(Charles Blount) (1563-1606) completed the Elizabethan conquest of Ireland in
1603. Mountjoy’s early forays against the armies of Hugh O’Neill, earl of
Tyrone, and his confederates, however, had proved anything but signal successes.
A series of engagements in the Moyry Pass area during the autumn of 1600 almost
proved fatal to Mountjoy and his army.
Castle (Co.Armagh), at the Gap of the North, built following Mountjoy’s
flirtation with military disaster. Mountjoy acknowledged the vital strategic
location of the area, fearing ‘if at one time or another the army be not lost,
and consequently the kingdom’. Mountjoy’s predicament at the Moyry Pass is
detailed in John McCavitt, ‘Trench warfare in the Gap of the North, 1600’ in
Cuisle na nGael (Newry, 1987), pp 55-62. See publications.
through the Moyry Pass by the earl of Tyrone, Mountjoy found himself stranded in
Newry, unwilling to risk assaulting new positions taken up by the rebel forces
at the Moyry to prevent his return to the Pale. As a result, Mountjoy’s army
was forced into skulking back to Dundalk via the circuitous route of Narrow
Water and Carlingford. On reaching Narrow Water castle, the English cavalry
attempted to cross the narrow passage of water with the assistance of boats.
Water Keep, Warrenpoint, Co.Down
courtesy of Adrian Erskine)
A waterway with
treacherous currents even at low tide, the cavalry were forced to return to
Newry, taking a chance by heading for Carlingford along the foot of Fathom
mountain where they were highly vulnerable to attack. The picture below, taken
from Fathom Mountain, (photgraph
courtesy of Adrian Erskine) illustrates the scene of Mountjoy’s
ignominious retreat, the Narrow Water area clearly visible at the head of
problems were then compounded by the arrival of Spanish troops at Kinsale.
Preventing Tyrone’s forces from linking up with the Spanish during the battle
of Kinsale 1601 became the key to deciding the outcome of the war. Having routed
Tyrone’s forces and succeeded in securing the departure of the Spanish,
Mountjoy was still faced with the problem of inducing the submission of the
redoubtable Tyrone, opting for a strategy of planting garrisons in Ulster
combined with a ruthless spoliation tactic which caused widespread famine in
Ulster. Having reduced the rebel forces to the verge of submission, the imminent
death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603 prompted Mountjoy to offer terms to Tyrone.
Rewarded for his Irish achievements by his elevation to the title of earl of
Devonshire, Mountjoy retained his position as lord lieutenant of Ireland,
although he was based in England. For the remainder of his life (1603-6)
Mountjoy exercised a restraining influence on the militant protestant officials
who dominated the crown administration in Dublin, seeking not only to ensure
that the treaty of Mellifont was honoured but frowning on the persecuting
impulses of Lord Deputy Chichester, fearing that they would precipitate renewed
conflict in Ireland.
'The O'Neill' Bedevils Mountjoy at Moyry
O'Neill' Bloodies Mountjoy at Moyry Pass, 1600 -- From WGT