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The History of Ulster
The O'Dogherty Insurrection


The O'Doghertys of Innishowen - Death of Sir John O'Dogherty - Hugh Roe O'Donnell supports Phelim - The MacDevitts support Cahir - Docwra intervenes in Cahir's Favour - Cahir is adopted by the English and knighted - Docwra leaves Derry - Sir George Paulet appointed - An Unpopular Representative of the Crown - Paulet's "Friendly" Visit to O'Dogherty - Appreciated at its true worth by Sir Cahir - Officialdom's Delays - The Result - Rebellion!

To the extreme north of Ireland, and midway between the north-eastern and north-western coasts, lies the mountainous district of Innishowen, ruled from time immemorial by the Clan O'Dogherty. On its western side the waters of Lough Swilly give it a coast-line of some twenty English miles, and on its eastern the huge basin of Lough Foyle forms a natural harbour to the very walls of Derry.

At the time of FitzWilliam's administration this wild and woeful land was held by patent by Sir John O'Dogherty, known as one "of the most loyal subjects in Ulster". His loyalty, however, did not prevent FitzWilliam, who, in 1588, had gone north to search in vain for Spanish gold, "in hopes to finger some of it", from seizing him and Sir John O'Gallagher, another loyal subject, and flinging them, in a fit of petulant disappointment, into the stronghold of Dublin Castle. Sir John O'Gallagher died in prison, but Sir John O'Dogherty, after two years' experience of rigorous testing of his loyalty in the Bermingham Tower, bethought him of some "beeves" wherewith to appease the wrath of the Viceroy, and in exchange for the cows obtained his liberty.

Sir John O'Dogherty died in December, 1600, a short time after his release from prison; and Hugh Roe O'Donnell, at that time all-powerful, finding that Sir John's brother, Phelim, was likely to be more serviceable to him than a boy could possibly be, set up Phelim as chieftain of the sept or clan O'Dogherty, instead of Sir John's son, Cahir. Thus Cahir's troubles commenced early in life.

In those days a man's best friends were often the sons of his foster-mother, and in Cahir's case the MacDevitts, his foster-brethren, proved to be such, for they appealed to Sir Henry Docwra against O'Donnell's decision, and begged him to induce O'Donnell to set at liberty the young man whom he, in order to secure his obedience, had imprisoned promising Docwra at the same time their support if he succeeded, and offering him as an additional inducement the present of some cattle which he badly needed to feed his men. Sir Henry persuaded O'Donnell to release Cahir O'Dogherty, and the Government adopted him as chief of the sept; but, alas for the rarity of human reliability! the MacDevitts, having secured from Docwra all they wanted, disappeared like rain from the new-mown grass, taking their cattle with them.

Cahir O'Dogherty proved himself a better ally of the English than the MacDevitts had expected, for he was knighted for good service on the field of battle, and when James succeeded to the throne he was further rewarded by being confirmed by the King in all the possessions of Sir John, his father, with the single exception of the island of Inch, which, being at the time leased to another, was not available. Inch, however, the King agreed to restore later. But though the cattle upon the thousand hills of Innishowen were the property of O'Dogherty, he was obliged, as his predecessors had been for ages, to send sixty fat "beeves" as an annual rent to The O'Neill, and O'Donnell also had some sort of peppercorn rent, in the shape of a cow or two, out of Innishowen. When, therefore, James recognized the claims of Sir Cahir, he by no means pleased either Tyrone or Tirconnell, for the King thereby released the knight from his obligation to pay rent of any kind whatsoever to either of the Earls, with the result that, sixty cows being sixty cows, Tyrone called His Majesty's attention to the fact, adding that his claim was "never before your Majesty's reign brought to any question".

Docwra, disgusted with his position, now left Derry, for, like Sir John Harrington, he disliked seeing Tyrone, an enemy against whom he had been fighting for years, exalted, whilst so many deserving "soldiers of the Queen" were forgotten. The Lord-Lieutenant remained Tyrone's friend, while Docwra believed in and befriended Sir Cahir. Accordingly he sold his land at Derry in 1606 to a son of the Marquis of Winchester, Sir George Paulet, and shook the dust of Ireland off his feet. Docwra had been, in modern parlance, "war lord" of Ulster and had done good service, in recognition of which he was permitted to compound with Paulet for the vice-provostship of Derry, and also for his company of foot, Devonshire consenting thereto with the sententious observation that now there was "no longer use for a man of war in that place".

Sir Henry Docwra had been a man of action, "a strong still man in a blatant land". He was succeeded by a coarse, choleric man who was no sooner established in Derry than he had everybody by the ears. Being son of the Marquis of Winchester, he deemed "the mere Irish" to be so many curs for him to kick, and, being "drest in a little brief authority", he proceeded to play "such fantastic tricks before high Heaven as make the angels weep". He fought with everyone, "not alone", says Mr. Bagwell, "with the neighbouring Irish chiefs, but with the Protestant Bishop Montgomery". The man who fights with a bishop must surely "be fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils". Tyrone, whose fitness for all three cannot be questioned, proved the truth of this statement by his fighting for years with the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe about Termon lands. But Paulet, too deeply immersed in hot water with his adversary the Bishop, neglected Chichester's frequent warnings to post sentries or to keep strict and regular lookout, thereby proving that the testimonial he received in the King's letter of being "of good sufficiency and of service in the wars" was misleading. He was one of those who "rule by terror", and he who does so, remarked one of the wisest men of our own day, "does a grievous wrong". His own men despised Paulet for his incompetence, and hated him on account of his supercilious bearing and frequent displays
of ill-temper.

Sir Cahir O'Dogherty, at this time (1607) a young man of twenty-one, accentuated his professed loyalty to England by marrying a sister of Lord Gormanstown; and so highly was he thought of by those in authority that, after the flight of the Earls, he was one of the commissioners especially appointed for the government of Tyrone, Donegal, and Armagh, his colleagues including Sir George Paulet and Bishop Montgomery. At the close of the year 1607 he was foreman of the Grand Jury who found a true bill for treason against Tyrone and Tirconnell and their followers.

"The mere Irish", as typified in Sir Cahir O'Dogherty, were, of course, Sir George's pet aversion, and therefore when it was reported to him that the Chief of Innishowen had landed armed men upon Tory Island, his anger knew no bounds. True, Sir Richard Hansard said that the men were but few, and that Sir Cahir never had more than three-score men; that he armed those of Innishowen only, and refused recruits from outside his own territory, and that, all things considered, in Sir Richard's opinion, O'Dogherty meant no harm. All this meant nothing to "the dog in office"; he saw, or thought he saw, a good opportunity to sun himself in good King James's eyes; and thinking, as he afterwards told Chichester, that he could seize O'Dogherty's castle, Paulet proceeded to Burt on Swilly, taking with him Captain Hart, the Governor of Culmore fort, and others in his train. Arrived at the castle gates, he found only Lady O'Dogherty in residence; but a glance having convinced him that the castle, which was strongly fortified, was well defended, he protested he came only on a friendly visit, and begged Lady O'Dogherty to assure her lord of the fact.

Sir Cahir, however, took another view of the visit, and wrote a calmly-worded letter to Sir George pointing out that friendly visitors did not usually come with such a formidable retinue. This letter he concluded in sarcastic mood by subscribing himself his friendly visitor's "loving friend". Paulet, aware that he had made a mistake, now thought he would awe " the mere Irish" by adopting the same methods as those which are resorted to by the insect popularly known as the Devil's Coach-horse, which assumes a repellent aspect, desiring thereby to strike terror into the hearts of its adversaries. In reply to his letter, Paulet told his "loving friend", with characteristic pomposity, that he left him to the tender mercies of the hangman!

O'Dogherty and O'Cahan were neighbours and were friends. Their territories adjoined. O'Cahan had trusted the English, and had found his confidence abused. It was no doubt by O'Cahan's advice that, three weeks after being consigned to the scaffold by Sir George Paulet, O'Dogherty repaired to Dublin. Here, when after his long journey he had seen Chichester and assured the Viceroy of his unswerving loyalty to the Crown, he found that he would not be permitted to depart without giving sureties for his good conduct, himself in 1000, with Lord Gormanstown and Sir Thomas Fitzwilliam in 500 marks each, and that in addition he must undertake to appear in Dublin at all times when required within twenty days' notice in writing, and must not leave Ireland before Easter, 1609, without licence to do so, his astonishment must have been great. Surely the young knight who had won his spurs on the field in fighting for England and the English must have, in that bitter moment of disappointment, recalled his friend O'Cahan's words: "The devil take all Englishmen and as many as put their trust in them".

Thinking that perhaps all Englishmen were not perfidious, O'Dogherty, in February, 1608, wrote to Henry, Prince of Wales, protesting his fidelity and requesting (for it had always been his ambition to have a place at Court) to be made a gentleman of the Prince's privy-chamber. In the world of officialdom, notwithstanding the fact that delays are oft-times dangerous, events move slowly. As in our own day medals and clasps are dispatched by those in authority to those who earned them but who have long since been dead, so the document which proved the English Government's approval of O'Dogherty and its appreciation of his services was not sent until the i8th of April. This was an order to restore the island of Inch to Sir Cahir, and all other lands hitherto withheld from him, the Government reserving only some 30 acres of ground at the mouth of the River Foyle, on which ground stood the fort of Culmore.

This document was sent, as we have said, on 18th of April. On that date (alas "the pity o' it"!), and of course before the receipt of the order, O'Dogherty, a young and impetuous man, burst into rebellion.

The immediate cause of this disastrous act is not clear. The Four Masters, who wrote some thirty years after the event, state that Paulet struck O'Dogherty; and, though there is no reference to this blow in the State papers, to sift evidence centuries later would certainly be labour in vain; suffice it, therefore, to say that Paulet, having asserted (and of this there is no doubt) that he would have O'Dogherty hanged, O'Dogherty determined if anyone was to be killed it would be Paulet.

Sir Cahir, however (judged by present-day standards), acted with a great deal of treachery. He invited Captain Hart and his wife to dinner at Buncrana, and, dinner over, took the Captain to an upper room to discuss matters privately. Here he is said to have told Hart of Paulet's insult, and without any warning he demanded of its Governor the surrender of Culmore Fort. Hart, though unarmed and alone with his infuriated host, refused. Lady O'Dogherty, hearing angry tones, burst into the room, and, surprised at the situation, implored her husband, in tears, to desist. Mrs. Hart now appeared on the scene, and O'Dogherty swore she must die with her husband, her children, and the whole garrison if she did not bring pressure to bear upon the Governor of Culmore and bring about its immediate surrender.

That O'Dogherty was in a frenzy there can be little doubt, for he threatened to fling not alone Hart and his wife from the battlements, but also Lady O'Dogherty, if she put any impediments in the way of his desire. He persisted in his demand for the surrender of Culmore, and finally Mrs. Hart consented; and going with O'Dogherty that night to the fort, she called out some of the guard, telling them that Captain Hart lay with broken bones helpless by the roadside. The guard naturally rushed to the Governor's assistance; and as they rushed out, the followers of O'Dogherty rushed in, the rest of the garrison being in their beds, and Culmore Fort was in the hands of O'Dogherty, who gave orders that Captain Hart, his wife, and children should go to Coleraine, and, in order to facilitate them, that they should be ferried across the Foyle.

Thus by the actions of dogs in office, and officialdom's delays, was a loyal knight transformed into a leader of rebellion.


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