Early Years in Ireland

       Hugh Rogan was a native of Glentown, a ruggedly beautiful hill and valley area on the border of County Tyrone and County Donegal. While Donegal, the most northwestern county of the island, is part of the Republic of Ireland, Tyrone is a part of Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom which also includes England, Wales, and Scotland. Here in this community, 145 kilometers (or 90 miles) west of Belfast, Rogan was born September 15, 1747.

A view to the west and County Donegal from County Tyrone
View to the west and County Donegal from County Tyrone

Map of Ireland
When you click on this image to enlarge it, the counties of Donegal and Tyrone are in the north. The region around Derry, Omagh, and Strabane is central to the Rogan story.

       In the mid-1700s, Glentown and its environs had a thriving flax industry. From the early 18th century, Irish linen was imported duty free to England and to British plantations in America. By the end of century, linen accounted for about half of Ireland's total exports. As the 1700s continued, technological improvements began to alter the traditional linen industry and jobs which had been consistent for generations began to disappear. The Rogans were likely part of the linen weaving and marketing trade and Hugh was probably a weaver by trade. Hugh married Ann (most usually called Nancy) Duffy, from neighboring Lisdoo, also in County Tyrone. On December 12, 1774, their first son, Bernard, was born. The Rogan and Duffy families, devout Catholics, were longtime residents in the area which is in the Parish of Urney.

Glentown sign
Flax Cottage in County Tyrone
The area that was home to Hugh and Nancy Rogan is still known as Glentown in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. This rare flax-thatch roof cottage, dating to the nineteenth century, is near Glentown.

       The whole of the 1700s was a time of change and upheaval in Ireland as it was in many countries of western Europe. Wars and the onset of the industrial age brought about ever-increasing clashes between workers and landlords, rulers and those they ruled. In the early to mid-century the native Irish populace experienced intermittent famines and the Catholic majority came under oppressive laws. These laws, for example, prohibited Catholics from holding office or voting. With political, economic, and religious freedoms at stake, Hugh Rogan became involved with the "Irish Defenders," a group of agrarian reformers. A primary goal of the Defenders was to change existing laws to allow each family ten acres and relief from tithes paid to the (Protestant) and state-sanctioned Church of Ireland. Hugh knew well the hills and valleys, lanes and paths that wound along the border country of Counties Tyrone and Donegal. Here he and his companions met in secret to plan and conduct strategies that opposed resident military forces. Fighting and risk-taking would be a part of Hugh’s life for many years.

Country lanes in County Donegal
Lanes up and down the hillsides on the border of Counties Donegal and Tyrone have changed little over the centuries. Hugh Rogan would have used this lane and others to visit Nancy, to go to work, to attend secret meetings, and to evade British soldiers.

        Becaues of the ecnomic downturn in the flax industry, coupled with his clandestine activities and the potential danger to both himself and his family if captured, Rogan and his relative, Daniel Carlan, booked passage on one of the last passenger ships to leave Belfast before the American Revolutionary War began in 1775. It was their intention to take some goods for trade, perhaps items made of linen, spend some time in the colonies, and see what the land offered. If they thought life could provide more freedom and opportunities, then they would return for their families and join others in immigrating to America. Circumstances and misinformation, and many adventures, however, intervened and it would be twenty-two years before Hugh returned to his family and his native country.