The allocation of land in the Plantation of Ulster

The Plantation was essentially the settlement of land by people who would be loyal to the English Crown. The land had been seized, or rather deemed to have been abandoned (escheated) when the Irish Earls fled the country, The persons who received land, were called "Undertakers" because they had to undertake certain conditions, including building a house and "bawn" - a fortified barn, and to settle the land with a minimum number of people of the Protestant faith who could become militia in time of troubles. The main Plantation period was from 1610 to about 1630

Planting was not a new idea

The principle of "Planting" peoples on seized land started with Henry VIII's accession to the throne of Ireland in 1541 and it was under his policy of "Surrender and Regrant" of lands that the Irish princes received English titles - O'Neill became Earl of Tyrone; O'Brien Earl of Thomond; Macwilliam Burke of Galway Earl of Clanrickard. Under Edward VI a more aggressive policy led to seizure of lands in reprisal for insurrection; and in 1556 under Queen Mary a plantation scheme for most of Leix and Offaly was declared with the counties being renamed Queens County and Kings County. The policy of seizure and grant to English landlords continued under Elizabeth I.

Private adventurers in Counties Antrim and Down

The Scottish migration to Ireland was initiated by the granting of land to two Scottish courtiers - Hugh Montgomery Sixth Laird of Braidstone, in Ayrshire, and Sir James Hamilton from Lanark who were private adventurers before the formal Plantation scheme commenced. There was much wheeling and dealing after the first allotments were made in 1603 but by 1606 the situation was resolved and settlement began in earnest in County Down and Co. Antrim. In 1607 tenants began to settle church lands and Proclamations in Glasgow, Ayr, Irvine, Greenock and other south western parts of Scotland, especially around Braidstone, declared leased land on easy terms. The first known Orrs - James and his wife Janet McClement came to Ballyblack, Co Down in 1607.

The seizure of lands by the English Crown

On 4 Sept 1607 The Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnel (Donegal) with 30 relatives and 60 friends and followers fled into exile. These included Maquire, owner of half Fermanagh, It was decided that their lands and all the lands of Shane O'Neill were forfeit . As a result large portions of Tyrone Donegal, Coleraine, Armagh, Cavan and Fermanagh became available for plantation. On 29 September 1607 The Privy Council approved Plantation of those lands.

The "escheated" or confiscated lands were greater than the government expected, largely due to the absence of maps for many parts. There followed official surveys of the land in 1608 and 1609 before decisions could be made how the land would be divided and allocated.

Distribution of the seized lands.

  There were three classes of persons to whom land was granted:

i. English and Scottish "Undertakers" who were responsible for the plantation of the area granted to them; 

ii. Servitors, who were English crown servants resident in Ireland; and,

iii. Native Irish freeholders.

All would be landholders were required to take the Oath of Supremacy, recognising the rights and giving loyalty to the English Crown.

The land was divided up into "precincts" and each subdivided into "proportions" or estates of approximately 2,000, 1500 and 1000 acres. In each "precinct" the chief undertaker was allowed an estate of 3000 acres but nobody else was allowed more than 2000 acres. Some of the precincts had to have "proportions" reserved for English and Scottish undertakers. Church lands were also identified and set aside, as was land for schools and the corporate towns and forts.

A benefit allowed was that produce could be exported for seven years free of any taxes; necessary articles could be imported tax free for five years; and permission was granted for timber to be cut from the Kings woods for building purposes. It sounds complicated but the Plantation was well planned and based on the substantial previous experiences. It was also consistent in denying the indigenous peoples adequate land on which to live and fueled resentment.

Obligations and duties.

There were a long list of obligations and duties required depending on whether an undertaker, servitor or a native Irish freeman. Not least the status determined how much and when the rents on the lands would be due. The undertakers for example were required to build a stone house and bawn ,a fortified yard, within 3 years and "plant" twenty-four able men over the age of 18 and of English or Scottish origin for every 1000 acres. These were to represent at least ten families, and tenants were required to build houses near the bawn for security.

After five years, undertakers had to pay a rent of 5.6s.8d for every 1000 acres; servitors 8 per 1000 acres after 2 years; and native Irish 10.13s.4d per 1000 acres.

The rules, especially the time scales, were varied in later years. The significance of these rules is that similar restrictions did not apply to the plantations in America. In the 1630s these rules were used to bring pressure on the Scottish settlers and was an important factor in their consideration of emigration to the American colonies.

Who got what

There was much wheeling and dealing, particularly to accommodate the wealthy London Livery Companies whose involvement would help guarantee a successful outcome. The Scottish undertakers obtained 59 estates totaling some 81,000 acres. The relative small size of the estates granted reflected the lower incomes of the Scottish lairds. King James also exercised his influence on allocations and many wealthy towns men were rejected in favour of middle ranking lairds with experience in handling landed estates. The nine chief undertakers were all titled and eleven of the ordinary undertakers were also knights of the realm.

Origin of settlers

On the basis that the settlers would have mainly come from the estates of the undertakers the origin of Scottish settlers by County appears to have been :

Armagh , Fews barony - East Lothian, Midlothian
Cavan, Clankee barony - Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, Stirlingshire
Cavan, Tullyhunco barony - Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, Midlothian.
Donegal , Boylagh and Banagh barony - Ayrshire, Wigtonshire Kirkcudbrightshire.
Donegal, Portlough barony - Ayrshire, Dunbartonshire, Lanarkshire, Stirlingshire
Fermanagh, Knockninny barony - Fifeshire, Kincardineshire, Kinrosshire
Fermanagh, Magheraboy barony - East Lothian, Lanarkshire, Midlothian,
Tyrone, Mountjoy barony - Ayrshire, East Lothian, Perthshire
Tyrone, Strabane barony - Ayrshire, Berwickshire, Linlithgowshire, Renfrewshire, Perthshire.


Public Record Office Northern Ireland (PRONI ) for details of Baronies, Poor Law Unions, Parishes etc.

Ulster Historical Foundation (maps and townlands)

Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh (specialises in emigration to the US and Canada)

Suggested reading:

The following books deal with the Plantation and its origins in much greater detail, and have notes about the Undertakers but they do not give any details of the individual settlers.

"The Plantation of Ulster" by Philip Robinson. Pub. Gill & McMillan Ltd, 1984. and by St Martins Press in USA 1984. ISBN 0-901905-62-3 (Paperback)

"The Scottish Migration to Ulster in the Reign of James I" by M Perceval Maxwell. Pub Routledge & Keegan Paul Ltd (1973) ISBN 0-902-905-44-5 (Paperback).

Orr Name Study Ulster Scots Reference material