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Belmont Barracks

by
Kevin Murphy

Reproduced, with the Society's permission, from the 1989 Journal of The Creggan Local History Society


The original barracks on the present site was erected ill the year 1689 and was known as Shanroe Barracks. The reason for the building of this small outpost at that time was to help to suppress the activities of the rapparees. This barracks was eventually abandoned in the 1750.(1)

The disturbances of the late 1780's and the early 1790's prompted the local Protestant Establishment to request that a barracks be built to house a company of foot soldiers.

Ireland in this period was becoming very unsettled but it was the local factors in the Forkhill area which heightened the tension considerably.

Richard Jackson had been landlord of the Forkhill Estate until his death without issue in 1787(2). His will, which was so complicated that it took an Act of Parliament in 1789 to decide how it might best be carried out, left his property bound up in trusts for the benefit of his widow Nicola Anne and his sister Mrs. Susanna Barton. He also left a number of Charitable Bequests and some of these contained a proselytizing clause which was resented by the mass of the population. One of the most prominent of these sectarian clauses was that if a papist's lease expired he was to be replaced by a Protestant tenant(3).

To add to the feeling of discontent the most prominent member of the General Board of the Jackson Charitable Bequest was the Rev. Edward Hudson, Rector of Forkhill(4). He and his agent Mr. James Dawson(5) were particularly hated by the local tenantry and attempts were made on their lives. In one such attempt Mr. Hudson's horse was shot dead while he was riding it past the "Popish Chapel" in Multaghbawn on December 19th 1789(6).

In 1790 a meeting of the General Board which administered the Jackson Estate decided to apply to the Government for the building of a new barracks at Belmont(7).

Events in the latter part of 1790 and during January 1791 prompted a much more urgent appeal. The two outstanding incidents which reflect the mood of the area at this time were the attack on the Parish Priest of Forkbill, Rev. Cullen, at Carrickasticken on Christmas morning 1790 (8)when he was badly beaten, his chalice destroyed and his vestments slashed; and the attack on the Barclay family in January 1791(9). The latter incident was particularly savage.

Richard Jackson had established a number of schools on his estate and on his death these were controlled and administered by the General board. In 1790 a teacher in Forkhill, Mr. Knowledge, was dismissed from his post by Rev. Hudson and replaced by Alexander Barclay, Mr. Dawson's brother-in-law, from Portadown. The local tenantry were incenced at this and a group of them went to Mr. Barclay's school house after nightfall, gained entry under false pretences and cut a piece from Mr. Barclay's tongue and all the fingers from his right hand. Mr. Barclay's brother-in-law was similarly treated and his wife so badly abused that she died.three days later in Dundalk Infirmary(10).

On February Ist. 1791 three of the trustees of the Jackson Estate, including Rev. Hudson, wrote (11) to the Bishop of Dromore, Thomas Percy, to explain the circumstance of the Barclay incident. In the letter they said that they felt it necessary, in the light of recent incidents, to suspend all operations of the charity.

They Stated:

" We wish to beg leave to remind your lordship that at the last General Board it was unanimously resolved that the establishment of a barrack in Forkhill for a company of foot would be of general utility, and that your Lordship agreed to recommend it to the Lord Lieutenant. The late event (Barclay) shows the expediency of such an establishment,. and we greatly fear that if some means are not immediately used to restore the peace of the country, the objects of the charity can never be fulfilled".

They mentioned that the local population was "parading at night around the roads with torches" and the Barclay incident was "publicly exulted in the parish". The Protestants of the area were "in fear of their lives" and many were "considering emigration". The letter said that it was "felt in some circles" that the sedition was inspired by "millionaires from France and by some Catholic clergy" ( no doubt here they were thinking of Fr. Cullen, Parish Priest of Forkhill).

One history of the period(12) says that guns were being brought in through Newry Port for the use of "Defenders" and that a reward of five guineas was offered by the Grand Jury and High Sheriff of Co. Armagh for the conviction of each of the first twenty people found in possession of illegal arms. Meanwhile Mr. Dawson had fled from the Forkhill area to "escape the wrath of the outraged tenantry" as he had been blamed for the attack on Rev. Fr. Cullen(13). (He returned later because in 1825 we find him, at the age of 85, attending the Dundalk Hunt Ball and living at Forkhill House)(14).

BELMONT BARRACKS

The application for a barracks was successful and a barracks was erected at Belmont in Shanroe townland by the spring of 1795. An indenture (15)dated April 15th 1795, transferred "two roods and twenty perches Irish measure" from the Trustees of the Charitable Donations of Richard Jackson Esq. deceased, and Susanna Barton (Jackson's widowed sister) to the Commissioners and Overseers of the Barracks of the Kingdom of Ireland. The price paid for the plot of land was 291 12s. 1 Id. sterling and the indenture was signed by the Archbishop of Armagh, the Bishop of Dromore, the Earl of Gosford, Percy Jocelyn, Walter Synnot (of Ballymoyer), Edward Hudson, James Montgomery and Susanna Barton.

The Forkhill Yeomanry was formed when the barracks was opened and was under the command of Colonel John Ogle (16), Susanna Barton's son-in-law. He was a native of Eglingham, Northumberland, and had married on April 23rd. 1791. He lived at Carrickemond (17) between Forkhill and Kilcurry and seems to have been more partial to drinking than he was to his military duties. Once he had four yeomen flogged at Belmont for burning the house of his loyal tenant Patrick Burns "during the absence of their Commander". On another occasion he got into trouble with Dublin Castle for ordering his yeomen to stand down for a month, contrary to official orders.

The notorious General Lake who was military Commander for Ireland during the 1798 Rebellion resided at Belmont for a short period after the opening of the barracks (18).

We do not know when the Society of United Irishmen was established in the district, but on February 3rd 1795 Rev. Edward Hudson in a letter (19) to Dublin Castle stated that it was firmly established in the parish. Hudson thought that the meeting place for the United men was the house of a dissenter called John Small Balmer of Shean, Forkhill. Balmer was a linen draper and was very popular with the Roman Catholics of the District. He appears on a "List of persons in the County of Armagh suspected of disaffection", dated July 6th 1798.

THE "MARKET STONE"

The United Irishmen of the Forkhill area often met at the market stone in the townland of Quilly. This is a large boulder which has a yard measure roughly chiselled on its face. The locals brought woven linen from their homes in order to pretend that a sale was taking place, as the site of the stone is barely a half mile from Belmont. Prior to 1798 Jemmy Hope came up from Mallusk in County Antrim and met the people at such gaterings in order to instruct them in the ideals of the United Irishmen(20).

In the period leading up to the rebellion the South Armagh area was in a state of continuous unrest. In the spring of 1797 an Ensign Thomas Goodwin of the Royal Dublin Militia stationed at Newtownhamilton wrote (21) that South Armagh was in a ,'very ugly and dangerous situation". In March 1797 a United Irishman called Thomas Birch was being escorted under guard from Newtownhamilton in Armagh jail(22). There was an attempt to rescue Birch and in order to prevent his escape Sergeant Kirkus of the Dublin Militia, who was in charge of the escort, hacked the prisoner to death with his sword. Birch lived long enough to make a statement. Kirkus was arrested but later released and General Lake wrote (23) in a letter of March 25th 1797 that Kirkus should be decorated and that his prompt action would deter any further attempts to rescue prisoners.

There is some evidence of the Parish of Forkhill being active in the lead-up to the rebellion. On March 28th 1797 Colonel John Ogle wrote(24) from Belmont to a Captain Nicholson, aide-de-campe to General Lake, to say that he had an informer in Forkhill who had information about arms, particularly pikes, hidden in caves on Cave Hill, Belfast. This information was acted upon and the pikes seized. Unfortunately the informer's name has been deliberately scratched out in the original letter.

A party of North Britons, fencible Infantry, was at Belmont during the rebellion of 1798. In an anonymous ballad, "The Market Stone", they were probably confused with the Sutherland Fencibles who arrived at Belmont on June 29th 1798. The ballad (25)states:

"Though the Scotch Horse were at Belmont
And Roden's Riders too
We forged good steel in Quilly
Beside the old Creg-dubh".

Captain Lloyd in a letter from Belmont (26) on June 22nd 1798 to General Lake, gives us an eye-witness account of the situation around the barracks:

"I have to inform you that at ten by the clock last evening I duly received information that a rebelforce was in the act of assembly on a mountain near here called Slieve Guilion, under their Commander Shaun O'Neial, (27) well known for his seditious activities in these parts. Having been so informed I immediately ordered the call to arms and turned out the guard and had a beacon lit to give the alarm to the yeomanry outposts. By the first cock-crow Lieutenant John Duff of the Killeavy yeomanry and twenty troopers arrived at the outworks (here), but he had no sight of rebels to report to the north. At this hour Slieve Gullion was ablaze and there was much horn-blowing".

The military, with colonel Ogle and his yeomen, went to attack Slieve Gullion and they arrived at the top of the mountain about noon. They found no men, only a few pikes, signs of a camp and two powder flasks. Lloyd reports that reinforcements had been sent for and that by the evening of the same day a large military force was converging on the district from Newry and Dundalk.

The United Irishmen of Forkhill seem to have had connections with both North Down and Dublin in the immediate lead-up to the rebellion, if two local ballads are to be believed. One ballad mentions that the word for the rebellion came from Dublin (28)

"For word had come from Dublin
That the hour was near at hand".

Another ballad (29) states that the local company was awaiting a man from Sheelagh

"Whose word would carry weight".

But

"No man came from Sheelagh,
Though we did get news from Down,
Brought by a linen-weaver
From Carrickfergus town".

The latter ballad mentions the making of pikes and that they were hidden in caves on Slieve Gullion, Slieve More, Slieve Brack and Carricknagavna "as in forty-one before". When the linen weaver came he seems to have brought bad news "for traitors they were busy as in the long ago". The ballad also says that the pikes which had been made in the local forge were never used and "still at Carn-na-Gishen the ashen handles lie".

The evidence in the ballad is substantiated to some extent by the historial evidence. We have already seen reference to an informer in the letter of Colonel Ogle and we do know that the blacksmith, Tommy Lappin, who made pikes and bayonets in his forge at Carrive, was arrested by the Forkhill yeomanry and taken to Belmont in 1797.

"WHIPPING LANE"

At Belmont, Lappin was scourged to death because he would not tell the names of his comrades. The local tradition says that the informer who betrayed Lappin was set upon by his neighbours and burned to death in his own kitchen fire at Tullydonnell. The officer at Belmont who was responsible for Lappin's torture was a Captain Farnan(30)..

There was a reign of terror in the area around 1798 and the centre for this cruelty was Belmont Barracks. When suspected insurgents were arrested they were taken there for "interrogation". The usual method of torture was that the suspect was tied behind a cart and scourged. The overgrown laneway to the east of the Barracks is still known as "Whipping Lane" (31).

After the rebellion was crushed Belmont declined as a centre for military activity. In December 1803 we find that Colonel Ogle was still in charge of the yeomanry at the barracks (32). The Forkhill yeomanry had now been re-organised and were known as the Upper Orier Yeomanry and consisted of four officers, three sergeants, one drummer, twelve mounted men and forty yeomanry. The last surviving yeoman of this period, Michael Locke, died in the 1880's aged 114 years.

By 1821 Belmont Barracks had, according to the Commissionaire of Barracks in Ireland, become obsolete and a decision was taken to sell it. It was sold to Rev. James Campbell, Rector of Forkhill, for 70.00 on October 10th 1821. It was now to be known as Belmont House, Forkhill(33).

Belmont remained in the possession of Rev. Campbell until his death on August 3Ist 1858. By his will, dated March 6th 1855, Rev. Dr. Campbell left Belmont to his two nephews, Rev. John Campbell Quinn of Beechill, Co. Down, and Peter Quinn of The Agency, Newry (34). Rev. John Campbell Quinn died on November 15th 1882 and on September 3rd 1891 Peter Quinn, then sole owner of the property, entered into an agreement to sell to the Catholic Church, represented by Most Rev. Michael Logue, Archbishop of Armagh and Catholic Primate of Ireland, Rev. John Markey, Parish Priest of Forkhill and Peter McDermott a farmer of Tate (part of Carricknagavna townland in the parish of Forkhlll)(35).

The sum agreed for the purchase of Belmont was 300.00 and the sale also included the tenancy of the adjoining farm of 9 acres 1 rood and 18 perches statute measure. This farm was held by Peter Quinn from the landlord Captain Granvill Henry Jackson Alexander of Forkhill House on a yearly rent of 6.00. The sale was finally completed on January 20th 1892.

The farm which accompanied Belmont House was subsequently purchased by Rev. Peter McCartney, P. P., after the Irish Land Purchase Act of 1903, when the Alexander estate was offered for sale. Rev. McCartney died on August 7th 1909 and an assignment of October 20th 1915 established Rev. Eugene Clarke, P.P., as owner as long as he remained Parish Priest of Forkhill. The entire property has passed to the Parish Priests of the parish since that date.

In December 1984 the west house was sold to Gerry and Rita O'Hanlon and the east house to Len Graham and Pddraigin Ni Uallachdin.


References

1. Musgrave - "Memoirs of the Different Rebellions in Ireland".....Back
2. T. 1722, P.R.0.N.I. (T.G.F. Paterson).....Back
3. Ibid. ....Back
4. Rev. Edward Hudson, Rector of Forkhill, 1779 - 1795; became Rector of Aghohill, Co. Antrim, 1795; succeeded by Rev. Charles Atkinson. ....Back
5. James Dawson, son of Walter Dawson of Clare Castle, Co. Armagh, Captain of Orior Volunteers. James Dawson was Collector of Tithes for Mr. Hudson. His correspondence with Chief Secretary Thomas Pelham can be seen in Rqbellion Papers, Dublin Castle, 620/29/219 & 274. He seems to have been an influential "hard-liner" in Co. Armagh in the years leading up to the Rebellion of 1798.....Back
6. Musgrave - Memoirs of the Different Rebellions in Ireland. ....Back
7. Ibid.....Back
8. T. 1722, P.R.0.N.I.....Back
9. Ibid./Musgrave - "Memoirs of the Different Rebellions in Ireland".....Back
10. Musgrave - "Memoirs of the Different Rebellions in Ireland".....Back
11. Ibid. ....Back
12. Ibid. ....Back
13. T. 1722, P.R.0.N.I.....Back
14. From a letter written from Forkhill House on February 2nd 1825. The original letters is in the possession of Mr. D. Quail, Lenaderg, Banbridge, and the writer of this article has a copy. In this letter the writer (a lady) describes James Dawson as "dear Mr. Dawson". She mentions that Mr. Dawson had been in poor health but that his "health and spirits" were "totally restored to him". He was well enough (he was then 85 years old) to act as chairman at a jubilee dinner in Dundalk to mark the 50th. anniversary of the Northern Ranger Hunt Club. He was the only founder member alive in 1825. The tickets for the dinner were 3 guineas each but the writer records in her letter that the Hunt Club would not allow Mr. Dawson "to bear any expense".....Back
15. Original Indenture is in the possession of the Parish Priest of Forkhill, Rev. Fr. McGrane, at the Parochial House, Belmont. ....Back
16. Colonel Ogle does not seem, as far as I can understand, to have been related to the Ogle family of Armagh. ....Back
17. Carrickedmond House is now a ruin in the townland of Carrickedmoncl, Kilcurry, It is still known locally as "The Colonel's Court".....Back
18. Local tradition which I have been unable to substantiate.....Back
19. Musgrave - "Memoirs of the Different Rebellions in Ireland".....Back
20. James Murphy, Silverbridge; published in a booklet marking the opening of Kilmurray Park, Silverbridge, May 18th. 1980. There is certainly evidence of a lot of activity in the linen industry because Bernard O'Hanion of Mullaghbawn, Brown Seal Master, in his report to the Linen Board, dated October 4th 1799 stated that there were 2,543 persons in the district wholly engaged in the linen industry and 2,970 were parttime. Revenue Returns for May 10th 1796 state that there were 8,433 Catholics, nearly all Irish-speaking, in the Parish of Forkhill, as well as 460 members of the Established Church and 104 Dissenters (Some of the Dissenters, who had been planted from Co. Antrim on part of the Jackson estate, spoke Gaelic).....Back
21. PelhamTranscripts,T.755,Vol.IV,165-330,IettertoColonelSankey,Dundalk, March 21st 1797. ....Back
22. Ibid.; letter of March 15th 1797. ....Back
23. Ibid. ....Back
24. Ibid. ....Back
25. From the anonymous ballad "The Market Stone"; taken down from John Campbell, Mullaghbawn, in 1979. ....Back
26. Quoted by Colin Johnston Robb in his article "Mullaghbawn and Forkhill in 1798" publishedin "The Armagh Observer",August 1948.Theletter is numbered 710 in General Lake's portfolio.....Back
27. It is believed locally that it was the wife of this man, a woman called Betty O'Neial, who was the informer referred to in the ballad, "The Boys of Mullaghbawn" as the "Cuckoo" ("The Cuckoo left her station"). The late Mr. Frank Murtagh of Tullymacrieve townland said to me that he was positive that this was true. ....Back
28. From a fragment of an old ballad taken down from John Campbell, Shanroe, Mullaghbawn.....Back
29. "The Market Stone", John Campbell.....Back
30. From James Murphy, Silverbridge. ....Back
31. Local tradition; the laneway was traced for me by the late Parish Priest of Forkhill, Rev. Brian Magennis.....Back
32. Colin Johnston Robb - "Mullaghbawn and Forkhill in 1798".....Back
33. Conveyance (copy) in Parochial House, Belmont, Mullaghbawn. ....Back
34. Copy of Probate of the last Will and Testament and Codicils of Rev. James Campbell, L.L.D. (deceased) in Parochial House, Belmont, Mullaghbawn.....Back
35. Copy of an agreement in Parochial House, Mullaghbawn.....Back