The lonely churchyard of Cloneen is
worth a visit as is the nearby friary of Buttevant. One
cannot help but feel he should be buried in his native highlands
far away from this gentle sad landscape. In the Buttevant
Friary lies the grim reminder of the battle, thousands of
piled up yellowed bones all remains of the battle in the
crypts. I do feel that had he fought with Owen Rua O'Neill's
forces and not the forces of the Old English party in the
Confederation when he returned from Scotland the outcome
of much of Irelands history could have been different. Why
he was present is for any student of the period very important.
Historical Note 1: The MacDonalds of
The Ulster Clan Donald colonised East
Ulster in the mid-15th Century and slowly in the course
of the 16th Century imposed there hegemony over the local
clans, the Clandeboye O'Neills, MacQuillans of the Route,
the O'Hanlons, O'Hagans,the McGuinesses[the stout manufacturers]
and the MacDonaghs. This brought the MacDonnells into conflict
with the traditional Kings of Ulster the O'Neills of Tyrone.
Conflicts where bloody and frequent between these two clans
throughout the 16th Century. However it was Hugh O'Neill
the Earl of Tyrone who united all the clans of Ulster including
the MacDonalds under Sorley Bui against the Tudors at the
close of the 16th Century in a great struggle which finally
saw the end to their great power. The early 17th Century
brought power to the MacDonalds of Antrim, as they escaped
the retribution of the Crown for their part in the War.
The leadership of the Ulster clans
left Ulster and settled in Spain in 1607. Ulster was then
planted, large tracts of land in Down and South Antrim,
these where planted by Scottish Presbyterians, parts of
Fermanagh, and Derry by the English and the Scotch of the
Borders the Hamiltons and the Armstrongs. Large tracts of
land where still held by the traditional clans, Phelim O'Neill,
Rory O'Donnell, Hugh Maguire, Henry MacMahon, these where
landed lords and they lived much as they always had done
for centuries. Great numbers of the Gaelic warrior class
called Gallowglás where now redundant, these roamed
about and found employ in the Spanish Armies abroad or in
the Royal Irish Army.
However this army was disbanded on
the execution of the Earl of Wentworth, it was these bands
of fighting men, who joined the disgruntled, the materially
and religiously oppressed of Ulster, and who began to intrigue
with the Irish Forces in the Spanish Armies abroad.
The Ulster of 1640 was a powder keg,
crop failures, rumours of a Scottish Invasion, the rifts
between King and Parliament, the execution of the Revered
Earl of Wentworth, impending religious oppression, pressure
on land, these all tipped the scales and finally plunged
all three Kingdoms into surely there most darkest hours.
The initial fighting was savage, settlers
where butchered, men, women and children, none where spared.
The reaction of the settlers was indeed equally savage.
The MacDonalds could not remain aloof, the Presbyterians
who despised all things Gaelic felt uncomfortable with the
MacDonalds, and took the opportunity thus presented to expel
Again after the restoration of Charles
II, the Marquis of Antrim Randal MacDonald was restored
to all his extensive land and titles.
Historical Note 2: Gaelic Warfare
Gaelic warfare was similar in Scotland
and Ireland, indeed the Irish warrior caste called the Gallowglás
came originally from Scotland, a good example of this is
the family of the MacSweeney's, hereditary fighters to the
O'Donnells and the MacWilliam Burkes, these came as mercenaries
and where given land and titles under Gaelic Irish Law in
return for Military Service.
Armoured with sword, target, and a
double-headed axe they where the Gaelic shock troops, professional
soldiers usually augmented by levies of foot kern very lightly
armed part time soldiers, these where the skirmishers or
ambushes of the clans. All of these where augmented by Redshanks,
seasonal Scottish Gallowglás, these where armed similarly
to the native Irish Gallowglás.
These forces used fabian tactics, where
the terrain gave them considerable advantage over there
opponents. The Kern would relentlessly harass from the hills,
forests, and bogs, causing distress to an opponent and generally
At some point usually of the Chief's
choosing, the professional's would wade in, on horse as
well as foot. As quickly as the assault began it would end.
Drawing there opponents into pursuit, where the wood kern
would be waiting for further ambush, and so the cycle would
continue until there opponents withdrew or gave up.
These troops lived by running with
the hare and hunting with the hound. They had no need of
money as this bought nothing in Gaelic society. There diet
was potatoes, bread, milk, roots of the forests, and any
fowl or wildlife they could catch. Indeed it is surprising
that the Presbyterians where not attracted to such austerity.
Used to living rough they where suited
to long campaign's, they where in great demand by the Spanish.
Where there fighting instincts where given a technological
edge. As the 16th Century progressed the fire-arm became
a key weapon of infantry, as with the pike. Artillery was
still cumbersome and was mainly used in siege warfare.
The Gaelic Scotch and Irish adapted
to this weapon, but not much to the tactics, of the 17th
Century. In the Civil War of 1641/53 in Ireland, the Ulster
General Owen Rua O'Neill adapted the above tactics to what
he learned in Spain and Holland, and married them to the
above Gaelic Fabian tactics.
Not only was he able to fight vastly
superior forces, but he was able to move with great speed,
some say as much as 45 miles a day. When they mustered and
gathered for a pitched battle, they usually forced a tactical
retreat on there opponents by simply gaining an advantage
by the use of the terrain.
The tactics which MacColla developed
where some what different, but where an adequate response
to the lack of equipment. He created the "highland
charge" the famed tactic of the Scotch, forever immortalised
at the Battle of Culloden 1745. The first recorded instances
of the Highland charge was in the Ulster Rising used to
scatter and rout the forces of Sir Russell Stewart at Blaney
in Ulster 1642. Again the terrain was the key element, the
tactical use of the fire arm as part of the highland charge,
this was used to devastating effect on unsuspecting opponents
and is well documented. It is my contention that the tactics
used to great effect in Scotland where completely out of
there dept in the pasture lands of Meath and Cork. In both
instances MacColla lost most of his troops. These tactics
where suited to the Gaelic mind and terrain, it was the
abandoning of both which undoubtable cost MacColla his life.