This extract is taken from the book Plantation Papers: containing a summary sketch of the great Ulster plantation in the year 1610, published in 1889. These lands were in the County of Donegal. The term plantation referred to the 'planting' of people in another country, in this case Ireland. The term was later used when colonies were established in North America, only some of which were actual plantations - tobacco, sugar &c. It was from these Ulster plantations that many Scotsmen, fleeing rebellious Irish natives, emigrated to America and Canada where they became pioneering settlers.

Galloway Lairds in Ulster Plantations 1610

From the precinct of Portlough the Commissioners of plantation passed into that of Boylagh and Bannagh, where the surveyors found 10,000 arable acres, which quantity was marked off into eight proportions and afterwards distributed amongst eight Scottish undertakers. The names of these North Britons were — Sir Robert Macklellan, laird of Bomby; George Murray, laird of Broughton; William Stewart Esq.; Sir Patrick M'Kee, of Laerg, Knight; James M'Cullock, gent.; Alexander Dunbar, gent.; Patrick Vans, of Libragh, gent.; and Alexander Coningham, of Powton, gent. The precinct of Boylagh and Bannagh, in which these planters were located, now forms the two baronies so-called, so that there was here vast scope around the 10,000 acres arable for improvement and augmentation. The barony of Boylagh contains 158,480 acres, including the district of the Rosses in the North, and twelve inhabited islands off the west coast. This barony comprehends part of the parishes of Inniskeel and Lower Killybegs, and the whole of the parishes of Lettermacward and Templecroan, its chief villages being Glenties and Dongloe. The barony of Bannagh contains 177,822 acres, including part of the parishes of Inniskeel and Lower Killybegs, and the parishes of Glencolumbkill, Inver, Kilcarr, Killoghtee, Upper Killybegs, and Killymard. Its towns and villages are Killybegs, Ardara, and Mountcharles. Much of the surface in this precinct still remains and ever will remain unprofitable.

Sir George Carew, in 1611, and after the planters last-named had been in possession for somewhat over twelve months, made the following report:— "Sir Robert Maclellan,Knight, laird of Bomby, chief undertaker of the Rosses, 2,000 acres; took possession in the summer 1610; returned into Scotland; his agent, Andrew Johnson, resident, has prepared no materials for building. George Murrye, laird Broughton, 1,500 acres; took possession summer 1610; returned into Scotland; his brother came with two or three others, and thirty or forty cows; no preparation for building. William Steward, brother to Gartlesse [Lord Garlies], 1,500 acres; took possession in the summer 1610; returned into Scotland; six families British upon his proportion; he is building a mill and other houses; agent, John Stewart, resident; materials provided for building. Sir Patrick M'Kee, Knight, 1,000 acres; not appeared; agent resident; nothing done. Alexander Cunningham, of Ponton, 1,000 acres; not appeared; agent resident; making winter provisions; no materials for building. James M'Cullogh, 1,000 acres; not appeared; agent resident; nothing done. Alexander Downbar, 1,000 acres; resident in person; nothing done. Patrick Vans, or Vance, 1,000; has not appeared; six quarters of his land let to English and Sootch men for four years; nothing done. George Murrye, laird Broughbon, undertaker of 1,500 acres, appeared before us here at Dublin, and returned to his land."

The first and principal undertaker on the list of planters in the precinct of Boylagh and Bannagh was Sir Robert Maclellan, the seventh baron of Bombie, in Galloway, and afterwards created Lord Kircudbright. He became well known in Ulster, not so much, however, because of his being an undertaker in the remote barony of Boylagh as from the circumstance of his being son-in-law of Sir Hugh Montgomery, and obtaining valuable lands in the County of Down as his wife's dowry. The writer of the “Montgomery Manuscripts" notices this marriage alliance as follows:— "Sir Hugh married his eldest daughter to Sir Robert M'Clellan, baron. of Kircoubry [Kircudbright], who, with her, had four great townlands near Lisnagarvey [Lisburn], whereof she was possessed in December, 1622. Sir Hugh and his Lady also had likewise given him a considerable sum of money as an augmentation to the marriage portion; but the said Sir Robert spent the money and sold the lands after her Ladyship's death, and he died not long after her, but without issue." In 1616 Sir Robert sold his proportion in Boylagh, called the Rosses, to Sir Archibald Acheson, who soon afterwards surrendered these lands to Sir John Murray, afterwards Earl of Annadale. 2. George Murray came from the parish of Whithorn, in Wigtonshire. The Murrays of this branch moved from Morayshire into Galloway in the twelfth century. From the commencement of the fifteenth century the Murrays were owners of the estate called Broughton, of which this George Murray was at least the nominal owner when he came to Ulster. It had long been heavily mortgaged, and he, with his brother John, were taken in as servants in the Royal household. He soon disposed of his proportion called Boylagheightra. 3. William Stewart, Esq., was probably a servitor, but, as at this crisis there were four servitors so named, it would be difficult to identify this particular Gentleman. A Colonel William Stewart, in May, 1603, writes privately to Salisbury that the "King's disposition is excellent, but he relies too much on others,” and advises Cecil how to guide him "in this new world [England] to which he has come." Very soon after getting his patent this undertaker sold his proportion of Dunconnolly to Sir John Vance, of Lancaster, who appears to have lost it by neglecting to observe any of the conditions of plantation. 4. Sir Patrick M'Kee came from some place in the parish of Minnigaff, but the estate known as that of the principal family had passed out of his hands. Other localities were occupied by the once numerous and influential sept of the M'Kees, among which may be mentioned Mertoun M'Kie, in the parish of Peninghame, and Whitehills, in the parish of Sorbie, Wigtonshire. Many settlers of this surname came to Ulster from Wigtonshire, and are numerously represented throughout several of our Northern counties at the present day. Sir Patrick let off his proportion of Cargie to William Stewart, of Maines, to his brother Patrick Stewart, of Raneall, and to Sir Robert Gordon.

The next, or fifth, on this list of grantees was James M'Cullock, who got a proportion named Mullaveagh, and had come also from Wigtonshire. His family had belonged to Argyleshire, and moved southward, like many other Northern families, into Galloway at an early period. This James was son of William M'Culloch, by his wife Elizabeth Dunbar, of Mocrum, a daughter of Elizabeth Muir, of Rowallan. In 1612 M’Cuiloch sold his lands of Mullaveagh to Patrick Nemooh, a burgess of Edinburgh. 6. Alexander Dunbar, gent., was a oousin, to James M'Cullooh, and came also from Galloway, where his family once occupied a leading position. This undertaker was a son of Sir John Dunbar, of Mocrum, who died in 1683. He sold his proportion, called Kirkeran, to Sir Robert Gordon in 1615. 7. Patrick Vans, or Vance, gent., also came from Wigtonshire, where he owned a small property called Libragh, or Lybrack, in the parish of Kirkinner. He was the second son of Sir Patrick Vans of Barnbarock, and his wife, Lady Catherine Kennedy, daughter of Gilbert, third Earl of Cassilis. This family of Vans is said to be the only one in Galloway retaining its documents from the date of settlement in good preservation. Patrick Vans's patent was dated August 11, 1610,and he sold his proportion called Boylaghoutra to Patrick O'Murrey on the 3rd of October following. 8. Alexander Coningham came from the parish of Sorbie, in Wigtonshire, but to what branch of the then numerous race or clan bearing this surname he belonged we know not. The property of Poulton, or Powtoun, which he is stated in his grant as then holding, was conveyed in a charter given by King Robert Bruce to the prior of Whithorn. In a charter granted by David II. to Gilbert Kennedy, the lands of Powtoun are coupled with those of Carroltown, and are believed to have once formed part of that celebrated estate. Alexander Coningham sold his proportion called Moynarga to Sir Robert Gordon in 1615.


In the Oxford Companion to Irish Literature "Plantation" is described as: the seizure of Irish land and the allocation of it to new owners on the condition that they settle it with an English tenantry, or with Irish or Scots sympathetic to English rule. Plantation occured broadly within the period 1550-1700 and was frequently a response to Irish rebellion against the English Crown. Queen Mary (r. 1553-8) gave approval for the plantation of Leix and Offaly. There were plantations in Munster following the rebellion of Gerald Fitzgerald, Earl of Desmond, 1579-80; in Ulster, after the wars between Elizabeth I and Hugh O'Neill, 1594-1603; and in Wexford.

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