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The 26th July, 1813

Lammas Fair, Garvagh

Also known as "The Fight in Garvagh". a report from the time says: "The 26th July, 1813 is memorable as the day on which a conflict occured between Loyalists and Ribbonmen. The latter, who assembled to the number of 1500, attacked the house of a resident named Davidson, where the Orange Lodges were in the habit of meeting. The owner of the doomed premisies, warned of their intentions, had a few trusty friends at hand to lend any necessary assistance. Three of the Ribbonmen were killed outright, while others, mortally wounded, died soon after. This did not end the trouble because a month later twelve men from the neighbourhood of Garvagh were charged before Judge Fletcher at Londonderry for murder. Three of the accused were aquitted and the others found quilty of manslaughter." Of the aquittal the song says: "The Judge he then would us condemn Had it not been for the jurymen Our grateful thanks are due to them For they cleared the boys of Garvagh" The ribbonmen found guilty, were acquitted at a later assizes when it was stated "that both parties had become reconciled and were ready to give bail for their future good behaviour."

The turmoil and unrest in Europe during the early part of the nineteenth century found an echo in Ireland. On Monday 26 July 1813 the 'famous' Battle of Garvagh, County Derry, took place.

The Lammas Fair, the biggest market of the year, had attracted huge numbers of visitors to the town. The streets were packed as about four hundred Catholic Ribbonmen, armed with cudgels, assembled in front of the King's Arms tavern in which they had been defeated in a skirmish with Orangemen at the previous year's fair. At the blast of a whistle the Ribbonmen tied long white sashes round their waists and began throwing stones at the tavern. Unfortunately for them, however, a large number of well-armed Protestants were waiting inside and when they were called upon to 'show their yellow faces' they replied with musket fire. The volley killed one of the attackers, wounded several others, and the rest fled in confusion.
It was only one of a long string of sectarian clashes in the 1790's but it owes its fame to the Orange ballad 'The Battle of Garvagh' which is still sung to this day

The small town of Garvagh, situated in the rural heart of the Borough, is known as a noted angling centre. Garvagh was important from very early times, but was destroyed by fire during the Battle of Garvagh, and rebuilt as a Plantation town its broad main street and neatly planned buildings are living evidence today of that period. A striking feature of the town is the stone church tower with an attractive clock and castellations which dominate the main thoroughfare.
The rich rural tradition of the town and its environs is superbly illustrated in the Garvagh Museum. It contains a veritable history of agriculture and horticulture of the 19th and early 20th century.


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