Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Earl of Antrim and his Scottish tenants

There is a good article tonight in the Belfast Telegraph about Hector McDonnell, an artist who grew up in Glenarm Castle and whose father was the Earl of Antrim.

The article recalls some of the history of this old Ulster family and includes an important point about the Scottish settlement of Antrim and Down at the start of the 17th century.
The present Glenarm Castle, which sits within one of the oldest estates in Northern Ireland, was begun by the 1st Earl of Antrim, Sir Randal McDonnell,  in 1636.  McDonnell became an important figure in the Plantation of Ulster, settling his estate with large numbers of Protestants from the Scottish lowlands.
Sir Randal McDonnell was the leading Roman Catholic landowner in Ulster and yet he brought Scottish Protestants across to Ulster as his tenants.  This is an aspect of the Scottish settlement which is little known and yet these Scottish settlers were among the earliest Ulster-Scots.

The Belfast Telegraph article refers to 'the Plantation of Ulster', but the official plantation, which began around 1610, did not include Antrim Down.  Unofficial Scottish settlement had already started in Down in 1606, under Sir James Hamilton and Sir Hugh Montgomery, and that settlement has been described as the Scottish 'bridgehead' in Ulster.

The Scottish settlement is often portrayedby Irish nationalists and republicans as Scottish Protestants 'stealing' land from Roman Catholics but in the case of the later Scottish settlement under the Earl of Antrim, it was a wealthy and powerful Roman Catholic landlord who brought lowland Scottish Protestants across as his tenants on his estate.  That is a very different story and one that corrects some of the Irish nationalist narrative of that time.

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks for highlighting that about the BT article.

    This sort of heritage fascinates me.