Ballymoney Conflict and War

First Published -

Wars And Conflicts In Ballymoney

1641 Rebellion

Old Church Tower
The Old Church Tower was completed in 1637, only to be burnt down four years later.

The seventeenth century was a very tumultuous and stormy period in Irish history.

New arrivals to the region, mostly lowland Scottish Presbyterians, were not welcomed by their aggrieved neighbours. The native Irish resented the attempts by King Charles I to impose strict new laws and the Protestant faith.

These tensions led to an outbreak of rebellion in 1641. Settlers were attacked by Irish armies opposed to English rule. Irish forces seized the settlement at Agivey on the river Bann. The Irish later defeated armies loyal to King Charles in clashes at the Leaney and Portna, near Ballymoney. The Rebellion was crushed the following year. However, violent unrest continued over the coming decades, and some historians associate the events of the seventeenth century with many present-day problems in Ireland.

The Ballymoney Volunteers

Ballymoney Volunteer's Jug and Mug
Ballymoney Volunteer’s Jug & Mug

In 1778, Ireland faced the threat of invasion. Thousands of troops had been sent abroad to fight America and France, leaving their homeland vulnerable to attack. The Irish people formed a militia to defend their island, the Irish Volunteers.

In 1784, 70-100 men enlisted in the Ballymoney Volunteer Company. Every recruit received military training and was regarded with prestige by the community.

Local gentry became commanding officers. In Ballymoney, James Leslie of Leslie Hill became a Captain. Volunteer Reviews were held at Leslie Hill, combining Companies from across County Antrim.

Due to the bankrupt position of the Irish Treasury, the Volunteers were entirely self-financed and independent of the Government. Members are said to have been landlords, merchants and professional men, for only they could afford to pay for a musket and uniform and also suffer the loss of earnings while on drill or manoeuvre.

The Volunteers were very politically active and lobbied the Irish Parliament for liberal changes in the law. Eventually, the government opposed the civilian army, and the Irish Volunteers were finally disbanded in 1793.

The headstone of William Reynolds records that he was the surgeon of the Ballymoney Volunteers and was buried ‘with full military honours’ in Ballymoney Old Church Graveyard.

The Society of United Irishmen

Badge of the United Irish Rebellion
Badge of the United Irishmen

The Society of United Irishmen was formed in Belfast by a group of liberal-minded Presbyterian merchants in 1791. They hoped to bring about radical reform in the Irish Parliament. Inspired by the revolutions in France and America, their ambition was to create a new democracy that included Irishmen of every class and religious persuasion – “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”.

In the north of Ireland, where the population was predominantly Presbyterian, the principles of the United Irishmen had considerable appeal as the Society’s ambitions reflected Presbyterian ethos.

Shortly after the formation of the Society, they began to publish their popular newspaper, The Northern Star, which helped to spread their political manifesto throughout the country. By 1796, the Government became concerned that the United Irishmen posed a dangerous threat. Membership became illegal. In response, the Society formed a secret army and began to plot rebellion.

The ill-fated rebellion took place in May-June 1798. It was swiftly crushed, and the armies of the Society of United Irishmen were mercilessly defeated.

The Uprising in North Antrim

Execution of Francis McKinley
Execution of United Irishman Francis McKinley

When the United Irish Rebellion started in Ulster on Wednesday, 6th June 1798, local people began looting houses and gathering weapons. Late that Friday, five thousand rebels gathered at Kilraughts.

On a Saturday morning, the Government forces reached Ballymoney and found the town almost deserted. Those who supported the rebellion had gone to Kilraughts, and anyone who didn’t had fled to the safety of Coleraine. Colonel Lord Henry Murray ordered his men to burn Ballymoney as punishment for the people’s disloyalty.

The rebels marched to Ballymena, led on horseback by eighteen-year-old Richard Caldwell of Harmony Hill (now Balnamore). By the time they arrived in Ballymena, the Rebellion was almost over, and the Government forces were approaching the town. On Sunday morning, the countryside was filled with men trying to hide or get home to safety.

In the days and weeks that followed, those arrested faced terrible punishments. Ballymoney magistrate George Hutchinson gained a terrifying reputation as he ruthlessly condemned men to be hanged or transported overseas. A few rebels were fortunate to escape and lived in exile for the rest of their lives.

WWI – Ballymoney Heroes

This section of the website lists the names of the men from Ballymoney, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, who died during the First World War.

The information on this website has been taken from the book Ballymoney Heroes by Robert Thompson. This book is highly recommended and tells the stories of over 300 young men from the Ballymoney district who served and died in the Allied Forces during this terrible conflict.

This website holds only a fraction of the information collected by Robert, and his book is filled with much more, including hundreds of photographs and stories about the individuals killed.

The book Ballymoney Heroes is available by mail order for £15 inc. p&p. Please contact Robert Thompson for details by clicking here to get your copy.

Visit Ballymoney would like to thank Robert Thompson for the opportunity to reproduce his work on these pages.

A Roll Of Honour Can be Found Here

More information on some of the back stories of those who fought and were killed in WW1 can be found here under our Stories of The Fallen

World War II Roll of Honour

Below are the names of the Ballymoney people who died during World War II. They are taken from the War Memorial in Ballymoney and were collected from the various Memorials in churches and towns across the Borough. The names, along with those who died in WWI and the Korean conflict, were placed on the memorial in November 2000, thanks to the dedicated work of local historian Robert Thompson.

By accessing the Commonwealth War Graves website at it has been possible to compile information on some of the service men and women who died in WWII have highlighted these in the list below and included their details. We have also included photographs of the deceased, for which we gratefully acknowledge the work of military historian Glenda Rodgers.

Adams, W.M.McBride, George
Beckett, RobertMcConnell, A. Leslie
Bellingham, WilliamMcKinney, A.
Blair, H.P.McKay, William
Boreland, Joseph JohnstonMcLaughlin, Alex
Boreland, ThomasMcLaughlin, James
Boyle, DanielMcMaster, W.T.
Brennan, ThomasMcNabb, S
Brown, RoyMcNabb, William
Cairns, JohnMcNeilly, James
Caldwell, ArthurMcToal, Joseph
Christie, William JamesMilliken, Robert
Cochrane, KennethMills, Robert
Crawford, Harry J.Miskelly, Robert
Cromie, Robert S.Moore, R.
Davidson, JamesMorrison, William
Douglas, WilliamNesbitt, John William
Duncan, WilliamOrr, Ronald M.
Fleck, EmmaPatterson, Leonard J.
Fulton, RobertPrice, V.C.
Gardiner, Annie MaryRainey, R.
Greene, JohnRamsey, J.
Herd, Samuel H.Reid, Robert Alex
Herd, Samuel J.Robinson, J.M.
Holmes, DanielShirley, Alex
Hutchinson, R.F.S.Smilie, William
Jamieson, James Q.Smyth, Robert John
Johnston, William S.Taylor, James Hector
Knox, Frank S.B.Twaddle, Norman
Lamont, DanTweed, R.
Maxwell, ErnestWiddowson, J.B.
McAleese, HenryWilson, Samuel R.
McAteer, John G.Wright, A.

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