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Samuel Lewis' History of Tyrone

History of County Tyrone.



Tyrone takes its name from the Irish Tir Eoghain, which means the land of Eoghain, or Owen. Owen was the son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, a famous king of Ulster in pre-Christian times. From the early 400's to the 1500's, Tyrone was the centre of the territory ruled by Niall's descendants, the O'Neill family. The O'Neill's held court at Tullyhogue, near Dungannon. It was only in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I that their rule was broken, this part of Ulster remained the most Gaelic area of Ireland, and it was the last to fall under English influence.

The great Hugh O'Neill, an Irish chief who was sent to England to be educated and also to protect him from his uncle who is said to have murdered Hugh's father, his English education however didn't deter him from rebelling against Elizabeth I at the end of the 1500's. After nine years of war, O'Neill surrendered in 1603, unaware that the Queen had died only a few days earlier.

His surrender was the end of Gaelic resistance, the O'Neill's coronation stone at Tullyhogue was broken by the order of the English commander, Mountjoy. Hugh O'Neill accepted the English title of Earl of Tyrone, and agreed to the replacing of the Irish Brehon law by English law.

In 1607 along with his ally, Hugh O'Donnell, Earl of Tirconnell (Donegal) fled to Spain. This event, which became known as the "Flight of the Earls," King James I's seized this opportunity and began the Plantation of Ulster, in which English and Scottish colonists were given grants of land in the north of Ireland.




After the "Flight of the Earls," the vast O'Neill and O'Donnell estates were taken over by the British Crown, they were split up and granted to Scottish and English "Undertakers," who agreed, or undertook, to "plant" them with their own tenants. They were unable to entice sufficient settlers to plant the land fully, and many of the original Irish inhabitants remained on the lands as tenants.

At the battle of Benburb in 1646, Owen Roe O'Neill totally defeated a Scottish army led by General Robert Munro. In 1782 the town of Dungannon hosted one of the most important events in Irish history, when the delegates of 143 regiments of the Irish Volunteers met in the parish church to demand the independence of the Irish parliament. This meeting enabled Henry Grattan and his Irish "patriots" to form a short-lived Irish parliament that was ended by the Act of Union in 1800.

Read about County Tyrone from Samuel Lewis' Topographical Directory of Ireland 1837