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Although Colin Johnston ROBB was an avid local historian, regrettably, he wasn’t as well known for including sources for all of his work. I would suspect that some of this following tale should be taken with a grain of salt. This tale may be well seasoned, but its provenance is in doubt.
Sharon Oddie Brown. February 6, 2009

 

 

PEGGY BAN DONALDSON

by Colin Johnston Robb[1] "Sunday Press," 19.6.1955

 

The days of Peggy Ban of tradition were said to be serene and of fond memory -but what of those of the real Peggy Ban of South Armagh who was out in '98. 

 

Away back in 1733, there was an exodus of Scottish Presbyterians from Co. Down to southern Ulster, and one of the first of these settlers was one who subscribed himself as Alexander Ban Donaldson[2] of Highland descent.  Alexander moved from Lecale, Co. Down, to Drumhammonds[3], Co. Monaghan and still retained the Scottish Gaelic tongue.  His son, Samuel Donaldson[4], who was settled in the townland of Cloghog, in Creggan, Co. Armagh, had an only daughter, Margaret Donaldson[5], born on Jun 20, 1755, who became our spinster heroine.

 

Youth added to the charms of Betsy Gray, Eliza Bryson and Peggy Monroe, the fair fighters of Irish liberty, but Peggy Donaldson, with a shock of flowing white ringlets falling around her shoulder which gave her the soubriquet Peggy Ban, was a daring spinster of [sic] when the rising broke out.  She had lived with an old aunt[6] in the Killinchy[7] district of Co. Down between 1790 and 1796 and there she was inspired by the patriotic spirit of the fermenting insurrection, and became a United Irishwoman.  When her aunt died, Peggy Ban inherited a small fortune and returned to her father's house in Cloghog, and she is credited with the formation of the first United Irish Society in South Armagh, of which her brother William Donaldson was chairman.

 

Peggy became liaison officer of the movement between southern Ulster and Co. Down, and she purchased a fleet white mare at Ballybay fair to carry her on this patriotic mission.  It was she who carried a dispatch to General Monroe, the insurgent commander in Down, which gave the assurance that the Monaghan and Armagh men would link in the plan of campaign to join forces of the north and south after the defeat of the Royalists under  General Nugent's command, by the capture of Newry and Armagh. 

 

On one of her liaison gallops across the country, Peggy was returning to her home, when she was accosted by four members of the Creggan Yeomanry, who ordered her to dismount. The masterly woman, upwards of six feet in height, obeyed the order but as she alighted, she seized the musket of the man nearest to her and laid all four out on the road with its butt. That night the yeos in force surrounded her house and she was arrested and lodged in Armagh jail. The records do not relate any charge having been preferred against her.  The Heroine Peggy Ban died at Cloghog on Dec 1, 1805 and was laid to rest on the Meeting House green. 

 

This united brogue and bonnet in the Fews and uplifted the green Banner of liberty, a  feminine link between the forces of north and south, an essential link for all Ireland, for unity always depended as it does today, on reciprocal action and good  .will among all Irishmen.   



[1] Colin Johnston ROBB In my searches for who this author might be, I turned up: Colin Johnston ROBB 1901-1975- of Spa, Ballynahinch. Historian. He wrote for the Irish news – but I would need a subscription to read more of his articles. Armagh. He was an historian of note and lifetime resident of Magheratimpany, Ballynahinch. Consultant: Preservations of Old Churches, Mansions, Theatres, Military Monuments and Curios’ of Ballynahinch, Co. Down, N. Ireland.”  http://librarycatalogue.cityoflondon.gov.uk/www-bin/www_talis32?nextpage=title-details&nohit=copies-nohits&many=title-details&exact=title-details&error=www-error&work_id=218335&browse=0&author_id=215387&index_pos=43&input=ROAD&browse=0&search_type=2&refs_pos=0&collection=1 Cat #t4282567 other authors include Francis J. Bigger and Colin Johnston Robb

There was another reference to a  Colin Johnston Robb Drumharriff Lodge, Loughgall, Co.

[2] Alexander Ban Donaldson (1671-1776) . He was probably born at Ringfad, Co, Down. He married Alice McIlveen (1687-1769). “Local records and tradition indicate that her family had existed in County Down since the 13th Century…” SOURCE: Irish Edition of Alexander ban Donaldson.

[3] Drumhammonds. There is a townland named Drumhaman, in the Parish of Donaghmoyne, Co. Monaghan.  The first land lease to Alex ban DONALDOSN was from the family of Thomas Thynne, 2nd Viscount Weymouth, later the Marquess of Bath. This lease of 127 acres comprised the townland of Drumhaman [Drumhammon, Co. Monaghan - according to John Donaldson, 1838] in Farney Barony in Donaghmoyne Parish. A Hill in the area was known as Donaldson Hill in olden days. On modern ordinance maps this is shown directly south of Castleblayney on grids 25 and 28. SOURCE: Irish Edition of Alexander Ban Donaldson by Ron Donaldson "

[4] Samuel DONALDSON (1725-1805) "After his children joined the United Irishmen his fortunes declined somewhat because of property destruction by the English troops. Samuel suffered from rheumatism and was unable take care of himself so he lived with his son George." SOURCE: Irish Edition of Alexander ban Donaldson , p291 He is also mentioned in the Creggan Journal,  1997/98 1798 Rebellion Bicentenary Commemorative Issue.

[5] Margaret DONALDSON (1755-1804) – which means that she would have been in her early 40s when she was riding around in the dark of night delivering messages. The white hair would be a fit; I am less sure about her ability to overcome four soldiers – unless drink already had the better of them.

[6] If this aunt was an unmarried sister of her mother , her last name would have been MAFFET or MOFFAT. If she was a sister of her father (they all seem to have married), their married names were: Catherine McCLURE, Grizzell COPELAND; Mary PATTERSON. If she was an “aunt” in the looser use of the word, she could have been a descendant of a sibling of Alexander ban DONALDSON. I need to search Killinchy parish records PRONI: CR1/16. Also CR1/16/E/2. Finding a will would certainly add a little more veracity to the tale. There were MOFFATTs in Killinchy in the mid-1800s.

[7] Killinchy. MAP: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~rosdavies/MAPS/KillinchyTownlands.htm  I couldn’t find any pertinent wills, but I did find it intriguing that a John JACKSON is mentioned in the flax rolls at Killinchy.

 

 

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