End of a Line of Princes
The O'Cathain bard laments the pasting of his great chief. Sir Donnell O'Cathain's death brings an end to the line of O'Cathain Chiefs of Ulster and the twilight of Gaelic Ulster. The last bastion of the Gaelic world, Ulster was to become the most anglicised of all.
The events leading to this moment, resulted from the events in the year of 1607, The Flight of the Earls was to become a significant turning point in what was to be the final reduction of Gaelic Ulster. These events were the beginning of the end for the Great Houses of the UI Neill, not only for those who had fled but also for those who remained. Donnell O'Cathain was not onboard the ship that slipped out of Lough Swilly on the night of 14th September 1607. The reason for this is explained in the relationship between O'Neill and O'Cathain at the beginning of 1605.
Donnell O'Cathain claims, where well founded and morally justified, in relation to ownership of the lands of Coleraine, unfortunately he had become an obstacle to the wider plans of the Crown. The government had become suspicious and wary of O'Cathain, either by implication in the plotting of the Earl of Tyrone or by his opposition to the progress of the Reformation in his territory.
King James I and council at Whitehall on the 24th of January 1607 write to the Deputy Chichester as follows:
"It remaineth now that we say something to you concerning our intention to bring either McMahon or O'Cahane to reason if they stand out to open contempt; first, that as far as may be without dishonour, you do draw them to obedience by shaking the rod over him, rather than by engaging His Majesty's martial power; next, in case that fail, and thereby the notoriety of their refusal give ill example to others, His Majesty is pleased you shall use your discretion in ranging them to conformity by drawing down some force upon them." Hence, already a notable number of individuals were waiting for O'Cathain to make a mistake and so provide evidence for his conviction and forfeit of his ancient lands.
The protestant Bishop of Derry, signalled his contempt for O'Cathain when he remarked that "I will not trust you; for I know that one bottle of aquavitae ( whiskey) will draw you from me to the earl"
Sir Arthur Chichester, a once formidable enemy of O'Cathain, retorted of him in a letter dated 31st October 1609;
"Sir Donnell O'Cahane has ever been reputed a man true to his word, valiant but inactive as may be seen"
Similarly, the Rev George Hill regarded O'Cathain,
".as a man, however, of a fickle and selfish disposition, who would not brook disappointments, nor tolerate any superior on that territory he had come to regard as his own special inheritance."
O'Cathains future was looking increasingly bleak for "he no sooner ceased to be useful than be became obnoxious to the Government." Yet his fate was close at hand for in February 1608 Donnell O'Cathain was arrested by Sir Thomas Philips and charged with treason. The records of the Crown arrested him for " sundry misdemeanours and great presumption of treason".
O'Cathain who seeing the enemies around him, was at his own request committed to Dublin castle. O'Cathain believing that by doing so he was showing his innocence of these charges, the dye had already been cast for O'Cathain, 1607 had seen the appointment of a board of commissioners and the lands of the O'Cathain Sept where earmarked for plantation by a group of merchants from the city of London. One observer commented.