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Four Hundred Years Ago Today …

By tyronepro Wed 20th Jul

This is a year of major Tyrone-related anniversaries … and they include today’s 400th anniversary of the death of Hugh ‘The Great’ O’Neill.
Born about 1550, the son of Matthew O’Neill and nephew of ‘Seán an Díomais/Shane the Proud’, Hugh was brought up in the Dublin Pale but returned to Tyrone in the late 1560s and over the next 40 years developed as the leading threat to English rule in Ireland.
The last to be created ‘The O’Neill’ in the thousand-year-old inauguration ceremony at Tullyhogue (this took place sometime in the mid-1590s), in 1595 he shocked the Crown with a victory in the Battle of Clontibret. More was to follow and on 14 August 1598 his seismic victory at the Battle of the Yellow Ford, aided by Donegal’s Red Hugh O’Donnell, set off a general Gaelic revolt across Ireland. Coincidentally the English were led at the Yellow Ford by O’Neill’s brother-in-law, Sir Henry Bagenal.
In 1601 Spanish troops landed at Kinsale and The Great O’Neill led an Ulster army south to join with them. A disastrous defeat at Kinsale on Christmas Eve forced the Tyrone men back north, pursued all the way by the victorious English led by Lord Mountjoy. Mountjoy arrived into Tyrone in early 1602 and made straight for Tullyhogue where, in the words of Fynes Moryson “he brake down the chair wherein the O’Neills were wont to be created”. The death knell of Gaelic Tyrone had sounded and O’Neill was on borrowed time.
That borrowed time ran out on 14 September 1607 when O’Neill, with Rory O’Donnell, Earl of Tyrconnell, and about 100 other northern chieftains, left Rathmullan for Spain. Their ship was blown off course and eventually landed in the Netherlands, from where the refugees made their way to Rome. The ‘Flight of the Earls’ signaled the end of Gaelic Ulster and Hugh O’Neill spent his remaining nine years in an embittered exile in The Eternal City, working in vain to return home to restore the old Gaelic order.
‘The Great’ O’Neill died in Rome, 400 years ago today, 20 July 1616. Coinnigh cuimhne urnai air.
“Push southward to Kinsale!
Loudly the war-cry is swallowed
In swirls of black rain and fog
As Ulster’s pride, Elizabeth’s foemen,
Founder in a Munster bog.”
‘A Lost Tradition’
John Montague

By tyronepro Wed 20th Jul

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