Sunday, 28 February 2010

Settlement and plantation

In response to an earlier post, Mairtin Og (whom I take to be Mairtin Og Meehan and Ardoyne Republican) wrote:
The Gaelic leaders of Ulster, the O'Neills and O'Donnells, finding their power under English suzerainty limited, decamped en masse in 1607 (the Flight of the Earls) to Europe. Which allowed the English Crown to plant Ulster with more loyal English and Scottish planters, a process which began in earnest in 1610. Ever since the province and its citizens have suffered endless conflict.
In fact the arrival of Scottish settlers in Ulster pre-dated the Flight of the Earls and was concentrated in Antrim and Down, which were not part of the Plantation of Ulster. Of course this has also to be seen in the context of what G M Trevelyan called the ‘constant factor’ of movement in both directions between Ulster and Scotland. The ‘narrow sea was more of a bridge than barrier.

King James VI of Scotland succeeded Queen Elizabeth I of England and became King James I in 1603. Soon after this two Scottish lairds, Sir James Hamilton and Sir Hugh Montgomery, acquired land in the north-east of county Down and they arranged for the settlement of that land with Scottish settlers.

The first Scottish settlers, who were Lowlanders and Presbyterians, started to arrive in May1606, the year before the Flight of the Earls. Hamilton’s settlement was based around Bangor and the Montgomery settlement around Newtownards.

Lowland Scots were also brought over to Ulster by the Roman Catholic landowner Sir Randal MacDonnell. He had supported the Gaelic chieftains in the Nine Years War but enjoyed the favour of James I and was encouraged to bring Scottish tenants into Ulster. As a result three hundred families of lowland Scots Protestants settled on his land.

These early settlements in east Ulster were ‘the dawn of the Ulster-Scots’ and Hamilton and Montgomery have been described as the ‘founding fathers of the Ulster-Scots’.

The success of Hamilton and Montgomery inspired King James I’s Virginia Plantation of 1607, his Ulster Plantation of 1610 and his Nova Scotia Plantation of 1621.

This aspect of Scottish settlement in Ulster is largely unknown and often overlooked and it is therefore very disappointing that there is no mention of either Sir James Hamilton or Sir Hugh Montgomery, or indeed Sir Randal MacDonnell, in the account of Ulster history in the Ulster Museum. It is a most regrettable and unfortunate omission.

As regards ‘conflict in Ulster’ I think that is something that goes back way beyond the 17th century. There was certainly conflict with the Vikings and with the Anglo-Normans and there were also bloody struggles for power and land among the Gaelic chieftains themselves. Indeed one of the themes in the Ulster Cycle was about the struggle by the men of Ulster to keep out the men of the South.

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