They called themselves the Ribbonmen, and they were an Irish Republican movement that began in the north of Ireland at the end of the 18th century. Membership was united in secret societies and wore a green ribbon as their emblem. The Ribbonmen movement was a form of resistance among poor agricultural workers to what they perceived were the injustices of English rule, carried out by landlords forcing the eviction of tenants from the land.

They attacked estates, organised attempts on the lives of landlords and land managers, and when these succeeded they were committing murder. But their activities had a purely local, decentralised character, with no common programme of action. Because they were not taken under a broader Irish Republican umbrella, many of their murders were committed for personal gain, or arose out of local disputes, or were motivated by sectarianism.

One of their early victims was Thomas Bateson, 46, a land agent and magistrate, who was attacked on December 4th, 1851, at Killygola in County Monaghan. He was the agent of a local estate at Castleblayney and was walking home after visiting the estate’s model farm at Corratanty when Ribbonmen confronted him. They beat him viciously and he died the next day.

A number of Ribbonmen were rounded up and put on trial, but juries composed of Catholics and Protestants failed to agree. Then, in December 1852, Ribbonman Patrick Nogher snitched, and named the three main conspirators as Patrick Coomey, who was already under arrest, Bryan Grant and Neil Quin.

Trials of the three men in July 1853 still failed to produce a conviction. Finally they were re-tried at the county assizes in March 1854, where all three were found guilty. On Monday, April 10th, 1854, Quin and Grant were hanged at noon outside Monaghan Prison, and Coomey was hanged an hour later. Quin and Coomey died quickly, but Grant suffered horribly, thrashing on the end of the rope for 15 minutes.