Scotch-Irish-L ArchivesArchiver > Scotch-Irish > 2001-04 > 0987718796
Subject: [Scotch-Irish] Elliott: "Catholics of Ulster"
Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2001 15:27:14 -0700
Elliott in "Catholics of ULster" asks:
Who were the Catholics of Ulster? She says:
In the 17th century, we really do not know. Before 1641 little is known about the relationships of the religious groupings. Neither "native' or 'settler' would have had any "clearly defined sense of religious identity before 1641". (p 127)
You can't assume all new arrivals were Protestant. In Inishowen in Donegal there are many stories of Scots Catholics. Sometimes the religion of the landowner dictated the religion of the tenants, so estates owned by Catholics attracted Catholic tenants. These included Sir George Hamilton of Greenlaw as well as the Hamilton and Abercorn estatesin Tyrone. The Franciscan monastery near Ballycastle in Antrim was the focal point of a Catholic mission to convert Scots. By 1640 apparently it was converting 500 a year. In 1625 20% of Scottish immigrants were Catholic. "Early Scots settlers were closer to their irish counterparts, in dress, work practices, and housing, than to the English." (p 128). Scots was present in Ulster since the Middle Ages, especially in Donegal.
The Rev O'Laverty explained in his history of Down and Connor that Catholics converted due to "persecution, neglect and mixed marriages", but many reverted to Catholicism in 1641 and after the Restoration suggesting "continued fluidity of religious affiliation". (p 130)
["reverted" presumes they had converted to Protestantism in the
"Intermarriage appears to have occurred at every social level". (p 130). Generally the landowning elite married with others of their social class and conformed while the poor drifted to Catholicism. Thus you find many of the dominant Irish clan names among the Ulster Protestants: O'NEILL, SAVAGE, MAGENNIS. Their lands descended
to their protestant heirs.
In the 1660's perhaps 80,000 more Scots arrived with 50,000 to 80,000 more in the 1690's -- and they changed the religious nature of Ulster. By 1732 Ulster had 313,120 Protestants and 192,295 Catholics. (p 131) A new layer of tenants slipped in, so that the Irish then paid rents and duties not to landlords but to middlemen, often protestant farmers. Their resentment grew, so by the end of the 17th century, the Irish attitudes towards Scots had changed. They no longer looked on them as
"Eastern Gaels". [Linda's term] One thing that soured them was the attitudes towards them exhibited by presumedly Scottish Presbyterians: Presbyterians were accused as being the most anti Catholic group in Ulster by Archbishop Plunkett (Catholic Archbishop, in 1679).
This century of the penal laws is the one where we know the least about the Ulster Catholics. They were passed between 1695 and 1707. For a complete study of these you'll need to read the book. One note: while marriages by Presbyterian ministers were illegal, marriages by priests were legal. Presbyterian marriages became legal in 1739. Though Catholicism was initially persecuted during this period, then
it was not interfereed with. (p 166). Mass houses were built and all religions shared cemeteries. The main target of the penal laws was property and its associated political power (p 167).
Little effort was actually made to convert the Irish. The "most sustained" was the much hated charter schools. Like later schools in the
USA that took Indian children away from their families, these schools took children from their parents to raise them as protestants and gave them basic skills in occupations like linen weaving. These schools rapidly attracted poor Protestant children, though there was stigma attached to being raised in one. They did not succeed and by 1770 all but 2 were closed.
There is evidence of Protestant collusion in assisting Catholics in evading the penal laws. Apparently gentle Protestants would assist Catholic gentry to maintain their social standing, sometimes taking out leases or holding land in trust, as well as hiding priests. The DICKEY family of Ballydonellan, Co Antrim, immigrants from Ayrshire in the 17th century, sheltered priests and held land in trust for
neighbors. The author encountered other cases in other counties. However there were regional differences. In south Down you had Protestant gentry of legendary extremes. Ie Lord Hillsborough in 1771 gave a reward to all who would convert and would not give Catholics a lease. (p 175). All in all, though, the 1700's were not a violent time. She found only one case of a Catholic accused of carrying arms
against the law. Antrim records for assize courts survive from 1731.
Catholics were barred from the British army till 1793 (p 177). Presumedly if your ancestor was in before that date, he was at least nominally Protestant or convinced someone he was. Presumedly he did that in English, so you can assume he did speak it, I suspect.
[I had a friend whose grandmother appeared in San Francisco around
1900 speaking only Irish. She married a French Canadian who spoke
only French, and they moved to Canada. So there were still folks
about at that late date who spoke no English. The son married a
woman of Scots and English extraction, of course . ]
Before the 1780's, these were not tense [I believe she means in terms of Ulster sensibilities . Meaning no major massacres]. In 1744 there was just one Catholic living in Holywood, a coachman for a Mr ISAAC. When he first drove through the village, people ran out to see him. Most, we are told, had never seen a Catholic! (p 187). However Irish, Scots, and English were fighting on their streets in Armagh, Lurgan, and Newry. The towns would have a street where Irish lived, and
likewise for Scots and English. Some still have streets named
Scotch Street, etc.
"There is no record of any serious sectarian disturbance in Ulster before the 1780's" (p 178). In north Antrim, Lord Macartney (Lissanoure) and other Protestant landlords built a "large, handsome masshouse", by 1789. The Catholics were refusing to pay tithes for the established church, so it was in ruin, with no minister. Hence the "Church people" worshipped at the Catholic mass house or the Presbyterian meeting house. They were all baptised
by the priest for "there was no other minister to do it". In that part of the country, this was the norm. (p 179). [You see folk doing this
when they emigrated to frontiers. Descendents may find it hard to accept that their ancestor didn't apparently mind frequently the local Protestant church, or visa versa, but some were used to making do, just like in Ulster. You see this in Western PA, Butler Co, Donegal TWP.]
Mixed marriages were common and were performed by wandering friars -- much to the scorn of all the churches. This was actually a penal crime -- for a priest to conduct a mixed marriage. It remained in force till 1833 and wasn't repealed till 1870, but were only illegal if property was involved.
The poor learned English in these, where both Catholic and Protestant children were educated (p 179). Together. Henry Cooke attended a hedge school (p 180). Though it was illegal, the Catholic church did run schools, which were sometimes attended by protestants. Ther's a case in County Cavan, in 1787 where the parish priest Rev Michael O'Reilly taught Sunday School for 400 children. They were taught reading and writing together and given separate religious instruction. The same went for the upper classes.. William Crolly, to be Catholic archbishop of Armagh, attended a school in Downpatrick in the 1790s that was run by Dr James Neilson, the local Presbyterian minister. (p 181)
The common people felt a need to advance themselves. The only way to do so was to learn English, so there was a drive to do so. You found
written material in English in the homes of illiterate people. They were saving them for when their children learned to read. This contrasts
with later sectarian division over the use of English.
Tensions. Tensions rose in 1739 when war was declared with Spain. Election times were also bad.
Protestant clerics who were not anti Catholic were usually accepted by Catholics, but you had Catholic youth disrupting services of anti-papist preachers (p 184). However they may also have just come to listen -- just as Protestants would attend Catholic services to watch. One United Irish leader, William Putnam McCABE, in the 1790's recruited by spreading word that "a converted Papist would preach the Word in a
certain barn....and explain how he had became convinced of the true doctrines of presbyterianism." Then he'd recruit among the mixed religion crowd that came to hear. (p 184).
Though Cromwell destroyed Lough Derg, a pilgramage site throughout the middle ages, it continued to be used and was undisturbed throughout the penal times. In August 5000 pilgrims would arrive. This made a bit of money for the local protestant proprieters and collected Protestants to watch as well.
In the first half of the 18th century, people were very poor. This changed in the second half due to the expansion of the linen industry. You had some natural disasters: famine in 1741 killed 300,000 people.
You had a lot of agrarian disturbances she doesn't mention too!
Catholic prosperity did increase through the century. By the end of it you had a few Catholics at the top of the linen trade, especially in Co Down (same lists of names: Magennis, Savage, O'Neills, Russell). The emerging Catholic middle class was tiny in comparison to the rest of Ireland. Apparently the place to look for them is the Catholic Qualification Rolls, genealogists.
Throughout most of IReland, and especially Ulster, Catholics and Presbyterians were practicing religion in fields, mass rocks, and in homes and barns. In some cases landlords donated the land to build simple thatched houses. Both Catholic chapels and presbyterian meeting houses looked alike. One observer stated in 1764: "Till within these few years there was scarce a mass-house to be seen in the northern counties of Ulster; now mass-houses are spreading over most parts of that country." (p 200). Same is true of Presbyterian meeting houses.
Neither group tended to attend church every Sunday, due to lack of both
buildings and clergy. Catholics would meet in stations -- once a month mass was held in a private house in the district.(P 202). This wasn't true for Belfast, which had established Presbyterian congregations in the 1600's. It was a Scottish town from its inception.
And that's what she says it was like "Back Then".