Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Docwra, Henry
DOCWRA, Sir HENRY (1560?–1631), also spelt Dowkra, Dockwra, Dockwraye, Dockquerye, and by Irish writers Docura, general, afterwards Baron Docwra of Culmore, was born in Yorkshire about 1568 of a family long settled in that county. At an early age he became a soldier, and served under Sir Richard Bingham [q. v.] in Ireland, where he attained the rank of captain, and was made constable of Dungarvan Castle 20 Sept. 1584. The campaign began 1 March 1586, with the siege of the castle of Clonoan in Clare, then held by Mathgamhain O'Briain (Annala Rioghachta Eireann, v. 1844). After a siege of three weeks the castle was taken, and the garrison slain. The victorious army marched into Mayo, and took the Hag's Castle, a mediaeval stronghold built upon an ancient crannog in Loch Mask. Bingham next laid siege to the castle of Annis, near Ballinrobe. The Joyces of Dubhthaigh-Shoigheach and the MacDonnels of Mayo rose in arms to support the fugitives from the Hag's Castle. Docwra's services seem to have commenced at this siege. On 12 July 1586 the force was encamped at Ballinrobe,and afterwards made a series of expeditions till the tribes of Mayo were reduced. A force of Scottish highlanders having landed in alliance with the Burkes, it was necessary to march to Sligo to prevent their advance. Some of the O'Rourkes joined them on the Curlew mountains with McGuires from Oriel, and Art O'Neill, who afterwards went over to Docwra, gave these clans some support. After an action in which the highlanders and their allies were victorious, Bingham's force was obliged to retire, but afterwards defeated them at Clare, co. Sligo. The Burkes, however, continued in arms, and Bingham accomplished nothing more of importance. Docwra left Ireland, and commanded a regiment in the army of the Earl of Essex in Spain and the Netherlands; he was present at the siege of Cadiz (Lodge, Peerage of Ireland, i. 237) and was knighted in Spain. In 1599 his regiment, with that of Sir Charles Percy, was sent to Ireland to aid in suppressing the rebellion of Tyrone. Docwra took a prominent part in the war, and was appointed in 1600 to reduce the north; his army consisted of four thousand foot and two hundred horse, three guns, and a regular field hospital of one hundred beds. He touched at Knockfergus (now Carrickfergus) 28 April 1600, and remained there for eight days. On 7 May he sailed for Lough Foyle, which he did not reach till the 14th. He landed at Culmore, where he found the remains of a castle abandoned by the English in 1567, which he immediately converted by earthworks into a strong position. While these were being made he marched inland to Elogh, and garrisoned the then empty castle, the ruins of which remain on a small hill commanding the entrance from the south to Innishowen, Donegal. On 22 May he possessed himself of the hill now crowned by the cathedral of Derry. He must be regarded as the founder of the modern city of Derry, for he built streets as well as ramparts on the hill top. O'Kane with his tribe lurked in the woods, and cut off any stragglers. On 1 June Docwra received the submission of Art O'Neill, and on 28 June he fought his first serious engagement with the natives under O'Dogherty near Elogh (A. R. E. vi. 2188). Docwra's force consisted of forty horse and five hundred foot, and his lieutenant, Sir John Chamberlain, was unhorsed, and while the general endeavoured to rescue him, his own horse was shot under him. The Irish captured some horses, and retired from a battle in which what advantage there was rested with them. Docwra's courage won their respect, and a local Gaelic historian says 'he was an illustrious knight of wisdom and prudence, a pillar of battle and conflict.' A more serious battle was fought on 29 July with the O'Donnells and MacSwines, and the general himself was struck in the forehead by a dart cast by Hugh the Black, son of Hugh the Red O'Donnell. He was confined to his room with his wound for three weeks, and many companies in his army were reduced by disease and wounds to less than a third of their complement. On 16 Sept. he was nearly surprised by a night attack of O'Donnell, and next day received a much-needed supply of victuals by sea.
Continued expeditions into the country employed the whole winter, and he penetrated to the extremity of Fanad. In April 1601 he reduced Sliocht Airt, and in July and August made expeditions towards the river Ban, conquering O'Kane's country, and in April 1602 obtained possession of the castle of Dungiven, commanding a great part of the mountain country of the present county of Londonderry. Besides warlike expeditions he was engaged in endless negotiations with the natives. The war ended at the beginning of 1603, though it was only by great watchfulness that Docwra prevented a rising on Elizabeth's death. He remained as governor of Derry, with a garrison of about four hundred men, and immediately devoted himself to the improvement of the city. He received a grant 12 Sept. 1603 to hold markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and for a fair. On 11 July 1604 he was appointed provost for life, and received a pension of 20s. a day for life. In 1608 he sold his house, appointed a vice-governor, and returned to England. He published in 1614 'A Narration of the Services done by the Army employed to Lough Foyle under the leading of me, Sir Henry Docwra, knight.' He had previously written ' A Relation of Service done in Ireland,' being an account of Bingham's campaign. Two of his letters from Ireland are printed by Moryson. In 1606 he applied for the presidency of Ulster, but did not obtain it. He was appointed treasurer of war in Ireland in 1616, returned to live there, and was raised to the peerage as Baron Docwra of Culmore 15 May 1621. He married Anne, daughter of Francis Vaughan of Sutton-upon-Derwent, Yorkshire, and had three daughters and two sons. His elder son Theodore succeeded him in the title, but died without issue, when the barony became extinct. On 15 July 1624 he was appointed keeper of the peace in Leinster and Ulster, and on 13 May 1627 joint keeper of the great seal of Ireland. He was one of the fifteen peers appointed 4 June 1628 to try Lord Dunboyne, and he was the only one who voted for a conviction. He died in Dublin 18 April 1631, and was buried in the cathedral of Christ Church. Docwra resembled the soldiers who in later times increased the British dominion in India. He was a skilful commander, whose personal intrepidity won the respect of his own men and of the enemy, and he followed a consistent plan of wearing out the hostile tribes by constant activity, by preventing their junction, and defeating them in detail. At the same time he took advantage of every quarrel in the native families, and was ready to support as the rightful one whichever claimant submitted to England, and without scruple as to the real merits of the case. Except in this respect his conduct was invariably honourable, and he showed more public spirit and less anxiety for his own emolument than was common in his age and field of service.[Dockra's Narration and Relation in Celtic Society's Miscellany, Dublin, 1849; Ordnance Survey of Ireland, 1837, vol. i.; Annala Rioghachta Eireann, ed. O'Donovan, vols. v. and vi.; a Generalle Description of Ulster, facsimile; Lodge's Peerage of Ireland, 1754; Burdy's Hist. of Ireland, 1817; Calendar of State Papers, Ireland; Russell and Prendergast, i. 9, 14, 17, 23, 24, 90, 92, 141, 185, 189, 395, 452, 524, 529, 549, ii. 191, 397, 402, 481, iii. 59, 65, 168; Fynes Moryson's Itinerary.]