Monday, December 30, 2013

Ballyhalbert and Portavogie, April 1797

On the run-in to what became the 1798 Rebellion, this account was published in The Northern Star in the 3-7 April 1797 edition:

'... in searching for arms in the Ards, on Friday, March 10, the soldiers sliced down a whole cheese and carried it off together with several articles both of provisions and apperall, at Mr Brown's (Portavogie). In the townland of Ballyhalbert, they tossed about three stacks of grain, belonging to Wm M'Whorter, and committed several other outrages. Almost every night since, an Ensign G- and Mr. P. G., seemingly intoxicated, accompanied by a few armed ruffians (not the military) paraded the town and country, to the terror of peaceable well-disposed people.

Widows, orphans, poor lonely women, and all others in unprotected circumstances, are the chief objects of their military vigilance and prowess. When their private orgies prevent their personal exertions, their emissaries rally forth in arms; scour the country at all hours of the night, force poor people from their beds, demand spirits or whatever else they choose, which, having devoured, they make off. If complaint is uttered they present cards or notes which they say contain orders from the aforesaid gentlemen for their proceedings.

On such occasions Master John H-, son to a gauger, is Captain Commandant, and Master John B-, son to the church clerk, Adjutant. It is expected that a sense of the meritorious exploits of the latter will recommend his father and family to the notice of the parish of Portaferry at next vestry. The Commissioners of Revenue will certainly promote the former. Any of the others whether higher or lower may be presented with more prominent features to the public, if their further merits call for notice. Let them be thankful at present ...'