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Perhaps these few paragraphs do not seem relevant to the history of the 69th Pa. Vol. Infantry however I do feel they might be appreciated by some. History is an emotive subject. I lay the following as fairly as I can before you.
In reseaching a man such as Denis O'Kane an immigrant Irishman into the America of the mid 19th century the reader will most probably at some stage start thinking about just where was this man coming from, what were his roots, what was the country that he came from like and many other questions. Many of you who will read this will know that you have Irish ancestors from Co's Derry,Tyrone and Antrim. Many of you will enjoy the "Irishness" of your ancestry with celebrations on St. Patricks day, green beer, Irish dancing and all the usual razaamatazz associated with the 17th of March. It may help to take a short look at the history to get a better understanding of what it is all about.
Let us therefore take short overview of the earlier history of Ireland and see how it’s history had developed by the early part of the 19th century when Dennis O'Kane was growing up in Tireighter townland close to Park village in the Learmount-Upper Cumber parishes of Co. Derry on the Co.Tyrone border. In my travels to various parts of the world as a young man I was often quite taken aback by the knowledge that people even in the most remote parts of the world had of Ireland. I have never been to any place where there was not someone with a connection with the island of Ireland. It was only in later years when I started to look at its history that I discovered the reasons why. Ireland’s history has ensured that its people have travelled the world and settled everywhere. Apart from the usual places such as the United States and Australia one finds the descendants of Irish people in such places as Argentina, Mexico, Austria and numerous other countries. The list is endless. Their travelling was not in many cases voluntary but of necessity. Internal strife, plantation and many famines and social disorders ensured this wonderful and magic island was almost always at best unsettled. During the centuries there were few decades of perfect peace. Ireland to this day is in fact a troubled land.
If you were to ask a person on the streets of Belfast just what his nationality is you would in most cases receive from the Catholics, “Irish” and from the non-Catholics, “British”. If you asked them their names and had knowledge of the sources of names you would find that names such as D’Arcy or Savage from the old Norman settlers or perhaps Molyneaux or Morrell from the Huguenot French settlers. There could be a Mullen or an O’Kane, there could be the usual Smith and Jones. In fact there is as in the most of the British Isles a great mix of names. In fact a great mix of peoples. This would be expected. However in the case of Ireland especially N. Ireland the person named would not generally question the source of their name but simply align their Irishness or Britishness with their religion. I generalise but there is some truth in my statement. Where does Irishness or Britishness start on an island in Europe that has seen many peoples come and go. What for instance is a true Maltese?. Perhaps some may think such a person exists but what about all the Phonesians and Greeks and people from the Middle East who sailed to and settled on Malta giving it it’s unique people. Ireland is really no different.
In order to understand ones history it is necessary to understand the history of the land in which we live in or our ancestors came from to some extent. In this case the island of Ireland. Most people have jumbled thoughts on Brian Brou, King William III. (alias King Billy), the Planters, the Normans, the Saxons, the Pope, the English etc. people whose names add to the list cause great confusion.
Modern Irish history is said to start circa 1600. However let us take a look at some of the major dates in the known history of this island which will enable a constructive application of dates and events and stay away as far as possible from myth and legend. It will be realised that this is just a glance at a few minute segments of Irish history over nearly 2,000 years but it may help understand what Ireland is and is about. It is absolutely essential that people reading about Ireland and its peoples have a good grasp of Irish history with particular understanding of Irish history from 1600 onwards just before, during and after the Ulster “Plantation” circa 1600 onwards. I cannot stress this fact strongly enough. Because we are an island we had "Plantations" in earlier periods of our history but this Plantation started by Elizabeth 1st. after her ex-communication from the Catholic Church in the late 16th century is the one that is affecting current generations both Catholic and Protestant and contributes a great deal to the present day "Northern Ireland problem". Note the several “Plantations” that took place prior to the Reformation associated with Henry VIII. These did not cause too many problems because the religion was a shared one between planter and indigenous population and difference of culture quickly faded away and a common though mutually slightly changed culture would evolve. However in the Plantation of the early 17th century onwards the great difference between the planter settlers and the local population was religion and thus it remains.
Let us start at 400 years before the birth of Christ when the Romans were located in what is basically England.

Year’s circa 400 B.C. until year 0 A.D.

Between the year 400 B.C. and year 0 A.D. the Celts from central Europe ( an area of what is now roughly Austria and southern Germany ) came north into the two main islands of what is now called Britain. They arrived on the island of Ireland as we know it and dispossessed the original inhabitants.These migrants thus became the "real” Irish, the “native” Irish, the “Celts" as we know and refer to them as. The reader should treat this expression with great caution. Purity of any race is difficult to establish. We are an island and we have had many visitors from Scandanavia, continental Europe, England, Scotland and Wales. Take for instance the east Antrim coast and the west coast of Scotland both areas within sight of each other. Both these areas were exchanging peoples for centuries and still are.

Year 0 A.D.

The birth of Christ the year from which the Christian Calendar has been developed. Between 0 A.D. and 450 A.D. the Romans were in England. They never came to Ireland in numbers nor did they go into the land of the Picts ( Scotland ) in numbers but simply built Hadrians wall in the north of England to keep the Picts out. England would have been Britannia to them and Ireland Hibernia. Be aware that though the Romans did not come to Ireland they were very aware that it was there. The Irish often raided into Roman Britain and brought back "slaves" to work for them in Ireland. Not all the "slaves" were people of low birth as might be thought. Many would have been learned men and it was possibly from this stock that "Patrick"- the Saint Patrick came. It is said he came from the area of what is now Wales. Thus Patrick in effect brought his Roman based ethos into Ireland with him. This would be to Ireland’s gain. The population of Ireland at this time would be small, between a quarter and half a million.

Year’s circa 450 until 500.

The Romans left Britain as their empire crumbled and then came the Judes, Angles and Saxons from the northern part of Europe between 450 A.D. and 800 A.D. They did not come to Ireland in any great numbers. Saint Patrick would have been in Ireland in this era converting the populace to Christianity and building his churches. The High King of Ireland would have been Niall of the Nine Hostages circa year 479.

Years circa 795 until 1000.

Between 795 and 1000 the Norsemen, Danes and Vikings arrived. They made their way into Ireland up the rivers into such known places as Lough Neagh and the river Shannon. The wars with the native Irish started. These continued until 1014 when Brian Boru defeated the Danes at the battle of Clontarf when Scandanavian influence declined in Ireland. However they left their mark in founding cities such as Dublin, Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow.

Year 1014.

The battle of Clontarf, an Irish victory over the Danes. Danish power in Ireland wanes.

Years circa 1066.

Arrival of the Normans into England and Ireland ( from Normandy France ). Names such as deCourcey, DeLargy, and Savage appeared and are still with us!. Sir John DeCourcey looked at the Irish monastic scene and decided that he would allow monastic colonies from Europe to enter Ireland. Thus such orders as Franciscans, Benedictines, Cistersians and many others arrived. Fourteen different orders are talked of. The direct influence of European religious orders had arrived. The old Irish monastic ethos would change for ever. Many of these orders were from Italy and France. Ireland was starting to become a "Rich and Rare Land".

Year 1156.

Henry II of England gets the go ahead from the Pope ( Nicholas Breakspear an Englishman ) to "overlord" Ireland and bring the Celtic Irish Catholic church which would appear to the Pope to be independent into line, under more control by him. This done by the Synod of Cashel in 1172. Remember England still Catholic at this time and the Pope an Englishman. Nicholas Breakspear has been the only English Pope to date. The Catholic church in Ireland was at this period a church of its, own probably making its own laws and really could be referred to as the “Irish Catholic Church”. This did not go down too well in Rome and Henry obviously played his part with the Pope in Rome in getting the Irish church to become the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland ie the tag "Roman" appeared as an indicator linking its subservience to Rome Italy. This state of affairs lasted until the Reformation when the High Anglican Church and Church's of England, Scotland and Ireland evolved.

Year’s circa 1160 - 1340.

The Normans who started coming to Ireland continued to do so until about 1300 A.D. when they settled in certain parts of Ireland. Many married the "native" Irish and effectively became Irish while a lot went back to England. The Norman conquest of Ireland was basically a failure. The only place their writ generally operated was The Pale area around what is now Co. Dublin. The religion was still Catholic. However things were to change when Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509. The Black Death devastated Europe and millions died. Norman names start to spread to various parts of rural Ireland. More names such as Staunton, Burke, Prendergast, Jennings, Davitt, Costello and Gibbons appear even in the west of Ireland and their descendants are still there.

Year 1492.

The Italian navigator Christoper Columbus with the aid of ships and money from Spanish royalty sets sail west from Europe and makes a landfall to the west. He names it San Salvador. The so called discovery of America. Many millions of Irish were to emigrate there in the centuries that followed both in desperation and in fact proud builders of the this “New World ", of the land mass to the west -- America.

Year’s circa 1509 until 1547.

Henry VIII comes to the throne of England. The break up with Rome starts and Henry’s behaviour triggers the Reformation whose problems are still with us. In his reign he assumes to be head of The Church. The Protestant Anglican Church or The Established Church is born. Henry starts his onslaught in suppressing the monasteries and the Catholic church in Britain and Ireland. There is also the benefit that he and his followers will get hold of all the riches of the monasteries and their lands...the so called "Reformation Parliament" of 1529. In 1534 Henry VIII names himself as Head of the Church of England by his Act of Supremacy. Between 1535 and 1539 the dissolution of the Catholic monasteries takes place mostly within the Pale in Ireland an area around Dublin where English law could be enforced. As regards the ownership of Irish land it is confiscated on a “surrender and regrant” and the Irish inheritance laws are changed. This further weakens the Irish hold on their land. Many chose to change their ethos and take on the religion and ethos of their conquerors.

Year’s circa 1547 until 1551.

Edward VI on the throne. A Protestant who carries on the anti - Catholic theme. Orders the destruction of Papist style furniture in churches. Enrages the Irish people.

Year’s circa 1551 until 1558.

Queen Mary the sister of Edward VI on the throne. Though a Catholic she decided to overthrow the O'Mores and the O'Connors in counties Leix and Offaly because they were intolerant of the dwellers within the Pale around Dublin. She confiscates their land renames the counties Queen’s and King’s County and garrisons of English settlers were introduced. Be aware that this was the first of many "Plantations". The "Plantation" people talk about these days is really the more recent "Plantation of Ulster" at the beginning of the 17th century. This Plantation by Queen Anne failed as the "native" Irish fought back for more than 50 years. However any plantation leaves trails of people and their ethos. It should be noted that in the previous generations prior to the Reformation the English settlers into Ireland would have in most cases been Catholic families so there would have been established an Anglo Catholic aristocracy in Ireland. These people were to suffer very badly after the Reformation as they would have been subjected to pressure form both the new Anglo Protestant ascendancy and the native Irish Catholics. Many changed their religion to survive and keep their lands. Others threw in their lot with the Irish. Against this some of the Irish Catholic aristocratic families became Protestant in order to survive hence to this day many of the Protestant Aristocracy families all over Ireland have such “Catholic Irish” family names. Looking at the broad spectrum of surnames across Ireland one gets a very good mirror of the island’s very mixed peoples and history.

Year 1559.

Shane O'Neill inaugurated chief of the O'Neills of Ulster at Tullyhogue near the modern town of Cookstown Co.Tyrone. He has problems with the English government in the years immediately after his installation.

Year 1588.

The Spanish Armada sails against Britain but this seaborne attack fails due to many things, one main one being the weather at the time. Many Spanish ships flounder along the west coast of Ireland.

Year’s 1588 - 1595.

During this period Shane O'Neill murdered by the McDonnells at Glenshesk Co. Antrim. The native Irish react in force against the rapid encroachment by plantation settlers into Ireland. The initial arrival in numbers of settlers from Scotland, England and continental Europe seeking cheap and good land. However their actions end in failure. The decline in O'Neill power in Ireland as the English government exerts ruthless pressure.

Year 1595.

Hugh O'Neill inaugurated at Tullyhogue fort near Cookstown. The last of the O'Neills of Ulster to be inaugurated there.

Years circa 1595 until 1603.

"Modern" Irish history is generally said to start at about 1600. The methods and practices of recording events started to improve. It was at this juncture that Irish history changed for ever. If one travels along the Coast Road of County Antrim looking across to Scotland which can be seen on a clear day and were to stop and chat to some of the local people the driver would note their rather Scottish accents. Perhaps this could be put down to the fact that both countries are so close they have been exchanging peoples over the centuries. This would be correct. However if one were to drive across Co. Antrim, cross the river Bann at Toome or Toomebridge as it is also known and proceed westward over the Glenshane Pass across the hills between Co. Antrim and Co. Derry and descend into the town of Dungiven, swing left and proceed along road towards Park Feeney and Claudy the accent of the local populace would be found to be much softer but nevertheless have a Scot’s lilt to it. There would be in the dialect many Scots and Irish expressions. Also there would be many old English expressions. These are the parishes of Banagher Learmount and Upper Cumber.This is an area of much history, of many different names, of several cultures. The lands of the original Irish owners the O’Connors and O’Cathans. It is the area in which Colonel Dennis O'Kane was born not too far from Dungiven or Claudy towns. This is where many Scots and English arrived as Plantation settlers. They would get old O’Cathan land at very reasonable cost. This is where the history of Dennis O'Kane would later begin.
At this period in British history Elizabeth 1st is on the throne and politically and religiously great change takes place. Elizabeth was excommunicated by the Pope in 1570. The pressure against the Catholic people really became great in many ways. By imposing the Church of England ethos in prayer books, the imposition of fines for not using the regulation prayer book in particular. This affected the "native" Irish as well as the old Norman Irish and old English Catholic planter stock from times previous who would also have been Catholic. However be aware that the Catholic church was also even under greater attack in England a point that is in many cases missed. Catholicism was the real target in England and Ireland at this stage. Elizabeth also "planted" with English settlers the county of Monaghan and great areas of Munster mostly the counties of Limerick, Kerry, Cork and Waterford. This was not a great success as English people did not want to go to Ireland in great numbers. Also those who did go started to marry into the Irish and thus weaken their ethos. However plantations such as these have left circumstances where the now Irish people in many places in Ireland have very “English” names. Elizabeth made great strides in the "Anglisation" of Ireland and getting its people to adopt Protestantism. She had drawn up the plans for the forced Plantation of Ireland and the weakening of its chiefs in the north of Ireland ( the northern part being generally referred to as Ulster) being the O'Neills, O'Donnells and the O'Cathans. She was in the years around 1600 having battles with these chiefs. However her victory at the battle of Kinsale in 1601 saw the defeat of the old Irish chiefs. This was the great defeat of the Irish in their history. The period between 1594 until 1603 was known as the "Long War". Basically the war between the O'Neills, O'Donnells and to a lesser extent O'Cathans against the English. This war would end with the defeat of the Irish at the battle of Kinsale.

Year’s circa 1603 until 1607.

This saw the start of another land confiscation and "regrant" process. With the "regrant" system the land was firstly confiscated from the Irish chiefs and provided they took on English titles and adapted English systems of land ownership then they would be "regranted" the land. The new counties of Donegal, Coleraine, Tyrone, Armagh Monaghan and Fermanagh were created. Antrim and Down already existed. Coleraine would have been ( roughly ) the area of the now Co. Derry - in which lay the land’s of the O'Cathans.

Year 1606.The “Flight of the Earls”.

The most important date perhaps in the history of N.E. Ireland as the Earls of Tyrone and Donegal ie O'Neill and O'Donnell and Maguire of Fermanagh flee to the Continent from Rathmullan in Co. Donegal and Irish history changes for ever. Thousands of their soldiers and followers follow them mostly to Europe though some to as far away as Mexico and South America - the "Wild Geese". The O’Cathans of the Roe valley and surrounding area do not flee in numbers but have to bear the consequences.

Year’s circa 1607 until 1641.

Major years of change in Irish history take place after the "Flight of the Earls" when O'Neill and O'Donnell and Maguire fled the country from Rathmullan Co. Donegal at the end of August/beginning of September 1606. Hugh O'Neill 2nd. Earl of Tyrone ..."The O'Neill" of Tyrone died in exile in Rome 1616. He is buried in the Franciscan church of San Pieto in Rome. Thousands of their followers would die in the armies of Europe fighting in many campaigns. When they fled it would have been assumed that their heirs would have inherited the land. This was not so as Queen Elizabeth had the "rules" changed and it was deemed that because they simply left their lands such lands were said to have been "escheated" ie fall to the State. This is where real plantation and anti - Catholicism really moved forward. This is the "Plantation" that we now talk of and the people who came the "Planters" as we know them. The ancestors of people with names such as Wilson, Boyd, Craig, Campbell, Thompson which are prevalent today would have arrived from such places as Galloway and Ayrshire and southwest Scotland and many other parts of mainland Britain. Among these mainland English and Scots would also be Huguenots from France and the Low countries. Some would be Waloons and some Flemings. Some were fleeing political pressure and religious oppression some simply seeing an opportunity for cheap land. Some would come as soldiers from the Low Countries in army of William III. Their reward in many cases was land. The Scots planters started coming into north County Down 1607/08 and to west of the river Bann in 1610. By 1625 the Scots were coming in force and by 1628 there were something like 13,000 Scots planters in Ulster. Archbishop Edward Synge of Tuam Co. Galway estimated that 50,000 Scots planters came into Ulster between 1690 and 1715. They were to get land cheap or in many cases given it. Catholics who managed to stay had to take the left over poor lands, the stony Sperrin hills shared between Tyrone and Derry being a good example. The area along the Roe valley in Co.Derry and owned by the O'Cathans was also planted but in a slightly different way by using the London Trade Guilds to take possession of the lands. Not exactly all Co. Derry was planted in this manner but also included were parts of Co. Tyrone as far as the western shore of Lough Neagh. Trade Guilds such as the London Drapers Company ( Hence the name Draperstown ) formerly Ballinascreen, the Vintners Company and many more. Thus ended the land ownership by the O'Cathans. The chief of the O'Cathans - Donnel Ballagh O'Cathan - tried to do a deal with the then James 1st. However James though initially giving Donnel Ballagh a knighthood set a trap for him, took him to the Tower of London and kept him without trial until he died in 1628. Sir Donnell Ballagh O'Cathan was at one time married to O'Neill’s sister Rose but he divorced her. The O'Cathans were in subservience to the O'Neills and this is probably why O'Cathan did not really want to back O'Neill. Another example of power, land, women and money taking precedence over reality. In the end they all lost out. Thus ended the O'Cathans. Another step on the way to full plantation. When the lands of the O'Cathans between the rivers Roe Faughan and Bann were confiscated and given to the various London trade guilds the name of the old city of Derry ( Doire - the oakwood ) was changed to Londonderry the attachment of London to Derry being obvious. This is the reason for the current name problem with that city. Catholics using Derry and Protestants Londonderry. Perhaps not all know why they use their version except that it annoys or identifies their allegiance and thus their religion. It may well be useful to clarify to the reader just who the plantation settlers were. Basically there were four "types" of "Planters" who came to Ulster in the Plantation era circa 1603 onwards which we will concern ourselves with. These basically were as follows.


These as the name suggests were people who "served" their King or Queen and country. These were in the main Government officials who had played a prominent part in Ireland in the military or civil office under Elizabeth 1st and James 1st and played their part in the victory in the Long War against O'Neill and O'Donnell. It was cheaper to pay these men in Irish land rather than in money and this is what happened. They had the pick of the good land at 8 pounds 6 shillings and 8 pence per 1,000 Irish acres. Not a bad payback. King James even paid his barber by such a method. Cromwell used this method to pay his soldiers in earlier times. In Co. Derry an outstanding "servitor" was Sir Thomas Philips who took from the O'Cathans ( O'Kanes ) and re-distributed the land to his officials. One such “servitor” soldier was an Alexander Sanderson who remains lie buried in Desertcreat Church of Ireland near Cookstown Co.Tyrone. He died 8.12.1633. As his monument in Desertcreat states he had "been born in Scotland, a soldier in Belgium, a leader of horse and foot in Poland. In Ireland a Justice of the Peace and thrice High Sheriff”. This is an excellent example of a "servitor" planter - he had "served". He was well rewarded. Queen Elizabeth 1st. would have given him estates and lands taken off the Tyrone O'Neills and their sept followers.


These were men who already had sizeable assets in England and Scotland and were for favours from the Queen or King given larger estates in Ireland. They had to "undertake" hence the name Undertakers. They had to "undertake" to bring in from England and Scotland within two years tenants and farmers at an average rate of 24 men per thousand acres. The undertakers had to built fortified dwellings and be able to supply men for its defence and the men who were "imported" as tenants from England and Scotland had to promise to defend the servitors and undertakers by use of arms where necessary. In fact many such settlers could and did have their own private militias. They could hold courts where required. Another requirement was that no native Irish were to be taken as sub-tenants though some were later on as the system did not always get enough people coming in to take up the land offers. However basically the native Irish were used if required as labourers to service the estates of the newly arrived plantation settlers. The servitors and undertakers estates were around 1,000 1,500 and 2,000 Irish acres of good land and any poor land adjacent this good land was simply handed as free to the servitor. One could get a mountain as a "luck penny".


These lands also of very sizeable acreage were given to: A. The Protestant Church of Ireland . These areas were labelled "churchlands" for the benefit of the local bishop or "glebe" lands for the benefit of the local rector of the parish. B. 100,000 ( one hundred thousand ) acres of land was set aside for the support of Trinity College in Dublin built by Elizabeth 1st. In addition in areas "west of the Bann" acreages were set aside for the support of the "Royal Schools" namely Raphoe Royal School in Co. Donegal, the Royal School Armagh, the Royal School in Cavan, the Portora Royal School at Enniskillen and the Royal School in Dungannon. The College at Derry now called Foyle College was another charity school.


Though not "planters" as such these people formed part of the society at the time and must be mentioned. They were the original Irish from which the land had been taken. When the carve up of the land of the old Ulster was being made it was thought as a "nice gesture” that some of the old ruling or leading Irish families could be granted land ( effectively allowed to have some of their own land back ). However the areas that they were granted were much smaller at between 60 and 300 acres. And naturally they had to pay a higher rent of some 10 pounds 3 shillings and 4 pence per thousand acres. Not that they ever got 1,000 acres.

Year 1641 until 1649.

An abortive general rebellion by the Catholic Irish against the injustices of plantation, loss of their lands and attacks on their religion. This was heavily suppressed militarily. The Presbyterians established in 1642 one of their first permanent churches at Carrickfergus in Co. Antrim. Carrickfergus is where a lot of the planters and armies would have landed in the northern part of Ireland. This is where King William III ( alias King Billy ) later landed on his way to fight at the Boyne in 1689. Owen Roe O'Neill fought a successful battle against General Monroe at Benburb Co. Tyrone circa 1643 but because overwhelming numbers and reinforcements were to render this victory of little consequence. Cromwell arrived in 1649 fresh from his English Civil War victory with 20,000 soldiers. His suppression of the native Irish would be ruthless and massacres were common the worst being that at Drogheda Co. Louth. Catholic power continues to wane in Ireland. The 1641 rebellion achieves nothing.

Years circa 1649 until 1660.

In 1649 Charles I is executed and Cromwell takes control. There is no English monarch on the thrown. Now the era of Cromwell and the persecution of the Catholics. Catholics were forbidden to practise their religion and all Bishops and Priests were outlawed. Monasteries and chapels destroyed. There are numerous examples of old ivy covered wallsteads of the remains of monasteries and chapels all over Ireland and England if one seeks them out. The native Irish banished to west of the Shannon the expression "to Hell or Connaught" stems from this period of Irish history. Royalist estates in England and Ireland are seized and the new middle class Protestant landowners establish in Ireland. Cromwell confiscates some 11,000,000 ( eleven million acres ) from the native Catholic populace and English Planter Royalists. He pays his soldiers with land. Funds for war are raised by selling land. Many Huguenots arrive in Ireland some as soldiers with Cromwell and some as settlers. However in 1660 the Monarchy is restored in England. Charles II comes to the thrown. In 1662 Royal sanction encourages people to go to Ireland.The words "strangers" or "etrangers” the French word for stranger appears in Irish history. In 1667 some 500 Huguenot families from Canterbury England arrive in the Co. Carlow area of Ireland. Thus the mix of what we are increases.

Year’s 1670 until 1690. The Test Act.

In 1673 the infamous Test Act. These enactments of the English Parliament required candidates for Public office meet certain religious standards.The most notable in 1673 prevented Catholics from holding office. It was also applied to what were termed “dissenters” including Presbyterians. Civil and military officers had to take oaths of supremacy acknowledging the supremacy of the King or Queen over both church and state, reject the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation and only receive Holy Communion according to the rites of the Church of England. Most of these laws were relaxed by 1828 though applied to Jews until 1858. These laws were to cause great annoyance to the Presbyterians in the middle and late 18th century and no doubt set the scene for the rising of the United Irishmen in 1798. In 1685 the Edict of Nantes was revoked and persecution of France’s Protestant population starts in earnest. Many thousands of Huguenots flee France and the Netherlands. Many come to Ireland as free agents or as soldiers with William III. In 1688 the “Glorious or Bloodless Revolution” takes place. The Catholic King James II is removed from the English throne and he is replaced with the Protestant King William III.

Year’s 1690 until 1691.

This period in Irish history is generally referred to as the period of the Williamite Wars in Ireland. After the defeats at the various battles during this period some 500,000 Irishmen left Ireland to fight in the armies of other countries. Such countries were France, Austria and Spain in particular but they found their way into armies in many places even as far south as Mexico and Argentina. There were also some who found their way into the army of the Vatican. Soldiers who left Ireland after the defeats during the centuries are always referred to as the "The Wild Geese" in Irish history. They fought in all major and minor European wars.

Year’s circa 1690 until 1695.

The battle of 1690, The Battle of The Boyne and the defeat of the Catholic James II incidentally King William's father in law saw more great steps taken against the Catholic Irish. Though plantation had been taking place prior to this the problem was further added to as more tracks of good land were given to officers and soldiers of King William’s army for services done in place of money. The estates of ex Williamite officers started to spread in the area of Ulster. In 1690 there were three main "battles" fought in Ireland between King William III and James 1st. These were at Derry, Aughrim and the Boyne. It is known that going to the battle at Derry in the Spring of 1690 King James and his army passed through the townland of Innishatieve near Pomeroy Co.Tyrone. With King James was the French Ambassador one Monsieur D'Avaux who noted the area was a frightful wilderness of misery and desolation with great shortages of food for man and animals.

Year’s circa 1695 until 1725. The Penal Times.

The Penal laws against the Catholics and their religion and property came into force. These laws enacted with ruthless effect 1695 - 1727. These laws basically left the Catholic Irish in serfdom. No Catholic could hold any office however how menial. Further acts in 1704 and 1709 forbade Catholics to lease land for more than 31 years so that the Catholic Irish ownership of the land of Ireland fell to just 5% ( five percent )! There was in fact a policy within the government of the day to "allow" the "native Irish" to have "some" land - and just "some" as it gave the government an "appearance" of handling the situation with consideration in the eyes of foreign governments. It was also in this era that more of the old extensive landlords who had been Catholic changed to Protestantism so that they could hold on to their land. This explains why some of the "gentry" or landlords of the present day though having very Irish names are Protestant and nearly all members of the Church of Ireland. Also some of the smaller farmers changed to become Protestant, again to hold their land. However the bulk of the Irish population stayed Catholic. It was also common that when an old monastic site was taken over by the newly establishing "Established" church, later the Church of Ireland Protestants felt quite comfortable in taking on the name of the previous Catholic churchs saint’s name. Thus we see Church of Ireland churches with such names as Saint Patricks, St. Ignatius, St. Columbs, names more associated with Irish Catholicism. The use of the old Irish high Cross was also acceptable to the Church of Ireland and one sees many examples up to the early part of this century. Catholics when they see a Celtic high cross in a Protestant graveyard should not immediately see it as a Catholic symbol. They may also see the perceived Catholic symbol I.H.S. on the top of such headstones also. However as far as I see the use of both appears to have declined rapidly in recent decades. Be aware that the Church of Ireland evolved from the "Established Church" as it was known after the Reformation and as such came to Ireland at the time of the Plantation and indeed before. The "Established Church" itself evolved from the old English Catholic Church at the Reformation. In the current High Anglican church one sees a lot in common with the modern Roman Catholic church as such. Presbyterianism did not really come into Ireland until after about 1604, primarily from Scotland. It has a different hierarchy for its ministers of religion. Basically the congregation picks the minister that it deems suitable. He is said to have received a “calling”. Is this a good system?. Perhaps it is but in Ireland no doubt political questions could be associated with certain callings. However I do like the accountability of the minister to his immediate flock. It should be noted that in quite a few cases in the Presbyterian system that if a minister misbehaves or does become controversial the role of "calling" can be quickly be reversed. The man or indeed the Congregation paying the piper can as always call the tune. God's hand in the process works in many ways!.

Year 1704.

The “Registration of Popish Priests” Parliamentary Act. This is the year that an act of Parliament is established so that all "Popish clergy" are registered. The Act is named "An Act for Registering the Popish Clergy". It is set up to make life ever more difficult for Catholics and their clerics. All Catholic clerics have to be registered and this to be ordained by the local main Anglican Bishop. Here is an example. A James McCalline was born in 1664. He was ordained a priest on 26th March 1690 in Galway ( the same year as the battle of the Boyne ). In 1704 he is made P.P.of Cappagh Co. Tyrone. He was registered at The General Sessions of the Peace held for the said county of Tyrone at Omagh on the 13th day of July 1704.... pursuant to a Clause in the Act of Parliament entitled " An Act for Registering Popish Clergy ". He was registered by Edward Weisley Titular Bishop of Kildare ( This is the Protestant Anglican Bishop ). Registered "as pretending to be Popish priest in the parish of Cappy aged 40 and living in Castleraddy". He would operate in very difficult circumstances along with his congregations at Mass houses and Mass rocks in the more inhospitable areas of Ireland including the Sperrins near Dungiven not too far from the town of Dungiven close to Bovevagh. The Penal Times was the era of the Mass rock and the secretive meanderings of Catholic priests and friars throughout the country.

Year’s circa 1697 until 1720.

The Penal era in Ireland - dreadful times for Catholics who would have to attend Mass at Mass rocks secluded in secret glens and bogs. Maybe in a secret room of a fellow Catholic placing all in great danger.

The old Penal era Rocks Catholic chapel at Magheracranmoney near Crossgar Co. Down. This was the first such chapel built in Co. Down after relaxation of Penal Laws. Opened 1769.

The laws were draconian. Any Catholic priest on being caught could be summarily executed. Hedge schools were the order of the day as Catholic education was forbidden. One clause of the Penal Code states “No Catholic may attend a university keep a school or send his children to be educated abroad. A £10 reward is offered as a reward for a Catholic schoolmaster”. The “hedge schools” were literally these. Classes held in secret behind hedges in remote areas. They would be conducted in many cases by priests or ex students of the priesthood. Whilst classes were being held one or two students would be engaged as lookouts for informers or perhaps passing cavalry. Some Latin, Greek and English was taught. It should be remembered that at the beginning of the 18th century the main Irish population would have spoken Irish. It was in 1697 that a large group of Huguenots came with a Louis Crommelin and established the linen industry at Lisburn Co. Antrim. After the 1730's the linen industry would have been providing a better existence for many as it prospered. The population of Ireland would probably be just over 2.5 million.

The United Irishmen's Rebellion of 1798.

Ireland remained a resentful "peaceful state" until the middle 1700's. However it was in the province of Ulster operating at three levels. The Aristocracy who owned and controlled everything with what was their own compliant Parliament in Dublin, the Presbyterian tenants farmers and traders having little say in the administration of the country and the Catholics having basically no say and endeavouring to exist at the bottom of the pile in their small farms and menial jobs servicing the large estates. By 1798 the Presbyterians in the North of Ireland rebelled and took up arms. Catholics in the West and S.W of Ireland also rebelled. This rebellion was put down ruthlessly. By the early 1800's a sort of peace again existed. Dennis O'Kane's family would most certainly have lived in the Learmount- Upper Cumber parish during this rebellion and no doubt felt its effects.
Into this era in 1818 one Dennis O'Kanes was born. He would grow to manhood, marry in Ireland, leave for America and later command the 69th Pa. Infantry in the American Civil War and the rest is history!.

Acknowledgement:Image of post Penal chaple thanks to Ros Davis Co.Down N.I.Family History Site.