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Mountjoy, Lord (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.

Moyry Castle

Moyry 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.



Eventually lured 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.



 Narrow Water Keep, Warrenpoint, Co.Down (photgraph 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 Carlingford Lough.



Mountjoy’s 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.


  [Mountjoy’s victorious portrait]  


'The O'Neill' Bedevils Mountjoy at Moyry Pass:

'The O'Neill' Bloodies Mountjoy at Moyry Pass, 1600 -- From WGT