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O’Doherty, Sir Cahir, (1587-1608), lord of Inishowen. Dynastic rivalries witnessed Sir Cahir siding with the English during the Nine Years War, 1594-1603. When the war ended Sir Cahir pursued a policy of accommodation with the newly dominant crown adminstration in Ireland, seeking to become a member of the household of the prince of Wales. Given this background, Sir Cahir’s death in rebellion against the crown in 1608 is somewhat surprising. The explanation for this extraordinary turn of events owes much to persistent provocation by Sir George Paulet, the governor of Derry.


Following one incident, when Paulet reportedly assaulted O’Doherty, the youthful lord of Inishowen plotted his revenge, egged on by his kinsmen, the aggrieved MacDhaibhéids (McKevitt/McDevitts/McCavitts or similar surname derivatives). Rebellion broke out in April 1608 following O’Doherty’s seizure of Culmore Fort on the River Foyle. The gaelic chieftain forced the wife of his so-called ‘gossip’, Captain Hart, to betray the fort on the pretext that her husband had fallen from his horse.

Early 17th Century depiction of Culmore Fort    


Culmore Fort today

 Having Sir Cahir then seized Derry, putting Paulet to the sword, though generally sparing of the rest of the English colonists. His forces ultimately rose to almost a thousand men. By July 1608, the rebellion had ended as suddenly as it had begun with O’Doherty’s death during a skirmish at Kilmacrenan in Co.Donegal. A relatively small-scale revolt by the standard of the Nine Years War. O’Doherty’s rebellion nevertheless had far-reaching implications. The relatively minimalist plantation plans which had been agreed in the wake of the Flight of the Earls were abandoned in favour of a much more ambitious project.

Doe Castle, Co.Donegal, captured by rebel forces without a fight when a young boy raised a false alarm that the garrison’s cows were being attacked by wolves – the rebels scrambling through the open gate.



The wife of the protestant bishop of Derry was detained briefly at Burt castle, after being taken captive at Derry. She was released by the crown forces who, in turn, captured O’Doherty’s wife following a brief siege of Burt castle. The rebels had threatened to place the bishop of Derry’s wife in any breach in the castle walls in a bid to deter the English forces. The English commander replied by declaring that the ‘king’s honour was a fairer mark and to be handled more tenderly…than any woman in the world’.  


An early seventeenth century image of Burt castle

Burt castle today

Links: - O’Doherty clan website - Featuring family folklore recollections of O'Doherty's revolt.

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