Judge Day had Gaelic and Jacobite ancestry (his mother being one of the FitzGeralds, Knights of Kerry). His political allegiance was squarely Williamite, though he worked to remove the Penal Laws against Catholics. The diaries of his judicial circuits (published in my book) reflect this allegiance and explain his great interest in the events before and after the Battle of the Boyne which established the Williamite state, the successful outcome of William of Orange’s victory over King James and the Jacobite cause.
Day came from the southern province of Munster, where a ‘plantation’ of new settlers in Elizabethan times was only partly successful. In the northern province of Ulster, which Judge Day knew well, the consequences of the Irish and Spanish defeat at Kinsale in 1601, and the subsequent departure to Europe of the Northern Gaelic leaders, aka the ‘Flight of the Earls’, prepared the way for the Crown to confiscated the lands over which the Hugh O’Neill and the other chiefs had exercised historic jurisdiction. The Ulster Plantation followed, Scots and English settlers flooded into the North and the Protestant state of the eighteenth century came into existence. This was the state environment into Judge Day was born in 1746, but it was not the full picture because the Jacobite sentiment survived – and Judge Day was part of that sentiment.
Among the new English and Scottish magnates – ‘undertakers’ – of the Plantation of Ulster were Arthur Chichester, Hugh Montgomery and James Hamilton. The former is the Lord Donegall of Donegall Square in Belfast who had played an important part in the war that ended in the Siege of Kinsale, becoming Lord Deputy in succession to Mountjoy. Montgomery and Hamilton received huge tranches of O’Neill territory in Antrim and Down, the historic Claneboy; Hamilton became the first Viscount Claneboy. The Ulster Plantation succeeded where the Munster Plantation had failed. A greater number of settlers came to a province containing the choicest Irish acres, once the stronghold of Gaelic resistance under O’Neill, O’Donnel of Tyrconnell (Donegal), O’Doherty (Iniseoin Peninsula) and O’Cathan. What a transformation!
The revolt of the subjugated Irish in October 1641 took the Ulster settlers by surprise. The massacres and other outrages of that time fed the Protestant myth that shaped Judge Day’s upbringing. It all recalled the overthrow of the Munster Plantation two generations previously, in 1598, which had encouraged Hugh O’Neill to broaden his war against the English to Munster; and they would be recalled again at the time of the Indian Mutiny. Then as now surviving settlers, including women and children, fled to the major urban settlements. The revolt spread to the Pale where the Norman Irish were drawn in, then through the rest of the country, drawing in the likes of Lord Muskerry (Donough MacCarthy) who joined the revolt having witnessed the vicious response of the Government. The Catholic religion was what unified the two communities in revolt, Gaelic and Norman. The revolt spread with significant intensity to County Limerick. Not just the rural castles were affected: there were long sieges, attended by great hardship, disease and death, in Tralee and Limerick City in 1642. But the head centre of revolt was Ulster where the Scottish commander Robert Munro is said to have led the counter-offensive with particular brutality. Oliver Cromwell came to supreme power after the execution of Charles I and arrived in Ireland the winter of 1649. His brutality against the Irish at Drogheda and Wexford preceded a huge transfer of Irish land ownership to his soldiers and other new settlers, including the transfer of amounts of land taken from settlers of earlier eras. For example, Denny of Tralee was compelled to disgorge some of his estate to facilitate a new arrival, Bateman. The war in Kerry continued into the 1650s. Cromwellian soldier Barrington and his Bloodhound became notorious in Iveragh. O’Sullivan retreated to the mountains of that region after the fall of Ross Castle and even when Charles II was restored to the throne he continued to disrupt government.
The Restoration of Charles II was a signal to hunt down the regicides who killed his father Charles I. Two Kerry assassins pursued and shot dead one of these: his name was Lisle and he had been hiding in plain sight in Switzerland. But the Cromwellian settlement would remain substantially in place. It was the reign of the king’s successor, his brother James II, that resuscitated fears among Irish Protestants and kept alive the memories of the massacres of 1641. The man largely responsible for this was James’ Irish deputy, Richard Talbot, Earl of Tyrconnell, of the Talbots of Malahide, near Dublin. Tyrconnell cancelled the old town charters and forced the towns to pay for new ones; and he embarked on a policy of replacing Irish Protestants with Catholics, in the Army, in the position of sheriff and in the judiciary. One of the better appointees was Stephen Rice, who was of Kerry descent, to the post of Chief Baron. So discriminatory were Tyrconnell’s actions, and so biased the decisions of his appointed judges, that the the Protestants began to depart the country in droves. Others remained and formed armed associations. Among them were Sir William Petty’s Protestant iron workers at Killowen, near Kenmare. It was 1641 all over again. Irish regiments were sent over to England to shore up support for King James and they were so unruly that they lost all support for the King among his own subjects. One of the regiments was commanded by Kerryman Roger McElligott; he and his undisciplined force devastated the town of Portsmouth.
Over recent years English leaders had looked more and more to King James’s nephew and son-in-law William of Orange. There was great coming and going between England and William’s court at The Hague, and there was an added urgency to official intrigue after James produced a legitimate male heir with his second wife Mary of Modena. William landed at Torbay in November 1688; the Glorious Revolution had begun. William made a triumphant progress through Exeter before claiming the Crown in London. Nevertheless, Tyrconnell held Ireland for James, though he was unable to secure the allegiance of Derry. Derry, or ‘Londonderry’ since the Irish Society of London took ownership of the place at the Plantation of Ulster, prepared to resist the Catholic commander Alexander McDonnell at the head of his Redshanks when they came to lay siege to the city. The impressive city walls still stand today; their gates were closed just in time by the city’s Apprentice Boys. The city would make a long and successful resistance and earn her name and reputation as ‘the Maiden City’. King James finally fled his country on Christmas Eve and reached the court of King Louis of France, his protector. As the siege of Derry continued, down in the very south of Ireland Sir William Petty’s Protestant colony at Killowen, near Kenmare, continued to hold out for William, and took an oath to that effect:
‘We, the undernamed, do hereby in Defence of our Lives and Religion, Associate ourselves in a Body within the Fort of Killowen, against the Enemies of the Protestant Church; and will, from time to time, to the utmost of our Power, behave ourselves according to all such Directions as shall be given us by T. P. (Thomas Palmer) and R. O. (Richard Orpen) for our management and Safety, until we are received into Command of His Highness the Prince of Orange. In Testimony whereof We have taken our Oaths upon the Holy Evangelists, and put our Hands and Seals, the last day of January 1688-9.’
More Protestant resistance was made at Bandon, a town created by the planter Boyle, and at Castlemartyr. King James, encouraged by the idea that he could recover his throne with the aid of Ireland under Tyrconnell, landed at Kinsale. He was accompanied by Stephen Rice, among others, and was welcomed by Justin MacCarthy (Lord Mountcashel), the nephew of Lord Muskerry. The King made his way to Dublin, to the acclaim of the ordinary people in a country which, apart from a few spots like Derry and Enniskillen, was under Tyrconnell’s control.
Many believe that it was Derry’s long, and eventually successful resistance to the forces of James, more than William’s victory over James at the Boyne, more, even, than William’s successful siege of Limerick, that secured the eventual success of the Williamite Revolution. That Revolution, unfortunately, sealed the fate of the Catholic Irish. The era of the Penal Laws followed and the century of Protestant parliament in Dublin. Judge Day travelled travelled on all the circuits of Ireland attempting to uphold the Williamite state.
Judge Day’s allegiance to that state was deepened when he witnessed the frightful Rebellion of 1798, which was inspired by the violent overthrow of the monarchy in France. During the 1790s Day drew the attention of his grand jury audiences to the slaughter of the priests in the Vendee by the revolutionary mobs. Doubtless he knew Cave Hill in Belfast. It was on Cave Hill that Theobald Wolfe Tone and Henry Joy McCracken took an oath to launch a rebellion, turning Cave Hill into a place dear to the revolutionary and republican traditions of modern Irish history. Tone’s dream was to unite all Irishmen of whatever creed or race and create a republic founded on ‘the men of no property’. Unfortunately it all turned to violence in 1798, particularly in counties Wicklow and Wexford. Many believe that figures like Judge Day kept Kerry clear of the Rebellion. But what Tone began the men of 1916 brought to fruition, the independent Irish state of the south of Ireland at the end of Ireland’s War of Independence.