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Killeshandra and the Ulster Plantation

Under the Plantation of Ulster grants were made to five Scottish settlers in the barony of Tullyhunco in 1610. The first of these consisting of 2,000 acres, was granted to Sir Alexander Hamilton, of Endervicke, in Scotland. The lands were to be created into the manor of Clonkine and Carrotubber, with 600 acres in demesne. He was also granted the advowson and patronage of the rectory of Killeshandra. His son, Sir Claud, was granted 1,000 acres near the Leitrim border. It was to be created into the manor of Clonyn or Taghleagh. Two brothers, Alexander and John Achmootie or Auchmothy got 1,000 acres each, to be created into the manors of Kilegh and Dromheada, respectively. Finally, John Browne was given 1,000 acres to be created into the manor of Corrodownan.

Sir James Carew, in his report on the progress of the plantation in 1611, just a year after the grants were made, has the following to say about the Hamiltons:

    'Sir Alexander Hamilton, Knt, 2,000 acres in the county of Cavan; has not appeared: his son Claud took possession, and brought three servants and six artificers; is in hand with building a mill; trees felled; raised stones and hath competitent arms in readiness. Besides there are arrived upon that portion since our return to Dublin from the journey, as we are informed, twelve tenants and artificers who intend to reside there and build upon the same'.

Before the end of the year Sir Claud sold his lands to John Hamilton, his agent. He in turn sold them to William Lawder, of Belhavel in Scotland, in 1614. William Lawder died in 1618 and his son sold the lands to Sir Alexander Hamilton, Sir Claud's father. In this way the lands made their way back to the Hamilton family.

The Auchmothy brothers never set foot in Ireland. As soon as they got their lands they sold them immediately to Sir James Craige. According to Carew, in 1611, Sir James had already built a walled house with a smith's forge, was in the process of raising stones to build a mill, had four horses and mares and a supply of arms for defense. This castle was at Croghan near Killeshandra. It was 35 feet in height and surrounded by a wall 240 feet in circumference. John Brown, the fifth patentee, sent an agent to Ireland who set his lands to the Irish and then returned to Scotland. In 1612 he sold his lands to Archibald Acheson, of Gosford in Haddington, England. Acheson was a rather influential figure in his day. He was baronet of Nova Scotia, Solicitor General and Joint Secretary for Scotland. His descendants, the Earls of Gosford, held on to the lands of Carrowdronan until the 1870's. Griffith's Valuation of 1858 shows that the Earl of Gosford was a substantial landlord in the Corranea-Arva area of Killeshandra at the time.

In 1618 Sir Nicholas Pynnar was commissioned to report on the progress of the plantation. He was instructed to ascertain whether the undertakers had complied with the terms of their grants by building a strong house surrounded by a bawn and a stone wall: by settling a number of English and Scottish tenants on their lands; by making provision for defense of their lands. Pynnar found the lands of Sir Alexander Hamilton were being held in trust for his grand-son, Sir Francis Hamilton, by Sir Francis' mother , Jane, his father being dead. She was living in a strong castle at Keelagh, known as Castle-Killagh (Keelagh) and there were 31 British families settled on the lands. The castle was four storeys with flankers and turrets for defense. It had a bawn 60 feet square surrounded by a wall 12 feet in height. Nearby was a town with 34 houses inhabited by British settlers. A market was held there very week, initially on a Monday but this was later changed to a Wednesday. It had three fairs in the year, on the Feasts of St Simon, St Jude and St Barnaby. This is the first reference we have to the planter town of Killeshandra growing up near Castle Keelagh and to a lesser extent around the nearby Croghan Castle. In 1631 all the Hamilton lands, a total of 3,000 acres were re-granted to Sir Francis Hamilton and created into the manor of Castle Keelagh.

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