Britannia, by William Camden

The County of Donegall or Tir-Conel.

Big A ALL that remains in Ulster, towards the north and south, was inhabited by the Robogdii and Vennicnii. At present, it is call’d the County of Donegall or Tir-Conell, that is, as some interpret it, the Land of Cornelius; and as others, the Land of Conall; and accordingly Marianus calls it Conallea. The County is in a manner all champain, and full of Harbours, ⌈and is well-stock’d with British Inhabitants.⌉ It is bounded on the north and west sides by the Sea, and on the east by the river Liffer;Liffer, riv. and is divided from Conaght by the Lake Erne. Phil. Trans. N.314. ⌈The boggy and heathy Ground, in this County and London-derry, hath been much improv’d by Shells, which the Country-people carry away in Boats at Low-water, and, leaving them in heaps on the shore till they drain and dry, do then lay them upon their ground (with great effect and advantage,) instead of Manure.⌉

The Liffer, not far from it’s rise, spreads into a broad Lake, which contains an Island; and therein stands a little Monastery, near which is a narrow Vault, famous for I know not what terrible Apparitions, or rather Religious Dreams; and (as some foolishly imagin) dug by Ulysses, when he made his descent into Hell. The natives at this day call it Ellan u’ frugadory, that is, the Isle of Purgatory, and Patrick’s Purgatory.Patrick’s Purgatory. For some are so piously credulous, as to believe that Patrick the Irish Apostle, or some other Abbot of the same name, obtain’d of God by his fervent Prayers to make the People eye-witnesses of those punishments and tortures, which the wicked endure after this life; to the end he might recover the Irish from their sinful state, and the errors they then lay under. Seeing this place is call’d ReglisReglis Regia. in the life of St. Patrick, I am apt to think it the other † Athenry, in Louth. Ware.Regia in Ptolemy; for the situation is agreeable to the account which he gives of it. ⌈But to be somewhat more particular in the description of this place; Ware, Ant. p.99.The Vault or Cave was built of free-stone, and cover’d with broad flags, and green turf laid over them. It is in length, within the Walls; sixteen foot and an half; in breadth, two and an inch; and, the door being shut, there is no light, but what enters in at a little Window in the corner. In the Island also, are divers Circles, commonly called Beds, and denominated from several Saints; they are inclos’d with stone-walls, scarce three foot high, and are the Places where Pilgrims performed their Penance. The Cave was demolish’d as a fictitious thing, on St. Patrick’s day, in the year 1497, by authority of Pope Alexander the sixth; but it was afterwards restored, and visited frequently by Pilgrims.⌉

Besides this of St. Patrick, there is another Purgatory of Brendan in this Island. I cannot tell you the very place; and therefore take all that I could learn of it, in this tetrastick of Necham;

Asserit esse locum solennis fama dicatum
Brendano, quo lux lucida sæpe micat.
Purgandas animas datur hic transire per ignes,
Ut dignæ facie judicis esse queant

From Brendan nam’d a wondrous Lake is shown,
Where trembling lights along dark caverns run.
Here mortal dregs the purging flames consume,
And cleanse foul Souls against their final doom.

As the Liffer, enlarg’d by other rivers, draws near the Sea, it spreads into another Lake, which Ptolemy calls * * Logh-eagh, Ware. See Tir-oen.Logia, now Logh Foyle, and Logh Der. Hence Necham,

Lough Der aquis dives lacus est, Ultonia novit:
Commodus indigenis utilitate placet

Of thee, great Logh-Der, spacious Ulster’s proud,
And neighb’ring Lands commend thy useful flood.

Derry. Upon this, formerly, stood Derry, a Monastery, and a Bishop’s See; ⌈which had been first constituted at Ardfrath, and was from thence remov’d to Magher; and at length, about the year 1150, to this place.⌉ Here, in the year 1566, Edward Randolph (eminent for his long Services in the Wars) lost his life in defence of his Country, and did so entirely defeat Shan O-Neal, that he was never after able to make head.

But * * Lately, C.Sir Henry Docwra Knight, whose Valour and Conduct shone forth, to his immortal honour, in the Wars of Ireland, planted there a garrison, and afterwards a colony, to bridle the insolence of the Earl of Tir-Oen; which he settl’d in such order and method, that it † † Proves, C.proved an excellent defence against the Rebels, and a means to inure those barbarous People to their duty. ⌈It is now call’d London-derry, and annexed to the County of that name, and is famous in our Histories, for resisting two memorable Sieges, one in the year 1649, and the other in 1689; and it gives the titleBaron London-derry. of Baron to the Family of Pitt.⌉

The Robogdii, seated above Logia, possess’d all this northern coast; where O-Dogherty, a petty King of no great note, has the chief interest. Here, in Robogh,Robogh. a small Episcopal Town, are the remains of the old name Robogdii. As for the Promontory Robogdium,The Promontory Robogdium. I cannot tell where to fix it, unless it be Faire Foreland. From this rocky place, the shore winds back by the mouth of the Lake Swilly, which Ptolemy seems to call Argita.

Beyond this, to the west, liv’d the Vennicnii; which tract * * Is, C.was enjoy’d by † Mac Swyny Faid, Mac-Swyny Netoeth, and Mac-Swyny Bannigh, C.Mac-Swiny Fanid, Mac-Swiny Na-doe, and Mac-Swiny Bane; ⌈and here are still several Families of the same name (but now inconsiderable) who farm small Portions of Land, which were heretofore held in fee by the Mac-Swinnies.⌉ In these parts, Ptolemy places the river Vidua, now call’d Crodagh; and the Promontory Vennicnium, now Rame’s-head; and Boræum, now S. Helens-head.boraeum

As the shore winds back from hence, we come to a commodious harbour and road for Ships, at Calebeg;Calebeg. from whence the remains of Sligah-castleSligah. are still visible. It was built in the year 1242, by Maurice Fitz-Girald Chief Justice of Ireland, after he had reduc’d this part of the Country. But John Fitz-Girald, the first Earl of Kildare, was depriv’d of this castle, and of a great estate in these parts, and was also deeply fin’d, for raising a dangerous rebellion against the Earl of Ulster.

Lower down, not far from the mouth of the lake Earne, stands Donegall,Donegall. a Monastery and Town, which gave name to this County, when it was first made one. This territory † † Hath been, C.was govern’d for many ages by those of the family of O-Donel,O-Donell. who are of the same extraction with the O-Neals; without any other title than O-Donell, and Lords of Tir-Conell. For the obtaining of which, and of their popular election and inauguration with the accustom’d ceremonies, at a certain Stone near Kilmacrenar, they us’d to contend with great heat and bloodshed; till King James ⌈the first⌉ ¦ ¦ Honorariis his Letters Patents confer’d the honour, title, and stile of Earl of Tir-Conell, upon Roderick O-Donell, brother to Hugh the Rebel, who being banish’d, fled into Spain and there died. ⌈The title of Earl of TyrconellEarl of Tyrconell. was confer’d by King James the Second, on Colonel Richard Talbot, a most zealous Papist; and since the Accession of King George to the Throne, the title of Viscount Tyrconell hath been confer’d on a noted Family in England, of the name of Brownlow; but that of Earl of Donegall is vested in the honourable Family of Chichester: and as to the Territories hereabouts (formerly part of the Inheritance of O Donnel,) they are now enjoy’d by the Families of Gore, Hamilton, Conolly, &c.

South from Donegall, is Belishannon;Belishannon. near which, not many years ago, were dug-up two pieces of Gold, discovered by a method very remarkable. The Lord Bishop of Derry, happening to be at dinner, there came in an Irish Harper, and sung an old Song to his Harp. His Lordship not understanding Irish, was at a loss to know what the Song meant. But the Herdsman being called in, they found by him the substance of it to be this, That in such a place (naming the very spot) a man of a gigantick stature lay buried, and that over his breast and back there were plates of pure gold, and on his fingers rings of gold, so large that an ordinary man might creep through them. The place was so exactly described, that two persons there present were tempted to go in quest of the golden Prize, which the Harper’s Song had pointed out to them. After they had dug for some time, they found two thin pieces of gold, exactly of the form and bigness of this Cut.

Gold piece

This discovery encourag’d them, next morning, to seek for the remainder; but they could meet with nothing more. The passage is the more remarkable, because it comes pretty near the manner of discovering King Arthur’s body,Vid. Somersetshire. by the directions of a British Bard. The two holes in the middle of this, seem to have been for the more convenient tying of it to the arm or some part of the body.

The Family of Folliot now enjoys the honourable title of Baron of Belishannon;Baron of Belishannon.
Baron of Lifford.
and the Family of Fitz-Williams hath been honoured with the Title of Baron of Lifford.⌉

The antient Inhabitants of Ulster, as of all the other parts of the Kingdom, were call’d formerly by one common name of Scots,The Scots. and from hence they brought the name into the Northern parts of Britain. For (as Giraldus says) the six Sons of Mured, King of Ulster, possess’d themselves of the North of Britain about four hundred years after Christ; from which time it has been call’d by the name of Scotland. Yet the Annals of that Kingdom shew us, that this happen’d much more early. Also, Fergus the second, who establish’d the Kingdom of the Scots in Britain, came from hence; Patrick having foretold this of him;The life of St. Patrick. Tho’ you seem mean and contemptible to your brethren at this day; it will still come to pass, that you shall be a Prince, and Lord of them all. To make good this, the same Writer adds; That not long after, Fergus, according to the Prediction of this holy man, obtain’d the Soveraignty in these parts, and that his posterity continu’d in the throne for many generations. From him was descended the most valiant King Edan, son of Gabrain, who conquer’d Scotland (called Albania,) where his posterity in a continu’d succession reigns to this day.

John Curcy, in the reign of Henry the second, was the first Englishman who attempted the reduction of this County; and, having taken Down and Armagh, made himself master of the whole, either by force or surrender; and was the first who had the title of Earl of Ulster. Earls of Ulster. But his success made him so much envy’d, that, for his own worth and the unworthiness of others, he was banish’d, and, by King John’s appointment, was succeeded by Hugh de Lacy, second son of Hugh Lacy Lord of Meth, who was made Earl of Ulster by the delivery of a Sword, with orders to † Illum bello prosequi jussus.pursue the War. Yet he was depriv’d of this honour by the same King, upon his insolence, and popular practices; but was receiv’d again into favour. An. 7 Jo. In confirmation of this, I will give you, word for word, what I find in the Records of Ireland. Hugh de Lacy, formerly Earl of Ulster, held all Ulster (exempt and separate from any other County) in capite of the Kings of England, by the service of three Knights, when ever a Proclamation issu’d for War. And he might try in his own Court all Pleas whatsoever belonging to the Chief Justice and the Sheriff; and he also held a Court of Chancery, &c. After this, all Ulster was forfeited to our Lord King John, by the said Hugh; who had it afterwards granted him for term of life by King Henry the third. After Hugh’s decease, Walter de Burgo did those Services to our Lord Edward, King Henry’s son, and Lord of Ireland, before he was King. The same Lord Edward infeoff’d the foresaid Walter in the foresaid Lands of Ulster, to have and to hold, to him and his heirs, by the service aforesaid; as amply and freely as the said Hugh de Lacy did, except the advowsons of Cathedral Churches, and the * * Dominio eorundem.Jurisdiction over the same; as also the Pleas of the Crown, viz. Rapes, Forstalls, Arsoneys, and Treasure-trouves; which our soveraign Lord King Edward reserv’d to himself and his heirs. This Walter de Burgo (who was Lord of Conaught and Earl of Ulster) had by the only daughter of Hugh de Lacy, Richard Earl of Ulster; who died, after a perplex’d and uneasie life, in the year 1326. Richard had a son John de Burgo, who died in his Father’s life-time, after he had had a son William (by his wife Elizabeth, sister and co-heir of Gilbert Clare Earl of Gloucester,) who succeeded his Grandfather. William was murder’d by his own People in his youth; leaving a little daughter, Elizabeth,See Radnorshire, and Yorkshire north-riding. afterwards marry’d to Leonel Duke of Clarence; by whom she had likewise one only Daughter, marry’d to Edmund Mortimer Earl of March; and by her the Earldom of Ulster, with the Province of Conaught, came to the Mortimers; from whom, together with the Kingdom of England, it came to the house of York; and then, by King Edward the fourth was annex’d to the Crown. A civil War breaking out at that time in England, and the Nation falling into factions and parties, and the English in Ulster returning into England to support their several sides; these Countries were seiz’d by O-Neal and others of the Irish: so that the Province grew wild and barbarous to a very great degree; and whereas it formerly yielded a considerable revenue to the Earls, it has hardly, † † So said, ann. 1607.since that time, paid any to the Kings of England.

And if I may be allowed to speak freely; the piety and wisdom of the Kings of England * * So said, ann. 1607.has not been more defective in any one thing than in a due administration of this Province, and I may add, of all Ireland; as to the propagating Religion, and modelling the State, and civilizing the Inhabitants; which things, for many ages, have been very little regarded. Whether this neglect is to be imputed to Carelessness or Parsimony, I know not: But one would think, an Island so great, and so near; where the Soil is so good and the Pastures so rich; which has so many Woods, and Mines, so many Rivers and commodious Harbours on all sides, convenient for Trading to the richest parts of the World, with the Customs and Revenues arising from thence; and lastly, an Island so full of Inhabitants, and a People who, in respect of minds and bodies, are capable of the highest Employments in Peace or War: All these together (one would think) should deserve and challenge our future Care.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52