The 1641 Depositions: Day 1

On Thursday, 21st October 2010, I joined Lord Bannside PC (Dr Ian Paisley) and Baroness Eileen Paisley with their son Kyle and daughter Sharon, in Dublin. I accompanied Dr Paisley as his Personal Physician and Special Advisor on History and Culture. That evening we had dinner with Jane Ohlmeyer, Erasmus Smith’s Professor of Modern History at Trinity College, Dublin, who was organising the symposium prior to an Exhibition of Depositions on the 1641 Rising in Ireland. Jane Ohlmeyer is the daughter of my old friend Shirley Ohlmeyer who helped in the formation of the Farset Youth Project, the first formal meeting of which had been held on Tuesday 18th May,1982 in Ainsworth Community Centre, Shankill Road, Belfast.

Jane’s book Civil War and Restoration in the Three Stuart Kingdoms – the Career of Randal MacDonnell, Marquis of Antrim deserves to be recognised as a classic in its own right. It is a wonderful achievement, integrating the political and military history of the three Stuart Kingdoms in the mid-17th Century into a satisfying and coherent whole. Randal MacDonnell, who was the first Marquis of Antrim (1609 to 1683), was an important Irish Statesman of his time. Of Scottish extraction, he was a Caroline loyalist and Catholic confederate, yet later a Cromwellian collaborator and Restoration pragmatist.

His career thus highlights three important truths about early modern Britain. It is able to show the elastic nature of patriotism in the turbulent years of the mid-17th Century, while demonstrating that Ireland was, and must be viewed as, part of a triple monarchy, as well as, in the 1600’s at least, part of the European state system. Antrim therefore emerges from this study not so much transformed, as explained, showing the complex interaction of the Stuart Kingdoms in both their Atlantic and European contexts in a unique and dramatically advanced view.

I see it is as complimentary to the beautiful little book The Cavalier Duke: A Life of the Duke of Ormond, which I published in 1990 at the request of Professor JC Beckett under my Pretani Press imprint. This is also a classical study of the period by the most eminent of all modern Irish historians, whose The Making of Modern Ireland 1603-1923 (1966) still stands as the standard work of modern Irish history.

James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, was a prominent member of an ancient and illustrious Anglo-Irish family, to whose annals he contributed some of their brightest pages. Greatest of all the Cavaliers, he earned the distinction of being specially exempted in Cromwell’s Act for the Settlement of Ireland from pardon of life and estate. An ardent supporter of the ill-fated House of Stuart, he lived an honourable life, earning the respect of all parties and creeds. Ormond, indeed, is a model of behaviour in word and deed for the Irish Royalist of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

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