Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Cromwellian "Scheme to Transplant the Scots from Ulster", 1653

73C0AD51-64B9-4F7E-988B-7C1A1EF3D22C.jpg(NB: If you're reading this on Facebook, the original post is from my blog)

Here's another example of why 1600s Ulster was not a "Plantation Paradise" for the Ulster Scots. Cromwell invaded Scotland following the defeat of the Covenanters at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650. In 1652, his troops built a huge walled fort at Ayr (some sections are still visible today) in an effort to quell the troublesome Covenanter hotbed of south west Scotland. In 1654 Cromwell established a short-lived political union between Scotland and England.

On our side of the water, Cromwell's forces had also taken control, and a sizeable number of Ulster Scots were now under surveillance - because they would "neither promise nor give bond not to disturb the present Government". The Cromwellian authorities knew fine well that a fervent Ulster-Scots population, just across the narrow sea from their kinsfolk in Scotland (" two hours they may pass betwixt the headland of Cantyre and the coast of Ireland between Glenarm and Fair Foreland..."), spelled trouble.

The authorities decided that the coast was to be locked down, boats were to be seized, correspondence was to be intercepted. And people were to be rounded up.

KGB-like, they drew up a list of what might be called Ulster's most wanted, and proposed to arrest them and exile them to the farthest ends of Ireland - to Kilkenny, Tipperary or Waterford. The lists (at a glance I'm guessing probably 150 people, broken down into localities) are still available today. Many were men with military experience, others were leaders of their communities - and even the two great landowners of Co Down. Significant names include a Captain George Welch of Sixmilewater (perhaps a son of the minister Josias Welch, who was John Knox's grandson?), Hugh Montgomery III (Lord of the Ardes) and James Hamilton II (Lord Claneboy). I'll post more about the names sometime over the next few weeks.

The documents of the time (dated 24 April 1653) say "...we have some thoughts of transplanting some of the Scotch inhabitants into some of the towns of the South, if we can find the grounds to hold out for their removal, their number being at present almost equal with the English, which we judge very dangerous to be allowed..."

However, the deportations never happened.

But when Cromwell was replaced by the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, far worse was ahead for the Presbyterian Scots and Ulster-Scots - a 28 year period of overt and murderous state persecution. It began with almost every Presbyterian minister in Ulster being driven from his pulpit by armed troops, public executions in Edinburgh - and culminated in a period which would be later known in Scotland as "The Killing Times" when 18,000 would be killed, imprisoned or sent as slaves to the colonies. In its scant description of the period, a big local museum describes this as a time when "Ulster in particular recovered and prospered to a remarkable degree".

Aye right.