Wednesday, 25 October 2017

The Ultachs of the Slieve Felims

Red Hugh on his horse by Gavigan 01 at English Wikipedia Creative Commons Atrribution - Share Alike 3.0 Unported

One of the most interesting bits of folklore I came across when I started reading the Irish Folklore Manuscripts when they went online was the story of "The Ultachs" in the Slieve Felims.

One version that seems to have carried through is that a number of Ulster men from Donegal settled in the Slieve Felims on the retreat after the Battle of Kinsale. It is thought that they were part of Red Hugh O'Donnells army who passed this way from Holy Cross to Croom and may have seen how sparsely populated the area was at that time and so on the way back decided that it could be a place to settle.

From Foilycleara (just over the border into Co. Limerick).

"Several families of people in this locality are referred to as "Ultachs".
They have typical Donegal names such as Quigley, Dogherty, Devitt, Carew, Carr.
After the name Ryan the most numerous names on the Roll of this school are Quigleys & Carews.
While "faction" fighting survived it was not unusual to "wheel" (or shout) for "an Ultach" or against "an Ultach". The Ultachs were considered settlers by the other people of the neigbourhood. Something of a hostile spirit seems to have existed, or at least was easily stirred up between them & their neighbours. As far as ( can see that has all died away but the term "Ultachs" remains. There is a natural pass from east to west through the Slieve Feilim Mountains. It is now trasversed by the fine road called "The Anglesea Line"."

"When Red Hugh O'Donnell was camped at Holy Cross on his way to Kinsale in November 1601 to assist the Spainards, he found himself surrounded by the forces of Carew & Mountjoy.
A very great frost came on the night of the 13th of November and impassible bogs to the Slieve Feilims became frozen hard.
I know the country very well between Holy Cross & Croom, & I know the only great bog on the way is Cummer bog (shown on map at page 5).
There are other smaller bogs but none as large as Cummer. When these bogs became frozen hard that night was was possible for Red Hugh & his army to strike their camp and march away from their enemies. They did so, and in that very famous march they covered about 40 statute miles and camped at Croom next day. They must have followed (at least roughly) the line where is now the Anglesea Line as far as Réid.
These Hills & mounstains were very thinly populated at the time (The population of the whole country was small). It was at the time of the Cromwellian clearances, 52 yrs later (To Hell or Connaught) that a considerable number of the natives, the people on the fertile plains surrounding the hills left their rich land and came to live in the hills or "Up the Mountains" as they say.

For them it seemed to be "Hell or Connaught or the Slieve Felims" and many chose the latter.
This very district became a very conjested area. There must have been a very large population here in the 1840's. the farmer Mr. Jeremiah Moloney R.I.P. who owned the farm on which this school is built told me there were once 23 houses on this farm. When he told this time there were 2 houses on it - his own & a workman's - Now there is only one (Or two if we include the teacher's residence).
Some of Red Hugh's followers must have become detached from the main body. Michael ryan, Croughmakeen, Farmer 35 yrs, a real native of this place & who has authentic tradition from his people told me since I wrote this that the "Ultach" remained here when coming back from the Battle of Kinsale.
It is certain they passed this way when going from Holy Cross to Croom. They must have noticed the sparseness of the population. Large tracts must have been almost deserted at that time.
At that time it must have been extremely difficult for a weary army to make its way from the extreme South of Ireland back to Donegal in the depth of winter. It is little wonder a colony of them "settled" here. I used here an old man Mr. Rody Ryan R.I.P. (If still alive he would be about 80 yrs) telling how the natives of the district "Saw them camped all about the fields when they looked out in the morning". Thus the Slieve Feilims got their Ulster "colony". Their decendants :- Quigleys, Carews, Carrs, Devitts, Doghertys are the "Ultachs".
When teaching local history I always tell them they be extremely proud of their origin & their connection with Red Hugh O'D."

More on it here, this time from Kilcommon. It again mentions the Battle of Kinsale but not where the settlers are thought to have originated.

"Ulster families are said to have settled here after the Battle of Kinsale. They were looked upon as inferior strangers and were commonly called "Owlthacs" probably from the Irish word "Ultach". This extraordinary apathy to good Irishmen is now practically dead. The principal families regarded as Oulthacs were:- O'Tooles, Doherty, Quigly, Carr, Carey, Farrell, Hanly, Keane and the celebrated shout or "wheal" at the faction fights is still remembered. "Here's Quigly, Carey, Carr an' Owlthacs". There are several families of Scanlans said to have come originally from Garranboy, Killaloe, Co Clare."

Again from Kilcommon - this introduces another story about their origin. That they were driven out of Ulster by the Plantations there in 1609 & 1610. It also mentions a battle that was fought in the locality between some of the Ultachs and English soldiers either on there way to or from Kinsale. Another interesting bit of evidence is that the informant in this piece had some Dongal Irish as a result of him being of Ultach stock.
There is also mention of Clonoulty and I think this is in reference to the placename meaning which is thought to translate as the "plain or meadow of the Ulstermen".

"In this locality quite a large number of northern names survive i.e. Doherty, Nolan, Quigley, Carey, Carr, O'Farrell, Hanly & included in the list are O'Toole tho' they probably came from Leinster. One theory is that they were driven from Ulster Plantation of 1609, '10 the other theory held by some of themselves very strongly is that they fought at Kinsale & settled here instead of returning north.
Story (I)
According to this legend they were from Ulster.
"When the O'Doherty clan had to leave Donegal after the plantation they were travelling along and called at an Abbey for a blessing . A Monk told them to travel on and on to the south and that they must keep going until the reached a level field where ten cows would be lying in a ring chewing the cud and the bull standing in the middle. This they did and never saw cows or bull in that way until they reached Clonoulty. There they found them and there the first of the "Oulthacs" made their home.
Story (II)
At Coonmore Bridge about half way between Kilcommon and Rearcross there is a level patch or "Inch" called Inchnagrauv. This is translated as Ins na gCrám so called I believe because years ago heaps of bones were unearthed there. The bones were human and tradition says that an encounter took place there between the Quigleys, Careys, Carrs being a remnant of O'Donnell's army, and some English Soldiers either in the march to or return from Kinsale. This paints to a kind of influx of Ulster people after the Battle of Kinsale.
The same James Doherty had odd words of Irish. He said to me one morning Goide mar a thá tú When I reminded him that that was Donegal Irish he said Why not? Didn't they come from Innishowen fought at Kinsale & remained here instead of returning north. That more or less disagrees with his legend of Clonoulty or it is quite possible that they settled here both after Kinsale & after Plantation of Ulster.
He got a stroke of a plant on the forehead at a faction fight in Cappawhite about 1876. He carried to the grave a deep dent in the forehead. He wasn't fighting but tried to make peace & got the stroke. The whole party fled leaving him for dead on the street. The fight was between the "Domnall Máire's" (Burkes) and the Quigly Carey Carr an Awlthac"."

More again about the Ultachs - this time at Lackamore. The folklore here is that a number of soldiers got detached / lost in the hills on the way to Kinsale and eventually managed to set up a settlement in the Slieve Felims and eventually intermarry.

"History relates how the great Aodh O'Donnell crossed the Slieve Phelim mountains on his way to the battle of Kinsale. Our story deals with the daring exploit. Tradition has it that O'Donnell entered the mountains near Templederry without guidance. Since he left Ulster he had to travel through hostile territory and he seemingly couldn't trust the local guides. Therefore he had to take his bearings as best as he could. He succeeded in penetrating the outlying hills without accident until he arrived in the vicinity of Maher Sleive (Máthair Sleibh). His lack of a proper guide found him floundering an impassible morass between (Camáilte) and Máthair Sleibh. He lost the greater part of his commissariat and a company of horse. Within recent years many of the saddles have been dug up out of bogs and even some of the coinage of the period has been found.
O'Donnell had to abandon those troops that lost their calvary and make haste so as to circumvent hostile forces between him and Kinsale. The poor troopers lost company suffered terrible privations but eventually succeeded in establishing a little settlement on the more fertile mountain slopes. A large part of the present inhabitants of the Hills of Tipperary is directly descended from those gallant heroes who left their happy homes in Tír Connaill to strive and die in the cause of Róisín Dubh."

From Curreeny - this one suggests that the family lore of the Dohertys in 1934 still maintained they were from Inishowen.

"At the battle of Kinsale, a section of Hugh O'Donnells army consisted of Dohertys from Inishowen, Donegal. Some of them did not return to Donegal but remained, settled down around Kilcommon, Thurles. Their descendents are there today & are referred to as
The Doherty Galltachts
In 1934 an old member of the present family died in Kilcommon & he maintained that he originally came from Inishowen in the manner described above. It was from him heard it."

So the list of "Ultach" family names seems to include
O'Tooles, (Possibly Leinster)

To summarise; folklore seems to suggests that either the "Ultachs" arrived in the Slieve Felims as a result of movements associated with the Battle of Kinsale around 1601 or else as a result the Ulster Plantations of 1609 / 10. Either way it shows how strong folk memory is.

One interesting placename I stumbled across is that of Annaholty near Birdhill - in the general Owney / Slieve Felim area. It translates as the "Ulstermans Marsh" and goes back to at least 1654.

Another reference to Ultach settlements that I came across was in East Galway but this occurred in the 1800s as a result of Catholic persecution in Ulster.

This time the surnames are different

The saddest part of the story is that they were treated very poorly by the landlord in that area who sold them farmland that turned out not to be so but was actually upland that required reclamation.

For more on this see a summary in the Irish Times of Dr Christy Cunniffe's research on the subject.


Additional information on the subject received through facebook. 

John F Headen - "some also settled on O'Brennans land at Crutt Castlecomer Co Kilkenny after the Battle of Kinsale------the road was called Straid Ulaid ------now just Straid----still Fermanagh and Tyrone names in the holdings in 2017"

Michael Roche - "O Donnells are still common enough in the Northern edge of the Knockmealdown Mts around Clogheen, Grange,and Ardfinnan. The local tradition among the older Irish speakers in Newcaste was that the O Neills and O Donnells settled and cleared from forest some of the unihabited glens there after the battle of Kinsale. I have also seen O Donnells listed on the hearth roll census for Knocklofty and a few other areas here."

Michael Roche - "The schools folklore also mentions that the Flynn families around Latteragh were dropouts from the O Sullivan Beare march to Leitrim that passed by there. Ive been told that 9 families of Harringtons in Templederry are descended from those that accompanied O Sullivan Beare. The tradition is that they were farriers and horse tenders to the O Sullivans."

Michael Roche - "Could they have been responsible for building a sweat house at Boolatin in the Silvermines. Sweat house were common in W Ulster but very rare south of N Roscommon and W Cavan. There is also one near Clogheen (An area settled by O Donnells)."

Michael Roche - " There is one fine example of a corbelled sweathouse in Castlegarden Co Kilkenny with a nearby Ultach placename association. Ultachs were known to have settled parts of Co Wicklow and it has been suggested that the sweathouse at Annacarney Valleymount owes its origin to Ulster settlers who were banished here at the time Ulster plantations."

1 comment:

  1. great bit of research, especially the various possible ways they came there.