Margery Bisset, Hieress of Antrim

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About Margery Bisset, Hieress of Antrim

The Antrim MacDonnells are a part of Clan Donald and can trace their descent back to

Somerled Lord of Argyle who ended Norse control of the southern Hebrides in the

twelfth century. By the fourteenth century his descendants had become the Lords of the

Isles and controlled most of the western seaboard of Scotland. The involvement of the

MacDonnells with north-east Ulster can be dated to the marriage of John (or Ian) Mór

MacDonnell to Margery Bisset, heir to MacEoin Bisset, Lord of the Glynns of Antrim, in

the 1390s. By the end of sixteenth century the Lordship of the Isles had disappeared but

the MacDonnells of Clan Ian Mór had established an autonomous Lordship in north-east

Ulster, in spite of the hostility of both the English administration in Dublin and the

O'Neills of Tyrone, who had traditional claimed hegemony in Ulster


Another significant link between Scotland and Ulster was the arrival in 1399 of John Mor MacDonnell, Lord of Isla. He extended his Scottish patrimony into north Antrim through his marriage to Margery Bisset, heiress to the estates carved out by her Norman ancestors in the twelfth century. The MacDonnells proved to be stubborn survivors. In the sixteenth century, coming under increasing pressure from central government in Scotland, they began to expand their Irish interests, bringing in Scots tenants who found themselves very much at home among Ulster folk who spoke a variant of their own Gaelic language.

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