The Ulster Plantation

In September 1607, Hugh O'Neill, Rory O'Donnell, Cúchonnacht Maguire, their extended families and followers, ninety-nine in all, set sail from Portnamurray, outside Rathmullan in County Donegal. This event has become known as the Flight of the Earls, and paved the way for the Plantation of Ulster.

The English faced many problems in Ireland, but from the middle of the sixteenth century they had gradually extended their control over Ireland by establishing plantations. English and Scottish settlers, or planters, loyal to the Crown and the Protestant religion, were granted large tracts of land. The departure of the Earls resulted in their lands being confiscated by King James. The Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Arthur Chichester, fearing the return of the Earls, planned the immediate colonisation of Ulster, beginning in earnest in 1609.

As early as 1603, King James had granted confiscated lands in County Down to Scottish nobles James Hamilton and Hugh Montgomery. This is how the colonisation of Counties Antrim and Down by mostly Protestant lowland Scots began. It prepared the way for the later official plantation of Armagh, Coleraine, Cavan, Donegal, Fermanagh and Tyrone, an event known as the Plantation of Ulster. These counties were to be planted with Protestant Scottish and English settlers and the native Irish removed from the land completely.

The plantation brought many changes to Ulster. The population increased rapidly as thousands of settlers arrived with their families. New towns and villages were created and schools and industries established. The newcomers brought new surnames and customs to Ireland, and the protestant faith was introduced and strengthened. But many will say that Ulster's problems began with the plantation.

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