A collection of historical and genalogical records
Lord Donegall, who had huge estates in Country Antrim, was very short of money and was forced to raise rents and impose fines to increase his capital. The tenants were unable to afford these prices and only the better off merchants in Belfast could raise the money.
The existing tenants responded by houghing or maiming the cattle of the new tenants. In December 1770 one of the perpetrators, David Douglas, was taken and imprisoned in the Belfast barracks. The tenants held a meeting in Templepatrick Presbyterian Church and formed a group called the Hearts of Steel. They decided to arm themselves and march on Belfast and secure the release of Douglas.
By the time they got to Belfast they numbered about twelve hundred. At the barracks Douglas's release was refused. As it was a Mr Gregg's cattle which had been attacked they then went to the house of his partner, Waddell Cunningham, one of the wealthiest merchants in Belfast, at the bottom of Hercules Street.
They broke into it and set about breaking up the furniture. Haliday lived not far away in Castle Street and he came out and remonstrated with the mob who took him prisoner. He agreed to go to the barracks and try to get Douglas released and he promised that if he failed he would return and act as a hostage.
When the mob returned to the barracks the gates were thrown open by the soldiers who fired on the mob killing five and wounding nine.
The mob returned to Cunningham's house and set fire to it. There was therefore a risk of the town being burnt down and so Douglas was freed.
" Now we, the lord lieutenant and council of Ireland, having a just abhorrence of such atrocious crimes, and being determined, as far as in us lies, to bring the said offenders to speedy and condign punishment, do, by this our proclamation, hereby publish and declare that if any person or persons shall, on or before the 25th day of July, apprehend and lodge in any of his majesty's gaols in this kingdom the said Nathaniel Mathews, James Gillespie, James Barber, Paul Douglas, John Douglas the younger, Hugh Love, Stafford Love, Samuel Douglas, John Paton, Thomas Dickey, John Richey, Andrew Shaw, Hugh Wilson, and Robert Cunningham, or any or either of them ; such person or persons so taking or apprehending them, any, or either of them, shall, upon conviction, receive as a reward the sum of 50 sterling for each and every of the said offenders who shall be so taken and apprehended as aforesaid.
"And we do hereby strictly charge and command all justices of the peace, mayors, sheriffs, bailiffs, and all other his majesty's liege subjects to be aiding and assisting in apprehending the said offenders and every of them.
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