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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Plantation

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Immigration and Emigration
Planters, chiefs and hollowed out cheese

The plantation.

The official Plantation period was from 1610 to about 1630. It covered the modern counties of Londonderry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Armagh, Cavan and Donegal. Counties Down and Antrim were excluded because successful private plantations had already taken place there.

One such operation is the unlikely combination of two dubious Scottish gentlemen and a bankrupt Irish chief, who owned much of the rich northern part of County Down. Sir Hugh Montgomery was an Ayrshire landowner who had served as a mercenary in the French army. His fellow Scot and partner in the enterprise was James Hamilton, a Dublin University don who was also a government spy.

The Irish chief was Conn O'Neill (kinsman of Hugh O'Neill), Lord of Clandeboye, who had been imprisoned in Carrick Castle for rioting, in 1604. Montgomery agreed to help O'Neill escape, in return for a share of his estates as a reward.

The plan involved smuggling ropes, hidden inside hollowed out cheese, into the dungeon. Having a relationship with the jailer's daughter helped with the plot too!

Carrickfergus Castle
Carrickfergus Castle
Carrickfergus Castle
© BBC 2003
Montgomery and Hamilton received a third of Conn's estates each as a reward. O'Neill and Montgomery began to enlist Scottish settlers for new estates.

They invited the lesser lairds and substantial farmers, who in turn brought under-tenants, craftsmen and labourers.

This network of hand-picked people, who would also act as peace makers and military commanders between themselves and the Irish, and whose family were sub-tenants and servants, was to influence the plans for the official Ulster plantation.

The six plantation counties - Donegal, Londonderry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Armagh and Cavan, were divided into three categories: land to be granted to English and Scottish undertakers, land to be granted to servitors (usually English government officials) and 'deserving' Irish, and finally, land belonging to or to be granted to the established church and Trinity College.

The undertakers were required to settle English or Scots on their lands at a rate of 24 per 1,000 acres, to provide defences and build stone houses and bawns, within three to five years or risk hefty fines.

If you didn't conform to Protestantism or if you were Irish, you couldn't rent these lands. The other two categories had no pre-conditions, and here the Irish natives could stay.

It`s ironic that Ulster, which was the last great symbol of Gaelic Ireland, has become the most British part of modern Ireland.

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