The Plantation of Ulster

From "A History of Ireland and Her People" by Eleanor Hull, 1931

TWO projected changes in Ulster had, in 1607, determined Hugh O'Neill that nothing was left for him but flight from his native land. The first was the intention, often discussed but hitherto abandoned, to place a President over Ulster. Long ago Sussex had made the wise suggestion that O'Neill himself should be made President, and thus made responsible for the quiet and good government of the country on the Queen's behalf, but this plan was rejected, and for many years no step was taken. When, during Sir George Carey's[1] short term of office as Deputy, the dreaded sheriffs appeared in the North as a preliminary to the appointment of Chichester (then governor of Carrickfergus) as President, Tyrone openly refused obedience to any save to her Majesty and her Deputy, and the scheme fell through; though the military districts into which the country was divided up did not differ from it in principle. "Rather than live under the like yoke and considering the misery he saw endured by others under the like government," he exclaimed, "he would sooner pass all to himself than abide it." The second immediate cause of O'Neill's flight was the oft-mooted plantation of Ulster with Scotch and English settlers. The idea of plantations had been much in the air. The settlements of English in Virginia overseas, the writings of Bacon, the experiments of Sir Thomas Smith and Essex in the North, and of the Munster planters in the South, had turned men's minds toward the project during Elizabeth's reign; but the attempts hitherto made in Ireland had not proved very encouraging. Essex's plantation was a failure, and in the South of Ireland many of the estates had reverted to representatives of the original owners. The settlers either did not come or were driven out by the old proprietors, who made continual onslaughts upon them; or they were frightened away by the disturbances in the province. But the idea was not dead, and when James I came to the throne he looked to a new plantation in Ulster as a means of rewarding his Scottish adherents and of increasing his own revenues. On the one hand, his counsellors were representing the plantation as a work of God, put by extraordinary fortune into his hands to carry out; on the other, the officers and soldiers who had fought in the wars of Ulster were pressing for the lands that had been promised as their reward. The departure of the Earls afforded the opportunity for which all were impatiently waiting, and no time was lost in taking the work in hand.[2]

Ever since the days of de Courcy parts of the North had been settled by Anglo-Norman families, and Lecale, the present Co. Down, was studded with castles and castellated towers dating from their occupation. The old planters--the Savages, Russells, FitzSimons, Awdleys, Jordans, and Bensons--remained on their lands, in close proximity to the family of Magennis and the O'Neills of Clannaboy. Sir Arthur Magennis was the most Anglicized; he had become so 'civil ' that he gave up bonaght, paid rent to the Queen, and wore English clothes every festival-day; he could still, in 1586, put sixty horse and eighty foot into the field. Clannaboy was owned by Sir Con MacNeill Oge, a warlike chieftain, who so annoyed the citizens of Carrickfergus by his raids and depredations that they offered to pay Sorley Boy MacDonnell £20 in wine, silk, and saffron to defend them from him. He was kept quiet in the castle at Dublin, where he was sent as prisoner, and most of North Clannaboy had been given to Sir Bryan MacPhelim.

The Scots had a strong hold in Antrim, and the Queen's reinstatement of the MacConnells or MacDonnells on the old Byset estates had established their claim to the Glynnes or Glens of Antrim. Parts of Clannaboy were held by the Clan-Donell, while the MacGills, Macaulays, and Clan-Alister occupied the coasts on the north-east. The Route, claimed by the MacQuillans, contained the ruins of forts and monasteries built by the Normans, but they had been driven into a corner near the Bann. In the main, the province east of the Bann remained Irish until the plantation, with a large admixture of Scots, though certain portions, such as the Newry and the Mourne district, had been handed over to Sir Nicholas Bagenal and other Englishmen. The only English fort east of the Bann was Carrickfergus (then usually called Knockfergus); they held also Carlingford Lough. West of the Bann the country was in 1586 purely Irish. Except the forts of Dungannon and Charlemont west of Lough Neagh, with a portion of land round them, and the distant and isolated forts of Culmore and Derry on Lough Foyle and of Ballyshannon on Donegal Bay, no part of the vast stretch of country lying between Lough Neagh and the Atlantic, including the present counties of Londonderry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, and Donegal, was in the possession of the English.[3]

There is no doubt that the departure of Tyrone and Tyrconnel gave the Government the opportunity for which it had been waiting. Chichester, who had become Lord Deputy in 1605, writes joyfully to the King that "all will now be his Majesty's," and follows this up with the proposal of driving out all the inhabitants of Tyrone, Tyrconnel, and Fermanagh with their goods and cattle to inhabit waste lands across the Bann, the Blackwater, and Lough Erne, which he holds to be "an honest and laudable act, void of iniquity and cruelty." It is difficult to realize what sort of act would have seemed wrong or cruel to Chichester. Nor is it clear why flight from their country should involve forfeiture of the Earls' lands. But the vast confiscation had been long contemplated, and Tyrone was hardly reported out of the country when Sir Thomas Phillips, an old 'servitor ' who had seen service both on the Continent and in Ireland, and who had been rewarded with an early grant of land east of the Bann, put in a claim for "a good share of Tyrone's land" near Coleraine to plant with English. He became one of the most active and successful of the planters. The King, who shortly before had received Tyrone with honour, now approved of the forfeiture of his estates, adding the instruction that Scottish planters were to be admitted with the English; that he preferred English who had been 'servitors,' i.e., who had served with the armies of the Crown in Ireland, rather than new men from England; that plots of land were not to be too large or bestowed on needy persons; and that the Irish of good note and desert were to have plots and were to be treated with respect and favour--excellent suggestions, some of which were grounded on experience gained through the failure of the Munster plantation, with its vast, ill-defined grants.

The lands for disposal included not only the districts under the direct sway of the two exiled Earls, but the large portions of Fermanagh vacated by Cuconnacht Maguire, who accompanied the Earls in their flight, the property of O'Kane (O'Cahain), and the property of Inishowen west of Lough Foyle. This belonged to the brave but unfortunate Sir Cahir O'Doherty, whose lands were forfeited after his brief revolt arising out of an altercation between him and the deputy-governor of Derry, one Pawlett, whose arrogance and inexperience wholly unfitted him for the post. Sir Cahir was slain in a skirmish in July 1608, just as the first commissioners were setting out for the North, one of the matters with which they were charged being to determine whether he had died in actual rebellion, thus securing his attainder and the immediate resumption of his lands by the Crown. Chichester himself was an early applicant for Sir Cahir O'Doherty's property, with its valuable fishings on the island of Inch, on which he had long set his mind. It is difficult to acquit him of having purposely delayed to read the letter written by the King just before Sir Cahir's outbreak into revolt, ordering the restoration of his estates, some part of which had been granted away to Sir Ralph Bingley. Chichester's own application for the property was received in London, and the rights passed to him, before this important letter was opened, and by this ruse Chichester secured to himself, in addition to the lands he got from 'defective titles,' a revenue of £10,000, and Inishowen, besides an extensive tract of land about the present city of Belfast. There had been a castle on this spot since Norman days; but the modern city dates from Chichester's occupation. The castle and lands were granted to him in 1612, when he brought over immigrants from Devon to people the district; in 1613 it received its charter of incorporation with the right to send two members to Parliament.[4] It was O'Doherty's country that brought him his large income; otherwise he purchased his estates and "never asked for advancement, though he grumbled like a right Western man." O'Kane's country of Cianachta stretched from the eastern side of Lough Foyle along the coast to the Bann, and inland across the great forests of Glenconkeine and Killitragh, which yielded as fine timber as could be found in any part of the British dominions. On this valuable property cattle were raised in large numbers, and from old days a trade had been carried on in the skins of red deer, sheep, squirrels, martens, and rabbits, which were shipped to Brabant, then the centre of trade for the North of Europe.[5] The fisheries both on the Bann and along the coast were of great excellence, and attracted the industrious Dutch fishermen and the Spaniards, Philip II having made a treaty with O'Kane for fishing on his coast. The quantities of herrings taken after Michaelmas "brought yearly above seven or eight score sail of his Majesty's subjects and strangers for lading, besides an infinite number of boats for fishing and killing."[6] Such was the report of the agents of the London Companies sent over to inspect the country in 1609. There were, besides pearl-fisheries in Lough Foyle, multitudes of wild fowl of all kinds, and materials for house and ship building in plenty. All over the North corn, rye, peas, and beans were grown; the report says that they were raised in such quantities that they could not only supply their own neighbourhood, "but also furnish the city of London yearly with manifold provision, for their fleets especially." Hemp and flax grew there more freely than elsewhere, and the linen yarn spun was finer and more plentiful than in the rest of the kingdom. The O'Kanes had been a powerful clan, and it was the duty of the chief of the house to cast the gold sandal over the head of the O'Neill on his election at Tullahogue; his three castles and richly endowed monasteries testified to the wealth as well as to the piety of the family.

Among those whose lands were now declared forfeited were several who had been found on the English side during the recent rebellions, and it was no doubt of these chiefs that the King was thinking when he gave directions that Irish of good note and desert were to be treated with respect and favour. But, in the scramble for land that followed, the claims of these men were forgotten, or they had to be content with plots which must have seemed small indeed beside their former rich possessions. Young Maolmora O'Reilly, whose father was slain at the battle of the Yellow Ford, fighting on the English side, received only a small portion of his own lands in County Cavan, though his mother was a niece of the Duke of Ormonde; and Conor Roe Maguire, who had taken the Government side and had been given three baronies of the Maguire lands in Fermanagh, also had to be content with a fragment of the estate shortly before bestowed upon him. Such men became, in fact, merely undertakers, like any other applicants, and took such portions as they received under the same conditions. A like fate befell the septs of the MacSweeneys, or MacSwynes, on Lough Swilly, and the O'Boyles and O'Gallaghers, both Donegal clans. The MacSwynes had been so warlike a race that it was commonly said that the chief with whom they sided was certain to carry off victory, though all Ireland were ranged against him. Sidney found the clan "grown to such credit and force that, though they were no lords of lands themselves, they would make the greatest lords of the province both fear them and be glad of their friendship." [7] Maolmora of the Club, or Staff, claimed to be descended from "Swaine, King of Norway," and he kept up the ferocious habits suitable to this ancestry. He and his men were freebooters with a strong dash of the pirate. For a refractory tribesman to be brained by the club of his chief was in his eyes an honour; the lesser criminals were hung out over the parapets of the castle in "gads" by their fellow-clansmen.[8] Others of the race believed themselves to be descended from Suibhne (Sweeney) Menn, monarch of Ireland 622-635. They were linked in kinship with the O'Neills, but in the sixteenth century they usually fought on the side of the O'Donnells, and they fell with their ruin. The blind bard Tadhg O'Higgin describes with much warmth the hospitalities of Maolmora MacSweeney's house, the great concourse of poets gathered round him, who stood up and pledged him in ale quaffed "from golden goblets and beakers of horn" till they retired to rest a while before dawn.[9] The MacSweeneys were looked to as holding the balance of power in the North between the two predominant clans, but the quarrels between different branches of their own house, the MacSweeney Fanad and MacSweeney Doe (i.e., na dtuadh, "of the axes"), occupied too much of their attention to allow of any such clear policy, and they fought on all sides indiscriminately--as often against their own kin as against outsiders. Though Sidney believed they possessed no lands, these septs claimed to be freeholders by letters patent; and Chichester says that any settlers sent to replace them must be very powerful to suppress them; "to displant them is very difficult." In the end they too were admitted to some portions as undertakers, under similar terms with the strangers. Among others who claimed indisputable rights in the land were merchants of the Pale to whom Tyrconnel had, in the time of his distress, mortgaged "great scopes of land for small sums of money," and the widows and mothers of the great chiefs, among whom were the Ineen Dubh MacDonnell, mother of Hugh Roe, the widows of Maguire and O'Boyle, and the mother of O'Reilly. Davies found it convenient, on various grounds, to find all these titles "void or voidable in English law" so that the pretenders "are left entirely to his Majesty's grace and bounty."[10] There was little chance that justice would be done to these claimants. By Irish law women did not inherit; by English law the merchant conveyances became void because they had received them from O'Donnell. If, in any case their legal rights seemed clear, it was always possible to point to the sweeping act of confiscation passed on the downfall of Shane O'Neill (11th Elizabeth), "the dead case," as the Attorney-General Davies called it, as a cause through which they had been forfeited. With so many loopholes for legal casuistry to exercise its gifts upon, it would be difficult for any desirable property to escape forfeiture, or for any rights to be upheld. In the final distribution, however, their jointures were continued to these ladies of rank for their lives, with reversion to the Irish or to the Crown, though several of them were removed from their own homes and settled in other districts.[11] Some of them appear to have sunk into great poverty, for they were without protection, and most of them were aged. Their position and power were gone, and their Irish tenants, even more than the undertakers, seem to have taken advantage of their loneliness and their defenceless position. There are letters from Sir Donal O'Kane about his wife and from Sir Niall Garbh O'Donnell about his sister, which show the straits into which these women were driven. Both letters were written from the Tower of London in 1613, where O'Donnell and O'Kane were incarcerated. The Council in London writes to Chichester that "after long attendance here" the ladies are returning to Ireland, and they have asked for some means to carry them over, since their tenants, to whom under the Irish system they have granted out cattle, have refused to make any repayment or to supply them with any means. Lists of the tenants' names and the number of cows placed with them are enclosed. These lists are of great interest, for they show that the old Irish method of loaning out cattle to the tenants was still in common use at the beginning of the seventeenth century. In the later days of the plantation it is a frequent source of complaint that those tenants who still held by this old system of 'commins' from the reduced chiefs, who were now unable to enforce their rights, took advantage of their freedom to decline to pay their dues. They drove the cattle they had received from these Irish lords into 'creaghts' or lonely places, and would neither give them up nor pay for them in kind, as they had been accustomed to do. Their masters, who had plots of land allotted to them by the Government, but no cattle to place on them, were left without any means of subsistence, and often had to take to the wild life of the wood-kerne and robber, as so many of the swordsmen had done, simply from helplessness to enforce their authority over their own tenants. They were far worse off than the tenants themselves. In the case of the two ladies belonging to the captives in the Tower, Chichester appears to have exerted himself to recover their dues, for the letters preserved are written to thank him for his intervention on their behalf.[12] Nevertheless, when, some time afterward, the Duchess of Buckingham, being in the neighbourhood of Limavady, visited Sir Donal's widow, her husband having died in the Tower in 1628, she found her "sitting on her bent hams before a fire of branches, wrapped in a blanket, in a half-ruined edifice of which the windows were stuffed with straw." If the men found it hard to exact their dues under the new conditions, it is little wonder that a lonely widow, without friends, should have fallen into utter poverty.

Another lady, wife of Sir Cormac MacBaron O'Neill, was in hardly better condition. During a tour in the North, Sir Humphrey Winche, Chief Justice, "little Winch of Lincoln's Inn," as Chamberlayn calls him, was forced owing to ill-health to halt a night at her house. Her husband, too, was prisoner in the Tower. "His lady gave them house-room, but had neither bread, drink, meat, nor linen to welcome them, yet kindly helped them to two or three muttons from her tenants." Sir Cormac had proposed, on the flight of his half-brother Tyrone, that he should be made custodian of his lands, apparently for the purpose of preserving the rents in case of Tyrone's return, but the Government distrusted his intentions and placed him in custody. Another of the same family, Sir Art MacBaron O'Neill, elder half-brother to Tyrone, was removed from his own estate in Armagh, in the district called after him Oneilan, to a proportion of two thousand acres in Orier. In the wars in which his family were involved he had taken the English side. He and his wife were now very aged, and he begged that the new grant should be made out in the joint names of himself and his wife, so that if she survived him she might not be left in poverty, a request that was readily granted, as it induced the old couple to remove at once.[13] How such people managed to live, cut off from all their old associations, without any dwelling ready to receive them or retainers to work for them, it is difficult to imagine. Even to the Commissioners in London the whole problem seemed to require "the greatest and most serious consideration." When it came to the point it was indeed found incapable of realization. The old inhabitants were first reprieved, because it was found that the new settlers did not come over by any means so promptly as was expected; and when they began slowly to filter into the country, often without the workmen they had stipulated to bring with them, they found that they would die of starvation if the country-people left and drove away their cattle. They needed them for building and for service, and they found that they were willing to pay high rents in order to be left in their old districts. A mutual sense of need induced a mutual sense of protection; being on the spot, they saved the cost of bringing over English and Scottish labourers. They were contented and at home, while the newcomers felt entirely at a loss in the new conditions. In consequence, numbers of them never removed, but settled down, after the great upheaval, as tenants to the new settlers. Their descendants remain to this day all over the country.

It fell to Sir Arthur Chichester to carry out the proposals for the Plantation of Ulster. He brought to his Irish administration the ability, avarice, and ruthlessness which were combined in so many of the leading figures of the age. His recipe for the ills of Ireland was one common in his day: "famine to consume them; English manners to reform them." "I wish the rebels and their countries in all parts of Ireland were like these; they starve miserably and eat dogs, mares, and garrons where they can get them. When they are down, it must be good laws, severe punishments, abolishing their ceremonies and customs in religion, etc., that must bridle them."[14] Elsewhere he writes: "I have often said and written that it is famine that must consume them; our swords and other endeavours work not that speedy effect which is expected." Chichester had as his right-hand man the Solicitor-General for Ireland, Sir John Davies, who accompanied him when, as Deputy, to which post he was raised in 1605, he made those tours of the northern province which determined the course of action to be followed in regard to the plantation. Davies was a man of active, inquiring mind, and to him we owe. a considered study of The True Causes why Ireland was never entirely subdued, a masterly sketch of English dealings in the country up to his own time.[15] His ready pen and aptitude of description were employed in reports and letters describing his own and the Deputy's tours in various parts of the country. He was a voluminous poet of a didactic kind, vain of his classical attainments, and shrewd in his judgments. But he did not hesitate to fit the law to his proceedings if he thought the King, of whom he was a most loyal sycophant, could be served thereby; and his legal judgments varied as circumstances required to serve the purposes in view. He was more deeply engaged in making the most of present opportunities than influenced by abstract ideas of right or justice.

In the original plan of the settlement, before the flight of the Earls, the chief aim in view seems to have been the sweeping away of tanistry with a regrant of lands to tenants holding directly from the Crown. The native titles of MacMahon, Maguire, and O'Reilly were to be extinguished and a repartition of the counties of Monaghan, Cavan, and Fermanagh made. We may give Chichester the credit of believing that he honestly conceived that his scheme of settling the surviving peasants upon the land as freeholders, when the awful famine had done its work, would be the beginning of a new prosperity for the North. He determined to set them free from the authority and exactions of their chiefs and to give them lands of their own, to be held for a fixed rent directly from the Crown. A tour was undertaken by Davies before the flight of the Earls, probably in 1606, to inquire into the present conditions on which the chief lords and inferior gentry and inhabitants of these counties held their lands under the native system, but he finds himself uncertain whether the smaller holders were tenants-at-will or not; a certain number of such as were fit to serve on juries were, however, created freeholders, and of these in Monaghan alone there were found to be over two hundred.[16] The condition of the Church is described as deplorable, the churches lying in ruins and their lands waste, many of the new Protestant parsons and vicars "poor, ragged, ignorant creatures, whom ten parishes united would not maintain in decency," and the Bishop of Kilmore with the best parsonage in the kingdom holding neither service nor sermon in either of his dioceses, "but diligent in visiting his barbarous clergy to make benefit out of their insufficiency, according to the proverb that an Irish priest is better than a milch cow."[17]

But these preliminary steps, which have some show of justice and equity, were but the first warnings of the gigantic confiscations of Tyrone, Derry, and Donegal which followed on the flight. We have seen that during his visit to the North Davies was unable to determine whether the inhabitants were freeholders or tenants-at-will. In Fermanagh "the greatest part of the inhabitants did claim to be freeholders, who, surviving the late rebellion, had never been attainted, but, having received his Majesty's pardon stood upright in the law, so that we could not clearly entitle the Crown to their lands." Thus the project of plantation was hampered by the quietude of the inhabitants, whom there seemed no excuse to evict from their holdings. But reflection opened to Davies's mind a way out of the difficulty. Later in the year, while travelling in Munster, he writes to Salisbury that he has to make to him "an overture of a matter of good advantage which I confess I understood not before my last journey into Ulster." He then makes the iniquitous suggestion that by the Act of the nth Elizabeth, on the conclusion of the wars with Shane O'Neill, all lands were vested in the Crown, and consequently O'Kane's country and all the old freeholders' possessions in Tyrone "are actually and really in his Majesty's hands and the tenants are for the most part intruders upon his Majesty's possession."[18] Davies proposes to include them all in the sweeping Act of confiscation, which was to transfer their properties to English or Scottish settlers.

In 1608-09 took place commissions ordered by James I for the purpose of (a) a survey of the escheated lands, (b) assizes for the trial of men detained in gaol since the last rebellions, and (c) to find that O'Doherty had died in actual rebellion, which would make his lands forfeit to the Crown. All three went on together, the second being simplified by the refusal of the jurors to convict and by the previous clearance from the gaols of large numbers of persons who had been committed, on account of the difficulty of guarding them. Chichester and Davies were accompanied by Sir Thomas Ridgeway, Treasurer, and "they took time by the forelock," Davies having undertaken before Michaelmas "to present a perfect survey of six several counties which the King has now in demesne and actual possession in this province; which is a greater extent of land than any prince of Europe has to dispose of." Chichester's intimate acquaintance with the province supplied the necessary notes and instructions, and Davies sent in from time to time reports of their progress, which supply much valuable information as to the state of the North at that time. The appearance of the stately cavalcade among the wild mountains to the west of the Carntogher range filled the inhabitants with astonishment. "They wondered as much to see the King's Deputy as the ghosts in Virgil wondered to see Aeneas alive in hell." They wondered still more when they were called together to be told, in long legal discourses, that his Majesty "may and ought to dispose of these lands, as he is about to do, in law, in conscience, and in honour." The owners retained a lawyer of the Pale to plead their rights and to claim the benefit of the proclamation made only five years before, whereby the persons, lands, and goods of all his Majesty's subjects were taken into his royal protection; but against the arguments set forth by the Attorney-General such pleas were powerless. The arguments were, indeed, only excuses to give a show of justice to a fixed resolve. The total of the escheated lands amounted to nearly 3,798,000 acres, of which about 55,000 acres were reserved for Irish of different ranks. An attempt was made to avoid the loose grants which had proved a failure in Munster by parcelling the lands out in quantities of 2000, 1500, and 1000 acres with a proportionate quantity of wood; though one applicant, old Lord Audley, made an application for 100,000 acres in Tyrone, "the fairest and goodliest country in Ireland universal," as Sir T. Cusack had called it in 1553, which was more than the estimated total quantity to be divided in that county. "He is an ancient nobleman ready to undertake much," is Chichester's cynical remark on this offer; but like many others made by the undertakers it was soon to be shown that his proposals far exceeded his power to pay or to plant.

The applicants for lands were of three kinds: English and Scottish undertakers; servitors, or officials and soldiers who had served in Ireland; and Irish. The King favoured the Scots, of whom Chichester had the worst opinion, counting them "worse than Irishmen"; but applications from the Lowlands came pouring in from needy Scots, who thought to build up new fortunes in the sister-isle. It was decided that towns were to be built in Derry and Coleraine on the choice lands with excellent fishing in sea and river already appropriated to their own use by Chichester, Phillips, and Sir Randal MacDonnell, who most unwillingly exchanged them for larger grants elsewhere. A formidable difficulty was the great extent of the lands claimed by the Church. Though Davies had correctly shown that the 'termon,' or Church and monastic lands, were not the private property of the bishop, any more than the tribe lands were the property of the chief, but were held from time immemorial for the Church by lay administrators, the redoubtable Bishop Montgomery of Derry claimed all the Church lands as his own property, and the newcomers had to fight him step by step. He wrestled so well that out of 6343 acres he secured three-fourths for his personal use, and invited over several other members of his family. The Dean claimed 373 acres, but the commission had to insist on provision being made for the poor incumbents, the bishops moving a petition for compensation for the loss. Chichester, in reference to the bishops, speaks of the "insatiable humours of craving men." These church lands became a chief refuge for the Irish people who had always lived on them and who were preferred to strangers; so that, though by their covenants the bishops were bound to plant one-third with British, in practice these lands remained largely Irish districts. The total of Church properties in Ulster amounted to over 68,000 acres.

Meanwhile, in London, large properties had been put up for sale and, largely through the King's personal influence, the problems of a special "London Company" plantation in Ulster were discussed, and a party of three gentlemen representing the City Companies went over to prospect. Their report, intended to tempt buyers, was so encouraging that the lands were taken up at once on the London market. They found good lands, very fair woods, and rivers. The natural resources included skins of animals, salmon, eels, yarn, pipe-staves, tallow, and hides, besides "ore from which a smith can make iron before one's face and turn that in less than one hour into steel." A lottery was held in London, and the City Companies formed themselves into twelve groups, which were to divide out the allotted lands between them. Thus came into existence, on January 28, 1609-10, what became known as "The Irish Society," for the management of the Irish estates incorporated by charter in 1613; and the ancient city of Derry took the name of Londonderry, by which it has been known ever since.[19] The lands were to be held by the three classes to whom they were granted by different tenures; English and Scottish undertakers must plant with English and lowland Scots only; their grants were of 2000 and 1500 acres respectively, holding by knight's service in capite, or of 1,000 acres, holding by the same service, but of Dublin Castle and not of the King, like the larger holders. They were to be free from rent for two years, but were bound to build a castle, a house of brick or stone, or a court or bawn according to their rank, and to see that their followers also built themselves houses. The second body of planters were the servitors, army officers and officials who might plant either with British or Irish, and who held in fee-farm; they also must build and settle within two years. The third body were the old inhabitants, who were to be freeholders and were to build a strong court or bawn. Timber was given free, and for five years all planters could import, duty free, all personal necessaries, and for seven years they might transport their own produce free of custom. The terms to the Irish inhabitants, though hedged about with stipulations against alienating property once it was taken up, were far from unjust. They were, considering the ideas of the day, even generous. It would really seem to have been Chichester's design to settle a contented peasantry on the soil. Serfdom was abolished, and though the Irish must reside on the plains, under the eye of the servitors, to keep a watch on their movements, this resulted in practice in planting them on some of the best lands. The Ulster plantation was probably the only attempt made in that day of plantations to provide for the original inhabitants at all; having wiped out the chiefs, the peasants were thought to be harmless. Davies is probably right in saying that, among a series of plantations of which he knew, none other had taken the poorer classes into consideration.[20] Whatever might be the after difficulties arising from the mixture of races in the North, there is no doubt that the retention of the old inhabitants was one main cause of the final success of the plantation.

But the immediate prospect of moving the Irish in possession from their old homes, and parcelling them out into new districts among the servitors, few of whom had as yet appeared in the North, was one before which even Chichester quailed as the time drew near, and it is no wonder that several members of the party who were to have accompanied him to carry out this business suddenly bethought them of their age and impotence of body, of the foulness of the ways and the ill-lodging they would find in Ulster, when they were called upon to start. Chichester had just received this report from Sir Toby Caulfeild: "Touching the natives, it will shortly be many of their cases to be wood-kerne out of necessity, no other means being left them to keep a being in this world. . . . They hope that the summer being spent, so great cruelty will not be offered as to remove them from their houses upon the edge of the winter and in the very season when they are to supply themselves in making their harvest." [21] Large numbers did indeed become outlaws, especially the swordsmen and larger holders, who would not consent to hold their lands under the newcomers; they took to the woods and they and their sons became ready material for the rebellion of revenge of 1641. Others went with Colonel Stewart, who was enrolling bands of mercenaries to take part in the wars of Sweden; but of the thousand who volunteered, or were sent away, the larger number were driven back by storms into English harbours, and made their escape. Besides the few greater chiefs who received grants of land for life in different parts of the country, there remained of the peasant population large numbers who preferred to stay in their old districts and pay good rents to the new landlords or to settle on the Church lands as tenants, the commissioners finding that the words 'transplanting' or 'removing' were "as welcome as the sentence of death." The undertakers were slow in coming over, and this gave the Irish a reprieve, as it was perceived by the authorities that there would be no sowing for the next harvest if they were ordered off their lands. When the new owners did begin to dribble in, many of them were quite unable from want of capital, or the difficulty of persuading workmen to come over, to fulfil the conditions of the plantation. Few of them were men adapted to the work of building up a new country, "much defect being observed, even by the Irish themselves, in their proceedings."

A large number of them had taken up lands purely as a speculation, to sell again if they were allowed to do so; others, like the City Companies, sent over agents ill provided with money to pay workmen, or without men to build the stipulated houses and bawns. There was little to induce labourers to volunteer, for though the Government had fixed the conditions and rents for the planters they made no terms for the working immigrants, and the large undertakers took full advantage of this oversight.[22] Numbers who came soon became disheartened and took the first opportunity to go home again; the more determined who struggled on found themselves dependent, in a large number of cases, on the help and experience of the Irish who were living on the lands when they arrived. Their markets supplied provisions, and their cattle provided milk; their labour was needed not only for the next harvest, but for carrying out the preliminary work of the plantation as builders and labourers. In order to remain, they were ready to pay higher rents than the English and Scots, who, like their masters, had come over in the hope of making their fortunes, and were often equally impecunious. Thus, as time passed on, mutual necessity brought about mutual accommodation; and one report after another complains of the retention of the inhabitants on their old holdings long after the time arranged for in the Plantation leases.[23] In fact the plans proposed in London could not be carried out, and at the beginning of the reign of Charles I the Ulster landlords generally were found to have systematically violated the law enjoining the removal of the inhabitants, and a later Act was required in 1626, which stipulated that only a fourth part of the undertaker's properties should be let to Irish, and that they should be gathered into villages and not allowed as heretofore to live scattered over the estates; but in 1629 it was found that this order had been likewise ignored, for the people remained in their old districts, though they were called upon to build better dwellings and as far as was possible to adhere to such rules as those of wearing English dress, learning English, and sending their children to school. Those who took to 'creaghting,' or wandering about with their cattle, disappeared into the woods and mountains, and multiplied in a reckless and improvident fashion, having nothing to hold them in restraint; they held their own markets and they supplied the 'wood-kerne' with food and often with shelter. Pynnar's survey in 1618-19 shows that numbers still remained on the estates. The condition of the plantation hardly looked promising. A Presbyterian minister writing in 1645 or later describes the first-comers as "in general, the scum of both nations (Scottish and English); ... all void of godliness, who seemed rather to flee from God in this enterprise than to follow their own mercy; made up of different names, nations, dialects, temper, breeding": not the sort of people under whom a plantation could prosper.[24] Reporting to Salisbury about the close of 1610, Chichester writes: "The undertakers from England are, for the most part, plain country gentlemen, who may promise much, but give small assurance or hope of performing what appertains to a work of such moment. . . . The Scottishmen come with greater port and better accompanied and attended, but it may be with less money in their purses; for some of the principal of them . . . were forthwith in hand with the natives to supply their wants; and in recompense thereof promise to get licence from his Majesty that these may remain upon their lands as tenants unto them, which is so pleasing to that people, that they will strain themselves to the uttermost to gratify them, for they are content to become tenants to any man rather than to be removed from the place of their birth and education, hoping [as he conceives] at one time or other, to find an opportunity to cut their landlords' throats; for they hate the Scotch deadly, and out of their malice towards them they begin to affect the English better than they were accustomed. . . . He [Chichester] will do his best to prevent their revolt, but greatly doubts it, for they are infinitely discontented." [25]

The Scots came in greater numbers than the English, as the King had desired. They offered to take up 75,000 acres, but later their demands rose to 137,000 acres. A revenue officer who visited the London Companies' estates in 1637 found the English but weak and few in number, "there being not forty houses in Londonderry of English of any note, who for the most part barely live," The Scots he finds are twenty to one of the English; having privy trade in the town and country they thrive and grow rich. The Irish for the most part beg, "the reward of their idleness."[26] There is no doubt that, of the two races, the Scots made the best planters. Not only were they nearer geographically to headquarters, and able to bring across their tenants and send back their produce with greater facility than the Londoners, but the conditions were similar to those in their own country, and they were more hardy, persevering, and inured to discomfort. The Londoners came reluctantly; they felt no interest in the work of plantation, and only looked on the enterprise from the purely commercial point of view. They were more ready to collect their rents than to expend money on improvements, and were dissatisfied if they did not receive an immediate return for their outlay, forgetting Chichester's maxim that they must needs "abide some storms before coming to a profitable harvest." Sir Thomas Phillips, himself an experienced and energetic planter who had done much to prepare his lands at Coleraine before he was obliged to hand them over to the City Companies, sent in a severe report, which amply confirms the results of Pynnar's survey made between December 1618 and March 1619. In many cases the English had merely sent over agents and took no personal interest in the plantation. Others, on the other hand, were doing well; houses and schools were springing up, roads were being made, and villages of the tenants were in process of construction, the Merchant Taylors' settlement being particularly commended in this respect.

An interesting account of the conditions in Ulster in the early days of the plantation is given by one of the planters, Thomas Blennerhassett, in an address to Prince Henry. The picture he draws is sombre: "Despoiled she [Ulster] presents herself, as it were, in a ragged sad sabled robe, ragged, indeed, [for] there remaineth nothing but ruins and desolation, with very little show of any humanity. Of herself she aboundeth with the very best blessings of God; amongst the other provinces belonging to Great Britain's Imperial crown, not much inferior to any." Again, he says that "only the Majesty of her naked personage remains to Ulster, which even in that plight is such that whosoever shall seek and search all Europe's best bowers, shall not find many that may make with her comparison." His object in addressing the Prince is, he says, "in order that the never-satisfied desires of the few should not quite disgrace and utterly overthrow the good, exceeding good purposes of many." He speaks of the 60,000 acres of escheated lands in the North of Ireland, and of the difficulty of getting English to come over, while all the time the Irish "do increase ten to one more than the English, nay, I might say twenty to one." He appeals to men of all ranks to come over to this free land where all sorts of attractions await them, and the dangers are "nothing so much as amongst good fellows it is to be beastly drunk at home." Yet he admits that there are dangers as well from the cruel wood-kerne and other suspicious Irish as from the devouring wolf, and that even at Sir Toby Caulfeild's fort of Charlemont "of many others the best, well furnished with men and munitions," his people, even now "in this fair time of quiet," are obliged every night to lay up all his cattle in ward, "for, do what they can, the wolf and the wood-kerne have oft-times a share; nay, Sir John King and Sir Henry Harington, dwelling within half a mile of Dublin, do also the like." [27]

There gradually grew up a loose system of contract between proprietors and their cottiers which became known as the "Ulster Custom," which protected the rent-payer from those impositions that were so common in other parts of Ireland. Though it was not legalized until the passing of Gladstone's Land Bill of 1870, it was generally observed, and it made the condition of the peasant of the North much less grievous than it was in many parts of the country. It will be necessary to speak of this unwritten agreement at a later date. In 1632 the plantation of Derry was nearly brought to an end by Charles I, chiefly through the machinations of the Protestant Bishop of Derry, Bramhall, who represented that the original articles had not been carried out, and of Phillips, who urged that the London Charter should be revoked. In 1637 Charles, hungry for fresh sources of income, actually cancelled the Charter and seized the properties into his own hands, installing Bramhall as receiver. The enormous sum of £70,000 was extorted from the owners, and in spite of the efforts of the City of London the judgment remained uncancelled at the time of the outbreak of the 1641 rebellion and was not reversed until the Restoration.

The Ulster settlers, too, were constantly harassed on religious grounds The Presbyterians suffered severely during Wentworth's government. He and his close friend Laud worked together to enforce on the Irish Episcopalians a rigid High Church system of theology to which the country was averse; and it was their endeavour to oblige Catholic and Presbyterian alike to attend the Episcopal Church or to use in their service the forms laid down in the Book of Common Prayer. In Ireland this Church had been seeking a middle way to meet on friendly terms both the Puritan settlers from the City Companies about Derry and Coleraine and the Presbyterian Scottish of Antrim and Down. Trinity College, Dublin, under such men as Ussher and Bedell, who, however widely they differed in character and temperament, were at one in the almost Puritan simplicity of their religious views, was educating men whose creed had little in common with the high clerical pretensions of Laud and Wentworth. Ussher, a man of profound learning, who bequeathed his large library to the college over which he presided as Vice-Chancellor, and who afterward became successively Bishop of Meath and Primate of Ireland, was the author of a form of confession which aimed at retaining the Puritan body within the Church. Its pronounced Calvinistic views, and its recognition of the validity of ordination by presbyters, approximated it to the teaching of both the Presbyterians and Puritans. Old Bishop Knox of Raphoe assisted at the ordination of Presbyterian ministers along with presbyters, and the Primate approved the omission of such parts of the Prayer Book services as were objected to by the Presbyterians. All met and prayed in common. When the Presbyterian Mr. Blair came from Glasgow to Co. Down, having become weary, as Regent of the college, "of so long trafficking with Aristotle," he found a true friend in Ussher, who supported him against the menaces of Wentworth and the deposition of his bishops.[28] Blair and Livingston, the latter a noted Puritan, having visited Ussher at his house at Tredath (Drogheda) to protest against his use of the Book of Common Prayer in his family devotions, came away with the conviction that the Primate was not only a learned but a godly man, "though a bishop."

One Protestant bishop was beloved by the people. This was the saintly Bishop Bedell, a fellow of Oxford and past Provost of Trinity College, thrown by fate, some years before the outbreak of the rebellion, into the lonely and neglected diocese of Kilmore (Co. Cavan). Unlike Ussher, who was so violent a controversialist that on one occasion, after a fiery attack on Romanism from the pulpit of St. Patrick's, he was officially advised to go down and attend to the business of his diocese in Meath, Bedell was the friend of 'Puritan' and 'Papist' alike. He found the cathedral and his own house level with the ground and the parish churches all ruined, unroofed, and unrepaired. His clergy were poor and trying to eke out a living by holding two or more vicarages apiece, while the Catholic clergy were in great strength, and in the full exercise of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. It was one main purpose of Bedell's life to introduce the use of the Irish language into the services and preaching of the clergy of the Episcopal Church, and he declined to appoint any ministers who were not well-versed in the Irish tongue and of exemplary life. "On examining him, I found him a very raw divine and unable to read Irish, and therefore excused myself for not admitting him," he wrote of a clergyman who had come to him with a recommendation from Parsons. The applicant must have been astonished to find the despised tongue of the country demanded as a qualification for a Protestant living. Bedell himself learned the language in middle life, while he was Provost of Trinity College, as an example to the students whom he urged to join Irish classes. So thoroughly did he master it, that he drew up an Irish catechism and forms of prayer for his diocese, and carried out, mainly with his own hand, a translation of the Bible which was long the only complete translation in Irish existing. He printed it at his own expense in 1649.

On the quiet and conciliatory work of such men, Episcopalians and Presbyterians alike, scattered sparsely about the north, the Erastian doctrines and practices of Laud and Wentworth had fallen like a blow. They sent down men of quite a different type, who were instructed to enforce conformity on the northern churches or to close them and silence their ministers. A number of the leading preachers were deposed, and finding themselves prohibited from carrying on their ministry a body of a hundred and forty Presbyterians, clerical and lay, determined to leave Ireland and seek liberty of opinion and worship in America. On September 9, 1636, they loosed from Lough Foyle and after a tempestuous passage reached the coasts of Newfoundland. But the storms were so furious that they were unable to land, and they had finally to return home, a disappointed and tempest-tossed crew. They found their people flying in great numbers to Scotland to escape the fines and punishments inflicted upon them in Ulster, and the coasts of Ayr and Wigtown became peopled with refugees, whom most of the returned emigrants speedily joined. They found the Presbyterians of Scotland in an equal state of excitement against the introduction of the canons and liturgy which the English Church was endeavouring to force upon them, as upon Ulster. The National Covenant in support of their religious rights was being eagerly renewed, and in the spring of 1638 it was subscribed to by thousands of persons of all ranks throughout the kingdom. Wentworth was not to be warned. He met the fresh appeals for liberty of worship with the Black Oath and the Black Band, The former, to be taken on their knees, and imposed on every man and woman of the Scottish inhabitants of Ulster above sixteen years of age, bound them hand and foot to whatever Charles, who seems to have himself devised the terms, might impose upon them. They might not even "protest against any of his royal commands, but submit in all due obedience thereto," and they bound themselves not to enter into any covenant or swear any oath except by his consent. The Black Oath was directed against the extension of the Covenant to Ireland, and in effect would have cut the Irish Presbyterians off from their Scottish brethren. The Black Band was a body of 8000 foot and 1000 horse which Wentworth quartered on the North to carry out his decrees. But among the Presbyterians of Ulster Wentworth met a spirit as unflinching as his own. Thousands refused to sign and fled the country. Those who remained were brought before the Council Chamber, bound with chains, and flung into prison, where many of them remained without redress for years, or they were fined exorbitant sums. The carrying in of the harvest could not be completed for lack of labourers, and the woods were full of refugees flying from their persecutors. It seemed as though the Northern plantation was doomed to extinction by the severities of the party in power, and the Remonstrance addressed to Parliament on its reassembling in October 1640 speaks of the plantation of Londonderry as almost destroyed the inhabitants reduced to great poverty, and many of them forced to forsake the country. By a rare combination, both Presbyterian and Papist signed this document, each having equally suffered under the harshness of Wentworth's administration, and a joint committee of Puritans and Catholics repaired privately to London to lay it before Parliament. It was the first instance of a petition from Ireland presented directly to the Parliament of England, and it was followed by others. It arrived at the moment when Strafford was impeached for high treason, and weighed heavily against him at his trial.

The effect of these persecutions of the Presbyterians was that the Scottish Presbyterian and Irish Catholic tenants were brought together by a sense of common wrongs. Few of the Scottish ministers suffered in the rebellion of 1641. The first and worst sufferers were the clergy of the Established Church and their families. Yet so much improved was the general feeling in Ulster that an observer just before the outbreak believed that "the ancient animosities and hatred which the Irish had ever been observed to bear towards the English nation had now been buried in a firm conglutination of their affections and national obligations passed between them." They intermarried freely, and the Irish were noticed to be fast adopting English customs and ways of life and learning to use the English language.[29]


[1] He was appointed on the departure of Mountjoy, June 2, 1604.

[2] See Bacon's treatise, Considerations touching the Plantation in Ireland in Spedding, Bacon's Life and Letters, iv, pp. 116-126.

[3]"Description and Present State of Ulster in 1586," in Carew, Cal., ii, No. 623, p. 435, and Cal. S. P. I., James I, Introd., viii-xiv. (1608-10)

[4] G. Benn, History of the Town of Belfast, pp. 12-13.

[5] Guicciardini, Desc. de Paesi Bassi, 15.

[6] Cal. S. P. I. (1609), No. 372, p. 209.

[7] Carew, Cal., ii, No. 36, pp. 39-40 (February 27, 1576).

[8] C. P. Meehan, Fate and Fortunes of the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnel (1868), Appendix, pp. 501-504.

[9] S. H. O'Grady, Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the British Museum , pp. 420-424; E. Knott, Bardic Poems of Tadhg Dall O Huiginn, ii, 120.

[10] Letter to Salisbury, September 12, 1609.

[11] For a list of these distressed ladies and nobles see George Hill, Plantation of Ulster, p. 131, note 20.

[12] Cal S. P. I. (1613), Nos. 726-731, pp. 390-392. Niall Garbh's letter says: "It is not unknown to your Lordships that the Irish gentry did ever make their followers' purses their only exchequer." (p. 235).

[13] George Hill, op. cit., p. 218; Cal. S. P. I, Dec. 9, 1610, No. 925, p. 529

[14] Letter of March 14, 1602; Cal. S. P. I, Eliz., p. 334.

[15] Some of his deductions have to be discounted owing to the fact that he makes no distinction between the disaffected and loyal Irish.

[16] Letter touching the state of Monaghan, etc., Works, iii, 123. This letter is sometimes erroneously dated 1607; its date is probably 1606.

[17] Ibid., p. 158-159.

[18] Works, iii, 201-22; Cal. S. P. I., Nov. 12, 1606.

[19] The original maps showing the distribution of lands between the Companies are among the Carew Manuscripts in Lambeth Palace Library. The grants are very irregular in shape and proportion. See also copies in Gilbert, Facsimiles of National Manuscripts.

[20] Davies to Salisbury, on "The Plantation of Ulster," 1610.

[21] Sir Tobias Caulfeild to Chichester, June, 1610.

[22] This point is well brought out in George Sigerson, History of Land Tenures and Land Classes in Ireland (1871).

[23] George Hill, Plantation of Ulster, pp. 408, 420-421, 447-448 (note 2).

[24] Quoted George Hill, op. cit., p. 447.

[25] Cal. S. P. I. (1610), No. 915, pp. 525-527.

[26] Quoted J. W. Kernohan, The County of Londonderry in Three Centuries, p. 33.

[27] A Direction for the Plantation of Ulster (1610).

[28] J. S. Reid, History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, i, 135-6.

[29] A History of the Beginnings of the Irish Rebellion of 1641 (pamphlet); George Sigerson, Land Tenures and Land Classes of Ireland (1871).