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Lisburn Historical Society, Volume 1, Henry Munro

Volume 1 • December 1978

Henry Munro, Chief of the Irish Rebels

Henry Munro, Chief of the Irish Rebels
Henry Munro, Chief of the Irish Rebels

MUCH HAS BEEN SAID and written about Henry Monroe, ask the man in the street, and he will tell you that he was hanged in the Market Square, Lisburn for his part in the Battle of Ballynahinch in 1798 - that is about all he can tell you.

Henry Monro was a linen merchant residing in Lisburn, he was a regular buyer at all the linen markets in Ulster, and in that capacity he was well known by all those in the linen markets.

In person he was remarkably handsome, he was exceedingly fond of dressing with neatness and taste. A portion of his black hair, in keeping with the fashion of the times, was worn very long and tied with a black ribbon hung over the collar of his coat.

His conduct in private life has been described as that of a perfect gentleman. He was fond of fun - a rather dashing personality. These were his characteristics. Some instances of his bravery have been related. When attending a linen market in Lurgan, a fire broke out in a local church, Monro personally at great risk to himself, was mainly responsible for the quenching of the flames.

Monro was a member of the congregation of Lisburn Cathedral, it was said that he was greatly attached to that Church. He had been a member of the Old Volunteers-this body was disbanded in 1793.

He lived in very troubled times in Irish History, and before relating the history of Monro and his fate, here would be the best place to bring the reader up to date as to what was happening in Ireland in and around the 1790-98 period.

The Volunteers, of which Monro had been a member, were raised in 1778 although he must have joined this company at a later date. These Volunteers were mobilised to fight a threatened invasion from the French who had been threatening to invade the Irish Mainland. The French were subsequently repulsed and their Invasion Plans came to nought. In the following years the Volunteers ventured into politics, for their own ends, resulting in what later became known as the Dungannon Convention 1782. The Resolution being - "Resolved unanimously that any claim by any body of men other than the King and Lord of the Commons of Ireland, to make laws to bend the Kingdom is unconstitutionally illegal and a Grievance". The above spectacle was adopted in Lisburn, Henry Monro as a spectator witnessed this scene.

In 1791 a Dublin lawyer, Wolfe Tone, founded the United Irishmen in Belfast. This Movement spread rapidly throughout Ireland. In the North they were mostly Protestants whilst in the south they were mostly Roman Catholics. Wolfe Tone himself was a Protestant. He was a great organiser. He also had French interests. In 1792 the Government in Dublin aware of what was going on, issued a statement that they were aware that the "United Irishmen" were in league with the French, and banned any show of sympathy. But a Lisburn man, Napper Tandy, along with Hamilton Rowan paraded through Dublin dressed in French Uniforms. The United Irishmen always had great hopes of having French assistance to help them in their aims of an insurrection when they the United Irishmen would rebel against the Dublin Authorities and the King and Constitution. The Government in Dublin on the 11th March 1793 issued a Proclamation stating that owing to discord in the ranks of the Volunteers they were to be disbanded. This Proclamation caused a lot of ill feeling towards the Government.
By 1795, Protestants and Catholics who had been members of the old Volunteers were now at variance with each other. Land grabbing seemed to be the order of the day. In County Armagh at Loughgall a clash occurred between Catholics and Protestants, culminating in the Rise of the Orange Order at a certain "Dan Winters" cottage in the Diamond, Loughgall, where it is said the first Orange Lodge was formed. The Orange Society Movement spread with great speed across most of Ireland. The United Irishmen aware of this were somewhat forced to delay the apparent rising, as most of their members in the North were Protestants mainly Presbyterians. These Presbyterians did not want to be involved in any friction against their fellow Orangemen.

Hugh McCalls "House of Downshire" writes that 1796 opened on a state of society distracted as it was ominous. Belfast and its neighbourhood had become strongholds of revolt. Secret meetings were held in by-streets and by-lanes, pikes were being made in large numbers and old firearms, swords etc., were being collected by the leaders of the United Irishmen. From secret intelligence received at Dublin Castle, it was supposed that the United Irishmen would make a surprise move and capture the garrison stationed in Belfast. Belfast had the appearance of a besieged town. Most of the shops and business premises were closed. Large bodies of foot soldiers and a troop of horse soldiers patrolled the streets.

The Republicans of Bordeaux in France had been in touch with the United Irishmen. Louis XVII died in prison and Napoleon Bonaparte was raised to the rank of First Consul. The Leaders of the United Irishmen were rejoicing at this news and invasion had been talked of freely and visions of military aid from France were floating in the minds of many Belfast merchants. On the 27th December 1796 a French fleet was seen in Bantry Bay off the south west coast of Ireland. Word was immediately sent to Dublin and the Lord Lieutenant informed Mr. John Brown, Sovereign of Belfast, of this alarming news. A meeting was held in the Exchange Room; many of the disbanded Volunteers were present and offered their services.

All through 1797 the state of the country continued to be more alarming and anarchy spread from the extreme North to the far South. In Banking and Mercantile Circles distrust prevailed and dismay ruled in the Rural District, and the sad year commenced as if some dark clouds hung over the face of Ulster. But even then if a mere instalment of the justice to Ireland, which was afterwards wrung from the British Government had been conceded, the horrors of civil war might have been averted. No move was made in that direction by the Authorities.

The Marquis of Downshire, Lieutenant of the County, presided and among those present were Lord Annsley, The Earl of Londonderry, Major Crawford and other magistrates. Treasonable practices and house wrecking were being carried out by the rebels and the meeting sent a plea to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to place the Baronies of Ards and Castlereagh under the Insurrection Act.
Lord Camden was recalled from Dublin Castle, and Charles, Marquis of Cornwallis was appointed to wield the viceregal sceptre in Dublin.

Martial law was proclaimed and large bodies of soldiers were stationed in Belfast, Lisburn and other centres, but all these precautions proved of no avail to stem the Rebellion. The innocent as well as the guilty suffered horrors which no language could rightly describe. The savagery of the soldiery being only equalled by that of the native troops. Early in June 1798 hundreds of lives were lost and vast damage was done to property and the Down Rebels were without a leader. Monro having been an Old Volunteer and a leader in the United Party was then invited by the Down Rebels to lead them.
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The particulars supplied from La Ville de l'Orient which arrived at Kinsale as prize to the frigate Druid stated that on the 14th December 1796 the fleet sailed from Brest and consisted of 18 sail of the line, 14 frigates, five large transport and some small vessels with 25,000 troops on board. Six weeks provisions for the soldiers and two months provisions for the seamen, sixty more transports with troops were ready to follow the expedition as soon as a landing was affected. There were three squadrons commanded by Rear Admiral Bouvet, Admiral Morad e Galles and Rear Admiral Neilly. The enterprise was unfortunate from the beginning. At the Passade De Raz the fleet was parted by severe storms many ships being driven back. A large number of ships however reached their destination. Still the stamp of failure was on the whole project. One ship of 74 guns with 1,700 men on board was lost when leaving Brest. Only 70 were saved. Another ship of 74 guns was lost with all hands, 1,700 in all, off the Lizard. A third ship of 74 guns was burned at sea with a further loss of 1,700 hands. A fourth vessel of the same class was sunk by the "Majestic" off Cape Clear - a 44 gun ship was run down by the 18 gun Jourville - 650 more men found a watery grave. The "Tartar" of 44 guns was captured by the "Polyphemus" and brought to Cork with 625 men. The "Juste" transport was also taken by the "Polyphemus" and afterwards foundered with 600 men on board. A ship of 38 guns ran unto the rocks at Bantry Bay, of the 600 men on board only five were saved. Another of 44 guns was scuttled in Bantry Say- all the troops on board were saved. A 74 gun ship, the "Seevola" foundered with 700 men on board. A vessel "Armée en Flute" which carried the French General Hoche's carriage was captured, although he was not aboard, he along with half of his force were forced to turn back to Brest by severe storms. He never came back again. The rest of the fleet reached Bantry Bay in January 1797. Bantry Bay is one of the finest anchorages in Europe, 26 miles long, 3 miles broad. Average depth 50 fathoms. Thirteen ships reached Bantry, ten of them proceeded to land at the town of Bantry. Here they got more than they bargained for, by this time the Yeomanry who were assembling in great numbers along with the Loyal population repulsed the French. Meanwhile the British fleet came on the scene and they chased the French who just scrambled home to Brest. The invasion proved a failure.

The action taken by Lord Bantry and the townspeople had earned his Lordship his title. A tablet erected in the local Parish Church testifies to this fact. In the South the rebels were mostly Roman Catholics, they were pursuing a policy of suppression of Protestants. Many cruel deeds were thus perpetuated. The struggle of the Presbyterians was to achieve liberty of conscience and just legislation. Those who had been drawn into the United Movement were not to achieve their ends by the French method of liberty and equality but rather revolution, slaughter and confiscation.
The Declaration of the Presbyterian Synod of Ulster published in I798 stated that they felt themselves called upon to explicitly avow and publish their unshaken attachment to the general principles of the British constitution; therefore it would be a gross slander to state that the Presbyterians as a body were mixed up in the Rebellion. Any conspirator who called himself a Presbyterian or any other denomination hated King and Constitution, Church and Stale.
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The leaders of the rebels in Ulster as a rule were men of good social standing and their education rightly employed would have gained high awards. Henry Monro must have known many of them personally, possibly through the notorious Whig Club. The members of the Whig Club wore a suit of blue, with blue velvet cuffs and cape. A gilt button with the motto "Persevere". 

Archibald Hamilton Rowan, who paraded through Dublin with Napper Tandy, was born in London and was descended from an old Scottish family. He was present at the last Old Volunteer review and had been a private in his father's regiment. He joined the Whig Club and through it got so involved with the United Irishmen that for his own safety he had to leave the country. He returned in 1800, settled in Killyleagh and died in 1834 much lamented.

Thomas Russell born in Bessbrook, Co. Armagh, was educated for the Church but choose a military career, joining the 64th Regiment as a Captain. He held the office of Seneschal of Dungannon's Manor Court and was a Justice of the Peace for Tyrone. Russell came to Belfast with his Regiment; became connected with the Linenhall Library and a contributor to the "Northern Star". Subsequently he became friends with the United Irishmen who appointed him to lead the Rebels of Down. However the Government interrupted his plans and he was arrested, along with other leaden and sent to Newgate Prison in London.

William Simpson, son of an Episcopalian clergyman was born in Londonderry and educated in Trinity College, Dublin. After joining the United Irishmen he even pleaded their case in Court. He also joined the Whig Club and Northern Star paper. On making slanderous statements against the Orangemen he was arrested but acquitted following which he went to America where he joined the American Bar and rose to great eminence.

Rev. Steele Dickson, a Presbyterian Minister, possessed a great energy of character and was a very fluent speaker at political elections. He joined the United Irishmen but was arrested on the eve of the insurrection and sent to Fort George. The remains of this great man were interred in a Pauper's Grave.

Rev. Wm. Jackson, an Episcopalian minister was convicted of treasonable offences and correspondence with the French. After being condemned to death he poisoned himself.
Rev. James Porter was executed in front of his own Church in Saintfield for his part in the local Battle.

Rev. Sinclair Kelburn, minister of Rosemary Street Presbyterian Church, Belfast, was connected with Wolfe Tone. He was arrested and sent to Newgate Gaol.

Also arrested were Rev. Thos. Ledlie, Saintfield, Rev. James Simpson, Newtownards and Rev. Wm. Drennan.

Henry Joy McCracken, born in Belfast, held a respectable business in the linen trade. He was the first to introduce the cotton trade to Belfast. His first experiments to cotton spinning were held in the old Poor House. He, with Wolfe Tone founded the United Irishmen. He was arrested and sent to Gaol in Dublin for 13 months. On release he returned to Belfast where he threw himself into the revolt, being in command at the Battle of Antrim. Immediately after the Battle he was arrested, court martialled and executed in the same day and was buried in the old burial ground at St. George's Church, High Street, Belfast.

These were men of note in their own respective circles but made bad use of their talents.
Henry Monro once witnessed a public flogging in Lisburn. It is said that the remembrance of this spectacle hardened his heart against the powers of the authorities. So he accepted the offer to lead the rebels of Down, not realising the dangerous path he was taking or where it might end, especially as he had no experience as an Army General. As soon as he assumed power and counted his forces which numbered around 7,000 the remnants of the Battle of Saintfield, he gave orders to march and capture Ballynahinch whose inhabitants some 800 had all fled to Lisburn. The spearhead of his troops was led by a commander Townsend who encamped at Creevy Rocks. A writer in the Belfast magazine stated that his camp composed of a motley crew of men, women and children - people were able to visit the camp through curiosity hence the women and children.

On the 11th June Monro himself and the main body of his troops marched to Ballynahinch. He encamped at Edenvaddy. His camp seemed to be better organised. It being a very hot day many of his men lay on the ground. A lot of women mostly servants were present. They were all making preparations for the offensive. No uniforms were worn but all were tolerable welt dressed, some were in Sunday clothes but all contrived to wear something green. The leaders wore green coats with yellow belts. Monro's forces were armed mainly with pikes, a formidable weapon some seven to eight feet in length with a wooden shaft and afoot of pointed wrought iron. This weapon was very effective at close range. Other weapons included old swords, pitchforks, old muskets and pistols.
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All eyes were now turned to Ballynahinch. A company of soldiers arrived just in time to prevent some rebels from hanging 3 helpless yeomen whom they had captured. On seeing the military the insurgents released their captives and fled. The soldiers orders were to await the arrival of Nugent's Forces to attack Monro's forces at Creevy Rocks. Nugent's forces arrived on Tuesday, 12th June. His forces consisted of 700 infantry, 150 cavalry, five field pieces, comprising the Monaghan Regiment, under Captain Leslie, 22nd Light Dragoons and the Belfast Cavalry under Captain Rainey. They were joined by the Magheragall Cavalry under Captain Wakefield. These men had been at the Battle of Antrim with Commodore Watson. Major General Nugent commanding His Majesty's forces in the North of Ireland not wanting to put any more suffering on the rebels than was necessary issued the following statement:

"That if those unfortunate persons who by the acts of selfish and designing people have been seduced from their allegiance to their lawful King George III to become rebels and traitors to their country. If they return to their duties as faithful and peaceable subjects and to their respective homes and occupations the General positively and surely states to them that no one whosoever in the country shall be molested or their property injured as a proof of their return to Loyalty and good government and they must in the course of 24 hours after the date of this proclamation liberate all prisoners in their hands and send them to their homes and to hand over all kinds of weapons in their possession along with ammunition and also to deliver up all leaders in this Insurrection. Should the above injunctions not be complied with, then Major General Nugent will proceed to destroy the towns of Killinchy, Killyleagh, Saintfield, Ballynahinch and all cottages and farms in the vicinity". The proclamation was not complied with and Nugent kept his word. Saintfield was in ashes and a smoke screen from burning cottages and farmhouses announced the approach of the Loyalists forces. Many stories are told of people hiding their valuables away from their homes. One story of one hiding 100 guineas in a magpie's nest. Food, furniture and leases etc., being hidden under stones, ditches - the owners fleeing to the mountains. Monro was therefore warned of Nugent's advance. He sent a force of 500 men under a leader named Johnston to occupy a high position at Windmill Hill, Ballynahinch, to halt the Loyalist advance. This move was a failure on Monro's part, Nugent's army were now between the hill and the town itself. They opened fire at 6 p.m. in the evening. On two sides the battle raged from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. Monro's men on Windmill Hill were forced to retreat and the town by now was in flames. Many rebels were seen to run away and when darkness fell many more made their escape.

Wednesday the 13th the Battle resumed with all the horrors of war, the Monaghan Regiment (mostly Roman Catholics) and the Magheragall Cavalry with some Orangemen engaging the Pike men. The fighting lasted until 7 p.m. in the evening, when the insurgents retreated into the woods and fields in disorder. Thus 3 hours on Tuesday and 4 hours on Wednesday ended with the rebels being dispersed. The losses were reckoned to be on the rebel side - 500 killed and many more wounded. On the Loyalist side it was stated that their losses amounted to 30 killed and wounded. Amongst those killed was a Captain Evart.

After the fight Monro with only 150 men, deciding any further resistance was useless also fled to the fields - it was now every man for himself. He wandered about alone, a forlorn and disconsolate figure. Although recognised and fed by many farmers they were afraid to hide him because of what might happen to them at the hands of the Yeomanry. He moved until he came to a potato field where a Mr. Billy Holmes said he would hide him for £5 and a shirt. He covered him with weeds assuring him that he would be safe. Holmes went and informed the Yeomen in Hillsborough. A party of Yeomen then came and arrested Monro in the Ballynahinch-Dromore area, handcuffed him and brought him to Dromore. Monro was marched from Dromore to Lisburn where he was confined in a temporary prison in Castle Street. When his friends heard of his plight utmost sympathy was shown for him. The Rev. Cupples, Rector of the Parish who resided a few doors from the temporary prison had his meals sent to him during his confinement. A Mr. George Whitla, a cotton manufacturer sent him a full suit of clothes. Monday 17th June he was tried by court-martial. It required little proof to condemn or convict. Only 3 witnesses were called for the Crown and the deposition being that the prisoner had led the native troops at Ballynahinch. The sentence of death was at once written out. Monro was informed that he had not long to live so he requested that he be taken to the Rectory to receive his last communion. Having received this, he was marched down Castle Street. He was dressed in a black coat, nankeen knee breeches and white stockings. In Market Square a temporary gallows had been erected in front of his own home. A guard of the 23rd Light Dragoons under Colonel Wollarston and local Yeomanry were drawn up before the place of execution. Monro who had remained calm requested to speak to a friend. This was granted. He then stepped from the Street to the ladder but the rung on which he stepped gave way and he fell against one of the guards. Righting himself, although his arms were bound, he went up the ladder. Having reached the required height ascertained by the executioner who was veiled in a black hood, placed the rope round his neck and in a few seconds all was over. As the body swung to and fro a loud wail arose from many assembled there. Many of his friends in the linen world were there. Whether they had agreed with his outlook or not, they were there to see the end of one of their fellow citizens. When the body was taken down, the final vengeance of the law was then carried out - that of decapitation. A soldier with an axe cut off the head. The head was then stuck on a pike and placed on a corner of the Market House. Another three prisoners were also hung and beheaded. They were Richard Vincent, copper and tin smith; George Crabbe and Tom Armstrong. Their heads were also placed at corners of the Market House. Monro's relatives had visited him earlier in the week. His wife retired to Dunmurry and lived until 1840. His mother had her shop at the sluice gate in Bow Lane. She died in 1815.
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The soldier who beheaded Monro afterwards rushed into the Marine Stare kept in Lisburn by a Mrs. Griffen, threw the axe on the counter, demanded for it the price of a naggin of whiskey. The woman looked at the bloody weapon, was afraid, she gave the soldier 3 pence. He left her with the weapon. That same day a Thomas Murray was in Lisburn selling peats called on Mrs. Griffen. She begged him to take the axe away. He gave her a bag of peat for it. He later sold it for 7/6d to a Hugh Duncan - a carpenter in Glassdrummond. His son James had it for many years showing it to W. G. Lyttle. It was last known to be in the possession of the Richardsons of Lissue.

The following are gratefully acknowledged:

Hugh McCall's House of Downshire; W. G. Lyttle's Betsy Gray and Hearts of Down; Orangeism in Ireland; W. Greene's Concise History of Lisburn.


NEWSPAPERS primarily bring us news, but old newspapers give us glimpses of the past, the problem is when and where did it happen and was it in fact reported and recorded. Quite often these reports give us a starting point in the forgotten past, and the following reports are of the beginnings of places and objects still with us.


The FOUNDATION-STONE of a new Wesleyan church and school has been laid at Lisburn by Philip Johnston, Esq., J.P. The site (which is the free gift of Sir Richard Wallace) is one of the best in the town- at the foot of Seymour Street, at the corner between the Belfast and Hilden roads. Ample space will be afforded for two manses for the ministers. The Church (60ft. by 36ft.) is intended to seat 430 persons. For the present an end gallery only will be provided, but provision will be made for side galleries, should they be required hereafter. The slope of the site from the Belfast-road to Hilden- road has been taken advantage of, and a schoolroom has been provided below the church. The church will be entered off the Belfast-road by a rising path and flight of steps, with an open vestibule, having detached columns of County Down granite, and the school-room will be entered off the Hilden-road. The difference of level between the school and the church floors will be about fourteen feet, and bath floors will be above the level of the respective roads from which they are approached, so that anything like sunken floors will be entirely avoided; and even the school-room will be open, well lighted and properly ventilated. The style of the building may be considered a modification of continental Gothic. No special style will be strictly followed, the principle governing the design being an appropriate employment of inexpensive materials, with due regard to fitness of purpose together with the requirements and comfort of the congregation. The entire building win be faced with Belfast brick, and will have dressings of Dungannon sandstone, relieved by a few columns, carved caps, and enriched cornice on the front. A large circular stone window will be provided in the front gable, and a similar light in each of the gables of the side wings. The church will be well lighted, comfortably heated and thoroughly ventilated. Committee, vestry, and caretakers' rooms will be provided at the rere of the church, and will be entered off the main road. The church and schools will be erected in accordance with the designs, and under the superintendence of Mr. Wart, Gray,

A.R.N.A.I., architect, Belfast. The builders are Messrs. Thompson of Ballymacarrett, Belfast. The cost will be £4,000.

(The Irish Builder, 15th November, 1874)

Again in the Irish Builder of 15th November, 1885, under Notes of Works, this brief report:

The new granite bridge at Lisburn, connecting the counties of Antrim and Down, recently erected at a cost of £3,000, received its name on Thursday last as the "Union Bridge", carved on four corners by Mr. William Caul, a local stonecutter.
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The Belfast Weekly News in March 1862 gives us this account:


The older material of which this now splendid bell is composed has about it a host of recollections, many of these highly interesting. About the middle of the first half of the seventeenth century, Lord Conway erected a church called Christ's Church, on the site now occupied by the cathedral, and in the cupola of the building there were placed four bells of peculiar form, and which at that day had no equals in any part of Ulster. When the town was burned in 1707, the church, which had been erected into a cathedral upwards of forty years before, suffered in the general conflagration, not a single remnant of the building having been saved. Some time afterwards there was found, amid the ruins, the debris of the four bells, which having been collected and preserved, was afterwards sent to London by the Earl of Hertford, and with additional material a new bell was formed, having on it the following inscription:" Francis Earl of Hertford had this bell re-cast in London in 1752". By some accident - caused, it was said, by the awkwardness of the sexton on that day- a slight fracture was made on the side or the bell about the commencement of the present century. Scarcely any bad effect, however, was produced on the tone, which has been admitted to have been the finest possessed by any in Ulster. From that date and until within some months past, the bell of the Lisburn Cathedral retained its ancient celebrity - not one of the more modern construction having been found to exceed it in depth of richness of tone. Nearly a year ago, the original damage which the instrument had received more than half a century previous so spread up the side of it that it became necessary to have the whole affair taken down for re-casting. The founding of the new bell was entrusted to Mr. Thomas Hodges, of Middle Abbey Street, Dublin a gentleman who has gained several prizes for his ability in that department of artistic science. On Tuesday evening last, the new bell arrived by the last train from the Irish metropolis, and yesterday it was safely placed in the position so long held by its predecessor. The Very Rev. the Dean of Ross, Rector of Lisburn, has been indefatigable in his exertions to have the new bell at least equal to the former one, and, to the credit of its founder, it appears that no disappointment will be felt on that subject. Lord Hertford, the Lord of the soil, has paid the cost of the recasting and other outlay connected with the erection.
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ROBERT WILLIAMSONROBERT WILLIAMSON, whose portrait is reproduced here, was the son of John Williamson of Lambeg House, a pioneer in the linen trade and one of the first to carry out experiments in bleaching with lime. John Williamson's bleach greens were situated in that part of Lambeg which lies in Co. Down, where the river Lagan makes a "U" shaped meander. In about 1764/65, he quarrelled with the Linen Board, and, as a result, went to London where he stayed for most of his life. His Lambeg Works were then occupied for a time by David Barclay, who was probably closely associated with the family before John Williamson's sons, Alexander and Robert, took control of the business. Both sons, especially Robert, were active in the linen trade. In 1808, he was Hon. Secretary of the Belfast Committee of the Linen Trade and in 1812 both brothers were members of the Belfast and Lisburn Bleachers Association. For a time, about 1819/20, Alexander was running the family works, while Robert had taken over works at Whiterock, which were later occupied by William Arthur, also one of the main bleachers of the time. Robert was eventually appointed a J.P., and was an active and useful magistrate in the district for many years. The Williamsons carried on the Lambeg works until 1835, when the firm became the property of Jonathan Richardson, who carried on the business as Richardson and Co., and was succeeded in the business by his sons, John and Alexander.

Lambeg House, the seat of John Williamson, is situated about two miles east of Lisburn, in grounds of between 70 and 80 English acres, situated on either side of the Lagan and canal, and was probably built in the early 17th century. It was owned for a time by Francis Seymour, 1st Viscount Conway (when it was known as "The Lord's House"). It was purchased by John Williamson in 1760, and later became the property of John Hancock, who enlarged it and carried out many improvements. It later passed to Henry Bell, a relation of the Williamsons, before becoming the seat of Robert Williamson. It was renamed "Glenmore", when it became the property of James Nicholson Richardson. Alexander Williamson's residence, "Lambeg Village House", which was built c. 1787, passed to his daughters, and was known locally as "Lambeg House", and more recently as "The Chains"; it was destroyed a few years ago by a terrorist bomb. Glenmore, the original Lambeg House, was in the Richardson family until about 1901, when it became the property of John M. Milligen. In 1919 it was sold to the Linen Industry Research Association. The Lambeg Works became the Lambeg Bleaching, Dyeing and Finishing Co. Ltd., in 1911 under the chairmanship of W. R. McMurray, with Norman McMurray as Managing Director.

The Williamsons are buried in a family plot in Lambeg Parish Churchyard. A view of Lambeg House, drawn by Joseph Molloy and engraved by E. K. Proctor, appears in Proctor's 'Belfast Scenery' (1832).

Sources: E. R. R. Green, 'The Lagan Valley 1800-1850' (London 1949).
E. R. R. Green, 'The Industrial Archaeology of Co. Down', (H.M.S.O., 1963).
Fibers, and Fabrics Journal' December 1942l pp. 5961,article on the Williamsons by James Beek.
Ordnance Survey Memorial Extracts, Co, Antrim. Cal 103/2F, Public Record Office, Belfast.
Thanks are extended to Mr. T. Neill, Lisburn Historical Society, far much valuable assistance.

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THERE is a romantic and perhaps true story told of Lord Arthur William Hill, the Sixth Marquis of Downshire who was born in 1871 and died in 1918. He was uncle to the Fifth Marquis who had no male heir, and so he inherited the Downshire estate when he came of age in 1892. He was married twice. His first marriage was to Annie Nisida Denham Cookes who died within a year of their wedding.

Sometime afterwards a Miss Annie Fortesque Harrison came on a holiday to Hillsborough Castle, and of course met Lord Arthur. She came from Crawleywood Park, in Sussex, and was a beautiful lady. (I have her photo before me). It was a case of friendship developing into love between them and Lord Arthur was about to propose marriage.

The Downshire family had accumulated a vast area of land down the ages and one of the means of getting it was by making advantageous marriages, and who could fault them for that. When the Fourth Marquis inherited the Estate in 1845, it was estimated that the extent of the land owned was as follows:

74,680 acres in Co. Down
2,077 in Kilkenny
15,799 in Wicklow
1,355 in Kildare
13,928 in Kings County
5,287 in Berkshire
9,544 in Antrim
281 in Suffolk

A total of almost 123,000 acres, bringing in an income of £100,000 per annum. It may even have increased by the time Lord Arthur took the Estate over in 1892.
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Back to the love story!

The fact that Miss Harrison was not in the same class as the Hills in the amount of her possessions was an obstacle to marriage which the family could not surmount and objection was raised to the union. Miss Harrison got to hear of this and made up her mind to quietly leave, which she did. For a time she became lost to Lord Arthur, who had not given up hope of a reunion.
Then one day at a concert in London, he heard someone sing a song about parted lovers which was a description of the parting of Miss Harrison and himself, and he decided to make further enquiries. The result was that he found his sweetheart again and this time they got married and lived happy ever after. He died in 1918 aged only 47 years. Lady Hill lived on to a good old age beloved by everyone.

Here are the words of the song Lord Arthur heard:


"In the gloaming Oh my darling when the lights are dim and low, 
and the quiet shadows failing, softly come and softly go, 
When the winds are sobbing faintly with a gentle unknown woe,
Will you think of me and love me, as you did once long ago. 
In the gloaming Oh my darling think not bitterly of me,
Though I passed away in silence, left you lonely, set you free, 
For my heart was crushed with longing, what had been, could never be, 
It was best to leave you thus dear, best for you and best for me". 
(The last line is repeated).

I have a printed copy of the above song before me published by Leonard, Gould & Boltther of New Bond Street, London, and now here is a mystery! On the outside of the song sheet it states:


Song Words by

Music by

(Lady Arthur Hill)

Who was Meta Orred? Was this a nom-de-plume invented by Lady Hill? How could Meta know the circumstances behind the words of the song? Was the song written before or after the marriage? On the back of the song sheet there is a list of songs and writers and it states that "In the Gloaming" was written by "Lady Arthur Hill". - Think it over.

I prefer to think that it was written before the marriage by Miss Harrison and that at any rate, it's a good love story with a happy ending, and sure that's what we all like to see.
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" THE MULL OF KINTYRE" is the most popular song for years; the Mull itself is the nearest neighbour to the people who live along the Antrim coast. On clear days you can see the Scottish houses, and, in the evenings the setting sun glints on the windows. The Mull, or headland, is just 13 miles away at one point.

And the song is a reminder that the first people to land in Ireland came from across the narrow sea about 9,000 years ago. The lure must have been the brilliant white cliffs of Antrim far more imposing than those at Dover and topped here and there by black basalt. The arrivals came, not for the view, but for the flint which was the universal material for cutting and hacking - domestic utensils, hunting and fishing gear and weapons.

Sometimes, in the heat of the Irish argument voices are heard telling Protestants to go back to Scotland and England. This is as if history began in the 17th Century with the plantations and migrations.

If there is a question of anyone going back to Scotland, it would be difficult to establish, who, for, of course, there has been for all those 9,000 years, so much coming and going.

The kingdom of Dalriada extended on both sides of the North Channel or Sea of Moyle; it was ruled first from Ireland and later from the other side; Christian missionaries from Ireland were early into Scotland, in return we had the gallowglasses; and all the time, down to our own days, the ordinary to-and-fro of families looking for a new start or a bit of adventure. It has been going on for millennia. It did not start with any recent plantations. Scotland, to many Northerners, has something like the appeal that the United States has to the descendants of those who made up the great emigrations of the 19th century.

These connections could be a factor for mutual understanding between Great Britain and Ireland or between all those people who make up the United Kingdom, as could the presence in Britain of the million of Irish-born. Sometimes they are evoked, by a politician, in a provocative way. But a little history should give us all wisdom and understanding rather than provoking to anger.
The Mull of Kintyre, song and headland, stand out as a symbol of something better.