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The History of Ulster
Shane again in Ulster


The Young Baron of Dungannon slain - Shane O'Neill returns to Ulster - He calls on the Ulster Chieftains to submit - O'Donnell and Maguire refuse - O'Neill attacks them - Sussex attempts to entrap him, but fails - The Ulster Chieftains complain of Shane's Conduct - Sussex again invades Ulster - Failure of the Expedition.

While O'Neill was fretting out his soul in London his deputy in Ulster, Turlogh Lynnagh, was looking after his own interests. Shane was right when he gave as a reason why he should return at once to Ireland that his kinsmen were fickle and his enemies many. The prolonged absence of Shane led Turlogh to entertain an ambition to be his successor, and proclaim himself "The O'Neill". But there was little use in doing this if Ferdoragh's son was to live; accordingly he set about his removal. The young Baron of Dungannon was waylaid in a wood near Carlingford, and fled for his life till he reached the bank of a deep river which he could not swim, and there he was slain.

Elizabeth had now no longer an excuse for detaining Shane; in fact it was dangerous to do so, for in Turlogh there might lurk as dangerous an antagonist as in Shane, and as "it is better to deal with the devil you know than the devil you don't", the Council decided, there being now no rival to dispute Shane's title to the earldom, to make terms with him and hasten his departure. On the 2Oth of April an indenture was signed by Elizabeth and himself, in which he bound himself to do military service and to take the oath of allegiance in the presence of the Deputy; while in return he was allowed to remain Captain of Tyrone, with feudal jurisdiction over the northern counties. He undertook to reduce to obedience the Scots, the O'Neills of Clanaboy, the MacQuillans, and the O'Cahans, and to see that these chiefs took the oath of allegiance to the Queen. He was to aid the Deputy in his wars, and to permit the Queen's garrison to remain at Armagh. He was to levy no tribute, nor take pledges outside Tyrone, nor have in Tyrone itself any mercenary troops. The Pale, it was agreed, was no longer to be a sanctuary to any person whom he might demand as a malefactor. If any Irish lord or chief did him wrong, and the Deputy failed within twenty days to exact reparation, Shane might raise an army and levy war on his own account. Finally, he was to leave all matters of dispute with O'Donnell to a court of arbitration composed of the Earls of Kildare, Ormonde, Thomond, and Clanrickard; and all other controversies he was to refer to the Council at Dublin.

Shane having subscribed to these conditions, the Queen issued a proclamation that his submission was accepted, that in future he should be regarded as "a good natural subject". He returned to Ireland, arriving on the 26th May in Dublin, where he learned that Turlogh was setting himself up as chieftain of Tyrone; and to frustrate this treacherous act of his kinsman, Shane immediately caused proclamation to be made in the streets of the city regarding the recognition of his title by Elizabeth, and then he hastened to the north, where he was received in triumph by the men of Tyrone.

During his absence Sussex had been active. Calvagh O'Donnell had been ransomed from captivity by the Cinel Connel, and the Viceroy had marched through Tirconnell to restore to him his principal castles and strongholds. O'Donnell had remained loyal to the English, and this was his reward. But when Shane returned in triumph, and, summoning the northern chiefs about him, told them that "he had not gone to England to lose but to win", and that they must submit to his rule, O'Donnell, thinking he would have the support of the Viceroy, refused allegiance to O'Neill. In this he was joined by Maguire of Fermanagh, and Shane, fearing that this spirit of revolt would spread, proceeded to plunder Maguire and laid waste his territory by repeated incursions. He also invaded Tirconnell, and would probably have devastated the whole district but that Calvagh repaired to Dublin to complain to the Lord-Lieutenant, and a truce was called to allow of negotiations for peace.

The Government charged O'Neill with bad faith, but Shane flung back the imputation, and with good reason, for the English do not appear to have kept any of their promises to him. He was then called upon to take the oath of allegiance in Dublin, and a safe-conduct was sent him, worded in ambiguous terms, so that on his coming he might, by twisting the words, be arrested. Shane declined the invitation (although Sussex advanced to Dundalk to meet him), stating that his duty to the Queen forbade him to leave his province in its present disturbed condition. Sussex then remembered that the See of Armagh was vacant, owing to the Catholic Primate having refused allegiance to Elizabeth, and sent down a conge Telire for the appointment of "Mr. Adam Loftus". The reply received was "that the chapter there, whereof the greater part were Shane O'Neill's horsemen, were so sparkled and out of order, that they could by no means be assembled for the election". Sussex was in despair. O'Neill now proceeded to twit him with impossible proposals, and, these being declined, amused himself by assuring the somewhat dense and matter-of-fact Englishman that if he would take him for a brother-in-law their relations for the future might be improved. Sussex appears to have taken this statement in deadly earnest, and, seeing in the proposal a possibility of getting the chief into his power, replied that he had a sister living with him, and suggested that Shane should visit Dublin in order to see the lady. He said "that he could not promise to give her against her will", but if Shane came to Dublin "he could see and speak with her, and that if he liked her and she him they should both have his goodwill". Shane no doubt laughed at the solemnity of this acceptance of a joke, and, doubting Sussex's intentions towards himself, he made enquiries, with the result that "he had advertisement out of the Pale that the lady was brought over only to entrap him, and if he came to the Deputy he should never return". This being the case he declined the invitation.

Sussex now wrote to Elizabeth that force must again be used, and stated that O'Neill was in correspondence with Mary Queen of Scots; had written to the Pope, and had employed his time while in London in establishing, through De Quadra, secret relations with Spain. "No greater danger", he wrote, "had ever been in Ireland," and he implored the Queen to act promptly. Being sensible of his own failures, he suggested that he should retire in favour of one better qualified than himself to carry on the work, not, he added, "from any want of will, for he would spend his last penny and his last drop of blood for her Majesty ".

In the meantime complaints from the lesser Ulster chiefs regarding Shane's conduct increased and multiplied. Conn O'Donnell, son of Calvagh, wrote to the Queen a piteous letter stating that O'Neill had demanded the surrender of his castles; he had refused out of loyalty to England, and in consequence his farms were burnt, his cattle destroyed, and he himself was a ruined man. Maguire of Fermanagh complained to Sussex of the manner in which he had been left to the tender mercies of O'Neill. He stated that Shane had called upon him to submit, and that he had answered that he would not forsake the English till the English forsook him; "wherefore", he said, "I know well that within these four days the sayed Shane will come to dystroy me contrey except your Lordshypp will sette some remedy in the matter".


Sussex, being asked what manner of man Conn O'Donnell was, replied: "This Conn is valiant, wise, much disposed of himself to civility, true of his word, speaketh and writeth very good English, and hath natural shamefastness in his face, which few of the wild Irish have, and is assuredly the likeliest plant that can grow in Ulster to graft a good subject on".

The situation was desperate. The Lord-Lieutenant was powerless, and matters grew from bad to worse. Shane, in order to overawe Maguire, overran his territory "with a great host" in vain; Maguire was adamant, "wherefore Shane bygan to wax mad and to cawsse his men to burn all his corn and howsses"; and Maguire had to take refuge with the remnant of his people in the islands on the lake. He once more appealed to Sussex: "Help me, your lordship," he cried, "I promes you, and you doo not sy the rather to Shane O'Nele is besynes, ye ar lyke to make hym the strongest man of all Erlond, for every man wyll take an exampull by me gratte lostys; take hyd to yourself by thymes, for he is lyke to have all the power from this place thill he come to the wallys of Gallway to rysse against you".

Elizabeth, wearied by the continued troubles in Ulster, and much worried by the great expense they entailed, and being much impressed by the statement that the position of things "was the most dangerous that had ever been in Ireland", consented to supply the means for another invasion. She, however, insisted on the Viceroy's carrying through the plans he had himself proposed whereby to crush Shane, and accordingly Sussex once more prepared for war. He joined hands with O'Donnell, O'Reilly, and Maguire; he induced Turlogh Lynnagh to take arms against Shane; he sought help from the Earls of Kildare, Ormonde, Thomond, and Clanrickard; and made a levy of two months' provisions for the army on the inhabitants of the Pale. Fresh stores were thrown into Armagh, and the troops there increased to a number which could harass Tyrone through the winter. Meanwhile O'Donnell was encouraged to hold out, and Maguire to defend himself, Sussex promising to relieve them by the beginning of February.

Sussex, with all his preparations, accomplished little. He was unable to co-operate effectively with the Ulster chiefs; the inhabitants of the Pale protested against supplying the provisions needed, and swore "they would rather be hanged at their own doors" than comply. The pay of the soldiers was two months in arrear, and they became, in consequence, disaffected, disorganized, and mutinous. Kildare, who disliked the idea of attacking his kinsman, Shane, now induced Ormonde, and others who had pledged themselves to supply contingents, to join him in a declaration that they had changed their minds; and the increase of disappointments boded so ill for the expedition, that Sussex came to the conclusion that there was a conspiracy amongst the Irish Council "to keep O'Neill from falling".

Thus time passed and nothing was done. The aid promised in February to O'Donnell and Maguire was not forthcoming; they were still unrelieved, though it was now the beginning of April (1563). At last Sussex succeeded in obtaining the co-operation of Ormonde, and on the 6th, with but three weeks' provisions, he set out for the north at the head of a mixed force of Irish and English, ill-armed, ill-supplied, and lacking in confidence as well as in loyalty. The results of the movements of such an army can easily be foreseen. It was simply a case of St. Vitus's Dance eternal activity without action. The report from the Viceroy to the Queen sums up a lamentable state of things. It runs as follows:

"April 6. The army arrives at Armagh.

"April 8. We return to Newry to bring up stores and ammunition which had been left behind.

"April ii. We again advance to Armagh, where we remain waiting for the arrival of gallo glasse and kerne from the Pale.

"April 14. A letter from James M'Donnell, which we answer.

"April 15. The gallo glasse not coming, we go upon Shane's cattle, of which we take enough to serve us; we should have taken more if we had had gallo glasse.

"April 1 6. We return to Armagh.

"April 17, 18, 19. We wait for the gallo glasse. At last we send back to Dublin for them, and begin to fortify the churchyard.

"April 20. We write to M'Donnell, who will not come to us, notwithstanding his promise.

"April 21. We survey the Trough Mountains, said to be the strongest place in Ireland.

"April 22. We return to Armagh with the spoil taken, which would have been much greater if we had had gallo glasse, and because St. George's even forced me, her Majesty's lieutenant, to return to Divine Service that night.

"April 23 [St. George's Day]. Divine Service."

The three weeks' provisions being consumed by this time, it was necessary to fall back on the Pale; and if the farmers of the Pale continued to supply him with provisions, and he could obtain the much-required gallowglasse, Sussex hoped to accomplish something. He moved in the hope that the Scots would not assist Shane. At the same time he wrote in bitterness of spirit to Cecil, saying: "I have been commanded to the field, and I have not one penny of money; I must lead forth an army, and have no commission; I must continue in the field, and I see not how I shall be victualled; I must fortify, and have no working tools".

Matters were now worse than ever. The money supplied for the war was all spent, and in the Pale the Viceroy "could not get a man to serve the Queen, nor a peck of corn to feed the army". As a forlorn hope he dashed wildly on a cattleraiding expedition towards Clogher, feeding his men on the cattle seized, and laying waste the country. Finally he came to the conclusion that "the Englishry of the Pale" were secretly desirous that the rebellion should not be quelled, and he abandoned the expedition against Tyrone as being "but a Sisyphus' labour".


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