Why did they leave?

Many things had changed in Ulster in the late sixteenth and seventeenth century. The land had been ravaged by war; disease and starvation had cut the population drastically. English troops were stationed in forts across the province. Scottish planters were being located in parts of Antrim. Many English soldiers and officials, including the new Lord Deputy, Sir Arthur Chichester, were hoping to gain large tracts of land for themselves. Others, like law official Sir John Davies felt that not enough effort was being made to bring English customs to the area. In letter after letter to Queen Elizabeth, they accused Hugh O'Neill of Tyrone, frequently referred to as "that traitor O'Neill," of disloyalty to the Crown.

His traitorous behaviour was reflected in his attitude to the old practice of surrender and regrant. The same men egged on minor chieftains like the O'Cahans to make claims against O'Neill and O'Donnell for their lands. This constant harassment wore down O'Neill, so he decided to seek military help from Catholic Spain. He joined Ulster lords O'Donnell of Tyrconnell, and Maguire of Fermanagh, who were taking ship in Lough Swilly to go to seek Spanish aid. On September 14th, 1607, with ninety-nine people on board, a ship commissioned by Cuchonnacht Maguire sailed from Portnamurray Bay, Rathmullan to the continent.

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