2006 will be a big year for Ulster-Scots. It’s the 400th anniversary of one of the most important events in Ulster-Scots history - the Hamilton and Montgomery Settlement of 1606 - yet like much of our history, its a story that hardly anyone knows about. The Ulster-Scots Agency aims to change that. Here’s a summary of the story:
Before the Plantation of Ulster, two Ayrshire Scots - James Hamilton and Hugh Montgomery - pioneered a massive migration from the Lowlands of Scotland to County Antrim and County Down. Starting in May 1606, over ten thousand mainly Presbyterian Lowland Scots made the short voyage across the North Channel, transforming barren Ulster into an industrial powerhouse. Their success inspired King James VI of Scotland and 1 of England's Virginia Plantation of 1607 and his Ulster Plantation of 1610. Their achievement was “The Dawn of the Ulster-Scots”.
The lands they came to had been devastated and depopulated by the wars of the late 1500s. Records say that Antrim and Down were “wasted”. The owner of the lands, Con O’Neill, had been imprisoned in Carrickfergus Castle by the late Queen Elizabeth 1 and was probably destined for execution. So Hugh Montgomery hatched an elaborate plan to both free O’Neill and to gain a Royal pardon for him from the newly-crowned King James 1 (formerly King James VI of Scotland) - and Montgomery’s payment was to be half of O’Neill’s lands. However James Hamilton found out and intervened in the negotiations - and won one third of the lands for himself.
Hamilton was from Dunlop in Ayrshire, was an academic and had been a founder of Trinity College in Dublin. His new territory included the entire River Bann and the area around Coleraine, as well as a major part of County Down which took in Bangor, part of Comber, Killyleagh, Dundonald and some of the Ards Peninsula. Montgomery was the Sixth Laird of Braidstane and had been a mercenary in the wars in Holland. His new territory included Newtownards, Donaghadee, part of Comber, Greyabbey and a large portion of the Ards Peninsula. Hamilton and Montgomery can rightly be called “The Founding Fathers of the Ulster Scots”.
The thousands of settlers they brought over absolutely transformed the region. The success of their settlement in Antrim and Down must have reassured King James VI & 1 of his Plantation in Virginia (at Jamestown) in 1607, and without doubt inspired the Plantation of the rest of Ulster which started in 1610.
American cousins head towards their own “Jamestown 400” celebrations in 2007, it
is right that Ulster-Scots celebrate the success of the Hamilton & Montgomery
Settlement of 1606. The Agency will be co-ordinating a series of events,
publications and initiatives during the New Year, so watch this space – and
contact us to ask how you can get involved!
the birthplace of the Founding Fathers.
Rev. Hans Hamilton (1536 - 1608) was the first Protestant minister in Dunlop, Ayrshire. Dunlop is in the East Ayrshire council district, and if you visit the historic Main Street today you can still see his church, his mausoleum and also the significantly-named Clandeboye School buildings, all of which date from the early 1600s. He and his wife Jonet had six sons - James, Archibald, Gawin, John, William and Patrick - and one daughter, Jean.
eldest son, James Hamilton (1559 - 1644), was educated at St Andrews University
where the first martyr of the Scottish Reformation, Patrick Hamilton, had been
burned at the stake on February 29th 1528. Having built a reputation as “one of
the greatest scholars and hopeful wits of his time”, James became a teacher in
Glasgow. Around 1587 he left Scotland by ship and due to storms unexpectedly
arrived in Dublin. He decided to stay there and established a school, employing
fellow Scot James Fullerton as his assistant. One of their pupils was the young
James Ussher, who went on to become the Archbishop of Armagh, and who famously
calculated that the first day of Biblical creation was Sunday 23 October 4004
BC! Fullerton and Ussher are buried alongside each other in Westminster Abbey in
Both men were agents for King James VI of Scotland, providing him with information about Elizabeth 1’s activities in Ireland, and perhaps even tampering with the mail to keep the King, and themselves, informed. They were so successful that they gave up their academic positions to take up appointments at the royal court. Hamilton was appointed Scottish agent to the English court of Elizabeth 1st, was involved in the negotiations for James VI’s succession to the English throne, and eventually brought official news of Elizabeth’s death to Scotland. Fullerton was knighted when King James VI of Scotland became King James 1 of England - at the Union of the Crowns - in 1603.
So James Hamilton had great influence with the new King James 1 - influence which he would soon use to gain lands in Ulster.
Robert Montgomerie acquired the title of first Laird of Braidstane, an area in
father died, Hugh returned to Scotland to become the Sixth Laird of Braidstane
and married Elizabeth Shaw, daughter of the Laird of Greenock. His fighting
skills were used again when he became involved in the generations-old feud
between the Montgomeries and the Cunninghams (led by the Earl of Glencairn).
Hugh Montgomery claimed that one of the Cunninghams had insulted him, and
challenged him to a duel, but Cunningham fled - first to London and then to
Holland. Montgomery tracked him down to the Inner Court of the Palace at The
Hague, drew his sword and with a single thrust aimed to kill him. Luckily for
Cunningham, the sword hit the buckle of his belt and saved his life - but
Montgomery, thinking he had killed Cunningham, put away his sword and
there was a Scottish soldier - Sergeant Robert Montgomery - who came
of the Crowns
By 1572 it was clear to O’Neill that he had fallen out of favour and he adopted a “scorched earth” policy, burning the major buildings - Grey Abbey, Movilla Abbey, Newtownards Priory, Black Abbey, Holywood Priory and Comber Abbey - to prevent any incoming English army using them as garrisons. Subsequently, Elizabeth directed the Earl of Essex to sail to Ulster in 1573 with the lofty ambition of taking control of the lands from Belfast to Coleraine. Essex’s campaign was brutal - he captured Sir Brian O’Neill and had him, his family, and their attendants executed in 1574. After yet another brutal massacre - on 26th July 1575 on Rathlin Island - Elizabeth brought Essex back to England. Essex’s settlement plans had also failed.
Across the North Channel, King James VI of Scotland’s own efforts at settlement had also been unsuccesful. He had tried to establish settlements of Lowland Scots in Kintyre and Lewis in 1598 but, under attack from the local clans, many of these settlers fled across the North Channel to seek refuge in County Antrim.
So, for the 34 years between 1572 and the beginning of the Hamilton and Montgomery Settlement of 1606, the east of Ulster was depopulated, wasted and desolate.
O’Neill’s “Grand Debauch”
Around Christmas of 1602, Con held what has been described as “a grand debauch” at Castle Reagh, and when the wine ran out he sent his servants to Belfast for more. As they were returning they quarrelled with some of Sir Arthur Chichester’s troops and had the wine confiscated. Con was furious and sent them back to attack the English soldiers, some of whom were killed in the skirmish. Con was arrested, found guilty of “levying war against the Queen” and was imprisoned in Carrickfergus Castle. Although the conditions of his imprisonment were later relaxed, and he was occasionally allowed to walk through Carrickfergus with a guard, he was ultimately destined for execution - Chichester having generously offered to hang him without trial.
Another who saw an opportunity was Ellis O’Neill, Con’s wife. She made contact with Hugh Montgomery to see if he could use his influence with the new King to secure a Royal pardon for Con. If he succeeded, Hugh Montgomery’s reward was to be half of Con’s wasted lands in County Down. Montgomery agreed. Hugh Montgomery then entered into a plan with his Ayrshire neighbour, Thomas Montgomery of Blackstone, who is described in The Montgomery Manuscripts, the family records, as “...a discreet, sensible gentleman...”. Thomas was owner of a ship (or ‘sloop’) which traded between Scotland and Carrickfergus, and he was to implement a jailbreak plan very similar to one Hugh had used to escape from Holland a few years before.
In July, 1604, Thomas arrived in Carrickfergus and noted the identity of the Provost Marshall, who was also the jailer of the town. He then courted the Provost’s daughter, Annas Dobbin, in order to befriend her father. After an evening of well-planned drunken revelry in the Castle jail, Thomas got a rope to Con, possibly inside a hollowed-out cheese. Con escaped from his cell, used the rope to scale the castle wall, boarded the boat at the harbour below, and he and Montgomery fled to Scotland.
Arriving at the coastal town of Largs in Ayrshire, in the shadow of the Montgomery clan castle of Skelmorlie, they were met by a welcoming party led by Hugh’s brother-in-law, Patrick Montgomery, and they all travelled to the castle home of Hugh Montgomery, the Sixth Laird of Braidstane. The Montgomery Manuscripts say that Con “...was joyfully and courteously received by the Laird and his Lady with their nearest friends. He was kindly entertained and treated with a due deference to his birth and quality, and observed with great respect by the Laird’s children and servants...”
When the deal - a Royal pardon for O’Neill (with half of his lands going to Montgomery as a reward) - had been finalised at Braidstane, Con and Hugh travelled to London to win the King’s approval.
Hamilton’s close associate, Sir James Fullerton, was an advisor to the King and had been granted Olderfleet Castle, near Larne, in September 1603. He convinced the King that O’Neill’s lands were much too large to be split between O’Neill and Montgomery alone and that it would be better if they were divided into three portions - with one third for James Hamilton. The King agreed to the new plan; after all, settlement had never worked before and he had nothing to lose by allowing Hamilton and Montgomery to invest their own finance and energy in the wasteland of east Ulster. When O’Neill and Montgomery arrived in London, the King presented them with the new scheme. Montgomery, realising what had happened and no doubt outraged, kept his composure and agreed to the revised plan.
On 31st April, 1605, the tripartite deal was agreed, but Hamilton’s actions seem to have united Montgomery and O’Neill for a time. Even though Con’s life had been spared and his Royal Pardon had been granted, and Hugh Montgomery had secured substantial lands in County Down, they had both lost out on their original deal. The Hamilton Manuscripts, the Hamilton family’s record of the settlement, state that O’Neill and Montgomery left London together, travelled back to Edinburgh and Braidstane, and then across to Ulster. Con returned to a hero’s welcome in Castle Reagh.
Before leaving London, Montgomery had renewed his relationships with some of the King’s advisors and in doing so created an opportunity for his brother George to benefit in some way. George had been made Dean of Norwich by Elizabeth I, and after her death he was appointed as King James’ personal chaplain. Six weeks later, as a direct result of Hugh’s influence on the Royal advisors, George Montgomery was made Bishop of Derry, Raphoe and Clogher on 13th June 1605 – the first Scottish bishop in Ireland. His portrait can be seen in Clogher Cathedral.
Hamilton, delighted by his own success, travelled to Dublin to present the outcome to Sir Arthur Chichester, “the most important Englishman in Ireland”. Chichester was aghast at the amount of land which had been granted by the Scottish King to his fellow countrymen Hamilton and Montgomery - perhaps because he wanted O’Neill’s lands for himself? If Chichester’s offer to Queen Elizabeth I (to hang O’Neill without a trial) had proceeded, he would have been in a prime position to confiscate all of O’Neill’s lands for himself. However the Queen was dead, and he had now been sidelined by the new King and his ambitious Scottish associates.
The relationship between Hamilton and Montgomery from this point on has been described as “mutual hatred”. These two Ayrshire neighbours, the minister’s son and the Laird’s son, who had grown up only five miles from each other, were now bitter rivals for supremacy in Ulster. Perhaps their rivalry and determination were factors in the unprecedented success of the settlement.
negotiations and the Gunpowder Plot
On 5th November, 1605, Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot was foiled and he was arrested. An emergency session of the King’s Privy Council was held early that morning, and Fawkes was brought in under arrest. When questioned by the King and the Privy Council (all of whom had originally been with James at his court in Scotland) as to how he could conspire such a hideous treason, Fawkes replied that his intentions were “...to blow the Scotsmen present back to Scotland...”.
Fawkes and the other conspirators were found guilty and were hung, drawn and quartered in London in January 1606. If the Gunpowder Plot had succeeded in killing the King and replacing him with a new monarch, the Hamilton & Montgomery Settlement may never have happened at all, and neither would James’ Plantation of Virginia in 1607, his Plantation of Ulster in 1610, and his Plantation of Nova Scotia in 1621. The course of modern history would have been radically altered.
King James’ “Union of the Crowns” policies continued, and on 12 April, 1606, he issued a proclamation announcing a new flag for his combined kingdoms.
new areas now assigned, Hamilton and Montgomery sent communications to Scotland
to find willing tenants to farm the lands. Both men convinced their extended
families to join them in the settlement scheme and, in May 1606, the first waves
of settlers - farmers, stonemasons, builders, carpenters, textile workers,
merchants and chaplains - sailed across the narrow channel of water and arrived
in Ulster to form the backbone of the new Ulster-Scots community there.
They were wise to begin the Settlement in May; even today the North Channel can be a difficult crossing during the winter months. This also gave them a full summer to prepare for their first winter, always the most difficult time of year in a new land, never mind a land which was as devastated as east Ulster was.
they come from?
The sea crossing was not as much of a challenge as we might think. Travel today to where many of the settlers came from - the Ayrshire coast near Ardrossan and Largs - and look across to Arran, Bute and Kintyre. If you travel along the coastal road from Stranraer towards Dumfries you’ll see it again – narrow stretches of water with outcrops of land, peninsulas and large islands just a boat trip away. These people were familiar with short sea crossings, it was part of their culture. (In fact, the crossing from Portpatrick to Donaghadee is shorter than the crossing from Ayr to Campbeltown on the Mull of Kinytre.)
the settlers find when they arrived?
The Montgomery Manuscripts famously record that “...in the spring time, Anno. 1606, those parishes were now more wasted than America... 30 cabins could not be found, nor any stone walls, but ruined roofless churches, and a few vaults at Gray Abbey, and a stump of an old castle in Newton, in each of which some Gentlemen sheltered themselves at their first coming over…”. Sir Brian O’Neill’s scorched earth policy of 1572 had been highly effective.
So the settlers started work, repairing the few ruined stone buildings which remained and preparing the lands for farming. Montgomery had “a low stone walled house” built near the harbour at Donaghadee and sent both the building materials and workers over from Scotland. This house is believed to be the original building on the site of The Manor House in Donaghadee today.
Next he repaired the stump of the old Castle in Newtown (Newtownards) - Castle Gardens Primary School and the new CastleBawn retail development in Newtownards are both references to Hugh Montgomery’s repaired castle. Next were the adjacent Newtownards Priory ruins, for which he imported timber from Norway and slates from Scotland. He doubled the Priory in size and added the bell tower. He built a “great school” in Newtown to teach Latin, Greek and Logicks, including a green where the students could play golf, football and archery.
Montgomery acquired lands at Grey Abbey in 1607, “wholly repaired” the Abbey and installed Rev David McGill of Edinburgh as Curate there. Grey Abbey and Newtownards Priory survive to this day and are maintained by the Environment & Heritage Service.
the Settlers live?
The main landholders built stone houses for themselves, whilst the smaller tenants built cottages from sods and saplings, with rushes for thatch and bushes for wattle. Wood was cut from the forests in the Lagan Valley and was transported to the new settlement to help in the building of houses and farms.
back in Scotland... The Fight of the Earls!
Yet events back home don’t seem to have disturbed Hugh Montgomery’s planning and he forged ahead with the new Ulster settlement. His brother, the newly appointed Bishop of Derry, Raphoe and Clogher - George Montgomery - arrived in west Ulster in Autumn 1606, and copied what Hugh was doing in the east. He advertised his newly acquired church lands to Scots living in Glasgow, Ayr, Irvine and Greenock, and the first Scottish settlers began to arrive in Donegal and the North West in the spring of 1607. Around the same time other Scots started to arrive in Derry and Lifford.
every good man...
A market was established in Newtown, with Scottish merchants coming across the North Channel to sell their goods to the Ulster-Scots. Records say that many of these traders were able to travel to the market in Newtown and be back in Scotland for bedtime. Sir Thomas Craig, still regarded as one of the finest legal minds Scotland has ever produced, wrote in 1606 “every day I see a stream of emigrants passing over to Ulster from my homeland”.
May 1607 -
1607 - The Flight of the Earls
1610 - The Plantation of (the west of) Ulster commences
Hamilton was concerned with the plans for the Plantation. He travelled to England in October 1609 and May 1610 - as a result he purchased some of the lands in County Cavan which had been set aside for Scottish planters.
1611 – The
Plantation Commissioners Report
They wrote that “...Sir James Hamylton, Knight, hath buylded a fayre stone house at the towne of Bangor... about 60 foote longe and 22 foote broade; the town consists of 80 newe houses, all inhabited with Scotyshemen and Englishmen...”. The site of this house is now Bangor Town Hall and North Down Heritage Centre. Part of the permanent exhibition is the original 1625 Hamilton estate “Raven Maps”, drawn by Thomas Raven.
1613 - The
First Royal Borough, The First Presbyterian Minister
Yet the progress of the Settlement was not just physical, economic and political. One of Hugh Montgomery’s major tenants was Sir William Edmonston, Laird of Duntreath in Scotland. (His father, Sir James Edmonston, had narrowly escaped execution for his involvement in a plot to kill the young King James). Sir William moved from his Donaghadee lands to Ballycarry in County Antrim, and brought the 44 year old Rev Edward Brice across from Stirlingshire. Brice was the first Presbyterian minister in Ulster, arriving in 1613.
begins the next great chapter in Ulster-Scots history - the arrival of the
Presbyterian ministers - all rooted in the Hamilton & Montgomery Settlement of
1606, “The Dawn of the Ulster-Scots.”
Attraction of Ulster
For example, James Hamilton’s brother John acquired lands in County Armagh and founded Markethill, Hamiltonsbawn and Newtownhamilton. The Co. Londonderry villages of Eglinton and Greysteel were named after Sir Hugh Montgomery’s cousin and the head of the Montgomery family, the Earl of Eglinton, whose nickname was Greysteel.
The economic success of the Settlement, whilst good news for Ulster, was causing significant economic problems back home in Scotland. Huge numbers of tenant farmers had left for Ulster, particularly from the large estates in the West of Scotland. The Scottish Secretary of State wrote “...the West country people of the common sort do flock over in so great numbers that much lands are lying waste for lack of tenants...”. The attraction of Ulster was causing so much difficulty that the Scottish Privy Council ruled that no tenants were to migrate without their landlord’s permission. There weren’t even enough boats to meet the demand, and this allowed the shipowners to raise their prices. Again the Scottish Privy Council stepped in, to introduce fare controls.
The appeal of Ulster was to be a major factor in Scottish emigration for centuries. In fact, from 1650 to 1700, only 7,000 Scots emigrated to America, yet between 60,000 and 100,000 emigrated across the North Channel to Ulster. The Scots settlers seem to have agreed with Sir Arthur Chichester when, comparing the New World with Ulster, he said “I had rather labour with my hands in the plantation of Ulster than dance or play in that of Virginia.”
The Scum of
Blair wrote that “...the case of the people through all that part of the country was most lamentable, they being drowned in ignorance, security and sensuality... the most part were such as either poverty, scandalous lives...”.
famously wrote that “...from Scotland came many and from England not a few, yet
all of them generally the scum of both nations, who, for debt, or breaking and
fleeing from justice, or seeking shelter, came hither, hoping to be without fear
of man’s justice in a land where there was nothing, or but little, as yet, of
the fear of God... void of Godliness who seemed rather to flee from God in
… Or Worthy
However, Blair went on to write that “...among these, Divine Providence sent over some worthy persons...”. Stewart went on to write “...yet God followed them when they fled from Him...”, and The Montgomery Manuscripts record that “...among all this care and indefatigable industry for their families, a place of God’s honour to dwell in was not forgotten nor neglected...”. John Harrison, in his 1888 book The Scot in Ulster, wrote that “...Hamilton and Montgomery looked after the spiritual wants of the emigrants in County Down...”.
Faith and church life clearly played a significant role in the early Settlement in Ulster.
Right of Kings and The Geneva Bible
However across the water in Scotland, the Calvinism of the Presbyterians had been legally established in 1567, the year that King James came to the throne of Scotland. Thanks to Reformers like John Knox, Presbyterianism had won the hearts of the people. Many of the ministers who were graduating from Scottish universities, and many professors at the universities, were committed Presbyterians. Yet some of the Bishops within the Scottish Kirk were opposed to Presbyterianism and remained loyal to King James.
King James, as Head of State, was therefore also Head of the Established Church and he believed that Presbyterianism was destructive and anarchical. He was a firm believer in an idea known as the “Divine Right of Kings”, and as such was deeply unhappy with the popular Bible of the time, the Geneva Bible, which was used in the Scottish Kirk but not in the Church of England.
The reason for this was that the Geneva Bible included footnotes written by John Calvin, John Knox and other Reformers. King James saw these footnotes as highly dangerous - they opposed the idea of the “Divine Right of Kings” and encouraged resistance to tyrants. Because the Geneva Bible was so popular (there had been 144 printings of it between 1560 and 1644) James saw these footnotes as a direct threat to his position both as Head of State and Head of the Established Church.
So King James ruled the Geneva Bible “seditious” and made it a criminal offence to own one, and he commissioned a new Bible - the Authorised Version or King James Bible, stripped of these dangerous footnotes - with the intention that it would replace the Geneva Bible. The Authorised Version was first published in 1611, yet it would be 40 years before the Geneva Bible was unseated as the most popular edition. King James also worked personally on his own version of the Psalms, entitled The Psalms of King David, translated by King James.
He was assisted by Sir William Alexander, (left) the author of The Great Day of the Lord’s Judgement (Sir William Alexander will reappear in the next part of our story). The Authorised Version is rightly regarded today as perhaps the finest of all Bible translations, yet it is interesting to see some of the motivation which lay behind it. King James I’s ambitious desire to be Head of both Church and State were soon to cause great turmoil in Scotland and Ulster.
Two Ministers Arrive
Next, in 1615, Sir James Hamilton brought Rev Robert Cunningham to Holywood; he had formerly been a chaplain to a Scottish regiment under the Earl of Buccleugh in Holland, and married one of Sir Hugh Montgomery’s daughters. Then events in Scotland took a serious turn for the worse for the Presbyterians.
Articles of Perth
Wave of Ulster-Scots Ministers
Ministers of the era, listed in The Hamilton Manuscripts and the Ulster
Visitation Book of 1622, include:
These ministers were theologically Presbyterian and were welcomed by the Ulster-Scots settlers, yet they preached and worshipped within the Established Church and its buildings. The Bishops in Ulster tolerated the Presbyterians for a time, and perhaps even initially welcomed the influx of new people and new clergy. The Bishops were also flexible in the ordination ceremonies of these new ministers, and in fact many of the new Bishops coming to Ulster were Scots. Bishop George Montgomery was Sir Hugh Montgomery’s brother (he was transferred from Derry, Raphoe and Clogher in January 1610 to become Bishop of Meath). His replacement was fellow Scot Bishop Andrew Knox, formerly Bishop of the Isles.
During the reign of King James VI & I, at least 65 Scottish ministers served in Ireland, and 12 Scottish bishops, seven of whom were in Ulster dioceses.
Rebuilding of the Churches
of Con O’Neill & The Death of King James
On 27th March 1625 the other “ould King”in our story, King James VI & I, also died. In the months that followed, great religious revivals would sweep through the West of Scotland and East Ulster, through the work of the ministers listed above.
However, when King James’ son took the throne and was crowned as King Charles I in February 1626, life for the Presbyterians in Scotland and Ulster was to become worse than ever before...
(With thanks to Rev Dr Joseph Thompson of the Presbyterian Historical Society for his assistance with this article)
the key to the revivals was this: “...it was distinctly traceable to those
ministers who had suffered for their faith under James VI...”
Rev Castlelaw’s neighbour and colleague Rev David Dickson from Irvine had been banished to the north of Scotland in January 1622 for his opposition to King James’ “Five Articles of Perth”. However he was allowed to return to Ayrshire in June 1623 thanks to the support of Sir Hugh Montgomery’s cousin and head of the Montgomery family, the Earl of Eglinton (above), and in particular the Earl’s wife Anna. Eglinton Castle became a refuge for many of Scotland’s persecuted Presbyterian ministers. Dickson began a weekly service in Irvine on Monday mornings, and within a few weeks thousands of people were flocking from all over Scotland to listen to his preaching.
Dickson was soon joined by Rev Robert Blair, the man Sir James Hamilton had brought to Ulster to become the minister in Bangor. The revival swept across the entire Stewarton parish, along the valley where the Annick Water or Stewarton Water runs and into the homelands of Hamilton and Montgomery. The Stewarton Revival lasted until around 1630, and its impact was to be felt for generations to come - the entire region would soon become a hotbed of Covenanter resistance to the Established Church.
SixMileWater, 1625 - 1634
Crowds flocked to hear Glendinning, who was soon joined by Rev Josias Welch (Templepatrick - John Knox’s grandson), and then in turn by Rev John Ridge (Antrim), Rev Robert Blair (Bangor), Rev Robert Cunningham (Holywood) and Rev James Hamilton (Ballywalter).
They established a monthly lecture meeting in Antrim on the last Friday of the month, in the house of a Scots settler called Hugh Campbell, which lasted from 1626 - 1634, and was attended by large crowds of Ulster-Scots. Religious revival swept the region. Glendinning left the area, and additional help then came to Sixmilewater in the form of Rev Henry Colwert (Oldstone), Rev George Dunbar (Larne) and in 1630 by Rev John Livingstone (Killinchy). Of these ministers, Cunningham, Blair and Livingstone had all been brought to Ulster by Sir James Hamilton.
In October 1632, Rev John Livingstone wrote to Anna, Countess of Eglinton (she had been involved in the Stewarton Revival) to tell her that there were crowds of around 1500 people regularly attending the communion services in Ulster.
3. Kirk O’
In return for their help they asked him to hold a large communion service at Shotts on Sunday 20th June 1630, attended by other ministers of their choosing. The same familiar group of ministers were invited - Rev Robert Blair, Rev David Dickson, the renowned Rev Robert Bruce (Edinburgh) and a young John Livingstone (aged 27, the chaplain to his future wife’s close relative Sarah Maxwell, Countess of Wigtown, but not yet ordained as a minister). The service attracted an enormous crowd, who remained at the church overnight, singing psalms and praying.
The next day the young Livingstone was due to preach a sermon, but he became nervous and tried to run away. However he returned and preached in the churchyard (below) to the assembled crowd for an hour and a half when a heavy rain shower began, but he preached on through for another hour regardless. 500 people in the crowd were converted.
1620 – 1630
1622 - The
Marriage of Hugh Montgomery & Jean Alexander
Hamilton & Montgomery Become Viscounts
Hamilton & Montgomery’s Land Disputes
Donaghadee, Ballymena, Ballygally, Killyleagh
of the Wives
1631 - 1636
suspension was lifted briefly following an appeal to Archibishop Ussher, (James
Hamilton’s former pupil in Dublin) but it was reinstated in May 1632.
the King’s Lord Deputy in Ireland (Thomas Wentworth, the Earl of Strafford) and
the new Archbishop of Canterbury (William Laud) were firm opponents of
Presbyterianism. Nevertheless, the suspension of the four ministers was lifted
in May 1634, but only for six months. In November 1634 not only were these
ministers suspended again - this time they were permanently deposed.
A Letter to
wrote to John Winthrop, Governor of Massachussetts (left) in July 1634, but due
to storms the attempted voyage was unsuccessful. However Winthrop’s son visited
Ulster in January 1635 and encouraged them to come to America.
of Hugh Montgomery
Ministers are all Deposed
of Hugh Montgomery
On the day of the funeral a great procession, all clothed in black, made the slow walk to the Priory. Carrying a large banner and large flag, the cortege of around 200 people included the Earl of Eglinton and scores of other noblemen who had travelled from Scotland to pay their respects. Even Montgomery’s bitter rival, Sir James Hamilton, was there.
Hugh Montgomery’s death was the factor which delayed the planned emigration to
America. Rev Blair’s wife and Rev Hamilton’s wife were both daughters of Sir
Hugh; Rev Livingstone and John McClelland were also related to Sir Hugh through
marriage. It is highly likely that they would have wanted to see their father,
father-in-law and Founding Father laid to rest before leaving for America.
On board were three of Sir James Hamilton’s ministers (Rev Robert Blair, Rev John Livingstone and Rev James Hamilton) along with Sir Hugh Montgomery’s schoolmaster and part-time minister in Newtownards John McClelland. With them was John Stewart, Provost of Ayr and 135 other Ulster-Scots emigrants, who had surnames like Campbell, Girwin, Brown, Stuart, Agnew, Calver and Summervil.
This was the first attempted voyage from Ulster to the New World of America. Adair’s Narrative records that Livingstone and Blair had reservations about the journey. However the Eagle Wing left Ulster and sheltered off the Scottish coast, first at Loch Ryan and then near the Isle of Bute, before heading out across the North Atlantic. Around 1200 miles from Ireland they were struck by “a mighty hurricane” which smashed one of the master joists and the rudder. Adair wrote “...there were no waves there, but mountains of waters...”.
After a stirring address from Blair, one of the crew volunteered to go over the side of the ship to fix the rudder, with a long rope tied around his middle. The repairs were made but the storm didn’t cease. Livingstone proposed that they should wait for a further 24 hours, and if it was God’s will He would end the storm and allow them to carry on; if not, they would take this as His sign to turn back. The storm continued, and they all agreed to turn back and head for Ulster. The trip home was completed in fine weather.
There were two deaths and one birth during the voyage, and on 3rd November 1636 the Eagle Wing docked in Carrickfergus. Sadly for Rev Blair and his wife Katherine (Sir Hugh Montgomery’s daughter) their baby son William died on their return to Ulster.
Scotland - for now...
(This article was originally published in The Ulster-Scot, August 2006)
The Ministers go back
As we’ve seen before, all four ministers had direct connections with Sir James Hamilton, who, according to The Hamilton Manuscripts, “...had secret friendly correspondence with the ministers and others that were persecuted for conscience sake; yea, some hid in his house when his warrants and constables were abroad looking for them...”
Blair lay low in Strandtown in Ballymacarrett, East Belfast (one of Hamilton’s estates), in the house of an Archibald Miller, and preached every Sunday during the winter months. However in February 1637 a Mr Frank Hill of Castlereagh, on a visit to Dublin, informed on the ministers – fortunately they were tipped off by an Andrew Young and they escaped across the North Channel to Irvine in Ayrshire, where they stayed with their old friend Rev David Dickson. Shortly after this, the remaining Presbyterian ministers in Ulster also fled to Scotland.
Rev Robert Blair went to minister to a Scottish regiment in France, then came back to Ayr, and then to St Andrews in Fife where he joined with the renowned Samuel Rutherford. Rev John Livingstone became minister in Stranraer, and on some occasions as many as 500 Ulster-Scots sailed across to hear him preach. Rev John McClelland became minister in Kirkcudbright; Rev James Hamilton became a minister in Dumfries and then Edinburgh.
King Charles 1 and Archbishop
Laud’s attempt to impose the Prayer Book upon the church in Scotland met with
outrage and fierce resistance from the Scottish population. On 23rd July 1637,
Jenny Geddes (Rev Robert Blair’s sister in law by his first wife) famously
hurled a stool at Dean John Hanna in St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh and cried
“Villain! Dost thou say Mass at ma lug?”, an act which forced the Dean and
Bishop to flee from the scene in the ensuing riot. The opposition from the
people was so great that the Bishop of Brechin had to conduct services using the
new Prayer Book with a pair of loaded pistols.
Back in Ulster, the King’s Deputy, the Earl of Strafford, was deeply concerned that the Ulster-Scots would follow their kinsmen’s example. Adair’s Narrative records that “...Deputy Strafford, then ruling in Ireland, being a man not only opposite in his principles to the course now on foot in Scotland, but of a severe and jealous temper, began to be jealous of the whole Scotch nation in Ireland, and particularly the North, suspecting that they were on the same design with Scotland...” (page 59).
Strafford was aware that much of the trouble in Scotland was linked to the ministers who had returned there from Ulster - ministers who had lived on the estates of Sir James Hamilton and the late Sir Hugh Montgomery. Adair wrote that “...these two Scotch Lords (Ards and Claneboye)... found themselves and their estates in hazard...” (page 59)
The penalties for not taking
the Oath were severe; a report from the time said:
Strafford had met with the
Scottish Lords in Ulster
a few months previously at Montgomery’s home. Perhaps in today’s language we
would say that Strafford made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. Under
pressure, Viscount Clandeboye (Hamilton) and 2nd Viscount Ards (Montgomery)
signed the petition in support of The Black Oath. No doubt
wife - “Presbyterian Jean” - was furious. The Hamilton Manuscripts record how
Hamilton personally forced the aged and blind Rev John Bole to take the Black
Oath at Killyleagh.
1641 - Hamilton
Returns to Dunlop, Ayrshire
Clandeboye School is now used
as a Sunday School room for the church, and inside it is a memorial plaque with
the following inscription:
1641 - The Massacre
Adair also writes that the English were the primary target, and that the rebels “...first pretended a kindness to the Scotch nation in Ireland, and that their quarrel was only against the English that subdued them... but this was not to last long, for the Scotch neither expected nor found any kindness...”
At the time some estimated that 300,000 Irish Protestants had been murdered. Scholars now estimate that the figure was closer to 12,000, out of a total Ulster Protestant population of around 40,000*. The massacre had a massive impact upon the Ulster-Scots and Irish Protestants generally - and of course the name “P O’Neill” carries a significance to this day.
* statistics quoted from the
BBC web site:
Many other Lords in Ulster did likewise, including Sir William and Sir Robert Stewart in the Laggan area of Donegal, Sir William Cole in Enniskillen and Sir Frederick Hamilton. Even at this, the Scottish forces were often outnumbered by as many as 4:1 - it was clear to the authorities in Scotland that the Ulster-Scots needed immediate assistance.
The Scots Army Arrives
1640 – the first known
use of the term ‘‘Ulster Scots’’
On 8th October 1640 Radcliffe
This is the first known written record of the term “Ulster Scots”, used to describe them by one of their committed enemies.
(with thanks to Anne Smyth of the Ulster-Scots Language Society for sharing her research on Radcliffe, and to Dr Lawrence Holden for sharing his research on Strafford)
The effects of the 1641 Massacre were everywhere to be seen - once again County Antrim had been devastated by warfare, but thanks to the regiments raised by Hamilton and 2nd Viscount Montgomery, the damage to County Down had been limited. The Scotch Army “...found much of the country wholly desolate, except some parts of the County of Down, where there had been two regiments formed by Lords Clandeboye and Ards... but generally in the country, through the county of Antrim, all was waste...” Adair p 90
A Presbyterian minister was appointed to each regiment in the Scotch Army, and on 10th June 1642, the first Ulster Presbytery was established at Carrickfergus, made up of five of these ministers and four ruling elders.They were soon joined by the chaplain to Hamilton’s regiment (John Drysdale) and the chaplain to 2nd Viscount Montgomery’s regiment (James Baty). A sculpture in Carrickfergus town centre commemorates this event, as does the magnificent “Carrickfergus Window” in Church House, Belfast.
The reaction among the Ulster-Scots people to the new Presbytery, and their new Scottish defenders, was spectacular. There was a flood of applications for elderships from all over County Antrim (Ballymena, Antrim, Cairncastle, Templepatrick, Carrickfergus, Larne and Belfast) and County Down (from Ballywalter, Portaferry, Newtownards, Donaghadee, Killyleagh, Comber, Holywood and Bangor). The demand was impossible to meet, so in July 1642 the Ulster Presbytery wrote to the General Assembly in Scotland to appeal for help. Help came quickly, in the form of two very familiar individuals, both of whom were old colleagues of Sir James Hamilton.
1642 - The
Triumphant Return of Rev Robert Blair and Rev James Hamilton
Having been driven out by the Bishops just six years previously (after the failure of the Eagle Wing) Rev Robert Blair and Rev James Hamilton had a deep knowledge of the Ulster-Scots and their experience, because they had stood shoulder-to-shoulder with these people in the early years of the Settlement. In fact, at least one historian of the period has said that it was Rev Robert Blair who was in fact the real leader of the Ulster-Scots. Blair and Hamilton were soon joined by Rev Hugh Henderson of Dalry, Ayrshire, Rev William Adair of Ayr and Rev John Weir of Dalserf, Lanarkshire.
ministers issued a call for public repentance to those people who had taken The
Black Oath - to conforming clergy and congregations alike. Rev Blair oversaw
these repentances in Bangor, Donaghadee and Killyleagh, assisted by Rev
Hamilton. A national day of fasting was then held across Ulster on Sunday
November 27th 1642.
1642 - The
English Civil War
In November 1641 Parliament demanded that the King’s powers be reduced - in retaliation King Charles burst into the Houses of Parliament with 400 soldiers to arrest five leading MPs. However the MPs had been tipped off and had gone into hiding.
In Scotland, the wars against the Covenanters had been costly. King Charles was running out of money and he needed to raise funds, but Parliament refused his request for more money. The Covenanter Army then advanced south from Scotland and occupied much of Northern England. The situation was serious, and on January 1642 King Charles left London. Both the Parliament and the King then raised their own armies - the Parliamentarians and the Royalists - sowing the seeds of the English Civil War.
of the 2nd Viscount Montgomery
of Sir James Hamilton
(Gifford Savage, of the Friends of Bangor Abbey, recently showed me an old archive photograph of what is more than likely James Hamilton’s coffin and tomb within the foundations of Bangor Abbey building. Sadly the tomb is no longer accessible to the public)
No information about Hamilton’s funeral service is given in The Hamilton Manuscripts, but his rivalry with Montgomery lived on - in his will Sir James Hamilton threatened to disinherit any of his descendants who should marry a Montgomery!
Scotland’s Solemn League and Covenant
Against all the odds, the Ulster-Scots had succeeded - in forming their settlement in Ulster, their communities and a new church.
*from ATQ Stewart The Narrow Ground, page 38 - 39
I hope that this series of articles has interested you enough to now find out more about these stories, and more importantly to understand our own Ulster-Scots history and heritage much better. For too long we have forgotten our own story; we should be proud to learn it - and to share it with others.
Above all I would like to thank today’s Montgomery and Rowan-Hamilton families, who live at Greyabbey Estate and Killyleagh Castle respectively. They have been a great help and encouragement to me as I have tried to tell the story of their families.
In particular, I would like to thank Bill Montgomery, who has constantly reminded me that the power of the Hamilton & Montgomery Settlement story is as much about the achievements of those first pioneering “ordinary” Ulster-Scots settlers, as it is about the vision, ambition and legacy of our two Founding Fathers.