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The Jacobite Era, 1685-1702
By Brian Ó Dálaigh

When Charles II became king of England in 1660, many Catholics in Ireland expected the lands, which had been taken from them by Cromwell, to be returned to them. However, in this they were only partially satisfied. Charles II could not afford to offend the new Protestant land owners of Ireland, so that the period 1660 - 85 was one of instability and dissatisfaction: the Catholics felling aggrieved that their lands had not been returned and the Protestants feeling insecure that the lands, so lately hard won by them, would once again be lost.

In 1685 a Catholic, James II, succeeded as king of England. In Ireland Catholic hopes for the restoration of their lands rose. They were encouraged in their hopes when James began a process of putting Catholics into important positions in government. In February 1687, for example, Richard Talbot, the earl of Tyrconnell was appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland, the first Catholic to hold the position since the Reformation.
Probably the first indication the people of Co. Clare had of this new Catholic policy, was in the appointment of Catholic judges. At that time Judges went on circuit twice a year and held assizes (law courts) in the principal towns of each county. We have an account of an incident that took place in Ennis at this time, which shows how disturbed the county had become with the rising Catholic expectations.
At that time men awaiting trial by the visiting judges of assize were held in the county jail in Ennis. In October 1686 just days before the judges were due to arrive, two of the Ennis jail keepers helped the prisoners to escape and joined them as outlaws.

Relations between Catholics and Protestants
As the reign of James II progressed relations between Protestants and Catholics in the county worsened. This process can best be seen by the attempt to reform the Municipal Corporation of Ennis. The government of the town was in the hands of Protestants; any attempt to reform the corporation was seen as a threat to the Protestant position. The corporation was ruled by a provost and twelve Protestant burgesses; Catholics were excluded by virtue of their religion from governing the town. In 1687 a new charter was issued for Ennis under James II, which allowed Catholics for the first time to become burgesses; a Catholic, David White was made provost or mayor. The Protestants, who had controlled the corporation since 1612, were incensed and resolutely refused to accept the new charter or co-operate in the governing of the town.

A Son is Born to James II
Events in England were to bring matters to a head. In June 1688 a son was born to James II. This caused alarm among English Protestants who feared a succession of Catholic kings of England. Leading English politicians invited the Dutch prince William of Orange to become king of England. By December 1688 James II had been compelled to abandon his throne and flee to France. These events in England caused great commotion in County Clare. Naturally the Protestants of the county declared their support for William of Orange, while the Catholics on the other hand, fearing they would lose whatever limited rights they had won, declared for King James.

Lord Clare
The leading supporter of King James in Co. Clare was Daniel O’Brien, 3rd Lord Clare, who lived in Carrigaholt Castle. In January 1689, Lord Clare seized Clare Castle. On his orders the Protestant men of military age were rounded up and imprisoned in the castle, since their loyalty to King James could not be counted on.

Parliament of 1689
In March 1688 James II landed at Kinsale. He hoped that with the help of the Irish Catholics he could win back the throne of England. A special Parliament was held in Dublin, four members from Clare attended. Daniel O’Brien and John McNamara of Cratloe represented the county and Theobald Butler and Florence McNamara represented the borough of Ennis. At this Parliament it was decided that those who were in possession of land before 1641 could now reclaim it. Since most Protestants had come into possession of their lands after 1641, it meant that they would now lose them.

Clare’s Dragoons
However not all Ireland supported King James; the Protestants of Ulster supported William of Orange. It was clear war would have to be fought to decide who would eventually own the land and thus the wealth of Ireland. To help with the war effort a three monthly tax of £1,798 was levied on County Clare. A Cavalry regiment known as Clare Dragoons was established. They were called dragoons because it was thought the smoke rising from their muskets resembled dragons. A supply of good horses was essential for this regiment, so an order was issued for the seizure of all horses in the county for the service of the king.
The hastily recruited dragoons had little experience of fighting and so did poorly in battle. The regiment was sent north to help with the siege of Derry in July 1689. They were drawn into an ambush at Lisnaskea, Co. Fermanagh and cut to pieces. The regiment performed just as badly at the battle of the Boyne.

Blowing up the Guns at Ballyneety
At the battle of the Boyne, July 1690, the supporters of King James suffered a major defeat. James immediately fled the country leaving his Irish army to fend for themselves. Under the command of Patrick Sarsfield the Irish army decided to hold the line of the river Shannon. The Williamite Army then laid siege to the city of Limerick. Sarsfield on hearing that the Williamite army was bringing a siege train of large guns to smash the walls of Limerick, left the city by the Clare side on 11 August 1690. He took with him 500 picked horsemen. Under the direction of the Reparee (outlaw) Galloping Hogan they crossed the Shannon at Ballyvalley near Killaloe. Sarsfield and his men encountered the siege train at Ballyneety, Co. Limerick, resistance was quickly overcome, the large guns filled with powder and blown to pieces. The action of Sarsfield and his men was largely responsible for the failure of the first siege of Limerick.
We have little information of what was happening in Co. Clare in the winter of 1690. We know for example that Teige McNamara of Ayle near Tulla had raised a troop of soldiers at his own expense, with which he fortified Clare Castle. It also seems likely that the Jacobite Cavalry were encamped in the county close to Ennis.




Battle of Aughrim

In June 1691, the Williamite forces under General Ginkel finally succeeded in crossing the Shannon at Athlone and the Jacobite army was pushed back from the line of the Shannon. Galway and Limerick were now the only two substantial towns in Jacobite hands. A French General called the Marquis de Saint Ruth was put in charge of the Jacobite Army. He decided to make a stand at the hill of Aughrim in County Galway. After a heroic fight the Jacobite Army was finally crushed. Thousands of Jacobite soldiers were killed, including Saint Ruth. Patrick Sarsfield, the commander of the cavalry gathered up what remained of the army and retreated to Limerick.
It seems that on his retreat from Aughrim Sarsfield spent a night in a tavern in Ennis. This claim is based on the discovery, in the last century of a receipt for a night’s lodging signed by Patrick Sarsfield, which was discovered in the recess of a wall of a house in Abbey Street.

Clare Castle
It would appear that no substantial military action was fought in County Clare. In order to put a quick end to the war, General Ginkel at this time promised that any Jacobite commander who would surrender a castle or town would not have his lands and property confiscated. It seems that this is what happened in the case of Clare Castle as there is no evidence of a military action having been fought there. And indeed the commander of the garrison, Teige McNamara, was afterwards allowed to retain possession of his Tulla estates.

Siege of Limerick 1691
Sarsfield and his men retreated into the city of Limerick. This time there was no escape for them as the city was surrounded on all sides. The last desperate action of the war was fought on Thomond Bridge - the bridge that connected Co. Clare with the city of Limerick. About 850 soldiers were defending the bridge against the Williamite advance. As the men retreated across the bridge hotly pursued by the enemy, the French commander in charge of the city gate, fearing that the Williamites would enter the city, ordered that the gate be closed, leaving the 850 men to be butchered on the bridge.
As there now seemed to be no hope of success and to avoid further useless bloodshed, Sarsfield and his men decided to surrender and thus brought the war to a close.

Treaty of Limerick
The Treaty of Limerick was signed on 3 October 1691. Under it the Irish army was allowed to go to France. The Clare Dragoons were transported to the continent and were later to achieve great distinction and fame on the battle fields of Europe, particularly at the battles of Ramilles and Fontenoy.

Confiscation of Lands
However the fate of the Jacobite land holders of Co. Clare was fairly predictable. Any land owner who had supported James II was attained for high treason and lost his estates. Lord Clare for example one of the biggest land owners in Co. Clare lost all his property, over 80,000 statute acres.
King William of Orange gave generous grants of the confiscated lands to his many followers. Lord Clare's estates were presented to the king's Dutch friend Joost Van Keppel. Van Keppel quickly sold on the land for £10,000 to three Protestants from Co. Clare, Nicholas Westby, Francis Burton and James MacDonnell. These Protestant families and others like them became the new land owners in Co. Clare and largely controlled the wealth of the county for the next century and a half.

Further Reading:
T.W. Moody, F.X. Martin and F.J. Byrne (eds.), A New History of Ireland; (Oxford 1976, 1982). Vols III & VIII.
P. White, History of Clare and the Dalcassian Clans; (Dublin 1893).

Clare County Library wishes to thank Clare Local Studies Project
for preparation of raw text for this publication.