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James Hamilton.

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James Hamilton.

( 1559 - 1644)

James Hamilton who was to become one of the foremost planters of Ulster, responsible for bringing thousands of lowland Scots to eastern Ulster and beyond, was born in 1559 the eldest of six son's and one daughter of Scottish Protestant minister Hans Hamilton (1536 - 1608) and his wife Janet, the family lived in Dunlop, Ayrshire.

Hamilton was educated at St Andrews University, after graduating he became a teacher in Glasgow, sometime around 1587 James Hamilton left Scotland by ship, stress of weather is said to have forced a landing in Dublin, where Hamilton established a school The Free School situated in Ship Street, in this school he employed one James Fullerton a fellow pupil at St Andrews as usher. One of their pupils was James Usher, later to become Archbishop of Armagh and famous for his pronouncement that the world was created on Sunday 23rd October 4004 BC.

After the establishment by Queen Elizabeth I of Trinity College in Dublin in 1591, both Hamilton and Fullerton became Fellows of the College, Hamilton was made Bursar in 1598.

Hamilton had connections with the court of James VI of Scotland, it is said that both he and Fullerton acted as agents for James passing information to him regarding political events in Ireland. Eventually Hamilton was appointed Scottish agent to the court of Elizabeth I and after her death on 23rd March 1603, it was he who brought the news to Scotland and was involved in the negotiations which resulted in James VI of Scotland becoming James I of England, an event which became known as The Union of the Crowns.

Hamilton's connections with the newly created English monarch was to set him in good sted when James decided to expand the Elizabethan plantation of Ireland, which was in a wretched state having been depopulated and spoiled by a scorched earth policy engaged in by Sir Arthur Chichester, Carew, and Lord Mountjoy.

In 1602 Con O'Neill owner of the vast Clandeboye estate which sprawled over northern County Down and southern Antrim, was arrested by Chichester and imprisoned in Carrickfergus Castle County Antrim on a charge of treason. This was based on a drunken encounter between some O'Neills men and some English soldiers in which one of the latter was killed.

In an attempt to gain her husbands freedon in 1606 Ellis O'Neill contacted Hugh Montgomery a neighbour of Hamilton in Scotland, who like Hamilton had the kings ear, also as a result of spying, Ellis proposed that if Montgomery could gain a royal pardon for Con they would give him half their estate. Montgomery agreed and arranged for Con's escape from Carrickfergus Castle, from where he was taken to Montgomery's seat at Braidstane Castle (Braidstone) in Ayreshire where the deal was concluded before going to the royal court in London to seek the pardon.

Hamilton got word of this and set out for London also, the outcome of the affair was that the Clandeboye estate was divided in three. This arrangment no doubt brought great annoyance to Montgomery who received one third instead of a half, it signified the beginning of a feude between the two families which was to last for many generations. It also left Chichester tharted, his intentions when imprisoning O'Neill were in all possibilty aimed at gaining control of Clandeboye, around this time it is said Chichester's financial position was far from sound.

The Hamilton manuscripts, held in the PRONI, as would be expected describe the gentleman in glowing terms, some exerts from them are reproduced below.

“He was very learned, wise, laborious, noble (especially to strangers and scholars), so there is great ground to judge he was truly pious, as he was certainly well principled… his younger education seasoned him well; He was observedly a great studier of the Scripture and an enemy to profaneness… he was very charitable to distress'd people that came in great numbers from the upper countrys. He was of a robust, healthfull body, and managed to the best advantage ; died without sickness unexpectedly ere he finished his will."

James Hamilton was married three times, first to Penelope Cooke, then to Ursula (daughter of Edward 1st Lord Brabazon) his last wife was Jane Philips (daughter of Sir John Phillips of Picton Castle in Pembrokeshire). Jane was the mother of Hamilton’s only son, also called James. The Hamilton manuscripts describe his wives thus.

“His first two first ladies proved but little comfortable to him, and his putting away of his second lady was not with general satisfaction to his friends and contemporaries.”

Read about James Hamilton From A Compendium of Irish Biography, by Alfred Webb 1878.