Slaughter in Ballyholland

One morning in 1797 the Ancient Britons [a Welsh Regiment of the English Army ]  accompanied by Becker’s Yeomanry, rode out from Newry through Corrags until they came to a loanan which, over a hill, led to the farm of a widow woman, one Mrs Ryan. 

A Piece Of Ballyholland History

She had two sons, both little boys.  Seeing the soldiers halt at the foot of the boreen, she told her son Edward to run down and open the gates for the troopers.“If they find you in the house, they will kill you,” she warned the bigger boy.  He instead of Edward ran quickly down the lane and opened the gate, standing aside to let the soldiers pass.  They rode past in single file, but just as the last horseman was passing, he turned and shot through the heart the poor lad who was in the act of re-closing the gate. 

The rest of the troop entered the house and, callously indifferent to the poor widow’s plight, turned the house upside down, ripping beds with their sabres and smashing all the humble furniture. 

Finding nothing ‘seditious’, they cursed their luck and rode off, trampling the dead body of young Ryan as they passed.

Discontent with their day’s work, they stopped at a farmstead in Mettleton’s Meadow.  Here, in the centre of a field next to the steep Jack’s Hill stood a red barn.  As the Yeos and the Welsh Horse arrived fourteen men and boys were engaged in a game of football in the meadow.  They quickly stopped their game and fled, taking shelter in the loft of the red barn. 

Becker of the Yeomanry halted the soldiers and stared suspiciously at the barn. 

At a signal to the leader of the Ancient Britons, the whole cavalcade rode out to surround the red barn.  The troops dismounted and swarmed up a ladder to the loft with their swords drawn. 

Becker angrily declared that the occupants were holding an illegal meeting.  Despite the men’s denial he persisted.  He ordered them all to be massacred in cold blood. 

The defenceless victims were instantly hacked to pieces in the barn.  When the slaughter was complete one trooper bent down, and dipping his finger in the blood and gore, wrote on the barn’s wall :

“By United work we lost our lives”.

Long after every one and everthing else was gone, one barn wall still stood, bearing these words.

… pitch-capped at Grinan …

… more later …


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