Hugh Montgomery of the Ards and the Rebellion of 1641

Author: Introduced by Professor Michael Montgomery

Date: 2004

Source: Ullans: The Magazine for Ulster-Scots, Nummer 9 and 10 Wunter 2004

Introduced by Professor Michael Montgomery

1641 Rebellion

Readers will have some familiarity with the rebellion launched in 1641 by the native Irish against English and Scottish settlers in the kingdom of Ireland. Occasioned by the withdrawal of the bulk of Crown forces to battle those loyal to Parliament, the insurrection began in Ulster on October 23 of that year. Accounts found in history books are usually based on depositions taken later in the 1640s from those filing claims for property lost at the hands of rebels. The following two letters provide a more detailed, eyewitness account from the midst of the conflict itself in December 1641.

They were written from Comber, county Down, by Hugh Montgomery, Viscount of the Great Ards and grandson of Hugh Montgomery of Braidstane, who left Scotland for Ulster in 1605. Viscount Montgomery commanded the remnant of royal forces seeking to stem the rebellion. The letters, to his cousin Alexander Montgomery, Earl of Eglintoun in Ayrshire, have the riveting character of reports from a front-line war correspondent.

They are reproduced here from William Fraser’s two-volume documentary family history Memorials of the Montgomeries (Edinburgh, 1859).

Hew Montgomery to Alexander, sixth of Earl of Eglintoun, 17th December 1641.

My right honorable lord — My most humble dewtie and service being remembred to yowr lordship: I thocht befor now to have wrytin to yowr lordship; bot seldome falls it out that anie goes from heir to Scotland, nether is ther so muche as on considerable gentilman that comes ather to contribut his advyce, or to ease my Lord of Airds of the smallest part of that infinit burthen and cair whiche lyethe upon him at this tyme, exept Craybuye, a young gentlman, and William Shaw, quho is Mr. George his brother in law; and they have more then eneuche to doe withe the charg of ther two companies whiche they hav in the regiment. As for us who ar uther officers wnder his lordship, yowr lordship knowethe we can be but small helpe in that whiche consernethe the countrie. His lordship was pleaset to keep up his Lewtenant Collonels place for me after he received yowr lordships letter, for which amongste the rest of yowr lordships singular favours, I stand humblie bonde to your lordship; but he had placet the shiref of Gallowayes sone his Major befor we cam; but to satisfie yowr lordship according [to] your lordships letter, he appoyntet Captain Logane his oldest Captain and Quartermaster. The strenthe of the rebels can not be known, nether doe they nor can they know ther owne strenthe; for all of them that can winne runes to them, and we know that they ar hudg numbers of men; for the wholl paele is out, who have a number of good armes quhiche they had gott from the Lords at Dublin, and now refuse to restore them; for ther masters excuse themselves, and say that ther tennants ar gon out in rebellione withe them. Dublin is verie hard bestead; for all the Britttishe and uthers that are protestans, have send ther wyves, bairnes and goods away. The rebells interceptet a good daile of armes and uther ammunitione that was comming from Dublin (as we heir) for insetting of Tredethe; and increas daylie in strenthe, and goes on in ther former crewelties withe all sorts of persones, young and old; and except speidie assistanc be sent from Scotland, be all outward appearance they will find but few of ther cuntrie men to welcome them, and verie evile landing heir; for we ar few and verie naket for want of armes to withstand them. My Lord of Airds his strenthe at Cummer will be 4 hundrethe foot, withe sythes, cornforks, stafs and few pykes, and about ane hundrethe and threttie muskets, whereof ane hundrethe cam yesterday to ws from Dublin. My lord hathe lykwys 60 horsmen armed as they may be. Sir James lyethe at Downpatrick withe ane old cumpanie of foot, ane other of horse, his owne regiment, and his troupe is about our strenthe, and so armet: he hes a matter of 60 horsmen of my Lord Clandebuoys, and Sir Arthur Tyringhame lyethe at Lisnagarvie withe a matter of eicht hundrethe men, wherof ar three old troupes of horsmen. This is our whol strenthe, and our fortificationes suche as Kilwinning and Irwing. The rebells burne and kill everie uther night within a myl two or three wnto ws, nether can we helpe it; for what they doe is in the night, and if we send out a partie, they have centinels on all the hills, and will not stand but reteir to the woods. We ar informet they ar divyding themselves in three; Sir Philome Oneil in two; wherof on half ar appoyntet for Lisnegarvie, and the uther for ws, and Sir Conne McGinnies and MkCairten for Downe: yet it wer but a small matter, if we had fyv thousand of such men and armes as wer at Newcastle, to marche towards them and give battel to threttie thousand in the open feilds; for they ar a confuset multitud: but what resistance we ar able to mak, yowr lordship may judge be the former part of this letter. We heir Langshaws brother is killett, but we ar not suir. Mr. Georg his house, and what was ther is all burnt. So praying the Lord, whose aid we must onlie relye upon, to assist yowr lordship and us, I rest, and shall whil I leive remaine

Your lordships humble and obedient servant.

Cummer, the 17 of December 1641. Hew Montgomery

I must humblie intreat yowr lordship to putt in a word for the Captaines meines quhat rests to me as yet, quhen yowr lordship finds occasione fitt; for notwithstanding of the owtward appearances of our distructione befor your assistance cum, yet I am verie houpfull, by the grace of God, to be yowr lordships humble servant quhen ther stormes ar over.

To the right honorable and my verie noble lord, my Lord the Erie of Eglington. Delyver thes.

Hugh, second Viscout Montgomerie of the Great Airdes, to Alexander, sixth Earl of Eglington

31st December 1641

Right honourable and my very good lord — if I haue not written to your lordship soe often as in duety I am bound, impute it not to any slaknes or carelessnes in me, whoe might alwise acknowledge myself more bound to your lordships favour nor to all the world beside, His Majastie being excepted. My lord, the trueth is we ar keept exceeding busy with the rebells, whoe burne and kill within a myle and a half to this place; insoemuch as from the Newry to this, ther is not a Scotts or Inglishe dweller; this being thirty four myles; nor from Downepatrik to Killilieagh, nor from thence hither. At Lisnegarry ther is a garisone of seaven or eight hundred men, and some two troupes of horse: at Belfast ther is a garisone of a matter of three or four hundred men: at Carrigfergus ther is likwise a troupe of horse and some sex or seaven hundred foote: at Mosryne I heer ther is gathered together a matter of one thousand men. Heer I ly with a matter of eight Companys of foote and three troupes of horse. At Killileagh ther is the Lord Claneboyes, whoe to speake truely, is extreame weake, onely that he hes a stronge house. Upon Wensday last Major Barclay, Captain Inglis and Mr. Elliott went abroade with ellevin or twelve score of men, as the report comes to me, wherof ther wes seaven score musquetiers and the rest pykemen, some fyve or sex myles from Killileagh. They mett with party of the rebells, whose custome is to fall one with a great shoutt or cry, wherupone the most parte of the soldiers that wer with Barclay and Inglis fled before ever the rebells charged them; soe as these two or three gentlemen, with the most parte of all the men together with ther armes, wer losed. Captain Alexander Hamiltone wes come to Newtone the day before vpone some occasiones, soe as now I beleeve my Lord Claneboys hes not above ane hundred men with him. That night I sent out my Lewtenant Collonell and Major Crawfurd, with a party of 300 foote and 80 horses, whoe marched all night, and in the dawning came to the Leigure wher the rebells ly that ar on this syde of the countrey, whoe we did not thinke to haue bene soe stronge as indeed they wer. But, praised be God! they returned home yester night with the losse onely of twoe or three foote soldiers, and four or fyve wounded, whoe I hope will not be the worse. They brought with them a prey from the rebells of a matter of twelve or thirten score of cowes; and the cutting off of above fyfty of the rebells, whoe wer vpwards of 1000 men. Major Blare being heer accidentally went out vpone the party with them, he will acquent your lordship with the maner of the service. The rogues raised ther cry, but I thank God it wrought not vpone our men. My brother Sir James lyes at Downepatrik, with a matter of sex or seaven Companys of his owne, and a troupe of horse; he hes ther likwise an old foote company and a troupe of horse; and soe my lord this is the strength of these two countys for matter of soldiours. The people that are fled out of the countyes of Ardmagh, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Managhan, and these of this county itself, from the Newry all the way to this place, ar soe burdensome that in trueth we much fear that ther will be scarsety. My lord, the intelligeince that we had from the neighboring countyes of Wlster is cutt off by Sir Phelemy O Neall; soe as I can give your lordship no good accompt what the estate of the Brittish is towards Colraine and Londonderry. By sea we haue receaved intelligence from Dubline, that all the Lords of the Pale ar in armes, and that the papistes all over the kingdome are also vp, that Tredath, which is within 20 myles of Dubline, is besieged, wher the Lord Moore comands some four or fyve troupes of horse, and Sir Harry Touchburne, a very braue gentlemen, a regiment of foote. The passage to them by sea being blocked vp; the Lord Moores house of Mellefant taken by the rebells with the loss of some mane one each syde; sex hundred men that wer sent from Dubline to Tredath wer cutt off by the way. It is reported that they robbe, burne, and kill neer to Dubline. It is likwise said that ther ar 10,000 Englishe landed at a place in Monster, call Yoghill; that 20,000 li. of moneys is likwise sent over; and that the Londoners haue contributed 10,000 li. to the maintenance of the ware. By advertisement from my brother Sir James, I understand that Sir Cone Magenis, Turlogh O Neall, Sir Phelemys brother, and McCarten ar joyned together, haveing at least 2500 horse and foote ready to enter into Lecall. The rest of all the strength of the countrey heer are likwise ready to fall downe vpone these parts; soe as we cannot giue assistance one to another. Notwithstanding that I hade severall tymes ayded Lisnegarvy, they refussed to goe out with me against these rebells, though for the present they ar pretty and stronge; soe as all of ws do severally ly vpone our guards expecting the setting on of the rebells. In the word, my lord, our present conditione is as hard as can be well imagined; and the harder that we want armes and ammunitione. By your lordships favor I haue had thte supply of some gentlemen that I most needs comend to be proper men and good soldiers, which makes me the more grewed that we should want such provisiones as might enable ws to performe that service which might be expected from such comanders; for supply wherof, if it please God to send it tyme, wnder whome I doe rely vpon your lordship; for which ther is no security that your lordship shall be pleased to draw vp and sent vnto me; but I will signe whatsoever come vnto me. I must supply my brother with a parte of it; for which I will take his security. My lord, all the supply of armes I haue had from the begyneing hes come vnto me out of Scotland, by the meanes of a privat friend of myne, whoe is well knowen to your lordship; from the Lords Justices and State heer I haue onely had a matter of 100 musquetts; wherof I haue sent a parte to my brother from His Majesties store at Carrigfergus. I haue bene refuissed of a supply of amunitione; they wrott unto me that the store house wes ill provyded, and that they hoped I might be supplied from Scotland. I know your lordship now expects to be informed what provisiones is to be had heer for the intertayneing of the forces that shall come from that kingdome: my lord, all I can say to that is, that ther is yet some reasonable store of cornes and other provisione in these corners that the rebells hawe not yet marched over; but if the army be long acomeing, the shorter the provisiones will be every day. The more ground the rebells gain vpon ws the shorter our store must be; and if we shall be cutt aff before the supplyes come, the less safety will be for ther landing. And soe, my lord, craving pardon for this my tedious letter, praying God to bliss your lordship and all yours, and to protect ws, I remayne, your lordships affectionat cowsen and humble servant,

Mont-Alexander, the last of December 1641.

It is certain that these gentlemen ar cutt aff to my Lord Claneboys, and 100 musquets lost with other armes; wherwith the rebells fought the next day against the party I sent out.



The Ulster-Scots Academy has been an integral part of the Ulster-Scots Language Society since 1993. The name "Ulster-Scots Academy" is registered to the USLS with the Intellectual Property Office.

Ulster Scots Academy


A new edition of Michael Montgomery’s From Ulster to America: The Scotch-Irish Heritage of American English recounts the lasting impact that at least 150,000 settlers from Ulster in the 18th century made on the development of the English language of the United States. This new edition published by the Ulster-Scots Language Society documents over 500 ‘shared’ vocabulary items which are authenticated by quotations from both sides of the Atlantic. A searchable online version of this dictionary is now also available here.


The Ulster-Scots Academy is currently working on the digitisation of Dr Philip Robinson's seminal Ulster-Scots Grammar and the English/Ulster-Scots part (with circa 10,000 entries) of a two-way historical dictionary of Ulster-Scots. These projects are planned to be completed and available on the site in 2016.



This site is being developed on a purely voluntary basis by the Ulster-Scots Language Society at no cost to the taxpayer. USLS volunteers have been involved in preserving and promoting Ulster-Scots for more than 20 years. All donations, however small, will be most gratefully received and contribute towards the expansion of the project. Thank you!

This site is being developed by the Ulster-Scots Language Society (Charity No. XN89678) without external financial assistance. USLS volunteers have been involved in preserving and promoting Ulster-Scots for more than 20 years. All donations, however small, will be most gratefully received and contribute towards the expansion of the project. Thank you!

(Friends of the Ulster-Scots Academy group)