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‘I am particularly impressed by the quality of the publication generally and especially by the illustrations and pictures. My neighbour, who comes from this area of Ireland, is already queuing at my door to read it after me.’
Information Technologists Company
Men of Substance – The London Livery Companies’ Relunctant Part in the Plantation of Ulster
Is it generally realised that Londonderry with its impregnable fortifications was built by the City of London? Is it known that a second Spanish Armada landed in Kinsale in 1601, with every expectation of Irish rebel support to push the English out of Ireland? Had it succeeded, Ireland would have become a Spanish dominion.
The English objective was to subdue Ireland’s dogmatically Catholic Gaelic chieftains to prevent it becoming a bridgehead for a foreign invasion of Britain. Attempts to impose English government and the Anglican religion faced determined resistance from a population alien in language, custom and creed. The English solution was to expropriate ancestral Gaelic lands for settlement by waves of colonists to ‘civilise the natives’. These included Presbyterians from Scotland who had no more sympathy with Anglican rites than the Catholic Irish.
In 1610, James I needed ‘Men of Substance’ to bring to heel Ulster’s belligerent chieftains, who had Spanish support. He coerced the City of London into colonising County Londonderry, then the most belligerent part of Ireland, and into fortifying Londonderry and Coleraine. The Londoners set up The Irish Society to administer the project and required the London Livery Companies to fund it. With insufficient settlers arriving to establish control, they needed to retain local Irish assistance. Frustrated that plantation objectives were not being met, Charles I expropriated their estates, causing the Londoners to support Parliament in the Civil War, which cost Charles I his head. Meanwhile, in 1641, Irish rebels destroyed the Londoners’ former settlements. It was only the walls of Londonderry, which prevented them from re-asserting complete control.
During the Commonwealth, Cromwell arrived in Ireland to restore English rule, allowing the Londoners to return. When the Irish, with French assistance, backed James II against William III’s ‘Glorious Revolution’, settlers again came under attack. Their great hardship during the siege of Londonderry bought time for William III to amass a huge force to restore order.
In this early period, the Companies let their estates to head lessees, often absentees, who milked them until the tenantry could no longer subsist. The only safety valve was emigration. Huge numbers, initially Protestant, but later of Catholic Irish, seething with anger, left for America and Canada. For those remaining, deprivation, starvation and disease only inflamed Presbyterian and Catholic rivalries.
At last, in the 19th Century, the Companies resumed direct control, beginning a period of unparalleled munificence, building towns, modernising farming, funding schools, churches and medical care and reclaiming wasteland. Yet, starting in the 1870s, calls for Irish Home Rule were coupled with demands for tenants’ rights. Despite landowner resistance, pressure on Parliament to fund tenant ownership became overwhelming. The Companies were high-profile targets, and by 1900 they had sold up. While The Irish Society continues to provide welfare locally, sectarian rivalry rumbles on. More recent conflict is understandable, even if difficult to condone.
Hardcover: 579 pages
Publisher: Austen Macauley Publishers Ltd.
Publish date: 30 September 2016
ISBN: 978-1786124562 (Paperback)
ISBN: 978-1786124555 (Hardback)
ISBN: 978-1786124579 (E-Book)
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What people are saying
'Intensely interesting read which clarified many of the ideas that I had formed previously.'
JJ – amazon.co.uk
'As Governor of The Honourable The Irish Society, the body set up to oversee the Companies’ arrival and subsequent operations there, and as a past Lord Mayor of the City, I very much welcome this book, the first authoritative account of that involvement, set in the context of the longer history of England, Scotland and Ireland. An excellent work, both for its historical perspective and as an aid to understanding of events much more recent.'
Alderman Sir David Wootton
Governor, The Honourable the Irish Society
Lord Mayor of London 2011-2012