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Plantation of O'Cahans lands

O'Cahan Lands in 1608

A Snapshot on the state of lands, of the O'Cahans was provided In October, 1608, an English government report on the plantation of the County of Coleraine, mentioned that the chief septs that inhabit the Couny are the O'Cahans and under them the O'Mullans, the Magilligans and the McCloskeys. The report names the principal places to be cared for as a castle of Limavady, Enagh, Coleraine and Dungiven, and mentions that most of them are ruinous and out of repair.

The Role of the London Companies

Planning for the Plantation of Ulster was stimulated by the Flight of the Earls in 1607 and the fear of their return with a foreign army. The initial survey of confiscated lands in 1608 was undertaken, after this the King had to secure adequate funding for such a large project, with plans to colonise six of the counties of Ulster. With Donnell O'Cahan underarrest, and his lands seized by the crown

To ensure that substantial private funding was invested in an early version of a private-public partnership. A large tract of land consisting mainly of what was known as "O'Cahan's country" was set aside to lure investment by a syndicate of 12 London Companies which later became known as 'The Honourable The Irish Society'.

'O'Cahan's country' was chosen because of its abundant natural resources, raw hides, tallow, beef and iron ore. The fishing stocks of the Bann and the Foyle were an additional allurement, offering vast quantities of eel and salmon. Just as enticing for the London Companies, however, were the region's vast forests, at a time when the production of pipe staves was critically important to the economic development of England as a maritime nation. Despite the enticement of prospective riches, it was by no means certain that the London Companies would jump at the opportunity offered. Lingering fears that the Earl of Tyrone would return from the continent and overthrow the Plantation were widespread.

To the great relief of James I, London Companies were persuaded to become involved. At the outset, considerable initial investment in buildings and equipment was required. At first, rapid progress was made. Sir John Davies, an eyewitness, memorably drew a classical allusion having observed building work at Coleraine during the summer of 1610. Commenting on the 'ferment of activity', Davies compared the scene to the building of Carthage in Virgil's ancient classic, The Aeneid.

The agreement reached with the crown required the London company to build a town of 60 houses at Derry and one of 40 at Coleraine. The grant of lands to the London company was the whole of the county of Coleraine, with the barony of Loughinsolin, containing the great woods of Glenconkeyne and Killetragh, and areas west of the Foyle near Derry and east of the Bann near Coleraine, thus creating the present county of Londonderry. The lands allocated to the Vintners, Drapers and Salters lay in South Derry, with present day towns having such names has Draperstown and Saltersland. The lands of the Grocers and Goldsmiths lay to the east of the City of Derry. The Haberdashers' estates had its centre in the northern part of Derry where a castle was built at Ballycastle and occupied by Sir Robert McClelland. Across the River Roe in the direction of Derry City were the fishmongers, whose centre was at BallyKelly. The Skinners had a large estate of which the main centre was Dungiven, where the former Castle of the O'Cahans was occupied by a Mr Dodington. The lands of Magilligan was occupied by the Clothworkers stretching into Killowen. Next to this came the estates of the Merchant tailors, whose centre was at Macosquin. Farther south still were the Ironmongers whose estates were in the Aghadowey and Garvagh districts.

The Native Irish Freeholders

On 16th August 1611, agents for the City of London, allocated 13 freeholds to the irish natives, five major freeholds and eight smaller ones. The five major freeholds were:

Captain Manus O'Cahan 2000 acres, lands in the parishes of Faughanvale and Glendermot near Derry.
Lady O'Cahan with her sons, Rory and Donnell Oge 1000 acres.
Cowy Ballagh McRichard O'Cahan 1000 acres lands were in the parish of Bovevagh near Dungiven.
Manus McCowy Ballagh O'Cahan 1000 acres lands were in Coleraine barony south of the Aghadowey river.
Tomlyn and Owen Keogh O'Mullan 500 acres were in the parishes of Cumber and Banagher.

The ordinary Gaelic Irish of the former O'Cahan lands had, in most cases, simply changed their landlords, but this didnot bring any comfort. With no security of tenure, their burdensome rents set by informal arrangements from year to year, and their status severly reduced to the level of serfs, the native O'Cahans yearned for a return of the old order. The change was felt most severely by the former O'Cahan Gaelic elite, especially those not classed as 'deserving', namely poets, musicians, hereditary 'ollavs' and Erenaghs. These O'Cahan Gaelic Irish were confronted by alien planters adhering to Protestantism and loyalty to the English Crown, far distance from their own beliefs and Clan loyalty. The greatest threat to the new order was the smouldering resentment of the native irish who worked and farmed with the settlers. In 1628 Sir Thomas Phillips of Limavady warned the Crown that 'it is fered that they will Rise upon a sudden and Cutt the throts of the poor dispersed British'.

The blundering policies of the English Crown was to see this prophecy come true and once again the ancient call of arms of the O'Cahan Clan to gather for battle.

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