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Andrew V. McLaglen
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Ireland 1587. Hugh O'Donnell inherits the title of The O'Donnell, the prince of Donegal, and tries to unite Ireland to make war on England. But then Hugh is kidnapped and imprisoned by the Viceroy of Ireland and held ransom for the Clans' good behavior. Hugh must escape prison and the Viceroy's villainous henchman, Captain Leeds, before he can fight. Written by
"Red Hugh" O'Donnell (in Irish, Aodh Rua Ó Domhnaill) was born in 1572, a son of Hugh Roe (Aodh mac Maghnusa Ó Domhnaill), king of Tir Connaill. The movie, though heavily fictionalized, contains many elements from his life: He was imprisoned in Dublin Castle, but at age 15, not as an adult. He did escape twice, in 1591 and January of 1592, with the assistance of his friends the O'Neills--in fact, he and two O'Neill brothers are the only men to escape (during which Hugh lost two toes to frostbite). At 20 he became The O'Donnell, Lord of Tyrconnel (now Donegal, hence the movie's title), but on his father's abdication, not his death. In 1593 he declared war against the English, joined in 1596 by the O'Neills, though Donegal Castle was never taken by the English. After his forces won an impressive string of battles, Spain entered the conflict as Ireland's allies in 1601, but the combined force was defeated in 1602 and Hugh fled to Spain, hoping Philip III would provide more aid. Unfortunately, the Prince of Donegal died that year at Simancas Castle. See more »
The song "O'Donnell Aboo," which is sung at the film's conclusion was not written until the 1840s and refers to events in the Nine Year's War, which took place from 1593 to 1602. The film begins in 1587, prior to the conflict. See more »
Certainly Walt Disney took liberties with the story of Hugh O'Donnell in order to make it more appealing to to the teen magazine culture of the 60's but his history is not that far off the mark. Much of the music is based on traditional Irish themes, most notably, "O'Donnell Abu" the marching song of the O'Donnell clan. Interestingly, the main cast though playing Irish figures, were English (McEnery, Hampshire, Adams).
Red Hugh O'Donnell (1571 - 1602)
In the early 1500's the Irish families and clans were still warring amongst themselves - O'Donnell's own grandfather was imprisoned by Hugh's half-uncle who warred with Hugh's father.
In the mid-1500's some chieftains, most notably, the O'Donnell, were working to unify the Irish clans.
Sir John Perrot (English deputy), in order to check the rising power of the O'Donnells planned to capture Hugh. A ship with a cargo of Spanish wine came into Lough Swilly, and the seventeen year old Red Hugh and two companions were invited on board where Hugh was captured. He was taken to Dublin Castle where he was imprisoned.
Three years later at Christmas time, Hugh, Henry & Art O'Neill escaped. It was their second attempt. Enduring a freezing three-day march across the snow-covered Wicklow Mountains they became separated. Art died of exposure but Hugh, aided by countrymen, made it to his father's castle in Donegal. Hugh lost at least two toes to frostbite and was said to limp after.
After his escape, his father made Hugh "the O'Donnell" and retired to a monastery. In 1598 he, with the O'Neills, defeated the English in the battle of the Yellow Ford. After a defeat at Kinsale a few years later Hugh went to Spain for help. He was received by Philip III but fell ill in 1602, possibly of poisoning at the hand of an English spy. He was 31 and left no heirs. He was buried in Spain but the church no longer exists and his burial site is lost forever.
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