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Child murder that shook the people of Ballymacbrennan

A Graham family headstone at Drumbo Presbyterian Church. The exact burial place of young Thomas has yet to be established.
A Graham family headstone at Drumbo Presbyterian Church. The exact burial place of young Thomas has yet to be established.

ON the evening of Thursday 10th August 1865 George Graham, his wife Susanna and their family had settled down for the night in their farmhouse at Ballymacbrennan.

At that time they had two daughters and a son, Thomas, who was 10.

That evening Thomas went to bed beside his father in the parlour which had recently been converted into a bedroom. His mother was sleeping with his sister in another room.

During the early hours of the 11th Susanna Graham was aroused from her sleep several times by the noise of tapping at both the front and rear doors of the house. She thought they had been caused by wind and didn't cause her much concern.

About 2 or 2.30am her husband was woken by a knocking at the parlour window. He went to investigate and heard a voice call out twice "Your pigs are on the road."

He went to the hall door, followed by son. As he turned the corner of the porch heading towards the piggery he saw a man standing a few yards away pointing a gun at him. He made for the porch again but the gun was discharged just as his son emerged from the house. Thomas cried out "Da, I'm shot" and he fell about two yards from the door of the house. He had been hit in the area of the lower spine.

It would be difficult to imagine how any father would feel and react in this situation amidst the panic and confusion. George Graham later told the inquest that he went back to where he had first seen the perpetrator and was told: "If you come a step further, I'll give you the same sauce."

He had no reason to doubt this, and being unarmed was in no position to make any challenges. He watched on as the assassin walked up the yard and along the top of the corn-field and out of sight. By the time he had returned to his house his wife had carried their son into the parlour and laid him on the floor. They moved him onto the bed.

The unimaginable set of circumstances was reported in great detail at the time and are heart-wrenching to anyone reading the account. The little boy, who was dying, managed to tell his father "Da, I'm living yet."

Thomas' two sisters were sent to seek the assistance of a neighbour - William McBride. He resided several fields away. A son of Mr McBride went for the doctor.

Dr. John Johnston Kelso arrived about fifteen minutes prior to the death of Thomas, three hours after the shooting.

The police at Carryduff received a report at barn, and subsequently Lisburn police were informed at 9am. Sub Inspector Owens, Constables Taylor, Houston and Sproul began the investigation. To add to the anguish of the family, it was reported that the body of Thomas Graham had lain for three days in the house without an inquest. The local press were critical of the situation and further reported that no official or magistrate had made their appearance at the home, except for J.D. Barbour, Esq., JP.

The inquest was to have been held on the morning of Sunday 13th August, but the police received word it was postponed to the following day. The family and friends decided they could no longer continue with the dreadful situation and took a decision to have the body buried. A police officer had to go to Lisburn and meet with the magistrates who in turn issued written authority to stay the interment till after a legal inquest, on the grounds that the body would have to be exhumed if buried without one." The family decided to wait another day.

An inquest was held on Monday 14th August and adjourned for a fortnight. After the inquest a short service was conducted by the minister of the Graham family, the Rev Campbell Blakely of Drumbo, and the remains of young Thomas Graham were laid to rest at the family burying ground at Drumbo Churchyard.

It was not long before local press reports named one of the prime suspects in the murder - John Logue.

The police now had the task of interviewing many witnesses. Shortly after the murder they searched a copse at Hillhall known locally as "Dowling's Wood" but nothing was revealed.

Of interest to the police were the movements of a male person who had been using the name of William Shaw and claiming to have family links in the Hillhall area. This person would eventually be proven to be John Logue.

It transpired that on the 17th of July he had called at the home of Miss Ellen Jane McKittrick and her brother at Crossan and enquired about work. He had claimed to belong to "Her Majesty's Hussars" and was attempting to find employment.

He had turned up at the home of William Moore at Ballylesson and had worked there for four days after the murder of Thomas Graham. He was given 6d a day.

The facts reported in the local press give us an insight into many social aspects of the community in 1865. Mrs Ellen Moore would later testify that when he left the house she had noticed two shirts and a shearing hook missing. She recalled "Shaw" talking about the shooting and commenting that Logue was an awful fellow and a headstrong one.

She had noted "Shaw" to be uneasy whilst he was in their employment and he often asked about the news and the papers.

We've all heard the old adage that "it takes a liar to have a good memory." John Logue slipped up whilst in the company of the Moore family. He had forgotten his assumed identity and told them that on a previous occasion the local minister, the Rev Maunsell, had fined him 7s 6d for playing bullets on the road. A member of the Moore family asked the Rev. Maunsell said that in fact it was John Logue who had been fined. One of the Moore family also noted a pair of broken sugar tongs in the possession of John Logue. This assisted police in linking Logue to some of the other crimes and strange occurrences that had been happening in the neighbourhood prior to the murder.

On the 11th August John Logue called at the home of the Rev. Maunsell, Ballycairn, looking work, but was refused.

William Moore, his wife Ellen, their sons John, Samuel, James, William and daughter Elizabeth would all later give evidence in the case. Their servant named as Ann or Margaret Crothers (Carruthers) was also witness to the fact that she had seen Logue in possession of a red coloured handkerchief. This had been taken during the break in at James Wilson's house earlier in July. At the time of the shooting Hugh McMullan and John Patterson had been out pulling flax in a field at Ballymacbrennan belonging to a Mr. Morrow. This work was being carried in the early hours of the morning and was in addition to them engaging in their day's work. They had heard the shot but thought it was someone shooting hares. A number of people who were interviewed by police in the days after the murder had been up during the early hours of that morning. Eliza Hawthorne from Drumbo had got up between 4 and 5 am that morning and had saw a strange man pass her house heading towards Newtownbreda about 5am. William Watson, who also resided at Drumbo, testified to a similar sighting. Mary Martin from Ballymacbrennan and her son James were on their way to Belfast via Drumbo and corroborated the other sightings.

Other witnesses who made statements included James Lemon from Tullyard and John Blair from Drumbo, He recalled seeing this person at about 6am sitting on a road and combing his hair, opposite Belvedere House.

Thomas Davidson said he saw a man matching Logue's description between 5 and 6am that morning. He gave this person a drink.

William Watson, the National school teacher, identified Logue as having been the man who came out of Davidson's house that morning and travelled towards Belfast.

John Logue was also reported to have been working at hay in the Dundrod area where he stayed at a farm owned by the Watters family from 17th to 29th August.

On the 30th he arrived at the home of Captain Whitla, Lismoyne, near Dunmurry seeking work. He again gave the name William Shaw and claimed to be from the Hillhall area. Captain Whitla asked both his coachman named McCann and his butler, Thomas Rea, if they knew this individual. Neither did and Captain Whitla arrested him and sent for the police at Dunmurry. John Logue was found to have in his possession stolen buckles, percussion caps, powder, handkerchief and a knife.

It was reported that one of those arrested for the murder was Philip Logue, believed to be a cousin of John Logue. He bore a resemblance to his cousin, but he would later be released without charge.

In September 1861 John Logue appeared before Hillsborough Petty Sessions. Other witnesses in addition to those mentioned were called by the Crown and included William Bennett, William Campbell, Mary, Edward and Agnes Finlay, Robert Green, George Harrison, Esther Harrison, Mary Killips, James McBride, Henry McDowell a saddler, Eliza Jane McKitterick, David McWilliams and his wife, William John Rooney, Robert Shaw, James Standfield and Margaret Wilson.

Thomas McCartan, a schoolmaster in Spike Island also appeared at the Petty Sessions. He was there to prove the handwriting of John Logue and he produced copy books containing his handwriting.

John Logue was committed to Downpatrick Goal and was to stand trial for his crimes on the 15th March 1866.

The Digger can be contacted at or by contacting The Ulster Star office. Next: "May Almighty God have mercy on your soul..." The execution of John Logue.