenderly lifting Betsy in their arms, they bore her to the little vale upon Armstrong's farm, and, having procured spades, dug for her a grave in the turf-covered soil. Here she was laid, lovingly and gently; her blood-stained locks smoothed down, and her disordered clothing - or such of it as had not been torn away by her ruthless slayers - adjusted. In the same grave were laid her brother and her lover, and then, with tear-dimmed eyes, the kindly farmers shovelled in the earth, piled up the green sods, and departed homeward, leaving those faithful Hearts of Down sleeping the sleep that knows no waking, till that last morn when earth and sea shall yield up their dead.
Over a century has passed since the bright June sun looked down upon the fresh sods that covered these noble hearts. Expectant friends would await their return in vain; the old home in Granshaw would see them no more for ever. Neither spade nor plough has ever disturbed that hallowed spot. The people of the district regard it with the deepest reverence, and often as they visit the place, they sit upon the emerald sod and recall the story which has been handed down from father to son. A log of black oak thrown across the head of the grave alone marks the spot, and this is so grown over by the grass as to be scarcely noticeable.
The sword which Betsy carried is still in existence. In the course of her flight the poor girl plunged the weapon up to the hilt in the thatch of a farm cottage, doubtless expecting that some day she would return to claim it. The weapon was soon afterwards discovered by the farmer who occupied the cottage, and he carefully hid it away as a precious relic of the struggle of '98. In the year 1839 two packmen, named John Andrews and Alick Alexander, in the course of their peregrinations, called at the same cottage, and spread before the farmer's wife their tempting wares. The woman fancied a shawl, but she had not the money to pay for it. The men, anxious to do businiess suggested barter, but for a time the woman could not think of anything which she could offer in exchange. At length she thought of the sword of Betsy Gray. Producing the weapon from its hiding-place, she related the story connected with it, and offered it in payment of the coveted shawl. The bargain was at once closed. It was not without some misgivings that the woman parted with the sword, for she dreaded the anger of her husband, and insisted upon one of the packmen concealing the much-prized trophy in his umbrella lest it should be seen by the farmer, who was at work in an adjoining field.
The men left, satisfied with their day's work; and, making their way to Ballynahinch, they secured lodgings and ordered supper. While the meal was being cooked they examined the sword and chuckled as they thought of the price they could obtain for it from their employer, one Lindsay, of Kilmarnock, inn Scotland; a man who was the possessor of quite a museum. Their dialogue was interrupted by the hasty entrance of a man, who turned out to be the owner of the sword, and who, having discovered his wife's act, had started out in pursuit of the packmen. He fiercely flung down the shawl at their feet and demanded the return of his valued trophy. The men refused, and an angry altercation followed. A few glasses of whiskey, a hearty supper, and a pair of new boots bestowed upon the farmer, softened his heart, and he confirmed the sale of the sword, which soon afterwards found its way into the hands of Lindsay. That gentleman's son, Sergeant David Lindsay, of Mount Royal, Portrush, is at present the possessor of this interesting relic of '98, and it is shown by him to many who are curious to see and touch the blade which was so bravely wielded on that memorable 13th of June, 1798, by the beautiful and brave-hearted heroine of the Battle of Ballynahinch, whose ashes repose 'neath the verdant turf of the vale of Ballycreen.
"Out of the tyrant's power!
THE NAME of Warwick will be remembered in Down as long as that of Orr
will be recollected in Antrim. For fully six months
Brief was the notice given him that the awful sentence was to be carried out, short was the time allowed him to prepare for the terrible ordeal, and to bid farewell to his many friends, to tear himself away from his grey-haired mother and his darling sweetheart.
Monday, the 15th of October, 1798, was the day fixed for Warwick's execution. The morning was dark and lowering, the sun hid its face, and nature seemed shrouded in mourning for the scene about to be enacted.
A troop of horse and a battalion of infantry were mustered in front of
the provost in which Warwick was imprisoned. Many friends were seen
clustered in small parties about the Square in Newtownards, and a carriage
in which the devoted victim of the times was to be conveyed to the place of
execution stood opposite the windows of the room. His friends were admitted
singly to pay their final visit and say a last farewell. Warwick was greatly
agitated; his accustomed serenity and self-command had forsaken him
entirely. In the centre of the room stood a table on which were scattered a
few books. Beside them was a neatly tied up and labelled parcel; it
contained a number of confidential and domestic papers; the signature of the
president of the court-martial was written outside. The packet also
contained several letters, which were seized on the arrest of Warwick, and
which were from his loved Mary. Poor Mary! She lay in a. violent convulsive
fit in the arms of her aged father, who had borne her to a dark corner of
the prisoner's apartment. They had spent the greater part of the night
together in reading and in consoling each other under the dreadful
visitation that was about to alight on both.
Warwick paused for a moment as he was about to depart, and cast his eyes again towards the angel of his earthly existence, as she lay insensible to all that was to happen, her pale and beautiful face marked with the lines of deep sorrow. As he did so he calmly said -
"I do not complain; God's will must be done; but the vengeance of man is surely more terrible than even the visitations of the Almighty. Our Heavenly Father is of long suffering and slow to anger; but man is sudden and furious in his revenge. To die is appalling, even under any circumstances, but to be separated from her with whom I had hoped to enjoy many years of love and happiness; to be dragged down to the grave thus early in life, and to leave her behind who is to me all that belongs to life itself. O, God! support me in this terrible hour of my dark despair."
In a fit of wildness and fearful agitation he clasped his aching forehead, his frenzied eyes speaking volumes of inward torture, and rushing out, flung himself into the carriage which was prepared for whilst the closing in of the soldiery, the prancing of the troopers, the slow and solemn tread of the guards, and the marching orders of the officers drowned from the ears and shut out from the eyes of Warwick's friends what his tortures must have been, and the cavalcade departed for the place of execution.
The echo of the departed procession was no longer heard in the lonely street when the unfortunate Mary gave signs of returning animation. Her father bore her to the open window, that the cooling breezes of the morning might assist returning nature. But with the return of life there was no return of reason. The eyes were glazed, her features rigid, and she looked on those around her as though nothing but empty space was there. Then it was that the soul of the father was in terrible tribulation. He did not weep, but he groaned heavily in mental agony.
When the procession reached Mountstewart a scene was enacted sufficient "to make even angels weep." The Marquis of Londonderry, who presided at Warwick's trial, and who a short time before had hanged the Rev. James Porter, the Presbyterian Minister of Greyabbey, in front of his own Manse, was just about to mount his horse to see that the sentence of the court was fulfilled to the letter, when his invalid daughter, a wasted and lovely girl, wrapped up in a portion of her bedclothes, rushed from the splendid hall, and flinging herself on her knees on the green sward, begged the life of the devoted victim. The judge was inexorable! The law must be obeyed, and the next funeral wail, after poor Warwick's that rose on the shores of Loch Cuan, was heard over the departed daughter of the cruel father of Lord Castlereagh, who ended his life with his own hand.
The apparatus of death was erected close by Kirkcubbin meeting-house. Three files of soldiery, flanked by the troopers, surrounded Warwick and his friends. Some members of the Presbytery were with him, and in particular the hoary and venerable minister of Kirkcubbin stood by his young friend addressing himself in frequent prayer to the throne of righteousness and mercy.
The morning all along had been exceedingly stormy and wet. A gigantic mass of heavy thunder-clouds gathered immediately over the heads of the party. The Rev. Brydon had just finished his touching appeal to God, when a frightful peal of thunder burst right above the crowd, and all around seemed one great sheet of fire. The stern, troopers looked on each other with amazement, and all save the chief and the devoted Warwick trembled like the quivering leaves of the surrounding wood. How different were the feelings which produced that self-command in these two men! In Warwick the power of religion and a heart of purity and innocence, bore him up even in the bitter hour of death. In Londonderry all his brutal nature was summoned up to stifle conscience. The storm continued unabated. The rain fell down in torrents; the lightning blazed more frightfully; the thunder shook the firmament as if a revolution were at hand; and in the midst of these convulsions of nature Warwick was sacrificed to appease unnatural vengeance. Just as he was in his last convulsive struggle, a small cloud that had detached itself from the heavy masses above descended as though it would alight on the head of the dying man. It opened, and, to the amazement of every one present, a white dove was seen, with downward wing hovering immediately over the gallows tree. In another moment the cloud closed on the airy messenger and all was over with poor Warwick. Londonderry waved his sword, the ranks opened, and spurring his horse he rode off at a gallop to Mountstewart, looking dismayed and disheartened.
Wonder sat on every brow. The body was cut down, and as it was lowered to the earth the Rev. Brydon fearlessly exclaimed:
"Out of the power of tyranny!"
The remains of Warwick rest in Movilla graveyard, Newtownards. His broken-hearted mother decked his grave with flowers, and every day during the remainder of her life she visited the mournful spot. An eye-witness has thus described the scene often witnessed by him unobserved and at a respectful distance: "The frail old woman, with wrinkled features and white hair, kneeling upon the grave, her hands clasped, her weeping eyes turned up to Heaven, and her quivering lips moving in silent prayer."
And (these things happened in the County Down a little over one hundred years ago!
I HAVE but little more to tell my readers regarding the struggle of '98 in County Down. Volumes could be filled in recounting deeds of blood; the publication of these, however, might but perpetuate ill-feeling and freshen the recollections of much. that had better be forgotten.
Let me add a few words regarding the fate of some who have figured in my story. The Rev. Steele Dickson spent years in banishment. His sufferings were terrible, but he lived to record them, and to be restored to the bosom of his family. He died in poverty and lies buried in a pauper's grave in Clifton Street, Belfast. His tomb, however, has recently been marked by a suitable monument. Jamey Dillon, the scoundrel who betrayed Warwick, found it impossible to live at Drumawhey in consequence of the odium in which he was held. He removed to the town of Donaghadee, and there built is house, the cost of which was defrayed by Warwick's blood-money. To the present day the street in which he built the house is known as "Warwick Street". Here, too, he found life insupportable. Leaving that place, he went to the townland of Ballyhay, which is about a mile from Donaghadee and lodged with a relative there. When he appeared in public he was shunned by the old and hooted by the young. For a long time previous to his death he sat by the fireside, refusing to go to bed, so horrible were his dreams of the night. Dillon is dead, but his evil deeds will never be forgotten.
Ill fortune seemed to follow all who acted a base part in those troublous times, from Dillon, the publican, to Lord Castlereagh, who died by his own hand, in popular ignominy.
The Rev. Robert Black, a Presbyterian clergyman of Down, afterwards of Derry, was base enough to act as a Government spy and receive emoluments for the information he supplied. So degraded did he afterwards become in the estimation of his brother clerics and the public that his mind appeared affected. He ultimately committed suicide by leaping from Derry Bridge into the River Foyle.
Good old widow Warwick, having mourned for years the murder of her son, passed away from earth. Their ashes mingle in the same grave; their spirits are united in the Better Land.
Merry-hearted Mat McClenaghan lived to a good old age. Some of his descendants still reside in the Ards, and once of them pursuing the calling of his predecessor. May he never find it necessary to imitate Mat's example in forging pikes!
The participators in the scenes of '98 have passed away. History should deal fearlessly with them; the present generation should speak reverently of them. Through all time, fathers and mothers shall tell to their offsprings the mournful story of
THE BATTLE OF BALLYNAHINCH
Oh were you at the Battle of Ballynahinch,
Munro being weary and in the need of a sleep,
The army it came and surrounded Munro
Munro he was taken and placed in a hall,
Oh I'll die for Old Ireland as I lived for her cause
Here's a health to each hero who for freedom does stand,