The Battle of Clones

In 1607 Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone left Ireland for Europe with many other powerful Gaelic chiefs in what became known as the ‘Flight of the Earls’,

Flight of the Earls

The ‘Flight of the Earls’, was an event which signified the success of England’s conquest of Ireland. He was accompanied by his nephew, Owen Roe O’Neill who would serve many years in the Irish regiment in the Spanish army where he commanded the Spanish garrison at the Siege of Arras in 1640.

In 1642 O’Neill returned to Ireland with 300 experienced veterans to aid the uprising that had begun the previous year with the aim of enhancing Catholic rights and regain land lost to the policy of plantation. Because of his military experience he was recognised as the leader of the Ulster army of the Irish Confederates and he established his forces at Charlemont Fort in Co. Armagh where he hoped to recruit and train an army capable of confronting his foes in Ulster which consisted of Sir Robert Stewart’s, Laggan Army in Donegal and Robert Monro’s Covenanter Army in Antrim. An attempted surprise attack on Charlemont by Monro almost succeeded and O’Neill, who also facing a shortage of supplies decided to move his forces to Co. Leitrim where he could continue to train his army and return to confront his enemies in Ulster when the situation was more favourable. On the 9th June 1643 he issued dispatches ordering his officers and men throughout Ulster to “direct their course towards Cluneise.” Sir Robert Stewart got word of O’Neill’s withdrawal and with his Royalist Laggan Army from Donegal, marched south to cut off Owen Roe’s retreat and both armies engaged in a short battle near Clones on June 13th 1643.

Battle Location

The exact location of the battle is not known for certain, but tradition states that it occurred at what is known locally as the ‘Cassey’, a stretch of road running through Tirnahinch Far, from Carrivetragh to the Clones to Lackey Bridge road. At that time this was the main road from the Roslea district to Clones as the present road from Magheranure to Clones was not constructed until 1749. The cassey is probably an anglicisation of ‘ an ceasach’, a wicker bridge or causeway. Pilib B. O’Mordha in The Battle of Clones 1643 which was published in the Clogher Record, 1962 describes the road system in the Clones area as it existed at the time of the battle, and following the old Clones to Lackey bridge road to Jack Donaghy’s dwelling, whose son still resides there today, continues, “Some little distance further on it crossed a narrow strip between two bogs by means of a “narrow stone causey”. There appears to have been a short length of road before it entered the “cawsy” proper, a “straight” pass about half a mile in length bounded on one side by a bog and on the other by a steep high ridge of ground.” P. B. O’Mordha also states that the author of the ‘Aphorismicall Discovery’ in his account of the battle mentions the passage “of a foorde” which obviously refers to the “stone causey”. Lord E. Hamilton in his, ‘The Irish Rebellion of 1641’, misreading the word “foorde” pushes the action back to the nearest available river and sites the engagement on the banks of the River Finn.” Wikipedia states that the battle took place at Cumber Bridge on the Clones to Scotshouse road.

Battle Results

The result of the battle was a victory for Sir Robert Stewart with fatalities among Owen Roe O’Neill forces amounting to about 150 men, with many others injured or taken prisoner, and the loss of most of his supplies and arms. The Laggan Army fatalities were claimed to have been only six men. The Battle of Clones was O’Neill’s only defeat in Ireland and he would be involved in other successful engagements, the most notable being the Battle of Benburb in 1646. He died at Cloughoughter Castle in Co. Cavan in 1649.


A good account of the Battle of Clones 1643 was first published about 1736 by Thomas Carte in ‘The Life of James, Duke of Ormond’, pages 486-489. and Lord E. Hamilton’s, The Irish Rebellion of 1641, pages 288-289. and Thomas Gilbert’s,

A Contemporary History of Affairs in Ireland, from 1641 to 1652. Page 144.

Thank you to Sean Slowey For Submitting