Updated: Sep 8, 2020
As one of the oldest parts of Downpatrick, English Street has seen many comings and goings. The more surprising thing though is when you look at the darker side of its past. Go right back to Good Friday 1204. John de Courcy was worshipping at the Abbey of Saint Patrick, now Down Cathedral, unarmed, as he always did on this day. Unbeknownst to him a close acquaintance had betrayed his trust and disclosed this to his enemy Hugh de Lacy. As de Lacy called out to warn him of his impending arrest for treason against fickle King John, de Courcy grabbed a candlestick. Swiftly he bludgeoned 13 men before de Lacy was able to capture him.
A few centuries later under William and Mary, priests were ordered out of Ireland. Anyone who provided a safe place or exit for them was also guilty of treason. At the Petty Sessions in October 1690, the High Sheriff Bernard Ward accused his cousin of aiding the safe escape of a priest. Jocelin Hamilton was so outraged that he immediately challenged Bernard to a duel. As the two men drew their weapons, the blood ran from Jocelin's face as he seen the glint of the High Sheriff's pistol. The trigger pulled, with his last breath Jocelyn called out, 'It's not fair!', and ran at the High Sheriff with his sword with so home a thrust that the blade ran through Bernard's torso almost all the way to the hilt. Both collapsed dead on the very spot. A few days later they were buried on the same day.
This event is rather unusual as both parties died!
So this Hallowe'en why not come out and explore the more gruesome side of Downpatrick's history with a walk with the ghost of the High Sheriff? Hear tales of what this spectral figure has seen unfold in the years since with stories of horrible punishments and public executions.