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From Carrigaline To Virginia, USA

400 years ago an English settler here in Carrigaline helped establish the town of Newport News in Virginia, USA. It would be great to make something of that connection now.

Writes Dr Hiram Morgan, Waterpark, Carrigaline and School of History, UCC.

Carrigaline Castle, Daniel Gookin's base in Ireland. Credit Gerry Ahern
Carrigaline Castle, Daniel Gookin's base in Ireland. Credit Gerry Ahern

While it is widely acknowledged that the late 16th century Munster plantation was a prototype for the colonization of Virginia founded by the English landing at Jamestown in 1607, there are not many actual links between the two developments. The most famous is undoubtedly Sir Walter Raleigh the largest grantee in Munster with 40,000 acres around Youghal and Lismore - his simultaneous plantation attempt at Roanoke Island in what is now North Carolina failed abysmally, giving rise to the myth of the Lost Colony.

The other link is Daniel Gookin of Carrigaline. Originally from Kent, he was the latest in a long line of English planters here beginning with Warham St Leger who displaced James FitzMaurice Fitzgerald the leader of two unsuccessful Irish revolts to prevent English colonization. Gookin purchased Carrigaline in the mid-1610s, after earlier settling in County Cork with his older brother Vincent at Courtmacsherry in 1611.

Gookin was an English Puritan but that did not prevent him entering into a partnership with the more Papist-minded Captain William Newce, a veteran of the Kinsale campaign. Newce, having been associated with the last stages of Raleigh’s efforts in East Cork, had switched his interests to West Cork where he became involved in the development of Bandon and gave his name to nearby Newcestown. At the end of the 1610s Gookin and Newce decided to invest together in the Virginia Company. After many setbacks, England’s Virginia colony was at last beginning to succeed with the discovery of tobacco as a cash crop. In doing so it had already seen its first import of African slaves and the Pocahontas love-in with the local Native Americans was likewise coming to a close. The new investors promised to bring in 1,000 settlers and also import cattle as breeding stock to feed the growing colony. To raise the required capital, Gookin obtained money from merchants in Kinsale, sold plantation lands in County Longford and, although he continued to lease it, sold Carrigaline as well to the ultimate capitalist-colonialist of the period, the newly-created earl of Cork, Richard Boyle.

A map of Virginia, USA.
A map of Virginia, USA.

The Virginia company had already named William Newce, because of his military experience, as the new Knight-Marshal of Virginia. He died after two months in the colony having arrived with a badly-provisioned group of ‘weak and unserviceable people’. Daniel Gookin who arrived shortly after aboard the Flying Hart in November 1621 had more success and he was largely responsible for the successful establishment of Newport News that would eventually eclipse Jamestown as the main town in the region. Incidentally the town’s name derives from not, as some believe, Gookin’s unfortunate partner William Newce but from the buccaneering sea-captain Christopher Newport who had earlier delivered the pioneering settlers to Jamestown. At the start of 1622 Virginia’s governor and council reported back to London: ‘There arrived here about the 22nd of November a ship from Mr. Gookin out of Ireland wholly upon his own adventure, without any relation at all to his contract with you in England, which was so well furnished with all sortes of provisione, as well as with cattle, as wee could wyshe all men would follow their example; hee hath also brought with him about fifty men upon that adventure, besides some 30 passengers. Wee have according to their desire seated them at Newport's News, and we doe conceive great hope, if the Irish Plantation prosper, yet from Ireland great multitudes of People will like to come hither.’

Gookin and his settlers, who promptly erected fortifications, were able to survive the great Indian revolt which wiped out a third of the colony in March 1622. That sudden uprising can be compared to the 1598 revolt of the Irish that had threatened the Munster plantation. Thereafter it was an upwards trajectory for Gookin, Newport News and the white settlement of Virginia. On a boat called the Providence in 1623 he was able to bring in more settlers and cattle, preferring of course people and animals of English breed. Leaving his son Daniel Jr in charge, he returned to County Cork and gave up the lease of Carrigaline in 1630. He was residing at Red Abbey in Cork city when he died in 1633. He did not regard his career as over by any means. He was still on the outlook for new investments, having applied to King Charles I for a grant to discover, colonise and exploit a land, reportedly 300 leagues West of the Blaskets, ‘named and called Saint Brandon or the Isle de Verde’.

For those interested in learning about this approaching 400th anniversary, there will be an online Trans-Atlantic seminar on this subject towards the end of November 2020. Also since Carrigaline was then just the castle and surrounding countryside, it is also hoped that this occasion will afford an opportunity to conserve that edifice that gives our town its name.

To obtain further information see Luke Pecoraro’s 2015 Boston University Thesis - ‘Mr Gookin out of Ireland, wholly upon his owne adventure’: an archaeological study of intercolonial and transatlantic connections in the seventeenth century’ @

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