400th Anniversary of the Plantation of Ulster


400th Anniversary of the Plantation of Ulster

An Post, the Irish Post Office, has today (Friday) issued a stamp to mark the 400th Anniversary of the Plantation of Ulster.  The 55c stamp, issued in Irish and English language versions, features a cartouche or decorated frame which was a feature of maps at the time of the Ulster Plantation.

It is generally accepted that the Plantation of Ulster began in 1609 following the Flight of the Earls two years earlier. The new stamp recognises the significance of an event that radically changed the face of 17th Century Ulster and determined the subsequent course of the history of the island of Ireland.

In 1609, detailed maps were drawn up of the six counties that were taken over directly by the Crown: Armagh, Donegal, Coleraine (Derry), Tyrone, Fermanagh and Cavan. The first settlers, mainly Scots Presbyterians and English ‘Dissenters’ arrived the following year. 

The stamp design concept and calligraphy is by Timothy O’Neill. A first day cover was designed by Ger Garland which reproduces a map from that time. Both the stamp and first day cover may be viewed and purchased at www.irishstamps.ie and at all main post offices and the GPO Philatelic Shop.


Historical background…. Ireland had been in conflict in the years leading up to the Plantation, as the Gaelic chieftains held out against the English Crown’s attempted colonisation. Ulster had become the last bastion of Gaelic Ireland, until finally the O’Donnells and the O’Neills were defeated at the end of the Nine Years War.

To ensure that this hard-won land remained loyal, and caused no more costly and bloody trouble to the Crown, a planned process of colonisation took place. This was during the early years of the reign of James I, who had united Scotland and England.  While both English and Scottish settlers were granted lands in Ulster, those who arrived in 1609 were mainly Scottish Presbyterians. The settlers fell into different groups.  The first group comprised so-called ‘Undertakers’, of both English and Scottish origin, who undertook to bring English-speaking Protestant tenants from their own estates to populate the land. The second group were the ‘Servitors’, who had fought on the English side in the Nine Years War and who had lobbied successfully to be added to the list of beneficiaries.

The Plantation was carefully thought out, and yet this led to mixed results. Settlers were forbidden to rent to people of Gaelic or Catholic background, but this meant that in many cases there were not enough people to work the land, and so the Plantations were never fully segregated, as had been intended.  The Plantation did, however, radically change the face of 17th Century Ulster and determined the subsequent course of the history of the island of Ireland thereafter.