A Narrow Sea - Episode 23

A Narrow Sea - Episode 23

The Printed Book
Written by Dr Jonathan Bardon

In April 1610, a volume was issued detailing the terms and conditions for grantees in the ‘Plantation of Ulster’.
Usually called ‘The ‘Printed Book’, it formally launched what was to be the most ambitious scheme of colonisation in western Europe in modern times.

The lands of six entire counties – Armagh, Fermanagh, Cavan, Donegal, Tyrone and what would shortly be named Londonderry – were to be colonised. Antrim and Down were already being planted – or settled – but Ulster’s ninth county, Monaghan, was excluded because arrangements made in the 1590s were thought to be satisfactory.

The confiscated land in each county was divided into ‘precincts’, and each one subdivided into great, middle and small ‘proportions’, estates of 2,000, 1,500 and 1,000 acres.

The largest group of colonists, known as ‘Undertakers’, had to clear their estates completely of native Irish inhabitants and undertake to plant twenty-four English or ‘inland’ Scots from at least ten families on every thousand acres - these people must have taken the Oath of Supremacy – that is, they were to be Protestants. Each Undertaker also had to pay a ‘quit rent’ to the King of £5 6s 8d per annum.

The Undertakers had strictly-specified building obligations: for example, ‘a stone house with a strong court or bawne about it’ on each great proportion. Undertakers were to ‘draw their tenants to build houses for themselves and the families…near the principal house or bawne, as well as for their mutual defence and strength, as for the making of villages and townships’ – in other words, isolated farmhouses would not be permitted.

Servitors (army commanders and other senior servants of the Crown) were to get about 15 per cent of the lands, rather less than they expected. However, the most prominent servitor, Lord Deputy Sir Arthur Chichester, had already been granted almost the entire peninsula of Inishowen in Donegal as a reward for crushing Sir Cahir O’Doherty’s rebellion in 1608.
Servitors were not obliged to plant colonists - but if they did their rent was almost halved.

Servitors and ‘deserving Irish’ were to have their estates in the same precincts, so that ex-officers would be in a good position to keep a watchful eye on the natives. Those deserving Irish who were granted proportions were to adopt English farming methods, to build houses in the English style, and to run their estates on the same lines as could be found in the English ‘Pale’ around Dublin . In short, they were to give up the taking of ‘Irish exactions’ (habits?) from those under them (?) in return for ‘rents certaine’ and pay the Crown £10 13s 4d per thousand acres each year.

All ecclesiastical lands, amounting to around 20 per cent of the total acreage to be planted, were to be assigned to the state Church. In addition, land should be set aside for the upkeep of a parish clergyman and his family. Land was also apportioned for the upkeep of a ‘free school’ in each county. Substantial estates were earmarked to provide a secure income for Trinity College in Dublin. Deadlines were set for arriving, colonising, building and rent payment, and conditions were laid down for building towns, bringing in craftsmen, founding schools and erecting parish churches.

Payment of rent was not to begin until the 29th of September 1614 - but the period of compulsory residence was to begin on the 29th of September 1610 – an almost impossibly tight deadline (given the scheme was formally launched in April of that year), but one insisted on by the King who wanted no delay.

Sir Arthur Chichester had not been a member of the committee in London which had drawn up the scheme of plantation. When he read it, he was deeply perturbed. He doubted if the undertakers, granted over 40 per cent of the acreage, had the resources to carry out their obligations on such large estates. In addition, the most experienced servitors, including two Scots commanders, Patrick Crawford and William Stewart, got only 15 per cent of the land, which was not sufficient to carry out the defensive role expected of them.

Above all, the ‘deserving’ Irish who had been favoured with grants had not been left with enough land – they had only one fifth of the confiscated acreage - and some had these estates only during their lifetimes. This, the Lord Deputy believed, would threaten the stability of the entire plantation.

The original plan to allocate estates to undertakers by lottery had been dropped in favour of giving them to ‘consorts’ of English and Scots undertakers already living in each precinct – consorts being the relatives, friends and tenants from the part of Scotland or England that the undertaker hailed from. This meant that those Irish, fortunate enough to get grants, were likely to be pushed to estates outside the areas where they lived.

Also, since undertakers could not let any land to Irish tenants this meant that natives – from the Gaelic gentry down to the humblest labourers – would have to uproot themselves and squeeze into those precincts set aside for servitors and the ‘deserving’ Irish.

But this arrangement suited Scottish undertakers particularly who were anxious to be allowed to group together with relatives, neighbours and acquaintances from their home localities.


Scotland and Ulster

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