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The History of Ulster
The O'Dogherty Defeat


O'Dogherty surprises Derry - Owen O'Dogherty kills Paulet - Phelim Reagh MacDevitt burns the Bishop's Books - He sets fire to Derry - The Royal Forces in Ulster - Sir Richard Wingfield takes O'Dogherty's Castle - O'Dogherty slain under the Rock of Doon - Chichester's Methods - Phelim caught, tried by Jury, and hanged - Ffolliott, Governor of Bally shannon, takes Tory Island - Nial Garv arrested and sent to the Tower, where he dies.

Through the mild April night O'Dogherty, thirsting for revenge for the insults heaped upon him by Paulet, marched with his heart on fire, having with him scarcely 100 men, and some of these unarmed. Derry was reached at two o'clock in the morning of Tuesday, the 19th of April (1608). Dividing his forces, O'Dogherty attacked the storehouses in the lower forts with the view of obtaining arms for such of his followers as needed them, while he left Phelim Reagh MacDevitt, his foster-brother, to deal with the Governor's house. Paulet rushed for the house of Ensign Corbet, who fought with and wounded Phelim. While thus engaged, Corbet was struck down from behind, the man who did the deed being instantly killed by Corbet's wife, she herself becoming the victim of one of Reagh's men. Gordon, a lieutenant, jumped out of bed, in which in those days it was customary to sleep in a state of nudity, and, grasping at the weapons nearest him, a rapier and a dagger, rushed out naked, shouting to the sleeping garrison to awake and defend themselves. He was killed, but not until two of the Irish fell by his hand. Paulet fell by the hand of that mere Irishman, Owen O'Dogherty. Lieutenant Baker, having succeeded in rallying the now fully roused garrison, made a bold effort with his little force to retake the stores, but, being insufficiently supported, succeeded in getting into Sheriff Babington's house, which he held till noon, when a cannon arrived from Culmore, and O'Dogherty's small force was largely augmented.

In the face of such odds, and seeing that he had neither arms nor provisions, the gallant lieutenant deemed it wiser to come to terms, which were, considering the circumstances, honourable. The women, with the exception of Lady Paulet and Mrs. Montgomery, the Bishop's wife, were allowed to depart with all their belongings. Each member of the garrison was also given liberty to leave, taking with him his sword and clothes. Phelim Reagh, having no love for literature, made a holocaust of "2000 heretical books" which formed the Bishop's library: a work of supererogation surely, for few could read, and books are hard to burn. When the dead were counted, it was found that each side had lost about ten men, Corbet's wife being the only woman killed.

Derry was abandoned, because so small a force would be caught like rats in a trap should the English arrive; and Phelim Reagh, being determined that the enemy should find as little as possible when they did arrive, set fire to the town and to two ships laden with corn, and reserving the best guns for his own forces, he saw that the remainder were sunk in Lough Foyle. This being done, he returned to Culmore.

By the end of April the Viceroy sent to Ulster all the forces he could spare. The officers were Sir Richard Wingfield, Marshal of the Army since 1600, and Sir Oliver Lambert, the Kitchener of that day. There was also with the forces the Vice-Treasurer, Sir Thomas Ridge way.

On arriving at Derry on 2Oth of May they found less damage done than they had expected. The town, so far as its woodwork was concerned, was in ashes; the wooden roof of the Cathedral, however, was found intact, Ridgeway's theory as to its miraculous preservation amid the general conflagration being that possibly the rebels hesitated to burn a building dedicated to St. Columba, "the patron of that place, and whose name they use as their word of privity and distinction in all their wicked and treacherous attempts", in other terms as passwords.

The work of rebuilding of Deny was forthwith commenced, the town being revictualled with cows and sheep driven in from Innishowen, and the inhabitants, who had fled or departed with the permission of Phelim Reagh, now returned and assisted the soldiers to make the town again habitable. Having now a base of action, Innishowen was invaded and Buncrana was burned, "as well from anger as for example's sake", and all live stock was confiscated, including 2000 cows, nearly 3000 sheep, and 300 to 400 horses. There was no resistance, for O'Dogherty had gone west.

Rightly deeming that while he lived there would be danger, the English commanders determined to hunt O'Dogherty, who fled before them. Coming to the conclusion that a stern chase is a long chase, Wingfield resolved to return to the scene of brave Hart's discomfiture, the Castle of Burt on Swilly. Here the garrison, who were without a commander, were in a quandary as to whether they should surrender or not. The problem was solved by one Dowling, of Drogheda, who, having lived near the Pale, presumably had a larger portion of the elements of civilization than had the wild men of Innishowen. Dowling declared in favour of an honourable capitulation, his terms including provision for Lady O'Dogherty and some means of livelihood for the garrison.

But the English officers were in no mood to parley, and their only reply to Dowling's proposal was to get the cannons ready. A monk now came forward and said if the English fired they would put Mrs. Montgomery in any breach made in their walls. There proved, however, to be no necessity to place the Bishop's wife in this dangerous position, for on the second shot the castle was surrendered. Mrs. Montgomery, Ridgeway tells us in his journal, was "returned to her owner", presumably the Bishop, as was also a son of Captain Brookes to his father. Lady O'Dogherty, her only daughter, and Sir Cahir's sister were, with Sir Nial Garv and his two brothers, put on board His Majesty's ship Tramontana, and Ridgeway, evidently a student of human nature, accompanied the party, thinking, as he quaintly tells us, that as the ladies had nothing to do they must needs talk. He was agreeably surprised at Lady O'Dogherty's volubility and with her utterances, for she spent her time in using very strong expressions "against Nial Garv for drawing her husband into rebellion".

June was fast fading into July when O'Dogherty, unable to feed his men, who numbered close upon a hundred, made a desperate dash into Tyrone, where, however, he checked the zeal of his followers, limiting himself to absolute needs, and withdrew without doing any damage, driving before him only the number of cattle actually required to victual his camp. He made no attempt to regain Burt Castle, and wandered somewhat aimlessly about Armagh and Donegal. A little later, while thus wandering near Kilmacrenan,he came unexpectedly upon Wingfield, who was preparing to attack Doe Castle. Neglecting a warning not to fight, which he had received from Nial Garv, O'Dogherty attacked the English forces, and strange irony of fate was killed under the Rock of Doon by Irish soldiers who coveted his land. A new City Gate had been erected in Dublin, and to Dublin was sent O'Dogherty's head to be placed on the gate as an additional ornament, in contemplating which Chichester might have remarked with the Pope's Legate in Browning's A Soul's Tragedy. "I have known Four-and-twenty Leaders of Revolts".

Chichester was in Drogheda when the news reached him, and he immediately issued a proclamation addressed to the people of Ulster, warning them on pain of death neither to harbour nor protect any of O'Dogherty 's followers. With the view of paying the living out of the pockets of the dead, all who delivered up any of the traitors, although they might be traitors themselves, were promised free pardons and the goods of the person so given up. Thus a premium was set on treachery, and no man's life was safe. The sole exception to this remarkable clemency on the part of the Government was Phelim Reagh, to whom no hope of pardon was held out.

Such is the depravity of human nature, Chichester's brilliant idea of setting Ulsterman against Ulsterman had no sooner been made public than it took effect. An important capture was made by the MacShane O'Neills, who brought into the fort at Mountjoy no less a personage than Shane Carragh, a brother of O'Cahan.

Instead of executing Shane Carragh by martial law, Chichester determined to prolong the agony and have his prisoner tried by jury. By so doing, he desired to impress upon the Irish the heinousness of the man's offence. Accordingly, tried at Dungannon by an Irish jury Shane Carragh was, and on being found guilty was hanged. The Irish, it is believed, were much impressed by the solemnity of the trial.

Chichester having hanged, amongst others, some fifty members of the O'Hanlon sept, and having heard, with much satisfaction, the monk who had played a prominent part at Castle Burt renounce in public the Pope and all his works, thereby purchasing life and liberty, now marched through Glenconkein, the scene of Shane O'Neill's last days. Here, says Sir John Davies, "the wild inhabitants wondered as much to see the King's Deputy as the ghosts in Virgil wondered to see Æneas alive in hell".

The Lord Deputy, having reached Coleraine, was gratified by the news that an illegitimate brother of Sir Cahir had been captured. This was a valuable prize, for he was beloved of the people of Innishowen, who wished him to be The O'Dogherty; but such hopes were now destined to be nipped in the bud. Another important capture was that of Owen O'Dogherty, by whose hand Sir George Paulet had been slain. But the prize of prizes was the half-dead Phelim Reagh MacDevitt, who, having been hunted into a wood, was there discovered after long and careful search, and, having resisted in a desperate attempt to save himself, was overcome by numbers, after being wounded almost to the death. Phelim was "lifted up tenderly and tended with care", for his life was precious and he must be preserved for the hangman. He was supposed to be the author of the whole rising, but on partial recovery he accused Sir Nial Garv (the non-fighter) in acrimonious terms, and was then hanged with twenty others. September found the Lord Deputy at Dublin Castle, his work in Ulster accomplished.

Sir Henry Ffolliott, the Governor of Ballyshannon, proved that in dealing with Irish rebels he also had brilliant ideas. Learning that Shane MacManus, Oge O'Donnell, was with some 240 men still holding out on Tory Island, Ffolliott determined to displace him, and, proceeding to do so, he reached on his way Glenvagh, an island fortress held by a former forester of Tirconnell, named O'Gallagher, who, says Ffolliott, "killed two or three of his best associates after he yielded up the island, for which", added the Governor of Ballyshannon, "we took him into protection".

MacManus, hearing of the approach of Ffolliott, fled with the bulk of his followers by boat into Connaught, leaving, however, eleven men in the castle on Tory Island to the tender mercies of the Governor of Ballyshannon. Here Ffolliott found the poor wretches. The constable of the castle begged to be permitted to see the English commander, and when he did so in the presence of Sir Mulmore MacSwiney, Ffolliott promised him his life on condition that he surrendered the castle with seven men dead in it. One of this miserable garrison, composed of wild men of the lowest type, was a MacSwiney, and he too made a like bargain, "each of them", says Ffolliott in his account of the matter, "being well assured and resolved to cut the other's throat". Thus by this disgraceful bargain, and in accordance with the wild licence and strange code of ethics of the time, Sir Mulmore MacSwiney looked on while his countrymen butchered each other to make their conqueror's holiday. The result was that the constable, in endeavouring to kill a subordinate, was stabbed to the heart by the man he attacked, who in his turn was killed by another. "And so", wrote Ffolliott, well pleased with his day's work, "there were but five that escaped, three of them churls and the other two boys. . . . Shane M'Manus is deprived of his mother and two children and his boat, which I think he regards more than them all."

Sir Nial Garv O'Donnell, against whom Lady O'Dogherty and Phelim Reagh had spoken with such extraordinary vehemence, continued to profess his loyalty. It became known later that it was on his advice Sir Cahir had acted, and that the part he was to have played in the rebellion was to seize Ballyshannon and Donegal while O'Dogherty was taking Culmore and Derry. Means of intercommunication were slow in those fighting times. No doubt O'Dogherty thought he had Sir Nial Garv's co-operation, while as a matter of fact Sir Nial remained inactive, waiting, as the modern phrase has it, to see which way the cat jumped; prepared to act for O'Dogherty or not, as it proved politic and conduced to his own welfare. His wife, who read his character clearly, left him to join in the flight of the Earls; and that she was right in her bad opinion of him is proved by the fact that whilst calmly surveying O'Dogherty's struggles he did not help him, though he sent sixteen of his own men to help to surprise Derry and urged Sir Cahir to spare no one.

But Nial Garv was restless, and, being discovered to be in communication with the rebels, he was arrested at Glenveagh, the little island stronghold already referred to, and sent to Dublin. Here he was kept until 1609, the delay being caused in getting a Donegal jury to be sworn in King's Bench. The jury, composed of Irishmen, refused to find a verdict of treason against Nial Garv, on the grounds that he had never taken up arms against the King. This decision they adhered to, although they were shut up without food from Friday until Monday, and they were discharged "in commiseration of their faintings, and for reasons concerning His Majesty's service", Sir John Davies alleging that "the priests excommunicate the jurors who condemn a traitor", an early instance of the priest interfering with the course of the law. "The Irish", asserted Sir John, "will never condemn a principal traitor: therefore we have need of an English colony, that we may have honest trials. They dare not condemn an Irish lord of a country for fear of revenge, because we have not power enough in the country to defend honest jurors. We must stay there till the English and Scottish colonies be planted, and then make a jury of them."

Under these circumstances it was deemed advisable to ship Sir Nial to London, and seven years later he died in the Tower.

Ulster suffered long from the effects of O'Dogherty's rebellion, if rebellion it can be called. The Four Masters record that ''from this rising and from the departure of the Earls their principalities, their territories, their estates, their lands, their forts, their fruitful harbours, and their fishful bays were taken from the Irish of the Province of Ulster, and were given in their presence to foreign tribes, and they were expelled and banished into other countries, where most of them died".


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