Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The History of Ulster
Chichester Retires

Protestantism in Ulster - An Incipient Plot - The Fighting MacDonalds and others - The Dream of Rory Oge O'Cahan - His Rude Awakening - Chichester retires after eleven years' rule - The Execution of Bishop O'Devany - The Case of the Recusants - Trouble in Ulster.

When Con O'Neill, distinguished as Bacagh, or The Lame, was created Earl of Tyrone by Henry VIII, his secretary, O'Kervellan, who had been appointed by the Pope to the bishopric of Clogher, resigned his bulls and renounced the authority of Rome; whereupon he was forthwith con- firmed in his See by the King. Thus the submission of Ulster was accompanied by the introduction of Protestantism.

In addition to the sudden introduction of the Protestant confession of faith with regard to which the new settlers in Ulster in later days acted upon the declared principle that, since the native Irish were bigoted papists, it was necessary first to lead them to the opposite extreme, in order to bring them ultimately right and to the penalties to which the recusant portion of the population was exposed, other causes of discontent now arose, especially in the rivalry between the older inhabitants of the province and their supplanters, a sentiment which apparently nothing could appease.

Even the transplantation of the Irish themselves from one locality to another only increased the feeling of discontent; for the older families, who traced their descent from the chiefs of the sept who had held the same land from time immemorial, swayed by all the ancient prejudices of their race, looked with contempt upon the new Irish settlers around them, and treated them in a manner which excited new jealousies and enmities. This was long continued in connection with the extensive plantations in Ulster, where this rivalry of races and families showed itself continually, and culminated occasionally in plots and conspiracies.

One of these plots, discovered in the year 1615, is said to have had for its aim the seizure of the forts in Ulster and the extirpation of the English settlers. It led only to the conviction and execution of the chief conspirators; but only a few years later these rivalries were made palpable in one of the most sanguinary tragedies that ever stained the annals of Ireland, and this notwithstanding the fact that Ulster had been declared to be "cleared from the thorns and briars of rebellion".

The chief cause of this brief and hopeless rising illustrates the truth of the poetic dictum that "Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do". That the hands and brains of the devisers of this singularly weak plot were idle was primarily the fault of the Government, who had not provided them with land on which they could find employment; in other words, Chichester's warning had been ignored, and his words had come true landless men unprovided for in the settlement proved a source of danger.

The fighting MacDonalds found they were aggrieved, and they nursed their grievance until, having smouldered for a time, it burst into flame. We have seen how good fortune attended the steps of Sir Randall MacSorley MacDonald of Dunluce, and how he was granted large territories, amounting in all to nearly two-thirds of the county of Antrim. This, no doubt, was calculated to greatly please Sir Randall, but the King's generosity by no means pleased Sir Randall's relatives, who considered that he had been treated too generously, while they themselves had been neglected. Among the grumblers on this score were Alexander MacDonald and his brother Sorley, nephews of Sir Randall, and a cousin named Ludar, who rejoiced in the distinction of a bar sinister.

Malcontents readily find a following, for there is no sentiment more deeply rooted in the human heart than that of discontent, and it is therefore not surprising that the Mac- Donalds were speedily joined, on one pretext or another, by a selection of O'Dohertys, O'Neills, O'Donnells, and O'Cahans, all desirous to live or die "for the cause" the cause being the acquisition of such lands as by force of arms they could acquire for themselves; but, this being too palpable and selfish a proposition, they easily persuaded each other, if not themselves, that their concerted action was in the sacred cause of religion. By making this declaration the conspirators enlisted the sympathy and active aid of the Church. "Though thou shouldst die in this service", said a friar named Edmund Mullarkey to Cormac Maguire, when urging him to join this Band of Hope, "thy soul shall be sure to go to Heaven; and as many men as shall be killed in this service all their souls shall go to Heaven. All those who were killed in O'Dogherty's war are in Heaven."

Among the conspirators was Brian Crossagh O'Neill, an illegitimate son of Sir Cormac MacBaron (Tyrone's brother); Art Oge O'Neill, and Rory O'Cahan. One of the chief objects of the band was to get possession of an illegitimate son of Tyrone, who was in the custody of Sir Toby Caulfeild; but in this they were balked, for the lad was sent out of their reach to Eton, and appears to have been transferred to the Tower in 1622, when all records of him cease.

Rory Oge O'Cahan was the eldest son of Sir Donnell, and no doubt hated Sir Thomas Phillips, who had apprehended his father, and now lived in the O'Cahan castle at Limavady. Phillips was officially described as "a brave soldier all his life", and he kept the castle in good repair, with moat, drawbridge, and two tiers of cannon. It must have galled Rory to see Phillips's "two-storied residence, slated, with garden, orchard, and dovecote" on the land which from time immemorial belonged to the O'-Cahans. There is little doubt that he hated Sir Thomas, and that one of his chief objects in thus starting an insurrection was to be revenged on Phillips and regain his ancestral home.

But Rory, alas! like too many of his fellow-countrymen, was frequently inebriated with more than the exuberance of his own verbosity, to adapt a phrase which the genius of Disraeli has made classic; and in consequence he divulged when tipsy the fact that the first object of attack should be Coleraine, as he had a friend who could " command the guard to betray the town, as by letting them in, and that then, being in, they would burn the town and only take Mr. Beresford and Mr. Rowley prisoners, and to burn and kill all the rest, and to take the spoil of the town, and so if they were able to put all Derry to death by fire and sword". With imagination aflame, Rory saw visions in which Lifford was reduced to ashes, Sir Richard Hansard alone being saved, as the one righteous person in a wicked town; victory followed victory, and the forts of Mountjoy, Carrickfergus, and Massereene, "and all other English settlements", fell to rise no more. Rory the victorious dictated terms to the hated English, holding the while as hostages for the restoration of his father and Sir Nial Garv and Sir Cormac MacBaron much inferior specimens of the human race in the shape of Mr. Beresford, Mr. Rowley, and Sir Richard Hansard. Argosies of portly sail came laden with men and money from sunny Spain and from the far-off Hebrides, the former filled with golden doubloons, and the latter with armed men thirsting for the blood of the British. Such was his dream. He awoke to find the Informer a power in the land, and the prosaic awakening resulted in the execution, amongst others, of Brian Crossagh O'Neill, a priest named Laughlin O'Laverty, Friar Mullarkey, and Rory Oge O'Cahan, whose last thought no doubt was: "As many men as shall be killed in this service all their souls shall go to Heaven". Alexander MacDonald, it is interesting to note, was acquitted.

Chichester, who had been Lord Deputy for over eleven years, at the suggestion of James now retired from the Vice-royalty (1615), the King giving him the choice of returning to his governorship of Carrickfergus or of repairing to Court, at the same time thanking him for his many and great ser- vices, and giving as his reason for the suggested retirement that His Majesty did not wish to overtax the strength of good subjects, or avail himself of their loyalty to the detriment of their health. At the same time the Lord Treasurership of Ireland becoming vacant through the death of the Earl of Ormonde, the King gracefully conferred it upon Baron Chichester of Belfast as a special mark of favour for the manner in which he had conducted himself in his high office as Viceroy.

On Chichester's retirement the Government was placed in the hands of the Lord Chancellor, Archbishop Jones, and the Chief Justice of the King's Bench, Sir John Denham, Chichester himself repairing to England, where it is not unlikely he was from time to time consulted by the King. He has been blamed for the rigour of his rule, and especially for the hostility he displayed to the Roman Catholics. His hanging of Cornelius O'Devany, the aged Bishop of Down and Connor, in 1611, was an atrocious act, and cannot be palliated on any ground whatsoever. The venerable prelate, who was about eighty years of age, was originally a Franciscan friar. He was condemned to death on the nominal charge of having been with Tyrone in Ulster; and at the same time a priest named Patrick O'Loughrane was tried and condemned for having sailed in the same ship with Tyrone and Tirconnell when the Earls took to flight. The severity of the sentence was out of all proportion to the crime, if crime it were. The prisoners were first to be hanged, then cut down alive, their bowels cast into a fire, and their bodies quartered. When the hangman, who was Irish by birth, heard that the Bishop was condemned, he fled from Dublin (where the execution took place) ; and, as no other Irishman would undertake the repulsive task, it was found necessary to pardon and release an English murderer, in order that the sentence might be carried out. The Four Masters relate that the venerable prelate, fearing that the harrowing spectacle of his torments might cause the priest to waver, requested the executioner to put O'Loughrane to death first; but the priest assured him that "he need not be in dread on his account, that he would follow him without fear", adding that it was "not meet a bishop should be without a priest to attend him, for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven for his soul". O'Sullivan Beare says the Catholics collected the blood of the victims, whom they justly regarded as martyrs, and the day following the execution they contrived to procure the mangled remains and to inter them in a becoming manner.

Such acts as these were not likely to help the cause of the Reformation, but Chichester hated the Roman Catholics, and desired above all things to "cut off by martial law seminaries, Jesuits, and such hedge priests as have neither goods nor living, and do daily flock hither". He was, no doubt, largely responsible for the famous proclamation in which James ordered the entire population of Ireland to attend church on Sundays and holidays, "according to the tenor and intent of the laws and statutes, upon the pains and penalties contained therein, which he will have from henceforth duly put in execution", and for the orders issued to all "Jesuits, seminary priests, or other priests whatsoever made and ordained by any authority derived or pretended to be derived from the See of Rome" to leave the country or conform.

The fine inflicted on recusants for non-attendance in church was not only galling to them, but was more oppressive from a pecuniary point of view than at first appears to be the case; for while the sum levied each time was only one shilling according to law, it was increased to ten times that amount by the fees always exacted for clerks and officers; and the application of the money so realized to works of charity, as the Act required, was shamefully evaded, it being argued that the poor, being recusants themselves, were not fit to receive the money, but "ought to pay the like penalty them- selves".

It must be remembered, however, that Chichester lived in a day when toleration was unknown, when the cruelty of creeds was at its height, and when the hatred of each other which springs from the love of the Deity was the most marked feature of public as well as of private life. In short, Chichester, taken for all and all, was one of the ablest and strongest Viceroys that ever ruled in Ireland, and, had his advice been taken, Ulster might have been spared the upheaval of later years, and much bloodshed been averted.

In the meantime, irregularities and abuses were gradually multiplying among the settlers in Ulster. Some of the undertakers, notwithstanding they were acting contrary to the conditions of their patents, alienated their allotments by private contract; and thus others, by purchase, obtained possession of more lands than the planters were allowed by the King's limitations, which were calculated to prevent the enormous accumulation of property and power that had been held by the Irish chiefs. In the distribution of the lands the King's directions were frequently ignored, so far as they related to provision for the original proprietors, and in consequence the natives were deprived entirely of those territories which it was intended to reserve for them. Thus exposed to the avarice and rapine of " foreign" adventurers, the natives, instead of being conciliated, were hardened in their hatred of English rule a hate which, increasing with the years, culminated later in rebellion.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus