chapter  7
The Social Order of the 1641 Rebellion
Pages 16

Sitting before two o cers of the Cromwellian army, Alice MacDonnell, the Countess Dowager of Antrim, was questioned about her conduct during the troublesome period of October 1641 to May 1642. She had ed her home in late May 1642 due to the approach of two Scottish armies. One force, under the command of General Monro, approaching by land, was of little consequence. e other army situated o the coast of Antrim and under the command of the ‘McCallins’, posed a greater problem. e ‘McCallins’ or the Campbells were ‘alwaies Enemies to the macDonnells’.1 In January 1642, in a pre-emptive strike, a force led by Manus O’Cahan and some of the MacDonnells raided the fort at Portnaw in County Antrim and allegedly massacred eighty soldiers. In retaliation, the Scottish forces stationed in East Ulster descended on Island Magee and attacked the indigenous Catholic population.2 In her examination, MacDonnell wished to avoid implicating herself in the attack at Portnaw. To do so she consistently refused to answer any question on the issue: ‘Being several times told at that Answere was not pertinent to the Question; shee at Last Answered at if shee were to be hanged shee could not Answer the said Question any otherwise.’3 Asked whether she protected any of the ‘British’ in the vicinity she replied that ‘her house was full of Irish Scotch & English’ but she could not remember their names.4 Over the course of her interrogation, the two inquisitors, Richard Brasier and omas Coote, focused on MacDonnell’s failure to protect ‘British’ settlers. MacDonnell, however, remained de ant and tenacious in her defence. A er being asked several times whom she had attempted to protect from being murdered she replied ‘that shee was no souldier to go out and defend them’.5