Friday, July 03, 2020

Jean or Jane Watson, the Covenanter widow from Killaughey, and William of Orange

A few years ago I was loaned a notebook containing a typescript of a brilliant story about Jean / Jane Watson from Killaughey (near Ballycopeland windmill). It had been written down by her great grandson, 'A.M.' from Greyabbey.

She was a Presbyterian Covenanter refugee from Scotland, fleeing the "Killing Times" from 1661-88. She was a 33 year old widow with six children. When the Duke of Schomberg arrived at Groomsport in 1689, his troops took horses from local farmsteads, including Jean's two which were her only source of income and survival.

Described as "intrepid in manner" the furious Jane pursued Schomberg all the way to Drogheda. She got an audience with William of Orange, who gave her 6 horses for her trouble, and two letters. One was on paper and guaranteed her safe passage home should any soldiers stop her. The other was on vellum and said –

"As a reward for perseverance and bravery I hereby confirm assign and make ever JANE WATSON widow her heirs male for ever free of rent all that parcel of land she now holds in KILLAUGHEY, DONAGHADEE.
Dated this 15th day of July 1690
William Rex.

Jane Watson was buried at Templepatrick graveyard on the shore between Millisle and Donaghadee. Her gravestone is still there today - "here lieth ye body of Jean Watson who died May ye 4th 1749 aged 92 years".

(PS Belfast historian Jason Burke also found the same story, a few years before me, and from another source).

(PPS the whole story was printed in the Newry Telegraph on 26 May 1842, which in turn had been reprinted from the Derry Standard)