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From occasional glimpses at the general condition of Ulster in the seventeenth century, as given in these plantation records, the reader will probably infer that our northern province must have had certain rare attractions for British settlers. Among the descendants of the latter, however, it has been a cherished faith that our worthy ancestors came here to find homes only in a howling wilderness, or rather, perhaps, in a dreary and terrible region of muirland and morass. We very generally overlook the fact, that the shrewd and needy people whom we call our forefathers, and who dwelt north and south of the Tweed, would have had neither time nor inclination to look towards the shores of Ulster at all, had there been here no objects sufficiently attractive, such as green fields, rich straths, beauteous valleys, and herds of Irish cattle adorning the hill-sides. But such was, indeed, the simple truth. The glowing account of Fermanagh, for example, from the facile and graphic pen of Sir John Davys, would have been at least equally if not more appropriate as a description of Ulster in general; for although few of our northern counties are so picturesque as the one thus selected by him for special admiration, there are several more fertile and productive. “We have now," said he, when writing to Salisbury, “finished [their work as plantation commissioners) in Fermanagh, which is so pleasant and fruitful a country, that if I should make a full description thereof it would rather be taken for a poetical fiction than for a true and serious narrative.” (See p. 182.) Even the great and learned Chancellor Bacon himself could not afford to overlook a theme so touching to Englishmen as this Ulster plantation, and when it suited his argument, or served to glorify the King, he could grow eloquent on the subject of woods, rivers, ports, quarries, fishings, and all other Irish sources of wealth, summing up with the announcement that "it is not easy, no, not upon the continent, to find such confluence of commodities.” (See pp. 132, 133.) But, perhaps, even a more persuasive witness on this point than either Davys or Bacon, was Susan Montgomery, who came with her husband—the bishop—to Ulster, on his appointment to the three dioceses of Derry, Clogher, and Raphoe. On first hearing of her husband's good fortune, she wrote to her sister from the lovely little rectory of Chedsey or Chedzoy, in Somersetshire, as follows:—“The King has bestowed on him three Irish bishopricks ; the names of them I cannot remember, they are so straunge, except one which is Derye. I pray God it may make us all merye.”
This really good and amiable lady appears to have had some presentiment of troubles before her, but wished to make light of her own, and her sister's anxieties on the subject, by concluding her letter with the quaint little device of ending with the word 'merye,' evidently to rhyme with 'Derye.' She appears to have been free from that unworthy prejudice and suspicion then so generally cherished in English society against everything
advice, was shoved into a corner of one barony, and displaced from his ancestral residence of Castleskeagh to make room for a very worthless but influential Scottish undertaker, named Michael Balfour Lord Burleigh (see pp. 61, 109). Another of Dr. Killen's statements is, perhaps, to say the least, rather indefinite also, and has special reference to the Londoners' plantation in northern Ulster. "The corporation of the city of London,” says he obtained possession of a large part of what had been called the county of Coleraine, but which was now named
after its new proprietors, the county of Londonderry.” Dr. Killen appears to be thus actually under the impression that the Londoners' grant included only a part of the old county of Coleraine, whereas the present county of Londonderry contains not only all the old county of Coleraine, but also the very large barony of Loughinsholin, which formerly belonged to Tyrone, together with two fragments torn from the counties of Antrim and Donegal! See Killen's Eccl. History, vol. i., pp. 482, 483, 485.
Irish. On her coming to Derry she must have expressed, without much delay or circumlocution, her astonishment at the plentiful supplies of all substantial creature-comforts to be found in Ulster. Writing to her sister, soon after her arrival, she makes the following allusion to this matter:—“I doute not, if you weare here but that you would like of the countrye well enough. I thank God, I like it indifferaunt well this far [thus far), and I am made believe that we shall like it everye day better than other. Wee have our fatte beefes and sheep brought in by our tennants as fast as we can use them, and we want [lack] no good companye, as my cousin William can show you, to helpe eat it up. If my cousin William doth dispraise the countrye, believe him not, for truly it is a fine countrye.” See Trevelyan Papers, part iii., pp. 78, 100,
We are generally accustomed to believe that the Irish of Ulster, in the seventeenth century, were ignorant of all agricultural pursuits, including, of course, the management of domesticated animals. Our plantation records, however, show us clearly enough that we have been mistaken to a very considerable extent in this conclusion also. Their knowledge and management in such matters would fall far short, to be sure, of our present requirements; but, as compared with their neighbours, whether English or Scottish, it is pretty evident that the Irish of Ulster only wanted peace to enable them to excel both, as agriculturists. During the seven years' war already referred to, the native inhabitants of this province were reduced to the lowest depths of misery by the systematic destruction of their cattle and growing crops; but even in the brief lull or interval of peace that succeeded, from the spring of 1602 until the autumn of 1607, the recuperative process appears to have been of a very remarkable character indeed. On the fight of the earls at the latter date, Sir Thomas Phillips made a journey from Coleraine to Dungannon, through the wooded country of Loch-inis-O'Lynn, or Loughinsholin, and thereupon wrote to Salisbury, expressing among other matters, his unfeigned astonishment at the sight of so many cattle and such abundance of grain as he had observed all along his route from the one town to the other. This servitor's astonishment arose from the fact-not that the Irish were successful agriculturalists under favourable circumstances, for that seems to have been generally acknowledged—but that in so short an interval of peace the district above named, which had suffered such fearful havoc during the war, should have assumed, as if by some magical power, that charming aspect peculiar only to a condition of peace and plenty. The hill-sides were literally covered with cattle, where creaghting went on, no doubt, in its most attractive forms; the valleys were clothed in the rich garniture of ripening barley and oats; whilst the woods swarmed with swine-20,000 of these animals being easily fattened yearly (as Phillips himself afterwards affirmed) in the forest of Glenconkeyne alone. As an evidence of the agricultural tastes and achievements of the natives in “that pleasant and fruitful countrye of the O'Cahans," Phillips stated, in his Project for planting it, that "the Irishmen have been so addicted to tillage that a Bristowe ban barrell of barley was sold but for 18d. in the market of Coleraine.” Fynes Moryson informs us that their exports in grain and raw hides were considerable; and Sir Arthur Chichester states that these exports were only permitted to Great Britain. The only period, however, during his administration in which the
Irish of Ulster could possibly have become exporters must have been the short interval between his appointment to the deputyship in 1604, and the actual commencement of the plantation in the autumn of 1610. Sir Oliver St. John, who was intimately acquainted with the capabilities of the Ulster Irish as farmers, recommended that the escheated lands should be let directly from the crown to the natives who had been in possession, and who, in turn, would have given the king large rents, ample revenues, indeed, to meet all his difficulties, transferring also to him that allegiance which had been previously rendered to their own chieftains. See p. 69.
The writer, in conclusion, hereby presents his sincere thanks to several literary friends for their kind and valuable suggestions during his preparation of this volume. He feels specially indebted to John P. PRENDERGAST, Esq., whose forbearance with historical inquirers never grows weary, and whose thorough acquaintance with the manuscript materials of modern Irish history enables him, most efficiently, to alleviate the toil of workers in that rugged though attractive field.
BELFAST, September 18, 1877.