Category: Migration

The Plantation of Ulster

Ulster (Photo credit: Gerald 2560)

For much of the 16th century, Ulster was a wild and wooly place. The region was thickly wooded, scarcely developed, and (according to the English) under populated. Early attempts at settlement (circa 1570) were unsuccessful, and until the region was conquered during the Nine Years War in the 1590s, it was primarily inhabited by nomadic Gaelic Irish.

Permanent residences were scarce, and bloody skirmishes between clans and between the Gaelic and the English led to a very sparse population. In fact, by 1600, the total population of Ulster hovered as low as 25,000.

The English gradually broke the power of the clan chieftains as they conquered Ireland piece by piece throughout the 16th century. The Gaelic chieftains led by Hugh O’Neill surrendered to the English in 1603, and were granted generous land and terms under the Treaty of Mellifont.

A few short years later, however, O’Neill and other rebel chieftains fled Ireland in the hopes of raising Spanish support for a new rebellion. The English government saw this as an opportunity to colonize and “civilize” the region, and promptly seized the rebel lands. The original plan was to award grants of land to Irish lords who had sided with the English during the war; however, after the rebellion in 1608, those plans quickly changed.

King James VI and his counselors conceived of the Plantation of Ulster and a joint English and Scottish venture. King James wanted to reward his subjects in Scotland, where he had once reigned before becoming King of England.

Thus, plans were made for the plantation of six counties in Ulster: Armagh, Cavan, Coleraine, Donegal, Fermanagh, and Tyrone. The plan was to establish strong settlements to bring stability to the region. James wanted to prevent further rebellion, and to that purpose, he confiscated not only rebel lands, but all the land in the region.

The majority of the land was granted to wealthy English and Scottish “Undertakers” (so named for “undertaking” the plantation of the region). A quarter of the land was awarded to select Irish landowners (or Planters); however, Irish peasants were relocated to live near British garrisons and Protestant churches.

All Undertakers and Planters were granted up to 3000 acres of profitable land (not mountains or bogs), but they were held to specific terms. They were strictly barred from selling any lands to Irishmen, and were required to bring a minimum of 48 English-speaking, Protestant adult males to settle on their land. They were also required to build defenses, in the hopes of establishing a strongly loyal British community that could successfully stand up to any future Irish rebellion.

Eventually, veterans of the Nine Years War requested and were granted lands of their own in Ulster. These officers had limited resources to fund their colonization, however, so their establishment was subsidized by London guilds.

From 1606 on, a substantial number of lowland Scots moved into the Ulster settlements. Many of the initial settlers were led by James Hamilton and Hugh Montgomery. Sir Randall MacDonnell soon followed in 1607, bringing 300 Presbyterian Scots to settle on his lands in Antrim.

1609 brought a veritable flood of English and Scottish settlers into Ulster, as Undertakers populated their estates and the surrounding regions. As immigrants came through the Londonderry and Carrickfergus ports, some didn’t like the land that was allotted to them, and instead struck out to build farms and homesteads, further populating the virgin territory.

By 1622, the Scottish and English population in Ireland had grown significantly, numbering around 19,000 throughout Ulster, Antrim and Down. By the 1630s, that number was as high as 80,000. Since roughly half the immigrants were female, the settler population was able to grow even faster.

Because settlements were under threat by roving bandits, military garrisons and fortified towns sprung up fairly quickly. Interestingly, most modern towns in the Ulster region date back to this period of plantation.

Those early settlers left a legacy that continues to this day. The Plantation of Ulster is arguably the source of much of the bad blood that exists between Irish Catholics and British Protestants today. Many Scottish names can be traced back to the early settlers (though Protestant/Catholic beliefs are poor indicator of heritage). And finally, the Plantation settlers contributed many words to the Ulster dialect that are still in use today.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Single to Wisconsin, Please!

Kingston upon Hull sits quietly at the junction of the Rivers Hull and Humber. Due to its ideal location, the port has long enjoyed a successful and lively trade with most of Northern Europe. Shipping lines not only brought significant financial revenue to the town, but also added greatly to the culture and community as migrants made their way through the port.

English: "Farewell to home." Emigran...

Prior to 1836, however, migrants flowed in at a mere trickle. Those who passed through were primarily there for commercial reasons. Some migrant ships did pass through Hull on their way to Canada or the US, though these were infrequent and the numbers negligible. The few ships that did accommodate migrants were unpleasant and the journey was a tiresome ordeal. Accommodations were cramped and voyage timings were irregular.

All of this changed in the 1840s as steamship companies in Hull, Leith, Hamburg and Gothenburg began offering regular emigrant services via the UK. The steamships dramatically shortened the time it took to travel between mainland Europe and the UK ports, and thanks to contracts with the Royal Mail postal service, steamship companies were able to offer trips all throughout the year (rather than being limited to the previously established “immigrant season”).

The Wilson Line of Hull began running steamship services from Norway and Sweden as early as 1843. The North Europe Steam Navigation Company followed in 1853, running a strong fleet of nine steamers back and forth on the Christiania and Gothenburg route. By 1858, however, the Wilson Line practically monopolized the route from Scandinavia to Hull, and brought the majority of emigrant traffic.

From the port cities, the transmigrants were taken by train to Southampton, Liverpool, Glasgow, or London. In these larger cities, the migrants boarded large transatlantic liners for the final leg of their journey to the United States. Passengers could purchase a complete travel package that covered the entire trip including the steamship to Hull, the train ticket on the Transpennine Railway Line to Liverpool, and the final ocean liner ticket that would take them to their final destination.

This brought on a boom of transmigration as folks travelled en masse from Sweden and other Northern European countries. Of course, the city of Hull was not initially prepared for such an enormous number of emigrants, thus emigrant houses and railway stations quickly became overcrowded and a serious health risk. After a cholera outbreak in 1866, the city put major preventative measures in place. Travellers were no longer allowed to roam the city on foot, but were required to remain on board the steamers until their trains were ready to depart.

In 1871, the Northeastern Railway Company built a waiting room near Paragon Railway station so that the emigrants could relax, meet ticket agents, use the washrooms and facilities and be sheltered from the wind and weather. Eventually, the majority of the emigrants were passing through the Paragon Railway Station. Though the travellers were only there for a short time, their numbers were so great that in 1881, the station doubled the size of its waiting room. Women and children were able to wait in a separate room, and sanitary facilities were expanded and improved to meet the greater demand.

At times, so many emigrants were arriving that up to 17 carriages would be hooked up to a single steam engine. Passengers would cram into the forward carriages, while their baggage was piled high in the rear four cabs. Trains pulled out of Hull every Monday morning to make the three to four hour trip to Liverpool.

By 1914, however, transmigration had slowed to a crawl once more. The UK’s Alien Immigration Act of 1905 had severely restricted travel, and when WWI broke out followed by the passing of immigration acts in America, mass transmigration came to an end. Over those 70-odd years, however, 5 million transmigrants flowed through the UK, with approximately 60% of them passing through the port in Hull.

Related Items

Finding your Swedish Roots

The Emigration from Sweden

Swedish Americans


1. The research of Dr Nicholas J. Evans at the University of Hull. For further information please access the following article he has written Indirect Passage from Europe. European Transmigration via the UK, 1836-1914,  Journal for Maritime Research, Volume 3, No 1 (2001), pp. 70-84


Copy Protected by Chetan's WP-Copyprotect.