Friday, March 14, 2014

Another Vance of the Past: Gilbert Vance, fl.1630-1641

Was a man named Gilbert Vance in counties Cavan and Fermanagh one of the first Scottish Vance immigrants into Ireland?

In the early 1600s the British started a massive immigration program of Scottish and other Protestant settlers into the north of Ireland in what would become known as the Plantation of Ulster.  The large Protestant landlords were required to keep the names of the able-bodied settlers that they could assemble to fight if the need arose, and these "Muster Rolls" have survived for 1630.

In that year Sir Francis Hamilton, a Scottish knight and baronet, listed Gilbert Vance among his men in the Barony of Tulknock (Tullyhunco) in County Cavan, near its border with County Fermanagh.  While the men on these lists were mostly of Scottish origins, nothing is really known of Gilbert's background except that his "sword and musket" were available to fight in the Protestant cause.  

Ireland's counties, showing Fermanagh (now in Northern Ireland)
and Cavan (now in the Republic of Ireland)

Then in 1641 the local Catholic populations rebelled and a short bloody uprising followed.  Sir Francis Hamilton and his men were forced to flee, and only regained their barony in the 1660s.  

In the years after 1641, the British government collected witness testimonies from (mainly Protestant) locals documenting the loss of goods and alleged crimes committed by the rebels.  These "1641 Depositions" have also survived and have recently been digitized by Trinity College in Dublin and are available on their website here.  

A Gilbert Vance is mentioned in two separate depositions describing the same event in 1641.  While there is no proof that it is the same Gilbert Vance as the one from the 1630 Muster Rolls, the events described in the depositions took place in County Fermanagh less than 30 miles from the Barony of Tullyhunco, and it is certainly likely that an able-bodied Protestant man of arms would have been a focus for the rebels' rage.  

The deposition of Thomas Wenslowe was given in January of 1644, and he tells that in 1641,
one Rory MacBrign McShane Maguire of Ramone in the County of Fermanagh...& his souldjers about the begining of December 1641 at a place nere Cordiller in the same County slew & wickedly murthered by hanging them to death one Gilbert Vance of Portoran (gentleman) a Scotchman: Michell Belfore of the same (gentleman) another Scotchman Edward mc Bright of the same (gentleman).

"Portoran" (now Portora) is very near Enniskillen in County Fermanagh, not far from the border with Cavan. If it is the same Gilbert, maybe he moved north between 1630 and 1641, or did he perhaps escape to Enniskillen when the fighting started, only to fall victim to it there?    

Gilbert Vance's name in one of the 1641 Depositions
(certainly not easy to decipher, but all of the transcriptions are consistent!)

Another deposition, that of George Adwick in August of 1643, recalls only that
about January next after the Rebellion there was hanged at the Lord Magwires bridge in Fermanagh one John Fairbour & his 3 sonns and their wyves & children And about the same tyme there was hanged one Gilbert Vance & three more with him. And 220 Cowes were taken from them though they had and shewed Captain Rory Magwires protection which murthers & outrages were Committed by the Rebels.

These events were unfortunately not unusual, it is said that hundreds of settlers were hanged, drowned, and otherwise killed by the rebels in the uprising, and the event was used to justify brutal retaliations for years afterwards.  Gilbert's fate was sad, but certainly not unusual for the times.  

17th century books had fanciful illustrations of the horrors of the 1641 Rebellion.
How accurate the depositions were is anyone's guess,
but at least two mentioned Gilbert Vance.

No records of Gilbert's family have survived, so whether he left siblings or descendants is unknown.  But he would have been of the same generation as the Rev. John Vans/Vance who moved to Kilmacrenan and while both may have been Scottish, there is no indication that they were related.  

Is Gilbert possibly another separate Vance immigrant from Scotland to Ireland, who started a line of Vance men from one of the other Irish DNA lines besides Group 1 (R1b-L21/L193+)?  

We may never know for sure, but we can't discount the possibility.