In the Ulster Plantation the Abbey Assaroe lands north of the Erne were granted to Sir Francis Gofton who later sold these to Sir Henry Ffolliott. The O’Clery lands were divided between Trinity College and the Established Bishop of Raphoe. In compensation Lughaidh O’Clery was given a freehold for his life in Glenswilly shared with eleven other individuals dispossessed of their lands in the barony of Tirhugh.
Later in 1613, four hundred of the six hundred acres belonging to the Diocese of Raphoe in the parish of Kilbarron were leased by the Anglican Bishop Knox to Francis Bracey for thirty years, the remaining 200 acres comprising of the townland of Kildoney became the glebe land for the parish. It is not known for certain if Francis Bracey ever lived in Kilbarron Castle but he probably did as it would have been one of the few stone structures on the leasehold.
As for the former owner, it is believed that Lughaidh Uí Cléirigh (now listed as Lewis O’Clery in documents of the period) died before 1623 but quite likely before then, as both Lewis and Sean were no longer listed as living in Glenswilly in the barony Kilmacrennan in 1619 according to Pynnar’s Survey of that year. As their portion of the 960 acres (shared between eleven other people) was a freehold for Lewis’s life only, it reverted to the Crown and was subsequently granted to Sir Ralph Gore.
Francis Bracey or Brassy leased the Kilbarron lands from the Bishop of Raphoe, Andrew Knox in 1613, holding a lease for thirty years. Francis Bracey came from England possibly from Worcestershire where incidentally Henry Ffolliott family seat, Pirton Hall was situated. It is not known if he lived in Kilbarron Castle or was it already abandoned by this time.
In 1641 rebellion broke out across Ulster, an abortive attempt was made to seize Ballyshannon in October of that year but it was relieved by Sir Frederick Hamilton of Manorhamilton who defeated the insurgents and took prisoners which were later hanged in the Manorhamilton Castle including one Donnell O’Clery.
South Donegal remained largely in government control during the next ten years although in the shifting sands of loyalties it was Royalist first and later gave support the Parliamentary forces under Oliver Cromwell. In the aftermath of the Parliamentary victor a survey was ordered and carried out between 1652 and 1655 where all land and property was assessed with the view to seizing from both former Royalist supporters of the executed King Charles I and the supporters of the Confederate Parliament in Kilkenny. The Kilbarron lands were assessed as being the property of The Bishop of Raphoe, a prominent royalist, Bishop Leslie and one of the leaders of the Laagan army. The survey shows that Kilbarron is a ruin described in the survey map as “the ruins of a stone house”
The Bishop’s lands were forfeited over the period of Parliamentary rule but were returned to the diocese of Raphoe when Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660.
Lughaidh Uí Cléirigh (Lewes O’Clery) was the last chief Ollamh to the O’Donnells so was probably one of the last occupiers of Kilbarron Castle. By 1609 he was recorded as living at Rossnowlagh rather than Kilbarron Castle. His public life can be traced during 1603-1616. Here is his story during the times of the Flight of the Earls and the first decade of Plantation of Ulster.
In September 1609
Lughaidh Uí Cléirigh was summoned to Liffer (Lifford) to act as one of the
jurors at the inquisition being held in front of the Lord Deputy Sir Arthur
Chichester and George Montgomery, Bishop of Derry, Raphoe and Clogher, into the
ownership of the various lands in the County of Donegal. The enquiry
started on the 12th September and it set out to determine which lands and dues
belonged to the Earl Rory O’Donnell, his cousin Niall Garbh O’Donnell. These lands
had been confiscated to the Crown at an earlier Inquisition held in 1607 and on
which jury Lughaidh had also served upon. Perhaps in hope of saving his own
clan’s lands he stated that:
the sept of the Cleries or freeholds
Kilbarron Parish in the said Barony contains 5 qrs. One of which is herenagh land possessed by the sept of the Cleries as herenagh who pay yearly to the Bishop of Raphoe 13s 4d rent. 6 meathers of butter and 34 of meal, one qr. named Kildonnel(Kildoney?) in possession of the said sept is wholly free from tithes to the bishop, the late abbot of Asheroe was parson and vicar of the said parish in right of his house and received 2/3 of the house in kind, the remainder being payed to the bishop, the church being maintained by both according to the same proportion.
Lughaidh or Lewes in its anglicised form, had been the chief Ollamh to the O’Donnells. An Ollamh was expected to chronicle the history and feats of the clan chieftains usually in verse and act as an adviser to the ruling chieftain. The role was hereditary and Lughaidh was the last of a long line of Uí Cléirighs who served in this role dating back to the mid 14th Century.
With the office came lands to support the role and Lughaidh was head of the senior sliocht or branch of the Uí Cléirighs called the Sliocht Tuathail (the other two being the Sliocht Giolla Riabach and the Sliocht Diarmaida), the latter being the branch of the clan that Mícheál Uí Cléirigh family belonged to.
In the inquisition of 1609 it is stated that Lughaidh was living in nearby Rossnowlagh and not in Kilbarron Castle which may indicate that the castle had been abandoned at this stage. Might it have been destroyed during the Nine Years War?
The clan lands in the parishes of Kilbarron, Inishmacsaint and Drumholm parishes were confiscated and granted to the Bishop of Raphoe and Trinity College. Lughaidh and his brother Seán were considered “deserving Irish” in the Plantation and given 960 acres in the Barony of Kilmacrennan which was reserved for the Gaelic Irish. These lands near Glenswilly included Dromenagh (now Drumenan) and Killomastie (now Killymasny) The grant was to be shared between eleven other people leaving them with less than 100 acres each.
Though most of the land grants were made around 1610, both Lughaidh and his brother Seán are listed as still living in Ballymagroarty and Rossnowlagh respectively in Drumholm parish in the Inquisition of 1613, at which they both acted as Jurors.
Lughaidh wrote a book on the life of Red Hugh O’Donnell who died in Salamanca, Spain in 1602 called the “Beatha Aodh Ruaidh Uí Domhnaill”. The book was probably commissioned by Fionnuala O’Donnell, “Inion Dubh” and it is believed written sometime around 1616. Extracts from the book were later used extensively in the Annals of the Four Masters. The only surviving copy of Beatha Aodh Ruaidh Uí Domhnail is in the Royal Irish Academy in the handwriting of Cú Coigcríche Uí Cleirigh who may have acted as a scribe for his cousin when the book was written.
Lughaidh also took part in a dispute between poets from Munster and Ulster in what became known as the Iomarbhágh na bhFileadh “Contention of the Bards” This debate between the poets started in 1616 and went on until 1624.
In the book called “The O Cléirigh Family of Tír Connaill” by Fr. Paul Walsh, he states that the land grant given to Lughaidh and his brother Séan was for their lives only and by the time Nicholas Pynnar carried out his survey on the progress of the Ulster Plantation in 1619, there is no mention of Lughaidh or Séan and the lands in the barony of Kilmacrennan are in the possession of Sir Paul Gore in the survey.
All this raises the possibility that Lughaidh and his brother Seán never went north to Kilmacrennan to take up their grant. Might they have stayed in their locality near Kilbarron? In Bernadette Cunningham’s book “The Annals of the Four Masters”, it is documented that Mícheál O’Cléirigh used a copy of the Beatha Aodh Ruaidh Uí Domhnaill belonging to Muiris Uí Cléirigh, Lughaidh’s son, who may be the same Muiris who is renting lands at Coolbeg (Keran) townland near Rossnowlagh from Trinity College in 1630. We are told that Lughaidh was living in 1616 when the Beatha Aodh Ruaidh Uí Domhnaill was written and it is likely that he died sometime before 1623 when Br Mícheál O’Clery returned to Ireland from Louvain or else, due to his status, he would have been involved in the various projects being undertaken by Br Mícheál.