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The History of Ulster
The New Earl of Tyrone


Hugh O'Neill, Baron of Dungannon, becomes Earl of Tyrone - State of the Army in Ulster - Tyrone and Sir Hugh O'Donnell - Hugh Roe O'Neill kidnapped by Perrot - Sorley Boy finally surrenders - Sir John Perrot gives up Office - Turlogh Lynnagh accompanies him to the boat, and sheds tears on his Departure - Death of Perrot in the Tower.

At a Parliament held in Dublin on 26th of April, 1585, Hugh O'Neill, Baron of Dungannon, petitioned the House for the higher title of Earl of Tyrone, which had been conferred by patent on his grandfather, and had his claim allowed. The Lord Deputy now came north to quell another rising of the Scots, and, being in Ulster, he approved and confirmed a deed by which Turlogh Lynnagh handed over the southern half of Tyrone to the newly acknowledged Earl, reserving to himself the northern half.

Tyrone, on the other hand, was required to set apart 240 acres on the banks of the Blackwater for the erection of an English fort, not to exercise authority over the neighbouring chieftains, and to make sufficient provision for the sons of Shane O'Neill and Turlogh Lynnagh Turlogh himself continuing, for the remainder of his life, to enjoy the title of Irish Chieftain of Tyrone, with right of superiority over Maguire and O'Kane. The newly acknowledged Earl was received with much enthusiasm, and the confidence reposed in him by the Government was such that his proposal to keep up a standing force of six companies of well-trained soldiers to preserve the peace of the north was gladly accepted.

The state of the army in Ulster at this time was the result of either lack of funds or parsimony amounting to madness. The army was literally naked, and many soldiers for sheer want took service with the Irish. The inevitable result of penurious measures was that, shortly after the Lord Deputy had returned to the Pale, the castle of Dunluce was again in the hands of the Scots. The castle had but fourteen defenders, the constable being one Peter Gary, a man of Ulster birth though of English blood. It is said he had a Scottish mistress; and possibly with her connivance, or at her request, ropes made of withes were let down at night by an Irish warder, and fifty Scots climbing them entered the castle. Gary, who had been ordered not to keep Irish warders, fought to the death, and thereby sacrificed the few men he had with him.

Such happenings in a recently subdued province do not tend to improve matters. The Earl of Tyrone viewed them with approval. It could scarcely be expected with such power thrown into his hands by English and Irish alike, and with frequent reminders of the traditions of his race and the wrongs of his oppressed country continually before his eyes, that Tyrone, the grandson of Con O'Neill, could stifle every impulse of heredity and tamely surrender his ambition. From time to time complaints reached the Council from minor chiefs, over whom Tyrone soon began to exercise his power more to his own aggrandizement than to their advancement. Turlogh and the sons of Shane O'Neill appealed against him. He kept up amicable relations with the Ulster Scots, and secured the friendship of the powerful and hitherto hostile sept of O'Kane by giving them the fosterage of his son.

All these circumstances caused uneasiness to the Government, which had lately suffered a considerable withdrawal of its numerical strength in the sending of over 1000 soldiers to serve the Queen in the Low Countries. The chief of Tirconnell, hitherto fairly steadfast in his loyalty, also exhibited a growing spirit of independence in itself alarming. There was an intimacy between him and Tyrone which boded no good to the English. Tyrone had married a daughter of Sir Hugh O'Donnell, and the families were drawn together by friendly ties. O'Donnell refused to admit an English sheriff into his territory, and a mysterious traffic carried on between his remote shores and those of Spain was looked on with much disapproval in Dublin.

The course which the Government adopted to mend matters was curious. Perrot was himself responsible for the step taken. It was known that Hugh Roe, or the "red", the eldest son of Sir Hugh O'Donnell, was a youth of rare ability and aspiring mind, and it was resolved that the Council should get possession of this boy as a hostage. To accomplish this openly would, however, require a large army, and arouse the northern chiefs to resistance, so Sir John proposed a plan by which danger and expense could be avoided. In the winter of 1587 a vessel laden with Spanish wines was sent round from Dublin to the coast of Donegal, on the pretence of traffic and of having come direct from Spain. The commander was one John Bermingham, a Dublin merchant, and the crew consisted of fifty armed men. The vessel arrived with a favourable wind in Lough Swilly, and anchored opposite Rathmullen, a castle built by MacSweeny of Fanad, one of O'Donnell's commanders of gallowglasses. It having been previously ascertained that Hugh Roe was not far off with his foster-father, MacSweeny of the Battle-axes, a party of sailors landed, and while they pretended to sell their wine they took care to explore the country. The neighbouring people flocked to the shore, abundance of liquor was distributed amongst them; and when Hugh Roe came to MacSweeny's castle, and his host sent to the ship for wine, his messenger was informed that none remained for sale, but that if a few gentlemen came on board, all that was left would be willingly given them. The unsuspecting Irish chiefs fell into the snare. Hugh Roe who, though only fifteen years of age, was married proceeded in a small boat to the ship, and was ushered with his friends into the cabin and served with wine until all became, as the Annalists state, "fuddled". Their arms were then stealthily removed, the hatches were clapped down, the cable cut, and the prize secured. An alarm was instantly raised and the people crowded from all quarters to the beach; but the ship was in deep water, and there were no boats by which she could be attacked. Hugh's foster-father rushed to the shore and offered any ransom; but none, of course, would be accepted. The guests who were not required were put on shore, and the ship sailed for Dublin. Thus this young chief of a sept always devoted to English interests was summarily carried off without any specific charge whatever.

On his arrival "the Lords Justices and the Council were delighted at his having come, although indeed it was not for love of him ; and they commanded to have him brought before them. Having been according brought, they discoursed and conversed with him, scrutinizing and eliciting all the knowledge of him they could for a long time; then at length, however, they ordered him to be put in a strong stone castle which was in the city, where great numbers of the Milesians were in chains and captivity, as well as some of the Fionn Ghaill [Normans or English], whose chief subject of conversation, both by day and night, was complaining to each other of their injuries and troubles and treating of the prosecution carried on against the noble and high-born sons of Ireland in general."

Hugh Roe was kept a close prisoner for five years in the Bermingham Tower, Perrot refusing 2000 for his release.

The old chieftain, Sorley Boy, having fallen on evil days, now opened negotiations for peace, and he came to Dublin, having prepared the way for his visit by a penitent letter. He made a formal submission, prostrating himself before a portrait of the Queen, admitting that he had no legal right in Ulster and lamenting his folly "in leaving such men in the Castle of Dunluce within this her Highness's land as should say they kept it in the name, and to the use of, the King of Scots, a Prince that honoureth her Majesty and embraceth her favour". His penitence served him well, for he was appointed Constable of Dunluce, upon giving up all claim to it, and henceforth was as loyal a servant as Perrot could desire.

The Lord Deputy, who was tired of the plotting and counter-plotting in Dublin, and had active enemies in Bagenal and Adam Loftus, now begged for the third or fourth time to be relieved of office. In addition to weariness he suffered much from ill-health: "The Irish ague took me," he wrote on one occasion, "that I was seven days like to die in Galway, and am not yet thoroughly recovered thereof, nor shall not (I believe) pass this next year, except her Majesty, of her great grace, give me license to go to the Spa the next spring; a suit that I made to her Highness nine years agone. It were better her Majesty preserved me to serve her in some other place, than I to be wilfully cast away here." To Leicester he pleaded pathetically: "Help your poor friend out of this hell ".

At last Perrot's wish was granted. He left Ireland in 1588, presenting to the corporation of Dublin before he took his leave a silver-gilt bowl bearing his crest and arms, and having engraven on it the words relinquo in pace. On the occasion of his departure the streets were crowded with those who wished to bid him farewell, and the city sent a guard of honour to accompany him to his destination in Pembrokeshire.

Perrot was possibly, as has been stated by various authorities, a natural son of Henry VIII; the fact is of no importance, but, presuming the statement to be true, it must be said his ideas of government in Ireland were those of the King; and if occasionally he displayed fits of temper and was exceedingly cruel, these very traits make his resemblance to his reputed father all the stronger. He extended the limits of English power, for he created seven new counties in Ulster. If this creation was to a great extent nominal, in other respects he almost exactly followed the best parts of the Irish policy of Henry VIII. The Parliament he summoned in 1585 resembled that of 1541, in that it was largely attended by Irish chiefs. The most striking feature of his conduct, however, and that which makes him most nearly resemble the King, was the settlement he effected of a large part of Connaught. Many of the chiefs of the province surrendered their lands and took them back to be held on English tenures. Perrot approved of and amplified the device of appointing presidents in the various provinces, and desired to establish sub-deputies with full administrative and executive power, and a judicial staff in Ulster, Munster, and Connaught, who were to repress disorder and enforce the English law.

The duties of such an officer are thus stated:

"When the president is thus placed he must use great diligence in executing of justice, and see that every breach of order be punished with fines; he must also many times lie in camp, and call for the Irish captains of Ulster to attend him with their risings out, and so go from place to place as he shall see cause to execute justice, which shall breed the love of the people towards him, and shall keep all men in such fear of him as they will not be easily drawn into any conspiracy against him. For the more security he must use and discharge pledges at his pleasure.

"He must severely punish all offenders in capital crime within Tyrone; and when any person having possessions shall be executed he must give the possession for a reward to some soldier, reserving a rent to the Queen, and cause the country, with some help of money from the Queen, to build a castle upon that land in a fit place. Thus the Queen's possessions will increase, the name of the O'Neills in short time decay, and English inhabitants step up in their places.

"For the defence of the country, he must cause certain castles to be builded upon the principal strengths and straights of the country, and bridges upon the principal rivers, which must be guarded by his own constables.

"He must go twice every year into every man's country under his rule to see justice administered to such as either cannot or dare not come to him to complain.

"His ordinary doings he must monthly advertise to the principal governor; and if any extraordinary matters of importance fell out, he must advertise with expedition, that speedy remedy may be provided. And for his better assistance it is convenient that the force of the county of Lowth should be at his discretion and order, and that he should have authority to execute martial law."

That Perrot was beloved in Ireland is beyond a doubt. Conspicuous in the great throng of noblemen and gentlemen who witnessed the departure of the ex-Deputy from the shores of the country which he had governed with wisdom, if also with a rod of iron, was the aged Turlogh O'Neill, who insisted on accompanying Perrot to the ship, and it is said that as the vessel which bore his friend away diminished in the distance, he shed tears "as if he had been beaten".

Perrot, though he had many friends, had also made for himself many enemies. He was a man of hasty, careless speech, and cared little whom he offended or what he said. Words innocent in themselves were twisted so as to bear strange meanings, and hasty actions were misconstrued. In the end he was imprisoned in the Tower, and although he, referring to his royal parentage, asked: "Will the Queen suffer her brother to be offered up a sacrifice to my skipping adversaries?" his skipping adversaries prevailed, and he died in the Tower in September, 1592.


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