We lately made reference to the ‘Ancient Britons’ – (S Moninna and Killeavy 4 Dec) – that barbarous Welsh regiment that wrought terror in these parts at the close of the eighteenth century.
One day in 1797 in the company of Becker’s Yeomanry they set out towards Ballyholland and Corrags. Seeing them approach the widow Ryan sent her young son to the lane’s end to open the gate for the troopers. As the last soldier filed through he turned on the little boy and shot him through the heart. Having subsequently destroyed the home’s contents they ‘tumbled’ the cottage (the widow and her surviving son taking secret shelter beyond the house) and trampled the dead boy’s body with their horses’ hooves as they left. Still not content with their day’s work they moved on to Mettleton’s Meadow. A football game was in progress.
The frightened participants fled and sought shelter in a nearby red barn. The soldiers surrounded it with swords drawn. Declaring an illegal meeting to be taking place within Becker ordered that all there be hacked to pieces. When their evil deed was accomplished, one trooper wrote in blood on the barn’s wall, ‘By United work we lost our lives.’
At Grinan the soldiers raided the home of a man called McGovern whose son was a student priest. Finding a Latin missal they concluded the language was French and the young man a French spy. He was ‘pitch-capped’ – that is, molten tar in a cup-shaped receptacle was pressed upon his skull. This was a favourite torture technique of that time.
The Yeomen burned a number of houses and took prisoners back to Newry for trial. Marched manacled through the town John Morgan attempted escape. He was immediately run through with a soldier’s blade.
Patrick McEvoy and Edward McGovern were taken to ‘Gallow’s Hill’ (now Heather Park) and hanged, drawn and quartered. Townspeople were forced to watch. Their decapitated heads were spiked and displayed outside the town’s News Room ‘as an example to others’.