‘Fort of the ships’: Dunnalong, 1568-1609

From about the twelfth century the Ui Meic Cairthinn were gradually squeezed out of north-west Tyrone by the Ceneal Moain, who were themselves being driven out of their homeland in Co. Donegal by the O’Donnells. The chief sept of the Ceneal Moain was the O’Gormley family. By the end of the thirteenth century the O’Neills had established themselves in the Strabane area, putting pressure on the Cenel Moain who were gradually pushed into the parishes of Donagheady and Leckpatrick. In the early sixteenth century Niall Conallach O’Neill controlled a territory, corresponding with lands in what became the baronies of Omagh and Strabane. In October 1542 his uncle, Conn Bacach O’Neill, was created first earl of Tyrone by the English government. A ‘mortal hate’ existed between Niall Conallach and Conn Bacach because the latter had been responsible, either directly or indirectly, for the deaths of four of Niall Conallach’s brothers. Niall Conallach’s son, Niall Og, received a district known as Ballynabraid in the northeast of Strabane barony following his father’s death. In 1562 he was murdered by two of his brothers, Turlough Luineach and Felim Duff. Turlough Luineach O’Neill was closely associated with Shane O’Neill, Conn Bacach’s only legitimate son, and on Shane’s death in 1567 he succeeded with relative ease to the chieftaincy of the O’Neills. He received the appellation Luineach from the family who had fostered him in his childhood

The castle at Dunnalong

‘Turlough Lynagh is fortifying Dunnalong, a new castle on this side [of] Lough Foyle’. With these words, contained in a letter of March 1568 from Terence Danyell, dean of Armagh, to Lord Justice Weston, the recorded history of Dunnalong begins. Danyell continued: ‘A lady cometh to him out of Scotland with power’. A few days later Danyell again wrote to Weston: ‘Turlough Lynagh abides always at Dunnalong by Lough Foyle and builds there a strong fort.’ Having just succeeded to the chieftancy, Turlough Luineach’s position was far from secure and he was concerned with potential enemies, particularly the sons of Shane O’Neill. The first few years of his chieftaincy were spent strengthening his own power base. The construction of a castle at Dunnalong fitted in well with this. It was a place of immense strategic value and was in all probability the site of an earlier, though less substantial, fortification. As a river crossing, its importance was centuries old. Directly opposite it in Donegal was an O’Donnell fort at Carrigans. The castle was also on the border with the territory of the O’Cahans in present day Co. Londonderry. In 1568, it represented Turlough Luineach’s only outlet to the sea which was vital to the Irish chieftain at this time. Dunnalong was the first castle built by Turlough Luineach, though he was later to build others at Strabane and Newtownstewart.

According to the military historian, G. A. Hayes-McCoy, Dunnalong was a customary landing place for Scottish galleys bringing mercenary soldiers to the Gaelic warlords of the northwest. Some of them would appear to have settled near Dunnalong for the old townland name Altnagalloglagh, now Sandville, means ‘the glen of the galloglagh’, with galloglagh being a word for Scottish mercenary soldiers. In the parish of Leckpatrick there is another townland with galloglagh associations: Lagnagalloglagh or ‘hollow of the galloglagh’. The desire for a regular supply of mercenaries was at least part of the reason why Turlough Luineach sought the hand in marriage of Lady Agnes Campbell, aunt of the earl of Argylle and the lady referred to in Danyell’s letters. This he successfully won and the subsequent wedding took place on Rathlin Island with the festivities lasting a fortnight. However, it has been suggested that the marriage did not bring all the benefits that Turlough Luineach had hoped for. In fact Lady Agnes seems to have been more concerned with establishing the sons from her first marriage, Donald Gorm and Angus, in the Antrim Glens than with providing her husband with an endless supply of galloglagh.

No drawing or plan of the castle at Dunnalong has survived and so what it looked like is not known. It probably took the form of an Irish tower house and as such it was one of the last major Gaelic fortifications in northwest Ulster. A description of Ireland, written in 1598, noted that in upper Tyrone there was a castle at Strabane plus other castles of minor importance. These were described as consisting of ‘high towers with narrow loopholes rather than windows, to which adjoin apartments of turf, covered with straw, having large courts surrounded with ditches and bushes to defend their cattle from robbers.’ It is possible that the castle at Dunnalong fitted, to some extent at least, the above description. The castle provided a focus for commercial activities and there are references to merchants trading from here in the later sixteenth century. One of these merchants was John Bath who was the earl of Tyrone’s chief agent in the Scottish trade.

Almost immediately Dunnalong acquired a degree of notoriety in the Gaelic world. In 1570, according to the Annals of the Four Masters, ‘MacSweeny Fanad, the brother of Hugh Boy Roe and McSweeny-na-dtuath were treacherously slain at Dunnalong in the presence of O’Neill by the Clann-Donnell Galloglagh’. The Annals do not provide any information on why these men were killed or even why they were at Dunnalong. However, it would appear that they were lured here under false pretences and killed by Scottish mercenaries in the service of Turlough Luineach with whose sanction the killings took place. Such actions would certainly have raised Turlough Luineach’s profile in northwest Ulster though, at the same time, they would have gained him new enemies.

In 1574, O’Neill’s castle at Dunnalong was visited by a force of English soldiers under the command of the earl of Essex. An account of this visit, which took place during an expedition into west Ulster by the earl, was written by Essex himself. Marching through Omagh and Newtownstewart, Essex and his men arrived at Lifford where they were met by Hugh O’Donnell and Con O’Donnell with their forces. From Lifford the soldiers ‘marched unto a castle of T. Lenoghe’s, standing upon Lough Foyle river, where, by my appointment, my shipping met me with some beer and biscuit, with which I refreshed the soldiers’. At Dunnalong Essex met with the O’Donnells and other Gaelic chieftains from Tyrconnell (now Donegal), and encouraged them to join with him against Turlough Luineach who was then out of favour with the queen. It has been suggested that the artist and engraver, John Derricke, may have accompanied Essex to Dunnalong and it was here that he encountered the Gaelic chieftains who were to feature in his book, The image of Ireland with a discoverie of woodkarne, published in 1581. Essex did not receive universal support from the Gaelic chieftains and whether he achieved at great deal in his few hours at Dunnalong is doubtful.

In the latter part of the sixteenth century Turlough Luineach was challenged for the supremacy of the O’Neills by his kinsman, Hugh O’Neill, who in 1585 was created second earl of Tyrone. In March 1590 Turlough Luineach complained to Queen Elizabeth that the forces of Hugh O’Neill (hereafter Tyrone) had attacked and ‘burned three forts called Bundenoid (Burndennet), Farsaid More and Cladache (Clady), with the castle of Dunnalong’. The attack on Dunnalong had taken place during the 1589 harvest and had been led by Richard Hovenden, one of Tyrone’s foster brothers. Turlough Luineach died in 1595, having resigned the headship of the O’Neills to the earl of Tyrone two years earlier. He was buried in Ardstraw. By this time relations between the government and Tyrone had completely broken down and the latter was in open rebellion against the Crown. Around him Tyrone gathered a confederation of Gaelic chieftains, the principal of whom was Hugh Roe O’Donnell.

Dunnalong and the Nine Years War

To begin with, the Nine Years War, as the conflict has come to be known, was a disaster for the English, with a number of serious defeats at the hands of the Irish. The English government realised that the only way to defeat Tyrone and his forces was to divide their attention and force them to fight on two fronts. It decided to send an army by sea to Lough Foyle, which would establish itself in the northwest and gradually wear down the Gaelic confederation in their own backyard. The man appointed to lead this force was Sir Henry Docwra, a Yorkshireman who had gained considerable experience fighting the Spanish in the Low Countries. While Docwra was expected to take on the forces of confederation in military actions, he was also instructed to find out which of the Gaelic chieftains were dissatisfied with the leadership of Tyrone and O’Donnell and could be induced to come over to the side of the English. Those chieftains who were believed to be wavering in their support for the confederacy included Turlough Luineach’s son, Sir Art O’Neill.

Departing from Carrickfergus on 12 May 1600, the English fleet entered Lough Foyle two days later, but because of poor piloting the ships became grounded several times and it was not until the 16th that Culmore was reached. Here Docwra decided to build a fort capable of holding 200 soldiers. Shortly after the English arrived in Lough Foyle, Sir Art O’Neill invited Docwra to come and visit him at his residence at Dunnalong. However, Docwra, reluctant to venture far from his base at Culmore, and having been informed that Dunnalong was ‘moist and unwholesome’ to build upon, instead invited Sir Art to visit him at Derry. It was at Derry that Docwra was to establish his headquarters and to it he marched with the main part of his force on 22 May leaving Captain Alford and 600 men at Culmore. On 1 June, Sir Art O’Neill and a company of foot-soldiers and horsemen entered Derry, only just escaping a force of confederate soldiers which was hard on their heels. Eventually Sir Art was able to win Docwra’s trust and the commander resolved to plant a garrison at Dunnalong as soon as the weather permitted.

The construction of a fort at Dunnalong

On the first day of July, Docwra, having decided that the time was right to establish a fort at Dunnalong, sent 800 men upriver in boats to the site of Turlough Luineach O’Neill’s former castle. Docwra himself accompanied this force. Landing the next morning the soldiers immediately began building a fortification. On the following day some soldiers foraging for wood were attacked by troops in the service of the earl of Tyrone who had moved 1200 of his men at Strabane closer to Dunnalong when the English had landed. Minor battles were fought all that day with the English driving back the earl’s forces and reputedly killing between 100 and 120 of his men. Tyrone responded by dividing his force in two and placing 600 of his men in camp between Dunnalong and Derry. However, apart from this he basically left the fort to its own devices. Satisfied that the fort was secure, Docwra left six companies of foot at Dunnalong under the command of Sir John Bolles and later sent 50 horsemen.

The fort at Dunnalong, like the forts at Culmore and Derry, was constructed with a strong earthen rampart surrounded by a ditch. The Annals of the Four Masters explain that this type of fortification was stronger than forts of stone or of lime and stone, and constructed more quickly. Docwra himself gave a good explanation of the purpose of these forts when he wrote, ‘one of the chiefest uses we intended these garrisons for was to make sudden inroads upon their country to spoil and prey them of their cattle’, upon which the Irish economy depended. In its immediate context the garrison at Dunnalong was expected to make incursions upon both O’Cahan’s country and north Tyrone. However, it was also true that satisfying the personal whim of Sir Art O’Neill was also a major factor in the establishment of an English garrison here.

Later in the summer Docwra wrote to his superiors that Dunnalong was really only taken to satisfy Sir Art, who wanted it to be a focus to which his followers could be drawn. However, much to Docwra’s dismay, many of the Irish came and went as they pleased, their submissions, it would appear, lasting only as long as it suited them. Sir Art, who lived with the English garrison at Dunnalong, was becoming increasingly troublesome to Docwra and continually pestered him for more money. Docwra angrily retorted by telling the discontented Irishman to earn this by doing something useful. At the same time, Docwra realised that, despite his failings, it was better to keep Sir Art on his side and give in to his demands.

A short time after this a rather unfortunate incident occurred in the fort at Dunnalong. For some time relations between the English soldiers under Bolles and the Irish followers of Sir Art had been deteriorating, though this is hardly surprising given the differences between the two groups, particularly with regard to language. Crisis point was reached when a major brawl broke out between the two factions, and in the ensuing fight an Irish soldier was killed. Sir Art was furious and demanded immediate justice; when this was not forthcoming he became even more angry. Docwra, concerned that in his rage Sir Art would take the life of an innocent man, withdrew the Irish chieftain to Derry with the intention of sending him to Dublin where, after meeting with government officials, his grievances would be redressed.

In other ways things were not going particularly well for the garrison at Dunnalong. Contrary to what might have been expected, the biggest threat to the English presence in Lough Foyle was not the armies of Tyrone or O’Donnell, but rather disease which swept through the garrisons with devastating effect. At the end of August Docwra wrote to Cecil, Queen Elizabeth’s chief government minister, that he could muster only 300 fit men in Derry and a further 400 at Dunnalong, and that out of a force of 4000. Precisely what this sickness was is not known but it was probably due to a lack of hygiene among the soldiers, possibly brought about by drinking water they themselves had contaminated. However, it has been pointed out that this level of sickness was not uncommon among soldiers at this time and troops stationed in camps were more likely to succumb to disease than those housed in towns. It was also recorded that a number of English soldiers were deserting Dunnalong and going over to the enemy.

On 3 October 1600, Niall Garbh O’Donnell, a kinsman of Hugh Roe O’Donnell, came over to the side of the English. Niall Garbh immediately made himself useful to Docwra by assisting with the capture of the castle at Lifford on 8 October. This together with a good recovery rate among the English soldiers put Docwra and his forces in a much stronger position by autumn 1600. Captain Willis, one of the officers with the expedition, had suggested in a letter despatched from Derry, presumably just prior to the capture of Lifford, that this fort would be a good place to take. Furthermore, he recommended that soldiers be taken from Dunnalong to garrison Lifford, with Dunnalong being left in the hands of one company as well as some merchants and others who would live there. The mention of merchants at Dunnalong is a further indication of its commercial importance, something that would have been encouraged by the large numbers of English soldiers stationed there. However, the proposal that the garrison at Dunnalong be reduced to one company would imply that there were those within the Lough Foyle force who did not regard Dunnalong as being of prime importance in the reduction of northwest Ulster to Crown control. At the same time, Willis did recognise that Bolles and his men would be reluctant to leave Dunnalong because of all the building work they had carried out there.

On 28 October, Sir Art O’Neill died at Dunnalong after three days illness brought on by what Captain Willis described as ‘immoderate drinking’. A realistic assessment of Sir Art would show that he had been of only limited value to Docwra and at times was rather troublesome. Nevertheless the governor trusted his Irish ally and called him a ‘faithful and honest man’. Shortly after the death of his brother, Cormac O’Neill approached Docwra, claiming to be Sir Art’s lawful successor and hoping for ‘good entertainments from the Queen’. However, soon after this Sir Art’s son Tirlough approached Docwra, and it was he, rather than his uncle, who was accepted by the Crown as the rightful heir. Because of his youth Tirlough was not of great use to Docwra, though the latter had high hopes for him.

A description of the fort at Dunnalong

A couple of plans of the fort at Dunnalong have survived and these give us a good idea of its layout. The fort was star-shaped in imitation of the fortifications which had been built in the Low Countries during the wars between the Dutch and the Spanish. As a veteran of these wars, Docwra had no doubt a good knowledge of their construction. Sir John Bolles’ house stood on the site of the original castle of which only the ruined walls remained. Surrounding it was a ‘faire 4 square ditch filled [with] water out of the ryver’, though whether this was a new construction or simply part of the original defences of Turlough Luineach’s castle is not clear. Beside the bridge leading to this artificial island Bolles placed two pieces of artillery as well as the main ‘corps de garde’ of the fort. It would appear that Bolles intended his house to be the citadel for the garrison, supposing a successful attack was launched on the fort and its ramparts breached.

A ‘great bruehous’, the construction of which Docwra had ordered in Ocober 1600 was sited right on the water’s edge. The brewery was built to supply cheap beer to the garrisons in Lough Foyle, something that was a major concern in the ranks. Certainly the Irish made their own beer which they sold to the English soldiers, but at exorbitant prices. The beer produced at Dunnalong was transported down river to Derry by means of a specially adapted horseboat. In the spring of 1601 a somewhat amusing incident took place involving the transportation of beer to Derry. The horseboat, laden with beer, was making one of its regular trips to Derry when a sudden squall arose. The boat was badly buffeted on the water and eventually overturned with the consequent loss of its cargo and was driven a mile below Derry. In an effort to retrieve the boat, Docwra sent some of his men to where it was grounded. The soldiers managed to secure the boat to the shore using a cable, but because of the intensity of the storm they decided to wait until it had abated before attempting to pull the vessel ashore. However, watching what was happening from the opposite side of the river were some of O’Cahan’s men. One of them, braving the storm, set off in a small boat to where the horseboat lay. Managing to cut the cable he drew it over to the eastern side of the river where he and his associates smashed it to pieces and then set it on fire, much to the chagrin of the English.

Within the fort was a market-place where the merchants traded with the soldiers and possibly also with the local inhabitants who had submitted to Bolles. The market-place would appear to have been an integral part of the fort, both because of its positioning and its extent. One of the drawings of the fort shows ‘certain cabans or lodgings’ which were located to the immediate north and east of the fort and which, although located outside the ramparts, were fairly secure, having the bog about them and also a ‘trench cast up for their safety’. The inhabitants of this ‘village’ may have been the local Irish and its origin may have dated from the time of Turlough Luineach’s castle. Alternatively, it may have sprung up in response to the revival of Dunnalong’s importance, following the establishment of a large English garrison there in July 1600. It may even have been where the merchants and their followers lived. At the same time the houses are shown as having chimneys, which at that time was a distinctly English feature. Apart from possibly Bolles’ house the buildings inside the fort would not have been of permanent construction. For example, the brewery was built using 2000 deal boards sent specifically for that purpose by a Mr Newcome[n]. This goes a long way towards explaining the virtual absence of any traces of the fort to-day. At about this time a muster at Dunnalong recorded the fort’s strength as being 1050 foot soldiers which is a good indication of just how large this garrison was.

The killing of Bishop Redmond O’Gallagher

At about this time an incident occurred which must have given the Dunnalong garrison a degree of notoriety. Being the last region in Ireland to be reduced to Crown control, the north-west was also the last part of Ireland in which the Roman Catholic Church survived with a least some kind of organisational structure. The Catholic bishop of Derry, Redmond O’Gallagher, who was about 80 years of age at this time, was a major figure in the confederacy and had made a number of foreign trips to solicit help for Tyrone and O’Donnell from Spain and the Papacy. This made him a prime target for the Lough Foyle force, the arrival of which must have hindered his activities. For around ten months he managed to evade capture. However, on 7 March 1601, Sir John Bolles was able to write to Cecil that O’Gallagher, ‘the first and general contriver ... with the Spaniards’, had been captured and put to death by soldiers from the garrison at Dunnalong. This force must have been acting on information received from an informer and Bolles, almost apologetically, explained to Cecil that the soldiers, in their exuberance at finding O’Gallagher, killed the aged prelate before he had caught up with them.

The expedition from Dunnalong that Ash Wednesday achieved a great deal more than the capture and execution of Redmond O’Gallagher. Bolles and his soldiers successfully engaged in fighting with some of O’Cahan’s men with whom they fought for five miles, killing between 80 and 100 of them and also capturing 80 cows. In this encounter the English suffered six casualties, only one of which was a fatality. They also captured an individual whom Bolles described as a ‘scholar’, perhaps a bardic poet or a brehon lawyer. The man was apparently of no use as a soldier and so Bolles decided to ransom him for corn and horses of which there was the greater need. This action would appear to have been rather unprecedented for Bolles actually apologised to Cecil as if he happened to be wrong in doing this.

The ‘Battle of Dunnalong’

Throughout the spring of 1601 minor raids had been carried out on the fort at Dunnalong, mainly attempts to steal some of the horses or cows grazing around it. Following the destruction of the horseboat, some of O’Cahan’s men, in high spirits, appeared outside the fort. Giving a ‘bravado’ they attempted to steal some of the horses belonging to the garrison and would have succeeded in doing this but for the swift action of Bolles and his men. These ‘subtle and desperate ambuscadoes’ by O’ Cahan’s men upon the garrison at Dunnalong continued for several weeks though without any serious consequence. However, in May 1601 an incident occurred which can perhaps be called the ‘Battle of Dunnalong’, even if it were only on a small scale. When Hugh Roe O’Donnell attempted to invade Inishowen in the spring of 1601, Tyrone had brought a large part of his forces to the Strabane area to cause as many distractions for the English as possible. Naturally his attention turned to the garrison at Dunnalong. On the day before ‘battle’ Tyrone and his men had made a minor raid on the fort and had captured some cows grazing near it. Buoyed by his success Tyrone returned the next day expecting to find more easy pickings. However, what he and his soldiers encountered this time was much more serious.

From his spies Niall Garbh learned of Tyrone’s intentions concerning Dunnalong. He then set out for Dunnalong with his own followers and with Captain Windsor and 100 English soldiers accompanying them. Arriving at Dunnalong this force gave out a great roar and launched a ferocious attack on Tyrone and his men who had been lying in wait a little way beyond the fort. The confederates were so taken by surprise that they were thrown into total confusion and immediately took to flight, leaving all their equipment behind, including a large number of Spanish pikes. The forces of Niall Garbh and Captain Windsor were joined by soldiers from the Dunnalong garrison and together they chased the confederate soldiers for six miles, killing many of them and nearly killing the earl of Tyrone himself who was often ‘within a stave’s throw’ of death.

Tradition has it that the earl’s chief pursuer was none other than Niall Garbh, who reputedly called after Tyrone to turn and fight if he were a gentleman. However, Tyrone, believing discretion to be the better part of valour, declined the challenge and probably because he was better mounted than Niall Garbh, managed to escape from the fearsome young warrior. At the same time, this must have been the closest that Tyrone came to death during the Nine Years War, and it would have been ironic had it occurred while attempting to steal some cows from Dunnalong, the old castle of his former rival, Turlough Luineach. In all, 300 of Tyrone’s men were killed in the encounter. One hundred of these were killed when the initial attack was launched, with eventually 200 more by the time the pursuit was called off.

As well as killing large numbers of Tyrone’s men in the fighting around Dunnalong, the forces of the Crown captured most of the confederates’ weapons and also thirteen of their best horses. Only one English officer and four English soldiers were killed. Sir Art’s son Tirlough, fighting for the English, was shot in the thigh, but recovered. From this time on neither Tyrone nor O’Donnell made another attempt to interfere with the English in their strongholds along the Foyle. With Spanish aid expected at any time it would appear that the confederate leaders had decided against attempting to drive the English out of Lough Foyle before the arrival of this help.

About this time a general muster of the army in Ireland was carried out. At Dunnalong it was recorded that there were 650 men, with 400 of these ready for the field. These men were divided up as follows: 150 under Sir John Bolles; 150 under Captain Floyd; 150 under Captain Badby; 100 under Captain Sidley; and 100 under Captain Bassett. These figures show that Dunnalong continued to be important in terms of garrison size, even if it was now used as a stopping off point for soldiers being sent into north Tyrone and western part of what is now Co. Londonderry. By the summer of 1601 the fort was no longer a frontier outpost on the eastern side of the River Foyle, from which the garrison was frightened to venture too far.

On 24 December 1600 the Battle of Kinsale was fought, the result of which was the decisive defeat of the forces of Tyrone and O’Donnell by Mountjoy. The Spanish troops surrendered and were allowed to return to Spain while O Donnell also went there to press for further help. As Docwra himself put it, following Kinsale, ‘the axe was nowe at the roote of the tree, and I may well say, the Necke of the Rebellion as good as utterlie broken’. However, it was a further fifteen months before Tyrone submitted, mainly because Elizabeth insisted that he be totally routed rather than surrender on his own terms.

Prelude to Plantation

The Treaty of Mellifont of 1603, which formally ended the Nine Years War, was surprisingly generous to the earl of Tyrone and he was allowed to retain most of the lands that had been granted to his grandfather, Conn Bacach. However, Tyrone found it hard to adjust to peacetime living and he was continually being suspected by government officials of plotting another rebellion. In 1607 he decided, along with Rory O’Donnell, the newly created earl of Tyrconnell, to flee for the continent. On his way to Rathmullan, from where he set sail, Tyrone stopped for a few hours’ rest along the banks of the Burndennet [10]. The government’s immediate response to the ‘flight of the earls’ was to place wards in a number of forts, including Dunnalong, which had been abandoned since 1603. The motivation for this was an attempt to ensure that any restlessness in the surrounding countryside as a result of the flight did not culminate in open rebellion. At this time Dunnalong was placed in the charge of Captain John Vaughan and a small ward of ten men, which in all honesty would have been rather ineffectual in the face of a major outbreak of disorder should it have occurred. Vaughan was from a family of Welsh extraction and was a veteran of Docwra’s Lough Foyle campaign.

In 1607 the fort must have been in rather poor condition, with the earthern ramparts overgrown and the wooden buildings within it in ruins. Quite what the status of Dunnalong would have been at this time is unclear, though the ferry must have remained an important feature. Certainly Dunnalong’s commercial significance must have declined sharply after the fort’s abandonment in 1603, since there was no longer a large English garrison with which the merchants and local inhabitants could trade. In April 1608, a rebellion broke out in north-west Ulster led by the lord of Inishowen, Sir Cahir O’Dogherty. Following the initial success of the capture of Culmore fort and the sacking of Derry, O’Dogherty and his forces set off for Lifford intent on capturing the fort there. When word reached Vaughan of the events at Derry he and his men, believing discretion to be the better part of valour, immediately fled to Lifford where they took part in the successful defence of the fort.

In the summer of 1608, Sir Josias Bodley was commissioned to carry out an investigation into the condition of some of the principal fortresses in the north of Ireland. He described Dunnalong in the following terms:

The great entrenchment at Dunalonge is more fitt to be raised than repaired, but the peece of ground within the same neere the river, which is held by the ward, having no other defence but a deepe and broad ditch about it at this time, if it were sufficiently walled on the inside of the ditch, which considering the stone at hand, and the small circuit of the place, will not cost above 150li. I shoulde it of good strength for a ward of 10 or 12 men, and capable of more if neede required [12].

However, even before Bodley’s report was finished it would appear that a decision had once again been taken to abandon Dunnalong. Arthur Chichester, the lord deputy of Ireland, was of the opinion that not all of the forts in Ulster were necessary, especially since they were such an expense to the Crown. He drew attention in particular to the ineffectiveness of the garrison at Dunnalong during O’Dogherty’s rebellion, and argued that wards had only been placed in Dunnalong and elsewhere in the aftermath of the flight of the earls ‘to amuse the country and keep them from sudden revolt’. Chichester believed that small forts such as Dunnalong should be granted out to suitable men in what can perhaps be described as a privatisation of defence.

Vaughan was the obvious man to be granted Dunnalong and this was recognised by those in authority for in 1609 the privy council in London recommended to Chichester that he be given the fort of Dunnalong (wrongly stated as being in Tyrconnell) and, in addition, two ballibetaghs of land - roughly 2000 acres - which were presumably in the immediate environs of the fort. Vaughan immediately began to make ‘provision of all materials necessary for building or repairing’ Dunnalong [14]. He was also keeping a wary eye on the activities of the London companies in County Coleraine (later renamed Londonderry) and was concerned that they might consider Dunnalong to be strategically important to them. Vaughan’s lands must have included a large part of the parish of Donagheady, but for some reason in early 1610 a decision was taken to include these lands in the large grant made out to the first earl of Abercorn who was to be the principal undertaker in the barony of Strabane. Vaughan was to be alloted lands elsewhere and on 19 February 1611 he was granted 1000 acres at Carnagilly in the barony of Kilmacrenan, Co. Donegal.

Bodley’s survey of 1609

As part of the preparations for the plantation, the government commissioned two land surveys to determine how much land was available for granting out to suitable candidates. The first of these, in 1608, was a paper survey and throws little light on the area that was to become the manors of Cloghogall and Dunnalong. The total acreage of land in Strabane barony calculated by the surveyors was a gross underestimation and only a few townlands were noted by them in the parish of Leckpatrick and what was to become the parish of Dunnalong. The following year a cartographic survey was carried out of the confiscated lands in Ulster under the supervision of Sir Josias Bodley. The maps produced were the result of interviews with the prominent men in each locality and not actual measurement. Consequently, the maps were not geometrically accurate and were further hindered by the fact that the surveyors calculated the number of acres in each townland as being sixty with the result that the recorded acreages were much smaller than the actual acreages.

Nevertheless, considering the dubious methods employed in drawing these maps, they are still of great value. The principal aim of the surveyors would seem to have been to locate the townlands in relation to each other and also with relation to the principal rivers, with some sort of indication as to where the mountains and forests were situated. With regard to the area north of Strabane, many of the townland names are easily identifiable to-day and there are a number of other features depicted on the map of this area which are of considerable interest. These include the fort of Dunnalong, the abbey of Grange, a small fort along the Burndennett river and the church at Bunowen. The last of these represents the medieval parish church of Donagheady and is the only one with any surviving remains. The fort along the Burndennett river was presumably the fortification referred to by Turlough Luineach in his letter to Queen Elizabeth in 1590 (see above). No representation of the church at Leckpatrick is depicted.


This chapter is based to a large extent on the author’s own unpublished dissertation, ‘Crown strategy in north-west Ulster: the expedition of Sir Henry Docwra to Lough Foyle, 1600-03’ (1994). The principal primary sources used in the writing of this were the Calendar of the state papers relating to Ireland, and Docwra’s own account, entitled, ‘A narration of the services done by the army ymployed to Lough Foyle ...’, in Miscellany of the Celtic Society, ed. by John O Donovan (Dublin, 1849). Other sources used include: Acts of the Privy Council of England; Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters, ed. and trans. by John O Donovan (Dublin, 1851); and Calendar of the Carew manuscripts preserved in the archiepiscopal library in Lambeth. Background reading to the period includes: E. Hamilton, Elizabethan Ulster (London, 1919); C. Falls, Elizabeth’s Irish Wars (London, 1950); and H. Morgan, Tyrone’s Rebellion (Dublin, 1993).


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