A Narrow Sea - Episode 21
Inviting Scots to Plant
Written by Dr Jonathan Bardon
Sir Cahir O’Doherty, the Lord of Inishowen, rose in rebellion against the English Crown in the spring of 1608. The rebellion was quickly crushed. The Attorney-General, Sir John Davies, wrote to King James from Coleraine, assuring him that he had six counties ‘now in demesne and actual possession in this province; which is a greater extent of land than any prince in Europe has to dispose of’.
This could not be denied. Soon after, Davies would make his way to London, there to lay out in detail his advice on how the six confiscated counties of Ulster should be colonised with loyal British subjects.
Lord Deputy Sir Arthur Chichester stayed behind in Ireland, but he, too, had recommendations to make which he sent over with the title ‘Certain Notes and Remembrances’.
Perhaps the most original proposal made by Chichester was that Scottish as well as English Protestants should be invited to be become colonisers in Ulster. The Lord Deputy’s proposal immediately appealed to King James – the ‘Plantation of Ulster’ now became the great project of his reign which would unite his loyal British subjects, north and south. Indeed, he decided to direct the plantation personally.
Soon after he had news of Cahir O’Doherty’s rebellion, James ordered that the recruitment of Scottish soldiers for service on the European mainland should stop immediately as they were now needed for the ‘intended subduing of the Isles’ and the ‘suppressing of our rebels in Ireland’.
Andrew Stewart, Lord Ochiltree, had been putting together an expedition to bring the Western Isles of Scotland – commonly known as the Hebrides - to order and to create there a ‘civil society’. Now he was commanded to redirect this force to Ulster to assist in the suppression of O’Doherty. Shortly afterwards Ochiltree was playing a leading role in persuading his fellow Scots to join him in the Plantation of Ulster.
Some Protestants in Ireland – most notably Matthew de Renzy, a German adventurer who had become a naturalised Englishman – expressed opposition to Scots involvement in colonisation on the island. In both London and Edinburgh these protests were ignored. To the King, the planting of loyal Protestants in the Western Isles of Scotland and in Ulster was all part of the same project.
Earlier, James had sanctioned projects to ‘reforme and ciuilize the best inclined’ of the inhabitants of the Isles who were ‘alluterly barbares’ by ‘planting colonies among them of answerable In-Lands subjects’ and by ‘rooting out or transporting the barbarous or stubborne sort, and planting ciuility in their rooms’.
After the suppression of O’Doherty’s rebellion, Ochiltree was provided with extraordinary powers and those in the Isles who failed to submit he had authority to ‘hunt, follow, and pursue with fire and sword…and to repel and hald them, their wyffis, and bairnis out of the country’.
Andrew Knox, Bishop of the Isles, assisted this process energetically. Because he had been responsible for ‘reducing of the ignorant and wicked people of our Isles to the acknowledging of God and obedience of the King’s Majesty’, Knox was translated to the diocese of Raphoe in Donegal in 1610. There he would have the ‘ignorant multitude reclaimed from their superstitious and popish opinions and reduced to the acknowledging of God and His true worship’.
Towards the end of 1608 Sir Alexander Hay, Secretary to the Scottish Privy council, gave enthusiastic backing for the active participation of his fellow countrymen in the Plantation of Ulster. His colleagues agreed and – even before the plan of plantation was finalised – the council issued a proclamation on the 28th of March 1609. It seems that much of the text was written by King James himself:
Forsameikle as the Kingis Maiestie haueing resolued to reduce and setle vndre a perfyte obedience the north pairt of the Kingdome of Ireland…his Maiestie, for this effect, hes tane a verie princelie and good course, alswell for establischeing of religioun, justice, and ciuilitie within the saidis boundis, as for planting of colonies thairin, and distributeing of the same boundis to lauchfull, ansuerable, and weill affected subjiectis, vpon certane easie, tolerable, and profitable conditionis, and although thair be no want of grite nomberis of the cuntrey people of England, who, with all glaidnes, wald imbrace the saidis conditionis, and transport thame selfiss, with their families, to Yreland, and plenische the saidis hail boundis sufficientlie with inhabitis, yit, his sacred Maiestie, out of his vnspeikable love and tender affectioun towards his Maiesties antient and native subiectis of this kingdome…hes bene pleasit to mak chose of thame to be Partnairis with his saidis subiectis of England, in the distribution foirsaid…
The response to this proclamation was so immediate that within a very short space of time the Scottish Privy Council was able to draw up a list of seventy-seven leading citizens, with sureties, who advanced claims to a total of 141,000 acres in Ulster.
Fearing there would not be enough land left for Englishmen, courtiers in London decided that was far too many.