Famous People of Ireland.

Sir Arthur Chichester

Go to famous Irish People

Sir Arthur Chichester.
(May 1563 - Feb 1624)

Chichester was born at Raleigh, Devon in May 1563, he was the second son in a family of seven sons and nine daughters, his father was Sir John Chichester, died when Arthur was five and a half years old?

He attended Exeter College, Oxford leaving without graduating, he became a career soldier, by 1588 he had attained the rank of Captain, this career was temporarily cut short by his involvement in a robbery and attack on the Queens purveyor, Chichester and his accomplices were summoned to appear before the Privy Council.

Instead he chose to abscond to France where he joined the French Army and eventually was knighted by Henry IV, eventually it appears he was pardoned By Queen Elizabeth, perhaps realising that the British in their zeal to subdue Ireland had use for people of Chichesters diverse talents.

In June 1597 his brother Sir John Chichester, was appointed governor of Carrickfergus, John Chichester lost his life in the battle of Altfracken near Ballycarry with the forces of Sir James MacDonnell's of Co Antrim, Chichester's head was severed form his body and sent to the MacDonnell camp where it was reputadly used as a football.

In the autumn of 1599 Sir Arthur Chichester was appointed head of the English garrison at Carrickfergus in County Antrim the post his late brother had held. In August 1600 he was instructed by the Lord Deputy Lord Mountjoy (Charles Blonc) to subdue the local Irish clans, he immediately adopted a scorched earth policy and destroyed and killed everything within a twenty mile radius of Carrickfergus. The death of Sir John Chichester was avenged when Sir James MacDonnell of Dunluce Castle was poisoned, it would appear this plot was hatched by Sir Robert Cecil.

Chichester made a journey from Carrickfergus to Dungannon along the shores of Lough Neagh, the text below are his own description of events during the journey.

"I burned along the lough within four miles of Dungannon and killed one hundred people, sparing none, of what quality, age or sex so ever, besides many burned to death; we kill man, woman and child, horse, beast and whatsoever we find."

The text continues in the same vane and concludes.

"I have often said and written it is famine that must consume them; our swords and other endeavours work not that speedie effect which is expected; for their overthrowes are safties to the speedie runners, upon which we kill no multitudes."

Another of Chichester's quotations below.

'a million swords will not do them so much harm as one winter's famine' (Chichester to Cecil, 21 May 1600

His policy was to kill all whom he could catch, those who escaped were deprived of shelter and the means to sustain themselves. His attacks came at the onset of autumn, the harvested crops would have been gathered in and easily destroyed, which no doubt was part of his plan.

June 1601 saw Chichester and Lord Mountjoy at Dundrum, County Down, in July of that year he took Castlereagh from Brian McArt O'Neill. In April of 1603 he was appointed Governor of Carrickfergus for life at a salary of 13 shillings per day. The English conquest of Ulster was complete when in April the great O'Neill surrendered.

Chichester was well rewarded for his time in Ireland, despite the fact that in 1600 he is reported to have been on the verge of bankruptcy and was forced to return to England, by the time of his removal from Irish affairs he is said to have held title to some 100,000 acres

In St Nicholas church Carrickfergus is a monument to Chichester depicting he and his wife a daughter of Sir John Perrott, kneeling beside their dead infant son. In retrospect perhaps it might be fitting to erect a memorial to the unknown number of men women and children he ruthlessly butchered, and to those who suffered a lingering and painful death from starvation, precipitated by his actions. Chichester died without heirs his property reverted to his brother Sir Edward Chichester.

For an in depth account of Chichester's life by Dr John McCavitt FRHists visit this page.

Read about Sir Arthur Chichester from The Irish Nation: Its History and Its Biography by James and Freeman Wills.