McFarlands & Septs in Ireland
By Mary Helen Haines, ©2013
The English Civil War and the Irish Revolt
By the year 1640 it is estimated there were approximately 40,000 Scots living in Ulster (Gebbie, p. 15). We know the Mcffarlans were living in the Laggan on both sides of the River Foyle, in counties Donegal, Londonderry, and Tyrone. Relations between the monarchy, as represented in Ireland by Sir Thomas Wentworth, and the Ulster Scots were on shaky ground. Wentworth was squeezing all landlords in Ireland to fill the coffers, and he was insisting on conformity in the Church of Ireland to the Episcopal model of the Church of England, which was offensive to Catholics and Presbyterians. Those same church policies led to rebellion in Scotland and the Scottish National Covenant in 1638 which pledged loyalty to the king, but refused to adhere to Episcopal church organization. Charles sent his army into Scotland, was defeated, and was forced to call Parliament, which led to the English Civil War.
In 1641 while Parliament and Charles I were struggling for power in England and Scotland, native Irish rose in revolt against the Scottish and English in Ireland. Known as the “Great Rebellion” or the “Uprising” (depending on your viewpoint), ultimately a massive exchange of property ownership took place and death was everywhere.
The Irish under Sir Phelim O’Neill rebelled in Counties Londonderry and Tyrone, and in October, 1641, after burning various strongholds such as Newtownstewart and Strabane, laid siege to the city of Londonderry, where many had fled for protection. Parliament refused to fund an army to rescue the English and Scottish settlers, believing that Charles might use them against Parliament, so the settlers were on their own. Nine companies of foot soldiers were raised by local leaders to defend the walls, which held. That is not surprising; the famous walls, finished in 1618, were 18 feet thick, 24 feet high, and completely surrounded the city with a mile circumference. (Mitchell, Defenders, p. iv)
There are two Mcffarlans listed as being a part of the Londonderry City’s Garrison: Thomas Mcffarlan in Henry Osborne’s company of foot soldiers, and Daniel Mcffarlan in John Kilner’s Foot Company. (Mitchell, Defenders p. 12) Osborne lived in the City of Londonderry, and Kilmer in the nearby town of Faughanvale (Eglington today), so the two Mcffarlans listed were probably from those respected areas as well.
There is also listed a James Rabb, James Wilson, and Robert Wilson in Henry Finch’s company, and David Robb and Robert Wilson in Sir Thomas Staple’s company. There is a Matthew Wilson in Kilner’s Co., and a Thomas Knox in Osborne’s Co. Lastly, there is one more Robert Wilson, and a John Miller in Newburgh’s company. Not only did these men defend the besieged and starving city; after the defeat of the Irish army near Dungiven in May, 1642 when the siege ended, these companies became part of the Laggan Force. (Forrest, pp. 34-39)
The Scottish/English plantation army, called the Laggan Force, consisted of settlers from Eastern Donegal and four companies from the Londonderry garrison. (Mitchell, Defenders pp. v, vi) While we don’t have the names of the men from Donegal, it is likely that more mcffarlans were among the defenders. Sir Robert Stewart and his likely older brother and Sir William Stewart led the Ulster Protestant forces that that were responsible for protecting the settlers and ferrying them to safety to protected towns such as Derry. Lord Ernest Hamilton, in his 1920 book, The Irish Rebellion of 1641, states "The services rendered by the Lagan Force to the scattered British are of a remarkable nature. For nine years it acted as a protective force to the colonists of North-West Ulster, without meeting with a single reverse." (p. 124)