Although the Earl of Essex had died in 1576, the remains of his Elizabethan English colony settled in the town of Carrickfergus.
John Dalway was one of those who came to the fore in the town by the 1590s, along with John Dobbs and a Lieutenant Harte, and these three men were to play a critical role in the story of Dalway's Bawn and the later cattle trail.
By the late 1600s, Carrickfergus had entrenched its 'English only' policy within the walls of the town, so the suburbs shown to the west remain to this day as 'Irish Quarter' (where the town's Catholic Church is located). 'English' meant 'Established Church', and the town's freemen were required all to attend the old Anglo-Norman church of St Nicholas in the town. The suburb to the east (also shown in the foreground of the inset illustation) is 'Scotch Quarter' along a road leading east - to Boneybefore and Kilroot.
The 'big' church all of us in Boneybefore used to attend for special occasions was Joymount Presbyterian Church in Scotch Quarter. The name 'Joymount' comes from the large mansion shown in the inset. Joymount House (called after Lord Mountjoy, the Lord Deputy in Dublin) was built in 1610 by Sir Arthur Chichester, Governor of Carrickfergus and Ulster, and brother of Sir John Chichester who had been Governor of Carrickfergus until he was killed by the Antrim (Highland) Scots at Ballycarry in 1597, with Dalway, Dobbs and Harte fleeing the scene. But the 'Scotch' of the Scotch Quarter - and most of east Antrim and Islandmagee - were not 'Highland Scots', but were lowland Scots that had settled after 1603 when James VI of Scotland took over from Elizabeth I as James I of England and Scotland.
The early 'Scotchmen' that were threatening Carrickfergus in the 1590s were Highland, Catholic and Gaelic-speaking Scots in the glens of north-east Antrim known as the 'MacDonnells of the Glens'. Their main stronghold was Dunluce Castle at the far end of County Antrim, and the seeds of conflict had already been sown by Essex with his raid on Rathlin Island in 1574.
In 1594, twenty years after John Dalway first settled in Carrickfergus, he was still living there in a tower-house with his wife Jane McBryan O'Neill (a close relative of Shane McBryan) and their daughter Margaret (who later married John Dobbs of Castle Dobbs). By this time John Dalway had been appointed 'Sheriff of Antrim' and was writing regular intelligence reports to the Lord Deputy in Dublin and Sir Henry Bagenal in Newry. The theme of these letters was always the same - the loyalty of the Clandeboy O'Neill's (particularly Shane McBryan O'Neill, his wife's cousin) was solid, but they were under intolerable pressure from Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, and James McSorley Boy MacDonnell of the Route (north Antrim).
John Dalway had got a grant from Shane McBryan O'Neill of the lands at Broadisland (Ballycarry) and Kilroot in 1591, paying in cattle rather than money yearly to Shane and his heirs. In 1594, as Sheriff of Antrim, John Dalway 'examined' Shane McBryan and wrote to the Lord Deputy that
"the Earl of Tyrone sent O'Hagan to Belfast to have the said Shane become his man and run against the Queen."But Shane had resisted and provided Dalway with 'promises and slanty'.
A year earlier, in 1593, Dalway had reported from the 'Camp at Comber' that
"Owen McHugh, that killed Neal McBryan Ferta's son, has drawn a large force to assail the great Ardes."A 'great prey' of cattle had been taken fron Neale McBryan O'Neill of north Clandeboy, and 500 men were beseiging him.
As 1594 progressed, Dalway's reports concentrated more and more on the threat posed by the Antrim Scots.
"James Oge McSorley Boy MacDonnell took from Neale McBryan Ferta the number of 200 cows besides garrans (horses) and other spoil, and doth threaten to make his repair thither again."He urged the Lord Deputy to send some men to help defend Shanes Castle at Antrim, for "if it should be lost the whole country will be thrown open". In July 1594 Ensign John Dalway wrote again to the Lord Deputy that the cattle belonging to the townsmen of Carrickfergus had been taken prey by James MacSorley Boy MacDonnell. He feared that "the town will be overthrown if more force is not speedily sent." In October the same year he reported that £300 worth of lead and powder had been landed in the Glens of Antrim from Scotland.
The reinforcements that arrived in Carrickfergus in 1595 were under John Chichester from Devon who was Sergeant-Major of the Elizabethan army in Ireland. As Shane McBryan had apparently joined the Earl of Tyrone in rebellion, Chichester captured Shanes 'bawn' at Antrim, and took Shane to Carrickfergus Castle where he again pledged support for the Queen. However, Shane died while still at Carrickfergus and his estates were forfeited to the Crown. Dalway later received a re-grant from the Crown of the east Antrim estates that he had previously been renting from Shane. Sir John Chichester was then appointed Governor of Carrickfergus and John Dalway made 'Deputy Victualler in Ireland'.
But the threat of the Antrim Scots came to a dramatic head on Dalway's lands at the 'Battle of Pin Well' in Aldfracken Glen (near Ballycarry) in 1597 .
James McSorley Boy MacDonnell had brought a large force down from the north of the county into east Antrim. Having plundered Islandmagee he concealed the most of his men in Aldfracken Glen near Ballycarry, and approached the North Gate of Carrickfergus Town in a provocative show of defiance. Sir John Chichester took the bait, and pursued him with about 20 of his horsemen, including John Dalway, John Dobbs and a Lieutenant Harte who later provided an eye-witness account.
When Chichester and his men reached Aldfracken Glen, they were set upon by the larger force of Antrim Scots, and a complete rout occurred. Sir John Chichester was captured, and MacDonnell cut his head off on a nearby rock, tossing it to his men to play football with. About ten of Chichester's men were also killed, but several others escaped by swimming across Larne Lough and hiding in the caves near the Gobbins in Islandmagee. Although he was injured, Lieutenant Harte escaped to Islandmagee as well, "and so by swimming over saved my lief." Among the other runners was Lieutenant Dobbs who "retreated under a bridge until the danger had passed." Another runaway was Lieutenant John Dalway, who concealed himself for a time in the dry flow or ooze left by the shallow water that had once separated Islandmagee from the mainland.
Sir John Chichester was replaced as Governor of Carrickfergus by his brother, Sir Arthur Chichester. It was Sir Arthur who built the mansion house of Joymount in the town in 1610, and who had led the Elizabethan forces across into Tyrone to finally put down the rebellion of the Earl of Tyrone in 1603.
In St Nicholas's Church in Carrickfergus, in a side-aisle reserved for the Chichesters, is a monument to Sir Arthur and his wife. Beneath them is an effigy of Sir John. When James MacSorley Boy MacDonnell as an old man visited the monument, he is reported to have pointed to the effigy of Sir John and said,
"How the deil did he come to get his head back, for anes I taen it frae him".Underneath the Chichester Aisle in St Nicholas Church is the Chichester's family burial vault with lead coffins of various early Chichesters. The skull of Sir John sits on a stone shelf at the back.
Once the Elizabethan war in Ulster was ended in 1603, three of the men lucky to escape with their lives at Ballycarry, (John Dalway, John Dobbs and Lieutenant Harte), were soon to play a central role in the next stage of the story of Dalway's Bawn and the cattle trail it controlled.