Sir Cahir O'Dogherty

O'Dogherty, Sir Cahir, was born in 1587. On the death of his father, Sir John, in 1600, Cahir was set aside on account of his youth, his uncle Felim being installed Prince of Inishowen by Hugh Roe O'Donnell. Cahir was fostered by the clan MacDavitt. His foster-brothers, Hugh and Felim MacDavitt, resented his exclusion, and proposed to Sir Henry Docwra, governor of the stations on the Foyle, that if he would maintain Cahir's right, they would place the lad under his guardianship, and would themselves yield service to the state. Docwra agreed; and Cahir was proclaimed the Queen's O'Dogherty, and had his patrimony secured to him under the Great Seal.

Docwra took the lad under his charge, instructed him in all martial exercises, and made him conversant with English manners and literature, without interfering with his religious opinions. Cahir grew up strong and comely, and before he was sixteen, had signalized himself in skirmishes against his relatives. He received knighthood for services on the field of Augher, where Hugh O'Neill's brother was defeated by the Queen's troops. When the war was terminated by O'Neill's submission, Sir Cahir went to London, and was favourably received at Court. On his return he ingratiated himself with James I. by marrying a daughter of Viscount Gormanstown — belonging to a family at all times noted for loyalty to the Crown.

Returning to his district of Inishowen, he resided at one or other of his castles of Elagh, Burt, and Buncrana. After the flight of O'Neill and O'Donnell, he was foreman of the jury that found them guilty of high treason. Subsequently O'Dogherty himself came under suspicion, and was obliged to give security for his good behaviour. In April 1608 he called on Sir George Paulet, Governor of Derry, relative to the sale of a portion of his lands. High words ensued between them, and Paulet, a man of violent temper, struck the young chieftain. O'Dogherty moodily departed, and took council with his foster-brothers, who declared that the insult could be wiped out only with blood.

Collecting friends and followers, Sir Cahir determined at once to go out into rebellion. He invited Captain Harte, Governor of Culmore, with his wife and children, to an entertainment at Elagh. He seized his guests, started at dead of night for Culmore, surprised it, butchered the garrison, and sacked the place. With the munitions of war there procured he armed his followers, and marched rapidly on Derry. At two in the morning the townsfolk were roused from their beds by the bagpipes and war shouts of his clansmen. The town was taken, sacked, and burned, Sir George Paulet falling amongst the first victims. Bishop Montgomery's valuable collection of books and manuscripts was destroyed. He next made an unsuccessful attack upon Lifford, and then marched into MacSwyne's country.

A force of 3,000 men was at once despatched from Dublin, by the Lord-Deputy; and after various skirmishes, Sir Cahir was killed in an engagement under the Rock of Doon, near Kilmacrenan, on Tuesday, 5th July 1608, "eleven weeks, i.e., seventy-seven days after the burning of Derry, which," remarks Sir John Davies, "is an ominous number, being seven elevens, and eleven sevens."

According to Giraldus Cambrensis, Tuesday was ever a fortunate day for the English in Ireland. Sir Cahir's head was struck off and sent to Dublin. An apocryphal story is told of its having been sent by a soldier, who used it as a pillow at night on the road; and of his host at one stopping-place purloining the head, setting off for Dublin with it, and securing the offered reward of 500 marks before the rightful custodian could overtake him. The Four Masters thus conclude their notice of his life: "He was cut into quarters between Derry and Cuil-mor, and his head was sent to Dublin to be exhibited; and many of the gentlemen and chieftains of the province, too numerous to be particularized, were also put to death. It was indeed from it, and from the departure of the Earls we have mentioned, it came to pass that their principalities, their territories, their estates, their lands, their forts, their fortresses, their fruitful harbours, and their fishful bays, were taken from the Irish of the province of Ulster, and given in their presence to foreign tribes; and they were expelled and banished into other countries, where most of them died."


196. Irishmen, Lives of Illustrious and Distinguished, Rev. James Wills, D.D. 6 vols. or 12 parts. Dublin, 1840-'7.

243. Montgomery Manuscripts: Edited by Rev. George Hill. Belfast, 1869.

269. O'Neill, Hugh, Earl of Tyrone, and O'Donel Earl of Tyrconnell, their Flight from Ireland, and their Death in Exile: Rev. C. P. Meehan. Dublin, 1868.

311. State Papers relating to Ireland, Calendar 1171-1610. 6 vols. London, 1860-'75.