The following letters are taken from an article in the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, Volume 6., titled ‘Military Proclamation, in the Irish Language, Issued by Hugh ONeill, Earl of Tyrone, in 1601.’The article is available as part of JSTOR’s Early Journal Content and can be freely redistributed on the conditions that JSTOR is attributed and the work redistributed for non-commercial purposes only. The full article, which includes a biography we have chosen to exclude on the basis of outdated scholarship can be read here.

The two following documents relating to the history of Hugh, Earl of Tyrone, are now laid before the reader in a printed form for the first time.

No. I. is a military order or proclamation issued by Hugh, Earl of Tyrone, on the 2nd of February, 1601, nearly one year previously to his defeat at Kinsale, 3rd of January, 1602. The language is technical, and exceedingly curious; the exact spelling of the words, both in the Irish original and the contemporary English translation, being preserved in this publication; and two paragraphs left untranslated by the Government interpreter, are rendered literally by the present Editor. The name of this interpreter has not been discovered.i

No. II. is a letter from Sir Geoffrey Fenton, chief Irish Secretary, and was written to Sir Robert Cecil, on the 5th of December, 1601, immediately after the Ulster chieftains had set out for Kinsale, to assist the Spaniards. The reference to Tyrone’s private family is very curious, and shows what information had been communicated to the Irish secretary by his spies in Ulster. The descendants of Cormack, Tyrone’s brother, referred to in this document, are still extant in Tyrone, under the name of MacBaron.

[Cartlann: here was a brief biography of O’Neill which was cut as it contained numerous misconceptions and mistakes concerning the life of O’Neill which subsequent scholarship has since corrected]


No. I
Carew Collection, No. 614: folio 186. In Lambeth Library.

A n-ainm Dia. Ag so mar fhostusii O’Nèill buannadha.iii Ar tùss do’n chèd saighdiuir ced pont do thuarustal ’sa ràithe, ⁊ fiche ponta d’uaisle leith-bhliadhna, acht in uaisle d’ fhaghail ’sa chèd ràithe; ⁊ da m-brisedh in buanna ar in tighearna fa gan anmhain aige in ath-ràithe, aisseag ar in uasile chom in tighearna: ⁊ madh è in tighearna dhiultus do’n bhuanna fa gan a fhostadh in ath-ràithe, is uaisle ag an buanna. Is amhlaidh dhìoltar in tuarustal, gach mèide nach ffuighther ’n a airged de do dhìol mar so: in loilghech no in mart ion-laoigh do chor amach is na fiachaibh a n-imeochaidh si eidir iocadhaibh ⁊ sgològaiph in tire; in t-arm ⁊ in t-èdach do chor amach a n-diol in tuarustail do radh na marusgal. Biadh in t-saighdiuir ’sa ràithe xvii. meadair ime, do thomhus galuin na Loinne, ⁊ fiche medar mine; ⁊ d’ fhiachaibh ar in tir leith in bhidh phàidhedh, ceithri sgillingi ’s meadar co n-a mhin; ⁊ breith in mharasgail ⁊ in bhuanna do phàidhedh ’sa leith eile do’n bhiadh ’san àit nach ffuighther in biadh ’n a bhiadh fèin. Cead caoicdhisi, ò lò a fhasta amach, ag an buanna chom a bhidh do thògbhail, ⁊ è ag caithemh ar a aimsir in chaoicdhis sin; ⁊ da ffanadh se on chaoicdhis amach, leth choroin mar chàin ag an tighearna air gach èn là bhias se amoigh.

Muna diolaidh in t-ìocaidhe in biadh leis in bhuanna fo chionn na caoicdhisi sin, d’ fhiachaibh ar in ìocaidhe in biadh d’ iomchar gus in àit a m-biaidh in buanna a ffoslongphort. D’ fhiachaibh ar in chonstabla ced beith ceathrar is ceithri xx. ar a g-cossaiph, ⁊ d’ fholmhughadh sè fir dèc; ⁊ is è ceal a d-teidh in fholmhughadh sin, cuid deichneamhair ag constabla in ched de, ⁊ cuid cuigir ag marasgal in tìre fèin, ⁊ cuid fir ag galloglach tighearna. D’ fhiachaibh ar in tighearna fo bhrigh a chonsiais ⁊ a thighearnuis gach nì de so do chomall do’n bhuanna, ⁊ gach maith is mo bhus èidir leiss do dhenamh do’n bhuanna in a chàilidhecht fèin: ⁊ in chèd oidhchi rachus in buanna ar a bhiadh, è do bheith ag caithemh ar fèin in oidhchi sin; ⁊ madh è in t-ìocaidhe bhus ciontach fa gan diolaidhecht do dhenamh leis in bhuanna ’sa chèd lò go n-oidhchi, a bhiadh ar in ìocaidhe in feadh chuinneochus se è; ⁊ a chuid fèin iomlàn leis in bhuanna ag imthecht dò, leth moigh do bhiadh in chèd laoi go n-oidchi ò ghephus in buanna a bhiadh.

Gach àit a ttiocfaidh cassaoid air fa aidhighecht no fa aindeoin, galuin ime mar chàin na h-oidchi sin ar gach cùiger da ttuillfe cassaoid do dhenamh orra do na buannadhaibh.

Is iad na fiacha ata ar m-buanna as so. Ar tùss, fo bhrigh a choinsiais ⁊ a anma a bheith diles, tairisi, gradhach, umhal, urramach, d’a thighearna, ⁊ a fhreagra gach uile uair iarrfus se è, ⁊ dul leiss do lò ⁊ d’oichchi in gach àit a n-iarrfaidh se è, acht nach g-cuirionn O’Nèill d’fhiachaibh ar bhuanna baile d’innsaigh acht do rèir a thoile fèin; ⁊ in buanna do bheith a ffoslongphort gach fad iarrfus a thighearna air è, leth amoigh do’n chaoicdhis tugudh dò chom a bhidh do thògbhàil; ⁊ da n-iarraidh in tighearna taispena dà uair ’sa sechtmhain ar in m-buanna, sin do thabhairt dò, ⁊ leth-choroin mar chàin ag in tighearna ar gach fer nach ffuighther do lathair do na saighdiuribh gach èn là dioph sin. D’fhiachaibh ar in m-buanna gan geall ar bith do ghlacadh a ffoslongphort no a ttìr a thighcarna, acht re marasgal do bheith aige; ⁊ da n-dearnadh, tuitim ar in agra; ⁊ mar in g-cedna gan geall do dhenamh ar in m-buanna acht re marasgal do bheith do lathair; ⁊ da g-cuiredh buanna a n-aghaidh marasgail a thighearna, a bhreith fèin do chàin ag in tighearna air in m-buanna. Gach cùis imresna no aimhreidhtigh theigemhus eidir tighearna in tìre no in tìr fèin ⁊ buanna, breith in dà mharasgal do bheith ann sin; d’fhiachaibh ar in m-buanna gan urchòid do dhenamh d’èn duine ar gach taopha de gan chead spècialta a thighearna.

Gach creach dhenus in tighearna ⁊ in buanna, trian na g-creach do na buannadhaibh ⁊ dà d-trian ag an tighearna. Gach each maith ⁊ gach lúirech bheanfaidher amach, do bheith ag an tighearna. Gach bràighe èifechtach, assa ffuighther sithchàin no comh-aiseag braghda, do bheith ag an tighearna: ⁊ in tighearna do thabhairt luach saothair iomchubhaidh don bhuanna do réir toile in tighearna; ⁊ gach bràighe ghebhus in buanna as a ffuighther fuaslughadh, trian in fhuaslaicthe ag an bhuanna, ⁊ dà trian ag an tighearna.

D’fhiachaibh ar in m-buanna bardail laoi, ⁊ faire leaptha oidhchi, ⁊ ceithernus aradna do thabhairt d’a thighearna fo bhrigh càna.

Atà O’Nèill ag a fhògra do Thadhg O’Ruairc ⁊ do gach buannadhaibh rachus ’s Mumhain, anmhain ’sa staid-si le maithibh Mumhain, fa phèin gan èn là do mhaith na d’fhògar I Nèill no I Domhnaill d’fhaghail go brath; acht gach uile bhuanna do rachaidh tar in ffoirm-si do bheith fuagartha ò Ua Nèill ⁊ ò Ua Domhnaill, ionnamhail ⁊ do buì Diarmeit O’Conchubhair go ffaghthaoi a chenn re a bhuain de.

A n-Dun-geanain, 2, Februarii, 1601.


Cotemporaneous Translation of the foregoing.

In the name of God.iv This is the order and manner of O’Neyle his interteyningv of Bwonaghs. First, he allowith to the company of souldiersvi entertaynement quarterlie 100 pounds ster., and XX pounds every halfe yeare by name of a rewarde, tearmed in Irish wasly;vii and the same rewarde to be payed to the Bwonagh the first quarter; and if it chance the Bwonagh [wish] not to remayne and serve out his full quarter, then he is to make restitution ofviii the rewarde. But if the Lo. should refuse to contynue the Bwonagh in his service during the full quarter,ix then the Bwonagh to enjoy the rewarde without restitution. The enterteynment is thus payd: where money wanteth, there the milche, or-in-calfe cowe to be receyved for payment according the price it bears betwixt the tennants and husbands of the country. The armor and clothes to run at such rates as the Marshall shall sett downe. The victuayles quarterly, to be xxiv. meaders of butter of Linster gallon measure,x and [                  ] skore meaders of meale; the country bound to pay the one halfe of the victuails in victuails itself, and for the other halfe to deliver the Bwonagh certain allowance of pay in lieu of every meader that shall be wanting of halfe the victuayles; the Bwonagh to receyve four shillings with the meale, and for the other halfe, where no victuayles is to be had, the allowance of payment for the same to be according as the Marshall and Bwonagh will consultingly agree upon. The Bwonagh to have a fortenight respite from the day of his entry to levie and collect his victuayles; that fortenight to be acompted of the quarter; and if he should spend longer in time in staiing abroade, then for every day of his absence he to be answerable in a fyne of halfe crowne pr. diem to his Lo.

If within that fortnight’s space the tennante or husbande on whom the victuayles are allotted do not pay the same to the Bwonagh, that then from hence forth that he be bound to bring the same at his own cost and charge unto him wheresoever he lies in campe. The captain of a hundreth is to have by the poll for the hundreth four score and four,xi and is allowed xvi. dead pays, whereof he himself is to have ten, the Marshall of the country five, and the Lord’s gallowglass one. The Lord upon his conscience and honour not to withhold anything of his due from the Bwonagh, but acording his degree and qualitie to do the best he can for his good. The first day the Bwonagh is enterteyned he is for that day and night to live at his own charges; and if the tennant or husband, on whom the victuaills are allotted, through the default keep the Bwonagh from receyving his victuaills the first day of service, then the Bwonagh during the tyme he is so stayed to be at the tennant’s own charges; and upon his departure to receive the full allowance sett down for him at first, except the first day and night’s victuaills.

After the Bwonagh has receyved notice where he is to receyve his victuaills, and is by delayes dryven to complayne for not having it, a fyne of a gallon of butter by the night to be imposed uppon every five, that by reason of delaye gives the Bwonaght cause of complaint.

The Bwonagh in consideration hereof, upon his conscience and soule, is to be faithfull, trustie, loving, humble, and obedient to his Lo., and to be answerable and at his command at all times he doeth require him, and to go with him by day and by night into all places whereunto he will require him. O’Neil would notxii that the Bwonagh should geve attempt or go to any towne without his Lord’s direction, but lye still in camp so long as his Lord directs him so to do, except for the fortnight that he is to collect his victuaylls. If the Lo. would twice every week take view or muster of the Bwonagh, he is to give him the same; and for every souldier deficient, or that shall not be present at the muster, halfe a crowne in name of a fyne. The Bwonagh not to distreyne in his Lord’s country or camp without the Marshall; and if he should, his challenge to be void: and also no distresse to be taken of the Bwonagh except the Marshall be present to do it. If the Bwonagh should refuse or resist the Lord’s Marshall, then he to be fined according to the Lord’s discrecion; and the Bwonagh to do no hurt or damage any where without speycial direction of his Lord.

What preyes shall be taken by the Lord and the Bwonaghs, the third parte thereof to the Bwonagh, the rest to the Lo. Every good horse or shirt of mayle that shall be taken, to be the Lord’s. Every prisoner by whom either peace may be had or other prisoner delivered in exchange, to be the Lord’s; and the Lord to give the Bwonagh a competent reward in consideration thereof according to his discreation. Every prisoner taken by the Bwonagh of whom ransom may be had, the third part of the randsom to the Bwonagh, the rest to the Lord; to be given uppon payne of a fyne.

[The Bwonaghxiii to be bound to ward by day and watch the bed by night; and to afford the service of cethernus aradhna, (i.e., to attend to the horses, to clean, polish, and repair their bridles, trappings, &c.) to his Lord on pain of fine.]

[O’Neill is giving warning to Teige O’Rourke and to all the Bwonaghs who will go into Munster, to remain in this state with the chiefs of Munster, under penalty of never having one day of the benefit of the favour of O’Neill or of O’Donnell for ever; but every Bonagh who transgresses this order shall be proclaimed by O’Neill and O’Donnell in like manner as was Dermot O’Conor, who had his head struck off.]

At Dungannon, 2 February, 1601.


No. II

1601. Dec. 5.—To the Rt. Hon: Sir Robert Cecyll, Kt., Principal Secretary to her Majestye, and one of the wardes and liveries.

Rt. Hon,—I have somewhat longe put off to wryte to your Honor to see what wold ensue in these parts, after the passinge of the Irishe forces into Mounster, and how the Ulstermen wold behave themselves in the absence of Tyrone, for it was likely, that out of this two, would grow some matter of advertisement, seeing both had their severall expectations; and yet I finde nothing worthie the cause of a letter in their passage through Leinster, save that O’Donnell, in his tract, and Tyrone following after, used all the means they cold to worke the Irishre royalists to their side, but have reduced none of reckoning, for anything yet discovered: onely they both made havocke of some countreys, as a revenge to the loyalists that refused to rise with them. But for my parte, notwithstanding their Irish formalities, I hold few of them absolutely sound, if a time come to fit them to declare themselves, for they all await inwardly for a stroke to be stroken by either, with or against us in Munster; according to which they will carry their course. Touching Ulster, Tyrone having established his eldest son Hugh in the government of the country, with the name of style of O’Neile in his absence, amongst other lessons he left with him, charged him to attempt somethinge in his beginninge worthie of so great a name; wherein the more to enable him, he left him some Spanish coyne, to raise men and buy horses and arms, and all to distresse the English pale; admonishinge him not to meddle with the garrison of Loughfoile, and the rest, for that, he said, it were but to lose his labour and time: other directions he recommended to him, but of lesse consequence, for that they consisted more in ceremony than in matter. As that good agreement should be between him and Cormock, [Tyrone’s brother] to whom the archtraytors vowed in the presence of sundry the followers, that before his return he would put in venture to win or lose all Ireland. That his aim in all his enterprises should communicate chiefly with Patrick Mac Art Moyle McMaghone, and be most governed by his advice. That he should entertaine Cormocke, but in a remote degree of trust, and not to use him inwardly, a matter which Cormock stomachethe (as I am written unto) and will not come to his younge pretended Rebell prince, since Tyrone went. Lastly, he acquainted some of his followers how much he was troubled with a prophecy that he should lose his life in this action of Munster; and yet, saith he, the feare of such a destiny shall not make me falsifie my promise given to so great a king as the king of Spaine. Many other particulars of this nature passed from him at leave-takinge—which, though they carry no great consideration, yet they are not altogether to be silenced, for that they have their observations. Touching the proceedings of their Irish forces since their coming into Munster, and what accidents have happened either to or from them, we have nothing here of certainty, but depend on the L. Deputy’s advertisement, from whom the State hath received no advice since the 16th of last month; at which time her Majesty’s shippers were arrived before Kinsale; but for the doings of the campe, I received only this letter enclosed yesternight, from an honest plain intelligencer [informer] whom I have long used in the discovery of the Spanish designs: he is now at the campe, and such matter as he hath written I send herewith to your Honor, the man being more simple and zealous than fine or judicious. God blesse the army, for that in the well or evil speedinge thereof resteth the good or bad state of this kingdom; and yet, considering the royal means which her Majesty hath sent hither, I do not (according to human reason) see how the disaster should fall on our side, especially if the action of Kinsale be dispatched before the coming of their seconds out of Spaine.—And so for this time I most humblie take my leave.—In great haste at Dublin.—4 December, 1601.—Your Honor’s ever most humbly at commandment,


i He was probably William Doyne, or Sir Patrick Crosby. The great Florence MacCarthy, who knew the Irish language well, was sent a prisoner to England some short time before.

ii Fhosdus.—The verb fosdadh or fostadh, is still the common word employed throughout Ireland for ‘to hire’ a servant. The Ulster pronunciation of the word, however, is fasta; which leads us at once to the root, viz., the Scandinavian and Gothic fast, ‘firm,’ the same as the English fast: so that the Irish fasta, or fostadh, would literally mean ‘to fasten,’ to ‘bind fast.’ The same root is found, with various modifications, in all the Teutonic languages; Anglo-Saxon, fast, German, fest, Dutch and Flemish, vast, Frisian, fest. That the word was applied by the Northmen to the making of contracts, is proved by the old name for a particular kind of marriage-contract among the ancient Danes. Ihre says: (Glossar. Suio-Goth.—voce, ‘Hand-fasting;’)—Handfesting, promissio quæ fit stipulata manu, sive cives fidem suam principi spondeant, sive mutuam inter se matrimonium inituri, à phrasi fæsta hand, quæ notat dextram dextræ jungere.’ This custom also prevailed in some parts of Scotland. Pennant, in his Tour, alludes to it under the same name: and say that in Eskdale, about a century before he wrote, ‘unmarried persons made the engagement by joining hands, and living together for a year; after which time, if either party dissented, the engagement was void.’ He says this curious custom seems to have originated from the want of clergy, in some districts, at the time of the Reformation. Martin, in his Western Islands of Scotland, mentions the same practice as having existed in the Highlands.

The word is still used in the original sense in some parts of England. At Holderness, servants are engaged once a year in the market-places of Hedon and Patrington, and a small sum is given, by way of earnest, to each servant hired, and is called the Fest. In Scotch, ‘to festyn’ signifies ‘to enter into a legal engagement that one person should work under another.’

We still preserve in English the idea of fastening, in the phrase ‘to bind an apprentice.’ It is worth noting, too, that the same idea, expressed by another word of cognate meaning, is found in the Italian ferma, ‘the period for which a servant is hired;’ from fermo, ‘firm, fast,’ (Latin firmus.) Is it not likely that our word ‘to farm,’ i.e., to let out on certain conditions, may come from this root, although other derivations have been proposed? The French have ferme, ‘a farm,’ and affermer ‘to let or to hire a farm.’

It is likely, therefore, that the word fostadh or fasta, is a word borrowed by the Irish from some other language, and most probably introduced by the Northmen. That it is not an original Gaelic root is proved by its standing alone in the language, without derivatives. Both the word, and the custom of hiring servants or soldiers for a fixed period, may have been introduced together at the time of the Danish conquest. In the present document we have several examples of military terms, evidently borrowed, viz., constabla, ‘constable,’ marusgal, ‘marshal,’ and paidh, ‘pay:’ just as in English we have borrowed from other languages most of our terms relating to warfare, such as infantry, cavalry, artillery, colonel, musket, bayonet, &c.

The complete correspondence of the Ulster form, fasta, with the Scandinavian, is an example, in addition to many given in Dr. O’Donovan’s Irish Grammar, of the ancient pronunciation of words being preserved in the North of Ireland. [EDIT. U.J.A.]

iii Buannadha.—The word buanachas is still met with in the traditions of the Scottish Highlands, for ‘free quarters for soldiers.’ [EDIT. U.J.A.]

iv In the name of God. [A n-ainm Dia.]—This form, which is still in use, should be i n-ainm Dé, according to strict grammar.

v Interteyning.—literally: ‘this is how O’Neill retains or hires bonaghts.’

vi The company of soldiers. [Don ched saighdiuir,] literally ‘to a hundred soldiers.’ The translator regarded one hundred soldiers as forming ‘a company.’

vii Wasly. [uaisle,] i.e. bounty, literally the gentility or nobility.

viii Restitution.—Literally, ‘should be Bwanna disappoint the lord by not remaining with him the second quarter, [ath-raithe,] the bounty is to be returned to the lord.’

ix The full quarter.—This translation is incorrect, and shows that it was hurriedly done. It should be—‘and if it be the lord that refuses the Bwanna with respect to not retaining him the second quarter, the Bwanna is to have [keep] the bounty.’

x Leinster, Gallon. [do thomhus galuin na loinne.]—The translation is here decidedly incorrect. If it meant ‘Leinster measure,’ it would be ‘do thomhus galuin na Laighneach.’ Galun na loinne was evidently some Ulster technical term which Doyne, Crosby, or Fox, who were Leinster-men, did not understand.

xi For the hundredth four score and four.—Literally, ‘the constable of one hundred men is bound to have eighty-four men on their legs, instead of the full hundred [in poll] and he is to have sixteen pays; and the manner in which this allowance goes is, ten to the constable of one hundred himself, five to the marshall of the country, and one to the Lord’s Gallowglass.’

xii O’Neill would not.—This translation is not very faithful. It should be—‘But O’Neill does not impose it as an obligation upon any Bwonagh to attack any town but according to his own will; and the Bwonagh is to be in the camp as long as his lord shall require it of him, except the fortnight given him to raise his food.’

xiii The Bonagh—These two paragraphs are left untranslated by the interpreter. A detailed account of the killing of this Dermot son of Dubhal-tach, son of Tuathal O’Conor, on the 24th Oct., 1600, is given by the Four Masters, A.D. 1600, p. 2185, and in Pacata Hibernia, Book I., c. 17. He was beheaded by Theobald Bourke, surnamed ‘na long.’ Carew remarks:—‘Her Majesty’s honour was blemished, and the service hindered, by this malitious and hateful murther.’ According to the tradition in the country, Theobald Bourke was afterwards murdered by Dermot O’Connor’s idiot brother, at the instigation of his sister.