Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hamilton & Montgomery - the Founding Fathers of the Ulster Scots

While I was in Washington, I bought a book called "A History of Ireland" by Peter and Fiona Somerset Fry. I was delighted to see the following (brief) account of my two favourite Scots - James Hamilton and Hugh Montgomery - and their settlement of east Ulster which began in May 1606. (it only cost me $7.98 - that's the sort of book bargain that Colin Maxwell is famous for!)

"...(King) James also gave his support to two Scottish adventurers, Hugh Montgomery and Sir James Hamilton, who were busily engaged in private colonization schemes in south Antrim, north Down and the Ards. The country around Belfast was almost uninhabited when they took over; in the campaigns of 1602 and 1603 Chichester had, by his own admission, killed all the Irish he came across, irrespective of sex or rank. There was no-one left to remove; and when the two Scots acquired the greater part of the O'Neill estates at Clandeboy, in Down, they were able to offer leaseholds of untrammelled wilderness to their Lowland Scottish countrymen, whom they brought over in large numbers. Both Hamilton and Montgomery were capable, energetic and on the spot; brilliant organizers who rebuilt old towns, founded new ones, established markets, built mills and harbours and set up industries. Within a generation, Scottish settlers had transformed Antrim and Down with their prosperous, peaceful and God-fearing settlements..."

I took a bit of stick during 2006 for over-emphasising the importance of Hamilton and Montgomery's achievements. Their story has for generations been completely ignored, and is often left out of mainstream Irish/Scottish/Ulster history books.

So it's a real boost to see them included in "A History of Ireland", and in the sort of glowing terms that even I might not have had the confidence to write!!