Thursday, 25 July 2013

History of Lisburn (pt5)


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 Edited by JAMES CARSON.
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Macaulay, in his "History of England," pictures King William III., when he passed through Ireland, as thinking "how different an aspect that unhappy region would have presented if it had been blessed with such a government and such a religion as had made his native Holland the wonder of the world; how endless a succession of pleasure houses, tulip gardens, and dairy farms would have lined the road from Lisburn to Belfast; how many hundreds of barges would have been constantly passing up and down the Lagan." If Macaulay could see Lisburn at the present day perhaps he would think that it does not fall far short, if it does not exceed, the picturesque and prosperous condition which his fertile imagination had conjured up. The Union of England and Ireland was consummated, in 1800, and since that period the prosperity of Ireland has increased exceedingly.

The following is a description of Lisburn written about that time:-- "At present it contains about eight hundred houses neatly built of brick, forming three good streets, at the junction of which stands a good market house, with a ballroom over it, where an assembly is held every fortnight. The Church is large, with a good spire and set of bells, the gift of the present Marquis of Hertford. There is likewise a respectable body of Quakers, a large body of Presbyterians and Methodists, who have each an elegant Meeting-house, and some Roman Catholics, who have also a good Chapel. The trade of the town is very considerable, both in the manufacturing of linen and cotton and also in the shop-keeping line. The following gentlemen have elegant houses, viz.:-- Messrs. Hunter, Rogers, Crommelin, Delacherois, Roger Johnson-Smyth, Handcock, etc. Samuel Heron. Esq., has a good villa in the Castle Garden, from which there is fine view of the river and part of the County Down. The Linen Hall, erected at the expense of the Marquis of Hertford, is a large square court surrounded by a piazza of brick. There is a great market for linen, etc., held here every Tuesday. The present Marquis of Hertford, in 1796, built a very good shambles on a small rivulet in Smithfield. where a great number of black cattle are exposed for sale every Tuesday. The principal inns are kept by Mr. Samuel Waring and Mr. Shaw. Vitriol is made here at present (on the site of the Island Spinning Company) by Dr. Alexander Crawford, a physician of eminence. The works were erected first about thirty years ago by Messrs. Thomas Gregg and Waddell Cunningham, of Belfast. The town is supplied with water by pipes from a basin above it, where it is conveyed from the fountains in Castle Robin and the other mountains.

The streets are wide and well paved, and lighted with globe lamps at proper distances. The river Lagan is now navigable from Belfast to Lough Neagh by a new canal lately finished by Mr. Richard Owens, at the expense of the late Marquis of Donegal!.

Lisburn now returns one member to the Imperial Parliament since the Union. The officers of the Lisburn Cavalry are the Marquis of Hertford, William Smyth, S. Delacherois, James Fulton, and 64 men. The infantry officers are N. Delacherois, Wm. Coulson, and 150 men."

In the famine year of 1800, when the price of wheat in Mark Lane was 130s the quarter, and the retail price of oatmeal 10s the sieve of 20 lbs., John Handcock imported from Philadelphia 200 tons of Indian meal, the first sample of that article ever seen in Ulster. He also brought over 500 barrels of American flour, and both were sold at cost price to the more distressed families in Lisburn. Penal laws were then savage and merciless. The theft of goods to the value of 5s from any dwelling-house was punished with death. In 1811 Mr. Handcock's bleach greens in Lambeg had been broken into and three webs stolen. Knowing the penalty, he refused to prosecute the accused, and, with the aid of Mr. John M'Cance, of Suffolk, and other linen merchants, Sir Samuel Romilly, M.P., was induced to bring a Bill to the House of Commons for the milder punishment of bleach-green robbers. The measure passed, and from that time the crime gradually lessened in Ulster and is now unknown.

Mr. H. Betty, of Chapel Hill, Lisburn, was a linen merchant and bleacher. He was the father of W. Henry West Betty, born in 1791, and known in theatrical circles.

"The Young Roscius."

He became an adept in reciting Shakespeare in his ninth year, and in 1804 created the greatest sensation ever known in the theatrical world in London. Not far from Chapel Hill, in a small house in Bow Street, dwelt another celebrity, Sydney Owenson, who became Lady Morgan, the authoress of "The Novice of St. Dominick," "The Wild Irish Girl," and "St. Clair." Lisburn from time to time has been fortunate in having for its inhabitants men who, having ao abundance of this world's goods, were not forgetful of their poorer brethren, among whom were the Rev. Mr. Carleton, the interest of whose bequest is divided annually among poor householders of the town. An almshouse for eight poor widows was founded by the will of Mr. Williams in 1826, and six almshouses for as many poor widows were also founded by a member of the Traill family. In 1828 the town first elected Commissioners to look after the watching, lighting, and cleansing of the town, and four night watchmen were also appointed.

In 1845 an indignation meeting was held, the Marquis of Downshire in the chair; on one of the hills that rise above the station of the Great Northern Railway. Mr. James Watson, of Brookhill, had been deprived of the Commission of the Peace, as well as the Deputy-Lieutenancy of the County, on account of having attended a meeting of the Orange leaders early in July.

"The Old Commodore,"

as Mr. Watson was called, had been a steady friend of law and order for half a century. As a captain of a local corps of yeomanry he had led one section of the loyal troops at the battle of Antrim, in June, 1798, where his horse was shot under him, and he himself narrowly escaped death. Residing as he did at Brookhill and heaping up the fame of a country gentleman, a worthy magistrate, and an enthusiastic lover of turf and field sports, he enjoyed universal popularity with peer and peasant, and the action of the Irish Government in depriving him of his magisterial honours caused widespread indignation. In that feeling the Conservative was heartily joined by many Liberals, all of whom held the Chief of Brookhill in the highest respect. When arrangements had been made by Mr. Watson's friends for the purpose of getting up a meeting of sympathisers in Lisburn, great difficulty was experienced in obtaining a field to hold it in. At last Mr. David Beatty was applied to, and at once gave the committee leave to hold the meeting in his field, a spot since famed as "Watson's Hill." The meeting was one of the most enthusiastic ever seen in the North of Ireland. It was estimated that fifty thousand, including all creeds and classes, attended the great convention. In the years 1847-48, through the failure of the potato crop, the famine was sore in the land, and a committee was formed to look after and help the starving poor of the town, when the manufacturers and others subscribed liberally towards that deserving object.

In 1863

the disastrous civil war in America, by destroying the cotton crop, produced widespread misery in the North of Ireland, and particularly in those districts where the cotton trade was the staple manufacture. A committee of gentlemen resident in Lisburn was formed to supply the waste of those who were suffering, and that committee appealed, and appealed successfully, to wealthy men in Ireland, England, and Scotland, and received large contributions from the charitable in all districts, and particularly from many successful men in our colonies -- Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. One of the most generous was Mr. A. T. Stewart, of New York, who chartered a ship at his own expense, filled her with provisions to the value of £6,000, and despatched her across the Atlantic to relieve the starving poor of his native town of Lisburn. On her return she took out about 120 emigrants, whom he provided for until they found employment in their adopted land. Full particulars of these time's and of Mr. A. T. Stewart will be found in Mr. Hugh M'Call's book, "The Cotton Famine."

In 1878, Sir Richard Wallace

succeeded to the estate, after a long and costly litigation with Sir Hamilton Seymour, and his coming marked a new era in the history of Lisburn. The early lords of the soil from Sir Fulke Conway to Francis second Marquis of Hertford paid annual visits to the estate, but the third and fourth holders of the title and property were absentees. With the exception of a three weeks' visit by Richard fourth Marquis, paid in October, 1845, neither father nor son set foot on the estate from 1822 till 1870; nor did either of these landlords grant a building lease in fee simple. Very little increase was made in the population during the interval, but owing to the munificent and gentlemanly treatment by Sir Richard of the rural tenantry, and the granting of building sites on leases in fee simple, together with the promptitude and business-like arrangements of his estate agent, F. L. Capron, Esq., in having these leases perfected, a new era dawned on Lisburn, and its progress during the following years has been almost phenomenal. The gross valuation of the town in 1874 was £15,339; 1884, £19,392; 1894, £25,459; 1905, £30,753 -- double the amount in 30 years. During Sir Richard's ownership many new buildings were erected at his expense, one of which is the splendid residence opposite the Castle Gardens, of which all the work in connection with it was done by residents of the County Antrim. The old Market House was renovated, the dome re-coppered and adorned by a handsome illuminated clock. In 1874 the Towns' Improvement Act, 1854-55 was adopted, and on the 9th July the election of Town Commissioners took place, when out of thirty candidates the following fifteen were elected -- viz., William Graham, David Beatty, William Savage, Robert Alister, Redmond Jefferson, Samuel A. Johnson, James A. Mack, Samuel Musgrave, John Ruddy, John D. Barbour, George Bell, John Ritchie, George StGeorge, James S. Dawson, Lucas Waring. In 1893, Bills were promoted in Parliament for the purchase of water and market rights from Lady Wallace, which passed, and since they became the property of the town have bean improved and enlarged. Since then the Courthouse, Assembly Rooms, and Estate Office (the latter now used as the Town Hall) have been purchased from Sir John Murray Scott.

In 1884, Sir Richard Wallace, Bart., presented to the town the handsome public park called by his name. It contains 25 acres, in which are some fine oaks, elms, and limes; there is a beautiful lime-tree walk along the side of the railway, which is familiarly known as the "Dean's Walk" from having been planted by Dean Stannus, who was for many years rector of the Cathedral, and at same time acted as agent for the Marquis of Hertford.

Some years after,

Sir John Murray Scott

presented the Castle Gardens to the town this is one of the most interesting places in it owing to its historical associations. It has an entrance from Castle Street, and a beautiful lime-tree walk leading almost through the centre, at the end of which there is a monument to Sir Richard Wallace, erected by public subscription, and beyond this is placed one of the guns captured at Sebastopol, and presented by Admiral Meynell, R.N., in 1858. From the bowling green there is a charming view of the County Down, a portion of which is known as Largymore forms part of the town of Lisburn. There is also a beautiful fountain situated in the centre of the gardens. Thus very few towns of the same size of Lisburn are so well provided with public parks.

(To be continued.)

(This article was originally published in the Lisburn Standard on 25 July 1919 as part of a series which ran in that paper each week for several years. The text along with other extracts can be found on my website Eddies Extracts.)

Thursday, 18 July 2013

History of Lisburn (pt4)


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 Edited by JAMES CARSON.
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In the closing years of the eighteenth century the political horizon again assumed a stormy aspect which broke out in bloodshed and rebellion. In the year 1798, when many valuable lives of men were sacrificed, who with misguided zeal tried to ameliorate the condition of political injustice from which, they believed, their countrymen suffered by the oppressive laws of the English Government. The Volunteer Movement started about the year 1745, when the Scottish Highlanders threatened a descent on the North of Ireland. A meeting was held at the Donegall Arms, Belfast, and resolutions were passed for the defence of the coast. Soon after numbers of patriotic men offered their services from different parts of the neighbouring counties to join the Belfast men in repelling the invaders; but the great epoch of the Volunteers commenced in 1778, when suspicious-looking warships frequently visited the coasts of Antrim and Down. On the 27th March a meeting was held in Belfast. On that occasion it was resolved that the young men capable of bearing arms should enrol themselves in companies for the defence of their country against foreign invasion. Considerable enthusiasm was aroused by this movement and great stimulus was given to it in consequence of the famous American Paul Jones arriving in his frigate, "The Ranger," in Belfast Lough and attacking the English sloop of war, "Drake," sonic days afterwards. The "Drake" was disabled, and her Commander, Lieutenant Dobbs, a Lisburn man, lost his life during the engagement -- a tablet was afterwards erected to his memory in Lisburn Cathedral. Some years after the Volunteers were enrolled they began to use their power for political purposes and the repeal of certain laws which they believed, bore unjustly on the commercial and religious life of Ireland. On the 11th March, 1793, a proclamation for disarming the Volunteers was issued from Dublin Castle which caused great indignation against the Government, and ended in martial law being proclaimed throughout Ireland.

In March and October of the year 1791, meetings were held to carry out the idea of uniting Irishmen of all creeds and classes in one commas bond for the purpose of seeking a more equitable adjustment of constitutional laws -- thus arose the United Irishmen. During those troublesome times Lisburn became once more the centre of excitement and bloodshed. The Rev. Philip Johnston, of Ballymacash House, who, in the exercise of his magisterial duties, became so unpopular with the United men that at length, they conspired to take away his life. Several unsuccessful attempts were made for that purpose, and on a special occasion the intended victim escaped by the timely influence of one of the United Irishmen; but on the night of Saturday, the 8th of October, 1796, when leaving the house of a Lisburn friend with whom he had spent the evening, and as he was in the act of mounting his horse to proceed home, a man who had concealed himself behind the opposite wall, started up and fired a loaded pistol at the reverend gentleman, inflicting a slight wound on his left shoulder. Considerable indignation was aroused in Lisburn and the surrounding neighbourhood. Public meetings were held, and a public subscription list opened, which ended in a reward of one thousand pounds being offered for bringing the offender to justice; but even that large sum failed to bring out the least information on the subject. On the 23rd October, 1796, the Habeas Corpus Act was suspended, when soon after a number of merchants in Lisburn and other places were arrested on the charge of high treason. From 1796 to 1798 Ireland drifted steadily into the whirlpool of civil war. During those years the regular business of the country was neglected for the clandestine manufacture of arms and pikes that were to be used in the coming struggle. During the winter of 1797 and the following spring a Lisburn Whitesmith forged upwards of five hundred pikes, besides attending to his ordinary work.

Harry Munro.

The linen markets of Ulster were at this time attended by great numbers of buyers, and of these gentlemen none were more respected than Harry Munro, of Lisburn. He had been a member of the Lisburn Volunteers at the time of their disbandment, and afterwards joined the United Irishmen. He was a member of the Episcopal Church, a regular attender of the Sunday services at the Cathedral, and was highly respected by the rector and his curate.

In the month of May, 1798, preparations were made by the United men to take the field against the Government troops. The member who had been appointed to lead them declined at the last moment to act as commander, and on the night of Saturday, 9th June, a Belfast lawyer (legal adviser of the Society) called on Henry Munro, at his residence in Market Square, Lisburn. The attorney reported the refusal of the man who was appointed commander to take charge of the national army, and said that their only hope was that Munro would accept the command. At no period before this had Monro contemplated taking the field against the Royal troops, and, looking upon the call as a matter of honour, he accepted it without considering the magnitude of the responsibility he was about to undertake.

The Battle of Ballynahinch was fought on Wednesday, 13th June, and, as is well known, the insurgents were completely routed, and fled in all directions. The unfortunate general was among the last to leave the field. For several hours he roamed about the country, till early on Thursday morning he reached a farmhouse, and sought shelter there. Here he remained concealed for nearly two days, receiving great attention from his kind, hearted host. On Saturday morning, when dreading vengeance for concealing an outlaw, he told Munro that before daylight he must seek some other refuge. Munro set off, and at length ventured to take refuge in a small farmstead on the borders of Dromore, Co. Down. Here he met a man, to whom he offered £5 (all the money he had in his possession) and a small parcel of shirts if he would conceal him for a few days, until the Government offer of pardon to all rebels who gave up arms should be issued.

The man took the money, and offered to shelter the fugitive, but instead of doing so, he went to Hillsboro' and told the yeomanry of having Munro concealed in an outhouse. A guard immediately was sent with him, and the unfortunate Munro was taken prisoner, handcuffed, brought into Hillsborough, and thence to Lisburn, where he was confined for the night in a temporary prison. When his friends learned of his arrest the utmost sympathy was shown for him. His clothes were torn, and his health had suffered much from the fatigue he had undergone. Mr. George Whitla, a local cotton manufacturer sent him a full suit of clothes, while the rector, Rev. Dr. Cupples, who resided within a few doors of the guard-house had his meals regularly carried to him from the Rectory during the period of his confinement. On Monday, 17th June, the trial came on before a court-martial composed of officers belonging to the several regiments then quartered at Lisburn Barracks and Blaris camp. Only three witnesses were examined for the Crown, and the deposition that the prisoner had led the native troops at the recent battles being conclusive, the sentence of death was at once written out, and Henry Munro was ordered for execution.

The culprit was immediately informed that he had not long to live, and was told to make speedy preparation for the death that awaited him. At four o'clock Monro was brought out under a strong military guard. He begged to be allowed to go into the house of the Rector in order to receive the Sacrament. The request was granted, and, after partaking of the sacred rite, the procession again commenced, and the place of execution was reached, where a temporary gallows had been erected, nearly opposite the woollen drapery concern of which Munro was the proprietor. Monro exhibited perfect coolness without putting on the slightest bravado. While standing at the foot of the gallows he sought leave of the officer of the guard to speak to friend who lived near. Permission was granted, the friend sent for, and the soldiers thoughtfully stood back during the short conference. What he said on that occasion was never known, even by the nearest relation of the friend to whom he told it. After a short prayer he stepped on the ladder, when one of the steps gave way, and he fell. Recovering his balance in a moment, although having his arms firmly pinioned, he said "all right." On the ladder being adjusted, he went up with the rope round his neck; the ladder was removed by the executioner, and in a few moments all was over. As the body swung to and fro a low wail of sorrow told how bitterly the tragic end of their fellow townsmen was felt by the multitude that thronged the place of execution. Although his conduct was looked upon as that of the wildest and misguided patriotism, his political opponents, as well as his personal friends, mourned sincerely over the sad fate of the man whom every one respected as a worthy and amiable citizen. When the body had been taken down, the final vengeance of the law was carried out, orders having been given that the body should be decapitated, which was done, the hangman holding up the severed head and crying out "there is the head of a traitor." Three other men were hanged in Lisburn about the same time -- Dick Vincent, Geo. Crabbe, and Tom Armstrong, who suffered death on a lamp-post at the corner of Castle Street, opposite the market house. The heads of the four men were stuck on spikes, and placed at each corner of the market house.

Henry Munro's mother lived in Lisburn for many years after his death, and supported herself respectably by keeping a little shop, situated on the Sluice Bridge, in Bow Street. She survived the death of her son about seventeen years.

(To be continued.)

(This article was originally published in the Lisburn Standard on 18 July 1919 as part of a series which ran in that paper each week for several years. The text along with other extracts can be found on my website Eddies Extracts.)

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Nicholson Monument in Lisburn


Mr. Henry Musgrave's Generous Gift To Lisburn.

Owing to the kindness and generosity of Mr. Henry Musgrave, O.B.E., D.L., Belfast, and an old Lisburn man himself, Lisburn is to have a statue of Brigadier-General John Nicholson, of Indian Mutiny fame.

This interesting announcement was made at the monthly meeting of the Lisburn Urban Council (Mr. Wm. Davis, J.P., chairman, presiding), and came in the form of a letter from Mr. Musgrave's solicitors, Messrs. Charles and J. Black, Belfast, viz. --
Dear Sir -- Mr. Henry Musgrave instructs me to offer to erect in Lisburn a statue of General John Nicholson, a native of the town, and who was killed at the siege of Delhi. The statue will be a work of art and a feature in your town. 
It will be executed by Mr. Pomeroy, M.A. It will portray General John Nicholson leading and encouraging his men, and will be about 8 feet high, on a pedestal 10 feet high. The base of the pedestal will be 6 feet square, and it is proposed that it should be surrounded by a single granite curb. The statue will be bronze, and the pedestal granite.
Mr. Pomeroy has visited Lisburn and considers the site in Market Square now occupied by the fountain the most suitable one for the statue. Mr. Musgrave, therefore, hopes that the Urban Council will agree to dedicate ground there as a site for the statue.
I may mention that if the Council accept Mr. Musgrave's offer the execution of the work will take about two years. The Town Clerk -- That's a very nice letter to get.

Mr. Hanna said Mr. Clarke knew more about the history of that matter than any other member, perhaps he would speak.

Mr. Clarke said that he had been cognisant for some years of Mr. Musgrave's intention to erect a statue to perpetuate the memory of General John Nicholson. Mr. Musgrave had mentioned the matter to him, and said he would leave instructions to his executors to have a statue erected, but he (Mr. Clarke) suggested that it was a pity Mr. Musgrave had not the statue erected during his lifetime. The matter came to a head when Mr. Pomeroy was over executing a statue of the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Mr. M'Mordie, and the result was that letter to the Council. Everyone knew that Mr. Musgrave was a Lisburn man, born in Lisburn, and that his father lived in Market Square. The monument would be a great ornament. It was a very nice offer, indeed, and he moved that the Council accept Mr. Musgrave's offer and return to that gentleman their most grateful thanks. (Hear, hear.) Regarding the site, he perfectly agreed that Market Square was the place for it. The fountain could be removed to some other site, to be arranged later.

Dr. St.George heartily seconded the motion. He had no objection to Market Square as the site; but it would not be nice to see old clothes and rags being sold at the feet of such a gallant soldier as General John Nicholson. It was because of the stalls in Market Square that the cannon which now graced Castle Gardens had been removed thither.

Mr. Clarke said he forgot to mention that he had interviewed Mr. Pomeroy and had seen a model of the proposed work. It was very beautiful indeed.

Mr. Hanna, in supporting the motion, said the offer was an event in the life of Lisburn, and characteristic of the Musgrave family. It always seemed to him that what Jerusalem was to the Jews, Lisburn was to the Musgraves.

The Town Solicitor said he was of opinion that the Council could legally grant the site mentioned.

The Chairman said Lisburn was under a great debt of gratitude to Mr. Musgrave. That last act of his was only in keeping with the traditions of the family, and Lisburn had every right to be proud of the name of Musgrave It would be nice to have a public statue of General Sir John Nicholson, who was looked upon as one of the greatest soldiers of the age in which be lived.

The motion was passed, and the Town Clerk was instructed to write accepting Mr. Musgrave's kind offer, and express the Council's grateful thanks.

The Heroic Nicholson.

"The Heroic Nicholson," as the men of his own generation loved to speak of him, was one of the outstanding figures in the Indian Mutiny. Born at Lisburn on 11th December, 1822, he was the eldest son of Dr. Alexander Nicholson, and a grandson of Mr. John Nicholson, of Stramore House, Gilford. His mother, Clara Hogg, of Lisburn, was a sister of the late Right Honourable Sir James Hogg, Bart., an ancestor of Lord Magheramorne. His father died of fever caught in the discharge of his professional duties in Dublin, and Mrs. Nicholson eventually returned to Lisburn. In his twelfth year John Nicholson was sent to the Royal School, Dungannon, and in February, 1839, he sailed for India, the scene of his great achievements and glorious death. The Nicholson memorial tablet in Lisburn Cathedral bears the following inscription, which was written by Sir Herbert Edwardes, the famous Indian General:--
The grave of Brigadier-General Nicholson, C.B., is beneath the fortress which, he died to take. This monument is erected by his mother to keep alive his memory and example among his country men. Comrades who loved and mourn him add the story of his life:-- He entered the army of the Honourable East India Company, in 1839, and served in four great wars -- Afghanistan, 1841-2; Satlaj, 1845-6: Punjab, 1848-9; India, 1857.
In the first he was an ensign; in the last Brigadier-General and a Companion of the Bath: in all a hero. Rare gifts had marked him for great things in peace and war. He had an iron mind and frame, a terrible courage, an indomitable will. His form seemed made for an army to behold; his heart, to meet the crisis of an empire; yet he was gentle exceedingly, most loving, most kind.
In all he thought and did, unselfish, earnest, plain, and true; indeed, a most noble man. In public affairs he was the pupil of the great and good Sir Henry Lawrence, and worthy of his master. Few took a greater share in either the conquest or government of the Punjab; perhaps none so great in both.
Soldier and civilian, he was a tower of strength; the type of the conquering race. Most fitly in the great siege of Delhi he led the first column to attack and carried the main breach. Dealing the deathblow to the greatest danger that ever threatened British India, most mournfully, most gloriously, in the moment of victory, he fell mortally wounded on the 14th, and died on the 23rd of September, 1857, aged only 34.

The late Field-Marshal Earl Robert in "Forty-one Years in India" wrote -- "Nicholson impressed me more profoundly than any man I have ever met before or have ever met since. He was the beau ideal of a soldier and a gentleman."

In the "Gazette" containing the list of honours conferred by Queen Victoria upon the heroes of Delhi, it was notified that Brigadier-General Nicholson, had he lived, would have been made a Knight Commander of the Bath.

(This article was originally published in the Lisburn Standard on 11 July 1919. The text along with other extracts can be found on my website Eddies Extracts.)

Thursday, 4 July 2013

History of Lisburn (pt3)


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 Edited by JAMES CARSON.
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In February, 1685, James II. assumed the Crown, which four years later he was forced to abdicate; during those years Ireland became again the scene of war and bloodshed. The Duke of Schomberg, who had landed at Groomsport with an army of 10,000 men, detachments of which had been dispersed through different parts of Ulster, made Lisburn his headquarters, and for six months, he occupied the house nearly opposite the Castle Street entrance to the Cathedral, which had previously been occupied by Bishop Jeremy Taylor. A new dynasty was now at hand. Early on the morning of the 14th of June, 1690, bonfires blazed on the mountain tops of Down and Antrim, and special messengers were dispatched from Belfast to circulate the news throughout the country, that King William with his bodyguard and a large number of troops had arrived at Carrickfergus. He next proceeded to Belfast, and remained there several days. On the morning of the 19th of June the King and his followers left Belfast on their way to Dundalk. On arriving at Lambeg, and seeing a person standing at one of the cottage doors, King William, who rode at the head of the troop, inquired, in a language mixed with the French idiom, which of the roads led to Lisburn and Hillsboro'. Mr. Rene Bulmer (Boomer), to whom the question was addressed, replied in genuine French. Evidently gratified at meeting so unexpectedly a native of Gaul, his Majesty entered into a friendly conversation with him for several minutes, relative to his native place, and the circumstances that led to his exile, and after paying a very gallant compliment to the young and handsome wife of his informant, who had come out to see the soldiers, the Royal traveller shook hands with each of them and passed on to Lisburn with his troops.

When the troops reached Lisburn His Majesty rested some hours, and reviewed the different battalions stationed there. He dined with Captain Johnston, who was left in charge during the temporary absence of the Duke (who was on military duty in Belfast), at the house of William Edmundson, a member of the Society of Friends, whose house stood on the site now occupied by the local branch of the Northern Bank. A very interesting incident occurred at this time. The local Presbyterian congregation held worship in their tiny temple situated on the Moira Road, in the south end of the town. The pastor of the congregation was the Rev. Alexander M'Cracken, a high-class theologian who, with two other men of mark in the Presbytery, had some months before been deputed to go over to London with an address of welcome from the Presbyterians of lower Ulster to his Majesty King William. The journey by sea and land from Donaghadee to London in those days occupied three weeks, and the King was much gratified by the attention thus paid him. Mr. M'Cracken called on his Majesty in Lisburn, and was received with all the genial spirit that formed the social character of that great Monarch.

From Lisburn he proceeded to Hillsboro'; and in the evening he was waited on by a deputation, consisting of Rev. A. M'Cracken, pastor of Lisburn; Rev. Patrick Adair, of Belfast; Rev. A. Hamilton, of Armagh; and other ministers of the Presbyterian Church. Having learned from those gentlemen more than he had previously known of the state of the Church and the poverty that existed among many sections of its people, he promised to increase the amount of the Regium Donum to the sum of twelve hundred pounds; and, promptly acting on that impulse, he wrote an order for the first year's annuity. Amongst the many interesting association that cling round the walls of the old Hillsboro' Castle then may also be seen the bedroom occupied by King William during his sojourn in that old town.

When the country had settled down after the stormy days of the Revolution, till the latter part of the eighteenth century, the energies of the inhabitants of Lisburn seem to have been mainly directed to the development of the different branches of the linen industry. Under the fostering care of the Crommelins, the Delacherois, the Richardsons, the Barbours, the Coulsons, and many others, its manufacture reached a degree of excellence that had never been attained before. During the short reign of William the Third, who died in 1702, every encouragement was given by him to those who were interested in the linen trade. He granted a large sum to Mr. Crommelin to enable him to develop the cultivation of flax and the weaving and bleaching of linen. Colonel Popham Seymour-Conway also granted that gentleman a valuable plot of ground near the County Down Bridge, where he built his weaving factory, and members of the French fugitives found employment there.

In 1707

A serious calamity befell the inhabitants of Lisburn (as it has since been celled) by the total destruction of the town by fire, which happened accidentally. The Cathedral was burned, and also the Castle built by Lord Conway.

All that now remains of that ancient stronghold is the surrounding wall and its ancient gateway with the date, 1677, engraven on its topmost stone. A portion of the ground adjoining the walls is still called "The Rounds," from the time the watchful sentries walked their "weary rounds" to prevent old Lisnagarvey from being surprised by the enemy. In a house occupied at that time by a Mr. Ward, and now in the occupation of Messrs. Duncan & Sons, Ltd., which was the first one erected after the fire, a stone is inserted in the front wall, which bears this inscription:--

                          I.H.I., 1708.
          The year above this house erected,
          The town was burned ye year before:
          People therein may be directed --
          God hath judgments still in store,
          And that they do not Him provoke,
          To give to them a second stroke,
   The builder also doth desire at expiration of his lease,
   The landlord living at that time may think upon the builder's case.

Better class houses were afterwards erected and have been occupied at different times by the families of Traills, Calbecks, Smyth, Bolton, Richardson, Hogg, Cupples, Stannus, Nicholsons, Pim and Barbour, the descendants of whom are still in the neighbourhood.

About the beginning of last century Robert Knox, a Scotch cutler, settled in Lisnagarvey, the linen weavers then used an awkward instrument called a "shears" for the purpose of cutting the ends of their warp yarn, and also for dressing the selvages of their cloth. Mr. Knox was often called upon to sharpen and repair those instruments, and while doing so he began to see that much improvement could be made in their form and usefulness. Acting on this idea he produced something new and the article rapidly found favour with the weavers of the neighbourhood. But the fame of Knox's shears did not end here. Orders came in from other provinces, and at length the cutlers of Manchester and York made purchases to such an extent that long before the old gentleman's death he could not meet the demand for his work.

His son and grandson inherited the fame he had gained for himself, and some of the present inhabitants still remember when the latter carried on his useful business. There was also an ingenious person named Kelly, who became such an adept in the making of mounted shuttles that the name "Kelly" stamped on each shuttle proved a guarantee that the work came from the hands of a master of the art. Mark Henry Dupré, one of the Huguenots, was also renowned as a maker of reeds.

In 1740,

The then Marquis of Hertford granted leases of his whole estate for three lives, or forty-one years, at from two to five or six shillings an acre, which proved a great incentive to the improvement of buildings, planting orchards, and cultivation of the land generally, and the prosperity of its inhabitants. In 1762, his successor was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, with Viscount Beauchamp, his son, acting as Chief Secretary. During his reign at Dublin Castle, Lord Hertford rendered valuable services to the linen trade, and was a liberal patron of the damask manufactory which was some time after established at Lisburn. The industry was started in Lisburn by the Messrs. Coulson, and the production of their looms is celebrated over the civilised world. The factories have been visited at different times by many distinguished personages.

On the 11th May, 1762, Mr. John Williamson, a bleacher, of Lambeg, had a bye-law passed by the Trustees of the Linen Board, that all brown linens should be sealed so as to certify that each webb was of the proper length, breadth, and workmanship.

Under the erroneous impression that he was the foe of the work-people, the malcontent weavers determined to wreak their vengeance on that gentleman. With this intention three or four hundred of them paraded the streets of Lisburn, armed with blackthorn sticks, and railing in opprobrious terms against Williamson. For the time being business was partially suspended in the town, and the sale of webs in the Linen Hall was given up for the day. The mob failing to meet the object of their vengeance went off to Lambeg House, the seat of Mr. Williamson, and on arriving there smashed the windows and destroyed some valuable furniture: Lord Hillsboro', who was also in sympathy with Mr. Williamson, having heard of the riotous proceedings, rode immediately into Lisburn, and placing himself at he head of a troop of soldiers then quartered in the town, set off for Lambeg and routed the mob. On returning from thence, and after the soldiers had gone back to the barracks, his Lordship was attacked in the street, and might have been roughly handled by the half drunken fellows, had it not been for a number of Maze farmers and Lisburn men who came to the rescue, and the noble earl escaped further attempts at violence. In 1784, Mr. John Barbour erected at Plantation a Linen Thread Manufactory, farther reference to which will be found under the industries of Lisburn. In 1789, a Mr. Wallace erected a Cotton Mill in a court off Castle Street, Lisburn, and had the concern filled with the most modern machinery. Having heard much of the discoveries of Watt and Boulton in steam power, he accordingly set off to Glasgow to examine the principle.

Being convinced of its superiority, he purchased a fifteen horse-power engine, engaged competent mechanics to set it up, and returned home. After overcoming many preliminary difficulties at length all the arrangements were completed, and Mr. Wallace enjoyed the triumph of seeing the first steam engine that ever whirled in the North of Ireland driving the spindles of the Lisburn Cotton Mill.

(To be continued)

(This article was originally published in the Lisburn Standard on 4 July 1919 as part of a series which ran in that paper each week for several years. The text along with other extracts can be found on my website Eddies Extracts.)

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The Battle for the Wytschaete-Messines Ridge

The battle for the Wytschaete-Messines Ridge has come -- and gone. And although in war there is but little time for retrospect, except for those who must glean, amidst the doings of the battlefield, fresh weapons for the further fighting, there is no Irishman who has been privileged to bear arms in Belgium for Ireland and the Empire who will not carry away some ineffaceable impressions of great happenings -- of a noble enterprise soberly undertaken and gloriously achieved -- of great death-dealing forces arrayed against each other on a scale unparalleled -- of scenes where beauty and destructive power awakened breathless awe -- of human suffering and patriotic devotion at such white-hot intensity that from it has issued, as some new amalgam might issue molten from a flaming crucible, a unifying bond of common brotherhood, to bind in lasting sympathy all those that have passed through the furnace side by side.

One scene which will not easily be forgotten by those who were present will illustrate this solvent effect on party differences which the spirit of brotherhood-in-arms has produced. On the way back from the battle a large number of officers, mostly Irish, met at dinner at a hospice where a Belgian religious sisterhood had been wont for long to divert portion of their energies from their normal charitable and devotional activities to providing for the wants of the army which had come to free their country. Around the table were met not only officers who had fought in the battle or organised the subsidiary services so indispensable for success in battle, physical and spiritual wants of the troops -- but also those who had ministered to the doctors and padres, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland or England -- all wearing the uniform of their respective ranks and all of them men recently exposed to the risk of death. The toast of "The Reverend Mother" was proposed in terms of grateful eulogy by the senior officer present -- and the walls rang to the good old refrain, "For she's a jolly good fellow." with a volume of whole-hearted appreciation to which all -- reverend, learned and gallant comrades -- contributed equally. Adsit omen!

It would be difficult to fix exactly the date at which it became known that the Wytschaete Ridge would be object and scene of a great battle, just as it would be difficult to fix the precise day and hour at which the battle began. But for those who could read the signs speculation had long since given place to certain conviction. Whilst yet we lived amidst iron frosts and snow flurries, which, happily, were more prevalent than muddy morasses and rainstorms, the country-side began to be spotted with ammunition dumps, roads were repaired, lanes converted into roads, new roads made and railways came nosing forward curving round the hollows that eased the gradients and gave cover from enemy observation. Further forward trench tramway lines connected up and with the various trench systems, and everywhere water mains and water tanks, buried cables and air lines, were placed in suitable spots and in a quantity significant to the understanding eye. Old trenches were repaired, communication trenches were constructed, deep-mined dug-outs excavated, and subways pierced where trenches might be too conspicuous or too vulnerable. The days passed, when in the spasmodic interchanges of shelling or of trench raids were claimed a disputable preponderance of the one or a questionable predominance at the other. The time came when it was we who made the raids and the enemy scarcely ventured to make the attempt, and failed when he did -- the time came when our artillery fire was continuous and it was only the enemy that was spasmodic in retaliation. These were the days when those who had prophesied with confidence that the enemy would make one last offensive in his death struggle, and sally forth from the Wytschaete Ridge in a final effort to reach Calais and the Channel coast, now began to opine with equal confidence that he was gradually withdrawing with a view to a general retreat. And still our artillery fire grew more copious, till the sound of it was like the sound of some great devil's cauldron of porridge on the boil -- sometimes boiling up in furious intensity -- sometimes simmering down in subdued cadences, but always maintaining its steady bubbling -- a bubbling which told us that the Hun was being deliberately denied that occasional respite which comes as such a blessed relief to the nerve-wracked victim of protracted shell-fire.

Meantime, the tide of activity on the lines of communication was running in ever increasing volume -- and the troops in the front line were being withdrawn by divisions or brigades or battalions in rotation, and were being schooled -- like racehorses before a big steeplechase -- over country so laid out as to distances and obstacles and the like, as to be models of those sections of the enemy from which it would be their allotted task to attack. Meantime, too, our aeroplanes had been re-establishing their supremacy -- though the enemy was never altogether banished from active and melodious, even in the fighting area -- the nightingale by night, larks and blackbirds and a whole choir of warblers by day, and among the songless ones, hawks and magpies galore. And there, stamped and seared across the gallant radiance of the June landscape lay the trench lines of the opposing armies, divided by that little, wandering strip of green and tangled herbage called "No Man's Land," trench tangled, twisted and contorted like some geometrical puzzle thrown into confused disarray, trench lines that gape up at heaven in their bald and obscene nudity like a poisoned and neglected wound on the bosom of beauty. And amidst the trench lines here and there are crumbling heaps that once were human habitations, and whole woods in which no leaf shall ever grow -- mere cemeteries of hideous and mutilated stumps and the fallen trunks of trees, shattered and shredded, blasted and riven by the thunderbolts of war.

And still, day by day, the devil's cauldron was boiling incessantly with a deeper note and a growing volume in its roar -- and expectation sharpened up to nervous tension, and men, with all their preparations made for personal effort and for good or ill-fortune in the fray, were asking each other: "When is it to be?" and got no certain answer, for even yet zero day and zero hour were closely guarded secrets. Bombardments of the enemy positions multiplied: systematic wire-cutting in the Hun front and support lines by field-guns and medium trench mortars, the searching out of strong points and machine-gun emplacements, dug-outs and O.P.'s by heavy trench mortars; the pounding of the enemy batteries by heavy guns; artillery practices of barrages that creep and of barrages that jump, of barrages that spread smoke and the confusion of darkness in the enemy's lines, and of barrages that spill over him the poison gas which he himself taught us to use. One June morning saw the tortured remnants of Wytschaete laid flat by the concentrated fire of the "heavies," and surely, destruction mote complete, more beautiful, and more terrible has never visited a human town since the day when the Lord rained fire from heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrah. In the clear air of a sunlit forenoon we saw the vast explosions -- earth and dust and debris splashed into the air hundreds of feet, patterned against the blue sky in aborted symmetrical shapes, like ferns or crystals, and slowly sinking amidst the newer splashes, while the breeze wafted away the finer dust. And the colours added to the wonders of the scene. There were splashes of jet black and of white, as lustrous as virgin snow; splashes of rose and yellow and pale mauve and splashes of every shade of red and purple. When it was finished, Wytschaete existed no more.

At last, after nearly a week so spent, the dispositions of the infantry, long since planned and organised in minutest detail, were carried into effect, and zero day and zero hour named -- the 7th day of June, a Thursday, and 3-10 a.m. About the actual units engaged it is forbidden to be more precise, but it suffices that Ireland was there -- Leinster and Connaught, Ulster and Munster -- side by side, united by the same pride of race and the same passionate determination to justify it.

As the night slowly ebbed away, mild and gentle, the Devil's Cauldron, as was not unusual, had simmered down into comparative quiescence. No lights nor sounds had betrayed the presence of the assaulting troops to the enemy artillery. Everything was ready, and men breathed deep breaths as they waited as runners wait for the starter's pistol. And then -- a stupifying outburst, in which one's very senses seemed to be submerged by the sudden clamour of a myriad sounds, a myriad flames, a myriad shocks, all blended together:
"The mossy earth, the sphered skies were riven,"
and in that moment our Irish troops leaped forth to the attack.

In that moment some nineteen mines, charged with close on a million pounds of high explosives, had been fired beneath the Hun lines, upon our nine mile front -- on the immediate Wytschaete front there were four. The shuddering earth literally palpitated at the gigantic up-rending of its crust -- in one mine alone which the writer examined, there were forty tons of high explosive, and it bore evidence of the violence it had suffered in a crater measuring ninety yards across and a full seventy feet in depth? In that same moment the "Devil's Cauldron, that had been cooking so long, finally boiled over in fierce and concentrated intensity, thus far unparalleled in war -- to be followed, after but a momentary pause, deep answering to deep, by the enemy's barrage, descending in full blast upon our front and support lines.

The village of Wytschaete after its occupation

Before our assaulting troops there moved the curtain fire of our barrage -- hundreds of yards in depth -- to which every piece, from the field-gun to the great howitzer, contributed its maximum effort a curtain such as no battlefield has ever seen before, and which was the finished product of some beautifully intricate schemes of artillery organisation. And whilst the attack was surging up the slope with irresistible gallantry, the men in the support line -- whose allotted task was to go forward later to win a yet more distant goal -- stood in the waxing twilight, under the Hun barrage, gas helmet on head, for the poisonous fumes from the exploded mines were drifting over them -- and watched and waited and chafed at the delay. At last the programme time arrived, and they too pressed forward in their turn, about the time of sunrise. Already little patties, bringing wounded and prisoners, were dribbling in with the tidings that all was going well, and as they breasted the slope they found that their gallant comrades had captured the hospice and the crest of the ridge, with all the precision of a parade movement. Already the Hun was shelling the captured position; a brief pause to take breath, a few minutes to take up their battle positions, and then away they went for the second ridge crest and its reverse slopes, from which the whole land past Oosstaverne to Comines lies open to the view. More difficulty here -- the attack has to pass over ground hitherto unseen, across the sloped glacis of the northern defences of Wytschaete, through a tangled skein of trenches, and amidst the ruins of many houses -- the while other Irishmen are working their way into Wytschaete itself, and past its southern defences. Nay, more, over these tilted slopes and ruins and shell-contorted defences, the attack had to advance on a narrowing front and then widen out again, to thrust forward its left flank and then to pivot round until the right came abreast. Not easy thus to manoeuvre when fiery courage is maddened to intoxication in the passion of a resisted charge. Not easy, but yet achieved to the exact minute laid down in the programme, with both flanks extended with scrupulous accuracy to -- aye, and with a precautionary overlap -- their prescribed limits. Not easy, when blood is flowing and leaders drop -- but previous study of maps and aerial photographs has robbed the unknown of much of its mystery, and all have been tutored in its results, and passion itself has learned, even in its very ecstacy, to shape its blow with mechanical precision. Like a homing pigeon to its loft, the attacking Irish sped to their objectives, with their "moppers up" toiling behind, dealing with the big "dug-outs" and the swelling tide of prisoners, within four minutes of the arrival at the goal, with exact punctuality, the carrying party delivered its load of ammunition and tools! Consolidation began, reorganisation of platoons and companies, a counting of casualties, the pushing forward of outposts and patrols, the construction of strong points, Wytschaete and the ridge were ours -- every measure must now be taken to ensure that Wytschaete and the ridge shall remain ours. Victory achieved, its fruits must be securely garnered.

The panorama of sunlit landscape stretching westward, shows how dreadfully our positions for the last two years and more have been overlooked by the Huns, and bears instant testimony to the great strategic value of our victory. The slope itself -- once a scene of gentle sylvan beauty, with the copious foliage of its woodlands and the rich verdure of its swelling slopes -- is now, as an outcast leper, fetid and obscene. There is no green thing growing on its whole expanse; its trees are but torn and jagged stumps; its surface, seamed with burst-in trenches, is pock-marked and pitted as from the ravages of a million loathsome pustules; its atmosphere is noisome with the thousand filthy odours of a long-contested battlefield. It is a midden upheaved; a catacomb disrupted, protruding its corruption and decay; a charnel house. And even as it blazons forth its filthy secrets to an outraged sky, we know -- we who have eyes to read the signs -- that it is hugging in its unclean breast a plenteous store of recent victims, dead, wounded and living, whose strong-built shelters have been shattered or submerged by the countless burstings of mighty shells. Surely, it is "the abomination of desolation," spoken of by Jeremy the prophet.

And here we see the crowds of prisoners trooping over the crest and down the slope, the runners dashing in with hastily pencilled reports from the victorious front line, the fitful sprinkling of enemy shells, the working and carrying parties moving up, pack mules with ammunition and water, threading their way through obstacles innumerable across the old front lines -- and then a swelling stream of the wounded, painfully pushing its way over rough ground, comrades and Hun prisoners alike helping, to the forward dressing station. It is a sad pilgrimage from the advanced aid post, close behind the new-won front, where wounds are roughly staunched amidst the enemy's fire, which to-day has taken heavy toll of the ministering non-combatants. And here, in a commodious shell-hole, the doctors and the padres work at highest pressure to bring physical and spiritual solace to the wounded and dying -- Irish and Hun -- first come first served -- all have an equal claim: --
"Tros Tyrius que fuit, nullo in discrimine habetur."
As the rough dressings are stripped off of its western front because the military engineers who designed them never thought that its western ramparts could be carried -- nor for a long time could the prisoners from other parts of the front be persuaded of the fact that Wytschaete had indeed fallen. All hail to the Green and to the Orange!

And so the long twilight and the short, slow night passed away amidst the ceaseless comings and goings of the battlefield -- whilst the men, soused by the evening thunder showers, shivered and dozed and waited for the promised reliefs -- whilst the enemy artillery, robbed of all observation, aimlessly pitched its big shells over the ridge like the blinded Cyclops, threshing furiously through the unresisting air.

At last came the morning, and with it the reliefs. And as we started down the slopes in the growing light, the story spread how, on the adjoining front, Major Willie Redmond charging with his comrades, had been wounded by a shell and carried into an Ulster ambulance station, where, amidst the kindly ministrations of his brother Irishmen, he had yielded up his chivalrous soul -- a very willing sacrifice on the altar of Ireland and of liberty.

This article and photos were taken from  a publication entitled "The Undivided Irish Divisions and How They Fought in France and in Flanders." Date of publication currently unknown.