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Updated 04/18/2014


Red Hugh

Aodh Ruadh Ó Domhnaill, anglicized as either Hugh Roe O'Donnell or Red Hugh O'Donnell (1572 – 10 September 1602) was the son of Ineen Dubh and Hugh O'Donnell, Lord of Tír Chonaill. As a boy he was fostered by several of the noble houses of Ulster.


Just before his fifteenth birthday he was captured by the English and was taken to Dublin Castle. He was kept prisoner for four years before he escaped and made his way back to Donegal, travelling in freezing winter weather. On the 3rd May 1592 he was proclaimed Chieftain O'Domhnaill (O'Donnell) at the rock of Doon, at Kilmacrennan, County Donegal. 


The O'Donnells fought in the Nine Years War against the English with their allies, the Maguires and the O'Neills. The Battle of Curlew Mountain was one of Red Hugh's greatest victories.  The English were ambushed and routed while marching through a pass in the Curlew Mountains, near the town of Boyle, in northwestern Ireland. The English forces suffered heavy casualties. Losses by allied Irish forces were not recorded but were probably minimal.  Today the battlefield at Curlew Pass is overlooked by an impressionistic sculpture by Maurice Harron called "The Gaelic Chieftain", unveiled in 1999.

In 1601 help arrived from Spain for the Irish. The Spanish forces landed in Kinsale and Red Hugh set out on the long journey to meet them. The English army, led by Lord Mountjoy, arrived to lay siege to the town and this resulted in the Battle of Kinsale in December 1601. The battle was won by the English and the Irish retreated back to Ulster.


Red Hugh left Ireland and travelled to Spain to seek help. After nine months he was struck down by an illness and dies at the age of thirty; the Irish double-agent, James "Spanish" Blake, is alleged to have poisoned O'Donnell.  He is buried in a Franciscan monastery in Valladolid, Spain.  Ludhaigh Ó Cléirigh, 17th Century Donegal poet and historian described his burial:


“His body was taken to Valladolid, to the King’s Court, in a four-wheeled hearse, with great numbers of State Officers, of the Council and of the Royal Guard all round it, with blazing torches and bright flambeaux of beautiful waxlights blazing all around on each side of it. He was buried after that in the chapter of the monastery of St. Francis with great honour and respect and in the most solemn manner any Gael ever before had been interred.”


In 2011, a plaque commemorating the death and burial of Red Hugh was unveiled in a side street off the Plaza.