Archive for the ‘Garid Mac Manus’ Category

1608: An Bliadhna Dochartaigh

1 Bealtaine, 2008
Author: Garid Mac Manus
Issue: 25 – May 2008

1608: An Bliadhna Dochartaigh
The Rebellion of Sir Cathaoir Dochartaigh in the year 1608 was one of the most amazing rebellions and uprisings in Irish history. The bravery of Dochartaigh and the forces of rebels and Ceithearn or Kerne under his command played a vital part in the near success of the rebellion which came close to driving the Sasanach heretics out of Ireland once and for all.

The fact that English and pro-English writers and historians have played down the rebellion should make all true Gaels even more determined to honour it and commemorate those that fought in it. Had the Earls managed to return in time with Spanish aid then the Rebellion of Cathaoir Dochartaigh could well have ignited a war similar to the Nine Years War, but also with a far greater chance of success as England was totally crippled by her endless wars against Ireland, Scotland and Spain.

If anything, this rebellion and near revolution shows that after An Imeact Na nIarla in 1607, that Ireland was a powder keg ready to explode should proper help arrived from abroad.

The Clann Dochartaigh were a deeply Catholic clan that had played a big part in nearly every war, revolt, uprising and rebellion that took place in ire from the time of the Sasanach invasion of 1169. Their Tuath was in Inis Eoghain in modern Tr Chonaill, which is the most Northern part of the island. Cathaoirs father and uncle had led the Dochartaighs into war against the hated Sasanach under Aodh Mac Uidhir, Prince of Fear Manach in the 1580s and 1590s and into open widespread national war from 1593 onwards in the Nine Years War that raged across ire.

After the defeat at Cionn tSaile in 1601-1602, the Sasanach inflicted a terrible scorched earth policy especially in Tr Eoghain, Ard Mhaca, Tr Chonaill and of course Inis Eoghain. This was waged from 1602-1603 and left over 60,000 Ulster Gaels dead.
Inis Eoghain was one of the places worst hit, and with his father and uncle dead, Cathaoir now made peace with the Sasanach in late 1602 in order to save his clan from complete annihilation. After the war ended in late 1603, Dochartaigh was named the Queens Dochartaigh and given mock rank and status so that he would (they hoped) turn and fight the Neills and Domhnaills if and when they ever rose up in arms again.

But after the shock and surprise of An Imeacht Na nIarla on 14 Mean Fomahir 1607, the harsh treatment and utter disrespect which had been ongoing from 1603 became even more vicious and aggressive towards Cathaoir and his clan. The disrespect, dishonour and personal insults had grown so bad that by ibrean 1608, Cathaoir Dochartaigh could take no more and so rose up in arms against the Crown.

He first of all proclaimed himself The Dochartaigh and abandoned his English title of Sir. He then moved on Cl Mr fort in modern Dire which was the main Sasanach arsenal in Ulster. He gathered over 200 men and used the wife of the garrison commander along with the dead body of the Commander-Captain Hart- to lure the soldiers out of the fort before ambushing them. After leaving almost 800 Sasanach dead, the Gaels then moved quickly to take the now undefended fort at Cl Mr. They took it with ease two days later and moved off with over twenty cannon and artillery pieces and hundreds if not thousands of rifles, muskets and pistols along with a huge supply of swords and rapiers. This took place on 17 ibrean 1608.

Dochartaigh then moved fast southwards towards the new Sasanach settlement at Dire. Even though it was considered small by the Sasanach and had no walls, it was very well defended. On the night of 18 ibrean 1608 the Gaels attacked. Dochartaigh attacked from both sides with over 500 Gaels under his command. In what has been called, the First Siege of Dire, the Gaels over-ran the heavy fortifications in a matter of minutes leaving 200 Sasanach soldiers dead at their posts. The Gaels then moved throughout the city killing Sasanach officials and plantation undertakers; putting all to the sword. During the 18 to 20 ibrean, Dochartaigh killed and executed over 2,000 Sasanach males who were of military age and training as he knew that they would be used by England to fight him and kill his people. He personally killed George Paulet, the English appointed Mayor of Dire as he had insulted him the most. Dochartaigh then burnt the city to the ground, destroying the settlement and even burnt the library of the Protestant Bishop Montgomery. The burning of Montgomerys library was carried out because it was known to hold books of a heretic nature, despite the Bishops offer of 100 to keep them. The planters library was said to have held over 20,000 books. But despite all that, the Fall of Dire was a severe blow to the Sasanach and soon the rebellion spread throughout Ulster.

After the great victory at Dire, Dochartaigh now moved to retake Doe Castle. Using an ingenious ploy he got a shepherd to approach the garrison and tell them that there was a huge pack of wolves attacking the cattle and sheep. The garrison came out in mounted cavalry and between 50-60 of them were ambushed and killed by Dochartaighs men. Six of these dead troopers were very high up in the English establishment. Dochartaigh then marched in and retook the castle and restored it to the Mac Suibhne clan. This again was an ingenious move as it brought all of the Mac Suibhnes into the rebel ranks. It is also important to note that throughout the rebellion Dochartaigh openly declared himself to be fighting for the Catholic Faith as much as for Irish freedom.

Further good news arrived when Dochartaighs brother-in-law, Eochaidh g hAonlain, rose up in south Ulster, burning Ard Mhaca and Newry and killing 1,700 Sasanach occupiers in the process. After hearing of this, Dochartaigh marched into the heart of Ulaidh with 400 men in order to link up with Eochaidh g hAonlain with a view to invading the Pale and attacking Dublin. Together they invaded the Pale on 24 Bealtaine 1608 with 700 men.

They did incredible damage to the Sasanach in the Pale by destroying crops and livestock in revenge for the scorched earth policy and famine in Ulster from 1600-1603. It is said that tens of thousands of Sasanach died as a result of this destruction and that the Pale never recovered until the late 1630s. It was a fitting response for the destruction of Ulster from 1600-1603 and especially an Gorta Mr na hUlaidh during which an estimated 60,000 Irish people died.
However as the rebellion was raging in Ireland, the exiled Earls were putting pressure on the Spanish to aid the war in Ireland. Aodh Mr Nill met with the Pope and together they set about getting Spanish aid to the Irish Rebels. After a few weeks, the Spanish agreed and Irish soldiers were to lead the invasion force. The only problem was that the Spanish coffers were empty, which meant that it would take a bit of time before aid would come, but it was on the way. The Irish soldiers gathered at the Port of Corunna and waited for the sea winds to bring them home.

Dochartaigh and hAonlain spent from Bealtaine to Man Fomhair plundering and laying waste to the Pale. In late Man Fomhair news reached them that an enemy force was rampaging through Inis Eoghain and currently laying siege to Burt Castle, where Dochartaighs wife and children were holding out. Dochartaigh then gathered his men and marched back to Tr Chonaill to attack the enemy. Sadly, Cathaoir was too late. Burt Castle had fallen and his entire clan was almost wiped out. Luckily his wife and one of his children managed to escape the massacre. Unaware of this at the time and believing them to be dead, Cathaoir flew into a blind rage attacking Strabane on 1 Samhain 1608 with 350 Galloglaigh and killing 700 Sasanach planters after the town was taken. He then marched east into Tr Eoghain, attacking and burning Cionn Ardaigh or Kinard which was the home of the traitor, Sir Henry Nill, in East Tr Eoghain. Dochartaigh then rampaged throughout East Tr Eoghain attacking traitors and crown forces alike. Dn Geannain was spared only because it was believed that Aodh Mr Nill would not be impressed with the destruction of his hometown and castle.
Dochartaigh then marched back to Tr Chonaill in search of an enemy that would fight him. He surprise attacked and wiped out a force of between 800-900 Sasanach soldiers at Clan Manach that were to be used to attack the Gaels of tIarthar lba. Then on 19 Samhain, Cathaoir Dochartaigh with only 500 men launched an assault against a massive English force of 2,400 at Cill Mhic Ranin.

The enemy had two artillery pieces as well as cavalry and infantry. The Gaels were on the high ground West of Bile Cill Mhic Ranin. While the Sasanach were on low-lying ground with their backs to the bhainn Leanainn. The Gaels had completely surprised the Sasanach by their sudden appearance and savage attack. The battle raged bloodily for half the day and it looked as if victory would be with the Gaels again, until suddenly Dochartaigh was killed by a stray bullet fired by the enemy. After Dochartaighs death, the battle turned in favour of the English. Feidhlimidh Riabhach Mac Dhaibhid, Dochartaighs second-in-command, tried several times to recover the young Chieftains body but was eventually forced to withdraw with the rest of his force.

In the Battle of Cill Mhic Ranin, the Gaels lost maybe 200 while the Sasanach invaders are believed to have suffered 1,000 casualties. Feidhlimidh Riabhach Mac Dhaibhid then became Commander-in-Chief of the Gaelic forces. From late 1608 until 1610, the Sasanach waged a savage and bloodthirsty campaign of genocide and extermination across Tr Chonaill. The Gaels under Mac Dhaibhid now fought a ferocious defensive campaign. It took the enemy two full years to make it from Cill Mhic Ranin to Gaoth Dobhair and ilean Toraidh. This bloody march or invasion of West Tr Chonaill left tens of thousands of Gaels dead.

Elsewhere in Ulster, the war raged on until 1614, as the Sasanach attempted and failed to wipe out the Catholic Gaels. Mac Dhaibhid was caught and killed some time in late 1609 or 1610 while hundreds of rebels were executed in Lifear, Dn Geannain and other places. The extermination was still ongoing at the beginning of the Plantation of Ulster with Sasanach planters and colonists. The reason that the brutal and bloody war that broke out in ibrean 1608 lasted as long as it did until 1614 had as much to do with Sasanach savagery as it had with the Gaels determination to resist the murderous and genocidal campaign that was waged against them by the English.

As Ulster lay broken and bleeding, it must have seemed Gaelic Catholics were broken and crushed forever, yet in 1615 the Ceithearn once again rose in arms against the Crown.

As for Cathaoirs wife and only surviving son, well they took to the mountains after escaping the massacre of Burt Castle. They were viciously hunted by the Sasanach until they escaped to Spain in 1612. Cathaoir g and his mother and aunt were taken in and cared for by the Nills, with Cathaoir g becoming a solider and officer in Eoghain Rua Nills regiment in the Spanish army. Cathaoir g or Cathaoir of the Sword as he became known, landed with Eoghain Rua during the Filleadh Na nIarla on the 6 Iil 1642 at Doe Castle in Tr Chonaill in order to lead and continue the fight for Irelands freedom and independence.