seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Death of Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone

hugh-o-neillHugh O’Neill (Irish: Aodh Mór Ó Néill), the 3rd Baron Dungannon and 2nd Earl of Tyrone, dies in Rome on July 20, 1616. His career is played out against the background of the Tudor conquest of Ireland and he is best known for leading the resistance during the Nine Years’ War, the strongest threat to Tudor authority in Ireland since the revolt of Silken Thomas. The defeat of O’Neill and the conquest of his province of Ulster is the final step in the subjugation of Ireland by the English.

Although born into the powerful O’Neill dynasty of Ulster, O’Neill is fostered as a ward of the Crown in County Dublin after the assassination of his father, Matthew, in 1558. His wardship ends in 1567 and, after a visit to the court in London, he returns to Ireland in 1568 and assumes his grandfather’s title of Earl of Tyrone. By initially cooperating with the government of Queen Elizabeth I, he establishes his base of power, and in 1593 he replaces Turlough Luineach O’Neill as chieftain of the O’Neills. But his dominance in Ulster leads to a deterioration in his relations with the Crown, and skirmishes between his forces and the English in 1595 are followed by three years of fruitless negotiations between the two sides.

In 1598 O’Neill reopens hostilities. His victory over the English on August 14 in the Battle of the Yellow Ford on the River Blackwater, Ulster, the most serious defeat sustained by the English in the Irish wars, sparks a general revolt throughout the country. Pope Clement VIII lends moral support to his cause and, in September 1601, four thousand Spanish troops arrive at Kinsale, Munster, to assist the insurrection. But those reinforcements are quickly surrounded at Kinsale, and O’Neill suffers a staggering defeat in December 1601 while attempting to break the siege. He continues to resist until forced to surrender on March 30, 1603, six days after the death of Queen Elizabeth.

Elizabeth’s successor, King James I, allows O’Neill to keep most of his lands, but the chieftain soon finds that he cannot bear the loss of his former independence and prestige. In September 1607 he, with Rory O’Donnell, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, and their followers, secretly embark on a ship bound for Spain. The vessel is blown off course and lands in Normandy. From there the refugees make their way via the Spanish Netherlands to Rome, where they are acclaimed by Pope Paul V. This “Flight of the Earls” signals the end of Gaelic Ulster and thereafter the province is rapidly Anglicized. Outlawed by the English, O’Neill lives in Rome the rest of his life. He dies there at the age of 66 on July 20, 1616. He is interred in the Spanish church of San Pietro in Montorio.


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City of Londonderry Established by Royal Charter

walls-of-londonderryA charter incorporates Derry as the city of Londonderry on March 29, 1613 and also creates the new county of Londonderry. Despite the official name, the city is more usually known as simply Derry, which is an anglicisation of the Old Irish Daire, which in modern Irish is spelled Doire, and translates as “oak-grove/oak-wood.” The name derives from the settlement’s earliest references, Daire Calgaich (“oak-grove of Calgach”). The name is changed from Derry in 1613 during the Plantation of Ulster to reflect the establishment of the city by the London guilds.

Ulster is finally brought under the control of Elizabeth I’s government at the beginning of the 17th century following a long struggle between the Tudor monarchy and the Gaelic chieftains. This follows the defeat of the chieftains at the Siege of Kinsale in 1601 after a war lasting nine years. Although the Gaelic chieftains are allowed to remain on their land, their positions have been weakened. A group of them leave Ireland for the continent in 1607, never to return. The “Flight of the Earls”, as it is known, is seen as treason by James I’s government and their lands are confiscated. This important event opens the way for James I to further increase his control over Ulster by settling tens of thousands of settlers from England, Scotland and Wales on the confiscated lands.

Surveying and planning for the plantation take place during 1608 and 1609 and the plantation proper begins in 1610. The towns of Derry and Coleraine, as well as much of the lands that are to become County Londonderry, are granted to the City of London Corporation, which is charged with planting them.

The Society of the Governor and Assistants, London, of the New Plantation in Ulster, within the realm of Ireland, known after the Restoration as the Irish Society, is formed in 1609 by the City of London, to manage the estates which it has been obliged very reluctantly to take on. The Irish Society takes charge of the overall management of the Irish estates, with direct control of the new city of Derry and of the town of Coleraine.

The City of London livery companies are required to take on estates in the surrounding County of Londonderry. The Great Twelve livery companies bear the heaviest financial burden. The county is divided among them into twelve “proportions,” distributed by the drawing of lots. The Great Twelve are in turn supported by a number of minor companies, so that thirty livery companies in all have Irish estates derived from their participation in James I’s scheme for the plantation of Ulster.

However, the first phase of the existence of the Irish Society is short-lived. The Great Parchment Book is compiled in the late 1630s when Charles I claims the estates as forfeit after a politically-motivated case in Star Chamber rules that the Londoners have not fulfilled their obligations of plantation.

The City of Londonderry is very much a product of the plantation and plays a pivotal role in safeguarding the plantation. Its walls, which are still intact today, repulse sieges in 1641, 1649 and 1689.

By the end of the 17th century, Ulster, which had been the most Gaelic part of Ireland, has become the most “British.” The plantation creates Ulster we know today with its socio-economic base, its religious and political diversity, and its shared heritage.

The archives of the Irish Society and the City of London livery companies are held by the City of London at London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Library respectively.


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Creation of The Honourable The Irish Society

irish-society-coat-of-armsOn January 28, 1613, The Honourable The Irish Society, a consortium of livery companies of the City of London, is created by Royal Charter of James I of England to undertake the Plantation in the North West of Ulster that is then being driven by the English Crown.

Following the Gaelic defeat in the Nine Years’ War in 1603 and the Flight of the Earls in 1607, northwest Ulster is left open to colonisation. James I sets out to defend against a future attack from within or without. He finds that the town of Derry can become either a great asset as a control over the River Foyle and Lough Swilly, or it can become an inviting back door should the people of the area turn against him. He pressures the guilds of the City of London to fund the resettlement of the area, including the building of a new walled city. This results in the creation of the Society.

The city of Derry is renamed Londonderry in recognition of the London origin of the Irish Society. County Coleraine is enlarged and renamed County Londonderry after its new county town. The rural area of the county is subdivided between the Great Twelve livery companies, while the towns and environs of Londonderry and Coleraine are retained by the Irish Society.

In January 1635, the Irish Society, as well as the City of London, are found guilty of mismanagement and neglect of Derry plantation. They are sentenced to a fine of £70,000 and forfeiture of Derry property. The Society is suppressed in 1637 but is revived by Oliver Cromwell in 1650 and again after the Restoration by Londonderry’s 1662 royal charter.

The Society is involved in several controversies over the years including a dispute over fishing rights with the Church of Ireland and Bishop of Derry and a lawsuit brought by The Skinners’ Company in 1832 over the distribution of profits. The Society also has some disputes with the corporations over ownership and development of property. During the 17th and 18th centuries, four of the twelve livery companies sell their estates, with the Irish Society requiring a bond of indemnity in each case. Leases to middlemen granted by the remaining companies expire at various times during the nineteenth century, after which the companies “enormously increased the rental.”

The Society finances the building of the Guildhall in Derry. Construction begins in 1887 and it is opened in July 1890, at a cost of £19,000.

The Society remains in existence today as a relatively small grant-giving charitable body. Its educational grants are funded by its remaining property, including the Walls of Derry, a tourist attraction and heritage site, and fisheries on the River Bann. The Society is based in London, but maintains a “representative” resident in County Londonderry.