Plantation of Ards

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

« start... Chapter XXVI. ...continued

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Smith confided the conduct of the enterprise to his natural son, who has already been mentioned as the person who attempted to poison Shane O'Neill. The first State Paper notice of this enterprise is in a letter, dated February, 8, 1572, from Captain Piers to the Lord Deputy, stating that the country is in an uproar "at Mr. Smith coming over to plant in the north." There is a rare black letter still extant, entitled, "Letter by J.B. on the Peopling of the Ardes," which Smith wrote to induce English adventurers to join him in his speculation. It is composed with considerable ability. He condemns severely the degeneracy of the early English settlers, " who allied and fostered themselves with the Irish." He says that " England was never fuller of people than it is at this day," and attributes this to "the dissolution of abbeys, which hath doubled the number of gentlemen and marriages." He says the younger sons who cannot " maintain themselves in the emulation of the world," as the elder and richer do, should emigrate; and then he gives glowing accounts of the advantages of this emigration.

Strange to say, one of the principal inducements he offers is that the "churle of Ireland is very simple and toylsomme man, desiring nothing but that he may not be eaten out with ceasse [rent], coyne, and liverie." He passes over the subject of rent without any comment, but he explains very fully how "the churle is eaten up" with the exactions of "coyne and liverie." He says these laborious Irish will gladly come "to live under us, and to farm our ground;" but he does not say anything about the kind of treatment they were to receive in return for their labour. His next inducement is the immense sale (and profit) they might expect by growing corn; and he concludes by relieving their fears as to any objections which the inhabitants of this country might make to being dispossessed from their homes and lands, or any resistance they might offer. He considers it immaterial, "for the country of Lecale [which had been taken in a similar manner from Savage] was some time kept by Brereton with a hundred horses, and Lieutenant Burrows kept Castle Rean [Castlereagh], and went daily one quarter of a mile to fetch his water, against five hundred Irish that lay again him."

Smith concludes with "an offer and order" for those who wished to join in the enterprise. Each footman to have a pike,[1] or halberd, or caliver, and a convenient livery cloak, of red colour or carnation, with black facings. Each horseman to have a staffe [2] and a case of dagges,[3] and his livery [4] to be of the colour aforesaid.

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[1] Pike.—This was probably the Morris pike or Moorish pike, much used in the reign of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth. The common pike was used very generally by foot soldiers until the reign of George II. The halberd was introduced during the reign of Henry VIII. It was peculiar to the royal guard, and is still carried by them. In Shirley's comedy, A Bird in a Cage (1633), one of the characters is asked, "You are one of the guard?" and replies, "A poor halberd man, sir." The caliver was quite recently introduced. It was a light kind of musket, fired without a rest. It derived its name from the calibre or width of its bore.

[2] Staffe.—This was probably a cane staff. We read in Piers Plowman's Vision of "hermits on a heap with hookyd staves."

[3] Dagges.—"Pistols."—"My dagge was levelled at his heart."

[4] Livery.—It was usual for all retainers of a noble house to wear a uniform-coloured cloth in dress. Thus, in the old play of Sir Thomas More, we find:

"That no man whatsoever
Do walk without the livery of his lord,
Either in cloak or any other garment."


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