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The History of Ballyhagan and Richhill Meetings 1654 - 1793 - 2004
Chapter 3
Civil War 1689/1690 - Its effects on Ballyhagan Friends

The peaceful Quaker community at Ballyhagan was drawn into a war situation rather unexpectedly. The causes of the Williamite War in Ireland are too complex to go into here. We find two kings and their troops doing battle on Irish soil for the throne of England. Both the contestants employed vast numbers of mercenary troops from the continent to achieve their objectives. War causes disruption in any country and civil war is possibly the worst of all, especially if it is carried on under the guise of religion.

Friends in Ulster looked to the Men's Meeting in Dublin as the executive body which was competent to act quickly by making representations to the central government regarding any legislation or severe persecution which adversely affected any of their members.

The leading Friend in Dublin at this period was Anthony Sharp, who was extensively engaged in the woollen business and was looked on favourably by the authorities to whom he had easy access.

Communications between Ulster and Dublin were completely cut off when troops of King James's army were quartered on the Friends in Ballyhagan in the Spring of 1689. Worse was to follow in later months as sections of the Williamite army, including some of the mercenary troops occupied the area. It was not until after the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690 that it was possible to send a letter to Dublin. Two letters have been preserved among the Anthony Sharp manuscripts in the Friends' Historical Library, Dublin, from Ballyhagan Friends giving details of the difficulties they had experienced during this period.

The letters which follow are of considerable historic interest and are given in full (although some spelling and punctuation alterations have been made). They are, in the main, self-explanatory. It is evident that troops belonging to King James' army were the first to be quartered on Ballyhagan Friends early in 1689. Soon after they left, King William's forces arrived in the district. They included a company of Horse Dragoons as well as Danish and French mercenary soldiers. These troops required food and accommodation for themselves as well as for their horses. In some instances the soldiers paid for what they requisitioned, but well below the market value of the goods taken. Besides killing some of the cows for their own use, the soldiers used up the supplies of hay and corn for their horses. Ballyhagan Friends had difficulty in reserving supplies of seed corn which had to be kept over for sowing in early spring. The ground was prepared and the sowing was carried out at break of day, otherwise even the seed corn would have been commandeered.

The final indignity was reached when the soldiers commenced brewing ale in the meeting house!

So as to carry out their objective they required fuel for the fire and as none was available they broke up and burned many of the meeting house forms, as well as other timber doors which they took at their pleasure. It seems possible that some of the books and records of the meeting perished at the same time although there is no mention of this in the letter.

What worried the Ballyhagan Friends was that although their farming activities had been so interrupted, both landlords and rector were pressing for payment of full rent and tithes. In the circumstances these peaceful farmers were virtually faced with ruin if they could not obtain some relief, hence the letter.

A letter to Anthony Sharp, Dublin, from Two Friends of
Ballyhagan Meeting
Dated Ballyhagan the 4th of 6th Month, 1690. (36)

Dear Friend Anthony Sharp,

Our dear love is unto thee and Friends in that City. We are very glad that the Lord hath opened the way that we may hear one from another more easily than formerly we have done and in due time we hope that we may see one another again which will be greatly to our Joy and refreshment.

We have now some little ease by reason the army is gone from our. parts about six weeks ago. Since the first outbreak of hostilities we have had very hard living here on this side of the River Bann, first by the Irish plundering our houses, and the great fear that was then upon us that they should fall on us to murder as they did in the year 1641, forced us to leave our houses and go to Lurgan and other places on that side of the River Bann. Being somewhat encouraged by Lieutenant General Hamilton that commanded the Irish Army many of us returned to our dwellings again, and very uncomfortable living we have had all the last summer during the time that King James and his army was marching to and fro to Londonderry - scarce leaving us anything to eat in our houses, and after the English Army came over we thought we should have had some ease, but they being such a great army and had so little room to quarter in, we also being so close to Charlemount Fort we have had a very uncomfortable winter. Besides we have suffered very much by the English Regiment of Dragoons commanded by one Colonel Leveston which came about the ninth month. When quartered on us they had eaten most of the hay and corn they could get. Later we have had a French Regiment lying upon us all the winter, until about the time called midsummer when they marched towards Dublin. The country was very much oppressed by both the Dragoons and French soldiers so that the cry of the poor was very great. We would have thee to understand and do write some particulars of our oppression at Ballyhagan that thou may the better understand the hardship in our part of the country which we have endured all this winter past.

We are three Quaker tenants that hold Ballyhagan Townland, to wit Robert Robinson, William Williamson and his son John Williamson, it being about fourscore plantation acres. First of all there was sent to quarter upon us about thirty Dragoons which had two nights here all free quarters, only the lieutenant paid for five pecks of oats he had for his own horses. Then the said dragoons removed and a company of those called Danish soldiers came and quartered themselves, about ten or twelve in a house, at every one of our houses. We dieted them one week at twelve pence a man, they refusing to give any more, and then our victuals failed, and we refused to diet them any longer. Then some of them came every day for about three weeks and searched the houses, and took what they could commandeer to eat and paid nothing, save that some of the more honest paid twelve pence for the second week. There came also to the said Ballyhagan two Troops of the said Dragoons one night, and most of them had from us hay and oats at their pleasure and paid nothing, except for seven pence that three of them paid for oats. The next day they took away three score and eleven bottles of hay, and paid nothing; another night the said Colonel sent three score dragoons to the said Ballyhagan, and took hay and oats at their pleasure and paid nothing, and most of them had their diet also, only the Captain paid for his two horses afterwards. There was sent about forty of the said Dragoons and lay three nights at the said Ballyhagan, and the first night we had hay for them, but the second and third night when the hay was done, they took sheaf corn and other corn at their pleasure so that the said three nights they used about fifty pecks of oats, besides most of their diet and paid nothing. Following that the French Regiment came and quartered on us, one Company being about thirty men, for half a year. When they first came they paid for most of what they got, but afterwards very little, they killed also our cows at their pleasure, and paid what they pleased. They killed one cow of William Williamson's worth forty shillings and paid him twenty shillings and after the same manner one of Robert Robinson's and four or five more of others and paid little for anything they had of us. In addition two of the soldiers were allowed to set up brewing in the Meeting House. Not having suitable fuel they burnt many of the Meeting House Forms, sawn boards, gates, barn doors, outhouses and sheds of our barns and cow house walls and any other timber they could get. If they were crossed or were angry they would take two cows or other cattle and threaten to kill both.

Sometimes they killed one and not the other. Similar treatment was meted out in other parts we are informed. When they had killed what they wanted one of the captains told us if we would furnish them with two quarters of beef each week at five farthings a pound they would kill no more, which we were forced to do to save the few milch cows we had left. So we bought two carcasses of beef for them in four weeks and paid seven farthings a pound and got five farthings from them, yet notwithstanding the two captains being angry at our next neighbour John Cowley killed one of his cows contrary to conditions. Last of all when they were about to march the captains told us (there being two captains all the time with us) that they must have from us three cows to take with them and if we would choose three cows ourselves such as would please them they would accept of them, if not they would choose three themselves, which we took as more kindness than they used to have. So we bought three cows for them and paid four pounds for the three, and the captains gave us a paper to pay us forty shillings, which we have little hope ever to get. We have been very quiet since they left and though we write more particular about Ballyhagan because we know best our sufferings, the whole country around us make us very sad.

We hear complaints most especially of the French Soldiers usage of our neighbours. Now the landlords threaten very hard for rents though they knew very well that every field around us both meadows and pasture, especially those near the roads were eaten up with the wagon horses and other places with the soldiers and officers' horses until they went away, and such great searching for oats have been and such continual pressing for horses that people hath got little sown in the country at Ballyhagan. We had two sows of oats a mile from our houses and we went to sow them at break of day and got to the field and had four men ready to sow them quickly least it should be taken from us. We do not know what course to take to live in any Quietness for some of our landlords threaten to drive for rent and the very small crops of corn we have *priest Reader taketh the tithe, and his tithe-man threateneth to pull down the stooks of winter bare wheat when any is led before he tithe it and we believe he will do so with the other corn when any is ready though none is ready yet.

Therefore the greatest occasion of our writing at this time to thee is to lay our suffering condition and not only ours but the general calamity of the whole country before the King if he be there, or if there be any commissioners appointed by him to hear the complaints of the country to see if any relief may be had for our ease for if nothing can be done for us and the country in a general way that we may not fall into the hands of those landlords and priests that we think have intention to deal very hardly with us. The last will be in some measure as bad as the first and that which the Irish and the army hath left will be very much taken away from many by rent and tithe.

So the country people wasted by that also for though many of us be settled on the places we fled from, yet our stocks to make rent out of is but small to what it was when we were first robbed by the Irish. For though the waggon horses and the officers and the soldiers' horses have eaten both in pasture and in meadow, yet grass is very plenty in our country for want of stock; for though there was pasture enough both for our small stock and the waggon horses and officers' horses, yet they had not any care to preserve any meadow either for themselves or us, but where the best grass was there they would put in their horses, not regarding meadow more than pasture so where long grass is that might have been meadow is so trod down that little can be got of it with mowing our grass.

Our desire is that thou would see if anything about rent and tithes can be done and send us an answer as speedily as thou canst, so in dearness of love unto thee and Friends there we remain thy Friends signing in the behalf ourselves and many other Friends that desired us to write to thee.

William Williamson
Robert Robinson

Anthony Sharp Manuscripts Vol. 7 Pages 6 - 11

A letter to Anthony Sharp and Amos Strettell from
four Friends from the Meeting at
Ballyhagan dated 12th month, 1690 (37)

Dear Friends Anthony Sharp and Amos Strettell,

There are some Friends here that have suffered very much by their landlords pressing for rent, and others are likely to be spoiled for rent likewise, although they can show that they have been great sufferers by the Irish Troops and also by the French and English Army since their coming over out of England. Even so there are some landlords will not abate anything of their fixed charge but have seized cattel and have them in custody for arrears of rent. One Hamlett Obins of Portadown did seize George Wicklift's cattel for rent and when he had sufficient money to pay him expecting he would make some allowance for the first year's rent.

Those employed for King James, his collectors, had caused the said George Wickliff by seizing his cattel to pay five pounds of the said Obins' rent, for the said half year, and thirteen shillings and six pence of crown rent due, by the said Obins and the said Obins would not abate to the said George either of the said sum but caused him to pay the full rent, in addition, and now threatens to seize his goods for the next rent due following, the half year aforesaid.

Our Desire therefore is unto you, to let us know if you can, whether there be any likelihood of remedy in such cases that the said George may come up at the half year's Meeting, and some others that are having goods seized aforesaid to seek for remedy herein. We desire if it can conveniently be done, to have your answer to this before Friends come out of the North to the half year's Meeting in the Spring that we may order things as we think most meet, according to what answer we may receive from you so in love unto you both and Friends there, we remain your Friends and Brethren in the everlasting Truth.

P.S. The said George hath receipts to show both from the Irish party and also from his Landlord for the payments aforementioned.

William Williamson
William Nicholson
William Souldan
Luke Peel

Anthony Sharp Manuscripts Vol. 7, Page 15.


As the hostilities connected to the Williamite war moved to the midlands and south of Ireland, Friends residing in these areas likewise suffered great loss of property, either directly as a result of army occupation, or indirectly owing to the roving bands of undisciplined Raparees (as they were called) who appeared in all parts of the country.

It was assessed at the Half Year's Meeting, held in Dublin 9th month, 1692, that Friends throughout Ireland had suffered material loss of goods and property amounting to £100,000. English Friends were very concerned that their fellow members were called on to suffer so much material loss and £600 was sent to Ireland to assist in relieving some of the distress. This was in addition to £150 which was sent direct to Ulster Friends and a further £1,060 forwarded which was evenly divided to each Province. A letter of thanks was sent for this generous help but declining further aid of this nature. Rutty says "In those calamitious times were Friends very nearly united in affection; and even from Friends in Barbadoes there was £100 sent for relief."

It was noticeable that the years following the civil strife in Ireland were ones of considerable prosperity. This was evident in farming pursuits as well as in business generally, which increased rapidly in all sectors. This turn of events had its own temptations, especially for younger Friends some of whom were led into excesses which they had not known during the more stringent times in the past.


(36) Text of letter modernised.
* Rector of Kilmore Parish Church.
* A Friend of the Meeting.
(37) Ibid. Text of letter has been modernised.

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