County Armagh History

The formation of this part of Ireland into a separate dominion is said to have taken place so early as the year 332, after the battle of Achaighleth-derg, in Fermoy, in which, as recorded by Tigernach, abbot of Clonmacnois, who died in 1068, Fergus Feagha, son of Froechair the Brave, the last of the Ultonian kings who resided in Eamania, was killed by the three Collas, who then expelled the Ultonians from that part of the province to the south of Lough Neagh, and formed it into an independent state, to which they gave the name of Orgial, afterwards corrupted into Oriel or Uriel, names by which it was distinguished to the beginning of the seventeenth century.

The county was made shire ground, under its present name, in 1586, by the lord-deputy, Sir John Perrott, who, not relying with confidence on the vigilance and care of Henry O'Nial and Sir Henry Bagnell, to whom the government of Ulster had been entrusted, projected the division of the greater part of that province into seven counties, of which Armagh was one, and took its name from the chief town in it. For each of these counties he appointed sheriffs, commissioners of the peace, coroners, and other officers. Previously to this arrangement, the chief part of the property of the county had centred in the families of the O'Nials, the Mac Cahans, and the O'Hanlons. At the commencement of the seventeenth century, it was principally vested in those of Mac Henry, Acheson, O'Nial, Brownlow, and O'Hanlon, exclusively of the great territories settled on Moharty, which the Mac Cahans had forfeited in rebellion, and a large tract of country called Oirther, afterwards Orior, a district in the southern part, which also escheated to the crown by rebellion of a branch of the O'Hanlons.

According to a project for planting, by Jas. I., the whole of the arable and pasture land, amounting to 77,580 acres, was to be allotted in 61 proportions of three classes of 2000, 1500, and 1000 acres each, among the English and Scottish undertakers, the servitors, and the Irish natives. A portion was also assigned to the primate, another for glebes for the incumbents (of whom there was to be one for each proportion), another for the four corporate towns of Armagh, Mountnorris, Charlemont, and Tanderagee, and a fourth for a free grammar school. The native Irish were to be distributed among a few of the several proportions, with the exception of the swordsmen, who were to migrate into waste lands in Connaught and Munster. The project, which was but partially effected, was not acted upon until 1609, when a royal commission was issued to inquire into the king's title to the escheated and forfeited lands in Ulster, with a view to the plantation there. Inquisitions were consequently held, the return of which for Armagh, made in August of the same year, states that the county was then divided into the five baronies of Armaghe, Toaghriny, Orier, Fuighes, and Onylane or O'Nealane, and enumerates with great particularity the names and tenures of the proprietors.

In 1618, a second commission was issued to Captain Pynnar and others, to ascertain how far the settlers located there in the intervening period had fulfilled the terms of their agreement. It is somewhat remarkable that, although the inquisition names five baronies, three only are noticed in Pynnar's survey; those of Armaghe and Toaghriny being omitted, probably because they contained no forfeited property. The number of the proportions specified in the survey are but 22, eleven of which, situated in O'Neylan, were in the hands of English undertakers; five in the Fuighes, in those of Scottish undertakers; and seven in Orier were allotted to servitors and natives. The number of tenants and men capable of bearing arms in the two first proportions amounted to 319 of the former, and 679 of the latter; the number in Orier is not given.

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