As the 17th century dawned the people who claimed responsibility for administering the whole of Ireland - both in Dublin and in London – made a conscious decision to develop a decisive policy of social engineering. The early planning was associated with the plotting of the Earl of Tyrone’s downfall. The plan was to import a very large number of ‘incomers’. The ‘planters’ were to come as part of an organized settlement scheme that operated between 1605 and 1697. The majority of these immigrants to Ulster were settlers from England and Scotland, although the Scots outnumbered those from England by a ratio of 20:1. It is claimed that as many as 200,000 crossed the North Channel to settle in Ulster in this 90 year period. The French Huguenots did not start arriving until after 1685 (when Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes).
Protestant planters settled on land confiscated from the Gaelic (Roman Catholic) Irish. However, the British colonists found planting Ulster much more perilous than they had been led to believe. They had been told that the province was almost completely depopulated but everywhere they settled the natives outnumbered them. Constant battles ensued; they followed similar patterns to those of the Nine Years War (1594 - 1603), and continued on and off for most of the 17th century.
The primary purpose of the plantation scheme was to populate the northern counties of Ireland with loyal British Protestant subjects; so that they would counterbalance and then dominate the ‘native’ Irish Roman Catholics. Those in power in Scotland were only too willing to participate, because they saw it as a way to rid themselves of the hordes of poverty-ridden lowland Scots who had turned their marauding and horse stealing into their sole bustling source of livelihood. At a single stroke those in government disencumbered themselves of lawless Scottish Lowlanders and trouble-making English dissenters, while establishing on the seized lands a population who would offer a rabidly Protestant bulwark against the original Irish Catholic inhabitants. The plantation of Ulster had more effect on the creation of modern Ireland than any other single issue; because it changed utterly the whole structure and make-up of the population of the province of Ulster.
The goal of the total replacement of the native Irish Catholic population with English and Scottish Protestants was never achieved; but ‘success’ was greater in the eastern part of Ulster, and almost nonexistent in County Donegal, with an intermediate spectrum varying as one moved west. There were ups and downs in the numbers, depending on the fertility of the land, the competence of the undertaker, and his ability to attract settlers. This often depended on other factors, such as what was driving the settlers away from home in the first place.
Developing the Plantation
The first stage of the plantation was a relatively small venture, privately run in its entirety. This was a moneymaking exercise for the Crown because it sold off large tracts of confiscated land to ‘undertakers’. These men committed themselves to attract settlers as tenants or leaseholders, bring specified numbers in by a specified date, build lightly fortified forts or ‘bawns’, and organize their defence by providing arms and powder for the settlers. In contrast, the second stage of settlement, from 1649 onwards, became a project of the state; conceived, planned and closely supervised by the British governments of England and Ireland. It was far broader in scope, and included six of the nine counties of Ulster.
Following the ‘flight’ of Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone in 1607 (Sources 2) the plantation of part of his barony was instituted in 1608. Parts of O’Neilland East, recognized today as the environs of Lurgan Co. Armagh, were commandeered. This land was known to be exceptionally fertile. In one such scheme John Brownlow and his son William were the ‘undertakers’; they obtained grants from King James I for 1,500 and 1,000 acres respectively. By 1611 the Brownlows were living in an ‘Irish house’. They had nine carpenters, one mason, a tailor and six workmen from England, and they had six tenants and one freeholder on their lands. [(Sources 4)
In 1629, William Brownlow, following the death of his father, was given a re-grant of the two manors by which they became united as the Manor of Brownlows Derry. This meant that the considerable area of 39 square miles was involved in the combined holding. At the same time a patent was issued for a market every Friday at Ballylurgan and two fairs on the Feast of St. James and Feast of St. Martin. So, by this time, the town had become a place of some importance in the social life of the area and this explains the very long ancestry of Lurgan's markets and fairs.