Tory Hunter, John Johnson

During the 18th century in Creggan, and throughout Ireland, there were attempts by the dispossessed Irish to retrieve their lands …

 …….. or inflict injury on those who had supplanted them. The most active were known as Tories.

They made no attempt to hide their contempt for the British and their agents. They were ruthlessly hunted down by them and many endured gruesome fates. John Johnson was a local landlord, the chief constable and a fearsome and ruthless tory hunter.

As chief constable of The Fews, he was charged with upholding and enforcing the new English law. He often acted as if he was the law.

He lived at Roxboro, near Dorsey, South Armagh. Near here even today is a stone that became known as the ‘Headin’ Stone’ because of his practice of beheading his victims there. The heads would then be displayed to deter others.

Along the Dorsey River is a hole known as the Tory Hole where Johnson is said to have dumped the decapitated bodies.

Johnson was handsomely rewarded by his superiors in England. Every Tory he captured and beheaded earned him a sizable sum of money. His career spanned many years and by 1739 he was Barrack Master of The Fews and a member of the Louth Grand Jury.

So feared was Johnson that to this very day, local people recite the couplet ..

‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews

Save us from Johnson, King of The Fews’.

Johnson’s family consisted of four sons and two daughters. His son Richard was illegitimate. His mother was his Catholic housekeeper, Catharine Darby. He died in 1759 and he too is buried in Creggan Churchyard – under the same sod as of so many of his victims.

Knights Templar in Newry ? …

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