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Half-Hung MacNaughton

Tragic tale of love lost – Half-Hung MacNaughton

The following historical story does not concern people born in Co. Tyrone. However, the result of the sensational affair, that became the legend of ‘Half-Hanged McNAUGHTON’, did take place 3 miles from Strabane. The countryside as well, was used, when he attempted to make good his escape. Over time, details have been changed as much as the spelling of John McNAUGHTON’S name, the story embellished, and with each historical article, and book written, all report various events and scenes. One account I have read, indicates the trial took place at Strabane, another in Lifford. Newspaper reports of the time indeed, dictate, that McNAUGHTON was held for trial in Lifford Gaol, in Co. Donegal. Some reports say that the only injured person was Miss KNOX, who died 4 hours later and no others harmed, yet the the Scots Magazine of 8 Dec. 1761 did report that other injuries, occurred, including McCULLOUGH, shot by McNAUGHTON, and McNAUGHTON, shot by James LOVE. Some tales tell of conversations between the parties during the assaults, others report no words were spoken. There are reports of a legal marriage, which had been annulled, and no marriage at all.

In my attempt to tell this story here, and present a few versions of it, I have read books on the story that are held in libraries the world over. In any event, it has traveled through time as a romantic tale, which to this day breathes ‘the tragic tale of love lost’.

Prehen (place of the crow) is a small townland and estate, outside the city of Derry, Co. Londonderry. The estate is located in the Prehen and Brickkilns townland, in the Civil Parish of Clondermot. (or Glendermott). After the ‘confiscation of Ulster’ Prehen came into the possession of the Goldsmiths Company of London. The land was then granted by charter to Alexander TOMKINS, and it was his great-grand-daughter, Honoria, who married Andrew KNOX, of Rathmullan and Moneymore; thus by whom the property reverted to.

Prehen House, Co. Londonderry
A historic house built in 1740 for Andrew KNOX MP for Donegal, after he married Prehen heiress Honoria TOMKINS two years earlier. The architect was almost certainly Michael PRIESTLEY who did a lot of work in Derry and Donegal counties around that time; his initials MP were found on a rafter in the attic.

John MacNAGHTEN (McNAUGHTON, McNAUTEN, McNAUGHTEN) 1722–1761 or the “Half-Hung MacNaghten”, was a land owner of Benvardon, in the neighbourhood of Prehen, who descended from the thanes of Loch Tay, in Scotland. He was a notorious gambler, the husband of a wife who committed suicide, and a convicted murderer. The more romantic versions of the tale portray MacNaghten’s victim, Mary Ann, as his lover and wife, whose marriage was forbidden by her overbearing father.

It is said that Mr. Andrew KNOX opposed the marriage because John was 34 years of age, and had lost his estate through gambling, and who also sought, only the dowry of £6000, of Mary Ann, who was only 15 years of age. According to the ‘Genealogical Memoirs of John KNOX, and of the Family of KNOX’ 1879, there was a marriage, which was annulled in the ecclesiastical court at Londonderry, and afterwards in the Court of Delegates at Dublin.

The Londonderry Sentinel, still, reports on the story in 1947, more than 150 years after the event took place.

Story of an Ill- Starred Romance.

In the year 1760, the tragic death of Miss Ann KNOX, caused a sensation, which has not been forgotten to this day. Miss KNOX was the daughter of Mr. Andrew KNOX, of Prehen House, who was descended from Victor KNOX, a cousin of the reformer, John KNOX.

John M’NAUGHTON had been a guest at Prehen House and fell in love with Miss KNOX. Her father disapproved of the engagement and forbade him to come to Prehen, or Miss KNOX, to have any association with him. But M’NAUGHTON assumed several disguises in order to have a look at, or a word, with the girl he loved.

According to tradition, he appeared at Prehan, in the disguise of a gentle beggar and he acted his part so well, he was not discovered. It is said he used to write letters to her and put them in a hole in a tree, I understand, is still standing. M’NAUGHTON asserted that they had got married secretly; be that as it may, Mr. KNOX determined to take her away out of M’NAUGHTON’S reach and got started on that fateful journey in the Dublin coach; which up till recently, was in Brooke Park, having been presented to the Corporation of Londonderry, by the late Mr. MADDEN, who purchased it when the Prehen property was being sold.

Mr. KNOX had several outriders accompanying the coach (12 Nov. 1761) and they were fully armed. John M’NAUGHTON and his party had concealed themselves in the little road adjoining the Burndennett Bridge, a natural hiding place which could not be seen from the main road leading from Derry to Strabane. As the horses jogged along to the call of the position rider, suddenly there rang out the command to ‘halt’. John M’NAUGHTON’S comrades gave their attention to the outsiders, and he turned his attention to the coach.

Looking at the affair now, although it happened so long ago, I think that M’NAUGHTON came with the intention of getting his wife, as he called her, to go with him. I don’t think he intended to shoot either of them.

Growling under his breath, Mr. KNOX jumped to his feet and peered out of the window, to recoil in amazement, as a gay figure swung open the door. “John McNAUGHTON” he gasped and as he uttered the name, a sharp cry escaped from the lips of his daughter behind him.

“John McNAUGHTON, yes” said the man who had thus abruptly encountered him.

“You villain” said Mr. KNOX, “are you turned highway man? What do you want?”

“Highway man or jealous lover, as you will” said McNAUGHTON, “I want my wife”.

“You have no wife, you knave” retorted KNOX.

“My wife is in the coach, sir, your daughter” answered McNAUGHTON.

“You are not married to my daughter. sir.” returned Mr. KNOX “and God forbid that you ever should he. Your marriage was not legal and you tricked her you shameless ruffian”.

“You need not call me names sir.” said McNAUGHTON. “I have come for your daughter and whether she be my wife or no, she is the love of my heart and I shall have her,”

“Never,” shouted KNOX, and as he spoke shots rang out and all around them came the sounds of fierce fighting. McNAUGHTON whipped round, his comrades were engaged in a struggle with the escorts of the coach, and it looked as if they were having the worst of the affair.

Drive on,” shouted KNOX, as the assailants were being beaten off. The coach began to move. “You shall not defeat me,” said McNAUGHTON and pointing his pistol at the coach fired through the window.

In the coach the beautiful Anne slipped to the floor, her life blood ebbing away and beside her on his knees, her father, suddenly an old and tired man.

The tragic episode, which began at Burndennett Bridge, ended at KEYS farm at Clougcor.

The peasantry sympathised with McNAUGHTON in the sad ending of his love affair. He concealed himself from arrest in Mr. ALEXANDER’S hay loft at Sandville, now owned by Mr. Joseph EAKIN. The hay loft is still standing as it was then, Mr. EAKIN put a new roof on it some years ago. A conspiracy of silence, regarding his hiding place, was carried out by the local people and no one would give any clue to the officers of the law.

At last there was a man, although he did not speak, who pointed to McNAUGHTON’S hiding place and local tradition has it that he lost that arm, a short time after in a mill accident.

John McNAUGHTON was tried at a special assize and condemned to death. He was brought to a field near Strabane to be hanged publicly. Whether by the connivance of the hangman or not, there was a weak part in the rope. McNAUGHTON addressed the huge crowd, which had gathered at his execution, telling them that Miss KNOX was his wife and he loved her, and that they had kept her from him.

The crowd seemed to be all in sympathy with him and as McNAUGHTON jumped from the ladder and the rope broke and McNaughton was not hanged, they shouted for him to “fly, sir, and we will help you”.

McNAUGHTON shook his head, “nay,” he said, “I am not going to he known as ‘Half-hanged McNAUGHTON’, go on with your work, he said to the hangman. This time the rope did not break.

from 19 July 1947 Londonderry Sentinel

Photograph -Half-hanged McNAUGHTON’S hiding place

The story according to the ‘Celebrated Trials connected with the Upper Classes of Society’ goes on to say;

John MacNAGHTON was born in the year 1722; his father died when he was about 6 years old, leaving 1 other son and 3 daughters. At a proper age he was sent to the public school of Raphoe. From the school of Raphoe, he went to Trinity College Dublin, where he continued till he came of age, and was put in possession of his estate, from this time, he began to evince a taste for gambling. He had a good person, a polite address, and by no means, a contemptible; understanding these qualifications recommended him to the notice of Clotworthy, 1st Earl of Massareene, who introduced him to some of the leading people in the kingdom. By favour of this introduction, he became acquainted with several persons who were remarkable for their love of play, and was generally, one in parties of the best company.

Being still at college and of sufficient standing, he took his bachelor’s degree. He was not, however, long contented to move in so narrow a sphere; he visited all the public places, both in England, and Ireland; he played with less reputable company, and for still larger sums, so that in a few years, his debts were more than his whole estate would pay; some of it, therefore, he was obliged to sell, and to mortgage the rest, yet his friendship, and connection, with Lord Massareene, enabled him to retrieve his affairs, by marrying a daughter of the Very Rev. Richard DANIEL, Dean of Down, to whose only other daughter, his Lordship was himself married. The lady’s fortune, however, which was £5,000, was settled to portion their younger children; what remained of Macnaghton’s own estate, was left to descend to his heir, and he bound himself by a solemn oath, never to play again at any game, either of chance, or skill, except for a trifling sum at a sitting, which oath, was by the lady’s friends made the condition of his marriage.

To his wife, MacNAGHTON made an affectionate husband and kept his promise to abstain from gaming about 2 years; but being uneasy under the restraint, he pretended to his wife, that on a certain night he might have won a 1000£, if he had not been tied-up from play, and alleging that opportunities of equal advantage might again offer; he prevailed upon her, and Mrs DANIEL, her mother, then a widow, to absolve him from his oath, which he supposed to be no longer binding, than whilst those who exacted it, desired it should. In consequence of this fatal liberty, thus artfully procured, he returned to the gaming table with yet greater eagerness, than before. In a short time he was involved in new distresses, more hopeless than the first as his credit was less, and many of his resources were cut off. Several suits were now commenced against him for large sums of money, and some sheriff’s officers having a writ to execute against him got intelligence where he was spending the evening, and beset the house he staid till it was very late and then went into a sedan chair in order to go home the officers did not think proper to stop the chair, but followed it till it came to his house, but as it was necessary they should execute their writ before he went in, as it would be difficult afterwards to get admittance, they came up to him when the chair stopped, and told him their business. MacMAGHTON declared he would not be arrested, and the officers, proceeding to use force, he resisted the scuffle that ensued, made a great noise and happened, unfortunately, to be just under the window of Mrs MacMAGHTON’S chamber who had then lain in about a fortnight and was impatiently expecting him home, the noise first alarmed her and upon hearing the occasion of it, she was so terrified at the apprehensions of his danger, and so shocked at the desperate situation of his affairs, that she fell into a nervous disorder, which, in a very short time put an end to her life.

Some years after the death of his wife, MacNAGHTON having partially improved in circumstances, paid his addresses secretly to Mary Ann KNOX, daughter of Andrew KNOX Esq. of Prehen in the county of Derry, a gentleman possessed of an estate of about 1500£ per annum, and as by the marriage settlement 5000£ had been settled on the younger children. Miss KNOX, having only 1 brother, George, and no sister, was entitled to the whole of 5000£, even though she disobliged her parents by marriage. The beauty, sweetness of temper, and other accomplishments of the young lady were remarkable. She was then about 15 years of age.

Mr MacNAGHTON, who became an intimate friend of the KNOXES and a constant visitor among them, obtained a promise from the young lady to marry him, if he could get her father’s acquiescence. He soon after spoke to Mr KNOX on the subject, who not only absolutely refused his consent and gave his reasons for it, but showed his resentment by forbidding him his house. Mr MacNAGHTON then begged Mr KNOX would permit him to visit, as formerly, as he said it would look strange to the world to be prevented visiting a family all the neighbours knew he had been so intimate with, and solemnly promised, upon his honour, never more to think of, or mention this affair, and added that as he had not spoken of it to the young lady, Mr KNOX need never do so, and thus the affair would drop of itself. MacNAGHTON obtained the leave he sought and made use of the favour to continue his addresses to the daughter and told her, Mr KNOX had promised him his consent, but desiring, however, that no further mention might be made of the affair for a year or 2, till some material business was decided, which he would acquaint him with. The young lady again promised she would marry him, as soon as that consent was obtained. He remained some time, constantly watching his opportunity to complete his design. One day being in company with Miss KNOX, and a young gentleman, a mere boy, in a retired room in the house, he pressed her to marry him, protesting he never could be happy till he was sure of her and with an air of sprightly raillery, pulling out a prayer book, he began to read the marriage service and insisted on the young lady’s making the responses, which she did, but to every one she added ‘provided her father consented’.

Some short time after this, Miss KNOX, going to a friend’s house on a week’s visit, Mr MacNAGHTON, who was also an intimate there, soon followed her. Here he fixed his scene for action, here he claimed her, and calling her his wife, insisted on her living with him, which the young lady absolutely refused, and leaving the house went directly and informed her uncle of the whole affair. On this Mr KNOX wrote a letter to MacNAGHTON telling him what a base, dishonourable, villain he was, and bade him avoid his sight for ever. Upon the receipt of the letter, MacNAGHTON advertised his marriage in the public newspapers, cautioning every other man not to marry his lawful wife. This was answered by a very spirited advertisement from the father, with an affidavit of the whole affair from the daughter annexed. Mr KNOX then, by the advice, and under the direction of Doctor RATCLIFFE, a very celebrated civilian, commenced a suit in the ecclesiastical court of the diocese of Londonderry, with a view 1st to get the contract proved, and then to set it aside, by virtue of an Act of Parliament which made all such contracts with respect to persons under age, ‘ipso facto void’, but MacNAGHTON defeated his 1st intention of proving the contract by keeping Mr HAMILTON, the young gentleman present at the sham marriage, the only witness, out of the way, and therefore no pleadings were had in that court on either side. While this suit was depending in the ecclesiastical court of Londonderry, Mr James KNOX heard that MacNAGHTON was at Ballybofey, a village in Donegal, not far from Strabane and had threatened to waylay him, there upon which he obtained a warrant from Alderman HOG to take him into custody. This MacNAGHTON treated in a ludicrous manner, and printed and dispersed a great number of hand-bills, in which he represented the warrant as obtained not against him, but his shadow, as he himself neither was, nor could have been, at Ballybofey, at the time pretended; this warrant however was executed upon him, but it was immediately superseded and had no consequences. Soon after MacNAGHTON thought fit to remove the cause that was depending in Londonderry court, to the metropolitan court of Armagh, but with what particular view does not appear as, he still continued to keep Mr HAMILTON from being examined. Mr KNOX, who was in earnest in the cause, and impatient to bring it to an issue, removed it from the court of Armagh, to a court of Delegates in Ireland, where Mr HAMILTON was obliged to appear and give his testimony, and after several hearings, the contract being proved was afterwards declared to be void, and Mr KNOX obtained 500£ damages. After the determination of this suit, MacNAGHTON’S affairs became every day more desperate, he had often been heard to vow vengeance against Mr Andrew KNOX, Mr James KNOX and others of the family, upon which they obtained Bench warrants against him of Mr Justice SCOTT; and they had also sued out a writ against him as the foundation of a suit to recover the damages which had been awarded in the court of Delegates. From this time, therefore, he appeared no more in public, but skulked about the country by stealth and in disguise, so that Mr KNOX could never get either the warrants, or the writ, executed.

In this situation was MacNAGHTON, in the month of November 1760, at which time he came over into England, as he pretended to lodge an appeal in the court of Delegates there against the sentence, which had been pronounced against him in the court of Delegates in Ireland, he, however, did not take any steps relating to the appeal. After returning to Ireland, recrossing to England, and again going back to Ireland, during the whole of which time he persevered in his foul persecution of Miss KNOX and her family, MacNAGHTON attained the acme of his criminal conduct by perpetrating the murder of the young lady, in the following manner.

About the latter end of October 1761, knowing that Mr KNOX, of Prehen, would be obliged shortly to set off from thence, for Dublin, to attend the business of parliament, MacNAGHTON caused it to be given out that he was at Benvarden; but on the first of November he repaired to the country in the neighbourhood of Prehen, near Londonderry, in the character of a sportsman as if to shoot game and assumed the name of SMITH.

He set out with no less than 12 associates, all of whom deserted him, one by one, except his own groom one George MacDOUGAL; his plough driver James MacCARREL and one Thomas DUNLAP, his tenant. In this character, with these attendants, and under this name, he went to the house of Mr IRWIN, which was situated on the banks of a considerable river called the Burndermit, (sic) and is distant from Prehen about 8 miles, being near the road from thence to Dublin. Mr IRWIN was a gentleman of family, employed in the hearth money collection, whose known hospitality rendered his house the common resort of gentlemen, who came as sportsmen into that part of the country, who were all welcome whether he had a personal knowledge of them or not.

While he was at Mr IRWIN’S he received intelligence from one of his scouts, that Mr KNOX was to set out from Prehen on the 10th of November in the morning, and that he would take his daughter and the rest of his family with him. As soon as he had received this notice, he reconnoitered the country adjacent to the road, through which Mr KNOX and his family must pass on his way to Dublin, to a considerable distance and he pitched upon a spot on the lands of Cloughean, about a mile from Mr IRWIN’S, about a quarter of a mile from the banks of Burndermit, and about 3 miles from Strabane. This spot was thought most convenient for his purpose because there were at least 10 different avenues to it, by any of which, he might escape, and because there was a very narrow pass through which Mr KNOX’S carriage must come between a large dunghill, and a cabin belonging to one KEYS, that was also under a bank of oak behind which as well as behind the dunghill, he or his accomplices might lie concealed, till the very moment when the carriage should come up.

Before day break on the morning of the 10th of Nov., he repaired to KEY’S cabin with his accomplices on horseback, bringing with him in a sack 6 fire locks, 9 pistols, with several ropes, and a long leathern strap, which he declared was to tie Miss KNOX on horseback behind himself, or one of his people. When this apparatus was safely lodged in the cabin, MacNAGHTON, and those who were with him, took their stations and waited for the appearance of their prey. Mr KNOX had been told that MacNAGHTON was lurking about, and that he had declared he would leave nothing unattempted to get Miss KNOX into his hands, throwing out at the same time the most terrible menaces against any that should oppose him; he said he would cause a scene of blood in Mr KNOX’S family, which should make the ears of the child that was yet unborn to tingle, and that, though he had begun with a comedy, yet he would end with a tragedy, confirming his menace with an oath. This had determined Mr KNOX to take the young lady with him to Dublin, and to arm himself and the servants that attended him. His brother Mr James KNOX, who was also at this time with him at Prehen, was to be of the party.

Accordingly, Mr James KNOX set out in a single horse chaise, with a servant behind him on horseback; young Mr KNOX, the brother of the young lady, on horseback, with his servant also on horseback. Mr KNOX, Mrs KNOX, Miss KNOX, and Mrs KNOX’S woman in a coach, attended by one MacCULLOUGH, Mr KNOX’S blacksmith, armed with a blunderbuss, and a case of pistols in his surtout coat pocket, and James LOVE, Mr KNOX’S own servant, armed with a fusee. Mr KNOX himself being, also armed with a case of pistols in the coach. Mr KNOX was so confident that MacNAGHTON, notwithstanding his declarations and menaces against him and his family, would not dare to attack him, when he saw him attended by persons properly armed, that neither Mr James KNOX, nor young Mr KNOX, nor either of their servants were armed at all, nor did Mr James KNOX think it necessary for him to keep pace with the coach; he therefore with his servant, went on before, and MacNAGHTON saw him pass by the cabin, where he was lying in wait about 11 o’clock. This served them as a signal, to prepare more immediately for action, as they knew the rest of the family could not be far behind. At about half an hour after 11, they saw young Mr KNOX and his servant on horseback, both of whom they suffered to pass on, and immediately afterwards discovered the coach at about 20 yards distance behind, and close behind the coach the 2 attendants, who were armed. As soon as the coach had passed the door of the cabin, MacNAGHTON and 2 of his accomplices rushed out, each armed with pistols and a gun. MacNAGHTON presented his gun at the coachman and threatened him with instant death if he did not stop the horses, the coachman, thus terrified, complied and MacNAGHTON’S servant coming up to him, presented his gun and threatened that if he offered to put his horses on again, he would shoot him. The coach being thus stopped and detained, MacNAGHTON hastened round the horses heads to the coach door in order to force out the lady, but MacCULLOUGH, the blacksmith, coming up to him at that instant and presenting his piece, MacNAGHTON fired at him and wounded him in the hand, the fellow, however, snapped his blunderbuss, but it unfortunately missed fire. MacNAGHTON then fired a 2nd shot at him, which wounded him in the knee and the groin and totally disabled him. In the meantime, Mr KNOX snapped a pistol at MacNAGHTON from the coach window, but the cock flying off, that missed fire also.

While this was doing, one of MacNAGHTON’S accomplices was charging guns in the cabin, and handing them out, and MacNAGHTON having received one from him in the room of another he had discharged, advanced upon the fore part of the dunghill, opposite to the cabin, towards that side of the coach where Miss KNOX sat, and with his gun presented, fired into the coach and lodged no less than 5 bullets in her left side, he then went round by the wheels, to the other side of the coach, but as he was going about, James LOVE, Mr KNOX’S own servant, fired at his back, from behind a turf stack and lodged 3 swan shot in his shoulders. Mr KNOX at the same time, firing again from the coach, but without effect. MacNAGHTON, though he felt himself wounded, having got round received another pistol from the cabin, and fired that also into the coach with an intention to kill Mr KNOX, but providentially the shot missed him. After this MacNAGHTON and one of his accomplices fired each of them a random shot through the coach, probably with a design to kill every creature that was in it, for all the guns were loaded with swan shot, yet in all these discharges, the poor young lady only, was wounded. After the last random shots through the coach, MacNAGHTON and his accomplices walked off towards Mr IRWIN’S without any apparent concern, and without, certainly, knowing what mischief they had done. What became of young Mr KNOX and his servant during the rencounter does not appear, but it is supposed that being unarmed, they were kept at bay by the fellow that overawed the coachman; nor does it appear that there was any interchange of words between the parties during the whole time. As soon as MacNAGHTON and his accomplices were gone off, young Mr KNOX, who was well mounted, rode away to Strabane about 3 miles distant, where the Londonderry troop of Sir James CALDWELL’S regiment of Inniskilling Light Horse were quartered, to obtain their assistance in the pursuit. Miss KNOX was carried into the cabin, where she expired in about 3 hours. She had received 5 wounds, 3 of which were mortal.

The murderer and his accomplices fled, but the country was soon raised in pursuit of them, and amongst others, some of Sir James CALDWELL’S Light Horse, who were directed to search the house and offices of one WENSLOW, a farmer, not far distant from the scene of slaughter. But though some of the family knew he was concealed there, they pretended ignorance so that MacNAGHTON might have escaped had not the corporal after they had searched every place as they imagined without success, and were going away, bethought himself of the following stratagem. Seeing a labourer digging potatoes in a piece of ground behind the stables, he said to his comrades in the fellow’s hearing “It is a great pity we cannot find this murderer”, it would be a good thing for the discoverer he would get £300.’ Upon which the fellow pointed to a hayloft. The corporal immediately ran up the ladder and forced open the door, upon which MacNAGHTON fired at him and missed him. By the flash of the pistol, the corporal was directed where to fire his piece, which, wounding MacNAGHTON, he ran in and seized him, dragged him out, and instantly tied him on a car and conducted him to Lifford gaol. Here MacNAGHTON remained in the closest confinement, entirely deserted by all his friends and acquaintance, until his trial which commenced the 8th of December 176,1 when he was arraigned with an accomplice called DUNLAP, before Baron MOUNTNEY, Mr Justice SCOTT and Mr Justice SMITH, who went down upon a special commission to try the prisoners.

The counsel for the prosecution were Mr HEN and Mr HELEN. MacNAGHTON was brought into court on a bier, rolled in a blanket, with a greasy woollen nightcap, the shirt in which he was taken being all bloody, and dirty, and a long beard, which gave him a dreadful appearance. In that condition he made a long speech, and complained in the most pathetic manner of the hard usage he had met with, since his confinement. He said they had treated him like a man under sentence, and not like a man that was to be tried. He declared he never intended to kill his dear wife, at saying, which he wept, that he only designed to take her away; that he would make such things appear upon his trial as should surprise them all. But when the trial came on, all this great expectation, which he had raised in the mind of every one, came to nothing. The trial lasted 5 days. The jury found both prisoners guilty, and they were sentenced to death. It seemed as if every stage of this fearful tragedy was to be marked by some peculiar feature of horror. The very execution was extraordinary. The common people had conceived the most false notions with regard to MacNAGHTON’S conduct, and looked upon him as no more than the victim of a gallant attempt to obtain lawful possession of his own wife. The consequence ensued that there was not a carpenter to be found in all the country about Strabane, that would erect a gallows for his execution, nor could any other person be procured to undertake it for hire.

The Sheriff, therefore, was obliged to look out for a tree which might serve for the purpose, and upon a tree he must at last have been executed, if the uncle of the unhappy young lad,y and a party of gentlemen, who were moved with indignation at the thought of being reduced to the necessity of such an expedient, to execute a wretch who had committed a murder with every possible aggravation, had not themselves, made a gallows and set it up. It was erected upon a plain between Strabane and Lifford, and on the 15 day of December about 1 o:clock in the morning, MacNAGHTON, who had been fettered upon his condemnation, was brought down from his room in the prison, in order to have his fetters taken off, but there was not a smith to be found that would do it, and if one of those who had refused the office had not been compelled by a party of the Light Horse to perform it, the criminal must, contrary to law, have been executed with his fetters on, the Sheriff was obliged to send for the executioner, a very old man from Cavan. The execution of MacNAGHTON and DUNLAP was then effected, but not until the former had broken the rope, and was hung up a second time. The bodies were buried together in one grave behind the church of Strabane. (He is buried at St. Patricks graveyard in Strabane)

Half-hung McNaughton’s hiding place.

compiled and transcribed by Teena from the sources noted &

“Celebrated Trials connected with the Upper Classes of Society”

“Genealogical Memoirs of John Knox and of the Family of Knox”