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The Confiscation of Ulster

Information extracted from The Land-War In Ireland (1870)
by James Godkin


Sir Toby Caulfield, accompanied by the sheriffs of Tyrone and Tyrconnel, followed quickly the proclamation of the lord deputy to the people of Ulster, and took possession of the houses, goods, and chattels of the fugitive earls. Sir Toby was further empowered to act as receiver over the estates, taking up the rents according to the Irish usage until other arrangements could be made. His inventory of the effects of O'Neill in the castle of Dungannon is a curious document, showing that according to the ideas of those times in the matter of furniture 'man wants but little here below.' The following is a copy of the document taken from the memorandum roll of the exchequer by the late Mr. Ferguson. It is headed, 'The Earl of Tyrone's goods, viz.' The spelling is, however, modernised, and ordinary figures substituted for Roman numerals. 

The Earl of Tyrone's Goods, viz.=  L. s. d.

Small steers, 9 at 10 s. = 4 10 0

60 hogs, at 2 s. 6 d. = 7 10 0 2

2 long tables, = 10 s. 

2 long forms,   5 s.;

an old bedstead, = 5 s.

An old trunk, = 3 s.;

a long stool, = 12 d.

3 hogsheads of salt, = 28 s.

6 d.; all valued at  =  4 12 6

A silk jacket = 0 13 4

8 vessels of butter, containing 4-1/2 barrels = 5 17 6

2 iron spikes = 0 2 0

 A powdering tub = 0 0 6

2 old chests = 0 4 0

A frying-pan and a dripping-pan = 0 3 0

5 pewter dishes = 0 5 0

A casket, 2 d.; a comb and comb case, 18 d. = 0 1 8

2 dozen of trenchers and a basket = 0 0 10

2 eighteen-bar ferris = 0 6 0

A box and 2 drinking glasses = 0 1 3

A trunk 1; a pair of red taffeta curtains

1; other pair of green satin curtains  = 4 5 0

A brass kettle = 0 8 6 '

A payer of covyrons'  = 0 5 0

2 baskets with certain broken earthen dishes and

some waste spices = 0 2 0

Half a pound of white and blue starch = 0 0 4

A vessel with 11 gallons of vinegar = 0 3 0

17 pewter dishes = 0 15 0

3 glass bottles = 0 1 6

2 stone jugs, whereof 1 broken = 0 0 6

A little iron pot = 0 1 6

A great spit = 0 1 6

6 garrons at 80 s. apiece = 9 0 0

19 stud mares, whereof [some] were claimed

by Nicholas Weston, which were restored

to him by warrant, 30 l. 9 s. being proved to be

 his own, and so remaineth  = 17 0 0


With respect to rents, Sir Toby Caulfield left a memorandum, stating that there was no certain portion of Tyrone's land let to any of his tenants that paid him rent, and that such rents as he received were paid to him partly in money and partly in victuals, as oats, oatmeal, butter, hogs, and sheep. The money-rents were chargeable on all the cows, milch or in calf, which grazed on his lands, at the rate of a shilling a quarter each. The cows were to be numbered in May and November by the earl's officers, and 'so the rents were taken up at said rate for all the cows that were so numbered, except only the heads and principal men of the 'creaghts', as they enabled them to live better than the common multitude under them, whom they caused to pay the said rents, which amounted to about twelve hundred sterling Irish a year.

 'The butter and other provisions were usually paid by those styled horsemen--O'Hagans, O'Quins, the O'Donnillys, O'Devolins, and others.' These were a sort of middle men, and to some of them an allowance was made by the Government. 'Thus for example, Loughlin O'Hagan, formerly constable of the castle of Dungannon, received in lieu thereof a portion of his brother Henry's goods, and Henry O'Hagan's wife and her children had all her husband's goods, at the suit of her father Sir G. O'Ghy O'Hanlon, who had made a surrender of all his lands to the crown.'

The cattle were to be all numbered over the whole territory in one day, a duty which must have required a great number of men, and sharp men too; for, if the owners were dishonestly inclined, and were as active in that kind of work as the peasantry were during the anti-tithe war in our own time, the cattle could be driven off into the woods or on to the lands of a neighbouring lord. However, during the three years that Caulfield was receiver, the rental amounted to 12,000 l. a year, a remarkable fact considering the enormous destruction of property that had taken place during the late wars, and the value of money at that time.

A similar process was adopted with regard to the property of O'Donel, and guards were placed in all the castles of the two chiefs. In order that their territories might pass into the king's possession by due form of law, the attorney-general, Sir John Davis, was instructed to draw up a bill of indictment for treason against the fugitive earls and their adherents. With this bill he proceeded to Lifford, accompanied by a number of commissioners, clerks, sheriffs, and a strong detachment of horse and foot. At Lifford, the county town of Donegal, a jury was empanelled for the trial of O'Donel, consisting of twenty-three Irishmen and ten Englishmen. Of this jury Sir Cahir O'Dogherty was foreman. He was the lord of Inishowen, having the largest territories in the county next to the Earl of Tyrconnel. The bill being read in English and Irish, evidence was given, wrote the attorney-general, 'that their guilty consciences, and fear of losing their heads, was the cause of their flight.' The jury, however, had exactly the same sort of difficulty that troubled the juries in our late Fenian trials about finding the accused guilty of compassing the death of the sovereign. But Sir John laboured to remove their scruples by explaining the legal technicality, and arguing that, 'whoso would take the king's crown from his head would likewise, if he could, take his head from his shoulders; and whoever would not suffer the king to reign, if it lay in his power, would not suffer the king to live.' The argument was successful with the jury. In all the conflicts between the two races, whether on the field of battle or in the courts of law, the work of England was zealously done by Celtic agents, who became the eager accusers, the perfidious betrayers, and sometimes the voluntary assassins of men of their own name, kindred, and tribe.

 The commissioners next sat at Strabane, a town within two or three miles of Lifford, where a similar jury was empanelled for the county Tyrone, to try O'Neill. One of the counts against him was that he had treasonably taken upon him the name of O'Neill. In proof of this a document was produced: 'O'Neill bids M'Tuin to pay 60 l.' It was also alleged that he had committed a number of murders; but his victims, it was alleged, were criminals ordered for execution in virtue of the power of life and death with which he had been invested by the queen. He was found guilty, however; and Henry Oge O'Neill, his kinsman, who was foreman of the jury, was complimented for his civility and loyalty, although he belonged to that class concerning which Sir John afterwards wrote, 'It is as natural for an Irish lord to be a thief as it is for the devil to be a liar, of whom it was written, he was a liar and a murderer from the beginning.'

True bills having been found by the grand juries, proceedings were taken in the Court of King's Bench to have the fugitive earls and their followers attainted of high treason. The names were:--'Hugh earl of Tyrone, Rory earl of Tyrconnel, Caffar O'Donel, Cu Connaught Maguire, Donel Oge O'Donel, Art Oge, Cormack O'Neill, Henry O'Neill, Henry Hovenden, Henry O'Hagan, Moriarty O'Quinn, John Bath, Christopher Plunket, John O'Punty O'Hagan, Hugh O'Galagher, Carragh O'Galagher, John and Edmund M'Davitt, Maurie O'Multully, Donogh O'Brien, M'Mahon, George Cashel, Teigue O'Keenen, and many other false traitors, who, by the instigation of the devil, did conspire and plot the destruction and death of the king, Sir Arthur Chichester, &c.; and did also conspire to seize by force of arms the castles of Athlone, Ballyshannon, Duncannon, co. Wexford, Lifford, co. Donegal, and with that intent did sail away in a ship, to bring in an army composed of foreigners to invade the kingdom of Ireland, to put the king to death, and to dispose him from the style, title, power, and government of the Imperial crown.'

The lord deputy and his officers, able, energetic, farseeing men, working together persistently for the accomplishment of a well-defined purpose, were drawing the great net of English law closer and closer around the heads of the Irish clans, who struggled gallantly and wildly in its fatal meshes. The episode of Sir Cahir O'Dogherty is a romance. On the death of Sir John O'Dogherty, the O'Donel, in accordance with Irish custom, caused his brother Phelim Oge to be inaugurated Prince of Inishowen, because Cahir, his son, was then only thirteen years of age, too young to command the sept. But this arrangement did not please his foster brothers, the M'Davitts, who proposed to Sir Henry Docwra, governor of Derry, that their youthful chief should be adopted as the queen's O'Dogherty; and on this condition they promised that he and they would devote themselves to her majesty's service. The terms were gladly accepted. Sir Cahir was trained by Docwra in martial exercises, in the arts of civility, and in English literature. He was an apt pupil. He grew up strong and comely; and he so distinguished himself before he was sixteen years of age in skirmishes with his father's allies, that Sir Henry wrote of him in the following terms: 'The country was overgrown with ancient oak and coppice. O'Dogherty was with me, alighted when I did, kept me company in the greatest heat of the fight, behaved himself bravely, and with a great deal of love and affection; so much so, that I recommended him at my next meeting with the Lord Deputy Mountjoy, for the honour of knighthood, which was accordingly conferred upon him.' The young knight went to London, was well received at court, and obtained a new grant of a large portion of the O'Dogherty's country. He married a daughter of Lord Gormanstown, a catholic peer of the Pale, distinguished for loyalty to the English throne, resided with his bride at his Castle of Elagh, or at Burt, or Buncranna, keeping princely state, not in the old Irish fashion, but in the manner of an English nobleman of the period; hunting the red deer in his forest, hawking, or fishing in the teeming waters of Lough Foyle, Lough Swilly, and the Atlantic, which poured their treasures around the promontory of which he was the lord. His intimate associates were officers and favourites of the king.

Docwra had given up the government of Derry and retired to England. He was succeeded by Sir George Paulet, a man of violent temper. Sir Cahir had sold 3,000 acres of land, which was to be planted with English; and, in order to perfect the deed of sale, it was necessary to have the document signed before the governor of Derry. It had been reported to the lord deputy that Sir Cahir, not content with his position, intended to leave the country, probably with the design of joining the fugitive earls in an attempt to destroy the English power in Ireland. He was therefore summoned before the lord deputy; and Lord Gormanstown, Thomas Fitzwilliam of Merrion, and himself, were obliged to give security that he should not quit Ireland without due notice and express permission. This restraint had probably irritated his hot impetuous spirit, and made it difficult for him to exercise due self-control when he came in contact with the English governor of Derry, with whom his relations were not improved by the suspicions now attaching to his loyalty. Accordingly, while the legal forms of the transfer were being gone through, the young chief made a remark extremely offensive to Paulet, which was resented by a blow in the face with his clenched fist. Instead of returning the blow, young O'Dogherty hurried away to consult the M'Davitts, whose advice was that the insult he received must be avenged by blood. The affair having been immediately reported to the lord deputy, who apprehended that mischief would come of it, he sent a peremptory summons to Sir Cahir, requiring him to appear in Dublin, 'to free himself of certain rumours and reports touching disloyal courses into which he had entered, contrary to his allegiance to the king, and threatening the overthrow of many of his majesty's subjects.' His two sureties were also written to, and required to 'bring in his body.' But O'Dogherty utterly disregarded the lord deputy's order. Taking counsel with Nial Garve O'Donel, he resolved to seize Culmore Fort, Castle Doe, and other strong places; and then march on Derry, and massacre the English settlers in the market square.

Towards the close of April, Sir Cahir invited Captain Harte, governor of Culmore Castle, on the banks of the Foyle, about four miles from Derry, with his wife and infant child, of which he was the godfather, to dine with him at his Castle of Elagh.

The entertainment was sumptuous, and the pleasures of the table protracted to a late hour. After dinner the host took his guest into a private apartment, and told him that the blow he had received from Paulet demanded a bloody revenge. Harte remonstrated; O'Dogherty's retainers rushed in, and, drawing their swords and skeines, declared that they would kill his wife and child in his presence, unless he delivered up the castle of Culmore. The governor was terrified, but he refused to betray his trust. Sir Cahir, commanding the armed men to retire, locked the chamber door, and kept his guest imprisoned there for two hours, hoping that he would yield when he had time for reflection. But finding him still inflexible, O'Dogherty grew furious, and vented his rage in loud and angry words. Mrs. Harte, hearing the altercation, and suspecting foul play, rushed into the room, and found Sir Cahir enforcing his appeal with a naked sword pointed at her husband's throat. She fell on the floor in a swoon. Lady O'Dogherty ran to her assistance, raised her up, and assured her that she knew nothing of her husband's rash design. The latter then thrust the whole party down-stairs, giving orders to his men to seize Captain Harte. Meantime, Lady Harte fell on her knees, imploring mercy, but the only response was an oath that she and her husband and child should be instantly butchered if Culmore were not surrendered. What followed shall be related in the words of Father Meehan: 'Horrified by this menace, she consented to accompany him and his men to the fort, where they arrived about midnight. On giving the pass word the gate was thrown open by the warder, whose suspicions were lulled when Lady Harte told him that her husband had broken his arm and was then lying in Sir Cahir's house. The parley was short, and the followers of Sir Cahir, rushing in to the tower, fell on the sleeping garrison, slaughtered them in their beds, and then made their way to an upper apartment where Lady Harte's brother, recently come from England, was fast asleep. Fearing that he might get a bloody blanket for his shroud, Lady Harte followed them into the room, and implored the young man to offer no resistance to the Irish, who broke open trunks, presses and other furniture, and seized whatever valuables they could clutch. Her thoughtfulness saved the lives of her children and her brother; for as soon as Sir Cahir had armed his followers with matchlocks and powder out of the magazine, he left a small detachment to garrison Culmore, and then marched rapidly on Derry, where he arrived about two o'clock in the morning. Totally unprepared for such an irruption, the townsfolk were roused from their sleep by the bagpipes and war-shout of the Clan O'Dogherty, who rushed into the streets, and made their way to Paulet's house, where Sir Cahir, still smarting under the indignity of the angry blow, satisfied his vow of vengeance by causing that unhappy gentleman to be hacked to death with the pikes and skeines of Owen O'Dogherty and others of his kindred. After plundering the houses of the more opulent inhabitants, seizing such arms as they could find, and reducing the young town to a heap of ashes, Sir Cahir led his followers to the palace of Montgomery the bishop, who fortunately for himself was then absent in Dublin. Not finding him, they captured his wife, and sent her, under escort, to Burt Castle, whither Lady O'Dogherty, her sister-in-law and infant daughter, had gone without warders for their protection. It was on this occasion that Phelim M'Davitt got into Montgomery's library and set fire to it, thus destroying hundreds of valuable volumes, printed and manuscript, a feat for which he is not censured--we are sorry to have to acknowledge it--by Philip O'Sullivan in his account of the fact. Elated by this successful raid, Sir Cahir called off his followers and proceeded to beleaguer Lifford, where there was a small garrison of English who could not be induced to surrender, although suffering severely from want of provisions. Finding all his attempts to reduce the place ineffectual, he sent for the small force he had left in Culmore to join the main body of his partisans, and then marched into M'Swyne Doe's country.

' Meantime news of these atrocities reached Dublin, and the lord deputy immediately sent a force of 3,000 men, commanded by Sir Richard Wingfield, Sir Thomas Roper, and Sir Toby Caulfield, with instructions to pursue the revolted Irish into their fastnesses and deal with them summarily. He himself set out to act with the troops, and on reaching Dundalk published a proclamation, in which he offered pardon to all who laid down their arms, or would use them in killing their associates. He took care, however, to except Phelim M'Davitt from all hope of mercy, consigning him to be dealt with by a military tribunal. The English force in the interval had made their way into O'Dogherty's country, and coming before Culmore, found it abandoned by the Irish, who, unable to carry off the heavy guns, took the precaution of burying them in the sea. Burt Castle surrendered without a blow. Wingfield immediately liberated the inmates, and sent Bishop Montgomery's wife to her husband, and Lady O'Dogherty, her infant daughter and sister-in-law, to Dublin Castle. As for Sir Cahir, instead of going to Castle Doe, he resolved to cross the path of the English on their march to that place, and coming up with them in the vicinity of Kilmacrenan, he was shot dead by a soldier. The death of the young chieftain spread panic among his followers, most of whom flung away their arms, betook themselves to flight, and were unmercifully cut down. Sir Cahir's head was immediately struck off and sent to Dublin, where it was struck upon a pole at the east gate of the city.

O'Dogherty's country was now confiscated, and the lord deputy, Chichester, was rewarded with the greatest portion of his lands. But what was to be done with the people? In the first instance they were driven from the rich lowlands along the borders of Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly, and compelled to take refuge in the mountain fastnesses which stretched to a vast extent from Moville westward along the Atlantic coast. But could those 'idle kerne and swordsmen,' thus punished with loss of lands and home for the crimes of their chief, be safely trusted to remain anywhere in the neighbourhood of the new English settlers? Sir John Davis and Sir Toby Caulfield thought of a plan by which they could get rid of the danger. The illustrious Gustavus Adolphus was then fighting the battles of Protestantism against the house of Austria. In his gallant efforts to sustain the cause of the Reformation every true Irish Protestant sympathised, and none more than the members of the Irish Government. To what better use, then, could the 'loose Irish kerne and swordsmen' of Donegal be turned than to send them to fight in the army of the King of Sweden? Accordingly 6,000 of the able-bodied peasantry of Inishown were shipped off for this service. Sir Toby Caulfield, founder of the house of Charlemont, was commissioned to muster the men and have them transported to their destination, being paid for their keep in the meantime. A portion of his account ran thus: 'For the dyett of 80 of said soldiers for 16 daies, during which tyme they were kept in prison in Dungannon till they were sent away, at iiiid le peece per diem; allso for dyett of 72 of said men kept in prison at Armagh till they were sent away to Swethen, at iiiid le peece per diem,' &c., &c. Caulfield was well rewarded for these services; and Captain Sandford, married to the niece of the first Earl of Charlemont, obtained a large grant of land on the same score. This system of clearing out the righting men among the Irish was continued till 1629, when the lord deputy, Falkland, wrote that Sir George Hamilton, a papist, then impressing soldiers in Tyrone and Antrim, was opposed by one O'Cullinan, a priest, who was rash enough to advise the people to stay at home and have nothing to do with the Danish wars. For this he was arrested, committed to Dublin Castle, tortured and then hanged.

With regard to the immediate followers of O'Dogherty in his insane course, many of the most prominent leaders were tried by court-martial and executed. Others were found guilty by ordinary course of law. Among these was O'Hanlon, Sir Cahir's brother-in-law. Pie was hanged at Armagh; and his youthful wife was found by a soldier, 'stripped of her apparel, in a wood, where she perished of cold and hunger, being lately before delivered of a child.' M'Davitt, the firebrand of the rebellion, was convicted and executed at Derry. At Dungannon Shane, Carragh O'Cahan was found guilty by 'a jury of his _kinsmen_' and executed in the camp, his head being stuck upon the castle of that place--the castle from which his brother was mainly instrumental in driving its once potent lord into exile. At the same place a monk, who was a chief adviser of the arch-rebel, saved his life and liberty by tearing off his religious habit, and renouncing his allegiance to the Pope. Father Meehan states that many of the clergy, secular and regular, of Inishown might have saved their lives by taking the oath of supremacy. It was a terrible time in Donegal. No day passed without the killing and taking of some of the dispersed rebels, one betraying another to get his own pardon, and the goods of the party betrayed, according to a proviso in the deputy's proclamation. Among the informers was a noble lady, the mother of Hugh Roe O'Donel and Rory Earl of Tyronnel, who accused Nial Garve, her own son-in-law, of complicity in O'Dogherty's revolt, for which she got a grant of some hundreds of acres in the neighbourhood of Kilmacrenan.

The insurgent leaders and the dangerous kerne having been effectually cleared off in various ways, the whole territory of Inishown was overrun by the king's troops. The lord deputy, Sir Arthur Chichester, with a numerous retinue, including the attorney-general, sheriffs, lawyers, provosts-martial, engineers, and 'geographers,' made a grand 'progress,' and penetrated for the first time the region which was to become the property of his family. It was a strange sight to the poor Irish that were suffered to remain. 'As we passed through the glens and forests,' wrote Sir John Davis, 'the wild inhabitants did as much wonder to see the king's deputy as the ghosts in Virgil did to see AEneas alive in hell.' In this exploring tour a thorough knowledge of the country was for the first time obtained, and the attorney-general could report that 'before Michaelmas he would be ready to present to his majesty a perfect survey of six whole counties which he now hath in actual possession in the province of Ulster, of greater extent of land than any prince in Europe hath in his own hands to dispose of.' A vast field for plantation! But Sir John Davis cautioned the Government against the mistakes that caused the failure of former settlements, saying, that if the number of the Scotch and English who were to come to Ireland did not much exceed that of the natives, the latter would quickly 'overgrow them, as weeds overgrow corn.'

O'Cahan, who was charged with complicity in O'Dogherty's outbreak, or with being at least a sympathiser, had been arrested, and was kept, with Nial Garve, a close prisoner in Dublin Castle. An anonymous pamphleteer celebrated the victories that had been achieved by the lord deputy, giving to his work the title, 'The Overthrow of an Irish Rebel,' having for its frontispiece a tower with portcullis, and the O'Dogherty's head impaled in the central embrazure. The spirit of the narrative may be inferred from the following passage: 'As for Tyrone and Co., or Tyrconnel, they are already fled from their coverts, and I hope they will never return; and for other false hearts, the chief of note is O'Cahan, Sir Nial Garve, and his two brothers, with others of their condition. They have holes provided for them in the castle of Dublin, where I hope they are safe enough from breeding any cubs to disquiet and prey upon the flock of honest subjects.'

 O'Cahan and his companion, however, tried to get out of the hole, although the lord deputy kept twenty men every night to guard the castle, in addition to the ordinary ward, and two or three of the guards lay in the same rooms with the prisoners. Their horses had arrived in town, and all things were in readiness. But their escape was hindered by the fact that Shane O'Carolan, who had been acquitted of three indictments, cast himself out of a window at the top of the castle by the help of his mantle, which broke before he was half way down; and though he was presently discovered, yet he escaped about supper time. 'Surely,' exclaimed the lord deputy, 'these men do go beyond all nations in the world for desperate escapes!' The prisoners were subsequently conveyed to the Tower, where they remained many years closely confined, and where they ended their days. Sir Allen Apsley, in 1623, made a report of the prisoners then in his custody, in which he said, 'There is here Sir Nial Garve O'Donel, a man that was a good subject during the late queen's time, and did as great service to the state as any man of his nation. He has been a prisoner here about thirteen years. His offence is known specially to the Lord Chichester. Naghtan, his son, was taken from Oxford and committed with his father. I never heard any offence he did.'

While O'Cahan was in prison, commissioners sat in his mansion at Limavaddy, including the Primate Usher, Bishop Montgomery of Derry, and Sir John Davis. They decided that by the statute of 11 Elizabeth, which it was supposed had been cancelled by the king's pardon, all his territory had been granted to the Earl of Tyrone, and forfeited by his flight. It was, therefore, confiscated. Although sundry royal and viceregal proclamations had assured the tenants that they would not be disturbed in their possessions, on account of the offences of their chiefs, it was now declared that all O'Cahan's country belonged to the crown, and that neither he nor those who lived under him had any estate whatever in the lands. Certain portions of the territory were set apart for the Church, and handed over to Bishop Montgomery. 'Of all the fair territory which once was his, Donald Balagh had not now as much as would afford him a last resting-place near the sculptured tomb of Cooey-na-gall. O'Cahan got no sympathy, and he deserved none; for he might have foreseen that the Government to which he sold himself would cast him off as an outworn tool, when he could no longer subserve their wicked purposes.'[1] 'Thus were the O'Cahans dispossessed by the colonists of Derry, to whom their broad lands and teeming rivers were passed, _mayhap_ for ever. Towards the close of the Cromwellian war in Ireland, the Duchess of Buckingham, passing through Limavaddy, visited its ancient castle, then sadly dilapidated, and, entering one of the apartments, saw an aged woman wrapped in a blanket, and crouching over a peat fire, which filled the room with reeking smoke. After gazing at this pitiful spectacle, the duchess asked the miserable individual her name; when the latter, rising and drawing herself up to her full height, replied, "I am the wife of the O'Cahan."'[Father Meehan dedicates his valuable work to the lord chancellor of Ireland, the Right Hon. Thomas O'Hagan,--the first Catholic chancellor since the Revolution. Descended from the O'Hagans, who were hereditary justiciaries and secretaries to the O'Neill, he is, by universal consent, one of the ablest and most accomplished judges that ever adorned the Irish Bench. His ancestors were involved in the fortunes of Tyrone. How strange that the representative of the judicial and literary clan of ancient Ulster should now be the head of the Irish magistracy!]

[Footnote 1: Meehan, p.317.]