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1500's and beyond.
The strategic importance of the garrison town was emphasised in 1575 when Sir Brian McPhelim O’Neill of Clandeboye burned down much of Carrickfergus. Two years later the fabled Sorley Boy MacDonnell attacked the town.
Sir Arthur Chichester assumed governorship of the Castle in 1599. He settled the countryside and successfully planted the town with English and lowland Scots. The town wall was begun in 1608 by Sir Arthur and in 1610 work started on Joymount Palace, Chichester’s huge Jacobean Mansion on the site of the former Franciscan friary. In 1614 he undertook the restoration and refurbishment of St Nicholas Church, first built in the 12th century.
During the great rebellion of 1641, Carrickfergus became a refuge for fleeing Protestants and in April 1642, General Robert Munro took over the castle and town for the Scots. Munro gave way to General Monk on behalf of Parliament and the fortress was its base until the restoration of Charles II in 1660.
In 1688 the town and castle were held by the garrison troops for James II, despite the overwhelming sympathy of the population for the Williamite cause. Then on 20 August the following year, Frederick, Duke of Schomberg laid siege to the town with Williamite forces, bombarding the town with heavy mortars and creating widespread damage. After seven days the garrison commander, Colonel Charles McKarty Moore, surrendered to Schomberg.
The most celebrated landing at Carrickfergus took place on 14th June 1690. King William III stepped ashore and made straight for Belfast and to the Battle of the Boyne. There he was to defeat his father-in-law James II in a conflict that would have overwhelming ramifications for the British monarchy and Irish history. A statue of William, unveiled in 1990, stands in the grounds of Carrickfergus castle.
On the 1st February 1760, Commodore Thurot’s French forces attacked the town. The castle surrendered and the silver in St Nicholas church was stolen. However, the French were caught at sea by the British Navy, and Thurot was killed in action off the Isle of Man. During the American War of Independence, the American privateer John Paul Jones, credited as being one of the founding fathers of the American Navy, engaged his ship “Ranger” with HMS Drake off Carrickfergus Castle in 1778.
Carrickfergus has further American connections. Located less than a mile from the town centre off the Larne Road at Boneybefore, is the Andrew Jackson Cottage. This single storey thatched cottage, a traditional Ulster-Scots farmhouse built in 1750, has been restored to its original state including an open fireplace with a daub and wattle canopy and hanging crane. The 7th President of the USA’s ancestry and life are displayed in the gallery.
In 1797 with political stirrings at their peak, the Castle was pressed into service as a prison for United Irishmen. William Orr was tried and hanged on Gallows Green and many prisoners passed through the castle during the 1798 rebellion.
For further information please contact:
Visitor Information Centre
Telephone: 028 9335 8049