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The McGills
The Ulsterman—His Rise and Development


Our jolly old forbears did not have the fair sailing they had reason to anticipate in Ulster. There were elements of disturbance at work for which they were unconsciously responsible, at least in part, that were destined to bring upon them dire disaster. There had been mistakes made and wrongs done, and a storm of retribution was gathering force in the mountains to overwhelm them.

The Irish Catholics very naturally looked upon them as intruders who had taken the place of their banished countrymen, and had wrongfully seized and appropriated their rightful possessions, and moreover they were of another faith, and had cooperated, or at least concurred in the English persecution of the Irish Catholics, which was stern, inveterate and brutal. It was not in human nature, especially in the Irish nature, to tamely submit to these oppressions, and it was especially aggravating to see men of their own race eager beneficiaries of Ireland’s wrongs.

It mattered not that by their industry and thrift they had brought wealth and prosperity and made the wilderness blossom like the rose; were they not in alliance with the oppressor, a foreign race that from the dawn of history had pursued them to rob and despoil? It is not to be wondered at that animosities were engendered that boded no good.

There is no doubt that the trustful Scot, relying on the protection of the English, gave scope to his covetous nature and acquisitive instincts to gather spoils from the prostrate nation while he sang songs of pure content and rubbed his hoary hands in glee over his great gains.

But while he was thus wrapped up in self-righteous glorification the Clans were gathering in the dark places and hidden recesses of the hills. The fiery Princes of the ancient realm were aligning their forces for bloody reprisals. The edict had gone forth that the apostate Celt who was growing fat on the blood of his kin must no longer pollute the soil of the Emerald Isle.

In A. D. 1641, just a generation after the advent of the Scot Phelim, Roe O'Neill, at the head of the Irish Clans made a descent on Ulster and laid waste the province. Forty thousand innocent people were slain by the raiders and a human life exacted for every one driven out with Tyrone and Tyrconnel. With sword and torch the land was desolated and the survivors driven into the caves of the earth to escape destruction. The self-righteous Scot found himself confronted by a bloody problem not included in his reckoning when he left his rock-ribbed home to build a fortune on the usurped lands of his brother Celt.

To say that his resistance was heroic is to speak of it lightly. All history attests the intrepidity and desperate valor with which the Scot will defend his fireside ; and his persistence in the unequal contest alone saved Ulster from extirpation. The great pity of it was that it was Celt warring with Celt; men of the finest blood on earth destroying each other.

Cromwell at last came to the rescue and drove back the invader with the mailed hand, and Ulster was saved to civilization. The Scot had learned a lesson, but he yet had more to learn.

Nothing in history better illustrates the persistency of the race than the rehabilitation of the waste places depopulated by O'Neill. The mills were rebuilt; the machinery restored; dwellings erected; church spires pointed heavenward, and the school bells again rang out joyfully, inviting the youth of the land to higher ideals and the better life. For another generation they had comparative peace and consequently the prosperity that always attends industry and thrift, and the winds wafted their sails to every known sea. But it must be remembered that Ulster was not exclusively a Scotch colony, a large proportion, nearly one-half, being English. The Presbyterian and Anglican churches stood side by side and the two branches of the Protestant faith seemingly dwelt together in harmony, at least as long as it was necessary to combine their forces to combat the Catholics, but the Anglican was the Church of State, claiming ecclesiastical jurisdiction over all others, and was a component part of the civil government of the realm, and her decisions and decrees would be enforced by the power of King and Parliament. But it was not always good state policy to rigidly exercise these extraordinary functions. 'Tis true they were enforced with great malignancy against the Irish, but as to the Scotch Irish they were held in suspension, only awaiting the opportunity to safely assert their assumed prerogatives. The Church of England was already showing her teeth and making faces at the Presbyterians, and unrest prevailed. Long-headed Scots foresaw the impending trouble, and while they could yet do so, disposed of their interests and sailed for America and a considerable tide of emigration set in toward our shores.

Events, however, were transpiring that rendered the tenure of the Scot in Ireland insecure and unpleasant. Great changes were taking place in England. A wonderful religious revival was in progress in which the Catholic, Anglican, Puritan and Presbyterian Covenanters all took part, each striving "tooth and toe nail" to root out the heresies of the other. Old King "James the Fool" had gone to his long home (1625) and was succeeded by Charles I., who lost his head in the mixup. Then came eleven years of the Commonwealth in which Oliver Cromwell proved himself the greatest man of the age; but at his death the Puritan, notwithstanding his vantage ground, was found incapable and retired from the contest. Then came "Charley from over the water," Charles II., who signalized his restoration by restoring the established church, expelling from their pulpits two thousand clergymen for non-conformity. It was here where the Church of England had her innings in the religious fervor of the times.

Charles II. believed in the divine right of Kings, aimed to rule without a Parliament and accepted bribes from foreign potentates, but he never attempted to change the religion of England. He was succeeded by James II., who soon showed that he had but one aim-to restore Catholicism. "The boot was now on the other foot," and the belabored Irish, who had been beaten down to the earth, came blithely to the front, seething with aggressive venom for the wrongs they had suffered. The religious political cauldron no longer simmered but boiled and bubbled with scalding heat, and our trustful Scot, in a foreign land, deprived of the protection of his own, found himself "between the devil and the deep sea." England, however, was patient for a time, but it was asking too much for her to long submit to the radical changes and gross usurpations of this unseasoned monarch. In A. D. 1688 he was driven out of England and found refuge in France under the protection of Louis XIV.

Parliament considered James' desertion an abdication and declared the throne vacant. William, Prince of Orange, had married Mary, the daughter of James, and, being thus in the line of promotion and both radically Protestant, they were invited jointly to occupy the vacant throne.

William was a good-natured, decent sort of Dutchman, and, being of course imbued with the germanic instinct for taking things, especially when they came easy, accepted, and the thing was done ; and they were proclaimed "William and Mary, King and Queen of England."

These changes and transformations somewhat allayed the fears of our friends in Ulster, and there was not so much brine in their penitential tears as when they were bending to the yoke of James with forebodings of cruel extinction. Their own offense of being particeps criminis in the spoliation of the Irish diminished in magnitude as the chances for reprisals declined, and they wept not so long or so loud, but their day of retribution was yet to come, not by the hand of their wretched brother Celts, by whose misfortunes they had profited, but from their abiding hereditary enemy, the English Teuton, to whom they had basely cringed for gain and became partakers in wrong.

James II. had ignobly fled without striking a blow for his cause, relying on his patron, Louis XIV, of France, to regain his crown. Louis was a powerful monarch, but his combinations had excited the jealousy of the European powers, Catholic as well as Protestant, and he had troubles of his own to look after, while the well known rashness and treachery of James did not commend him to the Catholic powers as a suitable champion of their cause. He had, however, one source of strength-one favorable point from which to operate-and that was Ireland. He had made himself strong with the Irish, who outside of Ulster were mostly Catholics. The Protestants had been disarmed and rooted out of every position of authority, even in Ulster, just as the Catholics had been under Protestant rule, and they, the Irish, now rallied to the support of James.

To a disinterested observer it is difficult to see what else they could do. It is true that James was not of their blood, and their confidence in him was not as great as it would have been in a native Prince, aiming at Irish nationality, but loyalty to Church and State stimulated them to hoist his standard and prepare for the struggle that must ensue.

James' program was to land in Ireland with a force furnished by the French King, and there unite with the Irish army that had been assembled by the Lord Deputy, cross from the North of Ireland into Scotland, and there effect a junction with the Jacobin Highlanders under Dundee, and from thence make a descent into England, regain the crown, destroy the Protestants and have a good time generally.

The plan was well laid-looked feasible-and under the leadership of such men as Grant, Sherman or Sheridan would have succeeded. But there was one obstacle in the way and that was Ulster. Badly armed and equipped, Ulster, unprotected by British force, unprovided in every way, unused to the arts of war did not seem a formidable obstacle, but it proved otherwise.

But, as the Irish had limited confidence in James, so, the wiser heads among the Scots did not altogether trust in the integrity of the German Prince; and coming events proved that their distrust was well founded. Pending the arrival of James in Dublin, the Lord Deputy used all the arts of diplomacy to induce the me Ulster to surrender their arms and submit, promising every immunity that could be asked; but the men of Ulster, knowing the treacherous nature of Tyrconnel, would not give up their only means of defense, and with this refusal war was inevitable.

The negotiations on the part of our people were mostly conducted by the preachers, who held meetings in every country town and passed resolutions, while active preparations for their subjugation were being vigorously pushed in Dublin. The preachers were yet in session and had taken no practical measures for defense, when Lieut. Gen. Hamilton, a Catholic nobleman, at the head of a considerable force, arrived in Ulster. Taken by surprise many of the inhabitants surrendered their arms and took the oath of allegiance to James and consented to being plundered and robbed on promise that their lives should be spared. But a great majority of the people fled to the fortified towns, destroying such property as they could not carry away. The Scotch Irish character that had been in course of development for a hundred years, began here to assert itself in deeds of heroism that challenged the admiration of mankind.

Our friends had no time to concentrate, and the small garrison towns fell into the hands of the enemy. They were pursued through Down and Antrim to Colerains, where they made a stand and repulsed Hamilton, who fell back for reinforcements.

James had now arrived in Dublin with his French contingent. His road to England lay through Ulster, and the passage must be forced, and with this end in view he set his combined army in motion at once for the doomed province.

At the River Bann, between Antrim and Derry, the Jacobins encountered the first organized line of the Ulstermen's defense. It was not a strong position; it was too long and too thin. Numerous fords extending over thirty miles were guarded by small detachments beyond supporting distance of each other, and no adequate reserves in sight. An ordinary American general would have gobbled up these courageous battalions as easily as an old woman can pick up chips, but fortunately neither side had a monopoly of dense military stupidity and no great catastrophe ensued. To Sir John McGill was assigned the defense at Kilrea, but the line was forced and a crossing effected by the enemy at Port Glenone, where Capt. James McGill, a gallant young officer, was slain.

The line of defense along the River Bann being broken, the Ulster forces retired to the walled city of Londonderry and prepared to withstand a siege.

The details of the world-renowned siege of Londonderry do not require reproduction here further than to say that every county in Ulster was represented among the defenders and not a British soldier appeared to swell the ranks of the men who had placed themselves as a living barrier between William of Orange and his enemies. This sore neglect and inefficiency of support did not improve the mistrust of the Ulstermen in William and Mary, and went far to justify those of the Protestant faith who preferred casting their lot with their kinsmen the Irish to trusting to their hereditary foe the German Prince. There were such Ulstermen, and they were not far from being right, and among them were men bearing our own name.

Capt. Hugh MacGill was prominent in the city counsels and military defense of Londonderry, and no doubt there were others, perhaps many, but we have notice that there were Protestant McGills who would not support the Dutchman and who were enrolled in the ranks of the Irish army. Col. Carmack O'Neill, commanding a regiment in the Irish army, was a Protestant, and in his line were two officers supposed to be of the same faith, Lieut. Carmac McGill and Ensign Neill McGill. Colonel O'Neill is prominent in history-was highly connected with the Irish nobility of the time, and it would seem from the names that very friendly relations existed between the O'Neills and the McGills. Now we see in these people ranged on the side of the Irish, men who put not their trust in Dutch Princes-who contemned not the blood of their race and were willing for the time being to submerge religion under righteousness and stand by their brother Celts, let the issue be what it may; and though they went down in defeat we must not question their motives or detract from their immortal honor.

The victory at Londonderry belonged to the Ulstermen ; there were no others there to share in the laurels, and it was an achievement of momentous importance to Europe and to the whole civilized world; for it signalized the supremacy of the Protestant faith in every English-speaking nation on the face of the earth.

The overthrow of James at the Boyne the following year was a natural sequence to the heroic defense at Londonderry, and left William and Mary free to root out the Scotch Irish from Ulster. Through their thrift they had accumulated sufficient wealth to make it an object to despoil them and the Dutch instincts led out strongly in that direction. No sooner were the Irish subdued than the Established Church assumed high prerogatives and all fellowship with the Presbyterians was at an end.

They were all right while they were killing off the Irish-they fraternized and worshipped in the same Cathedral in Derry-but now, relieved from fear of the shillalah, the High Church regarded the Presbyterians as undesirable citizens and acted accordingly. The men who saved Derry were left amid the wreck of their fortunes without recognition or reward by the Crown, and all the oppressions that had been inflicted upon the Irish Catholics, with the approval of the Scot, were now turned full tide upon the Scotch Irish Presbyterians of Ulster.

They were in a pretty fix. They had justly earned the bitter hatred of their racial brethren -the Irish. They had voluntarily expatriated themselves when they removed beyond the jurisdiction of Scotland, and now the paw of the British Lion was upon them with merciless tread, and they were prostrate and bleeding in the land they had reclaimed and beautified.

In one hundred years the Scotch Presbyterians had founded a race-the Scotch-Irish race-conceived in sin-nurtured and matured in fratricidal blood-and now they were reaping their reward in bitter humiliation and distress. All the good they had done for England in the subjugation of the Irish went for naught and the day of retribution was at hand. The old Scot should have known better than to trust to perfidious Albion. The experience of ages told him better, but he was crafty, cunning, covetous and sly, and would venture very the margin of hell for two-pence, but now in the day of his maturity he became wise and fled to America.

The immigration to our shores from 1700 to 1775 was very great and mostly of the right kind. The Puritans had set up their Ebinezer at Plymouth Rock, and were calling for their liberty-loving friends across the sea to come hither. The Scotch and Irish poured into Philadelphia and Baltimore at the rate of twelve thousand per annum, and pushed West and South and fortified in their log cabins against Indian depredation and British aggression. Blood stained from St. Bartholomew came the Huguenot and entered by more Southern ports.

The mills of God were grinding; right, left and center these incoming hordes of king-haters unconsciously took their proper positions in the line of battle, and when the storm did come our old forbears were equal to the emergency.


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