Art Og.57 Just three years later, Sliocht Airt’s ally, O’Donnell rebuilds the castle in a week!58 Two years later, Art Og, now O’Neillissimo, razes his enemy’s citadel at Omagh, and gives a crushing defeat to Sliocht Airt.59 But the rise again, raiding Art Og’s son, Henry Balbh O’Neill of Fintona, time and again. There are reprisals and the Sliocht Airt finally hang Henry Balbh and Cormack, two sons of King Art Og, here in Dromore, in 1528.60 But ten ears later (1538) the chief stronghold of Sliocht Airt was laid low, when Niall O’Neill razed Omagh Castle to the ground for the last time.61 When the Tudor Conquest came, Docwra, the English commander, had to build a new fort in Omagh, which gave its name to today’s Castle Street.62
Christmas 1601, Irish leaders lost all in their last battle at Kinsale against the Tudor armies. One historian’s comments:
The submission of O’Neill…did in fact bring to an end Gaelic and feudal Ireland. The last
unconquered province was thrown open to English law and government. There were to be no more
‘lords of countries’ and ‘captains of their nations’, and no wide territory in which the poets, brehons
and chroniclers could practice freely their art…
The fight of the Northern chiefs was an apparent failure. Nations, however, are made in many ways,
and among these is the heroic example of great men even when they seem to fail. Few of the great
names of Irish history come better out of the tangled treachery, cruelty, self-seeking and indifference
to their times than the wise and long-lived Hugh O’Neill (of Tyrone) and Red Hugh O’Donnell (of
Donegal), that fiery spirit soon quenched. 63
In 1607 Ulster leaders fled and an Irish poet, Red Owen Ward of Ballyshannon wrote a lament in Irish. Below is one verse:
“Lonely is Ireland tonight….
Men smile at children’s play no more,
Music and song, their day is o’er,
At shrine, at Mass the kingdom’s heirs
Are seen no more. Changed hearts are theirs….”64
The land of the Church and old Irish were seized by the crown, then granted by King James to incoming English and Scottish and known as Ulster Plantation. The son of one of the new colonists described them:
From Scotland came many and from England not a few; yet all of them generally the scum of both
60 Old Fintona, 18
62 Old Fintona, 16, note 39. By 1654, little of the old O’Neill castle was left and it is referred to as “the foundation of an old castle”, while the new English stronghold by the Strule is referred to as “a tenable fort which was formerly an Abby:. (Civil survey, 1654, iii, 334).
63 Curtis, op. Cit., pp. 219-220. Our parentheses.
64 Robin Flower, The Irish Tradition (Oxford 1947), p. 167. The word “shrine” is inserted in the third line, in keeping with Fr. P. Walsh’s ms. Correction, Beatha Aoidh Rua (II, 139)