Plantation of Ulster

From Academic Kids

The Plantation of Ulster took place in the Irish province of Ulster during the early 17th century. English and Scottish Protestants were settled on land that had been confiscated from Catholic Irish landowners in the six counties of Donegal, Coleraine, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Armagh and Cavan. It was the last and most successful of the Plantations of Ireland. It is widely considered that Ulster was planted in the way it was to stop any more rebellion as it had held out for so long against British attempts to control it compared with the other provinces.

After the Flight of the Earls, a power vacuum existed in Ulster, which James I of England and his Lord Deputy in Ireland, Sir Arthur Chichester, sought to exploit to consolidate English rule over Ireland. The existing inhabitants of the land were seen as disloyal, both because of their previous rebellions against English rule and because of their Catholic religion.

The plan for the plantation was highly detailed. An undertaker, or landlord, would be granted between one and two thousand acres (4 and 8 km²) of land. In return for this land, he would undertake to settle 24 British males on every thousand acres (4 km²), displacing the existing Irish inhabitants completely. He would also have to build defences against a possible rebellion or invasion. The settlement was to be completed within three years. In this way, an entirely new community composed entirely of loyal British subjects would be created.

This plan proved to be unrealistic. Because of political uncertainty in Ireland, and the risk of attack by the dispossessed Irish, the undertakers had difficulty attracting settlers (especially from England). This meant that they were forced to keep Irish tenants, destroying the original plan of segregation between settlers and natives. In an attempt to rescue the plantation, the twelve great guilds and livery companies from the City of London were coerced into investing. This they did, giving the city and county of Londonderry its name.

By the time of the 1641 Rebellion, there were an estimated 40,000 planters, mostly Scottish, in Ulster.

Even four hundred years later, the Plantation of Ulster remains a controversial topic in Ireland, as it relates directly to the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Although it is occasionally stated to be otherwise, many Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland are actually descended from the Planters, and many Protestants from native Irish families, as evidenced by their surnames.

The plantation of Ulster and the Scottish border problem

Most Scots came from West Scotland but many also came from the unstable regions along the border with England, and it was thought by moving Borderers to Ireland, that it would both solve the Border problem, and tie down Ulster. This was of particular concern to James VI of Scotland when he became King of England, since he knew Scottish instability could jeopardise his chances of ruling both kingdoms effectively. Scotland had its own parliament for most of the 17th century, and was substantially independent, even setting its own colony up in Darién.

However the descendants of the Presbyterian planters played a major part in the 1798 rebellion against British rule.

Not all of the Scottish planters were Lowlanders however, and there is also evidence of Scots from the south west Highlands settling in Ulster. Many of these would have been Gaelic speakers like the Irish, and continuing a centuries old exchange.

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