The Hamilton & Montgomery Settlement of 1606
The Dawn of the Ulster-Scots
Not plantation, not conquest, not invasion. Settlement.
In terms of Irish history, the period from 1603 – 1610 is perhaps the most influential, as it includes the Union of the Crowns in 1603, the Flight of the Earls in 1607 and the Plantation of (the west of) Ulster in 1610. Many claim that this era has defined Ireland’s history right up to the present day.
However the story of the Hamilton & Montgomery Settlement of 1606 is largely overlooked. Most histories of Ireland and Scotland don’t mention it at all, and in most histories of Ulster it is only given a few sentences. Yet it was the foundational event of the era, and the single most important event in Ulster-Scots history. Everything that followed was built on the achievements of Hamilton and Montgomery.
Royal-approved settlements in Ireland had been attempted a number of times during the 1500s and had failed. The same was the case in Scotland. So when James Hamilton and Hugh Montgomery made their proposal for a private, self-financed settlement of County Antrim and County Down to the recently-crowned King James I, perhaps the King expected their scheme to fail too. Yet it was an amazing success, and arguably provided the King with the encouragement to proceed with the Plantation of Virginia at Jamestown in 1607, the blueprint for the Plantation of (the rest of) Ulster in 1610 and the Plantation of Nova Scotia in 1621.
1606 was not the first contact between Scotland and Ireland – GM Trevelyan has described the shared history of the two regions as “a constant factor in history”. However, May 1606 was the beginning of the first large-scale migration, a migration which would leave a permanent Scottish imprint on the province of Ulster, an imprint which can be felt to this day. 1606 was when the trickle became a flood.
As ATQ Stewart says in The Narrow Ground, “… Hamilton and Montgomery succeeded where Sir Thomas Smith had failed. They created the bridgehead through which the Scots were to come into Ulster for the rest of the century ...” James Hamilton and Hugh Montgomery can rightly be called “The Founding Fathers of the Ulster-Scots”.
About this resource
With the resurgence of interest in Ulster-Scots history and culture, much of our story is being rediscovered.
We hope that this resource will inform, educate and inspire you to find out more about the Hamilton & Montgomery Settlement of 1606 – the foundational story of the Ulster-Scots.
"...The Scots who made the move to Ulster seem to have been a relatively balanced cross-section of the national population. At the upper end of the scale were small landowners and substantial tenants who saw the venture as an unprecedented opportunity for economic advancement ... below this élite class was a broad social spread which included artisans and labourers as well as farm servants and cottars. Significantly, for every four men three women moved to Ulster ... this was an important influence which helped to maintain the distinctive identity of the Ulster Scots ..."
T M Devine
Scotland's Empire 1600–1815