Sir Cahir O'Doherty

[From the Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 7, August 11, 1832]

The rock of Doune, or as it was originally called the rock of Kilmacrenan, is famous as being the place where the chieftains of Tyrconnel were inaugurated by the Abbots of Kilmacrenan; and also as being where the fierce Sir Cahir O'Doherty closed his life, in the reign of James I.

The plantation of Ulster had not as yet taken place; but already many Scots had settled themselves along the rich alluvial lands that border the Loughs Foyle and Swilly; and it was Sir Cahir's most desired end and aim to extirpate these intruders. He was the Scotchman's curse and scourge. One of these Scots had settled in the valley of the Lennon; Rory O'Donnel, the Queen's Earl of Tyrconnel, had given him part of that fertile valley-and he there built his bawn. But Sir Cahir, in the midst of night, and in Sandy Ramsay's absence, attacked his enclosure, drove off his cattle, slaughtered his wife and children, and left his pleasant homestead a heap of smoking ruins.

The Scot, on his return home, saw himself bereaved, left desolate in a foreign land, without property, kindred, or home, nothing his, but his true gun and dirk. He knew that five hundred marks was the reward offered by the Lord Deputy for Sir Cahir's head. With a heart maddened by revenge, with hope resting on the promised reward, he retired to the wooden hills that run parallel to the Hill of Doune; there, under covert of a rock, his gun resting on a withered branch of a stunted oak, he waited day by day with all the patience and expectancy of a tiger in his lair. Sir Cahir was a man to be marked in a thousand; he was the loftiest and proudest in his bearing of any man in the Province of Ulster; his Spanish hat with the heron's plume was too often the terror of his enemies-the rallying point of his friends, not to bespeak the O'Doherty; even the high breast-work of loose stones, added to the natural defences of the rock, could not hide the chieftain from observation.

On Holy Thursday, as he rested on the eastern face of the rock, looking towards the Abbey of Kilmacrenan, expecting a venerable friar to come from his favored foundation of St. Columbkill, to shrive him, and celebrate mass; and, as he was chatting to his men beside him, the Scotchman applied the fire to his levelled matchlock-and, before the report began to roll its echoes through the woods and hills, the ball had passed through Sir Cahir's forehead, and he lay lifeless on the ramparts. His followers were panic struck; they thought that the rising of the Scotch and English was upon them, and, deserting the lifeless body of their leader, they dispersed through the mountains. In the meanwhile the Scotchman approached the rock; he saw his foe fall; he saw his followers flee. He soon severed the head from the body, wrapping it in his plaid, off he set in the direction of Dublin. He travelled all that day, and at night took shelter in a cabin belonging to one Terence O'Gallagher, situated at one of the fords of the river Finn. Here Ramsay sought a night's lodging, which Irishmen never refuse; and, partaking of an oaten cake and some sweet milk, he went to rest, with Sir Cahir's head under his own as a pillow. The Scotchman slept sound,-and Terence was up at break of day. He saw blood oozing out through the plaid that served as his guests pillow, and suspected all was not right; so, slitting the tartan plaid, he saw the hair and head of a man. Slowly drawing it out, he recognised features well known to every man in Tyrconnel; they were Sir Cahir's. Terence knew as well as any man that there was a price set on this very head-a price abundant to make his fortune-a price he was now resolved to try and gain. So off Terence started, and the broad Tyrone was almost crossed by O'Gallagher, before the Scotchman awoke to resume his journey. The story is still told with triumph through the country, how the Irishman, without the treason, reaped the reward of Sir Cahir's death.- Sketches in the North and South of Ireland. 

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