ScotWars - Scottish Military History and Re-enactment
Footnote & Historical Notes
Footnote & Historical Notes


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 Ulster

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 them.

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 distracting them.

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.

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