Other Stories and Pictures of  '98.


THE EVENTS leading up to the Battle of Ballynahinch - the Saintfield skirmish, the insurgent encampment at Creevy Rocks, Monro's advance upon, and occupation of, Ballynahinch, his first collision with the Military on Tuesday evening, 12th June, when he withdrew from the town and Windmill Hill and concentrated all his forces on Ednavady Hill -- are adequately dealt with in the main story of this book.

As for the main battle, which commenced at 3 a.m. on the morning of Wednesday, 13th June, we present readers with some additional details.

The insurgents numbered between 5,000 and 7,000 but more than a thousand had deserted during the night. The military numbered between 2,000 and 3,000. In artillery Nugent had six six-pounders and two howitzers, while Monro had only eight one-pounder swivel guns mounted on common cars.

Nugent's principal officers were Major General Barber in charge of artillery, Colonel Leslie and Lt.-Col. Stewart, while Monro's chief officers were James Townsend and Dr. Valentine Swail.

It would seem that it was part of Monro's plan to advance a strong force on his right flank through the demesne to the east, to cross the river at the Mill Bridge (on the road from Ballynahinch to Clough), then north across the Mill Fields to attack Nugent's headquarters on Windmill Hill. Foreseeing this, Nugent dispatched Lt.-Col. Stewart with the Argyll Fencibles, three companies of Yeomanry, part of the 22nd Dragoons and Yeomanry cavalry, with one six-pounder and a howitzer to enfilade the insurgent right flank. Accordingly, Lt.-Col. Stewart made his way from Windmill Hill down the Mill Fields, and up Crabtree Hill towards old Magheradroll churchyard, from which position he could fire into the demesne lands.


The battle began at 3 a.m. with artillery attacks on both fronts. Nugent placed two of his six-pounders in Bridge Street (now Dromore Street) to support the Monaghan Militia against the insurgent attack led here by Monro. One participant on the insurgent side described the action thus - "We were obliged to go up in the face of a party of the Monaghan Militia who did not fail to salute us with a brisk fire. We ran up like bloodhounds and the Monaghans fled into the town where they kept up a kind of broken fire which we returned, although only about twenty of us were armed with muskets. We obliged them to take shelter in the houses twice".

As may be gathered from the above, fighting in this sector was severe. Captain Henry Evatt, adjutant of the Monaghans, was shot dead, Lieut. Hillis wounded, and the army was forced back up Bridge Street.

Meanwhile, Monro sent a fresh detachment over the bridge, and turning due east they crossed the field to reach Church Street near the parish church. This force soon made contact with the main attacking party at the head of Bridge Street and together they pushed the army back to the Market Square. Despite musketry cross-fire, and grape and canister shot which took heavy toll, and the fact that the ammunition for their musketry was expended, the insurgents pressed forward with pike, bayonet and sword, driving the military down Meeting-House Street (now Windmill Street) towards Windmill Hill.

A cavalry charge against the insurgents failed, and the 61b. balls for Nugent's cannon became exhausted (when leaving Belfast in a hurry a pile of 91b. arid 121b. balls had been put tip in mistake). It was at this juncture that Nugent ordered a general retreat. But the insurgents mistook the bugle call as the signal for a charge (or a summons for reinforcements) and they hesitated and gave way. General Barber seeing this, ordered the troops to the charge, and pursued the enemy through the town.


During this time heavy fighting took place on Monro's right flank, in the region of Mill Bridge. What had been intended as an attack by Monro was forced to become a defence in which all the advantage lay with the military, they having the greater artillery support.

General Nugent in his dispatch to Lt.-General Lake describes this part of the action thus -- "Lieut.-Col. Stewart now advanced within two hundred yards of the main body of the Rebels, who made three different attempts with their musketry, supported by a very great number of Pikemen, to dislodge him, but were completely beat back by the steadiness and firmness of the Argyll Fencibles and the Yeomanry, covered by the Howitzer and the gun served with grape shot, which killed a great number of Rebels, many of whom they carried off, notwithstanding our heavy fire . . . Lieut.-Col. Stewart took possession of their strong post on the Hill where lie found their eight guns with a great quantity of ammunition, their Colours, Cars, Provisions, etc. - a very considerable number of the Rebels who were concealed in the Plantation near Lord Moira's House were killed there . . . "

The defeat of the insurgents on Ednavady Hill was almost simultaneous with their retreat in the town. Tire cavalry was ordered in chase, and the defeat became a rout, many being cut down as they fled to seek refuge in the countryside.


The losses on both sides can only be guessed at. One account of the battle says: "In the conflict from 80 to 100 of the insurgents were killed and many wounded. Of the army it could never be ascertained what number was killed, as their dead and wounded were carried off in tumbrels. There were, it is thought, about 40 killed, or perhaps more".

General Nugent claimed to have killed 300 in the actual fighting and 200 in the pursuit, and the killing and destruction continued for some days. The army casualties admitted by Nugent were low to the point of absurdity - "one captain and I believe 5 rank and file killed and one lieutenant and about 16 rank and file wounded . . . and several yeoman infantry killed and wounded".

During their occupation of the town the military burned and pillaged: 63 houses were burned; 69, including the houses of worship, were left standing.


Professor James Thomson (father of Lord Kelvin), who lived at Spamount, and was a boy of twelve at the time, wrote an interesting eye-witness account of the battle in 1825. In it he states that on their arrival at Ednavady Hill on Monday, 11th June, the insurgents dispatched parties in all directions to collect provisions and bring in the United Irishmen. They were more successful in the former (mainly by using threats), than in the latter as the men of Ballynahinch and neighbourhood in general chose to retire to Slieve Croob and adjoining mountains. Thomson accompanied women folk of his own family with provisions to the insurgents. They were well received and conducted through the camp, shown pikes, cannon and ammunition, which the leaders pointed out to them. The men did not have uniforms, but were dressed in "Sunday clothes". All wore something green, and some of the leaders had green coats and yellow belts.

In arms, the majority had pikes. Some of the men had old swords, and those of the higher class had guns.
Professor Thomson described the scene of battle as witnessed from a hilltop near his home at Spamount. The approach of military from Belfast was "announced by the smoke and fumes of farm-houses which they set on fire indiscriminately. Inhabitants who had not yet deserted their dwellings began forthwith to remove such articles as appeared valuable, or could be most easily concealed . . A person in the neighbourhood concealed upward of a hundred guineas in a magpie's nest in a high tree".

The battle on the 12th started at 6 p.m. and went on until dusk, and consisted chiefly of cannon and musketry. A great many of the rebels deserted, and the more determined were heard shouting to stop the runaways.

Between two and three in the morning the King's forces set fire to houses in the town and the rebels with their small artillery tried to arrest the work of devastation. The Royal army recommenced the cannonade with heavier fire than before. A detachment with pieces of artillery flanked the insurgent forces and their success contributed in a considerable degree to the success of the military.

After mentioning the attack in Bridge Street and the centre of the town, Professor Thomson continued: "During this part of the engagement which continued for a considerable period we distinctly heard the cheers, the yells and the shrieks of the combatants .
it is certain that the King's forces did not at that time succeed in their intention (to dislodge the rebels from their position). The rebel army, however, was suffering constant diminution by desertion, and their fire was gradually slackening and had almost ceased, it is said, from want of ammunition, about seven in the morning."


This miniature of Betsy Gray, which is in the possession of Mr. C. J. Robb, Spa, was first published in the 1920's in a booklet "Out in '98". It was reproduced from a painting by a man called Newell of Downpatrick, who posed as a United Irishman prior to 1798, but who was, in fact, in the pay of the Government.


A SLIGHTLY different account from that by W. G. Lyttle of the murder of Betsy Gray is given in "McComb's Guide", published in 1861 (about 30 years before Lyttle's publication). It states "She went into action (at the Battle of Ballynahinch) with a brother and lover, determined to share their fate, mounted on a pony, and bearing a green flag. After the defeat the three fled, and on their retreat they were overtaken by a detachment of the Hillsborough Yeomanry Infantry, within a mile and a half of Ballynahinch.

"She was first come up with, the young men being at a little distance, seeking a place for her to cross a small river, and could easily have escaped. She refused to surrender; and when they saw her likely to fall into the hands of the yeomen, they rushed to her assistance and endeavoured to prevail on the captors to release her, offering themselves as prisoners in her stead. Their entreaties were in vain. Her brother and her lover were murdered on the spot. She still resisted; and it is said that a man called "Jack Gill", one of the cavalry, cut her gloved hand off with his sword. She was then shot through the head by Thomas Nelson, of the parish of Annahilt, aided by James Little, of the same place. The three dead bodies were found and buried by their friends. Little's wife was afterwards seen wearing the girl's ear rings and green petticoat."

It is local tradition that Betsy and George Gray and Willie Boal were killed at the corner of what is known as Horner's Road near the farm of James Henry McMaster, and that the bodies were carried over rocky fields to the hollow in which it was easier to open a grave.

The memorial which was erected on Betsy Gray's grave in a vale in the townland of Ballycreen, about two miles from Ballynahinch. The inscription on side shown in photograph reads - "Elizabeth Gray. George Gray, William Boal, 13th June, 1798".

A photograph of the opposite side of the memorial. This reads:
"Erected by James Gray, grandnephew of Elizabeth and George Gray, 1896".

Mr. James Mills, of Antrim Road, Ballynahinch, at the grave of Betsy
Gray. The letters ZABE are still legible on one of the slabs of granite which formed part of the memorial.

The land on which the grave is situated belongs to Mr. John Dunlop, but it remained in the Armstrong family (who found the bodies) until the present century.

The Yeoman from Annahilt who murdered Betsy Gray became most unpopular. Mr. Hugh McCann, Drumkeeragh, Dromara, informed us that his father, Mr. Terence McCann, a local historian who was born about 1850, said the parishioners of Annahilt Church wouldn't sit in the same pew as the Littles, and that their children were stoned at school.

The women of the Little family were seen wearing parts of Betsy Gray's clothing and ear rings, and a man who was employed by the Little family in the early years of this century, stated in a letter that he saw the green dress in a box in Little's house. (This letter is in the possession of Mr. C. J. Robb, of Spa.)


Mr. James Mills, of Antrim Road, Ballynahinch, who was born in 1882, was present when a number of local loyalists destroyed the
( monument on Betsy Gray's grave in 1898 - but it was in no disrespect of Betsy's memory that they did so: neither was it the contrary.

"There was to have been a special ceremony at the grave on that Sunday to mark the centenary of the '98 Rising," said Mr. Mills, "and local Protestants were inflamed because it was being organised by Roman Catholics and other Home Rulers. They didn't like these people claiming Betsy, and they became so enraged that they decided to prevent the ceremony from taking place, so they smashed the monument with sledge hammers."

Those involved in the wrecking included Mrs. Watt and her three sons; William Simpson, James Samuel McMaster, James and Samuel Quinn, Samuel McCaughey, and men called Duffield and Totten.

When the parties, mainly from Belfast, began to arrive in horse drawn carriages for the centenary ceremony, several scuffles took place, and the reins of the horses were cut by the locals, the horses scared off and the carriages "couped." One Catholic named John McManus of Ballykine, who was known in the district as "a decent man," was saved from his pursuers by Mr. John Magowan, brotherin-law of Mr. Mills.

Down the years pieces of the granite stone were removed as souvenirs and taken all over the world, and the railings from the grave were fashioned into horse-shoes by James Martin, who then had the blacksmith's shop at Magheraknock. He gave these to many of his friends, and one is in the possession of Dr. A. R. Hamilton of Ballynahinch.

Mr. Edward Totten, of Lisburn Street, Ballynahinch, who is two years younger than Mr. Mills, has confirmed the above facts.

This photograph of the pistol believed to have been carried by Betsy Gray at the Battle of Ballynahinch was taken at the beginning of the 20th century by the late Mr. T. McNeilly, father of Miss McNeilly, Mourne View, Ballynahinch.

The Irish Volunteers being reviewed at Lisburn in 1782. Amongst the onlookers on the left is a man with his hand to his chin. He is Henry Monro, who became the insurgent leader at Ballynahinch.

The axe reputed to have been used in the execution of Monro
(Photo by late T. McNeilly, Ballynahinch).


THERE IS a tradition (which corresponds with Lyttle's story) that Monro was captured at what is now Mr. Thomas McKeown's farm in Clintnagooland (between Ballynahinch and Dromara, where he was betrayed by William Holmes and his wife.

However, Mr. Robert Gray, of Church Street, Ballynahinch, says Holmes at that time lived in a house in Burren, about half a mile on the Ballynahinch side of McKeown's, and on the north side of the road. The house is now in ruins.

"The reason for the misunderstanding," said Mr. Gray, "is that Robert Holmes, a grandson of the couple who deceived Monro, was bequeathed the house which is now McKeown's and he lived there until about 1910. The property was next owned by Peels for a time before the McKeowns purchased it. During the years when Lyttle and others were doing research into the '98 Rebellion, Robert Holmes resided in this house, and that is how the mistake arose."

An old lane leads from the house down to the Dromore Road and it was along it that Monro was taken on his journey which led to Dromore, and from thence to Lisburn and the execution block.

The Holmes family became so unpopular in the district that they eventually left Ballynahinch to live in Antrim.

William Holmes was buried in Dromara Parish Churchyard, and Mr. Gray recalls attending the funeral of Robert Holmes in 1924, when he was interred in the same grave. So far as Mr. Gray is aware, there are no relations now in the Ballynahinch district.

Mr. Gray's father took a keen interest in the history of the '98 period and passed most of his knowledge on to him. He is a relative of the late Mr. Thomas Gray of Tullyniskey, Dromara, who claimed to be connected with the Betsy Gray family.

The house at Carricknacessna, Saintfield in which the McKee family were burned to death by the Insurgents. Mr. Wallace Massey, the present owner, who uses the house as an out office, says the window in the gable is farther towards the back of the house than the original one through which McKee's daughter saw the Insurgents approach over Gill's Knowe.


AFTER THE PUBLICATION of an article in the "Mourne Observer", Newcastle, Co. Down, by a correspondent signing himself as "The Student", which suggested that the McKee family of Saintfield may not have been as `black' as they were painted by W. G. Lyttle (see Chapter 30) the following letter was received from an authoritative source: --

Although it is doubtless an excellent axiom not to speak ill of the dead, I feel that "The Student" is perhaps too keen to whitewash the unfortunate McKees. One cannot condone their murder - the only atrocity committed by the insurgents in Co. Down - but in fairness to the rebels one must point out that for two years prior to the rebellion a veritable reign of terror existed in the Saintfield neighbourhood, and the McKees were largely to blame. In March, 1797, the McKees tried to have eleven of their neighbours hanged on a false charge of attacking their home.

A few details of the murder may be of interest. William Dodd, who owned the ladder used in the attack, was a rebel whose wife was a sister of Samuel Adams, who was attacked by Nelly McKee. Twelve were hanged for the murder - William McCaw, William Shaw, James Breeze, hanged 23rd March, 1799; Hugh McMullan, James Collins, Andrew Morrow, James Morrow, Robert Glover, David McKelvey, James Hewitt, Thomas McKeever and Samuel HewAt, hanged 6th April, 1799.

Charles Young accused only James McNamara, William Shaw, Hugh McMullan and John McKibben of the murder. James Gardner accused James Breeze, James Collins, Rev. Adair, James Shaw, sen., James Shaw, jun., Thomas McKeever, John Thompson, William McCall, James McCall, James Swan, William Keown, William Gill, jun., Patrick Miskelly, David Hamilton, James Hammil, Samuel Sibbet, Thomas Torney, Rev. Warden, Archibald McCann, Andrew Morrow, James Morrow, Robert Glover, David McKelvey, Samuel Hewitt, Hans Shaw, Thomas Coulter, Arner Phillips, James Sibbet, Samuel McCann, Adam Finlay, and - Wallace, a deserter from the Breadalbane Fencibles.

The attack on the McKees was apparently made in two waves. An eye-witness, Betty McCall, said she did not know any of the attackers, except James Shaw, who was dressed in a green jacket. She heard it was a fiddler named Orr, who lived between Saintfield and Killyleagh, who set the house on fire. She saw John McKibben, a Saintfield surgeon, who was armed with a pistol, march up with the first party.

Catherine Quinn, another eye-witness, later told that she stood at the rock opposite her own house while the second party marched up to the attack. She and three friends, Mary McMaster, Susanna

McMaster and Ellen Murray, watched the attack and burning of the house, and waited till the attackers returned to Saintfield. The only attacker whom she knew was Charles Young, who was armed with a pitchfork. She saw Flora and Betty McCall come up from the Saintfield direction after the second party had marched past, and go towards their own house in order to avoid the shots.

It is remarkable that most of those accused of the murder were not natives of the district. Keown and Glover hailed from Ballymoran; Torney, the Morrows and Hewitts from Killinchy, the Sibbets from Balloo, the Breezes from Toye, and McKelvey from Ballymacreely. Keown was the son of the kilnsman at Ravara Mill, and James Swan was the son of the miller. The only local man hanged for the murder was William McCaw, a weaver in Carricknaveagh.

"The Student" replied, acknowledging the authority of above, but respectfully submitting that since so few local United Irishmen took part in the affair, those who murdered the family did not know the full facts. After all, the McKees openly declared their loyalty and were not sly informers. "The Student" also said that although this is the only (recorded) atrocity committed by the insurgents, there was certainly a good deal of intimidation in some quarters of those who did not join the United Irishmen.

The key of the original door to McKee's house, which is now in the possession of Mr. Robert McKee of Carricknaveigh, Saintfield.


Mr. William Orr, of New Line, Saintfield, who believes he may be a descendant of one of the parties involved in the burning of the McKee family, has a quotation from "A History of the Descendants of David McKee, Annahilt", published in Philadelphia in 1892. It includes the following story about the Hugh McKee whose family suffered the terrible fate:

"Hugh was engaged to be married to a girl in the Ards. He went on the day arranged to the tavern where according to Scottish fashion the marriage was to take place. The clergyman, bridesmaid and all were there, except the bride. After what seemed an endless wait and everyone had given up hopes of the bride's appearance, Hugh, deeply chagrined and disappointed, turned to the bridesmaid with the question "Will you have me, then?" She consented, and the ceremony was immediately performed.

"The last word had scarcely been spoken, when the intended bride came galloping up to the door on horseback, having been delayed by her dressmaker. On learning the turn which matters had taken she violently upbraided her friend and bridesmaid, and left, telling her that some judgement would fall on her for what she had done.

"How tragic was the subsequent fate of Hugh, his wife, five sons and three daughters, at their farmstead at Craigy. Dozens of Croppies attacked the house with firearms. A valiant but ineffectual defence was offered. Soon the house was ablaze, and in the end the inmates were immolated. The threat of the disappointed bride was fearfully realised".


Mr. C. J. Robb consulting one of his volumes of manuscripts.

MR. COLIN JOHNSTON ROBB, of Magheratimpany, Ballynahinch, is well known for his researches into local history, and his writings extend to several volumes of manuscripts.

Mr. Robb kindly allowed us to study these and to use extracts from his exhaustive accounts of events in County Down at the time of the '98 Rebellion.

The next few pages are condensed stories of Mr. Robb's writings.


Mr. Robb's great grandfather, James Robb, was a Yeomanry officer at the Battle of Ballynahinch, while his (James's) brother, John, was one of the rebel leaders, and there is a tradition that they met during the battle.

John was one of the `Fifty Pounders' who, because of the price on his head, had to flee the country. He escaped to Norway where he later died.
In 1780 James Robb built the house at Magheratimpany in which Mr. C. J. Robb now lives. The arms belonging to the local Yeomen were kept in the house and the present dining room was known as "The Gun Room" in those days and indeed up until the present century.

James was wounded during the battle and he received a drink in a house to which he was carried unconscious. The drink revived him and after the battle he called in the same house, and seeing the jug from which he drank, offered to purchase it. The lady of the house gave it to him and he had an inscribed metal plate attached to it. This is now in the possession of Mr. C. J. Robb.

The epaulette from uniform worn by James Robb at the Battle of Ballynahinch, and the jug from which he drank when wounded.


The Spa area was very divided in its loyalities in '98, and although there was an efficient Yeomanry Corps under the command of James Robb
there was also a large number of United Irishmen.

These included not only James Robb's brother but also some of his employees, including one, John Davey, who lived in a house now occupied by Mr. Murphy, just a short distance from the Robb residence. Sensing that some day he might be seeking a safe refuge, Davey prepared a specially constructed turfstack with a hollow centre. After the battle, he escaped to the home of his employer and hid in the stack while troops enjoyed the hospitality of the loyal household.


The Clokey brothers from Spa were dedicated United Irishmen and were among the officers who fought at the Battle of Ballynahinch.

The Robb writings include an old poem written by a John McMuIlan, a native of Magheratimpany. It runs:

Did you hear of the Battle of Ballynahinch,
Where the country assembled in their own defence?
They assembled together and away they did go,
Led by their two heroes, Clokey and Munro."

The Clokey referred to was Andy Clokey, who resided on a farm now occupied by Mr. Robert Watson, Ballymacarn. He was secretary of Spa Volunteers and for a time was First Lieutenant of Volunteers. He was a friend of Wolfe Tone, whom he met in his brother's house in Ballynahinch when Tone was on a visit at one time to Lord Moira at Montalto. Clokey escaped to America, but through the influence of his family with David Ker, who prevailed upon the authorities, he was allowed to return home.

Clokey didn't rest immediately after the battle, because there is a on in the Dunturk area that while being pursued by the Royalist Troops he doubled back and attacked a band of horsemen in a field now owned by Mr. James McKay.

Mr. Barney Milligan, of Dunturk, remembers old people discussing this incident, and saying that the United men hid their saddles and bridles there and continued to flee on foot, so that they could not be so easily traced.

"Clokey the last of the Rebels" was a familiar saying in the Spa area until recent years, and it probably originated from the fact that Clokey returned home in 1825 and lived to a good old age. By that time the "Liberalism" of the area had almost disappeared and it later became a very loyalist district.


There was also a common grave on the back road to Spa above the present Croob Park housing estate in the woods near Spa Golf Course, where scores of bodies were thrown after being taken there in block wheel cars. These were pointed out to Mr. Robb by his grandfather, who died in 1912, and who had known many descendants of those who fought in the battle.


The Rev. Samuel Barber, Minister of First Rathfriland Presbyterian Church was involved with the United Irishmen. Rathfriland was by no means a stronghold of United Irishmen. A few other rebels came from that district including Tommy Cromie of Lisnacroppin, who was wounded in the Battle of Ballynahinch, and was treated by a doctor in Kilkeel through which he passed on his way to America. He was later pardoned and returned to Rathfriland and lived with his son who was a shopkeeper in the town. Of course there was the prominent United Irishman, Samuel Neilson (born 1761), son of Rev. Alex Neilson, minister of Ballyroney Presbyterian Church.


When the 22nd Light Dragoons and others were beating the country for rebels who fled after the Battle of Ballynahinch, many rebels took refuge in the islands of Strangford Lough and eluded arrest in this way.

John Torney, Hugh Coffey and Archie Murdock hid in an island at Ballygagan Lake. Torney later made his way to the house of one Small and dressed up in the clothes of Small's wife. Small took his horse from the stable and rode off through Killyleagh with Torney riding pillion, no one suspecting who the "lady" was. Torney escaped to America.


It is sometimes wrongly supposed that only men from North Down were involved with the United Irishmen.

This is probably because the majority of those at the Battle of Ballynahinch were from North of the county, but the 'entire county was involved in the movement and with the incidents which preceded the actual Rising. For example, a particularly bloody incident occurred near Kilkeel in 1797 when between 10 and 20 innocent and helpless people were killed.

It has been stated that there were no Roman Catholics present at the battle, but Roger Magennis, a Catholic, in a letter dated 1805, states that his corps, who were nearly all Catholics, held the offensive in the demesne along the Ballynahinch River.

Capt. Hugh Jennings, also a Catholic, who was at one time Captain of the Dunmore Yeomanry, was also present on the insurgent side with 450 Catholic Citizen Soldiers. He escaped to America and then to France, where he joined the French Army, and while serving in a volunteer company of the 8th French Regiment of Light Infantry, he was killed at the Battle of Barossa, 5th March, 1811.


The roads were cut up or trenched from Saintfield to Ballynahinch in order to make the approach of the military more difficult. This work was carried out by Ballynahinch insurgents under a Moses Montgomery.


The scene at Saintfield near the Secondary School, where the skirmish known as the Battle of Saintfield took place.


Saintfield, where traces of the liberation spirit which made it a strong centre for United Irishmen in 1798 remained until recently, was the scene of a skirmish on Saturday, 9th June, 1798 (see Chapter 31).

The military were defeated and the bodies of the dead Yorkshire Fencibles were buried in what is known as York Island at the bottom of the First Presbyterian Church Cemetery. Mr. Billy Grant, who is now in the R.U.C. and whose parents reside at The Square, Saintfield, is one of the local people to have found swords and bayonets in this swampy area.

In First Presbyterian Church itself there are several old weapons which were reputed to have been used in the battle. They include firearms, swords and a pike which was given to the late Rev. Stewart Dickson by Mr. Hugh McWilliams, of Lessans, Saintfield.


Two Killinchy men, who were involved in the Battle of Saintfield are also buried at the bottom of the graveyard, and their graves are marked by headstones.

The almost illegible inscriptions are -- `Here lies the remains of James McEwen, Ballymacreely, Killinchy, who departed this life, 9th June, 1798, aged 42 years.' (This was the date of the battle). `Here lies the body of John Lowry, Ballymorran, Killinchy, died 19th June, 1798, aged 46.'


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 Ballynahinch.

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.

UNIFORMS - A group of boys from Saintfield Intermediate School wearing Militia uniforms of the late 1700's, which belong to Col. M. C. Perceval-Price of Saintfield House. It is understood that these are the uniforms of the entire platoon which Mr. Nicholas Price was able to raise and they could well have been worn by members of the McKee family who were burned to death. The picture illustrates how the stature of modern man has increased in the past 170 years. The boys are (from left): Norman Leckey, David Carsar, Phillip Cherry, Brian Jordan and Roy Dickson

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.


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 is endless.

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 to Strangford.

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 morning.



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.

This headstone in Killinchy Parish Churchyard marks the grave of Dr. James Cord, who was hanged at Downpatrick, after courtmartial, on 23rd June, 1798, for his part in the Rebellion. He was aged 31 years.

MEMORIAL TO SOLDIERS I This memorial in Comber Parish Church bears the following inscription
In memory of Captain WILLIAM CHETWYND Lieut. WILLIAM HAWE UNITE and ENSIGN JAMES SPARKS late of The York Fencible Infantry

Who fell bravely fighting for their King and Glorious Constitution in an Engagement near Saintfield with the Rebels On the 9th Day of June, 1798

Their Brother Officers impressed with the deepest sorrow and with the highest sense of their courage and manly virtues have erected This Monument



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 1824-1914.

"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 doubleplanted 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.


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 girl's hair.

Mr. Wallace Mitchell, Lake View. Corbet, Banbridge, with a pike which is reputed to have been used in the Battle of Ballynahinch. The pike belonged to his mother and was handed down from a Joseph Richard Hooke, her great-grandfather, who lived on the same farm. Small spikes can be seen in the shaft which prevented the enemy from gripping it when attacked.

A standard British Army bayonet of the 1798 period which was found at Creevy's Rocks. It was probably taken by one of the insurgents at the Battle of Saintfield and left behind at Creevy- Rocks on the way to the Battle of Ballynahinch. It is in the possession of Mr. Cecil Cree, Ballycoan, Purdysburn, a teacher at Inst., who is a descendant on his mother's side of the Scotts of Ballykine.


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 brothers.

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 1916 troubles.


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.

Mr. Thomas McMaster, of Drumgavelin, with a sword which was found 20 years ago in the thatch of a house belonging to his father, the late Mr. Hamilton McMaster, at Glassdrummond, Ballynahinch. This house is occupied now by Mr, Thomas Duffield, and is only about half a mile from Betsy Gray's grave. There are different traditions concerning the house in which Betsy hid her sword; another house owned by the McMaster family is also believed to be associated with the relic.

Among the old weapons found in York Island, Saintfield, are a sword and a bayonet, which were discovered about 10 years ago by Mr. Billy Grant. His mother, who lives in The Square, Saintfield, is seen holding the relics.


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 longer standing.

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.


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 year.

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 Magheradroll Church.


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.

This picture, taken from an old postcard, shows the late Mr. George Macartney with his dog at the door of Betsy Gray's cottage, which stands about 300 yards off the main road, near the Six Road Ends. George and his brother William resided in the cottage, which was sold after their decease, and was purchased (about 1920) by the Warden brothers who now use it as a barn. The postcard is in the possession of Miss Jane Fletcher, who resides a short distance on the Newtownards side of the Six Road Ends. She is a niece of the Macartney brothers and great-granddaughter of Betsy's cousin.


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 known.

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."

This is a view of Betsy's Cottage as it is to-day. Corrugated iron covers the original thatch, and the building is used as an out office. The original rafters in the roof of the kitchen and the "glaik" or "glaiks" (a wooden contrivance for working the plunger of the churn) are still to be seen. Among the bushes opposite the front of the house is the old well in which pikes were hidden prior to the Rising, and where treasured possessions were concealed when Betsy followed her brother George and her lover Willie Boal to Ballynahinch.


Now for the evidence in support of Mr. Lyttle's story regarding Betsy's birthplace.

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, Eleanor Boyd.

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".


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)


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 together.

"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 Gray."

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.

Hans Gray's pewter plates, sugar tongs and signed Oath of Allegiance, also set of Georgian silver spoons, Georgian glass, guinea box and pistol, which are heirlooms of Miss Betsy Gray Macartney.


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 2in. ) 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 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 the county.


We have presented to readers both claims as to Betsy's birthplace. Despite our exhaustive enquiries, we have not been able to prove either beyond doubt.

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.