Sir John Bolles at Dunnalong Fort
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Sir John Bolles at Dunnalong Fort

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T
he Finn and the Mourne rivers merge together near the town of Strabane in co. Tyrone and form the Foyle.  Strabane is on the Mourne just before the confluence.  Following the river north, near Carrigans, is the site of the Fortress of Dunnalong.

In 1600, Queen Elizabeth I gave Lord Mountjoy orders for the defeat of  the O’Neill, O’Cahan and other Ulster Chiefs who had rebelled against her.

General Sir Henry Docwra first established a base at Derry and then sailed upriver into Lough Foyle.  In Docwra's own words "On the 2nd of July, 1600 I put eight hundred men into boats and landed them at Dunnalong, Tyrone lying in camp within two myles of the place, where I presentlie fell to raising a forte.  After I had made it reasonablie defensible, I left Sir John Bolles in garrison, with six companies of foot, and afterwards sent him fifty horse.”

  Click on either image for a larger view.

 

 

 

This view of the Foyle Valley in 1601, although not drawn to scale, shows the defenses at Derry, the Fort at Dunnalong and the town of Strabane.

 

Excerpt from The Battle For Ulster: 

Sir John Bolles, writing to Robert Cecil on March 7th, 1601 puts the official point of view in this way. The first method is to allow the people to come in through the persuasion of their priests, so allowing them to retain their strength and ability to resist. The second method is to force them to submit because the country is so ravaged that resistance is no longer possible. 

According to Bolles the perfect cure was to keep the people from ploughing by dispersed garrisons, and to force them to live on their stocks so that they would starve in the following year.  This was no doubt attractive from the military point of view: ‘less consideration seems to have been given to the long-term effects of such a ruthless policy upon those whom it was hoped to govern peaceably.’ 

In the same letter Bolles relates the story of one of the first major raids that were to occupy this second year. On this raid he says: “We got about 80 lean cows and burned many more in the houses, besides sheep, goats and corn and slew betwixt 80 and 100 persons. This was in O’Cahan’s country, and his people being gathered in small numbers together fought with us the marching of 5 miles, but so coldly that in all that time they killed but one of our men and hurt 5.”

A further excerpt from The Battle For Ulster

 

The Bready and District web site describes the Dunnalong Fort: "The fort was star-shaped in imitation of the fortifications which had been built in the Low Countries during the wars between the Dutch and the Spanish. As a veteran of these wars, Docwra had no doubt a good knowledge of their construction. Sir John Bolles’ house stood on the site of the original castle of which only the ruined walls remained. Surrounding it was a ditch filled with water from the River Foyle. Beside the bridge leading to this artificial island there were two pieces of artillery. A ‘great bruehous’, the construction of which Docwra had ordered in October 1600 was sited right on the water’s edge. The brewery was built to supply cheap – and, admittedly, fairly weak – beer to the garrisons in Lough Foyle. Within the fort was a market-place where the merchants traded with the soldiers and possibly also with the local inhabitants who had submitted to Bolles. The market-place would appear to have been an integral part of the fort, both because of its positioning and its extent. At its height the English garrison at Dunnalong numbered more than 1,000 men."


This site was last updated 12/14/17