Saturday, 26 June 2010

Dalways Bawn: The Earl of Essex's Plantation in east Antrim

(This is the fourth of a series exploring the history of the Dalway cattle drove trail)

John Dalway’s Bawn and his cattle ‘empire’ in east Antrim were to prove the most enduring legacy of the Elizabethan Plantation carried out by the Earl of Essex in east Antrim in the 1570s.

In 1571, Elizabeth I granted her Principal Secretary of State, Sir Thomas Smith, 360,000 acres of Sir Bryan McPhelim O’Neill’s Clandeboy estates in north Down and south Antrim. This was a grand scheme to reverse the centuries old encroachment of the Earldom of Ulster by the Clandeboy O’Neills. But when Bryan O’Neill laid waste the abbeys and other major buildings in north Down, along with the town of Carrickfergus, the venture appeared ill-fated. Thomas Smith (Sir Thomas’s son) led only about 100 soldier-settlers across to Strangford, and had already realised that it would only be practical to occupy the ‘Ards’ area of north-east Down. With Bryan O’Neill having destroyed any place of shelter or fortification in north Down, the Smith colonists were forced to winter in Carrickfergus. By 1573, the Smith venture had all but collapsed with the assassination of Thomas Smith at Comber, and Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex came to the rescue by offering take over the responsibility for the county Antrim part of the plantation, in return for helping to secure Sir Thomas Smith’s possession of the Ards.

Elizabeth agreed to the deal and appointed the Earl of Essex as Captain General and Governor of Ulster. He had mortgaged his own estate for £10,000 to the Queen as the venture was to be jointly funded between Elizabeth and Essex, including the cost of all fortifications. He arrived in Carrickfergus late in 1573 with 1200 men (ten times more than Thomas Smith junior had brought the previous year). Of these he had raised 200 horse and 400 foot soldiers himself, and the Queen had provided the same number. Each horse soldier that served for two years was to get 400 acres, and each foot soldier, 200 acres.

For the duration of his stay, Essex rarely ventured out of his Carrickfergus base. In his own words, “At my arrival here I found the countries in arms, and no place out of the hands of the Irish rebels or Scots, but only the town of Knockfergus, which the townsmen meant to leave and abandon, having prepared all things for their journey into the English Pale; but the townsmen, taking heart by the bruit of her Majesty's army to be sent under me, staid their determination, and have now settled themselves in their habitation."

Shortly after his arrival in 1573, Essex learnt that Thomas Smith had been killed at Comber ‘by an Irishman of his own household’, and he sent some Elizabethan troops to Holywood, county Down to help protect the house of a Mr. Moore, one of ‘the Queen’s pensioners’ after he too was killed. As Governor, Essex had full use of Carrickfergus Castle, but he also had a base near West Street in the town called both “Essex’s Mount” and “Crannaghbawn” (Wattled Bawn). The street leading up to West Street is still called Essex Street, and Governor’s Place at the south end of Essex Street was originally named Governor’s Walk after him. Along High Street, where most of the Elizabethan tower houses had been built, lived John Dalway (later of Dalways Bawn), Moses Hill (also constable of Olderfleet Castle at Larne), John Lugg (later of Castle Lugg at the western edge of the County of Carrickfergus), Richard Spearpoint (later holding lands at Magheramorne) and Thomas Stevenson (later holding land along with Moses Hill at Straid, near Ballynure). A ‘Bawn’ immediately in front of the castle was owned by Captain William Piers who later attempted to pick up some of the pieces of the Smith colony in the Ards.

The Earl of Essex and his followers (including John Dalway) were intended to get Upper Clandeboy (south and east Antrim apart from Carrickfergus), and Elizabeth’s soldiers were to get whatever lands they could win from the MacDonnells and McQuillans (the 'Antrim Scots') in the north of the county. But between 1573 and 1575 many of the adventurers returned home, disillusioned with the collapse of the Smith colony in county Down and two fruitless but bloody forays into the interior of the county. The most disastrous of these involved establishing a garrison on Rathlin Island to neutralise the threat posed by Sorley Boy MacDonnell. By 1574 Essex recognised that, like Smith, he could not possibly colonise all the area granted to him. He was likely to be confined to the town and county of Carrickfergus if he did not modify his proposals. So a revised scheme was devised for a series of settlements along the Antrim coast from Belfast to north of Larne.

Eventually Elizabeth also accepted that Essex had overstretched himself. On the surrender of Lower Clandeboy and in recognition of the capital he had already invested and lost, Essex was granted the peninsula of Islandmagee. With the exception of a few of his followers that had settled along the north coast of Belfast Lough (Greencastle, Whitehouse ‘Bawn’ and Castle Lugg near Greenisland), most of the colonists, including John Dalway, preferred the relative security of the town and county of Carrickfergus.

It is easy to see why Essex chose to consolidate his own position at Islandmagee. Like Sir Thomas Smith in the Ards, he recognised the natural security of a peninsula as it meant that only the land approach was vulnerable to cattle raids. A tower house was built at Larne (Olderfleet Castle) to defend the mouth of Larne Lough and the short ferry crossing to Islandmagee, and at Whitehead another (Castle Chichester). These were at least partly financed by Elizabeth, and Essex garrisoned them with his own men as outposts of Carrickfergus rather than as private settlements. Moses Hill was ‘constable’ at Olderfleet, and John Chichester at Whitehead. Portmuck Castle in Islandmagee was probably built at the same time, as the Chichesters (when John and later his brother Sir Arthur Chichester were Governors of Carrickfergus) held responsibility for the maintenance of both.

But all was not well for Essex in his private life. His wife Lettice (a daughter of Sir Francis Knollys who was himself involved in earlier attempts to colonise Antrim) had been romantically attached to the Earl of Leicester before her marriage to Walter Devereux. At that time, the Earl of Leicester was Queen Elizabeth’s ‘favourite’, and it was her jealousy that ended his attachment to Lettice and provoked a hasty marriage to Essex about 1560. Not surprisingly, when Essex was in Carrickfergus, she resumed an affair with Leicester and news of this reached him.

The Earl of Essex returned to England at the end of 1575, resolved "to live henceforth an untroubled life"; but he was ultimately persuaded to accept the offer of the Queen to make him Earl Marshal of Ireland. He arrived in Dublin in September 1576, and three weeks afterwards died of dysentery, although poison was suspected at the behest of the Earl of Leicester (who married Lettice shortly after). The massacres of the Clandeboy O'Neills at Belfast and the north Antrim ‘Scots’ on Rathlin Island left a dark stain on the Earl of Essex’s reputation and he was succeeded in his Islandmagee estate by his (and Lettice’s) son, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex.

It was in the 1590s that Robert Devereux became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and the Elizabethan surge to colonise east Antrim got fresh energy.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Dalway's Bawn and Cowboy Trail: The Irish Dimension

Right in the heart of the Commons, just alongside the old cattle trail, is a spring-well marked on the Ordnance Survey map as ‘Bryan O’Neill’s Well’. This was named after Bryan McPhelim O’Neill who was the Gaelic lord of Clandeboy (south Antrim and north Down) in the 1570s. What makes this surprising is that the Commons were contained within the ‘County’ of Carrickfergus, and for 350 years the Old English of the town had owned and controlled this area continuously.

(This is the third of a series exploring the history of the Dalway cattle drove trail)

Carrickfergus Castle was built in the 1190s, and within 20 years the new settlement had become the Anglo-Norman ‘capital’ and main sea-port of the Earldom of Ulster. When King John arrived in Carrickfergus in 1210, the Earldom of Ulster then extended over the whole of east Ulster, that is, the present counties of Antrim and Down. Until the Vikings raided and then settled on parts of the coast before 1150, the native Irish ‘Ulidians’ were a loose confederation of petty kingdoms that had actually fought on the side of the Vikings when they were defeated by Brian Boru at the Battle of Clontarf near Dublin in 1014.

In the early days of medieval Carrickfergus, the Ui Neill were nowhere to be seen in Antrim. They were the ruling dynasty in west Ulster only, having moved into Tyrone and Armagh from the south and west. But as the Earldom of Ulster weakened in the 14th century, a branch of the O’Neill’s took the opportunity to push east across the Bann, and by 1400 had effectively split the Earldom in two. These incursive O’Neills were called the Clandeboy O’Neills after the Clann Aodh Buidhe Ui Neill (clan of Hugh Boy O’Neill) which had first entered the territory about 1380. In county Antrim it was only the town and ‘county’ of Carrickfergus that survived intact. In fact, it was a mutually advantageous arrangement. The town continued to prosper with an international sea-trade by paying ‘black-rent’ (protection money) to O’Neill, and the vast cattle-wealth of the interior of the county was able to continue to feed in as the true hinterland of the port.

The chief of the Clandeboy O’Neills was Sir Bryan McPhelim O’Neill when John Dalway arrived in Ulster with the Earl of Essex in 1573. Sir Bryan had just brought 10,000 head of cattle to the vicinity of Carrickfergus as a pretended sign of his support and loyalty, but when he learnt that Essex wanted to use him to attack the Highland Scottish MacDonnells that occupied the ‘Glens’ of north-east Antrim north of Larne, he removed his cattle (along with some he had rounded up from the Commons) back towards the ‘ford’ of Belfast. Then, in 1574, he invited Essex to a feast near Belfast.

When the hospitality was over, Essex and his men arrested Bryan O’Neill and put 200 of his supporters to the sword when they tried to resist. The Earl then took 3,000 cattle and a great number of mares from Sir Bryan’s enclosures near Belfast, and had Sir Bryan taken to Dublin and executed on the grounds that he had taken a “prey of cattle” from the Commons of Carrickfergus that had belonged to the freemen of the town.

The two sons of Bryan McPhelim O’Neill, Shane and Con, were content to receive their late father’s title to the south Antrim estate of Lower Clandeboy. Con became lord of a territory on the north shore of Lough Neagh between Toome and Randalstown, while Shane Mac Bryan O’Neill inherited the bulk of his father’s lands at Shane’s Castle, beside Antrim town. Shane’s undisputed lands extended from the eastern shores of Lough Neagh and up the Sixmilewater valley towards Larne. It included the less certain northern margins of Carrickfergus, and the Parishes of Templecorran, Kilroot and Islandmagee to the east. But this area in the east was vulnerable to incursions from the English at Carrickfergus and from the MacDonnells of the Glens north of Larne. With Essex’s plan to settle his followers along the coast between Belfast and Carrickfergus, Shane McBryan O’Neill had only one way to get his cattle to the coastal ports of Larne, Whitehead and Islandmagee - round or across the Commons.

There was a stark contrast between the character of the English settlement at Carrickfergus and the Irish peasants working the lands under the Clandeboy O’Neills. More than differences of religion, language and ethnicity, the Irish cattle farmers practiced a Gaelic system rather than a money-based weekly market economy. Under the Gaelic system, the Irish peasant bondsmen did not ‘rent’ land or own their own property, but provided rent ‘in kind’ to the clan leaders, and the bulk of the cattle they minded were ultimately the property of the Gaelic lord.

By 1573, the Town and County of Carrickfergus had declined to a perilous state. It was on the verge of collapse and in imminent danger of being over-run. Within a few years, John Dalway was living in a tower-house in High Street in the town with rights to graze cattle on the Commons, had married Jane McBryan O’Neill (a close relative of Shane McBryan O'Neill) and had struck a deal with Shane for lands at Ballynure and Ballycarry, at both ends of the cattle drove trail from the Sixmilewater to Whitehead.

One of the townlands beside Ballynure is Bryantang which is a tongue of land between the two rivers that meet up at Ballynure to feed the Sixmilewater to Antrim. Like 'Bryan O'Neill's Well', this is also a reference to Bryan McPhelim O’Neill ('Bryan’s Tongue of Land'). The County of Carrickfergus did not have any ‘Irish’ townland divisions in the Elizabethan period, so the place-names surviving from that time are English (The Commons, North-East Division, West Division, Middle Division). In the Commons, however, some Gaelic names still survive for local features such as the Craignabraher ('Friar's Rock') Burn which almost runs into Lough Mourne before disappearing into a collapsed cavern called Lignaca ('hollow' or 'hole of the mist'). In Kilroot parish, where Dalway’s Bawn was built, the original Gaelic townland names have also been altered, but the road from Kilroot up to Dalway’s Bawn between the Kilroot River and Copeland Water (in the townland of Dobbsland) is called ‘Tongue Loanen’ – a tantalising reflection of ‘Bryantang’ at the far end of the Dalway cattle trail.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Dalway's Bawn and Cowboy Trail: The East Antrim kye-way

(This is the second of a series exploring the history of the Dalway cattle drove trail)

Why was Dalway’s Bawn built?

We know when, (it was shortly after 1608), and who by, (a Captain John Dalway who arrived at Carrickfergus from England in 1573 as part of the Earl of Essex’s plan for a plantation in east Antrim). But its purpose has long been a bit of a mystery, especially since it wasn’t built until 30 years after John Dalway first settled in the area.

By 1608 when Dalway received a fresh grant of his lands from James I, these ‘bawns’ were being written in as a requirement to all the official Ulster Plantation grants in west Ulster. Indeed the requirement for Dalway to build a bawn seems to have specified for his lands on the other side of Carrickfergus, at Ballynure, and not for the lands to the east of the county.

The theory of these ‘bawns’ was that they could provide not only a fortified enclosure for the Plantation landlord’s dwelling, but also a defensive retreat for tenants and their livestock when under attack from the ‘native Irish’. Given that the main threat to the settlers came from cattle raiding, it is significant that the word ‘bawn’ is an Anglicisation of the Irish bodhun: ‘bo’ (cow) and ‘dun’ (fort).

But Dalway’s Bawn is such a magnificent survival – much more impressive than almost any of the ‘official’ Plantation bawns (where the threat would have been more imminent) – that prestige and strategic defense (rather than the cattle trade) are the first things that spring to mind.

The choice of site seems to be explained by its location - just outside the medieval bailiwick or ‘County’ of Carrickfergus – partly to strengthen the eastern boundary of the county, and partly because the lands inside the county boundary were owned by the Burgers and Corporation of Carrickfergus and so not available for crown plantation grants – whether from Elizabeth I or James I.

But the story is more closely related to Dalway’s control of an important east Antrim cattle trade with Scotland, and a cattle drove trail which fed into the major drove roads of S.W. Scotland. This drove trail goes back at least to the late 1500s when it had been controlled by the Clandeboy O’Neills, and survived intact until the 1870s when the Commons of Carrickfergus were finally enclosed and leased as individual holdings.

Of course, when steam railways arrived in Carrickfergus and Larne about 1860, along with the large steam cattle-ships that began to sail from these ports about the same time, this meant that the fate of cattle droving was already sealed anyway.

I plan to set out this story in a number of blogs, beginning with the 'Irish' dimension in the 1500s. Up till the time that John Dalway first appeared in 1573, the Clandeboy O'Neill dynasty in east Antrim had been calling all the shots with the cattle trade in the hinterland of the Anglo-Norman colony of Carrickfergus.

Friday, 4 June 2010

The year of the crowning in Eden

The 'East of Eden' chronicles took an uncanny twist this week. I had just posted the last blog about Eric Glynn and myself exploring the cowboy territory around Dalway's Bawn in our Davy Crockett hats. Next stop, I thought, had to be Dobbs's Plantin - that wooded glen in the demesne of Castle Dobbs that was our Sherwood forest (with Robin Hood the role model rather than Davy Crockett). Or maybe the next port of call should be Kilroot Orange Hall (home of Kilroot True Blues LOL 1544, the Star of Eden Pipe Band and our 'juvenile' lodge). The Orange Hall was built in 1898 at the eastern end of Eden village on a plot donated by The Dobbs family of Castle Dobbs, and it sits immediately across the Copeland Water in Kilroot Parish.

So in the hunt for a suitable photo of Eden Pipe band, I stumbled on a picture - previously unknown to me - and I could hardly believe my eyes.

In 1953, on a summer Saturday at the coronation of Elizabeth II, two pipers from the Star of Eden Pipe band were preparing to lead a school parade from the front of Eden Primary School across to the Eden playing fields behind the Mission Hall. There we were, preparing to go to the celebrations Noah-style, two-by-two. First I spotted the McAllister twin girls in the front. They were in my class, and in later years became a formidable challenge to date as they were inseparable and identical. Then, beside our teacher Miss Kernoghan, there we were - Eric with the sandy hair and white shirt, and me in my Sunday shirt and jacket, heading up the boys. The memories this brought flooding back included us all getting a Coronation Mug in the 'field' and Eric winning a prize of a model 'golden' Coronation coach complete with footmen and six horses. That coach sat on display in the Glynn's house for years until they flitted to Ballyclare, and then I lost touch after they moved to Bangor, county Down.

I did bump into Eric at a big football match in Belfast when we were both in our 20s. He was wearing the scarf of the other team to mine, so I wasn't completely surprised when he turned down my offer of meeting up afterwards for a drink. "Why not?" I asked. "Well, I got saved", was his reply.

Last year I got news that Eric had died after 'a short illness'. Well, I'm glad I had that meeting in Belfast, for it was a different story back in those early days when we went to the 'Tuesday Night' meeting in the Wilson Memorial Hall in Eden and been spell-bound by the stories of the bravery of the African Missionaries. On the walk home after to Boneybefore I said to Eric, "If you got saved, would you go out thonder to die for Jesus?" He laughed and said, "Na".

I think that night was the first time I got saved myself, having backslid and gone forward again many times since. It has always bugged me a bit that I never had the flashing lights, but more a climbing, step-by-step process.

It might all be coincidence, but only a few months ago now I was talking with a friend who was in the terminal stages of cancer about this very issue. "Surely you can only get saved once", he insisted. "But if you can't give a time and a date like other folk?" I prodded, for I couldn't remember any time before those early primary-school and Mission Hall days in Eden. "It disnae matter if you can't," he said, "God minds the date".

When I look at that photo taken in 1953, I can't help thinking the Queen wasn't the only one to get a crown that year.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Dalway's Bawn and the Marshallstown cowboys

(This is the 1st of a series exploring the history of the Dalway cattle drove trail)

To find Dalways Bawn as I did as a boy, you would have to be wearing a Davy Crockett hat and be exploring the Copeland Water upstream in an attempt to find its source. The Copeland Water marks the eastern boundary of Eden village and the old medieval county of Carrickfergus. If you traced the river from Eden down towards the sea, it would take you to Swift's cottage after about 1/2 mile. But upstream, after more than a mile, another world is reached where Marshallstown, Dalways Bawn and Castle Dobbs together once defended the eastern approaches and cattle drove roads to and from Carrickfergus. If you want to reach the Bawn by road, take the main Larne Road from Carrickfergus, through Eden village and about 1/4 mile after you cross the Copeland Water, take a left turn up a road called 'Tongue Loanen'. This will take you straight past the front of Dalway's Bawn on the back road to Ballycarry.

When we first saw Dalways Bawn, we thought it looked like a wild west stockade, the sort we had seen Davy Crockett defend at the Alamo in Carrick picture-house, only this one was made of stone instead of timber. Well we weren't too far off the mark, for the scores of bawns built in the early 1600s during the Ulster Plantation were exactly that - cattle forts where the settlers could bring their cattle into when under attack from the native Irish (cattle-raids being the order of the day back then). The word 'bawn' is a corruption of the Irish bo-dun or 'cow-fort', and they were usually built with 4 corner towers as defensive 'flankers' and a dwelling house for the plantation landlord in the middle.

Dalway's Bawn was built in 1608 by John Dalway, although he had actually settled here some 30 years earlier. He first arrived in Ulster in 1573 along with Walter Devereaux, Earl of Essex, when Elizabeth's reputed 'favorite' attempted an early plantation in east Antrim. John Dalway married Jane MacBryan O'Neill a sister of the former local dynastic chief Shane MacBryan O'Neill. Their daughter Margaret Dalway then married John Dobbs, who had also come over with an Elizabethan English army in the 1590s and built the tower-house at Castle Dobbs just a few hundred yards away facing Dalways Bawn.

Both Dalways Bawn and Castle Dobbs were in Kilroot Parish - just east of the Copeland Water and the medieval County of Carrickfergus - for a very good reason. The land to the west of the river was not available for plantation as it had been in Anglo-Norman English hands since the 13th century! The 'Carrick' side of the Copeland Water at this point was - and is - known as 'Marshallstown'. In the 1600s it was held by Sir Baptist Jones, who is better known for his work as a Plantation land agent for the London Companies in Londonderry. His lease for Marshallstown showed that he also claimed a few hundred acres 'across the mearing' in Kilroot Parish. Today this is the tiny townland of 'Crossmary' between Dalways Bawn and Marshallstown.

Again, with our Davy Crockett hats on, we assumed that Marshallstown was where the 'Marshal' held out - after all Carrick had a Sheriff! Only in later years did I learn there was some truth in that too. In the 12th century an Anglo-Norman lord living in Carrickfergus was made 'Marshal' of the Earldom of Ulster. His name was Sir Roger de Copeland, and lands were set aside at the eastern end of the county by the town corporation for the support of his office. Not only was this the origin of Marshallstown, but he gave the Copeland Water its name too.

But the office of Marshall was no sinecure. The duties included securing the eastern boundaries, and controlling the cattle trade across it. Both these duties shifted to Dalways Bawn and Castle Dobbs in the 1600s when lowland Scots settlers poured into east Antrim.

And that is where the story comes down to my own family connections. My mother's family were 'Eslers' who had come over from Scotland in the 1600s as cattle and horse dealers, hill-farmers and cattle-drove 'facilitators'. It still is a fairly unusual name here and even by the 1860s, 90% of all the Eslers in Ireland lived in mid and east Antrim - on hill farms along the cattle drove routes to the port of Larne. Although I was born in Larne, our family moved near to Carrick when I was 2 years old. Recently I found a new 'branch' of these Eslers in Islandmagee, feeding the local cattle trade to Scotland from Portmuck. And then, to my amazement, I discovered a John Esler in 1860 as a tenant on a farm beside Dalways Bawn. Little did I think I was playing cowboys on the very lands where my mother's family had been acting out the real thing.

The farm on which John Esler lived at Dalways bawn belonged to an Alexander Hart, who then had lands in Crossmary and his main 'home farm' in 1860 was beside where I lived in Boneybefore. Victor and Ian Hart were at Eden Primary School with me, and I knew every field and hedge on their farm up 'Hart's Loanen'. But as that farm was not East of Eden, I'll leave that story for another day.

A postscript about the Davy Crockett hats. At Eden Primary school I sat beside Eric Glynn, who also lived beside me in Boneybefore. Eric had a kindly grannie known to us all as 'Grannie Hamilton'. Like all the old widows in those days she wore black from head to toe. But one of the kindliest acts I remember was in Eric's house playing an old 78 record with 'Davy Crockett' on one side and 'Robin Hood' on the other. Grannie Hamilton came into the room with a fox stole she had. She cut it in two and made two Davy Crockett hats for us. Eric of course got the one with the real fox's tail at the back, and I had only a fox leg with claw still attached on mine. All the same we really felt we had one up on the rest of the gang with their artificial shop-bought ones.