Picture of Ulster—Tables of the Escheated Property—Taking seizin.
There are many derivations given by different writers of the name of Ulster. Some assert that it comes from Uladh, which signifies “great wealth,” thus indicating that fatal fertility which attracted the cupidity of the neighbouring British races. Others attribute it to Ollamh, a celebrated monarch, who, several centuries before our era, reigned over the Kingdom of Ulster. The name of Uladh was applied in later times solely to Dalaradia (which the Irish pronounce Dal-aree) comprising the following districts—Iveagh, Magennis’s country; Kinelarty, Mac Artan’s country; The Ardes, the country of the Savadges;* Clanaodhbuigh, Upper and Lower; the principality of Mac Neill Boye, “a bloodie rebbele.” This name obtained the classic form of Ulidia, and the general designation of the Northern Kingdom was dignified into Ultonia.
*An English colony, which has kept its place in the Lower Ardes from the time of John De Courcy, Earl of Ulster, 1172.
Ancient Ulster, “that land good and flourishing, with many excellent commodities, plentiful in all kinds of provision, the soil rich and fertile, the air sweet and temperate, the havens very safe and commodious”—that illustrious seat of piety and the centre of enlightenment—comprised the territories of Oirgiall, or Uriell, now Louth, Monaghan, and Armagh, with some parts of Tyrowen and Fermanagh; Dal-Rieda, the northern part of Antrim; Tir Eogain and Tirconnaill, now Tyrowen, Derry, and Donegal; and Fermanagh.
The aspect of the country is bold and picturesque. Filled with fertile and extensive plains and exquisite “glynnes,” it possesses still nobler features in the majestic mountains of Down, where Slieve Donnard raises his lofty head three thousand feet above the sea. Through Antrim, Tyrowen, Coleraine, Tyrconnell, and Fermanagh, the eye rests every where upon these great children of Nature,—in Cavan the lofty Cuilcagh, the cradle of the Shannon, from which it pours its wealth of waters through eleven counties, towers in pride above the ancient territories of the O’Reillys. But of a still more exquisite beauty are those small, conical hills, covered with the teeming evidences of fertility, with their green uplands and finely cultivated slopes, skirted with overhanging woods, that have as yet escaped the axe. The folly of superstition, which imposed on the credulity of such writers as the priest Cambrensis, has peopled these vales and glynnes and romantic hills with fountains of wonder-working power;* but the only marvels to be witnessed there, are the miracles of beauty which Nature’s kindly hand is ever working.
*See Boate’s Natural Philosophy of Ireland, chap, vii., section iii., on the fabulous fountains of Giraldus Cambrensis. It appears that Barry (who was a Welshman, and therefore, with the affectation of many middling scholars, called himself Cambrensis) says that there was one Ulster fountain in which the fortunate man who dipped himself would never become grey. Barry had enormous powers of belief, and attributed the same qualification to others.
Scattered over the face of Ulster are Lakes or Loughs, some possessing the magnitude of inland seas, and others much smaller, but deep and well stored with fish—” so that they are not only delightful, especially such as are situated in some dale or valley, or environed round about by pleasant little hills (as it falleth out in the most of them), but also commodious and profitable, affording good opportunity of building houses and castles on their borders, which was done in many places by the English and the Scotch, who had made several fair plantations, and would have done more if it had not been hindered by that horrible rebellion of the bloody Irish; in the beginning of which many of them were destroyed by these barbarians.” These diminutive lakes were dotted with islands, which are both ” commodious and pleasant.” In the isles of the larger lakes, such as Lough Erne and the Lake of Feval, we are told by Boate, were often-times to be found the dwellings of the Planters. Such of the islands as were not inhabited were without woodland, but being in general covered with sweet grass they were turned into pasture for all kinds of cattle.
Boate gives a pleasing picture of the studious and contemplative life of those who dwelt in the sweet sylvan solitudes of the lakes, where they passed their time in much contentment, finding there not only privacy and quiet with opportunity for study and contemplation, “but besides great delightfulness in the place, with a variety of very sweet pastimes in fowling, fishing, planting, and gardening.” Certainly it was not without true Scotch foresight that these apostles of civility adopted the Ulster mission. In one of the large isles of Lough Erne, Sir Henry Spottiswood, had a fine seat, surrounded, after the most approved Planter-fashion with frowning battlements and bawns, that would have won approving smiles from Pynnar; orchards bending under the white weight of their blossoms; gardens rich in every child of Flora; and a picturesque village with its church and steeple (and doubtless an incumbent with his due proportion and his glebe lands) which comfortable establishment, “whether it is in being yet or destroyed by the barbarian and bloody rebels I am not informed.”* Possibly the barbarian bloody rebels may have cast some looks upon their old pleasure grounds in the loughs, greatly to the disconcerting of Sir Henry. The dreams of Spenser were disturbed after some such fashion in the palace of Desmond, on the banks of the Mulla.
*Boate, chap. 9, p. 43. This Boate can never look at a scene in nature, let it be the most charming or sublime, without examining its conveniences for a Plantation. His taste in landscape is the taste of a Scotch Planter, it is quite brigandesque.
Lough Erne is filled with islands, the most remarkable of which, though not for natural beauty, is Devenish. It contains the ruins of an ancient Priory of the date of 1449, which, however, could not have for any great length of time escaped the marauding barbarism of the day; for Sir John Davies, in his letter to Salisbury (1606) says that the Lord Deputy, during his Northern circuit, held his sessions in the Isle of Devenish, in the ruins of an old abbey there. But though Lough Erne has more picturesque beauty, Lough Neagh is a lake of greater size and greater importance. It waters five of the counties, three of them being escheated lands, Tyrowen, Armagh, and Derry. The waters of this great inland sea are swelled by six river tributaries and numberless brooks.** It was said to possess healing and petrifying powers, and Stuart mentions that a lough near Armagh, which had been drained by Mr. Maxwell at Eanachbuidbe (afterwards called Rosebrook,) possessed the latter quality in a great degree. There are several magnificent inlets of the sea to which the name of Lake has been given, namely Strangford, Swilly, Foyle. In Cavan, Lough Outer extends over eight miles in length, and on the borders of Meath is the beautiful Lough Sheelin. Various smaller lakes are scattered through the North, all possessing a rare degree of picturesque beauty. It is said that many singular sudden births of lakes, bursting fiercely from the earth by volcanic action, have occurred in Ulster. More than a thousand years before our era, Lough Foyle broke upon the bordering countries, in an inundation from which it took its name of Feval, having carried off in its waves Feabhal the son of Lodin one of the Danaanic chiefs. Later by two centuries Lough Erne rushing forth with the same disastrous fury covered whole tracts of country; and still later (A.D. 62) Lough Neagh buried immense plains, swept away villages and people, and hid the most elegant architectural remains beneath its rushing waters:
“On Lough Neagh’s banks, as the fisherman strays,
When the cold calm eve’s declining,
He sees the Round Towers of other days
In the waves beneath him shining.”
That these eruptions were the produce of volcanic action, may be concluded from the fact that basaltic rocks, which are admitted to be of volcanic origin, are present on the shores of Neagh. The inland counties being thus supplied with these great and beautiful sheets of water, the Northern, Eastern and Western frontier is the Sea. Bound the vast coast, from Carlingford Bay, whose waves wash the southern shores of Down even to the Erne, which is a link of connection between that lovely lake and the Atlantic, numerous bays, deeply indenting that ocean frontier line, open their arms wide to commerce. The coast is irregular, running along the Ardes, the ancient territory of the Savadges, to the Giant’s Causeway, that great Basaltic wall, that columnar barrier, vast, precipitous, sublime, placed on the shores of Antrim as it were to protect the island from the Northern seas.
*Harris repeats some dull fables, about the origin of this lake. Harris’s Down, p. 157. He says that the ancient historians of Ireland assert, that at the time of the arrival of Partholanus, which with wonderful accuracy they have decided upon as having occurred in the 1969th year of the world, there were but three lakes and ten rivers of any consequence in Ulster.
A very startling edifice of nature is the columned greenstone promontory of Fairhead or Benmore, a spiral precipice 250 feet above the sea, which latter beats with solemn and majestic swell upon the huge rocks that lie in broken masses, like a waste of ruins, at its feet. Near the Causeway, on the crest of a brown basaltic rock stand the interesting ruins of Dunluce Castle. Along the whole line of coast, on many a cape and promontory and on several of the islands, are the remains of abbeys and churches, which attest the antiquity and beauty of the ecclesiastical architecture of ancient Ireland.
Another grand irregularity is the peninsula of Inishowen, where the most northern point of Ireland endures the waves that lashed the Arctic Isles. Hence to the river Erne, a bold and lofty frontier meets the vast Atlantic. Nature has been liberal of bulwarks to a people willing to be free.
The soil of Ulster is intersected by many rivers and streams, which though not rivalling in beauty the Blackwater of Munster, or the Liffey, Princess of Irish rivers, nor yet of the stream that flows between the soft and woodland banks of Lee, were of considerable pretension and utility, and all perfectly capable of being diverted to the purposes of internal navigation.
The leading rivers of Ulster are the Boyle, the Blackwater, and the Bann, and though the other streams are generally of small extent, they nearly all terminate in capacious bays and loughs,* giving to the country the means of water communication and a large number of secure and spacious harbours, whilst they form an agreeable feature in the landscape. The Blackwater now runs through a highly cultivated and rich country, but at the time of the Plantation its banks were the rudest portion of the North.
*The word Lough, is peculiarly applied to lakes made by the sea.
Ireland cannot be called a mountainous land, the whole central portion being a vast limestone plain; yet, in the south-western and the North, there are mountainous ridges and single mountains, which in extent are superior, and in height equal to any in England, except the “Welsh ranges. Whilst on the borders of Leinster and Munster, Slieve Bloom, the Knockmeldown, and the Galtees form long and lofty ranges.—Kerry presents the nobler hills, which includes within their embrace the beautifully wooded lakes and sylvan solitudes of Killarney. In the other quarter of Ireland, the Mourne mountains are a great granitic boundary to the south of Down, and vast ranges run through Tyrowen, Donegal, and Derry. The entire coast of Antrim is mountainous in its nature, presenting to the Scotch seas an iron-bound frontier of rocky cliffs.
The bogs of Ulster are numerous and extensive, occupying much over two hundred thousand acres of the province. The much discussed question of the origin of these bogs, is fortunately not necessary in this place; the probability is, however, that the want of drainage has been the cause of their growth.* To a considerable extent, and considering the lack of coal and latterly of wood, they have been useful, but the proportion which bog bears to available land in Ulster is far too great. Dr. Warner made a handsome suggestion, for at once bestowing property on the Ulster Catholics and making some use of the bogs— namely, to give the Papists a title to the latter, on condition of their reclaiming the undrained bog-land. “Whatever may be their origin, or their utility, they are a characteristic feature in the Northern landscape. The dry bog looks fair and pleasant, contrasting with the green meadows and the picturesque knolls of Ulster scenery, but the watery and muddy bogs are neither very useful, nor at all a matter of ornament.
*”Very few of the wet bogs in Ireland are such by any natural property, or primitive constitution, but through the superfluous moisture that in length of time hath been gathered therein, whether it have its original within the place itself, or become thither from without. The first of these two cases taketh place in the most part of the grassy bogs, which ordinarily are occasioned by springs; the which arising in great number out of some parcel of ground, and finding no issue, do by degrees soak through, and bring it to that rottenness and spunginess, which nevertheless is not a little encreased through the rain water coming to that of the springs. But the two other sorts, viz. the watry and hassocky bogs, are in some places caused by the rain water only, as in other thro’ brooks and rivulets running into them, and in some thro’ both together; whereunto many times also cometh the cause of the grassy bogs, to wit, the store of springs within the very ground: and all this in places, where or through the situation of them, and by reason of their even plainness or hollowness, or through some other impediment, the water hath no free passage away, but remaineth within them, and so by degrees turneth them into bogs.”—Natural History of Ireland.
Ireland had been called the woody island, and Ulster contributed largely to that name. In the old days, before the Anglo Norman arrival, the land was full of forests. But when the Norman pirates and robbers had established their settlements, they commenced in the districts where they were masters to demolish the woods, for the purpose of increasing the amount of valuable land, (though they appear for many centuries to have made scant profit of what they had,) and to deprive “the rogues and thieves who used to lurk in the woods of their refuge and their starting holes.”* At the time Boate wrote, the woods had been, by this process of reformation, very much reduced; the forests and the independence of the people went together; for after Hugh O’Neill’s war the quantity of timber had diminished, and has continued to decrease to such a degree that Ireland would probably now be characterized by the absence of woods. But even at the termination of the wars of the League,** Ulster remained well supplied with wood; for example, all that highly cultivated district through which the Blackwater flows, was then a dense forest. The exigencies of building, resulting from the conditions of the Plantation, soon however destroyed, even quicker than war or the axe, the remaining wood; and the lofty trees beneath whose canopy so many generations of the people of the soil had wandered, loved, and fought, gave shelter to their bitterest enemies, and strength and permanence to their Baronial castles.
*These rogues and thieves, we may presume, were the natives whom the honest men hail deprived of their lands and their cattle.
*A fit name for the confederation of the O’Donnells, the O’Neills, and the O’Reillys.
The evidence of the former abundance of timber, putting out of account the statements of writers, is furnished by every bog in the country. At Stranmore near Monallen a forest of oak, ash, and alder, was discovered in the last century lying in layers, for over a mile, and at eight feet depth below the surface; and there is scarcely a bog in Ireland which could not give its contribution from the buried timber of the country. A great want of wood is experienced in Ireland; timber is never planted by the people; and, in most parts of Ireland, there are no landlords either to plant it themselves, or to encourage their tenantry to do it.*
Such is the superficial appearance of Ulster, picturesque, bold, and of an agreeable variety of land and water; with deep and extensive bays, a frontier line of rock-bound coast; good harbourage; fishing grounds abundant and secure; large wooded lakes opening up the communication of numerous counties, and navigable rivers traversing the plains; lofty mountains, and the most beautiful vallies. Then her bosom teems with ore, minerals, and coals, the active agents and the chief stimulant of industry and skill.
On the coast of Antrim at Ballycastle,** the remains of coal-mining are visible, and of a date stretching further back into antiquity than the most credulous advocates of Irish civilization have ever gone, rebuking by their presence the apathy of more modern times. Wood, in his inquiry touching the primitive inhabitants of Ireland, says that these coal-mines were worked by the Danaanic colony. At all events they were from an early period productive, and employed the people in the most valuable labour. In the face of which facts, Dr. Boate has the easy impudence to say, that the Anglo Normans were the first to work them; “the Irish, as being one of the most barbarous nations of the whole earth, having at all times been so far from seeking out any that even in these last years and since the English began to discover some, that none of them at all, great nor small, at any time hath applied himself to that business, or in the least manner furthered it.” He goes on, with an expanding ignorance to assert that all the mines found in Ireland have been discovered by “the New English,” that is, by those who came in since Elizabeth. The same explorers, he says, have discovered iron mines, and he thinks that the results of their labours have been to prove that our mountains, of which Ulster has more than her share, possess wonderful metallic treasures, nay, even gold itself. In a rivulet of Tyrowen, called Miola, which falls into Lough Neagh, gold has been gathered of the purest metal; and modern science, with a gravity that does not belong to ancient speculation, has sanctioned the convictions of national pride, that this country is rich in the possession of those attractive treasures for which man has toiled and fought and died in every age.
*”If, instead of making new purchases, the gentry would improve the old estates by draining, and planting, and making hedge rows, and inclosures with all the arts of good husbandry, (the expense of trees and ditches being trivial, and the work performed by their own poor cottagers at low wages,) this would be an advancement of their estates perhaps to double their value.”—Warner’s History, vol. 1, p. 49.
**Ballycastle might have been a place of great consequence. Its position and its manufacturing prosperity entitled it to almost the first place as a town of export and import into which the Boyds endeavoured to convert it. But the gross selfishness of what they comically call “the Irish Society,” a collection of London tradesmen, of whom we shall see something presently, successfully opposed and prevented this design. The pier and quay are now in ruins, the harbour blocked up, the collieries not worked, collieries which exported annually 15,000 tons. Every thing speaks of Chancery and the Irish Society. “In consequence of endeavours having been lately made in the Irish Parliament for making Ballycastle a port, the Society exerted their utmost influence, in conjunction with the corporation of Londonderry and others, to prevent it; and it was proposed by the Society, that as the affair concerned the interest of the several Companies of the city of London, the Governor should be desired to apprize the Court of Lord Mayor and Aldermen of the present situation and circumstances thereof; and it was therefore unanimously resolved, that the Governor should make a representation to the Court of Lord Mayor and Aldermen on the subject. A memorial or representation of the Society relating to Ballycastle was ordered to be presented by the Governor to the Court of Common Council, which was done accordingly, and the Court of Common Council commended the zeal and prudence of the Society, as well in regard to the measures which they had already pursued, as the application they were pleased to make to that Court for their advice and assistance in the matter.”—Concitt View of the Irish Society, p. 65.
Ulster participated largely in all that made Ireland beautiful, wealthy, and civilized. She had fertility, comeliness and strength; she was a well chosen victim for the passions of conquest, a fit subject for the cupidity of her despoilers.
That the success of the Plantation, this favourite project of a line of sovereigns, was a matter of intense interest to the English court, we can well imagine. It so occurred that the division of the plunder and the conditions on which men held their land were not pleasing to all. The Scotchman preferred the Irish tenant and the Irish labourer to his own countryman who was just as clever and as wise as himself—the English Undertaker disliked the burthen of building a huge quadrangular castle with flanking towers and immense circumambient wall. These dislikes begat much disobedience of the Rules and Orders; the castles and bawns were not built as it was intended; the planted ground became thickly peopled with the natives who in the plains increased as rapidly as they had in the forest and on the mountain side; they obtained free admission into settlements from which the ” Conditions,” had of a fixed purpose excluded them; they were by degrees acquiring property and consolidating power; they were growing in the midst of their enemies—a strange and alarming presence there. The colonists were not increasing in their just proportion; “whilst,” as a sorely disappointed Planter groaningly complains, “the natives who daily watch for the return of their young Lords Tyrowen and Tyrconnell,* and the rest now in the Spanish army, promising themselves a re-possession of their country, are at least four times as many.”** It was a just vengeance of nature upon these dispossessors, thus to increase the number of the Irish, but a cause of great perplexity and alarm to the English court. Commissions and superintendants were appointed, inquiries directed, and reports made; the inveterate evil increased, the whole great plan promised nothing but arrant failure; the fate of the Munster planters was remembered, and the doom of that great settlement was freely predicted for the Ulster Plantation.
*These were the descendants of the Earls, who had gone into foreign service, and who with their descendants have since been amongst the most distinguished soldiers and statesmen in Europe.
**Letter of Sir Thomas Smith to the King, p. 245.
Amongst the number of inquirers who visited Ulster to point out the evils and to specify remedies, was Nicholas Pynnar; and fortunately for the history of the plantation and for a better comprehension of the habits and social arrangements of the day, his report has fully survived for our great edification. He was preceded by others who have left no memorials or valueless ones of their labours, and it is from him that we are principally to learn the prospects of the Plantation at a period when it had a fair trial. He prosecuted his inquiry during four months at the latter end of 1618 and the beginning of 1619. Not so garrulous as Sir John Davies, he has told us nothing of the manner in which he executed his “survey.” Neither is the survey itself very full or explanatory, but it contains notices of men and things which are pleasantly quaint, and his brief sketches of the dwellings and habits of those who occupied the planted ground, are illustrative and informing. I have arranged this survey in an intelligible form, and have attached notes containing much of what Pynnar saw during his inquiry. I have from the Inquisition Book and the Patent Roils of James and Charles, added the names of the attainted parties and the original patentees to his list of the occupiers in 1619, so that in one view the reader is presented with the history of the Plantation and the order established in Ulster by this remarkable revolution.* As for Pynnar, he never mentions any of the former possessors; he is as silent on the subject as if an O’Neill had never caroused in the castle of Dungannon, or an O’Donnell fought on the plains of Donegal.
*In many instances these records gave but meagre information. If we had a government in Ireland, all these public documents would be arranged, edited, and illustrated with notes. But they are not agreeable learning for Englishmen.
The changes of proprietorship are very numerous, the original patentees having in a majority of instances either parted with their interest entirely, or set to tenants with very long leases. No doubt these patentees—soldiers of fortune, captains, useful officials, cutters and stabbers, dowagers and jointresses, and demireps of the court—merely grasped the lands of Ulster to make a good traffic by their sale; hence we shall find in the following list repeated transference of the denominations from one to another, and a varying proprietorship which must have been very fatal to the quick success of the Plantation. There is another set of circumstances on which I regret not to have been able to throw any light. There are some Irish secondary chiefs who were attainted, but on submission restored, and others who got back their own lands for a valuable consideration of base treachery towards their fellows; and I am not able, from the materials I had, to discriminate between these with sufficient accuracy.
The historic interest of the Plantation ceases at the time of Pynnar’s survey; a new order of things was then established, and a new propriatary; new relations sprung up which will be found producing their effect in the subsequent war of ’41 and thence even to the present day.
The following table, which yet I must acknowledge is very imperfect, is compiled from “Pynnar’s Survey,” the book of Inquisitions in the reigns of James I. and Charles I. from the Patent Rolls in the same reigns, compiled in barbarous contracted Latin and entirely unindexed—and from some other obscure and most unattractive sources. And it will be permitted to me here again to exclaim against the penury and the other mean and disgraceful influences, which have induced the English Government practically to put their seal on the fountains of our history, by consigning to a most scandalous obscurity, the records and state papers of our country, these great and honest witnesses of dealings between us and them from the beginning. There are men enough in Ireland, who would gladly and gratuitously devote their time and intelligence to the arrangement and editing of these invaluable but now mouldering documents, to select those of great and public interest and worthy of publication, and to reject whatever is worthless. Even the principle of order itself should induce these English to open our own purse-strings, and to remove the chaos which at present exists in the department of the public deeds and records. It is to be hoped that some exertion will be made to effect this object, and to stimulate the selfish and ignorant apathy of the Government.
In the preceding table, the greatest gainer by the Ulster Plantation appears only in connection with one grant; but Sir Arthur Chichester, the founder of the Donegal family, deserves a separate and peculiar mention.” He was a greedy Puritan, bent upon extinguishing the Catholics of Ireland, and of accumulating an enormous fortune by their plunder. In the latter design he was very successful. On the 30th June, 1609, James wrote to him, “That having approved of a project for distributing of his lands (namely, the six counties) in Ulster, which he was resolved not to alter in point of substance for favour or merit of any particular person, yet having consideration for his extraordinary desert, his majesty was pleased to grant him and his heirs and assigns the entire territory or country of Inishowen,” with Culmore Castle for life. Attached to this magnificent grant, was a power to hold four Courts Leet in the island of Inche, the territories of Tuoghconcrine, Tuagh Clagh, the manor of Greencastle, and the island of Malin. Various privileges of tolls, markets, and fairs were added On the 14th January, 1610, he had a grant of the Castle of Dungannon and 1300 acres of land escheated within its precinct. He built a palace at Carrickfergus, which he called Joymount, from his friend and patron, the politic, warlike, and sentimental Mountjoy.*
*They say that Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, died of love. It was a whimsical end for so profound a politician and so bloody a soldier.
“Whatever was the original design of the Plantation, and whatever was its policy, it is clear that there was no banishment of the natives from the soil of Ulster; the “Swordsmen,”* in other words the men able and accustomed to carry arms, were not sent to Connaught; nor were they excluded from the Plantation, with a purpose to root them out, as all the Irish nations had been rooted out, from the first Anglo Norman settlements; they were merely removed from the mountains and the woods to the plains and open country, that being removed “they might grow the milder, and bear a better and sweeter fruit.”**
*The swordsmen were gallowglasses and kernes. The gallowglass wore a defensive coat studded with iron nails, a long sword was appended to his side, an iron head-piece secured his head, and in his hand he grasped a broad keen-edged battle axe. Another description of swordsmen were the kernes. These combatants fought with swords, skeans, and javelins to which thongs were fastened. Syean (whence skean) means a sword.”—Stewart’s Armagh, p. 634, App. The introduction of defensive armour was modern. The following passage from Spenser, in his “View of the State of Ireland,” endeavouring to prove the Scythian descent of the Irish, gives a good account of the more ancient weapons “And first of their armes and weapons, amongst which their broad swordes are proper Scythian, for such the Scythes used commonly, as you may read in Olaus Magnus. And the same also the old Scots used, as you may read in Buchanan, and in Solinus, where the pictures of them are in the same forme expressed. Also their short bowes, and little quivers with short bearded arrowes, are very Scythian, as you may reade in the same Olaus. And the same sort both of bowes, quivers, and arrowes, at this day to bee seene commonly amongst the Northerne Irish-Scots, whose Scottish bowes are not past three quarters of a yard long, with a string of wreathed hempe slackely bent, and whose arrowes are not much above halfe an ell long, tipped with steele heads, made like common broad arrow heades, but much more sharpe and slender, that they enter into a man or horse most cruelly, notwithstanding that they are shot forth weakely. Besides, their confused kinde of march in heapes, without any order or array, their clashing of swords together, their fierce running upon their enemies, and their manner of fight, resembleth altogether that which is read in histories to have beene used of the Scythians. By which it may almost infallibly be gathered together, with other circumstances, that the Irish are very Scots or Scythes originally, though sithencc intermingled with many oilier nations repairing and joyning unto them.”—
There is a very singular mention of the sgean or skean in Carlyle’s ” Speeches and Letters of Cromwell.” On the retreat from the fatal field of Naseby, “there were taken a good few ladies of quality in carriages, and above a hundred Irish ladies not of quality, tattery camp-followers with long skean knives about a foot in length which they well knew how to use; upon whom I fear the ordinance against the Papists pressed hard this day.” Vol. 1, p. 214. In other words, the pious Parliamentarians and cut-throat rebels, about whom Mr. Carlyle has written his eloquent Book of Saints, hanged these women, and then gave thanks to the Lord for the crowing mercy. But it is not astonishing that these English killed a few hundred women, mere camp-followers, for another writer tell us that the barbarians slew several of the wives of officers of quality Southey’s Life of Cromwell, p. 41; Clarendon’s Civil Warn, Oxford ed.1839, vol. 5, p. 176. These saints of Carlyle had certainly all the wisdom of the serpent, but they had the ferocity of the tiger. They were a blasphemous rabble rout, which no German ecstatics will ever turn to things admirable.
**Sir John Davies’s” Hist. Tracts,” p. 119. Sir John who got some pretty grants in the business says, in the pious fulness of his heart, but rather profanely, “omnis plantatio quam non plantavit Pater meus, eradicabitur.”
Sir John Davies, in one of those admirable essays which, whatever we may think of their morality, are amongst the most useful materials of Irish history, has given us a graphic account of the great settlement. He and Sir Oliver Lambert were the principal agents in effecting the division of the escheated lands, which they accomplished in a “perambulation” made through the North, with the Lord Deputy and the other Commissioners of Plantation, and the account of which Sir John communicated to his constant friend and patron, Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, in 1610.
They had four principal points to dispose of; First, to assign the portions which were apportioned to the natives according to the qualities of the lands, and the deserts of the favoured parties; Second, to distribute and apportion the lands set apart for the servitors; Third, to publish by proclamation in each county the lands which were given to the English and Scotch Undertakers, to the servitors, and to the natives, that the latter should remove from the precincts allotted to the English and Scotch, whereupon a clear Plantation was to be made of English and Scottishmen without any Irish, and to settle upon the lands assigned to servitors and natives, where a mixed Plantation of English, Scotch, and Irish was to be made; and Fourth, to give seizin* of their allotted shares to the British Undertakers, who had flocked in numbers to the scene of partition. All these duties they discharged, not without opposition from the people who were to be so unceremoniously thrust aside by the hungry tribe of Stewarts, Wingfields, Folliots, Hamiltons, Kinkels, Smelhomes, Adwicks, Chichesters, and Butlers, who were there awaiting the unholy distribution.
*A barbarous law word, signifying possession.
For it appears that in Cavari, where the natives were near the Pale, and familiar, after a fashion, with points of law and incidents of title, they made a bold struggle to preserve their lands, and appealed directly to that perfidious promise—so often made, so often broken—that they should share the benefits of English law. They had learned to talk of a freehold and of estates of inheritance, (dangerous study for the “despairing Irishes,”) of which the bold Clansmen of Tyrconnell and Tyrowen, secure as they thought themselves in their hills and their vallies, their mountains and their river-sides, were proudly ignorant; and these poor Cavan lovers of justice had hired a lawyer of the Pale, to maintain, that they had estates of inheritance in their possessions, which their chiefs could not forfeit. Doubtless much sound law did this Solon. of the Pale discourse, eloquent on tails, tail males, fee tails, and tails in remainder, and all the other jargon of Norman jurisprudence. He demanded to traverse the office which had been found of his client’s lands, and he claimed the benefit of that proclamation in which the base Stuart promised to take the persons, estates and goods of his Irish subjects into his protection. But of what avail was all the argument? Bobbery was its own judge. Lambert and Davies and Chichester, the Commissioners of Partition, and the rest of them, who had their deeds of grant in their pockets; English lawyers, the scourings of the Inns of Middle and Inner Temple; grasping speculators; soldiers of fortune, were to try a title as old as the Island itself: is it surprising that even the lawyer of the Pale could do nothing for the clansmen of O’Reilly?
Sir John Davies, poet, philosopher, attorney-general, adroit and supple courtier, casuist without conscience or honor, undertaker, and Servitor, replied. And his reply is a marvellous specimen of the logic of an attorney-general. He was rejoiced, good man, that occasion offered of declaring and setting forth his Majesty’s most just title, as well for his Majesty’s honor, who being the most just prince living, would not oppress the meanest of his subjects wrongfully, to gain many such kingdoms, as for the satisfaction of the natives themselves and of all the world.
His Majesty bad a threefold title, and a right to dispose of the lands, “in law, conscience, and in honor.” In law, he had a right, whether considering the matter with reference to the English law or the old Brehon jurisprudence. For, by the former, the sovereign is Lord Paramount of all land, of all the land in the kingdom, and all his subjects hold their possessions of him, mediate or immediate. That the captainship of O’Reilly being abolished, and the two chief lords elected by the country slain in rebellion, the king was entitled to enter upon their lands, without reference to the estates which the clansmen might have had. For of what nature could these estates have been? Either estates of inheritance, or estates not of inheritance. An estate not of inheritance they did not claim, or if they did, they should show the creation thereof, which they could not do; and if they claimed an estate of inheritance, then estates ought to descend to a certain heir, which neither their chieftainships, nor their tenancies ever did. Therefore they had no estates of inheritance. The estate of their Tanists and Chieftains hath been adjudged (that is, good Sir John, by rascal lawyers who wanted to rob both) to be no estate in law, but only a transitory and “scambling possession.” They never did, he continued to argue, conceive that their lawful heirs should inherit the land they possessed, which was manifest by two things: 1st, they never esteemed lawful matrimony,* to the end that they might have lawful heirs; and 2nd, they never did build any houses, giant orchards, or gardens, nor take any care of their posterity. It followed that, if these men had estates in law, either in their chieftainships or in their tenancies, if his majesty who was Lord Paramount did seize upon and dispose of their lands, they could make no title against him or his patentees and consequently could not be admitted to traverse any office of their lands.
*This was only a repetition of the base lie of Cambrensis, and the other slanderers. The Irish did marry, sometimes in the older time with some informality but they always contracted marriage and were faithful.
Much more to this effect, did the king’s attorney speak to the astonished natives; much more of such perfidious technical rhodomontade, well enough for the purlieus of West minister or the bagnios of the Temple, or the corrupter atmosphere of the chief city of the Pale, but marvellous to the meer Irish of the hill sides of Brefney. What then said he of the ancient law he came to root out, and in its stead to substitute “civility”? Was there no code of Brehon, no chieftaincy, no gavelkind? Surrendering these, were these Cavan men not promised, on the perfumed sacred word of Royalty, that they should hold their hill sides without let, and free? Yes ; there was then one scruple to hinder James in this enterprize, viz.: whether the king might in conscience or honor remove the ancient tenants, and bring in strangers amongst them?
What said the mercenary knave? Why, truly that his majesty might not only take this course lawfully, but was bound in conscience so to do. Ah! immemorial unconverted spirit of English law, thou perfection of human reason, thou consummation of human goodness, was there ever wrong thou wouldst not consecrate, or right thou couldst not take away?
The King is Father of his people, said Sir John, and the people and the land are committed by the Divine Majesty to his charge and government. He is therefore bound in conscience to use all lawful and just courses to reduce his people from barbarism to civility. Now civility could not be planted amongst them without a mixed plantation of civil men, which could not be effected without transplantation and removal of some of the natives, and settling their possessions in the course of the common law I For if they were allowed to occupy the country as their septs have for many hundred years—ay, till curst Norman avarice brought their mailed beggars here—they would never, to the end of the world, build houses, make townships, or manure or improve the land as it ought to be; therefore it stands not with christian policy, nor conscience to let so good and fruitful a country to be waste like a wilderness, when his majesty may lawfully dispose of it to such persons as will make a civil Plantation thereupon.
And so argued the Roman planting his ensigns on the shores of Britain; so argued the fanatic Isabella driving the Arab from the fields of Spain; so argued the bloody Cortes and the insatiable Pizarro as they gave a million Indians to their sword and cross; so argue even now the perfidious Frenchman in his razzias and his manburnings—human enlightenment demands its victims—the march of civilization has been too often upon the crushed hearts, and plundered rights of man. “James, in this great misdeed, transplanted like a father not like a Lord or Monarch;” so says Sir John Davies. “The Romans transplanted whole nations out of Germany into France—the Spaniards lately* removed all the Moors out of Granada into Barbary, without providing them with new seats there. When the English Pale was settled the natives were all clearly expelled, and the Graemes were removed then from Scotland to Ireland without a foot of land being allotted to them; bat these natives of Cavan had lands assigned them usually in the same barony where they lived before, so that in this his Majesty did imitate the skilful husbandman who doth remove his fruit trees, not with a purpose to extirpate and destroy them, but that they might bring better and sweeter fruit after the transplantation.”
*The Conquest of Grenada was effected 1491; Philip the Second exterminated the Moorish race in Spain, 1568
With these courtly reasonings and this lawyer logic the natives were “not unsatisfied in reason, though they remained in their passions discontented, being much grieved to leave their possessions to strangers which they had so long after their manner enjoyed.” But the Lord Deputy mingled threats with entreaty; precibusque minas regaliter add it; and the poor natives gave way “like obedient and loyal subjects,” to the Sheriff and the warrant of the Commissioners. And so commenced this foul crusade. The people of Ulster had looked to Cavan expectingly, trusting with trembling confidence to right and law; but seeing things so managed there, they were broken to their fate, and with silent despair submitted to the course prescribed by James for the Plantation. The lands were divided—and proclamation duly made—the Undertakers prepared the materials for their Castles and their Bawns—the servitors took out their letters patent with hot haste—the hapless owners of the soil moved from their ancient homes—the agents of the incomparable city of London piled their timber, their lime and stones, their iron and their other materials for their new city, and so busy were the workmen there and elsewhere about their several tasks as “methought I saw Dido’s colony erecting Carthage,”
Instant ardentes Tyrii, pars ducere muros
Molirique arcem, et munibus subvolvere saxa
Pars optare locum tecto, et concludere sulco.
And now look at this Ulster before and after the Plantation. But first put away the original wrong from your thought—for a moment cease to think of all the crimes, all the deep injury, all the wondrous injustice, all the original sin of this mighty change, then thoughtfully mark the contrast. Before the Plantation — before Hugh O’Neill had hidden his great defeat and greater sorrows beneath an English coronet—from these Forests issued, and roamed over these Plains, a Free People, ruled by their own rude laws and institutions, adoring at their own altars, assembling round their own hearths, speaking the language racy of their soil and of their souls, loving, tender, vengeful, fierce, after the fashion their mother’s milk had given them,—a people of the Land, her children, like the oaks they dwelt amongst, bursting from her bosom like the streams upon whose banks they fought and loved, and lived and died. They were rough and untutored; their laws which yet suited them were not as wise as human wisdom might devise; they tilled their lands rudely, yea, even with the tails of their beasts they yoked their ploughs; over their wide and green pastures roved their flocks, unbranded, the wandering wealth of pastoral clans; fierce in fight, sensual and amorous, wild in mirth and gentle in love, a bold, brave race, they possessed the soil God gave their fathers; they worked out in triumph or defeat the ends of human civilization, working unskilfully but with some progression, when this great Plantation met them in their way. Gradually but fearfully it came on with projects, plans, and laws, and arguments most eloquent of dispossession. The rich plains over which their fathers wandered, the fertile vallies where their fathers dwelt in many a rude ancestral village, the river sides of pleasant Deny, and the bold headlands of mountainous Donegal, all were swept away by gracious writ, by King’s command, by projects of Plantation, by inquisition, by forfeitures, and by escheats, words dimly understood of fearful import. They retire before the tide, and now a new race succeeds, the spawn of bloody conquest. On every side arise the well flanked castle, with frowning tower and threatening battlement; the mighty forest re-echoes with the ceaseless axe; the sounds of busy labour are heard “from mom till dewy eve;” towns and cities, fortresses and factories, are seen lifting their heads aloft; the whole face of Nature and of things is changed. An ancient civilization, ancient laws, and ancient Faith are swept away; new forms of life, new codes, new habits, and new men are planted in that ancient soil to bear what fruit they may.
May it be fruit of peace and honour to this distracted land!