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    Flight of the Earls commemorated

    By admin | January 12, 2007

    The four-hundredth anniversary of the Flight of the Earls, one of the seminal events in the early history of emigration from Ireland is being commemorated this year. The Flight of the Earls, of course, marked the end of the old Gaelic aristocracy. Hugh O’Neill and Rory O’Donnell, fearing arrest by the new Lord Deputy of Ireland, fled to the Continent along with ninety of their followers. They set sail from Rathmullen, Co Donegal, and their departure cleared the way for the Plantation of Ulster.

    The men intended to go to Spain, where they hoped to gain support from the King and then return to liberate Ireland. They never returned. Many of the men became officers in the Spanish Army, while Rory O’Donnell and Hugh O’Neill both died in Rome – O’Donnell in 1608 and O’Neill in 1616.

    The Flight of the Earls is enormously important for those interested in emigration history. Dr John McCavitt says in his Flight of the Earls website:

    Perhaps the most important aspect of the Flight of the Earls for people of Irish descent, and for countries that the Irish migrated to, is that the Flight effectively inaugurated the Irish diaspora. The early seventeenth century witnessed Irish men and women dispersed as far afield as the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Newfoundland, even the Amazon (O’Briens). As a direct result of the Flight, Irish soldiers, the original ‘wild geese’, saw service in Sweden, Denmark, Poland and Russia.

    The official website for the commemoration was launched in Donegal last night. Events will include a conference in February; the production of “Making History”, Brian Friel’s play about the flight; a history conference in May; a summer school and more.

    See the Flight of the Earls Commemoration website.

    Topics: arts and culture, history, soldiers abroad | No Comments »