The Jemmy Hope Story
Chapter VII , JIMMY HOPE
The result of a long life’s experience, and observation of the evils which press upon the people of this land, and render their condition a mournful spectacle to humanity, a scandal and reproach to civilization, and an eternal disgrace to their rulers; and the gist of the opinions I have expressed in the preceding statements, are embodied in the thoughts I have attempted to give expression to in the following observations.
A monopolizing commerce at home, and extensive plunder abroad, furnished our rulers, in former times, with unbounded means of demoralizing the landed aristocracy of this country by corruption, and of keeping down the people by physical force; the result is before us in the misery and wretchedness we now witness, which some foresaw, and sacrificed every thing in this life rather than see such dreadful evils entailed on their country. These evils are now at the bottom of the question, called ‘the Landlord and Tenant Question’. In the treatment of it, however, matters are left out of sight, which ought to be of primary importance. Who is the original lord of the soil, and to whom was the first grant given? Sacred Scripture tells us, that the earth is the Creator’s, and that he hath given it to the sons of men; by what authority, then, can any earthly creatures cut off the entail?
My opinion is, that every such attempt is rebellion against the law of the Most High; and in this opinion I am confirmed by the cause of war, which is the consequence of this lust of the possession of land. No man can have a right to the property of another, which property has been conferred on him by that Lord of the land, who is the Lord of all created things and beings. The true interest of every man is to protect the life and property of his neighbour, as he would his own, and to cause every man to do his duty, in this respect to society.
The relation in which the tenant now stands to the landlord, is the relation in which the unprotected stands to the highwayman, who holds a blunderbuss to his breast, while he demands his purse.
When we see the offspring of the landlords of one age, the beggars of another, it proves the unnatural relation in which they stood to the rights of their fellow men, and the ruinous consequence of the violation of nature’s laws. It is beyond the power of labour to meet the claims that are made upon it, the thing cannot go on, it must end.
The class which now fattens on taxation, is driven, by pressure of circumstances, to a sliding-scale, with the at meeting the varying evils rising from famine and commercial difficulties. The time is coming when thecommerce. no longer supported on a sound basis , must sink, and the interests of trade must be founded on the true principles of barter, namely, of value for value, and these interests will then serve as a plank to the drowning prosperity of the nation, and to the people, who are daily swept from the soil by the torrent of taxation, and the united claims of landlords, church lords, and standing armies, for the protection of both.
The soil, which is the social capital, being ever solvent, possession once secured to the cultivator, in right of the labour he expends upon it, and the improvements on it that have been derived from his labour, remuneration will then be forthcoming for him, and the advantages of prosperous agriculture will extend to every other branch of industry. An honest livelihood will then be within the reach of every industrious man of an adult age, leaving sufficient for all who may be old and helpless.
If one man could labour the soil of Ireland, he might be acknowledged its lord and its proprietor, in right of cultivation, which is a just claim to possession. When we repudiate that claim, we involve ourselves in a war of classes, for a control over the lives, liberties, and properties of each other, by means of force in the field, or stratagem in social intercourse. To establish the cultivators’ claim, and ascertain the relative value of labour to its product, is essential to the peace and happiness of mankind. This consummation of social happiness is fast approaching; it is advancing with the rapidity of the decline of aristocratic power, and the wealth on which its existence depends. The landlord and tenant question demands the attention of every Irishman.
There are three heavy burdens, which the lawmakers of former ages have bound on the backs of the people— the landed, the mercantile, and the clerical interests. These compose the oppressions out of which grow the distractions of society, out of which the lawyers and sword-law gentry live. These burdens having increased beyond the power of the masses to bear, a fixity of tenure is offered to them, to induce them to renounce the title which they have from the Most High, to a subsistence from the soil they labour. The present fixity of tenure is maintained at the point of the bayonet. Let moral force beware of contributing to sustain any, except its just pretensions.
The leading politicians of our day are only balancing conflicting interests; and, whether for want of knowledge or want of will, they have never arrived at a rational view of the one general interest. They have not thought of keeping particular interests in proper bounds, or preventing any combination of partial interests from invading that which is general. The soil is not like the objects of commerce, which are only possessed for the purpose of barter; it is the social capital, from the cultivation of which all earthly wants are supplied—food, raiment, and shelter, being necessary to the body, and education to the mind. Every one employed in agriculture, manufacture, and instruction, is entitled to reward in proportion to his industry; and society must protect the person and property of every individual who does the duty assigned him. He who will not perform his duty, has no right to protection.
The Most High is Lord of the soil; the cultivator is his tenant. The recognition of all other titles, to the exclusion of this first title, has been the cause of an amount of human misery, beyond all calculation.
The old aristocracy having nearly run its race, politicians are now striving to preserve some of its privileges from wreck. A new arrangement is proposed to ward off its total fall; but the fall has been decreed in heaven, and all the men on earth cannot prevent or postpone it, because the progress of Christian truth, which is the perfection of good-will and God-like love, cannot be retarded.
We have been journeying through our own land like the Israelites in the Wilderness, afraid to look our Canaanite landlords in the face, and longing, too often, for the flesh-pots of the old science of politics. corruption, to which we were directed never to return. The gift of the land of promise that will give food to the people, lies before our sons, at least. My concurrence shall not be given to the scheme of a delusive fixity of tenure, to enable the landlord to continue to draw the last potato out of the warm ashes of the poor man’s fire, and leave his children to beg a cold one from those who can ill afford to give it. Is this a remedy for the miseries of a famishing people?
A fixity of tenure—a fixity for ever in famine—for those who till the soil, and not get sufficient from it for the subsistence of their families. The landlord interest has been promoted at the expense of national and individual prosperity. Its maintenance has been the cause, not only of domestic plunder, but foreign aggression all over the globe, by sea and land, in the guilt of which every sane adult is more or less concerned, and liable to his share of retribution, unless he uses all the powers of his mind and body to prevent a recurrence of the evil.
This conviction induced the calumniated men of 1798 to incur the perils of resistance to such wickedness, to encounter persecution, banishment or even death itself, rather than submit to crawl, under oppression, or to crouch at the feet of indemnified culprits in high places, and participate in the unhallowed gains of rapacious cupidity. This conviction, too, encourages the survivors to persevere in the same pursuit, waiting with patience the providential direction of circumstances for the establishment of ‘peace on earth, and good-will among men.’
In all our social relations, it is our duty to preserve the interests of every individual, so as to make the good of each contribute to interests of the people. This is the true science of politics; every deviation from it is replete with mischief to the masses.
In former times, we were fooled with the promises of ‘reform, from time to time, as circumstances would permit.’ The same idea is now couched in other words—’a place bill, a pension bill, and a responsibility bill,’ was the former promised: now it is, ‘a fixity of tenure,’ but the seed of moral force, and of natural rights, that was sewn during the American and French Revolutions, is springing up; the tares are showing their heads, and as the crop ripens, they will still be distinct; they may stunt the stalks that grow around them, but cannot ultimately mar the crop. Parliaments may decree, but nature will have its course. Patriots may modify their demands, but the people will have their wrongs eventually and entirely redressed. The power of the aristocracy cannot prevent the operation of nature’s laws; it cannot, even, find means at the present time to sustain itself; it is unable to pay its advocates, and hardly able to keep the poor from open rebellion against the rich; it has recourse to a parochial law, with a new name, for every year, to restrain a famished people within the bounds of law: this is the last stage and symptom of its decline. Foreign plunder will not be sufficient for the necessities of the state, nor will domestic industry answer the demands made on it at home.
The absolute necessity of opening new sources of subsistence to the people is now evident; that necessity daily becomes more urgent. It must be pressed to public attention by the people themselves, with a dignity becoming the character of men regenerated by temperance, and the enemies of the virtues of fortitude and forbearance, Not like the merciless landlords, of the past and the present day, turning out on the wide world whole families to perish of hunger and hardship, foodless, friendless, and naked, but putting the means of life and comfort within the reach of the industry of the nation.
Commerce, freed from unnecessary restrictions, and established on sound principles, would furnish, in abundance, all the commodities necessary to a people, and the usury, and withdrawal of encouragement from the concentration of a nation’s wealth, in the hands of a few great capitalists, would tend to preserve the true interests of trade, and to prevent the fluctuations which arise from fraud, money-jobbing, and a reckless spirit of commercial gaming, that follows in the train of usury. But no one mind is capable of directing the minute application of these first principles, to commerce, in a way which the subject requires.
When we see the social fabric, which is built on the sandy foundation of lordship, leadership, and imperial delegation, shaken to its base, by a hurricane of conflicting interests, pernicious in their nature and results, it is time to look out for a rock, on which to found a system more substantial, leaving the rubbish of our statute books, as an example of the worthlessness of the materials, to future builders. That rock is, self-government, based on popular delegation, from small communities, not exceeding thirteen members, of each district or neighbourhood, of determined limits.”
James Hope’s Account of the Battle of Antrirn
This account appears in the ‘Memoir of Henry Joy McCracken’ taken franz The United Irishmen; Their Lives and Times, Second Series, by R. R. Madden.
From the time that the French appeared at Bantry Bay, the societies greatly increased, but we soon found that what we gained in numbers we lost in worth. Our enemies propagated rumours varying in their tendencies, by which the public mind at one time was raised to the highest pitch of expectation, and another sank to the lowest depression. The cruelties practised on the people, sanctioned by the Indemnity Act of the Irish Parliament, left without security, and innocence without protection. This state of things rendered resistance inevitable. In the months of March and April, 1798, the people were in daily expectation of being called to the field by their leaders; an intention, as it appeared afterwards, which the leaders had little idea of putting into execution. The adjutant-general of Down, who could neither be intimidated or corrupted, had been arrested; and the general of Antrim kept back the signal for a general movement, called meeting of his colonels and resigned; by which means the whole province of Ulster, which expected the signal from Belfast, was completely disorganised.
The influence of Henry Joy McCracken, especially with the Defenders, had caused many people to consider him as an eligible person for command in a force in which it was desirable to combine them with the Presbyterians. The Defenders were directed by a committee, by whom their chief was chosen, who communicated with the United Irish Society by a deputy. The latter had to fly to America, and the duty assigned to him devolved on Henry Joy McCracken.
On his appointment, he had an interview with the adjutant-general, and shortly afterwards I was directed to act as aide-de-camp to one of two persons named, when first called on by either of them. I delivered messages from the leaders I have spoken of to several persons, and was pressed to give their names, which I declined to do, telling them they would be forthcoming when wanted.
On the news of a rising in the south reaching Belfast, I went to the adjutant-general, who said he would call the colonels, to give them their orders; and I went home satisfied that such would be the case, and recommended patience to all those I met with. This was on Saturday, and on the Tuesday following I received a message from the general. I went to him; he gave me a guinea, and directed me to go to a camp which he said was at Dunboyne, near Dublin; that he had ordered the colonels to meet them, and that I was to return with all haste with such information as I could learn, of the state of the south.
I met Henry McCracken near Belfast, and he stopped me; and on learning my order, he said, you must not go, there is no camp at this side of Dublin; there has been some fighting at a place called Clonee, near Dunboyne, but the men have marched for Tara, and are defeated and
dispersed. He has concealed the signal, and must be watched: or the hope of a union with the south is lost. I answered, if he is a traitor or a cowered, he will have me tried for disobeying his orders. McCracken replied, I will put you under arrest, and let him try me. Go home, until you hear from or see me. I obeyed, he went into town, and was attacked by some yeomen in Hercules Street. A woman, named Hamell, came to his assistance with a large knife; the yeomen fled, and he escaped into her house, got out of town that evening, and came over the mountains to me that night.
Next day we learned that the colonels met, and that the general had resigned. We had no communication from the other chief of the union, but Henry, as his deputy, watched the movements of the United colonels, and learned that, on receiving the resignation of their chief, they had dispersed in consequence of a false alarm, and adjourned from Parkgate to Templepatrick. They selected Munro, and a man named John Coulter (a linen merchant), as persons to whom the command was to be offered: the first met with, to be applied to, and the proposal made to him. The colonels were to meet on Sunday at Ballyeaston. They did meet; and Henry and I went to watch their movements, and learned that none of them had seen the gentlemen named for the appointment, and that the colonels had resolved not to fight. I learned afterwards that, of three of the colonels who had written notices sent them by McCracken, one went in person, and the other two sent their notices to General Nugent.
“These orders were sent by the colonels who commanded the districts of Lame, Broughshane, and Lough Geel to General Nugent, which assisted him in his movements to disconcert McCracken’s plans. The colonel of Broughshane sent his brother to General Nugent, and appeared himself among the people after the taking of Ballymena, and assisted in dispersing a body of men who had joined the Braid men in considerable force, on which the men of Kells and Connor fell back from Antrim, and still retaining their arms, took post in Kells, four miles in advance from Ballymena, to Belfast. The manner in which the plot was managed to get the Ballymena men to disperse, was this:- The committee or council, consisting chiefly of men of the fore mentioned colonels, gave out that they intended to march for Dublin, through the heart of the county Armagh; they sent home the Braid men and others who had fought in Ballymena, for necessaries for the march on Saturday evening. The town-guard of the people then consisted mostly of strangers, who, sending on the Sunday morning to the Council for orders, found the members of it had decamped. They immediately got into confusion, threw down their arms, and dispersed.
When our general resigned, Henry Joy McCracken sent me with a letter to Dr. Dixon, who had been appointed to the command of Down. John Hughes, the then unknown informer, was the man who knew where I would find him. It was early in the morning, and few houses were open. I met William Stewart, a coppersmith, in Forth Street; he went with me to Hughes; we were admitted, and sent up to a room adjoining that in which Hughes slept; he came out of his room half dressed, wringing his hands in apparent agitation, and exclaimed, “it is all over! our leaders have sold us; the packing and removal of the plate of, is the signal for Nugent to commence hanging and flogging the people. There is but one way to stop their career of treachery. and that is to have them arrested; you have done much for the cause, but no service equal to that of lodging information against them.” I told them that whatever might take place, if this proposal was acted on, I would inform against the person by whom it was carried into effect. Hughes still continuing to express his fear and his determination, if taken, to give full information, I took a pistol from my breast, and pointing it at his breast, said, “If you were not so near your wife and children, you would never speak these words again.” Stewart, who had sided with Hughes, now joined the latter in applauding my firmness, and both declared they were only trying me. I told them whoever would try the experiment on me again would have no time for explanation. They turned the matter into a laugh, and Hughes bade me go to a house in Church Lane, and Dixon would be there. I went, and waited some hours, but he did not come. I then went back to Hughes, and he sent me over the Long Bridge to Mr. Pottinger’s; but he was not there. On returning to Hughes, he told me to come into town next day but one, and bring a man and a horse with me; that he had some things that Harry would want, that would require a day for him to provide, and I went home.
When I went to town on the day appointed, it was strongly guarded by the military at every entrance; it was easy to get in, but how to get out was another question. When I got to Hughes’ in Bridge Street, they were preparing to flog men in High Street. Colonel Barber and some officers were walking in front of the exchange; we could see them from Hughes’ window upstairs. and Hughes seemed greatly agitated. One of Hughes’ clerks came up, and said they were flogging Kelso, and in a little while the servant girl ran into the room in haste, and said that Kelso was taken down, and was telling all that he knew. At this time we could see the military moving in small parties in different directions through the street in seeming haste. and Barber and the officers coming towards Bridge Street. Hughes exclaimed, “They are coming here; what will become of my poor family 7”“What ails you. Hughes?” said I, “you need not be so frightened.” “Oh, look here,” said he, taking me into another room, where he showed me a strong linen ticken bag with better than a stone weight of musket balls and some packages of gunpowder. “I’ll ease you of that,” said I. gathering them up and running downstairs. The clerk followed me to the hall door, and exclaimed, “Hope, if Barber sees you, you will be hung at a lamp iron.” I gave him a benediction, and told him he and his master might hide, if they did not dare walk the street, while the horsemen were jostling me, and laughing as they passed. I went into a shop at the upper corner of Bridge Street, where I had left a sack, and put my bundles into it, and then went up North Street, and got a comrade named Charles Scott; we took the sack to a
carman’ s yard, threw it down, and my comrade watched it at a distance, while I put some old things together—two swords, the colours which we afterwards fought under at Antrim, and a green jacket. Having packed them up into as small a compass as we could, we went forth and joined the Town Yeomen, and passing on with the soldiers, as if under their protection, we began to quicken our step unnoticed by the escort, and soon got out of their sight, and striking off the high road by Shankhill, we got safe to the mountains.
The plan of the Antrim movement formed by Henry Joy McCracken was sent by express to the colonels of the county Antrim, each of whom was appointed to command five hundred men. The plan in substance. w as as follows.
The different colonels, at the appointed time, are to attack any military post in their neighbourhood: or leave light parties to prevent communication, and march to Donegore Hill, while he, McCracken, with the men from the neighbourhood of Killead, Templepatrick, Carnmoney, and Donegore. marched to Antrim to secure, if possible, the governor, deputy governor, and magistrates of the county Antrim, who were to meet in Antrim on the 7th of June; and to devise means for raising men to reinforce the army destined to effect a junction with the men in arms in the south. Some of the colonels sent these orders to General Nugent, and we were betrayed at all points. We, however, marched to stop the rebellion of the Orangemen against the king’s subjects. and not to promote their objects. as some writers would insinuate.
Men at his time were daily driven from their homes, thousands from their country. some by compulsion, some by a kind of choice that was influenced by fear or famine, to be slaughtered on the Continent, or to fly from danger, and to beg their bread in foreign lands: while many persons, not the most unthinking or unsteady in their principles, seemed to be of the opinion that it was a question not easily to be solved, whether resistance or submission would be attended with most injury to human life and happiness-bearing in mind that the gagging bills had left no power to public opinion, no protection in a free press. no arena for a moral conflict with oppression.
Some information seems to have been received of my intended journey south, to inquire about the Wexford men; for I learned afterwards that a yeoman was stationed for three or four days at a place I would have had to pass, with instructions to shoot me. Some of own party wanted to get rid of me.
It was finally decided, when neither Munro nor Coulter could be found, that Henry Joy McCracken should be appointed to the chief military command he wrote, on his appointment, to Steele Dixon. by one Duffy. The letter fell into the hands of Duffy’ s wife .and was burned by her.
The South had been forced into resistance on the 21st of May preceding, but the forth had been kept inactive until the beginning of June, h the men appointed to command; whether prudence. cowardice. or concert with their opponents, is best known to themselves. McCracken, who was one of the first founders of the union, and the only one who was not in the power of the enemy, drew up and signed the fighting orders for the 7th of June, and sent them to the officers who had been appointed, and were expected to direct the movement of the people, but they declined to act. He set out at length on his march, with a force of trusty followers. which at first did not exceed one hundred men, But from the starting point, having five miles to march, they were augmented on the road by considerable numbers, who considered themselves more as a forlorn hope, than a force having any well-founded expectation of a successful issue.
Having no organized staff to convey his orders, McCracken could only give advice, which at first was received with attention by the people. We marched into Antrim in good order, until our front arrived opposite the Presbyterian meeting-house, when a party of the 22nd Light Dragoons wheeled out of the lane below the church, fired on us, and then retreated. Another party then advanced from the same quarter, but was soon brought down, men and horse. The rest of their force fled to the market-house, and we advanced under a heavy fire from a body of foot, covered from our fire by the castle wall and two field- pieces, by a shot, from one of which, a gun we had brought from Templepatrick, placed on a common car, was dismounted. We then went into the churchyard, and silenced the field-pieces, and relieved our pikemen from the shower of grapeshot which they had stood without flinching. Part of our rear had been imprudently drawn up in a field, on the left of the church, and rendered useless during the action. Another party, which had appeared on our right on the Donegore Road, as we entered the town. was ordered to enter the other side of the town, by the back gardens. On the approach of this party, the horsemen at the market-house, in danger of being surrounded, and being then galled by our fire, made a charge at full speed up the street, some of the troops having previously fled by Shane’s Castle Road. The body that charged soon fell by our pikemen. At this time, the party stationed on the west side of the town entered by Bow Lane, but were checked by a destructive fire from the men behind the wall, and a volley from another party posted at a house in the lane by which they entered. They were forced to retreat at a moment that a body of five hundred men from Connor and Kells. who had taken Randalstown on their march to Antrirn. came to our assistance, and on entering the town, mistook the flying horsemen for a body of the King’s troops making a charge, and the retreat of the Bow Lane party for a complete rout. They became panic-struck, and instantly fled. McCracken immediately led a party down through the gardens, to dislodge the enemy from their position behind the wall, in front of the demesne of Lord Massarene. This party, however, seeing the flight of the Connor and Kells men, their example; and two of them, crossing a pike-handle against McCracken’ s breast, threw him down, when attempting to stop them and their comrades. The Monaghan regiment, with Donegall’s cavalry, now made their appearance on the road from Belfast, and took up a position at a little distance from the town, and placed two field-pieces on an eminence, the main body keeping behind the elevated ground, as if expecting an attack, while a party of the Donegall corps surrounded our men who were stationed in the field, between them and the town, and slaughtered them without mercy.
We then formed in the street, and proceeded, with our colours flying, to the upper part of the street by which we had entered, and kept our ground there until the troops on the hill began to move; we then marched leisurely down the street, and went out by the back of the gardens, on the right hand side of the road, the enemy throwing some round shot at us, which we did not regard, and none of us fell. We retreated slowly to Donegore Hill, where we expected to find a body of men in reserve, commanded by Samuel Orr, the brother of William Orr; but they had dispersed before our arrival. There was nothing more to be hoped or to be done; all went home, with the exception of a very small number, of which I was one. Next morning, the news of Lord O’Neill’s death reached us. The account of that event I had from some of the men who had advanced, and taken the guns near the market-house. When our men were approaching by Bow Lane, Lord O’Neill came out of a house beside the market-house, with a pistol in each hand, one of which he fired at a pikeman, and wounded him in the thigh, of which wound the man continued lame during life. The man turned round, and seeing the other pistol levelled at him, used his pike in defence of his life. He declared that Lord O’Neill might have entered the castle gate without any molestation from him, had he only consulted his safety. I believe this to be true, though I was in the churchyard at the time it happened.
Had Lord O’Neill surrendered, the capture and treatment of Major Jackson and others, who did so, is a proof that he would have got quarter, for such was both the orders to, and the inclination of, the people. The troops under his lordship had entrenched themselves in the houses in Bow Lane, to cover their retreat, if necessary, on Shane’s Castle, while a light corps, appointed to meet the assailants, were directed to wear each a red thread round his hatband, by which to know each other.
One of the old volunteers who had served under Lord O’Neill, belonging to the Klage company, named Andrew Lewars, whose son fell at his side in the action in Antrirn, seeing his boy quite dead, took his pouch and belt, and putting it on over his own, fell into the ranks, and with the additional ammunition during the action, kept up a well- directed and steady fire. He escaped in the retreat, and I met him at Muckamore ten years afterwards, evincing the same fearless spirit.
Samuel Orr behaved like a coward at Antrim; his flight caused a party headed by McCracken, who were proceeding to dislodge a body of yeomen in Lord Massarene’ s demesne, to take flight, when McCracken endeavoured to restrain them, but was thrown down and the panic became general; he then proceeded to Donegore Hill, and did not enter the town again. His party diminished in the mountains from one hundred to twenty-eight; Colonel Clavering sent up a letter by a spy to say he would grant terms to all the people, provided they gave up their arms, and gave a reward of £100 apiece for each of the following:- William Orr. Samuel Orr, and his brother John Orr, and Robert Johnstone. McCracken was not named. Samuel Orr surrendered, and got home. William Orr. still living, was transported; John Orr escaped to America, from Island Magee, along with Robert Orr, a chandler, who died there.
Henry was already at Donegore Hill, when we arrived, but on seeing the Kells men going home and our part) dispersing in all directions, he and a few of his followers went further back into the mountains and joined some Belfast friends in the neighbourhood of Glenwherry, but for want of some countrymen to learn the state of affairs, they could not ascertain whether any considerable numbers were brought together; but on hearing that the Kells men still remained in arms, they proceeded to Kells. Early on the tenth, when the Kells men were breaking up in consequence of news from Ballymena, that the people who collected had been deserted by their leaders, they likewise dispersed. Henry McCracken then went to Slemish, with such as were loath to give up the struggle, and remained there till our number was reduced to twenty- eight; we then left that place and took post on the heights of Little Collin, where we heard the guns at Ballynahinch.
On our march to the battle of Antrim, McCracken said, “if we succeed today there will be sufficient praise lavished on us, if we fail we may expect proportionate blame. But whether we succeed or fail, let us try to deserve success.” Henry had no other design in making this attempt, than to try the last effort for effecting a junction with the men in arms in the south, and to gain that point he was quite willing to sacrifice his life.
But the fact is, when persecution and ferocious bigotry were stalking abroad, had we come to a quiet understanding to join in small communities, for the protection of one another’s life and liberty, by verbal agreement without any other obligation or design, many a valuable life would have been saved and perjury avoided.
News having reached us that men from the lower part of the country were flocking into Ballymena, from the 7th of June—I joined them in a few days, and was ordered by the commandant of the town to open a communication with the Kells men. The town had been taken on the 7th by the neighbours, and they were receiving reinforcements every hour; the commandant told us he had eleven thousand under his command, a thousand of which number had fire-arms, that he intended to march through the county Armagh into Louth for Dublin, and wished me to accompany the advanced guard, which he intended to compose of the Kells men, to keep them from running home again. I obeyed his orders, and on the 9th we were ordered to Donegore Hill, but the men mutinied on the hill, and returned to Kells in the evening. We got billets and kept pickets on the road all night. The picket on Ballymena Road took a prisoner, who told us that the people of Ballymena had been dispersed by the desertion of their officers; we sent a messenger to that place, and found the account was true. Henry McCracken having joined us that morning, and seeing the Kells men dispersing also, advised such as were loth to go home, to go with him to Henry Joy McCracken Slemish, and keep a rallying point, or let such as durst go home, have time to hear if they would be safe. We went to Slemish, and found a spring at the south end of the hill, which we opened, and we remained
there until Colonel Clavering came to Ballymena with four hundred men. He sent a message to us offering pardon. and one hundred guineas each, for four men supposed to be with us. We returned for answer, that the men at Slemish would not pardon him.
We were then reduced to twenty-eight, and learning next day that a female visitor had reported our numbers and means of refreshment to Clavering, we left the hill and marched in the direction of Belfast in open day, but stopped at Glenwherry for the night, and assembled on a hill called Little Collin next morning. In the evening we heard the guns at Ballynahinch, and marched in the direction of them; on our way we disarmed a guard at Ballyclare, and frightened their leaders a good deal, but hurt none of them. We crossed the country to Divis mountain, and saw several houses on fire in the county of Down. On learning by a messenger we had sent to Dunmurry, that the people were dispersed at Ballynahinch, we retraced our steps. and took post on the Black Bohell; there we were informed from Belfast that the Wexford men were on their march for the north. We were then reduced to eight men, including McCracken, who sent word to his friends in Belfast, that he intended to meet the Wexford men; for although the people were dispersed by treachery, their spirit remained unbroken, and men were calling to us to learn if there was any hope, for the burning of houses, and scouring of the country still continued. Two ladies at this time arrived from Belfast at the risk of their lives, with word that General Nugent was apprised of our intention.
McCracken then told us that he could make no further use of our service, and after many words of kindness and of grief, he parted with us. and bid us think no more of following him. While we were looking sorrowfully after him, as he was going away to get some place of shelter for the ladies, it being then late in the evening, he called to me and another man. and said he had one more request to make, that we should endeavour to ascertain what the Wexford men were doing, and return with the intelligence to him as speedily as possible; but be ore we could return he had heard of their defeat, and then crossing the commons of Carrickfergus for Lame, he was taken, and suffered death in Belfast on the testimony of James Beck and John Minis. Henry Joy McCracken was the most discerning and determined man of all our northern leaders, and by his exertion chiefly the Union of the societies of the north and south was maintained.
His memory is still fresh in the hearts of those who knew him. Forty winters have passed over it, and the green has not gone from it. I had an opportunity of knowing many of our leaders, but none of those I was acquainted with resembled each other in their qualities and their principles, in the mildness of their manners, their attachment to their country, their forgetfulness of themselves, their remembrance of the merits of others, their steadiness of purpose, and their fearlessness, as did Henry Joy McCracken and Robert Emmet.