Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone

Patrick Weston Joyce

428. Hugh O'Neill, the subject of our present sketch, was the son of Matthew baron of Dungannon. He was born about 1545, and succeeded as baron of Dungannon on the death of his elder brother. He was educated among the English, and began his military life in the queen's service as commander of a troop of horse.

429. In the parliament of 1585 (413), which he attended as baron of Dungannon, he was made earl of Tyrone in succession to his (reputed) grandfather Conn Bacach; and in 1587 the queen granted him the inheritance; but he was to give up 240 acres on the Blackwater as a site for a fort. This fort was built soon after and called Portmore; it commanded a ford which was the pass from Armagh into Tyrone, O'Neill's territory; and its site is now marked by the village of Blackwatertown.

430. Not long after this the earl and Mabel Bagenal, sister of Sir Henry Bagenal marshal of Ireland, fell in love with each other and wished to be married. But Bagenal opposed it and sent the lady to Dublin, whither O'Neill followed her; and they were married in the house of a friend at Drumcondra. The marshal from that day forth was O'Neill's deadly enemy; and he kept the lady's fortune, £1,000, which her father had left her.

431. In 1593 the government made him master of all Tyrone. But his movements were now considered suspicious; he was continually drilling men; and he brought home vast quantities of lead to roof his new house at Dungannon, which it was reported was not intended for roofs but for bullets.

432. Still he was in the queen's service, and in the same year, 1593, fought with deputy Fitzwilliam against O'Ruarc, who had been goaded into rebellion by the sheriff of Fermanagh. In 1594 Fitzwilliam took Maguire's castle at Enniskillen. But Maguire and O'Donnell besieged it immediately after; and when the deputy sent forces to relieve the garrison, they were intercepted at a ford near Enniskillen by Maguire and O'Neill's brother Cormac, and defeated. And in their flight they abandoned all the provisions intended for the garrison; so that the place got the name of Bellanabriska, the ford of the biscuits. But no one could tell whether or not it was with O'Neill's consent his brother joined Maguire.