5 May 1815
By 1815, Rev. Edward Chichester’s honeymoon period came to a sudden and frightening end. In this letter he records the arrival of Mr. Hewitt, the sheriff, with orders from Dublin Castle to enforce the collection of fines imposed on townlands for poteen making. He went so far as to suggest that Rev. Chichester could do more and use his influence to encourage the people to pay. Chichester exploded in rage at the arrogance of the authorities in treating his parishioners in such a high handed manner when, as law-abiding citizens, they were clearly unable to pay the inappropriate fines imposed amounting to thousands of pounds. He argued that if all the property in the parish of Clonmany were to be sold it would not cover the fines imposed. At this point a pamphlet war erupted between Chichester and the excise officers in which he accused the authorities of abuse of power and argued for a mitigation of the fines.
But Dublin Castle was in no mood for compromise. Troops were stationed at Mamore and Crossconnell in Clonmany and at Baskill in Culdaff. A John McDonald in Clonmany was arrested and jailed for possessing part of a still. Terror swept across the community as soldiers raided and pillaged at will, seizing cattle in lieu of fines. Clonmany farmers raided the pound at Carndonagh where cattle were impounded thus adding to the feeling that law and order was on the verge of collapse. Chichester’s Redford rectory was broken into on two occasions and windows broken. To compound his problems, the Christmas of 1815 left him snowbound and the roads became impassible. The summer of 1816 brought no improvement in the situation when a local landlord, a member of the Donegal militia, Norton Butlerof Grousehall, Gleneely was savagely murdered, leaving a wife and small children.
By the 1820s, life slowly returned to normal. Subsequently, Rev. Edward and his wife Catherine moved to Armagh where he held the post of Chancellor. He is buried in the city. Some years later, the O’Neill viscountcy in Antrim was due to expire when the third Viscount O’Neill died in 1855 without successors. Edward’s son, Rev. William, who was born in Redford, inherited the title of Baron O’Neill of Shane’s Castle in 1868. He took the surname O’Neill. A descendant, Terence O’Neill became Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. The descendants of a modest rector, Edward Chichester and his wife, Catherine Young had found their way into the corridors of power.
The current holder of the title is Lord O’Neill (Raymond) whom I have the pleasure of meeting as a member of the Ulster Local History Trust (see website). He attended the Flight of the Earls celebrations in Rathmullan in 2007. In his late seventies, he resides mostly in London while his Antrim estate is managed by his son, the future Lord O’Neill. His walled estate can be seen outside Antrim town on the airport route. Both Terence O’Neill, his wife, Lord O’Neill and his family have all visited Clonmany and Culdaff – their spiritual home. Members of the family called to Culdaff House, where Catherine Young grew up. It is now occupied by George Mills whose mother was also Young. On a guided tour of Colebrooke (Fermanagh) on one occasion, pointing to a map of Inishowen in her hallway, Lady Brookeborough remarked, “That’s where we came from”. Our journey started in Dresden, moved to Redford (Culdaff) and ended in the House of Lords, where Lord O’Neill holds a seat.