Red Hugh O’Donnell, son of the Lord of Tyrconnell made a dramatic escape from the Record Tower on the 6th June 1592. He returned to Co Donegal and assumed leadership of his Clan. He united with Hugh O’Neill, the head of the confederacy of Ulster Chieftains, and began a major campaign of open revolt against the English garrisons in Ulster, which was the least anglicised province of Ireland. They achieved many victories in the Nine Years War and nearly succeeded in their goal, when they dramatically defeated an English army at the ‘Battle of the Yellow Ford’ – a defeat ‘that shook the Dublin administration till it tottered’. Dublin’s normal compliment of 1,200 armed soldiers was seriously depleted and the town left inadequately defended, as many were sent to the war. A report in the Calendar of State Papers of October 1597 describe that ‘the rebels rage all over the Pale, so that almost no part of it is free from their killings, burnings, preying and despoiling’.
Following their victories, O’Neill and O’Donnell force-marched their army in the midst of winter, to the southern coast of Co. Cork in order to relieve a Spanish invasion force of 3,500 men under Don Juan de Agila. They had landed at Kinsale on the 21st September to help the Irish cause and were under siege by forces of the new Lord Deputy Mountjoy. The last stand of Gaelic Ireland took place in the early hours of Christmas morning 1601, when they were beaten by superior discipline and routed in open warfare at the Battle of Kinsale – the Spanish failing to take part.
Image | Statue of Red Hugh O’Donnell near Donegal town | Credit: rgmcfadden