Bowles DNA Project
The Bowles of Canada and their Roots in Ireland and Great Britain

Home  My Story  My Bowles Family  Bowles in Canada  Bowles in Ireland  Bowles in Great Britain  Bowles in the US

Origin of the Name  People's Lives  Related Links  New Additions

Sir John Bolle in Ireland

Back to The Bolles of Haugh or  Bolles of Haugh in the Military

See also The Bolles of Haugh Family Tree and Sir John Bolle at Cadiz

During England's war with Spain, the parts of Ireland which were still under the control of the rebellious Catholic Earls of Ireland were seen as possible Spanish allies and therefore a danger to England.  Queen Elizabeth I decided that it was necessary to greatly increase the size of the English army in Ireland in order to end that threat.

In the late 1500’s when Queen Elizabeth declared England to be independent of control from Rome and founded the Church of England she faced strong opposition from Catholic Spain which was vying with England for dominance of Europe.   Predominately Catholic Ireland represented the weakest point in England’s defense in its war with Spain so a powerful English army of 16,000 foot and 1,300 horse was maintained there to keep the Irish Chieftains, or ‘Earls’, as they had been forced to accept the English title, loyal to the Crown.  However, internal divisions in the leading Irish families came into play.  The Chieftains in power were hereditary monarchs with a 1000 year history and they tended to want to retain their own authority over their own people while competitors for those roles tended to ally themselves with the English.  So things remained in constant turmoil but just short of open war until 1594 when the most powerful Irish Chieftain in the northern state of Ulster, Hugh O’Neill, the Earl of Tyrone, rebelled against English rule starting the Nine Years War.  Other Chieftains throughout Ireland rejected the oaths they had earlier been made to swear to Henry VIII and joined in on what  became a general rebellion throughout Ireland until once again the only secure areas were the guarded area surrounding Dublin called the ‘Pale’ and the various English stronghold castles around the country but primarily in the south. 

After his success leading the raid on the Spanish port of Cadiz in 1596, the 2nd Earl of Essex, Robert Devereux, was given the post of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland charged with ending the rebellion there. 

A levy was put on the leaders of several English counties to provide these troops.  On Sept. 10, 1596 the Queen’s Privy Council sent a letter to the Lord Treasurer of Lincolnshire ordering a levy of 94 able men in Lincolnshire for service in Ireland.  Sir John Bolle, just recently returned from the attack on Cadiz, was appointedto be their Captain and there would have been a Lieutenant, an Ensign, likely two corporals and a drummer for a full complement of 100 men.  All levies were to be at the port of Chester by the end of September to sail to Ireland.
The Privy Council to the Lord Treasurer, lieutenant of Lincolnshire. 1596, Sept. 10. 
With reference to the Queen's letters to him for the levy of 94 able men in Lincolnshire for service in Ireland, in which letters her Majesty referred him to the Council for further directions. Men of known good behaviour are to be chosen, “and not vagrant nor of the baser sort,” which kind of people commonly run away from their captains at the first chance. To encourage them, Sir John Bowles, a gentleman of that country, is appointed their captain. As to armour, there shall be 47 corslets with pikes, 24 callivers and 23 muskets, and they shall have coats of some mixed colour, well lined, because winter approaches, for which the accustomed allowance of 4s. for each coat shall be made. Their captain shall pay them conduct money at ½d. a mile as far as Chester, where they enter into their monthly wages. A roll of their names and parishes is to be delivered to the captain, and another sent hither; and diligence must be used, for all levies are to be at Chester by the last of September. “Lastly we do think meet, because in every employment we find such loss of armour as is very chargeable unto the countries, that bonds be taken, to the double value of the armour delivered, of the captain or lieutenant receiving the soldiers, to see restitution made of the armour or to make good proof, by witnesses, how the same is wasted or lost in her Majesty's service.”—The Court, at Greenwich, 10 Sept. 1596.
P.S. It may be added to the bond that the attestation by a superior officer of the loss of the said armour will be sufficient discharge to the captain.
Signed by Burghley, Essex, lords Cobham and North, Sir W. Knollys, Sir Robert Cecil and Sir John Fortescue.
 The Lord Lieutenant wasted no time in responding:
Charles Lord Willoughby, Sir Edward Dymok and Sir George St. Poll to Lord Burghley. 1596, Sept. 26. 
According to your letters dated the 11 of this instant, importing Her Majesty's pleasure that we should provide and furnish ninety-four footmen in the county of Lincoln, to be had into Ireland under the conduct of Sir John Booles, knight, we have levied the said men, and have divided them according to your directions, viz., forty-seven corslets with pykes, twenty-four calyvers, and twenty-three muskets, and have delivered them this day unto him, and have made an indenture containing the names of the soldiers and the places of their dwellings, which herewithal we send unto your Lordship. And for the restitution of the armour upon their return we have taken bonds of the said Sir John Booles as you have prescribed.—Lincoln, this xxvith of September, 1596.
P.S.—If it might please your Lordship, since the nights grow long and cold, to discharge the country of the watch of the beacons, it would be very acceptable to them.
Addressed :—“Lord Lieutenant of the county of Lincoln.”
Sir John and his men were mustered at Chester by the first week of October and sailed from there to Dublin.  ref.
However instead of sending his new forces northwards against O'Neill, Essex sent his men around southern Ireland dispersing many of them into garrisons to protect the existing English holdings and pursuing smaller bands of rebels through the mountains where one of the army's chief advantages, their horses, were of little use to them. 
Sir John Bolle and Sir John North were sent to assist Lord Russell who was encamped near Rathdrum, co. Wicklow within Fiach Mac Aodha Ó Broin's (anglicized as Feagh O'Byrne) territory. (Sir William Russell’s Journal in the Sir George Carew manuscript collection at Lambeth Palace Library: Oct. 18, 1596 Sir John North and Sir John Bowles with their foot companies, each 100 strong, came to the camp)
Another interesting entry in Russell's Journal on Nov. 1, 1596: This night, at the setting of the watch, six soldiers of Sir John Bowles and Sir Thomas North's companies, which had run away from their colours, were put to cast the dice for their lives, and one of Sir Thomas North's company, who cast least, was executed. 
Another account from this period from Some Wicklow History by Fiach Mac Hugh O'Byrne:
Therefore, in the month of October (1596), Russell asked Ormond to help him and he came to Russell’s camp with a hundred cavalry and two hundred kerns. Around midnight Russell sent John Chichester and Captain Lee to the glen, but they were to enter it through special little passes. At the break of the day the viceroy himself went into the glen and Chichester and his company met him. They saw about one hundred men of the O’Byrnes’ people at the other side of the glen, but they were afraid to attack them. Then they went to the camp. Russell spent a fortnight in this neighbourhood making raids on the O’Byrnes and enforcing the law and then he went back to Dublin, leaving the garrison under Chichester. Chichester continued to fortify Ballinacor.  
When Russell returned to Dublin the Star Chamber convened and they were in favour of making peace with Fiach because they were afraid he would get help from O’Neill, but Russell and his friends’ desire for the property of the Wicklow clans would not let them make any peace with Fiach. So he returned to the encampment; Sir John North and Sir John Bowles were with him. They brought two hundred men with them. They brought these soldiers with them for fear that O’Neill would succeed in sending help to Fiach Mac Hugh. Chichester and Lee went into the glen again on the 15th day of November and the viceroy himself went in on the North side. But they had to return out of this because of the heavy rain. The lord viceroy went to Baile an droichead [Place unknown – possibly Bridgeland which was part of Farnees, but geography suggests some bridging point in west Wicklow?] and from there to Naas and then back to Dublin. He failed for the third time to defeat the Wicklow clans and take their lands from them and catch Fiach.
On May 8, 1597 Fiach was finally captured and slain by Russell’s men.  The troops in Wicklow were then available for other assignments.  From Russell's Journal, on Nov. 23, 1597 "The following companies sent to their places of garrison: Sir John Bowles‘s to Carickfergus".  That was the only English base in northern Ireland at that time. The fort had been attacked by the Macdonnells on Nov. 4 and since the O'Neills were also active in that area they were expected to attack again while it was weakened.
It was most likely during this period, between early 1598 and May 1600 that Sir John served as the Governor of Kinsale.  Pretty much all the rest of his career is accounted for and we do know that Sir John was in charge of a regiment of foot in Munster province in 1599 according to the Army In Ireland List of April, 28, 1599. ref   Burke’s ‘Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol 2, 1835’ states that “Sir John Bolle ... distinguished himself at the Seige of Cadiz in 1596 and was afterwards governor of Kinsale”.  Another reference for that comes later when Sir John was on leave in England and learned that the Spanish had landed at Kinsale in October 1601.  Sir John wrote to Cecil about “the Spaniards' arrival in a place in Munster where I once commanded” which would be a reference to Kinsale.    
During that period, having had no reports of victories and learning that Essex had negotiated a truce with O'Neill, Queen Elizabeth lost her patience and ordered Essex to lead his army into the north. 
On August 21, 1599 Essex called his Lords and Colonels of the Army, including Sir John Bolle, to a Council of War at which he announced his intention to invade Ulster.  However, the officers, assessing their current strength available to march on Ulster at 4,000 men at the most, decided to advise the Queen that  "the army being so unwilling to be carried thither that some secretly run into England, others revolt to the rebels, a third sort partly hide themselves in the country and partly feign themselves sick", they "should be far overmatched when all the forces of the north should encounter them", "that it was a course full of danger and of little or no hope" and that "they could not advise or assent to the undertaking".  Sir John Bolle was one of the 18 signers of the letter to the Queen which Essex then sailed back to England.

His return resulted in his confinement to his rooms and a trial before the Privy Council.  He then attempted to force an audience with the Queen resulting in his arrest for treason, commitment to the Tower and his execution in 1601.

Essex was then replaced by Lord Mountjoy as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland who started a new offensive to weaken the Tyrone rebels which involved a seaborne landing of an English army at Derry in Ulster by Henry Docwra with John Bolles as his second in command.  Rather than attacking O'Neill's forces, their assignment was to lay waste to the countryside, both produce and civilians, to provoke a famine in the north, cutting off O'Neill's supply lines and forcing them to split their forces to defend their own territory.

See Lord Docwra and Sir John Bolle in Ulster for the next part of this history


This site was last updated 01/30/21