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18 September 2014
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Wars and Conflict - The Plantation of Ulster

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Tully Castle, 1641
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Tully Castle 1641
- Nick Brannon

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Sir John Hume, an Englishman, was granted lands in County Fermanagh in the early 17th century, as part of King James’ Plantation, and here we see his castle (Tully Castle) under construction. This is a very interesting cultural mix because although the castle itself is English in its style, it is clear from the surviving remains that it was built by Irish labourers. The construction took place using stone which must have been quarried for making quoins and windows, and fieldstones which had been picked up from the surrounding landscape and from the Lough Erne shore, laid down stone-by-stone creating a square bawn, a rectangular bawn which defended the castle inside. The whole thing looked towards the water which is how one would have arrived at Tully Castle.

Interesting to note that wooden scaffolding must have been used to raise the castle, and that mortar must have been manufactured on-site using local sands, probably lifted from the lough shore. Thatch would have been gathered from reeds and rushes on the shore and used for the roof of the main castle.

Here we are looking at Tully Castle in its heyday, the home of Sir John Hume, an English planter who came across as part of the King James Plantation in the early 17th century settlements. The castle in its heyday was a two-and-a-half storey castle with a thatched roof, a bawn surrounding it as an outer courtyard and defensive enclosure, with corner towers which were also used for living-in (as far as the evidence suggests), and then inside - a nice renaissance garden.

The evidence for this comes from archaeological excavation: the footpaths within the garden are still visible, and it is assumed that the gardens themselves were laid out in the formal renaissance style of the time using low boxed hedges, and containing herbs and flowers for medicinal and culinary uses - which were being used from day-to-day for food and for medicine.

Going out through the gateway, one approaches the Lough shore and its important to remember that this site was mostly approached by water: Lough Erne was the motorway of the time. Looking at the house, the evidence tells us that the first-floor windows and second-floor windows reflect the defensive aspect of the castle - at ground floor very few windows - while the door itself is protected in the L-shaped plan, overlooked by windows above so any attack would have been thwarted at that stage.

The landscape around we don’t know so much about: clEarly, there must have been trees felled. Nearby there was a village of 24 families; the site of that village is now lost to us but was presumably down the lane which runs along the Lough shore. Those lands are also protected: there is an archaeological resource there which may one day be investigated.

By 1641, the Irish who had been effectively supplanted by the Plantation, having several times thought about conspiracy and uprising, decided to take the plunge: and in 1641 in Moneymore the rebellion awoke. By Christmas Day in 1641, the Rebellion arrived in County Fermanagh, and Tully Castle was captured, the inhabitants massacred, and the buildings burned. And that is the way they have remained until this day - the thatched roof was destroyed, the roofs of the corner towers were destroyed, the whole thing given over to dereliction and overgrowth.

The buildings survive today as they were left then. Archaeological and architectural examination shows us how the house must have been occupied and how it was lived in. No trace of the nearby village remains. There must have been dreadful happenings on this day, not remembered now and not really echoed in the shape of the building or the atmosphere of the building as one sees it in its tranquil loughside setting, but archaeological and historical evidence combine to create a picture of what life must have been like at that time.

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