Essex, Bacon and the early treachery of (Irish) politicians…

I used Google Plus to interview an old friend from schooldays to talk about a series of lectures he’s holding next week in the Linen Hall Library on one of the least considered and probably most pivotal moments in the history of Ulster.

Dr Hiram Morgan looks at that critical period that led under the Scots King James the Sixth (First of England) to the thorough plantation of Ulster. It coincides with the rise (and establishment) of a professional political class in the English state.

So Dr Morgan’s lectures start with the adventures (or rather expensive shopping trip) of the elder Essex and goes on to consider the role of Francis Bacon (the inventor of the scientific method) in constructing a robust business plan for the single most thorough plantation in Irish history.

It’s history, in great and granular detail. But as always there’s plenty of scope for considering the lessons we can draw from the past for who we are and how we do business with each other now and in the future.

For details check out these pages at the Linen Hall Library… And if you get along let us know how it goes?

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  • Red Lion

    Excellent, look forwad to looking into this in more detail.

    I am fascinated about the Ulster Plantation, but getting good detailed info on it seems difficult. I found Bardon’s recent book disappointing, really just skimming over things that I had a decent idea about, (even though his ireland in 250 episodes was ace).

  • Mick Fealty

    Well Hiram’s yer man. The elder Essex’s account book should be good steam. I think the Friday lecture will focus on that very hunt for contemporary artefacts.

  • Red Lion, you can read an online copy of Rev George Hill’s Plantation in Ulster – [Antrim, Down and Monaghan were not included in this process].

    Certain considerations touching the Plantation in Ireland, New year 1609 – Bacon to the King. Apart from potentially ‘discomfiting all hostile attempts of foreigners’ there was a hoped-for bonus ‘a double commodity, in the avoidance of people here, and in making use of them there’. Moving the border reivers to Ulster would have been part of such an ‘avoidance’.

  • I liked that bit of ‘whatabout the Irish’ [about 8 min in] when Hiram referred to massacres by English troops. His ‘the Irish generally didn’t kill the upper classes’ is somewhat offset by the fate of Shane O’Neill at the hands of the Macdonnells. Shane’s treatment of James Macdonnell – James died in a Tyrone dungeon – was not forgotten when Shane, with Sorley Boy Macdonnell as his prisoner, went to the Antrim glens to form an alliance against the English. Following two days of feasting a row began, a row which terminated in the termination of Shane.

    In a footnote on p145 of George Hill’s The Macdonnells of Antrim there’s a record of the following tradition:

    “Then,” replied the abbott, “whilst you continue to tread on the grave of James lord of Antrim and Cantire, know ye that we, here in Glenarm will trample on the dust of the great O’Neill”.

  • Crow

    Enjoyed that immensely. Sad I won’t be able to make the lectures.

  • Mick Fealty

    Great quote Nev… I’m hoping we can do more together… Though obviously not next week…

  • Red Lion

    Thanks Nevin and Mick, I recently picked up ‘two centuries of Life in Down 1600-1800’ by John Stevenson – lots of nice detail particularly in and around d’dee, comber, ards etc.

  • 25:50 “The main thing is we can’t trust our politicians.” .. HM

    But can we trust historians? Hiram appears to be a bit too close to the O’Neills much as Hill was a bit too close to the Macdonnells.

    18:30 “.. they [the Macdonnells] having come over in the course of about 100 years to establish a lordship in the north of Antrim.” .. HM

    John Mor Macdonnell of Islay acquired the Glens of Antrim through marriage to Margery Byset, a member of another Scottish family, in 1399 so Hiram is a bit out in his time and location. The Bysets had been in the Glens for about 150 years prior to the marriage. Eventually the Macdonnells acquired title to territority approximately east of a line between Coleraine and Larne.

    There’s a link an online copy of Hill’s Macdonnells of Antrim here and to the Macdonnell=Byset marriage here.

  • [contd] and a link to the abbot’s quote in a footnote here

  • USA

    Very nice work Mick and Hiram, it is a period of Irish history (along with the Ulster-Scots migration to the US) that has always fascinated me.

    Nice links Nevin, I will give them a read.

  • USA, I dabble in family history, history and politics and my main interest is in a smallish territory on the north coast of Ireland east of the River Bann. Considering its location, the influences have been a mix of Irish, Scottish and English ones. Here’s a link to the 1718 Migration site that might also interest you; the emphasis is mainly on Presbyterians:

    The people who stayed in Ulster, in any generation between 1718 and 1950 may have had to adjust, over the course of their lives, to the absence of three quarters of the people with whom they had been in significant relationships in earlier life. Linde Lunney – Those who stayed at home

  • One of my brothers is currently writing a book about the period from about 1550 until the plantation. I’m helping with proof reading. He hopes to publish by Christmas. He will be at all of the lectures.

  • For those wondering why Shane O’Neill got his comeuppance in the Antrim glens in June 1567 they can turn to 133-5 in Hill’s book:

    Shane [2 May 1565 – following winning battle near Ballycastle]: “It becomes my duty to inform your Lordship of my progress towards the North in the Queen’s service against the Scots, who are her Majesty’s enemies and the usurpers of her territory …”

    Or to put it another way: get rid of the Antrim Scots and there’s more of Ulster for me (OOPs) the O’Neills 😉

    pp194-7 illustrate the changing of alliances during the transition from Elizabeth to James, including James’ support for Elizabeth’s enemies, especially in Ulster. All changed – changed utterly!

  • Joe, my Stewart ancestors reputedly arrived in the vicinity of Ballintoy circa 1560 – having been on the wrong side of a quarrel and lost their lands in Bute. Later on they became agents for the Macdonnells on the north coast of County Antrim.

  • Greenflag

    @ Nevin

    ‘there’s more of Ulster for me ‘

    So The O’Neill was a Me Feiner and not a Sinn Feiner ;)?

    Good one but then were any of them (politicians ) then or even now anything other than Me Feiners ? I suppose there were some but they usually did’nt survive the ‘real ‘world of changing alliances and court intrigue etc

  • Greenflag

    @ mister joe ,

    That period post 1550 until 1690 effectively can be called the Second Conquest of Ireland . The first was the 1169 to 1550 era which was to as they say ‘all over the map ‘ and almost ended with English control over Ireland being reduced to a tiny Pale enclave of 200 square miles around Dublin.

    Let us all know when it’s published .

  • Greenflag, that Shane quote could be presented as collusion or Shane O’Neill OHMS. However, a browse through Hill’s book and discounting Hill’s proximity to the Macdonnells might well lead one to the conclusion that everyone would shaft everyone else 🙂

  • Compare this potted history on the Literary Belfast site of an episode in the life of Sir Arthur Chichester:

    In 1597, after the death of his brother John Chichester, the governor of Carrickfergus castle, Arthur arrived in Ireland at the head of a contingent of Essex’s troops and was in his turn installed at Carrickfergus. His ‘scorched earth’ suppression of the guerrilla revolts of the native Irish was brutally pragmatic.

    with the description provided by George Hill. John had sent the tax men from his base in Carrickfergus Castle as far as Dunluce Castle to collect unpaid revenue in 1597. The Macdonnells took umbrage at the methods used and John and many of his troops were subsequently killed in an ambush near Broadisland, Larne.

    Fast forward to 1601: O’Neill, O’Donnell and Macdonnell forces are lost in the fog around Kinsale. What a splendid opportunity for the new Governor, John’s brother Arthur, to exact his revenge against the ‘Antrim Scots’. Arthur was convinced that famine was more effective than the sword – so he used both.

    About a year later with the Queen on her death bed, Randal Macdonnell, a distant relation of James and a closer relation of Hugh O’Neill, did a deal with Chichester and, in two shakes of a cat’s tail – plus a few years – acquires an Earldom from James and the envy of Chichester! [see pp194+ above link]

  • Being a kinsman of the King gave the Catholic Earl of Antrim perhaps a bit more protection than was available to the other Ulster Earls, O’Neill and O’Donnell. When the Lord deputy complained about the presence of Catholic clergy in Antrim’s properties, Antrim admitted the offence and landed the King in a pickle:

    replying to the Irish deputy’s letter as follows :—” Although the offence committed by him (Antrim) is of such a nature as we are not easily moved to remit it, yet in respect that he has so ingenuously acknowledged his errors, and faithfully promised not to fall into the like again, we are graciously pleased thus far to concede to his desire as to require you to take order, that he shall not be further questioned or proceeded against there by any of our officers for the said offence, but we yet hope, when he shall repair to our presence, to prevail more with him by our gracious admonitions for his future amendment, than by such punishments might be justly inflicted upon him by our law.”

    According to Hill, Antrim continued to provide accommodation for the clergy.

  • From the same link, George Hill makes this observation:

    His crowning distinction, however, was the earldom of Antrim, which was conferred by letters patent under the great seal, dated the 12th of December, 1620. This dignity was granted for reasons similar to those expressed by the king when creating him a viscount. His patent for the earldom, however, recites in still more complimentary terms, the fact of his having strenuously exerted himself in settling British subjects on his estates.

    These had included settlers from Kintyre/Cantyre who’d been requested to depart in 1607 following a change of ‘top dog’ from Campbell to Macdonnell.