The Killing Fields of Templepatrick

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The Noble William Orr. He was the first Presbyterian Republican to be executed, 1797, by the British.


“Grief like mine admits of no apology—despair and sorrow are my only companions, yet hope bids me look up to you for happiness. A miserable object, a soother and a wife, comes praying for mercy to the father of her children. Pardon, most  gracious lady, the phrenzy of a distracted woman, and listen to the petition of the miserable wife of the unfortunate William Orr. I come a suppliant, a low and humble slave of misery, praying your ladyship’s intercession on behalf of the life of my husband, whose existence is dealer to me than my own. Oh, hear my complaint, and grant me one beam of hope to frantic imagination. You are the only person who has it in your power to remove never-ending misery from a wretched individual, to cheer the afflicted heart, to give comfort and consolation to her that was ready to perish. Suffer me to assure you that he is innocent of the crime for which he is under sentence of death. Oh, cruel sentence, that will, without your interference, tear from me my husband and rob my five poor little unoffending children of their father ; the best of fathers, the kindest and dearest that ever lived. They join in solicitations for his life; their innocent, fervent, grateful prayers will rise as a memorial before the throne of God ; their lisping tongues shall be taught, with unceasing gratitude, to bless and adore the noble, generous, exalted character of their benefactress, the revered and loved countess of Camden, how will that name be imprinted on their very souls, never to be effaced. Forgive my importunity—the life of my husband, the father of my children’s life is at stake. Despair has almost driven me mad. I call on you to exert yourself to save his life, thy God will reward thee, thy country thank thee, his children will bless thee if thou grantest my petition; and when length of years and increase of honour shall make thee tired of earthly joys, and the curtain of death gently close around thy bed, may the angels of God descend and take care that at the last human existence shall not receive one rude blast to hasten its extinction. At that awful period, may the recollection of your successful interference be added to the prospect of your future felicity.”

THE FOLLOWING LETTER WAS WRITTEN BY THE PRISONER WILLIAM ORR, TO HIS WIFE :— “Carrickfergus, Saturday Morning [14 October, 1797].
“My DEAR WIFE—I now think proper to mention the grounds of my present encouragement, under the apprehension of shortly appearing before my merciful God and Redeemer, my entire innocence of the crime I am charged with. Secondly, a well-founded hope of meeting a merciful God. Thirdly, a firm confidence that that God will be a husband to you and a father to your little children, whom I do recommend to His divine care and protection, who has protected me from my mothers womb. And my last request is that you will train them up in the knowledge of that religion, which is the ground of my present comfort, and the foundation of that happiness, I trust, I shall shortly enjoy, in that day when we must all appear before the great Judge of judges and Ruler of all. Farewell, my dear wife, farewell l

Séan plays a lament at the grave of William Orr

The old Meeting House where the two cannons were hidden in 1798

THE HOLY WELL.  In days gone by the native Irish Catholic spoke of miracles taking place at the Holy Well, but later when the well and area came into foreign hands these planters rediculed the belief and a permanent fence was erected around the well. The well became an annoyance to them and it is recorded that they ceased referring to it as the 'Holy Well', instead saying, "in the days of popery and idolatory it was called a holy well". A mysterious explosion in the mid 1800's obliterated all traces of the Holy Well.

The men of Templepatrick served the cause of the Irish Reopublic well in 1798 but the village paid dearly for their devotion to Ireland.

In June of that year the British military burned the whole village to the ground.


Templepatrick was also the scene of a terrible Massacre when 80 local catholic  residents were murdered by local Militia.

The Killing Fields Of Templepatrick

By Joe Graham

Over the years I have written a number of publications and special little themed booklets such as this. Whilst the Rushlight Magazine has been the focus of my attention in sharing events from yesteryear; light hearted yarns, ghoulish tales, and stories from history that I felt would be interesting to the reader, occasionally I have unearthed a series of events from history which I've felt deserved a complete booklet to be dedicated to them. The Killing Fields of Templepatrick is a tale that deserves to be told. The truth of history deserves to be made known.

The events included in this publication were so poignant and compelling to me, it was as though they begged to be told, as though the voices of those involved were crying from the earth. Standing on the spot where the massacre had occurred, was a defining moment in my decision to write this story.

My heart allowed me to see the events of that night unfold before me. The screams of the women and children became audible to me; the sight of the flames and destruction became visible and I knew that this story had to be told.

Those of you who know my work know that my preferred style in which to impart knowledge of historical events is to tell a story and I would like to share a most solemn and deplorable tale here. This is a story of massacre and destruction. It is a true story set close to Templepatrick in the area of Ballymartin, likely a little known area to most people not from that vicinity.

The story itself is one which those who have lived their entire lives in the area are unaware of, yet the spot where the main events took place is bypassed by thousands on a daily basis; completely oblivious to the history of the surrounding countryside. This work has not been compiled for any reason other than my own passion for sharing historical truth.

To see the bastardisation of history frustrates me. This is a story of the massacre of a small, defenceless community whose existence has been deliberately omitted from history. It is one that should resonate loudly as it urges us that we should never forget, this is my attempt to ensure they are never forgotten.


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  Templepatrick. Co Antrim

Templepatrick, “The Stone Chapel Of Patrick” is also a most sacred Irish spot for it was there in in the 5th Century St. Patrick himself over 1500 years ago set up a Chapel baptising locals at the local Holy Well. The Chapel would have been roughly where the Mausoleum is in the centre of the cemetery inside the grounds of the now Castle Upton, An interesting wee story is that when the strangers began blasting for a quarry some 100 years ago it caused the Holy Well to dry up, but mysteriously the whole quarry was suddenly flooded, and the machinery lost,.. folklore say the wee folk were angry at these strangers for desecrating the Chapel of St. Patrick the Irish Apostle, indeed it has been said that the Upton’s and the original builder and inhabitant of the castle, Sir Humphrey Norton, were cursed. It was Arthur Chichester, murderer and Pirate who ‘gave’ , the land to Norton, like as if it was his to give anyone, and by 1611, Norton Build Norton Castle. But when his only child, a daughter, ran off with a dragoon sergeant he disinherited her and sold the Castle to Upton who renamed it “Upton Castle”. Upton had been living previously at “Upton Fort”, behind “The Bohill” a Hannahstown Hill, it must have been then that one of the Upton females married Dunn, a Catholic Warrior who lived near the old Amphitheatre atop The Bohill, a spot where Chieftains were elected and vital matters were discussed by the Irish Chieftains for centuries. However the fact that the Upton woman and Dunn had three children who obviously were being reared Catholic was greatly resented by the invader element and so they attacked Dunn’s Fort and burned it to the ground with the family , Dunn, his wife and three children in it. It was here that the English ’historian’ steps in, he attempts to explain the atrocity away with a story that it was Dunn who burned the house with his wife and children in it because his wife would not turn Catholic, he admits Dunn was never heard of again but says that “Dunn was heard to shout and scream in delight as he watched his family burn in his property on the Bohill Hill which he said is now known as ‘The the hill of pleasure ’, needless to say nowhere can it be found that anyone but that apologist ’historian ’ referred to it by that name, Dunn disappeared alright he died in that fire, murdered with his family.

Meanwhile, in 1579, Sir Humphrey Norton had got procession of Castle Robin a former ancient castle of the O’Neill’s, he spent a fortune on it only to die without issue and the Castle lies in ruins today, the moral of this story is ‘never mess with the little people ’.

By the Mid 1600’s every Catholic man, woman and child in the Templepatrick area had either been murdered or sent fleeing to the mountains looking for shelter, those who fled to the ancient Chapel in the town land of Carmavy locked themselves in only to be bombarded with cannon balls , the building burned and the walls were tumbled in on them. For years the area was known as “The Place Of The Slaughter

Here I am at the grave of the Noble William Orr at the old Graveyard in Templepatrick. the little stone marking that he is indeed buried here was erected by the local Prsbyterian community in 1998 ...  201 years after his murder and burial in the grave of his sister Ally. Since he was an executed Dissident the family were prohibited from marking his grave.


Though Orrs death occurred in the year 1797, that event was connected with the movement which culminated in 1798. William Orr, of Farranshane, near Antrim, was convicted of the administration of illegal oaths on what was afterwards shown to be perjured evidence, and for which he was condemned to death. The execution was postponed from time to time, and when it drew near, according to the testimony of James Kirk, of Whinpark, who received his information from his father, Samuel Kirk, a warm loyalist friend of the condemned man, Orr, was buoyed up by the jail officials with the belief that he would not really be put to death at the time appointed for his execution, but only partially so. And by some means or other this belief was shared by Orrs relatives. Accordingly, the friends - James Kirks father being one of them- received the body, immediately after the execution at the jail at Carrickfergus, for the ostensible purpose of burial, and then set out for Orrs late home at Farranshane. When they had proceeded a short distance only, a halt was made, and the body was taken into a house, or other convenient place, and bled, which operation was expected to indicate the presence of life and restore circulation. Samuel Kirk not only witnessed the bleeding but examined Orrs neck, and found it broken, and then resuscitation was therefore impossible, he then stated, as gently and sympathetically as he could, this conviction to the brother of the deceased, who was fondly clung to the hope of restoration, saying, No Jamie, he cant be revived; his neck is broken; he is dead, when the poor fellow sank to the ground as though he had been struck with a weapon. The party then made its way to Farranshane, and the body was subsequently buried in the old burial ground at Templepatrick.

Séan Graham (my Grandson) lays a wreath

Above the Upton Family Mausoleum

This interesting little picture shows the money donation box built into the wall of the cemetery at the entrance, these donations perhaps went to the employment of a man to scythe the grass and keep the graves neat and tidy, the door of the box has long since disappeared.

When The Men Of Templepatrick Marched on Belfast 1771

“1771 – Belfast became, this year, the scene of an extraordinary riot, the immediate cause of which produced in the end effects extremely injurious to the interests of the north of Ireland. ‘An estate in the county of Antrim, a part of the vast possessions of the marquis of Donegall (an absentee), was proposed, when its leases had expired, to be let only to those who could pay large fines; and the agent of the marquis was said to have exacted extravagant fees on his own account also. Numbers of the former tenants, neither able to pay the fines, nor the rents demanded by those who, on payment of fines and fees, took leases over them, were dispossessed of their tenements, and left without means of subsistence. Rendered thus desperate, they maimed the cattle of those who had taken the lands, committed other outrages, and to express a firmness of resolution, styled themselves hearts of steel. One of their number, charged with felony, was apprehended and confined in Belfast, in order to be transmitted to the county gaol. Provided with offensive weapons, several thousands of peasants proceeded to the town to rescue the prisoner, who was removed to the barrack and placed under a guard of soldiers. Shortly after the steel boys arrived, and pressed forward to the barrack, and several shots were actually exchanged between them and the soldiers. The consequence, in all probability, would have been fatal to many on both sides, and to the town, had not a physician of highly respectable character and leading influence interposed, at the risk of his life, and prevailed with those concerned to set the prisoner at liberty. Being delivered up to his associates, they marched off in triumph. One house only experienced the effects of their resentment. The effects of this insurrection, which extended into the neighbouring counties, proved highly prejudicial to the country. So great and wide was the discontent that many thousands of protestants emigrated from those parts of Ulster to America, where they soon appeared in arms against the British government, and contributed powerfully, by their zeal and valour, to the separation of the American colonies from the crown of Great Britain. A few days later the lord lieutenant issued a proclamation offering a reward for the apprehension of some of the rescuers.

It admits fully and in detail the whole affair. The men of Templepatrick distinctly scored on this occasion. They were largely tenants of the Upton’s, although it has been frequently stated that the Templepatrick rent exacter did not follow in Donegall’s footsteps.

The Hearts Of Steel Retaliate to Evictions


Cattle houghing was particularly common and caused a great outcry on the part of the undertakers and authorities. Very large rewards were offered. The dreadful practise was only resorted to on occasions when tenants had been evicted from their lands and the same were given over to graziers or grazed by the local middlemen.

The following advertisement are typical of many others at the time ...

“Whereas on the night of the 17th day of August, instant, (1770), twenty three head of black cattle grazing on the lands of Lisnalinchy, in the parish of Ballylinney, in the county of Antrim, the property of Thomas Greg of Belfast, merchant, were maliciously and feloniously houghed, maimed and wounded by some wicked persons unknown. Now we whose names are hereunto subscribed, being justly incensed at such at barbarou8s and inhuman action , do hereby promise to pay the several sums annexed to out names respectively , as a reward for discovering and prosecuting to conviction the person or persons of said horrid crime, provided such discovery and conviction be within nine moths from the date hereof. Given this 22nd day of August 1770.


                            £ s d

Val Jones.            2 5 6

James Patterson. 2 5 6

Geo. Black.           2 5 6

William Wallace Sen. 2 5 6

Robert Harrison.    3 8 3

Waddell Cunningham. 11 7 6

Clotworthy Upton.  11 7 6

Hercules Heyland.  5 13 9

Joseph Wallace.  11 7 6

Galen, Thomson & Co. 11 7 6

John Greg.           5 13 9

John Galt Smith. 2 5 6

Shem Thomson. 3 8 3

Thomas Sinclair. 5 13 9

John Mathers.   2 5 6

Hill Wilson.        5 13 9

James Kinley.   2 5 6

George Portis. 5 13 9

Alex. Haliday.  3 8 3

John Brown.    5 13 9

Robert Batt.   2 5 6

John Campbell. 5 13 9

Wm. Greg. junr. 2 5 6

Thomas Hyde.  2 5 6

Samuel Hyde.  11 7 6

Robert Gordon. 2 5 6

James Ferguson. 2 5 6

Robert Wallace. 2 5 6

Stephen Haven. 2 5 6

George Ferguson. 5 13 9

John Ewing.        2 5 6

The Templepatrick Surname of Bill, some notes;

John Bill born around 1708 died between Oct - Dec 1883 aged 75 in the registration district of Antrim


John Bill died 1874 aged 69 in the Antrim registration district

John Bill born 10 Aug 1879 in Antrim and his Mother - Mary Bill


John Bill born 16 Dec 1812 .... Christened, Presbyterian, Donegore, ..... Father, Andrew Bill


William John Bill born 20 Feb 1878 in Antrim to James Bill and Rose Millar


Wm. John Bill born 03 March 1849 Templepatrick born to Sam Bill and Eliza Campbell

Robert Bill 15 Feb 1853 TP born to Sam Bill and Eliza Campbell


Mary Bill born 06 Sept 1875 Antrim born to John Bill and Agnes Harvey.


Thomas Bill born 02 May 1870 in Antrim to David Bill and Martha Seawright

Catherine bill born 20 Feb 1877 Antrim ... 19 Glentilt Place to David Bill and Martha Seawright


male Bill born 9th March 1878 Antrim born to William John Bill and Sarah Jane Eagleson


William David Bill born 01 July 1877 BALLYMAGARY to David Bill and Agnes Beggs


Samuel Bill born 04 Sept 1848 TP born to David Bill and Margaret walker

Sara Gibson Bill Born 1851 TP born to David Bill and Margaret Walker

Mary Bill 18 Aug 1855 TP born to David Bill and Margaret Walker

Agnes C. Bill 29 Oct 1858 TP born to David Bill and Margaret Walker

Male Bill born Templepatrick 11 March 1865 to David Bill and Margaret Walker

christening place 31, Templepatrick, Antrim Ireland

Bessie Jane Bill born May 1861 Templepatrick to David Bill and Margaret Walker

John Bill born 04 April 1853 Templepatrick to Daniel Bill and Mary Walker


John Bill 12 oct 1842 born to John Bill and Rose Coulter Templepatrick

David Bill 08 Aug 1844 TP to John Bill and Rose Coulter

Martha Bill 17 Sept 1846 TP born to John Bill and Rose Coulter


William Bill born 03 June 1851 born to Alexander Bill and Martha Leech Templepatrick

Martha Bill 03 Jun 1858 TP born to Alexander Bill and Martha Leech

Janet Bill 15 Dec 1862 TP born to Alexander Bill and Martha leech

Daniel Bill born 09 July 1846 TP to Alexander Bill and Martha leech

Alexander Bill 26 Mar 1854 to Alexander Bill and Martha Leech


Daniel Bill born 13 Jun 1839 to John Bill and Jennet Bill Templepatrick

John Bill 04 April 1853 TP born to Daniel Bill and Mary Walker

Joe, I apologise in advance for what the length of this ‘post’ but it is one which I have been moved to make having read your fascinating and candid attempts to uncover and share with your readers, the hidden history of this land.

I recently decided to go ‘out and about’ and visit some of the places of interest which you have written about here on your website. I’ve driven through or past some of these small villages and sites many times previously - shamefully oblivious to the crimes against humanity that were committed there. Thanks to you Joe, and your own tireless efforts to shed the light of truth on our dark and sorrowful history, I, and hopefully many others, have been informed and enlightened as to the reality of what actually took place in certain parts of County Antrim. Events which served no purpose but to degrade Irish people and displace them from the homes they had built on rich and fertile Irish soil.

Influenced by your own recollections I went to Carmavy and also to the lush beauty of the countryside at Ballynure and Ballyeaston. Standing in the silence of the small graveyard at Carmavy, one can easily bring to mind the cruel and barbaric actions that were inflicted upon an unsuspecting people by Arthur Chichester and his army.

Picture in your mind the men, the fathers who could not protect their families from the black hearted yeomen. Picture the women, the mothers who could only watch in horror as their husbands and children were brutalised and killed before their gaze. If you listen with your heart as you stand in those places, you can almost hear their screams; their pleas for mercy. No mercy was shown. Picture the aftermath - the desolation, the realisation that you have been stripped of everything you once owned, everything you held dear, forcefully evicted and ejected as an object having no value or use.

How did they survive? What was it that caused the embers of resilience to grow into a burning flame of sheer determination and defiance? The English may have broken their bones, but they failed to break their spirit!

In our own recent battles to address the British invasion which continues today, we have taken great pride in holding up the heroic efforts of those we hail as our patriot dead as an example of how we too must persevere in the face of opposition and defy those who wish to oppress. We commemorate historical events which have been deemed ‘worthy’ of remembrance. Yet we have no little plaques on walls, no iconic memorials in place to honour those who gave so much so long ago. Are the events which happened under the bloodied hand of Arthur Chichester so unimportant that we want to hide them away? Are we ashamed to acknowledge what REALLY happened under the British?

Joe, you have rightly described what happened as “Ethnic Cleansing”; today, such actions would cause international outrage. Many incidents of this nature which took place throughout Europe and beyond are remembered with a sense of horror yet here in our own land, the majority are ignorant of our own history. These events have been overlooked and brushed aside - why?

What purpose is served in presenting history which is swathed in a cloak of grey silk? The ‘greying’ of our history serves no one. Today grey is seen as something bland or boring but there is nothing boring or bland about the history you have brought to light Joe. Too many important and vital details have been left out of our history books or watered down by those who are unable to deal with the historical facts. The past is not to be lived in but it is to be learned from. How can we learn if we are only given half truths and diluted accounts of our history?

I find myself asking a question: Is Joe Graham the only historian passionate enough about the events which have shaped this land and the people on it; is he the only historian willing to stand up and tell us the truth? I’m not anybody of consequence Joe, just an ordinary citizen who happens to love this land and one who WANTS to know the real truth. I commend you in your own efforts to reclaim our history and share it with us - warts and all.