Monro, Henry (1768-1798) (DNB00)

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MONRO, MONROE, or MUNRO, HENRY (1768–1798), United Irishman, born in 1768, was the only son of a presbyterian tradesman of Scottish descent settled at Lisburn. The father died in 1793, leaving a widow, whose maiden name had been Gorman. She brought up Henry and her two daughters according to the principles of the church of England, and died at Lisburn about 1832.

Henry received a good mercantile education in his native town, and having gone through an apprenticeship entered the linen business about 1788. He afterwards paid frequent visits to England to buy silks and cloth and sell linen. While still a youth he joined the volunteers, and is said to have been adjutant of the Lisburn corps. He is described as rather under the middle height, but strong and agile, with deep blue eyes and an intelligent expression ; honourable in his dealings and prosperous in trade, a good speaker, romantic in his views, without decided intellectual tastes. In 1795 he joined the United Irishmen with the view of forwarding the cause of catholic emancipation and parliamentary reform.

On the outbreak of the rebellion in co. Down in the early summer of 1798, Monroe, after the arrest of Dickson, was chosen by the committee of leaders at Belfast to take the command. On 11 June, while at the head of a force of rebels seven thousand strong at Saintfield, he sent a detachment to seize the town of Ballinahinch, halfway between Lisburn and Downpatrick. The town was occupied without opposition ; but it was evacuated on the evening of the 12th, when General Nugent advanced from Belfast with a force inferior in numbers to the rebels, but much superior to them in artillery. During the night, word was brought to Monroe, who had taken up a position outside the town, that the victorious troops within were in a state of disorder, drinking, burning, and plundering, but he declined to direct a night attack, on the ground that it was unfair. The result was that several hundred of his best men immediately deserted. About two o'clock on the morning j of 13 June the rebels succeeded in effecting an entrance into the town, and had apparently gained the day when the bugle sounded for the retreat of the royal troops, and the rebels, mistaking the signal for the pas de charge, fled in disorder from the south, while Nugent's men were evacuating Ballinahinch by the north. The latter soon rallied and cut off the retreat of the Irish in all directions but one. Through this loophole Monroe led about 150 men after the rest had been hopelessly routed. In the pursuit no quarter was given. Monroe fled alone to the mountains. He was taken early in the morning of 15 June about six miles from Ballinahinch. He was immediately removed with one Kane, or Keane, who was captured at the same time, to Hillsborough, whence he was taken to Lisburn, tried by court-martial, and hanged opposite his own door, and in sight, it was said, of his wife and sisters. He behaved with marvellous coolness to the last. He settled a money account with Captain Stewart, a yeomanry officer, at the foot of the gallows, then said a short prayer and mounted the ladder. A rung gave way, and he was thrown to the ground. On reascending it, he gave the signal for his execution, after uttering the words, 'Tell my country I deserved better of it.' His head was afterwards fixed on a pike and placed upon the market-house of Lisburn. His house and property were destroyed by the royal troops. The green and white plume which he wore at Ballinahinch was afterwards given to Bishop Percy, 27 Oct. 1798. A proclamation put in at the court-martial advising the soldiers and inhabitants of co. Down to pay no rent to 'the disaffected landlords, as such rent is confiscated to the use of the National Liberty War,' Madden thinks a fabrication.

Monroe married in 1795 Margaret Johnston, fourth daughter of Robert Johnston of Seymour Hill in Antrim. His widow died at Belfast in February 1840. His daughter married one Hanson, an independent minister.

[Madden's United Irishmen, 3rd ser. i. 378401; Teeling's Personal Narrative of the Rebellion, Glasgow ed. vol. i. ch. xix.; Sir R. Musgrave's Rebellions in Ireland, 3rd ed. ii. 103-7; W. H. Maxwell's Hist, of the Irish Rebellion, ch. xx.; A. Webb's Compendium of Irish Biography; Lecky's England in 18th Cent. viii. 131-5.]

G. Le G. N.