The Ulster Land War of 1770



Some accounts of the trials of hearts of steel and others, at the assizes, 1772-7, showing the variety of offences with which the people were charged, how they seemed to have little difficulty in procuring sureties, and much difficulty in obtaining verdicts of “guilty.” We have only space for a few extracts.


John MacMeken. Custody.
John Hood. Out.
Bailed by Robert Dun (£100) of Killygowan, farmer, and Andrew Tofts of Killyree, farmer (£100).
To take trial at next assizes.
Indicted for that they, with many others, 3rd April, 1772, at Ballaless, did riotously assemble together and contemptuously and unlawfully administer an oath, and by threats and menaces did compel and oblige one, John Orr, to swear on the holy gospels that he would be true to the hearts of steel, and that he would give up his land to John Meeke, if he would take it, they not being justices of the peace, or in any manner qualified to administer an oath against the peace.”

“(Same) John MacMeken.
(Same) John Hood.
Indicted for that they, with many others, 9th March, 1772, at Killaless, did riotously assemble and make a great affray against the peace.”
“Same prosecutors.”

“John MacCallum of Craignamaddy and Thomas Mears of Mevver.
Henry Copeland and others.
Joseph Belchley.
Indicted for riotous assembly and assault the right hon. Will., earl of Hillsborough. Not guilty.
Acquitted also on a charge of entering the dwelling-house of Anthony Crossley.”

“Samuel MacClelland.
O’Neal Herrald.
Indicted for that they did, on the night of l0th March, 1772, at Rosnashane, maliciously and feloniously set fire to the barn and stables of Joseph Moore.”

“Hugh Fullerton.

Indicted for that he, intending to injure John Johnston in his property, l0th March, 1772, at Ballylossan, did write the following letter:–
l0th March, 1772. This is to warn you, John Johnston of Notmill, not to take more than the sweat out grain from your sockon, or by God if you do we will not leave one stone on another and burn everything belonging to you. As my name is captain Fire, I will give fire to John Johnston, miller, of Notmill.
Indicted for taking a gun from Aron Brown at Ballycroggy.”

“Samuel MacMaster.
James Dronnan.
John Agnew.
John Bowel of Donegore.
Henderson Beck.
Jas. Hill.
Indicted for; 9th July, 1770, at Ballysavage, did maim three cows and three bullocks, the property of William Crawford.”

“Wm. Miskimmon. Custody.
John Barclay. C.
Jas. Loader. C.
Robt. Shevers. Out.
Henry MacCarry.
Indicted, 5th February, at Balliston [Ballyeaston], did riotously assemble together and unlawfully enter the dwelling-house of John Allan.
Verdict. Not guilty.”

“David Douglas. Not guilty.
Wm. MacCullough. Not guilty.
Paul Douglas. Cust.
Indicted for, 5th March, 1771, did, etc., fire a dwelling- house of John Gordon, by which firing same was consumed and destroyed.”

“Wm. MacCullough.
David Douglas.
John MacClelland.
John Price.
All not guilty.
Set fire to dwelling-house of James Shaw.”

“David Douglas. Custody.
Samuel Douglas. Out.
John Patton.
William Rainey.
William Adair.
John Mactonnell.
Andw. MacConnell.
Indicted for that they, on the 30th day of October, 1771, set fire to dwelling-house of George Farmer, etc., of Ballylinnie.
Verdict. Not guilty.”

“David Douglas.
John MacClelland.
John Price.
Thomas Coleman.
On the 18th of December, 1771, did set fire to the dwelling-house of Stephen Haven.
Verdict. Not guilty.”

This was a twelve month after Davy Douglas had been triumphantly released from the barracks in Belfast and brought home to Templepatrick. Henry Douglas when disguised for “night work” was known as “long Roger.”

“John Clark. Custody.
John Kennedy. C. V.
John Rainey. C. N.
Wm. MacCullough. C.
James Hill. C.
Andrew MacElroy. C. G. 7.
Arthur Campbell. Out.
John Campbell. Out.
John Burns. Out.
4th May, 1771. Setting fire to dwelling-house of James Finniston.”

“Monaghan, 1st April, 17.5. This day the assizes ended here, when Robert Nesbitt, gent., and William Pringle were tried for high treason as being concerned in the late tumultuous risings in the province of Ulster, and were honourably acquitted.”

“Adam Munn of Gartconay.
John Dunlop of Drumnaglasson,
James Hill of Carnelty, } Sureties.
Indicted for sending the following threatening letter, 31st
October, 1772:–
“I, captain Justice of the royal regiment of the hearts of steel, 25th regiment, I do give you, Billy MacIlpatrick of Gartconay, lawfull warning for to give Edward Munn his own possession of the said land again that he formerly held, that you have of late taken over the said Edward Munn’s head from mr. Dunlop of Drumnaglasson, which is landlord of said town of Gartconay; and if you do not comply with the above summons you may depend upon being very much distressed by your houses being burned, and your cattle burned, and houses of family being destroyed, if you be found in the said possession. We expect you will do as we have desired you again the night appointed, and, if not, mark the consequences thereof, for this is wrote by order. Now there is a man going for to give you an advice if you take it, but you may do for it as you think proper; but as the case has happened you must clear the premises, and as you have a soul to be saved, now I pray you on Friday night give us no farther trouble. Wrote by order and captain Justice of Captain Firebrand, and the man who is going to give you the advice is the bearer. Now I pray you to take this man’s advice, or if you do not, why take your defence.”

“And did afterwards, to wit, same day, year, and place, wilfully and unlawfully deliver the said letter to Jean MacIlpatrick, wife of William MacIlpatrick.”

“Joseph Thompson.
Michael Thompson of Maghrygall.
George Thompson of Maghrygall.
Sureties conditional for Joseph Thompson to take his trial.

Indicted for that he, on the 20th of March, 1772, at Brookhill, did wilfully and feloniously kill and maim two bullocks and one bull, price £18, the goods of James Watson.
And for that being an ill-design and disorderly person, and contriv., etc., to injure one, James Watson, in his property, 20th March, at Brookhill, did wilfully and unlawfully write and cause to be written a certain threatening letter in the words and form following: ‘ You are hereby required to give out the beef to your poor tenants that is in a starving condition, and to let you know that as many as shall hereafter come upon the ground of MacCullin’s farm shall be dealt with in the same manner, till such time as you shall settle with your tenants, and you must sell out your hay to your tenants at 1s. 1d. per hundred, and let no more of it go away from them or we will destroy it. Given under our hands, this 20th March, 1772. Hearts of steel.’

And afterwards, to wit, same day, year, and place, did wilfully and unlawfully cause said letter to be left at the house of said James Watson, at Brookhill aforesaid, against the peace.”

“William Carson.
John Kennedy of Brocklips.
Sam MacClure of Castletown.
Indicted for sending the following threatening letter.
“Whereas Thomas Cortnay tuck 6 guineas of William Carson for a stack which he bought and said he stole it, but you were in mistake. And if you do not give the money to use this minut untill we return it to him again, we will consume you and all that you have by the force of powder and ball, as we tuck it upon us to do justices to all men we do so to him, and do not resist if you be for your own good. God save king George 3 and loyal hearts of steel.”

“Antrim spring assizes, 1774.
John Pearson.
Arthur Pearson.
Sam. Cathcart.
Indicted that they on I3th January, 1774, did fire Bryan
MacManuse’s house, J.P., at Carrickfergus.”
“Not guilty.”

“John Pearson and Arthur Pearson.
Theatened to burn the house of James Wilson, a justice
of the peace for said county. Same day, year, and place.
“Not guilty.”

“James Homer. Custody.
Convicted of felony last assizes and sentenced to be executed. Since pardoned on condition of transportation for 14 years.
Guilty to the value of 3/4. Pleads statute. Allowed to be transported to America pursuant to statute.”

“Antrim assizes, 1777. Summer.
Cornelius Clarke, under a rule of transportation since Summer assizes, 1774, will not be received on board any ship on account of his age and infirmity.”

In this case the rough sailor had more commiseration than the lawyer or his majesty’s judge of assize.

Before chief baron Denis and judge Christopher Robinson.
“Hill Gilmore.
Indicted for that he, being a papist or person professing the popish religion, 2nd of June, I7th of the king at Lisburn, contemptuously, unjustly, and unlawfully did keep and make use of arms, i.e., ot a sword, without license, against the peace and statute.”
“Verdict. Not guilty.”

“Patrick MacGaughan.
Bailed by Robert Caheen of Broughshane, and Arthur MacNeill of Kenkilly, 25 each.
Bound over by John White, 26th March, 1773. Indicted for that he, being a papist, on the 15th July, 12th of the king, at Breakagh, did contemptuously, unjustly, and unlawfully keep and make use of arms, that is to say, a gun, without License, against the peace and statute.
Verdict. Not guilty.

The Whites of White Hall had a large number of papist tenants, but it was evident they were not to carry guns, according to the Whites, who, however, would since have been glad of them.

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