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Sir Frederick Hamilton 1590 – 1647

Sir Frederick Hamilton 1590 – 1647 

by Dominic Rooney

In 1620 James I ofEnglandrejected the claims of Brian O'Rourke, son of the last lord of Leitrim, to his native county. Instead, in the plantation of Leitrim he granted one half of the land of the county to fifty British settlers and the other half to one hundred and fifty local native gentry who had earlier surrendered their lands to the crown. The wealthy      Scottish nobleman and courtier, Frederick Hamilton was allocated 1,500 acres of good land and 5,000 acres of mountain and bog in the Glenfarne and Manorhamilton areas ofNorth Leitrim. His estate would be known as the Manor of Hamilton entitling him to hold a manor court with rights of local jurisdiction over his tenants. Another Scotsman John Waldron was granted 1,000 acres in Mullies.

Hamiltonpurchased a knight-hood to reflect his newly acquired status is an extensive estate owner, and settled immediately on his lands with his young wife, Sidney Vaughan.  As he already had some military training, he was given the captaincy of a company of fifty soldiers in the regular army whom he garrisoned on his estate. Sir Frederick was an ambitious planter who by 1630 had enlarged his holding, through the purchase of land from both British and Irish grantees, to 5,000 acres of profitable land and double that of mountain and bog.

In November 1631Hamiltonraised a regiment of 1,200 Scots and Irish men to fight for King Gustavus Adolphus ofSwedenagainst the Catholic Habsburg emperor in the Thirty Years War.  He spent almost twelve months inGermanyas colonel of this regiment before returning firstly toBritainand then to Manorhamilton.  In 1634 he built his impressive castle surrounded by a defensive bawn wall with two-storied towers at its four corners.  The town ofManorhamiltoncomprising initially about one hundred and forty inhabitants grew up on the south side of the castle.

In the settled conditions of the 1630s Sir Frederick set about exploiting the resources of his estate and the surrounding area. He became a large cattle and horse breeder,established two corn mills in Manorhamilton, operated an ironworks at Drumshanbo and was probably involved in the timber trade.

The 1641 rebellion in Leitrim was led by sons of the loyal Irish gentry who had beenGranted land during the plantation of the county some twenty years earlier.  Many were now hopelessly in debt because of their inability to properly manage their estates. Castle Hamilton was attacked and besieged three times during the year 1642 and was in constant dander of being captured right up to the autumn of 1643. During one of the sieges Manorhamilton town the military garrisons’ head quarters and the two corn mills were all burned to the ground.  After having raised an extra two hundred soldiers from the local settler population,Hamiltonreacted very violently to the rebellion. He laid waste the countryside around Manorhamilton killed many hundreds of the native Irish in military action and also had fifty-eight people hanged on a gallows erected outside the castle walls.

After he defeated the rebels in Leitrim andSligo, Sir Frederick left Manorhamilton in September1 643 and went toDerryto oppose a truce between the King and theIrish confederates.  While there he joined the recently formed alliance between the English parliament and the Scottish Presbyterian government in the English Civil War against the King. Having failed to secure the presidency ofConnachtthe government of Derryor compensation for his losses during the rebellion from the English parliament.  Hamiltonspent much of 1646 as colonel of a Scottish cavalry regiment. He retired fromPublic and army life in February 1647 and died in relative poverty inEdinburgh nine months later.