Dear Mr. Graham,
On my quest to learn more about my heritage, I came across your sight, and in it, William Orr. William Orr is my 6th Great Grandfather. I’ve read a good deal on your sight about your visit to his grave and your writings on him. The main reason I wanted to write to you was to thank you for your patronage to his grave, and for the laying of the wreath upon his grave. I still have much to learn about my grandfather, and through your writings I have learned much more. A copy of William Orr’s “Speech From the Dock” has passed onto me through my family. From what I am told, the actual speech is stored away in a vault. I’m so pleased that other people take a firm interest in William Orr. I have yet to travel to Ireland, but his grave will be my first destination.
Thank you for your time, Mr. Graham, and “Remember Orr!”
6th Great Grandson of William Orr
Great post, Mr. Conley!
Hiya Shawn glad you posted and am looking forward to meeting you in person , as I said in my e mail, my door is open.
I recently came across a book that nan had in her posssesion before she passed away and it was all about William Orr. I've asked my dad whether he knows if he was definitely related but he couldn't confirm.
My nans name was Isabella Wilson Campbell Orr and was born in Belfast in 1911?? (I think) so I would surprised if she wasn't related but I'd love to know for sure.
I was curious if you had any info on your family tree that you'd be willing to share that might help me in my quest?
If infact he is a relatition then I guess that would mean we would infact be related. This family tree stuff is exciting!
Hope to hear from you soon,
Glad to see contact being made between William Orr's Great-Grandson and Joe Graham.
As can be seen from the main photo on the Rushlight Website, Joe's Grandson placing flowers at Orr's grave. Joe Graham has over the years given honourable testimoney about the United Irish Society and due to his work, many have became knowledgeable about the whole 1798 Rising....
Keep up the good work Joe!
Joe: what a heartwarming sight of your grandson Sean laying a wreath at William Orr's grave. It's plain to see Sean was raised to honour our great patriots. I'm pretty certain Sean will follow in your footsteps, and keep the next generation informed like you do now. I have a feeling Sean is in the minority of kids his age today. Like they say,"it's all in the way you raise them". (No offence to all the other parents out there.)
Yes he enjoys the wee trips round the historic sites Margaret, he also enjoys singing, photography and videography, I think he will be an all rounder.
William Orr of Farranshane Co Antrim, staement from the dock.
The cry "Remember Orr" was a watchword in the Rebellion that broke out in 1798. His speech from the dock is a humbling address:
" My friends and fellow-countrymen-In the thirty first year of my life I have been sentenced to die upon the gallows and this sentence has been in pursuance of a verdict of twelve men who should have been indifferently and impartially chosen. How far they have been so, I leave to that country from which they have been chosen to determine ; and how far they have discharged their duty, I leave to their God and to themselves. They have, in pronouncing their verdict, thought proper to recommend me as an object of humane mercy. In return, I pray to God, if they have erred, to have mercy upon them. The judge who condemned me humanely shed tears in uttering, my sentence. But whether he did wisely in so highly commending the wretched informer, who swore away my life, I leave to his own cool reflection, solemnly him and all the world, with my dying breath, that that informer was foresworn.
The law under which I suffer is surely a severe one-rnay the makers and promoters of it be justified in the integrity of their motives, and the purity of their own lives ! By that law I am stamped a felon, but my heart disdains the imputation.
My comfortable lot, and industrious course of life, best refute the charge of being an adventurer for plunder; but if to have loved my countrv-to have known its wrongs-to have felt the injuries of the persecuted Catholics, and to have united with them and all other religious persuasions in the most orderly and least sanguinary means of procuring redress-if those be felonies, I am a felon, but not otherwise. Had my counsel (for whose honorable exertions I am indebted) prevailed in their motions to have me tried for high treason, rather than under the insurrection law, I should have been entitled to a full defence, and my actions have been better vindicated; but that was refused, and I must now submit to what has passed.
To the generous protection of my country I leave a beloved wife who has been constant and true to me, and whose grief for my fate has already nearly occasioned her death. I have five living children, who have been my delight. May they love their country as I have done, and die for it if needful
I trust that all my virtuous countrymen will bear me in their kind remembrance, and continue true and faithful to each other as I have been to all of them. With this last wish of my heart-nothing doubting of the success of that cause for which I suffer, and hoping for God`s merciful forgiveness of such offences as my frail nature may have at any time betrayed me into - I die in peace and charity with all mankind. "
On The Gallows; " I am no traitor! I am persecuted for my country. I die in the true faith of a Presbyterian.". six members of the Orr Family left for the USA, one being .
William had a brother Samuel (1774-1831) who married Mary Redmond (1761-1836). They had ten children some of whom died as infants, but six went to America including Samuel Redmond Orr b 1793.
The Noble William Orr. He was the first Presbyterian Republican to be executed, 1797, by the British.
THE FOLLOWING IS A LETTER WRITTEN BY WILLIAM ORR'S WIFE PLEADING MERCY FOR HER HUSBAND TO HER EXCELLENCY THE COUNTESS OF CAMDEN.
“Grief like mine admits of no apology—despair and sorrow are my only companions, yet hope bids me look up to you for happiness. A miserable object, a soother and a wife, comes praying for mercy to the father of her children. Pardon, most gracious lady, the phrenzy of a distracted woman, and listen to the petition of the miserable wife of the unfortunate William Orr. I come a suppliant, a low and humble slave of misery, praying your ladyship’s intercession on behalf of the life of my husband, whose existence is dealer to me than my own. Oh, hear my complaint, and grant me one beam of hope to frantic imagination. You are the only person who has it in your power to remove never-ending misery from a wretched individual, to cheer the afflicted heart, to give comfort and consolation to her that was ready to perish. Suffer me to assure you that he is innocent of the crime for which he is under sentence of death. Oh, cruel sentence, that will, without your interference, tear from me my husband and rob my five poor little unoffending children of their father ; the best of fathers, the kindest and dearest that ever lived. They join in solicitations for his life; their innocent, fervent, grateful prayers will rise as a memorial before the throne of God ; their lisping tongues shall be taught, with unceasing gratitude, to bless and adore the noble, generous, exalted character of their benefactress, the revered and loved countess of Camden, how will that name be imprinted on their very souls, never to be effaced. Forgive my importunity—the life of my husband, the father of my children’s life is at stake. Despair has almost driven me mad. I call on you to exert yourself to save his life, thy God will reward thee, thy country thank thee, his children will bless thee if thou grantest my petition; and when length of years and increase of honour shall make thee tired of earthly joys, and the curtain of death gently close around thy bed, may the angels of God descend and take care that at the last human existence shall not receive one rude blast to hasten its extinction. At that awful period, may the recollection of your successful interference be added to the prospect of your future felicity.”
THE FOLLOWING LETTER WAS WRITTEN BY THE PRISONER WILLIAM ORR, TO HIS WIFE :— “Carrickfergus, Saturday Morning [14 October, 1797].
“My DEAR WIFE—I now think proper to mention the grounds of my present encouragement, under the apprehension of shortly appearing before my merciful God and Redeemer, my entire innocence of the crime I am charged with. Secondly, a well-founded hope of meeting a merciful God. Thirdly, a firm confidence that that God will be a husband to you and a father to your little children, whom I do recommend to His divine care and protection, who has protected me from my mothers womb. And my last request is that you will train them up in the knowledge of that religion, which is the ground of my present comfort, and the foundation of that happiness, I trust, I shall shortly enjoy, in that day when we must all appear before the great Judge of judges and Ruler of all. Farewell, my dear wife, farewell “WILLIAM ORR.”
Oration read over Orr's Grave 2011
THE STORY OF WILLIAM ORR
Some people who would like to be called hard-headed and practical and progressive have no use for sentiment or emotion and are inclined to look with pity or contempt on all who seek inspiration for the activities of the present in the great, useful deeds of the past, and who, for that purpose, would revive and keep green the memory of the men and women who put country before self, who left the quiet ways of ease and comfort, not at the call of ambition but of patriotism, to walk the hard road that would end either in success for their cause or in death or exile or imprisonment for themselves. But the so-called practical people live their little selfish day and are deservedly forgotten, while the great hearted who hearken to the voice of the past, who do not ‘let bygones he bygones.’ but who honour the memory of the patriot dead by striving unselfishly to translate their teaching into practice are, like their teachers, remembered and loved and revered for ever. And only that it has been so in Ireland through all the generations there would be no Irish nation to-day rightly struggling to be free, but merely a conquered West British province of Empire inhabited by a few millions of hard-headed, practical slaves, its glorious past forgotten, its achievements ignored, its glories denied, and the sacrifices of its martyrs laughed at by the enemies to whom it had slavishly surrendered. If we are not in that unhappy position to-day, like other nations that once were great and free, It is not because of any merits we possess as a whole people, but because our martyrs have been so many, and their sacrifices so unselfish and so holy. that for very shame itself we have had to follow the road they pointed out to us, we have had to listen, even in small numbers, to their noble teaching, we have had to give in every generation a few, at least, of our best and our bravest to renew the age-old sacrifice and to fan the dying flicker of national consciousness into a leaping flame again.
The first known martyr of the Republic of Ireland was William Orr, a Presbyterian farmer of County Antrim, a famous athlete, a man of splendid physique and handsome appearance, but one who never courted publicity or had the least ambition to be a leader. Like Tone and Emmet and Russell and McCracken and Lord Edward Fitzgerald, and all the other unforgettable heroes of a gallant struggle for freedom, William Orr was drawn from the peace and quiet and comfort of his home by the sufferings of his fellow-countrymen, and in a close contemplation of theic persecution he saw the crucifixion of all Ireland; he saw a brave and generous and faithful people being robbed of their birthright, trampled under the heel of a merciless and hypocritical tyranny, hunted and harried like wild beasts in their own country by invading hordes of robbers and plunderers. The spectacle of those gallant and cultured men, who were not of our religious faith, standing up fearlessly in our defence when we were trampled down and to all appearances hopelessly beaten, their brave step forward out of the ranks of the garrison and acceptance of the ancient Irish nation as their motherland, for whom they were proud and willing to endure poverty, persecution and martyrdom, is one of the most noble and inspiring sights in the history of any land on earth. And it is a striking as well as a humiliating testimony to the effectiveness of English propaganda and to the process of Anglicisation, that educated Irish Catholics should set themselves, after the lapse of 150 years, the dastardly task of attempting to besmirch the names and slander the memory and impugn the motives of men to whose unselfish sacrifices it is due, under God, that there is a living Irish nation to-day. They can not do it ; the most notable of them will be forgotten before the memory of even the least of our martyrs shall fade from the national mind, but their ignoble endeavours should not be suffered to go on without a protest from those whose duty it is to keep green the memory of Ireland’s glorious dead.
Archie McComb, Belfast Society Of United Irishmen.
I am very honoured to see that Mr. Graham has posted my email to him on this forum, from which I stumbled upon by mere coincidence. Thank you all for posting the text of letters written by William Orr's wife, and for taking interest in the great Irish Patriot. If anyone here has any information regarding Orr's date of birth or early life, please share!
Thank you most kindly.
Dear Sir, it is wonderful to see this website commemorating the life and sacrifice of my great great great great grandfather.My brothers and I have a large collection of historical material and I have emailed them "The Wake of Willam Orr" by Dr William Dresden- I have also emailed by nieces, nephews and my own five children to commit him to memory as a remarkable and exemplary man of his time.