Usurped Donegal lands granted to Trinity College Dublin
PREFACE: In No. 5 of the series
The Famine--"The Times"--and
Donegal published on the Internet April 5--May 3, 1996, reference was made
to a map appended to T. C. Foster's book on conditions in Ireland at the
outbreak of the Famine which "contains one slight error. On the north shore of
the estuary of the River Erne is shown 'Wartown'. Of course, as every schoolboy
(student) knows, this is Wardtown, ancestral acreage of the Mic an Bháirds of
Tirconnell, granted, without their consent, in the Plantation of Ulster to
Trinity College Dublin, and of which more anon." What follows is the "more" and
now is the "anon".
Trinity College was established pursuant to Queen Elizabeth I's Warrant for
Incorporation dated 29th December, 1591, conveyed in her letter of that date to
her Lord Deputy, the Lord Chancellor, and the Council of Ireland, "to serve for
a college of learning whereby knowledge and civility might be increased by the
instruction of our people there, whereof many have usually heretofore used to
travel into France, Italy, and Spain, to get learning in such foreign
institutions where they have been infected with popery and other ill
To help it serve as an antidote to combat the infection of popery, Trinity
was first endowed with the site and appurtenances of the original Catholic
priory of All Hallows, and later with grants of lands in Munster and Ulster.
What were these lands in Ulster that were granted to Trinity? The answer is
found in "An Historical Account of the Plantation in Ulster", written by the
Reverend George Hill and published in 1877.
In his introduction to a 1970 reprint by the Irish University Press, John
Barry, Professor of Medieval History, University College Cork, describes Hill as
a unitarian clergyman, a native of Ballycastle, Co. Antrim, and long-time
librarian at Queen's University, Belfast. Barry further states:
"Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Hill's work in view of his antecedents
is the amount of sympathy that he has with the native Irish...The explanation
may simply be that the documents themselves reveal a grim tale of oppression of
the native Irish, and he appears to have been a man of objective mind, and a
An Ian Paisley he was not.
As recorded at page 76 (f.11) of his study, Hill first traces the
importunings of servitors and "persons of quality" to receive plantations in
Ulster, among them "Sir Ralph Bingley and friends for the barony of
Kilmacrenan", and "Sir Henry Folliott having lately purchased the abbey of
Assheroe (Assaroe) of Mr. Auditor Gofton, and Bellicke (Belleek) of some other
patentee, was suitor for the castle of Ballyshannon and Bundrowes, with their
adjoining lands, which generally lie between the two castles now named, and
which, with the castles, he (Chichester) recommends be granted in fee farm to
At page 85 Hill records:
"At an early date in the plantation movement, the council in London forwarded
the following list of servitors who were considered as suitable persons to
become undertakers, commencing with the deputy himself:--"The Lord Deputy, Lord
Audley...Mr. Attorney-General of Ireland (Sir John Davys), Sir Foulke Conway,
Sir Henry Folliott, Sir Edward Blaney, Sir Toby Caulfield, Sir Richard Hansard,
Sir Francis Roe...Sir Ralph Bingley...Captains Bourchier...Crawford,
Hope...Trevellian, Brooke..." in all a list of 67 persons.
According to the Articles of Plantation, rents charged by the Crown to the
servitors--in modern terms, planters--were eight pounds sterling per thousand
acres, decreasing to a little over five pounds sterling "for every Proportion of
a thousand Acres which they shall inhabit with English or Scottish tenants."
Turf out the Irish, sod the land with English or Scots, and presto, a reduction
in rent! Simple, sensible, and the fons et origo of all troubles in Ireland from
then until present times.
Under the Project of Plantation, Hill lists 9,224 acres as monastery lands in
Donegal (p. 103), and in a footnote (52) adds:
"A large amount of these lands--at least 14 quarters--was granted to Auditor
Gofton, and sold by him afterwards to Sir Henry Folliott. The grant conveyed to
"Francis Gofton, Esq., auditor of the imprests, the late Bernardine (Cistercian)
abbey or monastery of Asheroe, the site &c., thereof, one church and a
steeple almost ruinous, a dormitory, four cottages with their backsides, and all
other buildings, gardens, &c., in the said site; the towns and fields of
Asheroe, containing 3 acres; 3 quarters of land; the 4th part and the 8th part
of a quarter; parcel and demesne of the said abbey, lying in or near Asheroe,
and divided into divers parcels called balliboes, each containing the 8th part
of a quarter, and called Laghie, otherwise Lachinmore, and Lachinbeg, Behie,
Ardgillew, Tollaghcorke, Amnitalge, Kilcrehan, Ardpatin, Cashell-Illy,
Tolloghmore, Ballineggirvag, Shrahan of Sooraen, Maseboy, Drum-Ikellyloghie, and
Legaltin; Dacoocallowes, 2 balliboes; Crevemanagh, 3 balliboes; Cashillack, 2
balliboes; Drumnekelly, one and a half balliboe; Tawnagh-Irewe, half a balliboe;
Towerhulty, half a balliboe; Cavan-Igier, half a balliboe; seven other quarters
in the territory of Tirehugh, viz. Carewcashill, Garvanagh, Munterduyre,
Carrowtuber, Carrowticlogh, Carrowcorlean, Knader, and Toughter; the quarter of
Kilcarbery; the grange of Darriagh, in the territory of Tirbane, containing two
balliboes; the grange of Tawneghtallon, in O'Boyle's country, containing one
balliboe with the tithes; the grange near the monastery of Kilfoore, containing
one quarter with the tithes; the refectory of Drumhinne, in the country of
Tirhugh; twelve ruinous eel weirs upon the river Erne, between Lough Erne and
Ballyshannon castle, the estate of the said abbey, with two loops upon the
salmon-leap for taking salmon near the said castle, and liberty for two
fishermen to take salmon in a place in the Erne-Water, called Asheroe, near
Ballyshannon, every year; and the second draught from all fishers at Asheroe
when they begin to fish; also liberty for one boat to fish from the island or
rock to the sea, for salmon or other fish, yearly, within Ballyshannon bay,
which are all free customs belonging of old to the said abbey; two third parts
of all the tithes of Cashel-Moynterdooyre; the five balliboes of Crewe; the
quarter of Carshee, the six balliboes of Ballymc-Iward; and the several quarters
of Kildoney, Kilbanny, and Kilcrumrie. Total rent 8l. 10s od. Irish. To hold
forever as of the Castle of Dublin in common soccage. 12 April, 6th  (See
Patent Rolls, p. 129)."
Writing in 1997, on the banks of the Rideau River, which runs through Ottawa,
the capital of Canada, the placenames so dutifully transcribed by Hill bring
back boyhood memories of rambles over the entire area above described. Their
names, given in English in the Patent Rolls, are in many cases a close
onomatopoeic rendition of their centuried-old Irish names. Local topographical
knowledge easily identifies "the island or rock" as Inis Saimer, mentioned so
often in the Irish annals.
Of further interest is Hill's extract from another document of the period
compiled by one of the prime foes of Ireland, Sir John Davys, the previously
mentioned Attorney-General, namely, "Abstract of Titles",in which, dealing with
Donegal abbey lands, he recorded (p. 103) (f. 52):
"The possessions (sic) of the religious house called Kiladonnel, containing
three quarters, was passed in fee-farm to Captain Basil Brookes, whose estate is
good in law, for aught appearing to me."
"Good", that is, in English law.
Of primary interest to this writer, however, is Hill's statement of fact
"The Monastery Lands are 9,224 Acres, which are almost all either granted in
Fee-farm, or claimed by such as pretend title thereunto; but whatsoever shall
remain to his Majesty, the same be allotted to the College of Dublin [Trinity],
to be passed in their Book as aforesaid.
"There are besides three other Parcels of Land surveyed, which cannot be
distributed to undertakers [planters]; one of them of 300 Acres allotted to the
Fort of Culmore; another of 1,024 Acres called the Inche, passed in Fee-Farm to
Sir Ralph Bingley; and 1,000 Acres allotted to Ballyshannon."
The temptation here is to dwell on the 1,000 acres allotted to Ballyshannon.
Suffice it to say that this was, in effect, incorporation of Ballyshannon as a
town, again according to English law, and which will be dealt with elsewhere.
More immediate interest is centred on the lands allotted to Trinity.
In 1609 a commission was appointed to review the progress of the Plantation
of Ulster, Chichester presiding. The Commission made a circuit of the province
and, in conformity with its instructions, conducted surveys whereby, as
stipulated in article 8:
"...observation be made what Proportions [of land] by Name are fittest to be
allotted to the Brittains, what to the Servitors, and what to the Natives;
wherein this respect is to be had, that the Brittains be put in Places of best
safety, the natives to be dispersed, and the Servitors planted in those Places
which are of the greatest importance to serve the rest."
Regarding the "dispersal of the natives", the commission invariably followed
Chichester's own recommendations (see p. 127 f.10), and Chichester's overriding
objective was to keep the natives "in subjection".
Turning to Trinity College, the commission was enjoined as follows, again in
"The Parcels of Land which shall be allotted to the College in Dublin, and to
the Free Schools in the several countys are to be set out and distinguished by
Meares and Bounds, to the end the same may be accordingly passed by several
grants from us. The Commissioners are likewise to set out the Quantity of the
three great Proportions lying together in the County of Armagh to be allotted to
the said College of Dublin, and six thousand Acres to be taken out of the lands
omitted in the last Survey (if so much shall be found), these to be only of our
[the King's] Land, and not of the Church Land."
At page 128 (f.14) Hill duly notes:
"The college, also, as we shall see, got an extensive grant in Donegal, then
called 4,000 acres, but in reality very much more."
"In the first set of instructions, the 9th requires the commissioners 'to set
out and distinguish by meares and bounds, such parcels of land as are allotted
to the College of Dublin and the [Irish] freeholders in the several counties.'
It was feared there might be difficulty in clearing the Irish off their own
lands for college purposes."
And well did the the commission do its work. As noted at page 216, Hill
abstracts the acreage granted to Trinity as follows, in Armagh 6,000 acres; in
Donegal 4,000 acres, and in a footnote (54) says:
"We shall see that the lands granted to the college of Dublin in the
three counties of Armagh, Donegal and Fermanagh were at least ten times the
quantity here stated", which meant a total of 100,000 acres, no mean
The exact wording of the commission's proclamation concerning the Donegal
land grant is given in full by Hill (p. 228, f. 64):
"And having a provident care of the College near Dublin for the education of
the youth of this kingdom, there has been assigned to the Provost of the said
college the number of 4,000 acres [a much larger quantity] lying in the barony
of Tyrehugh, besides certain other lands assigned for corporate towns and free
To enforce the seizure of these lands from their Irish owners, the
proclamation commanded that:
'All the inhabitants of Lyffer [Lifford], Portlagh, and Boylagh, and of the
4,000 acres assigned to the College (except the inhabitants of the town of
Ballashannon and Lyffer, tenants of bishops' abbey and termon lands) or other of
the King's patentees, whose grants are now in force (if any be) who are to
produce their letters patent, do prepare themselves to avoid (cease to occupy)
their several possessions within the said precincts of Lyffer, Portlogh, and
Boylagh, and the lands assigned the college, and leave the same to the English
and Scottish undertakers, and to the said college, to whom the King has granted
As an aside, and with no intent to hinder this narration, it is worth noting
that Davys made particular mention of "chroniclers, gallowglasses and rimers",
i.e. bards, mercenaries, and poets, as "enemies to the English Government", this
in connection with their holdings in Fermanagh but equally applicable to all
areas covered by the Plantation of Ulster.
Another valuable footnote inserted by Hill at pages 256 and 257 gives precise
details of the old Irish families of rank who were dispossessed, "swept away or
reduced to poverty" in the first decade of the Plantation. In his own words, but
"The following curious document, preserved among the State Papers, records
the names and places of residence of these families as dwelt westward of Lough
Swilly:--"From the entire of the Lough [Swilly] until you come to a point of
land a little short of Ench [Isle of Inch], there is neither castle nor fort,
but then upon a joynt of land is a castle and an abbey called Ramullan
[Rathmullan]--MacSwyn O'Farre's [Fanaid's] chief country house...Four miles
above the Liffer stands Castle Fene [Finn]--Niall Garve's [O'Donnell's] house.
Four miles above Castle Fene is a fryer's house called Drumboy. Three miles
above Drumboy stands a fort called Ballakit--here dwells Donnell Gallocar
[O'Gallagher], one of O'Donnell's chief counsellors...Four miles westward from
Ballakit is Barnesmore. From Barnesmore to the castle of Beleek that stands upon
Lough Erne, is twelve miles. From Beleek to Ballashanan is three miles--here
dwells McO'Dongonrye [Rorie, son of O'Donnell. From Ballashanan to the Abbey of
Asheroe, to the seawards, is one myle; inhabited by monkes. From the Abbey of
Asheroe to the Abbey and Castle of Dunagall, is nine miles...", and so it goes.
Hill's reference for the above, which is undated, is the "Ulster Journal of
Archaeology", vol.v., pp.141--143.
On reflection, and to tempt others to consult the Rev. George Hill's
pioneering work, mention of some of the names of the English and Scottish
planters can be found throughout its pages. For this writer, who spent almost
forty years working on Hansard, the official report of parliamentary
debates, in the Canadian House of Commons and in Dáil Éireann, where it is known
as the Official Report, Tuairisc Oifigiul, the appearance of Sir
Richard Hansard as one of the official planters of lands at Lifford, now
Donegal's county seat, is intriguing. Was he a forebear of Luke and Thomas
Curzon Hansard after whom the official report of debates is named? Crawfords,
Hamiltons and Trevillians are other names appearing in Hill's pages.
Sir John Davys took care to have the choicest part of mid-Ulster lands
assigned to himself as a reward for carrying out the Plantation. He also took
pride in claiming that (p.330m f.245):
"The escheated lands of Ulster are settled in the Crown, the pretended titles
(on the part of the natives) cleared, the records entitling his Majesty
thereunto made perfect and returned, and put into a place of safety."
"Making records perfect", turning seizure into legal English title, came
easily to Davys, and he was handsomely beneficed by Henry VIII. But Davys also
deserves recognition for placing the records of the Plantation "into a place of
safety", from which Hill resurrected them to the benefit of the original Irish
Coming now to the kernel of Hill's painstaking scholarship of interest to
this descendant of the original Irish owners, Hill, in statistical form
tabulates the acreages set aside as grants to Trinity College (p.445, f.1). In
his introduction to the table Hill writes:
"College at Dublin--About 10,000 acres in the counties of Armagh, Donegal,
and Fermanagh, were supposed by the public of that day (and even of a later
time), to have been the extent of the lands set apart in Ulster to assist in the
endowment of Trinity College, Dublin. The plantation authorities must have known
better. The following table shows the real extent to which the lands of the
O'Neills, O'Donnells, and Maguires were appropriated for the purpose now
Hill's table includes over 10,500 acres in Fermanagh, 22,000 acres in Armagh,
and 66,312 acres in Donegal, a total of more that 95,812 acres, and cites as
source Dublin University Commission Report, 1853, pp.274, 275.
Munificent. Almost 100,000 acres. And it must be remembered that an Irish
acre and an English acre were different in size, as were an Irish mile and an
English mile, the differences in measurement being enacted by England to, no
surprise, the detriment of native Irish landowners, not to mention the
difference in values of Irish and English coinage expressly ordained by Henry
VII, a forerunner of Wood's brass halfpence so soundly condemned by Jonathan
Swift in the 1700s.
Where were these acreages located in Donegal? Hill lists them in meticulous
detail:--Kilmacrenan, in the barony of Kilmacrenan; and in the barony of Tirhugh
the following: Ballymacaward, Rossinaulagh, Cowlowdown, Killinaugh, Coolrimur,
Brown Hall, Murvagh, Drimany, Drimgoan and Rubble Shinny. The last-named poses
somewhat of a puzzle, being unknown to the present writer.
What is known to the present writer is the first-named, Ballymacaward,
situated along the estuary of the river Erne, west of Abbey Assaroe, bestowed by
An Dalach, the O'Donnell, on one of his ancestors who, with O'Clery, was bard to
the self-same O'Donnell. He last trod the site in company with the late Hugh
Daly on a never-to-be-forgotten pilgrimage when, as local newspaper reporters,
they were trying to establish the veracity, or otherwise, of the rumoured
establishment of a regional airport there, an offshoot of the Electricity Supply
Board's hydroelectric scheme on the River Erne. Mr. Blair, chief engineer for
Cementation Ltd., the main Erne Scheme contractors, put the rumour to rest and
it has not since been resuscitated.
Hill, however, returns to life the dimension of the Ballymacaward grant to
Trinity, it being given as exactly 605 acres, 1 rood, 19 perches.
Believe it or not, even with such a huge endowment Trinity College still put
on "the beal bocht" (the poor mouth), as can be seen in J. W. Stubb's "History
of the University of Dublin", pp.376-377, for on March 3, 1613, the Provost and
Fellows of Trinity, writing in answer to objections to their stewardship, were
"It is true that we have in grant from His Majesty, and in just title, so
much as is particularised in the objection, but we have it not in payment and
use as yet. Out of Munster we received £100 per annum; out of Ulster our
payments are for the first two years but £500 per annum."
Go back to the Articles of Plantation. Planters were to pay £8 per 1,000
acres, or slightly over £5 per 1,000 acres if the Irish were routed out and
replaced by Scots or Brits. At the higher rate, 95,000 acres would have produced
£760; at the lower rate £500, being the sum Trinity claimed to be making per
annum in 1613. There were no forensic accountants to examine Trinity's books in
As to the other grantees, a perusal of Hill's "Plantation" traces their use
of the confiscated lands as shown in a subsequent examination, Pynnar's Survey,
detailing the construction of stone houses and of bawns, the introduction of
English settlers, exchanges and sales of holdings in a veritable Monopoly
swapping game, and the treatment accorded "the mere Irish", mere Irish in that
era meaning "pure Irish". Hill sums up the result in his final paragraph (p.
590) in these words:
"But the paradise of plenty, if not of peace, to which these strangers
(planters) at times attained, was only secured by a very heavy and dreadful
sacrifice of the general interests of Ireland as a nation; for to this
settlement in Ulster, and in a minor degree to similar settlements or
plantations in the other provinces at the same period, may be traced the awful
scenes and events of the ten years' civil war commencing in 1641, the horrors of
the revolutionary struggle in 1690, and the re-awakening of those horrors in
1798--not to mention certain less notable phases of the struggle during the
intervals between those disastrous years. The dragon's teeth, so
plentifully, and if so deliberately sown in this Ulster plantation, have,
indeed, sprung up at times with more than usually abundant growth, yielding
their ghastly harvests of blood and death on almost every plain, and by almost
every river side, and in almost every glen of our northern province."
Hill's historical account was published in 1877. Since then "ghastly harvests
of blood and death", a direct legacy of English rule in Ireland, north and
south, were reaped in the Easter Rising of 1916, the Black and Tan massacres,
the Belfast pogroms, and the current twenty-five year conflict in the six
counties of Ulster still remaining under direct rule from London. Over 3,000
deaths, and tens of thousands of mentally maimed and physically injured, are
counted in this most recent harvest.
The treatment of the original owners of the lands of Donegal, Derry,
Fermanagh, Armagh and the other provinces of Ulster was, in time, to spread
throughout other countries which fell under English rule, the native inhabitants
of Canada, Australia and New Zealand being uprooted, and their extermination
anticipated with a racial arrogance and fervour tellingly limned by William
Allingham, himself a member of the ascendancy class, in the words he put in the
mouth of Dr. Larmour, in his masterpiece "Laurence Bloomfield in Ireland":
We see the melting of a barbarous race,
Sad sight, I grant, sir,
from their ancient place;
But always, everywhere, it has been
Red-Indians, Bushmen, Irish--they must go!"
Yet today, more than three hundred years later, in the ebbing years
of the 20th century, the surviving natives of Canada are successfully pressing
their aboriginal land claims in nine provinces and two territories. Surviving
aborigines are suing the Government of Australia, and the Maori of New Zealand
likewise are seeking recognition of their ownership of lands seized by English
colonists. The "Red-Indians, Bushmen, Irish" have not gone away and, in the case
of the latter, Hill's great work should be cause for concern to today's Dr.
Larmours throughout such heavily planted counties of Northern Ireland as Derry,
Tyrone, and Down.
And how did Trinity succeed in its mission to the Donegal aborigines? An
interesting sidelight is provided by Rev. Paul Walsh in a footnote to his
translation from the Irish of "The Life of Aodh Ruadh O Domhnaill", Irish Texts
Society, vol. XLV. One of its pupils was a certain Neachtain O'Domhnaill, and
his story is told by Walsh in these words (pp. 196--197):
"Neachtain O Domhnaill is first mentioned at the date March 20, 1601, under
the name of Hector O'Donnell, 'son of the said Neyle', in the Pardon granted to
Niall and his followers, Fints Eliz. 6483. In 1608 he was at school at Trinity
College, Dublin, no doubt that he might be brought up a good Englishman and a
Protestant. That paragon of virtue, Sir Arthur Chichester, writes on June 2 of
that year: [he] 'has tried by all good means to allure Sir Neale O'Donnell to be
honest, but he has an insatiable mind; if he enters into rebellion, it will be
but a little before the time, for he will surely trouble this country at one
time or other, and so will his son after him who is now here [in Dublin], and is
the wickedest boy he (Chichester) ever dealt with in all his life.' Cal.
Fifteen years later, Hector was lodged as a prisoner in the Tower of London
where he died in 1625. Tirconnell to Trinity to Oxford to the Tower, his passage
through this life reflected little credit to his Trinity tutors.
For further reading on the Plantation of Donegal and other northern counties,
"A New History of Ireland", vol III, edited by T.W. Moody, F.X. Martin and F.J.
Byrne, Oxford Clarendon Press, 1976, contains a map which vividly illustrates
the extent of the confiscated territories.
Now let's see. Using round figures, 600 acres at £3 per annum, times 387
years, comes to £1,161. Interest and inflation, with application of the rule of
72, bring the total to £10,161,000. If the Provost of Trinity will kindly make
out a certified cheque for £10 million even, a mutually satisfactory resolution
can be achieved, this under Irish law, and a small price to pay for the
development and use of an anti-Popish serum.
Whimsy? Tell that to the Indians of Canada, the Maori of New Zealand, and the
Bushmen of Australia!
FOOTNOTE:"The times they are a-changing". For the first time in its
406-year history, Trinity College has a Catholic as its Provost. This meets, to
a degree, the "wild hope" expressed by an anonymous poet of the 18th century:
Life has conquered: the wind has blown away
Alexander, Caesar, and all
their power and sway;
Tara and Troy have made no longer stay;
English too will have their day.
To the degree that this elevation has met that hope and, no doubt, presages
further enlightenment in the coming years, let its Ballymacaward account be
marked "Paid", but not in full.
Details of present-day generosity to Trinity, extended by Irish-American Mr.
Charles Feeney, whose grandparents hailed from Co. Fermanagh, can be found in a
report in "The Irish Times"
of Friday, January 24, 1977, under the
given £30 million by U.S. philanthropist." Trinity's share has amounted to
close to £9 million over the past five to six years.
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