BATTLE OF THE DIAMOND
21st September 1795
Tucked away in the peaceful townland of Grange Lower in the Barony of O'Neiland is the historical 'Diamond', sometimes called a hamlet, occasionally rising in prestige to merit the title of village in historical memoirs. Situated around a crossroads in the beautiful orchard county four miles north of Loughgall, at one time it consisted of as many as cottages and cotter houses of single storey, mud wall construction with flax or wheat straw thatch being the only roofing material. The Winter Family were tenant farmers in the area from as early as 1665 when they were recorded in Ballyhagen Quaker records. John Rocque's map of 1760 shows a house on the site of Geoffrey and his mother Hilda's present farmyard, located approximately 200 yards from the crossroads. At this period no other buildings around the crossroads were shown on Rocque's Map. By 1795 there were a number of Winter families settled around the Hamlet. Dan winter and his sons owned the field of action which lies in the valley between Diamond Hill and Faughart Fort, and it is known that the defenders swept down the flank of the hill from Faughart Fort, crossed the march drain directly in front of Winter's farm house which had only one window broken in the Battle, and then rushed on to the crossroads.
One could do worse than to look at the detail of the Battle as outlined by the late W.H. Wolsey a renowned local Orange historian. What follows in reprinted from a Booklet published in 1923, and compiled by Wolsey.
Events leading up to the Battle
From the year 1757 the Irish Roman Catholics formed themselves into bodies which created terror in most of the Irish counties, but in Ulster principally, where they attacked the Protestants, firing into, and burning houses, and driving off cattle. These societies assumed such appellations as Hearts of Oak, Defenders, Shanavists, Caravats, threshers, Carders, United Irishmen, Whiteboys, Ribbonmen; but the Defenders and the Peep-'o-Day or Break-o-Day Boys had the largest number of members.These last societies, curiously enough, originated at Portnorris, (Mountnorris) Co. Armagh, out of a duel between a Roman Catholic and a Unitarian. The Defenders were a thoroughly organised association, with passwords and an oath. In the year 1787 the disturbances between these latter two factions became very bitter, as the Peep-'o-Day Boys included many Unitarians and the military frequently had to be called upon to enforce peace. The religious war became so acute and riots and depredations were so common that the calendar was one continued history of indictments of treason, destruction of Protestant property, and burning outrages and murder. In 1788 matters became more acute, and the Defenders decided not to purchase anything from Protestants, and a volunteer corps of Protestants had been raised in County Armagh and all over Ireland for national defence against French invasion. The Defenders in County Armagh (says Wright's History of Ireland) even assumed the name of Masons, and were active in attacking the houses of Protestants for arms.
In 1791 and 1792 these outrages were so fearful as to call for a parliamentary inquiry. In 1793 Mr.Barclay of Forkhill and his family were inhumanly murdered by the Defenders and Protest houses on the Jackson estate were attacked and inmates shot. Mr. Barclay, who was a schoolmaster, concealed his wife, and declined to tell where she was. The ruffians then put a cord round his throat and so forced out his tongue, which they cut off. His fingers were next cut off joint by joint. His wife, unable to stand the piteous cries, rushed out of her hiding place, and she was also barbarously treated. Her breasts were first cut off, then her fingers, joint by joint, and her little son was then mutilated like his father. These facts were related by Mr. Thomes Verner M.P., in the Irish House of Commons. In 1795 the Primate and Lord C Beresford were openly attacked, and the Defenders became so bold that the Protestants had to form themselves in companies to go to market and return in safety. In this year the Defenders in Monaghan, Cavan and Tyrone were of such numbers that they determined on a grand foray and cattle raid in County Armagh. They successfully marched past Loughgall and on the 18th September at least five hundred took possession of the gravel pit of Annaghmore and Faughart Hill, an eminence commanding the hamlet of the Diamond, where they hoisted a white flag as standard. This camp was chosen by one Quigley or O'Coigley, who took the name of Captain. The good and loyal Protestants of the neighbourhood became alarmed, and determined to defend their homes, assembling on the Diamond Hill, which also overlooked the cross-roads and is just within gunshot of Faughart Hill.
Attempts made to keep the peace
Mr. James Verner, hearing of the fighting, sent for a party of the North Mayo Militia, then stationed in Dungannon, but hearing that peace had been restored he withdrew them to the river Blackwater for other duty. He and Mr. Joseph Atkinson, Crow Hill, were the only acting magistrates in the district. On the morning of the 18th a skirmish took place in the townland of Teaguy, in which one of the Defenders was killed. Affairs now began to assume a more serious aspect. During the day Mr. Archdall Cope and his brother, Mr.Robert Camden Cope, Councillor Archdall, Fathers Taggart, McParland and Traynor met at the house of Mr. Atkinson, Crow Hill and all went to the hill on which the Protestants were assembled. Mr. Archdall Cope and Father Taggart suggested that the Protestants should lay down their arms, but Mr. Atkinson declared they would not do so until the others laid down theirs first, as they were violating the law in having arms at all. Father Taggart said they should fight it out, and Mr. replied : With all my heart. They then rode over to the camp of the Defenders at Faughart Hill, where a gun was presented at Mr. Atkinson, but a brave woman caught it, declaring that her landlord would not be shot. This act incensed the Protestants so much that they swore they would exterminate the invaders, who replied in similar language. After this Mr. Atkinson and the remainder of the party returned to Crow Hill, where written articles of amity were drawn up by Councillor Archdall, and Mr. Atkinson and Father Taggart respectively entered into security for the parties to the amount of f5OO, which was to be forfeited by the security of the party which broke the treaty. Simon Prescott was counter security with Mr. Atkinson, and Terence McKeown with Father Taggart. It is stated that McKeown was actively engaged on the 21st in destroying furniture in the houses of Protestants. The priests remained for dinner. At night they proposed remaining until morning. Not having beds for all, Mr. Atkinson suggested that they sit up all night, and they did so. Mr. Atkinson told the Protestants who came during the night with the complaint that they should not fire a shot, but if the Defenders attacked them in their houses, to defend their lives and properties to the last. On Saturday the skirmishing continued. On Sunday and Sunday night all remained quiet.
The Protestants were lying on their arms on the hill, while their opponents were reinforced by hundreds of their brethren from near and far. Sniping between the two forces was vigorously entered into, and shortly after 5 o'clock on the Monday morning the Defenders made a general attack, Daniel Winter's house being the objective point.Mr.Atkinson gave the Protestants all the ammunition he could, and set out with his family for the Fort of Charlemont, being, he said well aware that their object was to destroy his house and all who were in it. On the road he heard the Protestants were likely to be successful, and sending his family home, went on to Charlemont. He got Captain Killeney and sixty invalids who were stationed there, to accompany him, but when he arrived at the Diamond the battle was over.
Blacker and Wilsons prepare
During the preliminary skirmishing on the previous days, the respective parties had been preparing for combat, excited by all kinds of rumour. Fortunately for the Protestants of ONeilland East, the old family mansion of Carrickblacker was undergoing the process of getting a new roof. It had in the olden times been covered by oak shingles, but was now going to be slated, and the lead required for the gutters and spouting was lying profusely about. The head of the family was not only a large landed proprietor in several counties, but a dignitary of the Church, the Very Rev. Stewart Blacker, Dean of Leighlin. The Protestants in this part of the country determined to assist their brethren on the other side of the Bann, began their preparations at the arrival of the first reports, and the lead provided for the roofing of Carrickblacker was run into bullets. The news of the Treachery of the Defenders in renewing the attack in defiance of the treaty of peace went through the country early on the morning of the 21", and in Tyrone and Armagh the Loyalists began to arm and prepare to march to the aid of their brethren, and William Blacker, then a stripling (afterwards Colonel Blacker, Grand Master of the Orange Institution, and the Wilsons of the Dyan, at once prepared to take part. Young Blacker, having his henchman the apprentice of a carpenter then busy at the roof immediately marched for the battlefield, accompanied by a resolute body of yeomanry and others, which kept increasing as it hastily marched along, all armed and accoutred as best they could on the spur of the moment. In pressing forward he picked up several other detachments, including the Dyan men.
Blacker, however, had very little powder, and balls without 'powder would not have been of much use. A fortunate circumstance provided the powder. On Saturday 19th September, the Protestants' ammunition gave out, and one of the Winter boys volunteered to get word to the lower district, which he did on the Sunday morning. He arrived early in Derrycarn with the depressing news. There were many anxious people waiting for tidings, and amongst them was one Peggy Richardson, who on hearing the plight of the Protestants, determined to relieve them. She went home and told her mother the state of affairs, saying : " I'm going to relieve them " The old woman said: "Why, child, you cannot go; you will be killed". She replied "Why, mother, isn't my father there? "He is, dear. "And my three brothers "They are, dear. " "And my husband is there? "He is, dear. " "And, God helping me, I'll be there, too. So saying, she took a strong petticoat and two new pillow slips, which she sewed to the headband of a petticoat with strong cord around them, forming loops at the top for handles. She then went to the haystack, and pulled out sufficient to make a hole large enough to put her little four-year-old girl in, tying up a bunch of hay to stuff into the hole. Late that night she took her little girl and placed her in the haystack with many cautions, and then, having equipped herse6rshe went to Churchill, where she got all the ball cartridge she could carry. She then started by the Derryhubbert road for the Diamond, arriving safely about the same time as William Blacker at the scene of the conflict. The latter had to traverse a friendly country across Portadown Bridge, to about five to six miles in the direction of Loughgall, when all at once they came upon the scene of meditated rapine and murder.
Dan Winter refuses to move
The valiant Dan Winter, throughout the troubles, stuck manfully to his own hearth and home, and refused to join the force on the hill. He said he would defend his house whilst he and his sons could fire a shot. And they did They received the enemy with a volley, under which one of Winter's own neighbours, a man named McCann, fell dead, and several others were wounded, and for half-an-hour they kept the rabble off. But the thatched roof of the house was fired, and the house became untenable,and Winter and his sons made good their retreat to the hill. Whilst this scene was going on at one part, Quigley's party was making desperate efforts to rush the hill. Whilst they were engaged in this enterprise a few of the Protestants attempted to carry Faughart Hill by a flanking movement, but the reserve of man in camp was too strong for them, and they had to fall back again to their own ground.
Ourside help for defenders seen off
At this stage Defenders had assembled from Armagh, Newtownhamilton, Ballygawley and the wild hills of Pomery (in Tyrone), as well as from the counties of Louth, Monaghan and Cavan. Through the vigilance of the father of Sir William Verner, crowds of them were stopped at the passage of the Blackwater. They contrived, however, to get forward by other routes. Their numbers were greatly superior to the Protestants who, they declared, they would drive out of the country. Blacker's men advanced over the old Cranagill road, which brought them to the rere of the Diamond Hill just in the nick of time. The Protestants on the hill were making a vigorous defence. Whilst the adversaries were pressing forward, they were suddenly met by Blacker's volunteers, who appearing like an avenging Nemesis on the crest of the hill. The conflict was short, sharp and decisive. Two terrific volleys swept through their densely-packed ranks, dozens fell killed and wounded, and then through the Diamond. They attempted to make another stand, but a further charge decided the day, and discomfited, they did not wait for any more fighting. Before the arrival of the military from Charlemont, with Mr. Atkinson, the Battle of the Diamond was fought and won in Ruddock's Grange. The Routed Party Nor did this end the troubles of the routed party. At different points they were intercepted by the Yeomanry and the Troops marching from Charlemont, and before sunset no fewer than forty-eight of them paid the penalty with their lives. It is significant that two of the dead John Coey and Peter McCann, who lived in the neighbourhood were dressed in the clothing of Protestants whose houses had been plundered. Some of the bodies were not found until the fields of grain were reaped at harvest-time. "Captain" Quigley then threw down his arms and badges of rank to lighten his flight to his father's house near Castle Raw. So closely were the Defenders pursued that, in their hurried retreat, they left in the hands of the victors plunder of the viler sort old guns, rusty bayonets fixed on poles, pikes, spades, scythes, reaping hooks, tattered green uniforms, ragged pieces of antiquity in the shape of coats, brogues, wooden crosses, crucifixes, with several white and green flags, which did not do much credit to the artist, one of which however, deserves mention. It was "Captain" Quigley's rallying standard.
[Quigley did not take a very active part in the fight (Captain McGarry from Whitecross, who was killed, being the commander) but had a large blunderbuss, and when he fired it, placed his back against the ditch. The blunderbuss afterwards came into the possession of Sir Wm. Verner.]
The standard was a white ground with a green shamrock border, and on it was painted the Virgin Mary, presiding as a goddess, with a bunch of beads in her hand, and underneath the following inscription : "Deliver us from these heretic dogs and then we shall be free". The relic was in the hands of the Widow of the last Master of No 76. Lisavague, who captured it on the field; and though a little "worse for wear" it is regarded with much veneration and pride by the brethren of that locality. The number of Defenders would have been greater had it not been for Mr James Verner, who with his son (afterwards Sir Wm. Verner) and servants, stopped many of them at the Blackwater. As they approached Maghery, they were fired at from the County Tyrone side. They captured some prisoners who were unable to reach the river in time to cross over in the boats. So sure were the rebels that the confiscation of all Protestant property would take place that Michael Kelly, commonly called General Kelly, made a will, by which he left Captain Blacker's estate to relations in case he should be killed in the conflict
After the dead had been removed and the wounded attended to (some of the former were interred in an old burying-ground in County Tyrone, beyond Ballygawley) the jubilant Protestants assembled in the little field before the wrecked house of Daniel Winter, and kneeling around with uplifted hands to heaven, thanked God for his great deliverance. There they vowed to form a society for their mutual defence and protection against such trials as they had just come through. Winter's house had the honour of the first embryo Orange Lodge being held in it the term Orange having been adopted in compliment to the memory of William the third. [Rev J. Winter, Augher, Stated a few years ago that the late Mr.Robert Taylor told him the first Orangeman was made in Dan Winter's garden at a bush beside the spring well.
General principles and warrants
Having fixed on the name, general principles, and proper parties to set the Society afloat, each in his own locality, James Sloan, of Loughgall, was chosen secretary, and authorised to give the earliest warrants, which consisted of mere slips of paper, with number, name of Master date and signature of Sloan as secretary. Of course, at the head of the several lodges were placed some of the men who had taken part in the battle, and among these were Mr. James Wilson of the Dyan, Co. Tyrone, who drew No.1, and Mr. Thomas Sinclair of Derryscallop in the Co. Armagh to whom was assigned No.2. Sinclair, who took part in the contest, afterwards became Lieutenant in the Yeomanry, and continued Master of No. 2 up to the day of his death.
Dan Winters Cottage
The battle of the Diamond!
Round, loyal, let it pass!
We'll drink it with a glowing soul,
And from a ruby glass!
Full let the rich red wind pour forth
Its fountain and its flood,
In token that the loyal won
That battle with their blood.
2. The battle of the
3. The battle of the
4. The battle of the
5. The battle of the
6. The battle of the
7. The battle of the
8. The battle of the
9. The battle of the
10. The battle of
The Battle of the Diamond-21st September, 1795
It was not in faction,
it was not in hate,
For there came - 'twas
at night, a lawless band,
Darkly they came,
in the dead of night,
They paus'd--did they
fear the storm they'd woke?
What though they were
many, and we but few,
Yes, last it did -
aye, many a day!
Then blame us not,
when all was o'er,
Stern and steadfast,
and linked as one,
Traverse who will
that wretched land,
Yes! cold suspicion,
and scoff, and scorn,
We have bided our
time - it is well nigh come!