Ramelton and the Stewarts

Sir William Stewart came to Ireland during the Ulster Plantation. He had distinguished himself as commander of a select troop sent by King James I to quell the rebellion of Sir Cahir O Doherty. His reward in 1610 was a grant of 1,000 acres along Lough Swilly in the area known as Lough Side. Stewart soon established the required fortified buildings and immediately set about building a town and church at Rathmelton between 1609 and 1622.

In 1611 he built Fort Stewart as a defence along the shores of Lough Swilly. Rewarded with the grant of an estate near Strabane, he built the town of Newtownstewart and a castle there, too. When another planter Sir Richard Hansard moved to Lifford, Stewart acquired Hansard's Ramelton estates. In 1623 he was made a baronet and granted the castle of Ramelton, becoming the biggest landowner in the town. He also gained valuable fishing rights on Lough Swilly.

Donegal had become a county in 1585, and Sir William Stewart was one of the county's three members of parliament during the period 1613-15 and again in 1634. He is also credited with building part of Letterkenny town, and with the formation of the "Lagganeers" or Laggan army: this force were victorious at the battle of Glenmaquin, defeating Sir Phelim O?Neill in 1641. The Stewarts of Ramelton are buried in their family vault at Killydonnell Franciscan Friary, between Letterkenny and Ramelton.

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