The Battle for Ulster 1600-1628

Lord Mountjoy, who arrived in Ireland in February, 1600, had orders from Queen Elizabeth to defeat O’Neill and O’Cahan and all the other Ulster chiefs.  His plan was to keep ships on the coast to prevent powder and muskets reaching the insurgents from Scotland or Spain.  He knew that the Irish forces could not storm a walled town or strong castle, through their lack of the necessary guns, so he planned to base his forces in such fortified places. He planned also to feed his army from England, and follow a scorched earth policy so that the insurgents would be starved out.

 The central fastness of Ulster was a forbidding region abounding in forest, bog and mountain, and lacking in good means of communication. It was inhabited by the hardiest and most warlike of the Ulster clans. Consequently the strategic idea was to use sea-power to supply the Lough Foyle force, to establish forts that could be strongly held up the River Foyle, and so to divide O'Neill from O'Donnell. The object of the Ballyshannon force was to put a barrier between O'Donnell's country and Connaught, which he continually raided.  This basic strategy of placing strong points to divide the northern clans from one another was followed out consistently and it has had abiding results in the life of County Derry.


Fynes Moryson, Mountjoy's secretary, mentions these garrisons as an important factor in the campaign, as the insurgents could not leave their own territory to help each other in case the garrisons would despoil it.  He mentions also the scorched earth policy sug­gested by Essex and how it was put into practice by Mountjoy. "Again, where other deputies used to assail the rebels only in summer time, this lord persecuted them most in the winter, being commonly five days at least in the week on horseback, all the winter long. This brake their hearts, for the air being sharp and they naked, and they being driven from their lodgings into the woods bare of leaves, they had no shelter for themselves. Besides that, their cattle (giving them no milk in the winter) were also wasted by driving to and fro. And that they being thus troubled in the seed time, could not sow their ground. And as in harvest time, both the Deputy's forces, and the garrisons, cut down their corn before it was ripe, so now in winter time they carried away or burnt all the stores of victuals in secret places, whither the rebels had conveyed them .. ."


A third factor of great importance in this campaign was the use of important Irish figures in their own districts who were dis­contented.  Sir Neill Garve O'Donnell was promised the lordship of Donegal, while Sir Arthur O'Neill was promised the earldom of Tyrone.  Other Irishmen were recruited to serve against their own kinsmen and were despised alike by those whom they had deserted and those whom they had joined.  Fynes Moryson remarked on one occasion when these Irish troops had 'borne the brunt of the fighting and suffered the heaviest losses, that "the death of

those unpeaceful swordsmen, though falling on our side, yet was rather gain than loss to the commonwealth."  Finally, some of the Irish served as spies, and the information thus gathered was used to determine the tactics to be employed. Mountjoy, on the other hand, reduced discussion of his plans to a minimum and guarded against indiscretions in his entourage.  He was aware, particularly since he was using Irish troops, that any careless talk of his inten­tions could go very quickly to Hugh O'Neill.


The clear strategic plan which had been conceived was put into operation in the spring of 1600.  A fleet was despatched from England to land and assist the Lough Foyle force. This force consisted of 4,000 foot and 200 horse, and was under the command of Sir Henry Docwra.  It was equipped with masons and carpenters to build the necessary fortifications and houses for a garrison, and with a large quantity of tools. The most vulnerable period for this force would be the period after landing, before adequate defensive works had been prepared.  Accordingly Mountjoy marched north in May in order to attract O'Neill's forces towards him, and to give the Lough Foyle force time to dig in and prepare fortifications.  Under cover of this feint, Docwra's force sailed into Lough Foyle in the middle of May.


Docwra himself has described the landing in his narration of the campaign: ". . . it was the 14th [May] before wee could putt in to the mouth of the Bay at Loughfoyle and noe sooner were wee entred, but wee fell on ground and soe stucke till the next day, than at a full tide, wee waighted our Anchors, sayled a little way and rune on ground againe.


"On the 16th in the morning wee gott loose and about ten of the Clocke (100 men lying on shoare and giving us a volie of shott and so retyring) wee landed at Culmore and with the first of our horse and foote that wee could unshipp made up towards a troupe of horse and foote that wee sawe standing before us on the topp of a hill, but by ignorance of the wayes our horses were presentlie boggt and so at that day wee made none other use, but onlie to land our men. The next day, the place seaming to my Judgement fitt to build wee beganne about the Butt end of the old broken castle to caste up a forte such as might be capable to lodge 200 men in."

Six days were spent on this work, and a garrison planted here at Culmore.  Docwra's eye was upon another position for his main strong point, Derry.  He described the position as an island made with the river on one side, and a bog on the other (still remembered as the Bogside).  It lay in form like a bow bent, the bog being the spring and the river the bow.  It was thus protected on all sides, as the bog was generally wet and not easily passable except in two or three places. Docwra reckoned the island was about a small mile in length and a quarter of a mile in breadth. It stood in a good position to keep O'Doherty's country of Inishowen under control, and to make incursions into Donegal.  There were good quarries within the area, and also the ruins of an old abbey, of a bishop's house, two churches and a castle.


The Annalists also record the landing of the Lough Foyle force, and the construction of three forts, at Dunnalong in O'Neill's part of the country in the neighbourhood of O'Cahan's territory, at Culmore and Derry.  "The English immediately began sinking trenches about them and constructing a strong earthen mound and a great rampart, so that they were in a state of defence against their enemies; and these were stronger and more defensive than courts of lime and stone or citadels on the building of which much time and immense labour might be spent.  They then demolished the monastery and cathedral and such as remained of the ecclesi­astical buildings in the town, of which they made houses and apartments.  The name of the general who was with them was Henry Docwra; he was a distinguished knight of wisdom and ingenuity and a pillar of battle and valour; 6,000 was the number that came to that place, and after they arrived at Derry they con­sidered Culmore -and Dunnalong of little consequence."


With the choice of Derry as a base, building went on without serious interruption. Cockle shells for lime were obtained from a little island in the mouth of the harbour, but the main difficulty was timber.  Ships were sent to coast along the shore, and if they found any houses to demolish them and 'bring back the timber and building materials. There was a large shrubby coppice on O'Cahan's side of the river over against Culmore which contained plenty of old grown birch.  Docwra sent over workmen every day to cut this timber; he remarks that the working party had to have a guard of soldiers, and there was not a stick of it brought home that was not first well fought for.  With these materials houses were erected, and the groundwork of a permanent settlement made.


At first Docwra stood on the defensive, probably fearing to be caught in the open by the superior forces of O'Neill.  The Four Masters say that the English were so much afraid and in dread that for a long time they did not come outside the ramparts except a short distance, while a great number of them were on guard every night.  On account of the confinement of their position they were subject to sickness, and this reduced their effectiveness a great deal.  Men died by the score, and hundreds more were unfit for active duty.  However, the position at Derry was defended, and the help of some renegade Irishmen obtained.  A position had been gained from which the intended scorched earth policy could be pursued.  Writing at the close of the year on the 19th December, Docwra gives a description of Lough Foyle and the country adjoining.  Of O'Cahan's territory he says that he cannot say much yet "but that part I have seen was full of corn and it is generally reputed a richer and more fertile soil than that of O'Dogherty's and of greater circuit and extent."


Winter past, O'Cahan approached Docwra, indicating that he was willing to surrender his lands, and to hold them from the Queen. These approaches were evidently made on numerous occasions, but flatly rejected by Docwra. This was official policy, as put into practice by Mountjoy.  Fynes Moryson says on this issue: "For protection and pardons (the easy obtaining whereof had formerly encouraged the rebels, as well to enter into rebellion as to break their faith after submissions, in hope to be again received to mercy) although it was necessary for the State in this general rebellion, like a mother, to open her bosom to her children, lest, being driven to despair, they should plunge themselves into all mischiefs, yet he never received any to mercy, but such as had so drawn blood on their fellow-rebels, and were themselves made so poor, as there was small danger of their relapse.”


Sir John Bolles, writing to Cecil on March 7th, puts the official point of view in this way. The first method is to allow the people to come in through the persuasion of their priests, so allowing them to retain their strength and ability to resist. The second method is to force them to submit because the country is so ravaged that resistance is no longer possible.  According to Bolles the perfect cure was to keep the people from ploughing by dispersed garrisons, and to force them to live on their stocks so that they would starve in the following year.  This was no doubt attractive from the military point of view: ‘less consideration seems to have been given to the long-term effects of such a ruthless policy upon those whom it was hoped to govern peaceably.’


In the same letter Bolles relates the story of one of the first major raids that were to occupy this second year. On this raid he says:

“We got about 80 lean cows and burned many more in the houses, besides sheep, goats and corn and slew betwixt 80 and 100 persons. This was in O’Cahan’s country, and his people being gathered in small numbers together fought with us the marching of 5 miles, but so coldly that in all that time they killed but one of our men and hurt 5.”


This opened a series of raids upon O’Cahan’s lands in a determined effort to subdue one who was called an obstinate, proud and powerful rebel, and the greatest aid and succour to O’Neill.  At this time Docwra and his men seem to have realised the great advantages they had. They were secure in a strong point which the Irish clans had not the artillery to force; they were well supplied with boats and ships, and they could choose their point of attack while being sure of an easy and safe retreat. Men of experience, looking at the easy landing places along the lough, wondered why better use had not been made of the Derry forces long before this.


On the 25th of March another raid was made, and some soldiers captured 300 cows and attempted to bring them over to Derry. There had been a great deal of snow, which was now melting in the spring, and the usual passages and fords were overflowing with flood water.  All the cattle except 40 were lost in the crossing.  Then on the 2nd April the garrison captured 60 cows and 2 hack­neys from O’Cahan’s side of the river.


Soon the pattern of raids was becoming stereotyped and defensive measures were being taken. The garrison was closely watched from O’Cahan’s side of the river, and any movement promptly reported.  Sir Arthur O’Neill advised that a raid be made by boat from farther up in O’Doherty’s country.  Docwra took the advice and sent out Sir John Chamberlain with 700 men. These men marched all night, crossed from Greencastle, and at daybreak on the 10th of June descended upon extensive herds of cattle, which they seized and drove to the Waterside; 100 cows were put aboard the boats, some were brought away killed, and the rest of the unfortunate cattle were “hacked and mangled.”


By June the way was clear for a further step in the campaign, the seizure of O’Cahan’s castle at Enagh Lough.  Docwra gives an account of this action in a letter to the Privy Council dated 2nd July, 1601: “. . . I drew down from Lifford to Aynogh, O’Cahan’s castle, where, planting the cannon (not without much difficulty for want of shovels and spades) I beat it one whole day without effect of taking it; but, the night drawing on, by the advantage whereof I drew nearer with my artillery, the ward stole out about midnight, some in a boat and some swimming (Which they might easily do, the Lough being exceedingly large) and so left me the castle void. The taking whereof hath much abated the pride of O’Cahan, who foolishly thought it invincible, but since is grown to a lower and more submisse carriage of himself offering some terms of agree­ment (as I verily think) in better earnest than ever heretofore, though we have not proceeded therein as yet to any effect, by reason he is gone far off, and his messenger not returned whom I look for every day.”  The taking of Enagh castle gave the Derry force a solid foothold on O’Cahan’s side of the Foyle, and a base for further operations.


In these summer months the supply position of the Derry garrison deteriorated.  At this time Rory O’Cahan, brother of the chief, Donnell Ballagh, made an agreement to serve under Sir ArthurO'Neill.  He came to Derry on 24th August with 12 horsemen and 30 footmen and a present of 60 fat cattle.  As provisions, especially fresh meat, were growing scarce, this present was welcome and Rory received a recompense in money. Docwra gave him a small party of soldiers to go out again and they returned the next day with 40 more cattle.  After a few days Rory brought in more cattle, and at this stage asked for 800 soldiers to do an enterprise that would be of far greater service to the Queen.  Sir Arthur O'Neill warned Docwra to beware of him, and Docwra refused, allowing Rory to depart, leaving two of his men as pledges for his return.


Next day Rory returned to the Waterside with 300 men and, keeping the river between them, sent word to Docwra that he was no longer prepared to serve against his own brother.  He offered any reasonable number of cows that might 'be asked as ransom for the hostages, and threatened that if their lives were taken he would spare no Englishman who came within his power.  Docwra refused any terms and immediately set up a gibbet on which he hanged the hostages in the sight of their leader.  Apparently Docwra was of the opinion that Rory was sent in to gain the confidence of the garrison, and then to lead a large company of the soldiers into an ambush set by Hugh O'Neill.


It will be noticed that the garrison in Derry was suffering from a shortage of fresh meat, so it may be assumed that the raiding policy was not so successful as it had been. The reason is given in a letter written from Derry to Cecil by Captain Willis, dated 2nd September: "This proud traitor O'Cahan doth stand it stoutly. The truth is there hath yet been nothing done on him.  If the Governor [Docwra] would place me at Coulrane with 200 foot beside my own company I would soon make him stoop, and if the Governor attacked him from this side I would attack him from the other, and keep him from feeding his cattle securely, as he now does while himself and his forces are far distant."

In August and September the English effort was recoiling under setbacks, while the Irish had opportunities of striking decisive blows but failed to press home their advantage. Mountjoy had marched north into Ulster, but lacking support from Docwra, had withdrawn in the latter part of August without making his intended penetration deep into Tyrone.  Supplies had been running low in Derry, where Docwra had his own troubles, as his narrative makes clear: "And now the winter beganne to be fierce upon us; our men wasted with continuall laboures, the Band scattered with Cabinns full of sick men, our Biskitt all spent, our other provisions of nothing but Meale, Butter and a little Wine and that by com­putation to hould out but 6 days longer."


Indeed, at this period Derry was on the verge of being captured.  On 16th September O'Donnell crept up with 2,000 men about mid­night to within a short distance of the fortifications.  His men dis­charged their guns too soon, and gave the garrison sufficient time to reach a state of preparedness.  The attack was not pressed home as it might have been. Other encouraging news for the Irish was forthcoming. A Spanish fleet had entered Kinsale harbour, and a Spanish force of well-armed and well-trained troops under a com­petent commander had disembarked to fight on the Irish side. Had this force landed in the north at Killybegs, and had O'Donnell pressed his attack on Derry to a successful conclusion, the cam­paign would have gone very differently.


As it was, Derry survived to obtain fresh supplies and provide a fresh menace to the insurgents. The Spanish army, landed in the southern province of Munster, far from the main stronghold of the rising in Ulster, was beseiged in Kinsale by Mountjoy. O'Neill and O'Donnell, who marched south to assist them, were defeated by Mountjoy at the close of the year. Kinsale was evacuated by the Spaniards, who by agreement were allowed to return to Spain. It is worthy of note that Cecil wrote to Carew, hinting that the pledges to the Spaniards should be broken on the pretext that they had infringed some formal article of the terms. By this time, how­ever, the last of the Spaniards had gone home. This duplicity in high places in England was to be seen again.



In County Derry, O'Cahan made preparations for further heavy raiding. He came to an arrangement with the MacDonnells of Antrim as to the safety of their cattle.  Each was harassed by fear of raids, O'Cahan from Docwra in Derry, MacDonnell from Chi-chester in Carrickfergus.  The arrangement was made that if the governor of Carrickfergus raided the Route, the Scots were to drive their cattle into O'Cahan's lands near the Bann,, while if Docwra threatened O'Cahan his cattle were to pass over into the Route. This information had come to Docwra, who determined that he would have to plant a garrison at Coleraine. This would divide the MacDonnells from the O'Cahans, facilitate the destruc­tion of crops and livestock in County Derry and offer a base from which to penetrate up the Bann Valley to Dungannon and the heartland of Tyrone.

Docwra made a very important attempt to carry out this plan towards the close of the year; it is mentioned in a letter of 6th December, 1601.  This attempt is rather parallel to the way in which it was suggested that the Clan Connor originally conquered the Cianachta. It was suggested that the Clan Dermot held their posi­tion near Derry while the O'Cahans entered Cianachta via the Bann Valley and the Creeve.  This would, of course, have been a land operation. Docwra now intended, while holding  a  secure footing at Enagh Lough, to use his seapower to enter the River Bann and so plant a garrison at Coleraine.  He shipped the neces­sary provisions, and saw the ship down the lough with a fair wind before setting out himself.  A double-pronged attack was then car­ried out.  Captain Roger Orme was sent with 200 English and the Irish of Inishowen to cross over by boat from Greencastle into the protected side of O'Cahan's territory.  The direct attack by land from the Derry end was made by Docwra himself.  The import­ance of O'Doherty's adherence to the English side is seen when it is considered that Docwra elsewhere gives Orme's total force as being 2,000 men.  Without O'Doherty's help it would have been quite impossible to mount an action on this scale.


Docwra and his force advanced to the Cammon wood, which stretched up towards Loughermore and barred the entry to the Roe Valley. There was a pass through the wood guarded by Rory O'Cahan with 300 men.  Rory advanced with some horsemen and encountered some of the renegade Irish troops.  Rory slipped off his horse and began to run away.  Edmund Groome alighted from his horse, pursued him and caught him by the collar.  Although offered a large ransom, Edmund Groome refused it and delivered him to Docwra.  Docwra ordered the soldiers to kill him, to the great disgust of Sir Neill Garve O'Donnell, who called it a detest­able murder.

Disliking the passage through the wood, Docwra rounded it on the lough side, and so came into the inner district of the Roe Valley, burning and spoiling as he went. Orme had landed from Greencastle as planned, though, even with the element of surprise, there had been enough warning of their coming to allow the herds­men to drive away the cattle to the mountains. Only a few cattle were seized, the greater part of the booty being in sheep.  Docwra and Orme met as arranged and encamped in the middle of the district. The force then proceeded to devastate the whole country­side, as Docwra himself describes: "For four daies space after­wards, I devided the force into three bodies, and traversed, first about and then through the Countrie spoiling and burning such a quantity of Corne and numbers of houses, as I should have barely beleeved so small a circuit of ground could have afforded if I had not seene it." O'Cahan's camp itself was burned.


Apparently the Roe Valley had so far escaped the impact of the scorched earth policy which many other parts of Ulster had experienced.  Mountjoy had on occasion brought with him scythes and sickles to destroy the crops, although the larger part of the grain had to be cut by swords. Here in the Roe Valley the harvest had been saved in spite of all the difficulties of the times, only to be burned before the worst of the weather came.  The unfortunate people who were thus despoiled had only their cattle to turn to as a means of sustenance.


The major object of the exercise failed.  The sailors, who were to meet Docwra at Coleraine, missed the place.  Docwra waited one night at Coleraine, and when the ship failed to appear marched southwards up the Bann Valley, intending to devastate the country as far as Dungannon.  As there came a sudden thaw after long frost and snow, he decided to retreat to Derry.  This he accom­plished with some difficulty, finding rivers which had been almost dry very difficult to cross on the return journey. Docwra got back at the end of November, with renewed determination to plant a garrison at Coleraine when opportunity offered.  Chichester was equally conscious of the strategic importance of Coleraine.  On 15th January, 1602, he wrote to Cecil, saying: "Sir Henry Docwra in­tends to plant at Coleraine on O'Cane's side, and we should do the same on this side in the Route, but have not the necessary tools.  This place can be victualled by sea, and by passing up the Bann, and from thence [Coleraine] it is a plain march to Dungannon."

A hard winter followed, and with the Spanish forces having evacuated Munster, prospects in the spring were grim for the Irish insurgents.  O'Cahan asked for a parley on conditions of sur­render. On 11th March, 1602, Sir Henry Docwra wrote to the English Privy Council, stating the preliminary conditions which he had proposed. These included absolute submission to the Queen, the bringing in of his herds to a place appointed by Docwra, the sowing of the greatest part of his corn within the ambit of the Enagh garrison, a list of names of all able men, and the surrender of six pledges, of which O'Cahan's son was to be one.  A meeting was arranged at Enagh, but O'Cahan, who probably feared a trap, did not come.


Whether the talks were successful or not, Docwra intended to make a second attempt to place a garrison at Coleraine.  The stores for this attempt were put on hoard ship, and with a fair gale of wind the sea-borne party had been sent off with instructions to meet the land forces at the mouth of the Bann.  Spies had also been sent out both into Tyrone and into O'Cahan's camp to find out what forces O'Cahan had available, and whether he was likely to receive assistance from O'Neill.  Some of these returned before the land forces had left Enagh, others met these forces when they advanced four miles from Enagh to within two miles of O'Cahan's camp. The English commander asked O'Cahan for a definite answer to his proposals.  O'Cahan asked for a truce for three months and offered Docwra a bribe to secure this.  Meanwhile the chief re­mained encamped at the mouth of a pass through the woods with 600 foot and 60 horse.


At this stage the captains of the English forces were asked for their views as to whether they should proceed to force the pass and carry out the long-delayed plan of garrisoning Coleraine.  The captains believed they could have forced the pass through the Cammon, but recited the other factors that would have to be taken into account, the loss of ammunition, the casualties, the necessity of leaving a garrison of 100 men at the Bann, and the likelihood of reinforcements reaching O'Cahan.  As their safe return might have been placed in jeopardy, it was resolved not to make the attempt but to await a more convenient time.  So this time the land forces failed to make the rendezvous.  Docwra must have realised that he was leaving himself open to serious criticism for not pressing his advantages, for he enclosed a memorandum by the

captains giving the reasons for their decisions not to implement the plan.


Docwra refused O'Cahan's offered bribe, and writes: "To be revenged for this trick I sent out Captain Badby and Captain Windsor in succession one on each of the two following nights, who went into his country and took preys.  Badby went up 16 miles, took 160 cows and killed 30 people; and Windsor went up 20 miles, slew 100 of them, including 3 chief men of account, many kerne, the rest churls, women and Children (for he spared none) and brought away only some 20 cows.'  This is all that hath been done in these parts since my last despatch; but the country is brought to such famine by our raids that the misery of the poor is indescribable, and the rich are so reduced that were they not buoyed up by hopes of Spanish succours already landed and of further forces coming, they would soon submit, or at the worst be compelled to do so by a couple of months' campaign against them.  The wood kerne and other offenders are so numerous, how­ever, and so favoured by the nature of the country, that it will hardly or never be freed in any competent measure."


The ruthless nature of the campaign is seen clearly in this extract.  The kearne were the lighly armed soldiers, the churls were the workers on the farmlands.  Neither kearne nor churls, women or children were spared.  Nevertheless, there were those who were still not satisfied with the degree of destitution to which a settled and industrious populace had been reduced.  Captain Thomas Phil­lips had just been to Carrickfergus to meet Chichester, and wrote on the same date (11th March, 1602) to Cecil. He presses the idea of a Coleraine garrison which will keep O'Neill from many supplies still getting through to him, mentions that he has been chosen by Chichester for the first plantation, and opposes any idea of a settlement with O'Cahan. "It is reported that O'Cane wants to come in to her Majesty.  So would they all if they would be received. They only do it to save their goods, and to receive them would be to nurse a new war, for they are now all ready to starve."  Obviously Phillips had his covetous eye on the rich lands of the north, and any settlement which would leave O'Cahan in quiet possession of his lands would not have been a welcome one.


The following month saw an important breach in the solidarity of the O'Cahan resistance.  Docwra recounts that "On the 20th of Aprill, I made an agreement with Cane Ballogh MacRichard a chiefe Gentleman in O'Caine's countrie who delivered mee the Castle of Dongevin, situate neere upon the Glinnes and about 18 miles wide from the Derrey; the warres ended I gave my word that it should 'be restored again."   The English commander realised the importance of Dungiven, commanding the Glenshane Pass, the retreat to the woods of Glenconkeyne, and the communi­cations with O'Neill. He later writes that he has taken the castle of Dungiven "upon the neck of O'Cane."


Two years from the first landing of the force at Derry had reduced the countryside to a sorry state.  Fynes Moryson recalled that there was no more frequent spectacle in the ditches of towns, especially in districts that had been devastated, than to see multi­tudes of these poor people dead with their mouths all coloured green by eating nettles and docks. Opposition was growing less. Docwra had taken Omagh, and was fortifying it.  Mountjoy marched north through Dungannon, and Chichester and Docwra met him for the first time in conference at the end of June.  They were conscious of the importance of the occasion, and Docwra wrote that the axe was now at the root of the tree.


Reporting progress on 29th July, 1602, Mountjoy wrote to the Privy Council as follows: "Tyrone [O'Neill] is already beating out of his Countrie and lies in a part of Ocanes, a place of incredible fastness where though it be impossible to doe him any great hurt, soe long as he shall bee able to keepe any force about him, the waies to him, being inaccessible with an Army, yet by lying about him as we mean to doe, we shall in short time put him to his utter­most extremity, and if not light upon his person, yet force him to flee the Kingdome.  In the meantime we can assure your lordships this much, that from Ocane's Countrie where he now lieth which is to the Northward of his own County of Tyrone, we have left none to give us opposition, nor of late have seene any but dead carcases, merely starved for want of meat, of which kind we found many in divers places as wee passed."


These were the circumstances in which a few weeks previously the O'Cahan chief had written to Chichester asking for terms.  He said that until he had a reply as to whether his surrender was accepted or not, he would not move against the Queen's forces

or garrisons. He said that his position between O'Neill, O'Donnell and the Scots of Antrim was such that he had no other option but be on their side.  He concluded by saying that when he passed his word, it would be between himself and God if he broke it.  In a private message by word of mouth he offered her Majesty loyal service, rent and military help when called on.  He asked for a quick answer, lest he lost the favour of O'Neill, and then found his offer of surrender refused.


On 14th July Docwra wrote that he had by special direction entered into negotiations with O'Cahan.  The negotiations were suc­cessful, and articles of agreement were signed.  The main provisions of this important agreement were as follows. O'Cahan and his people were to be pardoned for all former offences.  Coyne Ballagh O'Cahan was to remain in quiet enjoyment of all that rand about Dungiven which he or his brethren had at any time possessed, hold­ing this land of the Queen, and not being dependent on O'Cahan.  It was noted that there was a garrison here, and if this was to be continued, Coyne Ballagh should have some other consideration, for he was an honest man. (Coyne Ballagh or  Cowy  Ballagh McRichard O'Cahan was a grandson of Donnell the Cleric, and a second cousin of Rory, the father of the present chief, Donnell Ballagh.)   All the land between the Faughan and Lough Foyle, and between Ban Gibbon (a tributary of the Faughan) and Lough Foyle were to be surrendered to her Majesty, as was all the church land.  The land about Enagh, and a ballyboe at Coleraine for the garrison there, were also reserved.  The fishing of the Bann and the Faughan were also reserved to the Queen.  Dennis O'Mullan, the spy and guide, was to have a scope of land as agreed upon between O'Cahan and Docwra.  O'Cahan was then to have patents (or proper title from the Queen) for the remainder of his lands.  Pledges were to be given for the observance of these conditions by O'Cahan, not only for himself, but also for the gentlemen of his country.


O'Cahan fulfilled his part of the agreement, and then sent two persons to Dublin to ask for the performance of the other side of the agreement, the re-grant of his lands under letters patent from the Queen.  The Lord Deputy and Council wrote on the 11th October to the English Privy Council, saying that they had no authority from the Queen to make such a re-grant, but had mean-time given him a custodium of his part of the country under the Great Seal of Ireland until the Queen authorised them to give him a further estate.  They said that O'Cahan's example deserved more than ordinary respect, and asked that the matter be expe­dited as O'Cahan had fulfilled his side of the agreement.

On the 20th October, 1602, Donnell O'Cahan, chief of his name, was granted custody of his country, except for the territories he had surrendered in the agreement which were all carefully specified.  No proper letters patent specifying his lands were given, although this was part of the terms on which O'Cahan had surrendered.  The pardon was also dated on 20th October, and specified the following people:

Daniel O'Cahan, gent, chief of his name;

Rosa O'Neale, his wife;

Rowrie O'Cahan, his son;

Grany O'Cahan, his daughter, and all other children of said Donald;

Manus and John O'Cahan, brothers of said Donald; Manus O'Cahane McQuynevallie, gent; Quyneballagh McRichard O'Cahan; Rich. O'Cahan McAvenye; Donogh O'Cahan McAvenie; Avenye O'Cahan McBrien moddera and his (brothers; Couy McGorry O'Cahan and his brothers; Owen O'Hanlon, Fardoragh O'Hanlon, Arthur O'Hanlon,gentlemen, living in O'Cahan's country; Fardorogh O'Molan, gent, chief of his name; Tomelin, Donnell and James O'Molane, brothers of said Fardorogh; John O'Molane, ecclesiastic; Gilleduff O'Molane,  with others of the name of O'Molane living in the said country;

Magilleghan, and others of that name in said country;

Donough McRedie, priest or chaplain of said Donald

O'Cahan, the dean of Derry, now being, with all of the name of Mactaggard, attendants of said Donald;

                         and all inhabitants, and all attendants and tenants of

said Donald O'Cahan.


(The Fardorogh O'Molan mentioned is probably the same as the Ferdorough O'Maylan who was pledge for the chief Rory O'Cahan in 1589. He escaped in January that year from Dublin Castle, but was recaptured.)


One serious concern of O'Cahan was that he should be freed of any connection with O'Neill, and should hold his land directly from the Queen.  Not only did he obtain a pledge from Docwra and Mountjoy concerning this, but he also asked Docwra to write to O'Neill and secure a similar assurance from him.  O'Neill replied that he did not know if a surrender from him would be accepted, but if he were accepted O'Cahan should be free and exempt from any dependence upon him.


To go back a little, at the close of the previous August, Mountjoy had advanced northward again to devastate the land and destroy the harvest in Tyrone.  At Tullyhog he destroyed the stone Chair used for the inauguration of the O'Neills.  Everywhere there were corpses of those who had died of famine through the official policy pursued by Mountjoy.  Mountjoy stated later in his letters that O'Hagan had protested to him that between Tullyhog and Toome alone there lay unburied 1,000 dead.  The military success of the official policy was soon to be proved, its long-term political effects were less easily measured.


In November, Rory O'Donnell, now head of his house, sur­rendered.  Mountjoy advocated to the Queen and Council that Donegal should be divided between Rory and Neill Garve O'Don­nell.  The latter had long before been promised the lordship of the whole of Donegal, and his help had been invaluable to the Lough Foyle force.  The pledges given were now treated as a scrap of paper to be torn up at will, and this was a foretaste of things to come.


In March O'Neill himself surrendered to Mountjoy.  The Lord Deputy promised him pardon in the Queen's name, restoration of his earldom of Tyrone, and letters patent for all his lands excepting districts possessed by two kinsmen, and 300 acres each for the forts of Mountnorris and Charlemont.  By this time Queen Elizabeth had died, and King James the First granted to O'Neill the lands that had belonged to his grandfather Con, which O'Neill interpreted to include O'Cahan's country. Rory O'Donnell was created Earl of Tyrconnell, and Neill Garve had to be content with his original possessions.

At this point it is worth quoting in full a long interview which Docwra had with Mountjoy after O'Neill's surrender. "Then touching O'Caine I tould him [Lord Mountjoy] how the Earl of Tyrone had sent men to be cessed upon him and how he refused them; Sir Henry Docwra sayeth hee; My lord of Tyrone is taken in with promise to be restored, as well to all his lands, as his honnor of Dignitie, and O'Caine's country is his and must be obedient to his command. My lord, said I, this is strange and beyond all expectation, for I ame sure your lordship cannot be unmindful, first of the agreement I made with him, wherein he was promised to be free and to hould his lands from the Crowne, and then your lordship ratified and approved the same unto him under your hand, have iterated it again divers and divers times both by word of Mouth and writing, how shall I looke this man in the face when I shall knowe myself guilty directlie to have falsified my word with him; Hee is but a drunken ffellowe, saith hee, and soe base, that I doe not thinke but in the secreete of his hearte, it will better Content him to be soe than otherwise, besides he is able neither to doe good nor hurte, and wee must have a care to the Publique good, and give contentment to my lord of Tyrone upon which depends the Peace and securitie of the whole Kingdom. My Lord, said I for his drunkenness and disabillitie to doe good or hurte, they are not heere to come into considera­tion, and as for his inward affections, what they are I know not, But sure I ame hee makes outward shewe, that this will be very displeasing unto him, and the manifest and manifould benefits he shall receive more by the one than the other are to my under­standing sufficient arguments to make mee thinke hee doth seriouslie inclyne to his owne good, and with your favour, what good can ensue to the Publique by a direct breach of Promise whereof there is soe plaine and undeniable evidence extant under our hands it passeth my understanding to conceive. Well, sayeth he again, that I have done was not without the advice of this kingdome, it was liked and approved of by the lords in England, by the Queene that is now deade and by the King's Majestie that is now living and I am persuaded not without good and sufficient reason; It may not be infringed, but if you can thinke upon any course to Compase it in some good fashion that I be troubled no more about it, I shall take it as an acceptable kindness; But howsoever, by God, sayeth hee, O'Cane must and shall be under my Lord Tyrone."


This passage needs no comment. At this point Docwra ceased to press the matter, and eventually went home to Derry with the Earl of Tyrone's eldest son. To his credit, Docwra undertook him­self the unpleasant task of informing O'Cahan how matters stood. O'Cahan was greatly offended at the news, pointing out his fidelity to the state since he had surrendered, and said that the breaking of these pledges on which he had relied left him in worse case than ever. His final words have often been quoted: "In the end seeing noe remide, hee shaked handes with my Lord Hugh, bade the Devill take all English Men and as many as put their trust in them, and soe in the shewe of a good reconciled friendship they went away togeather."


The position now was that O'Cahan had not received clear title to his lands from the Crown, and was left to deal as best he could with O'Neill, who was determined to treat O'Cahan simply as a tenant at will at whatever rent O'Neill chose to levy.  According to O'Cahan's later petition O'Neill wanted a rent of 160 cows, then 200, and made a levy on the lands called Maughery, lying be­tween the Bann and the mountains east of the Roe Valley.  Appar­ently an agreement was eventually reached by which O'Neill took one-third of O'Cahan's country, leaving O'Cahan two-thirds.   Docwra states that O'Cahan obtained a written grant of his lands from O'Neill.


As time proceeded O'Cahan found himself in ever-deepening difficulties. The Bishop of Derry, George Montgomery, was endeavouring to obtain lands within his district which he claimed belonged to the bishopric.  O'Cahan was being urged to take back his former wife (then Lady O'Rourke) on the ground that he had never been legally separated from her.  If O'Cahan did this, he feared that O'Neill would raid his country to obtain the dowry that had come with O'Cahan's present wife, O'Neill's daughter.  Matters came to a head in October, 1606, when O'Neill in a violent manner lifted great numbers of cattle from O'Cahan.


In spite of the way in which he had been let down, O'Cahan pursued his case by the legal means which were open to him.  In May, 1607, he petitioned the Lord Deputy, setting out his original status and his grievances.  On 1st June Sir Oliver St. John wrote to Salisbury, stating the position, recalling the pledges that had been given to O'Cahan and the importance of the support that O'Cahan had given O'Neill.  He stated that "it is confessed by all men that after O'Cahan had left the Earl and submitted himself to the state, the Earl was never able to make way to any purpose in the North."  St. John suggested that O'Cahan should be established as the best of his name in that country with a convenient fortune answerable to his quality, while there were to be enough native or English freeholders for the thorough planting of the territory.


O'Cahan's case was heard by the Irish Privy Council, but although it was favourably received, nothing was done.  On 28th June, 1607, O'Cahan received the order of knighthood.  It seemed that at last he might receive at least part of what had been pro­mised five years before when he surrendered.  But three months later a dramatic event changed the uneasy truce that had pre­vailed for the last few years.  On 14th September, 1607, O'Neill, O'Donnell and many of the leading men of the north boarded a ship at Rathmullen on Lough Swilly, and left the shores of Ireland for the continent.  The lands of Rory O'Donnell and Hugh O'Neill, the Earls concerned in this flight, were now declared to be forfeit. The British Government then decided to plant the forfeited territories with settlers from England and Scotland who would act as a permanent check to any insurrection.


In these circumstances O'Cahan and his claims, however well-founded and morally justified, became a stumbling block to the wider plans that were on foot.  The Bishop of Derry, who shortly before had been telling Salisbury that the O'Cahans had held their possessions by 22 lineal descents, now adroitly became suspicious of O'Cahan's intentions.


Similarly Sir George Paulet, who had succeeded Docwra as governor of Derry, wrote to the Lord Deputy (not Mountjoy, who had died in April, 1606) expressing his suspicions.  He writes: "Besides, at the hearing of a cause of Tomlin O'Mullan's (referred by his Lordship to the Bishop and him [Paulet]) being a chief follower of O'Cahan's and greatly favoured by the Bishop for his sake, when the equity of his cause could procure him no order from them to the living, O'Cahan very discontentedly said to Tom­lin. 'Well, look for no more justice at this judge's hands; tarry till the laws be in my own hands and then we will do well enough.'  Manus O'Cahan, who stands bound for his brother, has entreated him [Powlett] to signify to his Lordship that he would very will­ingly be discharged of his bonds, showing him great presumptions of his brother's disloyal mind."


By the end of December it was stated that Sir Donnell O'Cahan was in his country near Derry, and had plainly declared that no Englishman nor Scotsman should come at him. He probably feared arrest, but he was in the difficulty that to answer an official summons probably meant arrest, and to refuse to answer it was presumption of disloyalty.  In February, 1608, he was apprehended by Sir Thomas Phillips and charged with presumption of treason.  On 17th February Chichester wrote to Salisbury that Sir Donnell O'Cahan was charged with sundry misdemeanours, that he could not clear himself, that he was committed to Dublin Castle and that his son had been sent to college to be brought up in learning. The Lords of the Council wrote to Chichester approving his actions and incidentally giving him a clue to the motives behind the whole proceedings.  They state that "they are satisfied with his course in dismissing McMahon, but retaining O'Cane, considering the cor­ner he dwells in, and approve of his purpose to place his son in college."


It is clear that O'Cahan's land was wanted, and those in authority were determined to get it.  In April Chichester wrote again to the Privy Council wishing to know whether to charge O'Cahan and bring him to trial, or simply to continue him in prison. Apparently the countryside had not yet recovered from the terrible devastation of earlier years, for Chichester said O'Cahan was so poor and his country so disordered that he had no money to maintain himself and would get none from his servants while in prison unless dis­trained by the sheriff.  Chichester says that he himself had to supply O'Cahan's necessary wants in prison, and recoup himself as best he might.  In this he appears to have been very successful, as he reports the same year that he has let Sir Donnell's lands for £330 per annum, of which Sir Donnell had £130, and wishes to know will he pay this money to him for his maintenance as he had requested, or band it over to the Treasury.  Chichester mentions that the chief's source of income lay not mainly in their money re­ceipts, but in the provisions of meat, butter, etc., afforded to them by the people. This latter would not be paid when they were in prison, or absent from their country.


Once in prison, there was always some excuse for keeping Sir Donnell there.  In the spring of 1608 his brother, Shane Carragh, who had made accusations against him, took part in a rising.  Other accusations were made against him by his brother Manus, by Gilduff O'Mullan and by Dennis O'Mullan. Six points of treason were mentioned, the chief ones being that he intended to go with O'Neill and that he was implicated in Shane Carragh's rising.  It was clear that no Irish jury would convict him on the evidence offered, and no case was ever brought.  In June, 1608, Chichester advocated O'Cahan's release, as he had promised to surrender Limavady Castle, bring in his brother Shane Carragh dead or alive, and keep his district in better order.


By this time, however, wider schemes were on foot.  Chichester's notes of remembrances concerning the plantation in Ulster had already been prepared, and are dated 10th March, 1608.  He men­tions that the O'Cahans, O'Neills, Denis O'Mullan and some few others who served them after English forces came to Lough Foyle will be contented with small portions.  The plantation scheme gradually gathered momentum, its outlines became clearer and soon all that was needed was to translate the paper planning into action.  Sir Donnell was held in Dublin without trial until July, 1609, when he was sent to be imprisoned in the Tower of London.  With his departure, this discreditable chapter in English policy was closed.



One final episode cleared the way for the Plantation. Sir Henry Docwra had been succeeded as governor in Derry by Sir George Paulet, a rough, quick-tempered man. By his actions, Paulet goaded the young Sir Cahir O'Doherty, of Inishowen, beyond endurance. This young man, whose men had rendered important service in the field during the conquest of Derry, rose in rebellion in April, 1608, seized Culmore Fort and burned Derry.  His country was soon overrun, and in three months he himself was killed and his head impaled on the city gate of Dublin.  He was probably more fortunate than the two other Irish knights who had been promised much, Sir Neill Garve O'Donnell, and Sir Donnell O'Cahan, who were destined for the Tower of London.


In October, 1608, Chichester's Instructions in reference to the Plantation mention that the chief septs that inhabit the County of Coleraine are the O'Cahans, and under them the O'Mullans, the Magilligans and the McCloskeys.  He names the principal places to be cared for as the castles of Limavady, Enagh, Coleraine and Dungiven, and mentions that most of them are ruinous and out of repair.  He warns that if Sir Donnell O'Cahan be released that two parts of that country will not content him, nor indeed the whole. Whatever became of him, due consideration was to be had for his brother, Manus, Manus McCowy Ballagh, and some few others found loyal in the last troubles and before. A petition of Nealle King's at a later date claimed that he had carried arms and ammunition to Manus O'Cahan and the Scotsmen of Enagh, with which they had killed many enemies of the Crown, and claimed also that during O'Doherty's rebellion he (King) had encouraged two gentlemen of the County of Coleraine to enter into Captain Manus O'Cahan's company where they had done good service.


A window into conditions early in 1609 is given in a letter by Sir Robert Jacob to Salisbury which states that they "crossed the river of the Banne, and went into the county of Coleraine, called O'Cane's country, where they held their sessions at Lemyvaddy, O'Cane's principal house, being an ill-favoured ruinous castle, but good land round about it.  The people of that country are yet in peace, altho they had many inducements to make them think, they would revolt as soon as opportunity should be offered.  There are divers persons that live upon the spoil betwixt the castle of Dongiven and Glanconcane; but now Captain Dodington has a ward of fourteen men at Dungiven whereby it is possible that he may clear those parts of such unprofitable members of the common­wealth.  It is for the most part a champaign country and lies all upon Loughfoile, and where the woods are, the passes are well cut and made very passable."


In July of this year, Sir Donnell O'Cahan was sent over to the Tower.  The same summer a commission was set up to enquire into the King's title to forfeited lands in the six Ulster Counties of Armagh, Tyrone, Coleraine, Donegal, Fermanagh and Cavan. Starting from Dublin at the end of July, the Commissioners held enquiries at Armagh and Dungannon before passing on to O'Cahan's country.  After camping three nights on their route by Desertlyn, the Commissioners emerged from the woods into the Roe Valley on Sunday, 27th August.  They reached Limavady (the old town nearer Kane's Rock) and camped about a mile away.  The inquisition to distinguish between Crown and Church lands took place at Limavady on Wednesday, 30th August.  The jury con­sisted of 15 men from the county, who were clerks and scholars.  Sir John Davys, who was in the company, said that 13 of them spoke good Latin, and that readily.  They conceived their verdict in singularly good form, and gave the Commissioners more light than they had yet had on the origins of Church lands.  They found that the lands possessed by herenagh families were their own proper possessions, and. that the bishop was only entitled to rent out of them.  The Bishop of Derry, always greedy for land, tried to brow­beat the jury into changing their opinions, but without success. The majority of the jury were members of herenagh families, and therefore had a personal interest in the matter.


The jury, which is discussed at length by Dr. O'Kelly, can be divided into families as follows:

Manus McEvally O'Cahan;

Richard McOwen O'Cahan;

Dermot O'Chane;

Owne Grome McGillegane;

Gilleduffe McHerenagh McCloskie;

Fardoragh O'Mullane;

James O'Mullane;

Gilleduffe O'Mullen;

Patrick McRedy;

William McAtagart;

Patrick oge McEtegert;

Owen McCawell;

Morrice McCowell;

John O Heney;

Rory McAnalle.

While this inquisition was being carried on, there arrived at Limavady four agents from the City of London. They were to view O'Cahan's country in company of Sir Thomas Phillips. Phillips was a soldier who had served in the wars at the close of Elizabeth's reign.  He was promoted eventually to be military superintendent of the county of Coleraine and the district of Glenkonkeyne.  His abilities were not confined to the military field; he had a marked capacity for business, and had fostered a small colony of people at Coleraine.  Phillips now brought the Londoners through the richest and most attractive portions of the country, avoiding the Sperrins and less attractive districts which might have discouraged the Londoners from undertaking the plantation of this important and strategic area.


At the close of the year these viewers reported in London, and soon the City of London had reached agreement with the Crown.  They were granted (with certain exceptions) the whole of the county of Coleraine, with the barony of Loughinsolin, containing the great woods of Glenconkeyne and Killetragh, and areas west of the Foyle near Derry and east of the Bann near Coleraine. Among the conditions were the building of a town of 60 houses at Derry, and one of 40 at Coleraine. Thus the present county of London-

derry took its shape, with the liberties of Coleraine and Derry giving a certain scope of land around these two towns.  It will be noticed that Derry and Coleraine were the two areas which were considered to be so important strategically at the time of the conquest of O'Cahan's country.  Loughinsolin was taken from Tyrone, and the liberties of Derry and Coleraine from Donegal and Antrim.  The exceptions to the Londoners' grants were the Church lands, lands intended for the native free-holders, and an important grant to Sir Thomas Phillips in the area of the Roe Valley which Sampson calls the garden of the North.


In March, 1610, Sir Donnell O'Cahan wrote to Salisbury.  In the letter he said that he had been coming to Dublin to complain of injuries done to him, and that he had been taken prisoner, to this day he knew not why.  He was threatened with a charge of treason.  Meantime his wife and children had been thrust out of his house, and went begging for anything he knew.  He had appealed to the king and Council, and wished to plead his innocence.  At this time Sir Donnell claimed that he had entrusted a certain Rice Gilmore with his business and given him money to accomplish this; that Gilmore had done nothing for him, but instead had got one of the best pieces of O'Cahan land and kept the money. Sir Donnell further claimed that Gilmore was backed in these wrongs, was made sheriff of the county and thereupon "came and broke open his castle and drove out his lady and children, one of whom was almost drowned in a ditch. All which Gilmore did notwithstanding the Lord Deputy's warrant, which he (Sir Donnell) had for his lands, houses and moveables, and which was shown to Gilmore as he was breaking open the door."


On 1st June, 1610, he wrote from the Tower to his brother asking his brother or others to come with his wife to London to seek his release.  Hope deferred makes the heart sick, and there is more than a hint of disillusionment in the letter.  The letter runs as follows:

"Brother Manus, I commend me unto you, and let you under­stand that, if I had friends to follow my business since I came thither my imprisonment would be shorter by the half. For my innocency hath (God be praised) been known and heard. Where­fore, if ever you look, or rather desire my release, which you both should, and I think, do, or if you be not as deep in false accusing me as others have been liars in the matter, and therefore wish rather my death than my relief; if these things, I say hinder you not, then perform a brotherly part to gain yourself a loving brother, and gather both from yourself and from others your best help, that either yourself or some others might come with my wife hither to sue for my liberty, if by that time I have it not. Nor let covetous hope of lands debar you from this, for look on Torloagh McArt Oge, who had a patent for the whole land, and whose company slew Sir Cahir O'Dogherty, with what hath he to any purpose? Or what hath Cuconnaght McGuire's son, Brian, I mean? Less, I say no more, than ever I offered you. But if villainous (which is not to be feared in any human creature) or dunghill cogitations should (by the devil's motion) hinder you from this good office, then I contest and call to witness God, his holy angels, the whole world, and that country especially, that Manus O'Cahan hath served Donall Ballagh so. Nor blame me for being thus earnest otherwise. This in haste I bid you farewell, resting always your assured loving brother—Tower, 1 June, 1610."


Manus did not hasten to bring help. Instead, he handed over his brother's letter to Chichester, who was always anxious to learn of any communications that the Irish prisoners in the Tower had with the outside world. Thus another nail held tighter the door to free­dom, for none of these things were forgotten.  In September, 1612, the Lord Deputy writes to the Lord Privy Seal saying that about two years before he had lighted upon letters written from Sir Donnell O'Cahan to his brother, Manus, in which he declared his spleen to the English nation, and laboured to make them more odious to the Irish people and to incite the latter to withstand the plantation there.


In considering that desire for land might sway his brother's actions, Sir Donnell was not far astray. On 16th August, 1611, John Rowley and Tristram Beresford, agents for the City of London, allotted 13 freeholds to the Irish natives, five major free­holds and eight smaller ones. The five major freeholds were:

Captain Manus O'Cahan, 2,000 acres;

Lady O'Cahan with her sons, Rory and Donnell Oge, 1,000 acres;

Cowy Ballagh McRichard O'Cahan, 1,000 acres;

Manus McCowy Ballagh O'Cahan, 1,000 acres;

            Tomlyn and Owen Keogh O'Mullan, 500 acres.

Captain Manus was given extensive lands in the parishes of Faughanvale and Glendermot near Derry. The lands of the two O'Mullans were in the parishes of Cumber and Banagher and lay in towards Sawel Mountain. These lands were the half of the ballibetagh of Ballymullan (the town of Mullan) which marks a settlement of O'Mullans.  Cowy Ballagh McRichard's lands were in the parish of Bovevagh near Dungiven. This land was in settle­ment of Docwra's agreement in April, 1602, with Cowy Ballagh McRichard.  Cowy Ballagh McRichard was a grandson of Donnell the Cleric: Sir Donnell Ballagh was a great-grandson of Donough (Donnell the Cleric's brother).  Manus McCowy Ballagh received his lands in Coleraine barony south of the Aghadowey River.  His ancestors had been chieftains of the O'Cahan clan in the fifteenth century before the chieftaincy passed to Sean, son of Aibhne (father of Donnell the Cleric and Donough). Lady O'Cahan's lands lay in the western foothills of the ridge running from the Keady towards Donald's Hill.


The other eight freeholds were those of the following:

Owen McCowell, Bovidie in the barony of Coleraine; Rich.   McAneny   McAveny—Ballyvaddian,   barony   ofColeraine; Gorry   McGillglass   O'Cahan—Goussidone,   parish   of Cumber;Gorry McShane O'Cahan—Knockan, parish of Banagher; Brian Bane McGilligan—Ballycarton, parish of Aghanloo; Gilduffe   McBrien   O'Cahan—Garavughue,   parish   of

Errigal; Manus    McGilreagh   O'Mullan—Cloghan,    parish    of

Balteagh; Gillduffe Oge O'Mullan—Ballyness, parish of Dungiven.


In addition to these freeholds it should be mentioned that James McGorry McHenry O'Cahan obtained the island of Loughan and certain other adjacent lands in the parish of Ballyrashane.


In August, 1611, Carew surveyed the districts to be planted by the Londonders, who had made slow progress in the task.  On the other hand, Sir Thomas Phillips, who had surrendered his interest around Coleraine, was proceeding with energy and enthusiasm in the Limavady area.  He had built a water-mill for which he had drawn the water in a sluice a mile long; this is the Roe mill which was to remain the manor mill where tenants were required to grind their corn in succeeding generations.  He had made progress in building an inn for the convenience of travellers, two storeys high, 46 feet long and 17 feet broad.  Timber was being felled and squared in the woods of Glenconkeyne and transported at heavy expense over 12 to 14 miles of bogs and mountains for the repair of Sir Donnell O'Cahan's former home, the Castle of Limavady, and for other buildings.  Stone was being quarried from the hard rock of the ditch adjoining the castle, and being stockpiled for defence works.


At Dungiven, Captain Edward Doddington had been equally enterprising.  Some of the walls of the old O'Cahan Castle at Dungiven had still been standing, and Doddington reconstructed it into a castle four storeys high, 22 feet wide, well-finished and slated.  Adjoining the castle he had reconstructed a house 43 feet long and 18 feet broad, also slated. He had repaired the stone and lime bawn which formed an enclosure for defence.  All this had cost him £300 of his own in addition to £200 received from the Crown for the repair to the castle and bawn.


A rampart of earth and sods, six feet high and 12 to 14 feet thick, had been thrown up around Coleraine, with bulwarks of the same height. This was not a satisfactory type of fortification. A few years afterwards Pynnar found in the survey (1618-1619) that the walls and ramparts had begun to decay, and the bulwarks were so small that artillery could not be placed upon them.  Derry was fortified at a later date than Coleraine, and in a more substantial style. There was a wall of lime and stone, 24 feet high and six feet thick with four gates, and nine large bulwarks suitable for artillery.  The rampart inside the city was 12 feet thick, and made of earth.


At the close of 1612 Sir Thomas Phillips received as a grant from the Crown, at the annual rent of sixpence, one of the richest agricultural districts of Ulster, the lands around Limavady which centred upon O'Cahan's Castle on the Roe - the place now known as Kane's Rock.  On the west side of the Roe his fends stretched from Drumraighland and Ballymore through Qagan, Tamlaght and Drumballydonaghy to the rich flat lands of Lomond and Myroe.  East of the Roe his lands began at Ballyquin and stretched down through Terrydremond to the lands on which the present town stands.  East of the present town his lands stretched out through Killane to Derrymore and Derrybeg.  He was granted O'Cahan's Castle, and the State Papers record how he renovated the castle as a defensive position.  It had a drawbridge, moat and circular tower, and was provided with two tiers of guns.  Castles are not the most comfortable places to live in, and so beside it Sir Thomas built a two-storey stone house with slated roof.  There was an orchard, pleasure garden and dovecot for doves or pigeons.  In Sampson's day the terrace, orchards and pleasure grounds could still be traced; it should be remembered that these are relics of Sir Thomas Phillips' grounds rather than those  of  the  O'Cahan period.   Sir Thomas was the creator of the present town of Limavady.  A mile away from the old town of Limavady (which was nearer Kane's Rock) he had built a village of 18 small houses at a cross-roads, with a stone cross in the centre.  This new town was called Newtown-Limavady,   and  superseded   the  old  town,  of which no trace remains.  There was also some development around the Roe Mill, where old maps show a considerable number of houses.  The old church of Drumachose, the ruins of which stand beside the road to Coleraine and Garvagh, was in a ruinous condi­tion in these early days, and the people met for worship in a house at Newtown-Limavady.  Some of the earliest settlers were 25 families which Phillips brought from England.


While these freeholds were being created and these changes pro­ceeding, what of the clans and their chief?  The purpose of the Plantation was to plant a considerable proportion of the land with English or lowland Scottish tenants who would be a permanent check to rebellion.  The London companies' lands were to be planted only with such tenants. As a military man, Sir Thomas Phillips was allowed to take native tenants and natives could also be taken on church lands (such as the Magilligan district), and of course also on the native freeholds which had been created.  Theoretically, all natives were supposed to be removed from the lands of the London Companies by 1st May, 1612. In practice, this date had to be extended, for there were not the settlers available to cultivate the lands.  In the long run, the original plan was carried out to a considerable extent.


It has to be remembered that in conception the plantation of Ulster went beyond an attempt to plant in Ulster tenants who would be more amenable than the native Irish.  It was an immense effort to change the whole conditions under which the people lived.  The ownership of land was to be changed, and the way in which it was to be farmed altered.  Irish law was to be replaced by English law, and Irish language by English language.  Houses were to be built in English fashion, and not in the simpler Irish style. The Roman Catholic religion was to be proscribed, and replaced by Protestantism.  Other customs which were deeply rooted were to be given up.  The practice of "creaghting," moving cattle from pasture to pasture in different districts, was to stop.  Also proscribed was the practice of "commyns," where chiefs and other important men, whose riches consisted largely in cattle, sent these cattle to be grazed on lands of humbler folk who had not sufficient stock.  This proscription, like others, disrupted the whole intricate system of native life.


In 1613 we get some insight into these happenings.  In July of that year the Council in London wrote to Chichester saying that the wife of Sir Donnell O'Cahan and the sister of Sir Neill O'Donnell had been for a long period in London, that they were returning to Ireland, and asked for some means to carry them over as they had given out all their means in the nature of "commins," to certain tenants of theirs who refused to repay them.  Chichester was to see that what was due to them should be used for their maintenance in Ireland, so that they should not return to London where the Council considered that their presence and complaints disquieted the knights who were prisoners in the Tower.


In the autumn Sir Donnell O'Cahan wrote to Chichester enclosing a list of tenants to whom he had given cattle; the majority of them were O'Mullans.

The letter runs as follows:

"Right Hon. - My humble duty always remembered. First, most humbly thanking your honourable good lordship for your honourable care to recover my commins of such tenants of mine as I gave any such unto, for the behoof of my wife and children.  And,

as I commit my said wife and children to your Lordship's protection for righting them, both of my tenants and all others, so I beseech your Lordship to give your warrant that this gentleman, Mr. William Lusher, may speedily recover this small parcel of my said commins, amounting to forty pounds or cows, of such as I have appointed, being with much more, fairly due unto me by them. And hereunto I must presume the more importunately to beg your favour, for that the gentleman has most courteously (even upon so small an acquaintance) furnished my present extreme want. As for the rest of my commins, I hereby make them over to my sons Roger (Rorie) and Donnell, saving such small portions as I myself must (from time to time) use for mine own wants, and so make over unto such as (like this gentleman) here furnish me. And thus most humbly taking my leave.

Donell  O'Cahan. Gervase Helwysse. Tower, this 9th of October, 1613".14

It is evident from this correspondence that both Sir Donnell O'Cahan and his wife were in circumstances that were extremely straitened.  The 40 cows mentioned were to pay the debt Sir Donnell had contracted: the major part of his cattle he makes over to his sons, Rory and Donnell, provided of course that they can obtain them.  Gervase Helwysse was the lieutenant of the Tower.


The list of tenants' names from which cows were to be recovered to pay the debt was enclosed:

Fardoragh McBrien O'Moilan—5 cows;

Tomylin McBrien O'Moilan—5 cows;

James McBrien O'Moilan—5 cows;

Shan buy O'Moilan and Gillaglass O'Moilan and hissons—3 cows;

Manus McGillareinagh O'Moilan—5 cows; Gilladuff Oge OMoilan—5 cows; Dermod Oge O'Donell and his brethern—5 cows; Knogher  O'Lenicke  and   his   sons,   Patrick   McCrula O'Moilan   and   his   brethern,   Knogher   McGillymana and his sons—5 cows; Torrilagh Balue O'Cuicke and his brethern—2 cows.

Fardoragh was the recognised head of the O'Mullans, and Tomylin and James were his brothers.  Manus McGilreagh O'Mullan and Gillduff Oge got two of the smaller freeholds.  The Quiggs were gallowglasses of the O'Cahans.

Four years afterwards a letter is extant in which it is mentioned that Sir Donnell O'Cahan had appointed a Carmocke O'Mullan to look after the property of Lady O'Cahan and her son Donnell (Rory then being dead).  The letter says that Carmocke is  to be given possession until the receiver has spoken with Lady O'Cahan and found out that she is satisfied that Carmocke should be put in charge of her land.  If she dislikes the choice of Carmocke she is to name some other man of sufficient standing, and the land will be assured to him. This is probably the Cormich O'Mullane mentioned in Neale King's petition as having returned to Ireland from England round about this period.


The list of the Haberdashers' tenants shows the considerable amount of land in possession of Tomlin, Brian, Edmund Grome, Donnell, and James and Brian McShane Boy; all these were O'Mullans. The lands in the Haberdashers' estate are easily recognisable, running from Ballymaglin, Ballyhanna, Tircorran and Ballycastle through Stradreagh and Largantea to Gortcorbies and Leek on the face of the Keady, then to Lislane, Gortnarney and Drumsurn to the west of Donald's Hill, and finally to Gortgarn, Derryork and Camnish not far from Benbradagh.  The Haberdashers estate had its centre in the northern portion, where the castle was built at Ballycastle and occupied by Sir Robert McClelland. The village was at Artikelly.


Across the Roe in the direction of Derry were the Fishmongers, whose centre was at Ballykelly. The Skinners had a large estate of which the main centre was Dungiven, where the castle was in possession of the Dodingtons.  There was a secondary centre and castle at Crossalt (now Brackfield).  Magilligan was Church land, and here the Gage family settled at Bellarena, where William Gage was the tenant of the Bishop of Derry in 1622.  The manor house here is one of the oldest houses in the county, dating back to about 1700. The heiress of this estate, Marianne Gage, married Sir Frederick William Heygate in 1851.  From Magilligan the lands of the Clothworkers stretched into Killowen, the village being at Articlave, and the castle at Killowen two miles away. Next to this came the estate of the Merchant Tailors, whose centre was at Macosquin. Farther south still were the Ironmongers whose estates were in the Aghadowey and Garvagh districts.  Their agents were the Cannings, and in 1818 George Canning of this stock was created Lord Garvagh.  Beyond this were the Mercers' lands around Kilrea.


The lands of the Vintners, Drapers and Salters lay in South Derry: Draperstown and Saltersland recall the connection with those companies. The lands of the Grocers and Goldsmiths lay near Derry.  The Goldsmiths' lands were in the Glendermott area, while the Grocers built Muff (now the village of Eglinton).  With the exception of the estates in South Derry, which lay in the O'Neills' district, these estates had all arisen on lands which had been a few years before O'Cahan's country.


The last O'Cahan chief, Sir Donnell, died in the Tower in 1628, after enduring some 20 years of imprisonment.  What he might have become if the pledges made to him had been kept, it is impossible to say.  In his own time Chichester said of him, "Sir Donnell O'Cahane has ever been reputed a man true of his word, valiant but inactive as may be seen."  The Rev. George Hill summed him up as "a man, however, of a fickle and selfish disposition, who could not brook disappointments, nor tolerate any superior on that territory he had come to regard as his own special inheritance."


His bard composed an elegy during his captivity, bemoaning the loss of his jovial chief, of the martial frame, curling hair and cerulean glance.   And although bards may err on the side of flattery, it is fitting to close Sir Donnell's account with some verses from this tribute.

"A chief far famed for liberal affluence,

For wise discretion and conducting sense,

Whom sages honour and the learned commend,

The ministrels' patron, and the clergy's friend.


In his sad bower the damsel bands are pale

And weep -their chieftain with unwearied wail,

 With lamentation oft renewed they mourn,

And know no joy, but hope for his return.

And who should mourn if these sad eyes were dry

 Which proudly saw thy satin banner fly

Round green Knock Nualan's defiles and grassy way,

When the rich spoil of herds became thy prey.


Again at Bearnas-gap - or where Dundalk

Quailed to behold thy armed warriors stalk,

In fiery conflict with Sir Christopher.

Or when the fierce O'Neill

And fire and slaughter tracked his furious path,

When Betagh's country flamed with DonalPs brands

And Delvin's baron mourned his blazing lands.

When Croghan's late in battle's fearful scale

Hung trembling yet and her fair dames looked pale,

His arm rolled back the battle from afar

Chief of the valiant—Ulster's leading star.

Athboy beheld him on that well-known day

 Rout the Queen's host in carnage and dismay,

With many a feat of valour, witnesses well

The stay of battle, as both hosts can tell.

He met the foe on Bun-na-Tibrat's plain

O'Neill to rescue from the hostile plain,

At Mullabrick like lightning's cloud he stood

And bolts of vengeance ploughed the field of blood.

At Lifford too, the foe's beleagured camp

Quaked like a sheepfold at his lion tramp.

Or when the captains of the host he fought

And in the church the work of war fields wrought

Or when the English without boat or barge

Plunged in the torrent from his fatal charge.

At Derry for his own: or at the Bann

Against bold Randal when his sword was drawn

Renowned in armes—renowned in peaceful weed

For bold achievement or for generous deed.

At Portnacarrick when conquering—mercy shed

Her beams of triumph on his laurelled head,

And pleased looked down to see the warrior then

Feast those he ransomed, priests and learned men.

O'Kane in song for ever proudly named

The wine consuming, splendid, popular, famed,

Whose gorgeous halls surprised the wondering sense


With jewelled wealth and gay magnificence,

Whose bounteous tables heaped with princely hand

Diffused a grateful odour o'er the land,

There met the brave, there came the poor distrest,

And there the minstrel was an honoured guest.

O'Kane the brave, the generous to dispose

Wealth to his friends—destruction to his foes,

 Sword, fire and plunder followed where he trod,

And peace and mercy vanished at his nod.

A fast-observing, mass-attending man

Was great O'Kane the father of his clan,

From no mean source his high-famed course began

A high-born hero and his father's son

Of Rory, the renowned, brave offspring he

From mighty Magnus in the next degree.

In Magnus two renowned descents combine,

Sprung from O'Donnell in the female line,

O'Donnell Oge of Dalach's ancient strain

Thus swells the noble lineage of O'Kane.

So Con, the hero of a hundred fights

So warlike Mortogh his fierce blood unites.

No lying history his long line bespeaks

Next, far descended from the warlike Greeks,

And names renowned in days of old romance

From Spain's great princes and the throne of France

O Thou who did for mortals send relief

To Donall, courteous, royal, prosperous chief

Our only boast, without his presence, base

A poor, proud, thriftless, persecuted race

By mirth abandoned and its laughing train

The gallant game, gay banquet - tuneful strain."