Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ardstraw and the Scot Settlement



Some history of the Parish of Ardstraw will give a better feel for the area where 'Loves' and 'Killens' lived. It is a parish of about 10 miles by 15 miles comprising about 32,000 acres. Some of this area is composed of bogs and mountains and is unsuitable for farming. The residing Earl of Abercorn was very fair in this regard and the tenants were not charged rent on the land that was not arable. The arable land along the rivers is very fertile.

Harry Avery's Castle
Ardstraw Parish has records of habitation back in the 9th century when there was a Monastery in the area. In 1397 the Lord Archbishop stayed at Ardstraw Village on a Visitation. Ardstraw was part of the area of land controlled by the O'Neill clan. In 1999 there are still ruins of Harry Avery's Castle at Newtownstewart. His actual name was Henry Aimbreidh O'Neill and he died in 1392.

In the 16th century the population of the whole of Ireland wasn't more than 500,000 people. In the Ardstraw area there were practically no roads. However, there was a bridge at Ardstraw Village in 1564, indicating it was a place of some importance. The Ardstraw Bridge was where the chiefs of the O'Neill and O'Donnell clans signed a peace treaty in 1564.

The bridge at Castlederg was not built until 1609 and the ones at Lifford and Derry were not even there in 1690. The rivers were crossed by fords or, in the case of the larger rivers, were crossed by ferry. The land was completely rural and even Strabane was only a tiny village of about 30 families.

Armstraw Bridge over the River Derg
In those days, life was centered on thefamily and survival. There was not a national concept of Ireland as a united country. The history was one of individual Irish Chiefs fighting each other for control of land and cattle. By the late 16th century Ardstraw was inhabited mostly by Irish of the O'Neill Clan. 

Turlough Looney O'Neill was Chief of the Clan from 1567 to 1595 and made his headquarters at the village of Newtown which later became known as Newtownstewart. His wife was Lady Agnes Campbell, daughter of Archibald Campbell, 4th Earl of Argyle in Scotland. At one time O'Neill employed as many as 3,000 Scottish mercenaries, mostly highlanders from the Islands.

Culture and religion in the 16th century in all of Ireland and certainly in Ardstraw was at an extremely low level compared to England and Europe. The Church which had been continuous since St. Patrick's time was undergoing a transition. The Reform movement of the mid 1500s, with it's adherence to the Book of Common Prayer, was throwing religion into turmoil. Just as in England the swings from Catholicism to Protestantism and back created utter confusion. The clergy were not properly trained and in Ireland it was worse because many of the clergy could not speak Irish.

Arrival of Scots in County Tyrone

The Plantation of Ulster (Irish: Plandáil Uladh) was the organized colonization (plantation) of Ulster by people from Great Britain. Plantation by King James I of England began in 1609. All land owned by defeated Irish chieftains of the O'Néill and O'Domhnaill (along with those of their supporters) was confiscated and used to settle the colonists. This land comprised an estimated half a million acres.

James Hamilton
King James I asked for applicants for land grants in Ireland who would be called undertakers. James Hamilton, who was the first Earl of Abercorn, was granted 3,000 acres on the east side of the River Foyle and extending down the west side of the Mourne River. The river valleys are extremely fertile. He started to build a castle and bawn at Strabane which was part of the agreement. A castle was really a building that could be defended and a bawn was an enclosure around the castle which could contain the animals in case of attack. These castles weren't what we envision as a castle. They were about three storeys high and built of stone.

Part of the agreement was that all native Irish had to be expelled. These native Irish had leased the land from the Earl of Tyrone who had fled the country. They could not be hired or they could not intermarry. This was modified later and Hamilton could lease land to Irish as long as they were dispersed and did not form a large group to be a threat to the Scottish settlers. Some intermarrying occurred even though it was illegal.

The King had several surveys made to assess the progress of the endeavor. By 1613 they reported 220 families living in County Tyrone which represented 770 adults. Of these 220 families, 170 of them were on the settlements of either James Hamilton or his brother George Hamilton. The survey at this time did not show any Loves.

The years between 1613 and 1619 were the height of the planting of Scot settlers in County Tyrone. Between 1611 and 1614 only 15 Scots were granted Denization (citizenship). But between 1615 and 1616, 336 were granted Denization. The peak year was 1617 when 170 were granted Denization. The first Love settler, a William Love, settled in County Tyrone at this time.
The diligent research of Mr. Linton E. Love is the source for much of the foregoing description of life in Ardstraw and the Scot settlement.

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