CHAPTER XV. RISE AND PROGRESS OF THE PROTESTANT RELIGION IN IRELAND; WITH AN ACCOUNT OF THE BARBAROUS MASSACRE OF 1641
The gloom of popery had overshadowed Ireland from its first establishment there till the reign of Henry VIII. when the rays of the gospel began to dispel the darkness, and afford that light which till then had been unknown in that island. The abject ignorance in which the people were held, with the absurd and superstitious notions they entertained, were sufficiently evident to many; and the artifices of their priests were so conspicuous, that several persons of distinction, who had hitherto been strenuous papists, would willingly have endeavoured to shake off the yoke, and embrace the protestant religion; but the natural ferocity of the people, and their strong attachment to the ridiculous doctrines which they had been taught, made the attempt dangerous. It was, however, at length undertaken, though attended with the most horrid and disastrous consequences.
The introduction of the protestant religion into Ireland may be principally attributed to George Browne, an Englishman, who was consecrated archbishop of Dublin on the 19th of March, 1535. He had formerly been an Augustine friar, and was promoted to the mitre on account of his merit.
After having enjoyed his dignity about five years, he, at the time that Henry VIII. was suppressing the religious houses in England, caused all the relics and images to be removed out of the two cathedrals in Dublin, and the other churches in his diocese; in the place of which he caused to be put up the Lord’s prayer, the creed, and the ten commandments.
A short time after this he received a letter from Thomas Cromwell, lord-privy seal, informing him that Henry VIII. having thrown off the papal supremacy in England, was determined to do the like in Ireland; and that he thereupon had appointed him (archbishop Browne) one of the commissioners for seeing this order put in execution. The archbishop answered, that he had employed his utmost endeavours at the hazard of his life, to cause the Irish nobility and gentry to acknowledge Henry as their supreme head, in matters both spiritual and temporal; but had met with a most violent opposition, especially from George, archbishop of Armagh; that this prelate had, in a speech to his clergy, laid a curse on all those who should own his highness'[D] supremacy: adding, that their isle, called in the Chronicles Insula Sacra, or the Holy Island, belonged to none but the bishop of Rome, and that the king’s progenitors had received it from the pope. He observed likewise, that the archbishop and clergy of Armagh, had each despatched a courier to Rome; and that it would be necessary for a parliament to be called in Ireland, to pass an act of supremacy, the people not regarding the king’s commission without the sanction of the legislative assembly. He concluded with observing, that the popes had kept the people in the most profound ignorance; that the clergy were exceedingly illiterate; that the common people were more zealous, in their blindness, than the saints and martyrs had been in the defence of truth at the beginning of the gospel; and that it was to be feared Shan O’Neal, a chieftain of great power in the northern part of the island, was decidedly opposed to the king’s commission.
In pursuance of this advice, the following year a parliament was summoned to meet at Dublin, by order of Leonard Grey, at that time lord-lieutenant. At this assembly archbishop Browne made a speech in which he set forth, that the bishops of Rome used, anciently, to acknowledge emperors, kings, and princes, to be supreme in their own dominions, and, therefore, that he himself would vote king Henry VIII. as supreme in all matters, both ecclesiastical and temporal. He concluded with saying, that whosoever should refuse to vote for this act, was not a true subject of the king. This speech greatly startled the other bishops and lords; but at length, after violent debates, the king’s supremacy was allowed.
Two years after this, the archbishop wrote a second letter to lord Cromwell, complaining of the clergy, and hinting at the machinations which the pope was then carrying on against the advocates of the gospel. This letter is dated from Dublin, in April, 1538; and among other matters, the archbishop says, “A bird may be taught to speak with as much sense as many of the clergy do in this country. These, though not scholars, yet are crafty to cozen the poor common people and to dissuade them from following his highness’ orders. The country folk here much hate your lordship, and despitefully call you, in their Irish tongue, the Blacksmith’s Son. As a friend, I desire your lordship to look well to your noble person. Rome hath a great kindness for the duke of Norfolk, and great favors for this nation, purposely to oppose his highness.”
A short time after this, the pope sent over to Ireland (directed to the Archbishop of Armagh and his clergy) a bull of excommunication against all who had, or should own the king’s supremacy within the Irish nation; denouncing a curse on all of them, and theirs, who should not, within forty days, acknowledge to their confessors, that they had done amiss in so doing.
Archbishop Browne gave notice of this in a letter, dated, Dublin, May, 1538. Part of the form of confession, or vow, sent over to these Irish papists, ran as follows; “I do farther declare him or her, father or mother, brother or sister, son or daughter, husband or wife, uncle or aunt, nephew or niece, kinsman or kinswoman, master or mistress, and all others, nearest or dearest relations, friend or acquaintance whatsoever, accursed, that either do or shall hold, for the time to come, any ecclesiastical or civil power above the authority of the mother church; or that do or shall obey, for the time to come, any of her the mother of churches’ opposers or enemies, or contrary to the same, of which I have here sworn unto: so God, the Blessed Virgin, St. Peter, St. Paul, and the Holy Evangelists, help me, &c.” This is an exact agreement with the doctrines promulgated by the councils of Lateran and Constance, which expressly declare, that no favour should be shown to heretics, nor faith kept with them; that they ought to be excommunicated and condemned, and their estates confiscated; and that princes are obliged, by a solemn oath, to root them out of their respective dominions.
How abominable a church must that be, which thus dares to trample upon all authority! how besotted the people who regard the injunctions of such a church!
In the archbishop’s last-mentioned letter, dated May, 1538, he says, “His highness’ viceroy of this nation is of little or no power with the old natives. Now both English and Irish begin to oppose your lordship’s orders, and to lay aside their national quarrels, which I fear will (if any thing will) cause a foreigner to invade this nation.”
Not long after this, Archbishop Browne seized one Thady O’Brian, a Franciscan friar, who had in his possession a paper sent from Rome dated May, 1538, and directed to O’Neal. In this letter were the following words: “His holiness, Paul, now pope, and the council of the fathers, have lately found, in Rome, a prophecy of one St. Lacerianus, an Irish bishop of Cashel, in which he saith, that the mother church of Rome falleth, when, in Ireland, the catholic faith is overcome. Therefore, for the glory of the mother church, the honour of St. Peter, and your own secureness, suppress heresy, and his holiness’ enemies.”
This Thady O’Brian, after farther examination and search made, was pilloried, and kept close prisoner, till the king’s orders arrived in what manner he should be farther disposed of. But order coming over from England that he was to be hanged, he laid violent hands on himself in the castle of Dublin. His body was afterwards carried to Gallows-green, where, after being hanged up for some time, it was interred.
After the accession of Edward VI. to the throne of England, an order was directed to Sir Anthony Leger, the lord-deputy of Ireland, commanding that the liturgy in English be forthwith set up in Ireland, there to be observed within the several bishoprics, cathedrals, and parish churches; and it was first read in Christ-church, Dublin, on Easter day, 1551, before the said Sir Anthony, Archbishop Browne, and others. Part of the royal order for this purpose was as follows: “Whereas, our gracious father, King Henry VIII. taking into consideration the bondage and heavy yoke that his true and faithful subjects sustained, under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome; how several fabulous stories and lying wonders misled our subjects; dispensing with the sins of our nations, by their indulgences and pardons, for gain; purposely to cherish all evil vices, as robberies, rebellions, theft, whoredoms, blasphemy, idolatry, &c. our gracious father hereupon dissolved all priories, monasteries, abbeys, and other pretended religious houses; as being but nurseries for vice or luxury, more than for sacred learning,” &c.
On the day after the common-prayer was first used in Christ-church, Dublin, the following wicked scheme was projected by the papists:
In the church was left a marble image of Christ, holding a reed in his hand, with a crown of thorns on his head. Whilst the English service (the Common Prayer) was being read before the lord-lieutenant, the archbishop of Dublin, the privy-council, the lord-mayor, and a great congregation, blood was seen to run through the crevices of the crown of thorns, and to trickle down the face of the image. On this, some of the contrivers of the imposture cried aloud: “See how our Saviour’s image sweats blood! But it must necessarily do this, since heresy is come into the church.” Immediately many of the lower order of people, indeed the vulgar of all ranks, were terrified at the sight of so miraculous and undeniable an evidence of the divine displeasure; they hastened from the church, convinced that the doctrines of protestantism emanated from an infernal source, and that salvation was only to be found in the bosom of their own infallible church.
This incident, however ludicrous it may appear to the enlightened reader, had great influence over the minds of the ignorant Irish, and answered the ends of the impudent imposters who contrived it, so far as to check the progress of the reformed religion in Ireland very materially; many persons could not resist the conviction that there were many errors and corruptions in the Romish church, but they were awed into silence by this pretended manifestation of Divine wrath, which was magnified beyond measure by the bigoted and interested priesthood.
We have very few particulars as to the state of religion in Ireland during the remaining portion of the reign of Edward VI. and the greater part of that of Mary. Towards the conclusion of the barbarous sway of that relentless bigot, she attempted to extend her inhuman persecutions to this island; but her diabolical intentions were happily frustrated in the following providential manner, the particulars of which are related by historians of good authority.
Mary had appointed Dr. Cole (an agent of the blood-thirsty Bonner) one of the commissioners for carrying her barbarous intentions into effect. He having arrived at Chester with his commission, the mayor of that city, being a papist, waited upon him; when the doctor taking out of his cloak-bag a leathern case, said to him, “Here is a commission that shall lash the heretics of Ireland.” The good woman of the house being a protestant, and having a brother in Dublin, named John Edmunds, was greatly troubled at what she heard. But watching her opportunity, whilst the mayor was taking his leave, and the doctor politely accompanying him down stairs, she opened the box, took out the commission, and in its stead laid a sheet of paper, with a pack of cards, and the knave of clubs at top. The doctor, not suspecting the trick that had been played him, put up the box, and arrived with it in Dublin, in September, 1558.
Anxious to accomplish the intentions of his “pious” mistress, he immediately waited upon Lord Fitz-Walter, at that time viceroy, and presented the box to him; which being opened, nothing was found in it but a pack of cards. This startling all the persons present, his lordship said, “We must procure another commission; and in the mean time let us shuffle the cards!”
Dr. Cole, however, would have directly returned to England to get another commission; but waiting for a favourable wind, news arrived that queen Mary was dead, and by this means the protestants escaped a most cruel persecution. The above relation as we before observed, is confirmed by historians of the greatest credit, who add, that queen Elizabeth settled a pension of forty pounds per annum upon the above mentioned Elizabeth Edmunds, for having thus saved the lives of her protestant subjects.
During the reigns of Elizabeth and James I. Ireland was almost constantly agitated by rebellions and insurrections, which, although not always taking their rise from the difference of religious opinions between the English and Irish, were aggravated and rendered more bitter and irreconcilable from that cause. The popish priests artfully exaggerated the faults of the English government, and continually urged to their ignorant and prejudiced hearers the lawfulness of killing the protestants, assuring them that all catholics who were slain in the prosecution of so pious an enterprise, would be immediately received into everlasting felicity. The naturally ungovernable dispositions of the Irish, acted upon by these designing men, drove them into continual acts of barbarous and unjustifiable violence; and it must be confessed that the unsettled and arbitrary nature of the authority exercised by the English governors, was but little calculated to gain their affections. The Spaniards, too, by landing forces in the south, and giving every encouragement to the discontented natives to join their standard, kept the island in a continual state of turbulence and warfare. In 1601, they disembarked a body of 4000 men at Kinsale, and commenced what they called “the holy war for the preservation of the faith in Ireland;” they were assisted by great numbers of the Irish, but were at length totally defeated by the deputy, lord Mountjoy, and his officers.
This closed the transactions of Elizabeth’s reign with respect to Ireland; an interval of apparent tranquility followed, but the popish priesthood, ever restless and designing, sought to undermine by secret machinations, that government and that faith which they durst no longer openly attack. The pacific reign of James afforded them the opportunity of increasing their strength and maturing their schemes, and under his successor, Charles I. their numbers were greatly increased by titular Romish archbishops, bishops, deans, vicars-general, abbots, priests, and friars; for which reason, in 1629, the public exercise of the popish rites and ceremonies was forbidden.
But notwithstanding this, soon afterwards, the Romish clergy erected a new popish university in the city of Dublin. They also proceeded to build monasteries and nunneries in various parts of the kingdom; in which places these very Romish clergy, and the chiefs of the Irish, held frequent meetings; and from thence, used to pass to and fro, to France, Spain, Flanders, Lorrain, and Rome; where the detestable plot of 1641 was hatching by the family of the O’Neals and their followers.
A short time before the horrid conspiracy broke out, which we are now going to relate, the papists in Ireland had presented a remonstrance to the lords-justices of that kingdom, demanding the free exercise of their religion, and a repeal of all laws to the contrary, to which both houses of parliament in England, solemnly answered, that they would never grant any toleration to the popish religion in that kingdom.
This farther irritated the papists to put in execution the diabolical plot concerted for the destruction of the protestants; and it failed not of the success wished for by its malicious and rancorous projectors.
The design of this horrid conspiracy was, that a general insurrection should take place at the same time throughout the kingdom, and that all the protestants, without exception, should be murdered. The day fixed for this horrid massacre, was the 23d of October, 1641, the feast of Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits; and the chief conspirators, in the principal parts of the kingdom, made the necessary preparations for the intended conflict.
In order that this detested scheme might the more infallibly succeed, the most distinguished artifices were practised by the papists; and their behaviour in their visits to the protestants, at this time, was with more seeming kindness than they had hitherto shown, which was done the more completely to effect the inhuman and treacherous designs then meditating against them.
The execution of this savage conspiracy was delayed till the approach of winter, that sending troops from England might be attended with greater difficulty. Cardinal Richelieu, the French minister, had promised the conspirators a considerable supply of men and money; and many Irish officers had given the strongest assurances that they would heartily concur with their catholic brethren, as soon as the insurrection took place.
The day preceding that appointed for carrying this horrid design into execution, was now arrived, when, happily for the metropolis of the kingdom, the conspiracy was discovered by one Owen O’Connelly, an Irishman, for which most signal service the English parliament voted him 500l. and a pension of 200l. during his life.
So very seasonably was this plot discovered, even but a few hours before the city and castle of Dublin were to have been surprised, that the lords-justices had but just time to put themselves, and the city, in a proper posture of defence. The lord M’Guire, who was the principal leader here, with his accomplices, were seized the same evening in the city; and in their lodgings were found swords, hatchets, pole-axes, hammers, and such other instruments of death as had been prepared for the destruction and extirpation of the protestants in that part of the kingdom.
Thus was the metropolis happily preserved; but the bloody part of the intended tragedy was past prevention. The conspirators were in arms all over the kingdom early in the morning of the day appointed, and every protestant who fell in their way was immediately murdered. No age, no sex, no condition, was spared. The wife weeping for her butchered husband, and embracing her helpless children, was pierced with them, and perished by the same stroke. The old, the young, the vigorous, and the infirm, underwent the same fate, and were blended in one common ruin. In vain did flight save from the first assault, destruction was every where let loose, and met the hunted victims at every turn. In vain was recourse had to relations, to companions, to friends; all connexions were dissolved; and death was dealt by that hand from which protection was implored and expected. Without provocation, without opposition, the astonished English, living in profound peace, and, as they thought, full security, were massacred by their nearest neighbours, with whom they had long maintained a continued intercourse of kindness and good offices. Nay, even death was the slightest punishment inflicted by these monsters in human form; all the tortures which wanton cruelty could invent, all the lingering pains of body, the anguish of mind, the agonies of despair, could not satiate revenge excited without injury, and cruelly derived from no just cause whatever. Depraved nature, even perverted religion, though encouraged by the utmost license, cannot reach to a greater pitch of ferocity than appeared in these merciless barbarians. Even the weaker sex themselves, naturally tender to their own sufferings, and compassionate to those of others, have emulated their robust companions in the practice of every cruelty. The very children, taught by example, and encouraged by the exhortation of their parents, dealt their feeble blows on the dead carcasses of the defenceless children of the English.
Nor was the avarice of the Irish sufficient to produce the least restraint on their cruelty. Such was their frenzy, that the cattle they had seized, and by rapine had made their own, were, because they bore the name of English, wantonly slaughtered, or, when covered with wounds, turned loose into the woods, there to perish by slow and lingering torments.
The commodious habitations of the planters were laid in ashes, or levelled with the ground. And where the wretched owners had shut themselves up in the houses, and were preparing for defence, they perished in the flames together with their wives and children.
Such is the general description of this unparalleled massacre; but it now remains, from the nature of our work, that we proceed to particulars.
The bigoted and merciless papists had no sooner begun to imbrue their hands in blood, than they repeated the horrid tragedy day after day, and the protestants in all parts of the kingdom fell victims to their fury by deaths of the most unheard of cruelty.
The ignorant Irish were more strongly instigated to execute the infernal business by the jesuits, priests, and friars, who, when the day for the execution of the plot was agreed on, recommended in their prayers, diligence in the great design, which they said would greatly tend to the prosperity of the kingdom, and to the advancement of the Catholic cause. They every where declared to the common people, that the protestants were heretics, and ought not to be suffered to live any longer among them; adding, that it was no more sin to kill an Englishman than to kill a dog; and that the relieving or protecting them was a crime of the most unpardonable nature.
The papists having besieged the town and castle of Longford, and the inhabitants of the latter, who were protestants, surrendering on condition of being allowed quarter, the besiegers, the instant the towns-people appeared, attacked them in a most unmerciful manner, their priest, as a signal for the rest to fall on, first ripping open the belly of the English protestant minister; after which his followers murdered all the rest, some of whom they hung, others were stabbed or shot and great numbers knocked on the head with axes provided for the purpose.
The garrison at Sligo was treated in like manner by O’Connor Slygah; who, upon the protestants quitting their holds, promised them quarter, and to convey them safe over the Curlew mountains, to Roscommon. But he first imprisoned them in a most loathsome jail, allowing them only grains for their food. Afterward, when some papists were merry over their cups, who were come to congratulate their wicked brethren for their victory over these unhappy creatures, those protestants who survived were brought forth by the White-friars, and were either killed, or precipitated over the bridge into a swift river, where they were soon destroyed. It is added, that this wicked company of White-friars went, some time after, in solemn procession, with holy water in their hands, to sprinkle the river; on pretence of cleansing and purifying it from the stains and pollution of the blood and dead bodies of the heretics, as they called the unfortunate protestants who were inhumanly slaughtered at this very time.
At Kilmore, Dr. Bedell, bishop of that see, had charitably settled and supported a great number of distressed protestants, who had fled from their habitations to escape the diabolical cruelties committed by the papists. But they did not long enjoy the consolation of living together; the good prelate was forcibly dragged from his episcopal residence, which was immediately occupied by Dr. Swiney, the popish titular bishop of Kilmore, who said mass in the church the Sunday following, and then seized on all the goods and effects belonging to the persecuted bishop.
Soon after this, the papists forced Dr. Bedell, his two sons, and the rest of his family, with some of the chief of the protestants whom he had protected, into a ruinous castle, called Lochwater, situated in a lake near the sea. Here he remained with his companions some weeks, all of them daily expecting to be put to death. The greatest part of them were stripped naked, by which means, as the season was cold, (it being in the month of December) and the building in which they were confined open at the top, they suffered the most severe hardships. They continued in this situation till the 7th of January, when they were all released. The bishop was courteously received into the house of Dennis O’Sheridan, one of his clergy, whom he had made a convert to the church of England; but he did not long survive this kindness. During his residence here, he spent the whole of his time in religious exercises, the better to fit and prepare himself and his sorrowful companions, for their great change as not but certain death was perpetually before their eyes. He was at this time in the 71st year of his age, and being afflicted with a violent ague caught in his late cold and desolate habitation on the lake, it soon threw him into a fever of the most dangerous nature. Finding his dissolution at hand, he received it with joy, like one of the primitive martyrs just hastening to his crown of glory. After having addressed his little flock, and exhorted them to patience, in the most pathetic manner, as they saw their own last day approaching, after having solemnly blessed his people, his family, and his children, he finished the course of his ministry and life together, on the 7th day of February, 1642. His friends and relations applied to the intruding bishop for leave to bury him, which was with difficulty obtained; he, at first telling them that the churchyard was holy ground, and should be no longer defiled with heretics: however, leave was at last granted, and though the church funeral service was not used at the solemnity, (for fear of the Irish papists) yet some of the better sort, who had the highest veneration for him while living, attended his remains to the grave. At his interment, they discharged a volley of shot, crying out, “Requiescat in pace ultimas Anglorum;” that is, May the last of the English rest in peace. Adding, that as he was one of the best so he should be the last English bishop found among them. His learning was very extensive; and he would have given the world a greater proof of it, had he printed all he wrote. Scarce any of his writings were saved; the papists having destroyed most of his papers and his library. He had gathered a vast heap of critical expositions of scripture, all which with a great trunk full of his manuscripts, fell into the hands of the Irish. Happily his great Hebrew MS. was preserved, and is now in the library of Emanuel college, Oxford.
In the barony of Terawley, the papists, at the instigation of the friars, compelled above forty English protestants, some of whom were women and children, to the hard fate either of falling by the sword, or of drowning in the sea. These choosing the latter, were accordingly forced, by the naked weapons of their inexorable persecutors, into the deep, where, with their children in their arms, they first waded up to their chins, and afterwards sunk down and perished together.
In the castle of Lisgool upwards of one hundred and fifty men, women, and children, were all burnt together; and at the castle of Moneah not less than one hundred were all put to the sword.—Great numbers were also murdered at the castle of Tullah, which was delivered up to M’Guire on condition of having fair quarter; but no sooner had that base villain got possession of the place, than he ordered his followers to murder the people, which was immediately done with the greatest cruelty.
Many others were put to deaths of the most horrid nature, and such as could have been invented only by demons instead of men. Some of them were laid with the centre of their backs on the axle-tree of a carriage, with their legs resting on the ground on one side, and then arms and head on the other. In this position one of the savages scourged the wretched object on the thighs, legs, &c. while another set on furious dogs, who tore to pieces the arms and upper parts of the body; and in this dreadful manner were they deprived of their existence. Great numbers were fastened to horses’ tails, and the beasts being set on full gallop by their riders, the wretched victims were dragged along till they expired. Others were hung on lofty gibbets, and a fire being kindled under them, they finished their lives, partly by hanging, and partly by suffocation.
Nor did the more tender sex escape the least particle of cruelty that could be projected by their merciless and furious persecutors. Many women, of all ages, were put to deaths of the most cruel nature. Some, in particular, were fastened with their backs to strong posts, and being stripped to their waists, the inhuman monsters cut off their right breasts with shears, which, of course, put them to the most excruciating torments; and in this position they were left, till, from the loss of blood, they expired.
Such was the savage ferocity of these barbarians, that even unborn infants were dragged from the womb to become victims to their rage. Many unhappy mothers were hung naked on the branches of trees, and their bodies being cut open, the innocent offsprings were taken from them, and thrown to dogs and swine. And to increase the horrid scene, they would oblige the husband to be a spectator before suffered himself.
At the town of Issenskeath they hanged above a hundred Scottish protestants, showing them no more mercy than they did to the English. M’Guire, going to the castle of that town, desired to speak with the governor, when being admitted, he immediately burnt the records of the county, which were kept there. He then demanded £1000 of the governor, which having received, he immediately compelled him to hear mass, and to swear that he would continue so to do. And to complete his horrid barbarities, he ordered the wife and children of the governor to be hung before his face; besides massacring at least one hundred of the inhabitants. Upwards of one thousand men, women and children, were driven, in different companies, to Porterdown bridge, which was broken in the middle, and there compelled to throw themselves into the water, and such as attempted to reach the shore were knocked on the head.
In the same part of the country, at least four thousand persons were drowned in different places. The inhuman papists, after first stripping them, drove them like beasts to the spot fixed on for their destruction; and if any, through fatigue, or natural infirmities, were slack in their pace, they pricked them with their swords and pikes; and to strike terror on the multitude, they murdered some by the way.—Many of these poor wretches, when thrown into the water, endeavoured to save themselves by swimming to the shore; but their merciless persecutors prevented their endeavors taking effect by shooting them in the water.
In one place one hundred and forty English, after being driven for many miles stark naked, and in the most severe weather, were all murdered on the same spot, some being hanged, others burnt, some shot, and many of them buried alive; and so cruel were their tormentors, that they would not suffer them to pray before they robbed them of their miserable existence.
Other companies they took under pretence of safe conduct, who, from that consideration, proceeded cheerfully on their journey; but when the treacherous papists had got them to a convenient spot, they butchered them all in the most cruel manner.
One hundred and fifteen men, women, and children, were conducted, by order of Sir Phelim O’Neal, to Porterdown bridge, where they were all forced into the river, and drowned. One woman, named Campbell, finding no probability of escaping, suddenly clasped one of the chief of the papists in her arms, and held him so fast, that they were both drowned together.
In Killoman they massacred forty-eight families, among whom twenty-two were burnt together in one house. The rest were either hanged, shot, or drowned.
In Kilmore the inhabitants, which consisted of about two hundred families, all fell victims to their rage. Some of them sat in the stocks till they confessed where their money was; after which they put them to death. The whole county was one common scene of butchery, and many thousands perished, in a short time, by sword, famine, fire, water, and other the most cruel deaths, that rage and malice could invent.
These bloody villains showed so much favour to some as to despatch them immediately; but they would by no means suffer them to pray. Others they imprisoned in filthy dungeons, putting heavy bolts on their legs, and keeping them there till they were starved to death.
At Casel they put all the protestants into a loathsome dungeon, where they kept them together, for several weeks, in the greatest misery. At length they were released, when some of them were barbarously mangled, and left on the highways to perish at leisure; others were hanged, and some were buried in the ground upright, with their heads above the earth, and the papists, to increase their misery, treating them with derision during their sufferings. In the county of Antrim they murdered nine hundred and fifty-four protestants in one morning; and afterward about twelve hundred more in that county.
At a town called Lisnegary, they forced twenty-four protestants into a house, and then setting fire to it, burned them together, counterfeiting their outcries in derision to the others.
Among other acts of cruelty they took two children belonging to an English woman, and dashed out their brains before her face; after which they threw the mother into a river, and she was drowned. They served many other children in the like manner, to the great affliction of their parents, and the disgrace of human nature.
In Kilkenny all the protestants, without exception, were put to death; and some of them in so cruel a manner, as, perhaps, was never before thought of.
They beat an English woman with such savage barbarity, that she had scarce a whole bone left; after which they threw her into a ditch; but not satisfied with this, they took her child, a girl about six years of age and after ripping up its belly, threw it to its mother, there to languish till it perished. They forced one man to go to mass, after which they ripped open his body, and in that manner left him. They sawed another asunder, cut the throat of his wife, and after having dashed out the brains of their child, an infant, threw it to the swine, who greedily devoured it.
After committing these, and several other horrid cruelties, they took the heads of seven protestants, and among them that of a pious minister, all which they fixed up at the market cross. They put a gag into the minister’s mouth, then slit his cheeks to his ears, and laying a leaf of a Bible before it, bid him preach, for his mouth was wide enough. They did several other things by way of derision, and expressed the greatest satisfaction at having thus murdered and exposed the unhappy protestants.
It is impossible to conceive the pleasure these monsters took in exercising their cruelty, and to increase the misery of those who fell into their hands, when they butchered them they would say, “Your soul to the devil.” One of these miscreants would come into a house with his hands imbued in blood, and boast that it was English blood, and that his sword had pricked the white skins of the protestants, even to the hilt. When any one of them had killed a protestant, others would come and receive a gratification in cutting and mangling the body; after which they left it exposed to be devoured by dogs; and when they had slain a number of them they would boast, that the devil was beholden to them for sending so many souls to hell. But it is no wonder they should thus treat the innocent christians, when they hesitated not to commit blasphemy against God and his most holy word.
In one place they burnt two protestant Bibles, and then said they had burnt hell-fire. In the church at Powerscourt they burnt the pulpit, pews, chests, and Bibles belonging to it. They took other Bibles, and after wetting them with dirty water, dashed them in the faces of the protestants, saying, “We know you love a good lesson; here is an excellent one for you; come to-morrow, and you shall have as good a sermon as this.”
Some of the protestants they dragged by the hair of their heads into the church, where they stripped and whipped them in the most cruel manner, telling them, at the same time, “That if they came to-morrow, they should hear the like sermon.”
In Munster they put to death several ministers in the most shocking manner. One, in particular, they stripped stark naked, and driving him before them, pricked him with swords and darts till he fell down, and expired.
In some places they plucked out the eyes, and cut off the hands of the protestants, and in that manner turned them into the fields, there to wander out their miserable existence. They obliged many young men to force their aged parents to a river, where they were drowned; wives to assist in hanging their husbands; and mothers to cut the throats of their children.
In one place they compelled a young man to kill his father, and then immediately hanged him. In another they forced a woman to kill her husband, then obliged the son to kill her, and afterward shot him through the head.
At a place called Glaslow, a popish priest, with some others, prevailed on forty protestants to be reconciled to the church of Rome. They had no sooner done this, than they told them they were in good faith, and that they would prevent their falling from it, and turning heretics, by sending them out of the world, which they did by immediately cutting their throats.
In the county of Tipperary upwards of thirty protestants, men, women, and children, fell into the hands of the papists, who, after stripping them naked, murdered them with stones, pole-axes, swords, and other weapons.
In the county of Mayo about sixty protestants, fifteen of whom were ministers, were, upon covenant, to be safely conducted to Galway, by one Edmund Burke and his soldiers; but that inhuman monster by the way drew his sword, as an intimation of his design to the rest, who immediately followed his example, and murdered the whole, some of whom they stabbed, others were run through the body with pikes, and several were drowned.
In Queen’s county great numbers of protestants were put to the most shocking deaths. Fifty or sixty were placed together in one house, which being set on fire, they all perished in the flames. Many were stripped naked, and being fastened to horses by ropes placed round their middles, were dragged through bogs till they expired. Some were hung by the feet to tenter-hooks driven into poles; and in that wretched posture left till they perished. Others were fastened to the trunk of a tree, with a branch at top. Over this branch hung one arm, which principally supported the weight of the body; and one of the legs was turned up, and fastened to the trunk, while the other hung straight. In this dreadful and uneasy posture did they remain, as long as life would permit, pleasing spectacles to their blood-thirsty persecutors.
At Clownes seventeen men were buried alive; and an Englishman, his wife, five children, and a servant maid, were all hung together and afterward thrown into a ditch. They hung many by the arms to branches of trees, with a weight to their feet; and others by the middle, in which postures they left them till they expired. Several were hung on windmills, and before they were half dead, the barbarians cut them in pieces with their swords. Others, both men, women, and children, they cut and hacked in various parts of their bodies, and left them wallowing in their blood to perish where they fell. One poor woman they hung on a gibbet, with her child, an infant about a twelve-month old, the latter of whom was hung by the neck with the hair of its mother’s head, and in that manner finished its short but miserable existence.
In the county of Tyrone no less than three hundred protestants were drowned in one day; and many others were hanged, burned, and otherwise put to death. Dr. Maxwell, rector of Tyrone, lived at this time near Armagh, and suffered greatly from these merciless savages. This person, in his examination, taken upon oath before the king’s commissioners, declared, that the Irish papists owned to him, that they, at several times, had destroyed, in one place, 12,000 protestants, whom they inhumanly slaughtered at Glynwood, in their flight from the county of Armagh.
As the river Bann was not fordable, and the bridge broken down, the Irish forced thither at different times, a great number of unarmed, defenceless protestants, and with pikes and swords violently thrust above one thousand into the river, where they miserably perished.
Nor did the cathedral of Armagh escape the fury of these barbarians, it being maliciously set on fire by their leaders, and burnt to the ground. And to extirpate, if possible, the very race of those unhappy protestants, who lived in or near Armagh, the Irish first burnt all their houses, and then gathered together many hundreds of those innocent people, young and old, on pretence of allowing them a guard and safe conduct to Colerain; when they treacherously fell on them by the way, and inhumanly murdered them.
The like horrid barbarities with those we have particularized, were practised on the wretched protestants in almost all parts of the kingdom; and, when an estimate was afterward made of the number who were sacrificed to gratify the diabolical souls of the papists, it amounted to one hundred and fifty thousand. But it now remains that we proceed to the particulars that followed.
These desperate wretches, flushed and grown insolent with success, (though by methods attended with such excessive barbarities as perhaps not to be equalled) soon got possession of the castle of Newry, where the king’s stores and ammunition were lodged; and, with as little difficulty, made themselves masters of Dundalk. They afterward took the town of Ardee, where they murdered all the protestants, and then proceeded to Drogheda. The garrison of Drogheda was in no condition to sustain a siege, notwithstanding which, as often as the Irish renewed their attacks they were vigorously repulsed by a very unequal number of the king’s forces, and a few faithful protestant citizens under sir Henry Tichborne, the governor, assisted by the lord viscount Moore. The siege of Drogheda began on the 30th of November, 1641, and held till the 4th of March, 1642, when sir Phelim O’Neal, and the Irish miscreants under him were forced to retire.
In the mean time ten thousand troops were sent from Scotland to the remaining protestants in Ireland, which being properly divided in the most capital parts of the kingdom, happily eclipsed the power of the Irish savages; and the protestants for a time lived in tranquility.
In the reign of king James II. they were again interrupted, for in a parliament held at Dublin in the year 1689, great numbers of the protestant nobility, clergy, and gentry of Ireland, were attainted of high treason. The government of the kingdom was, at that time, invested in the earl of Tyrconnel, a bigoted papist, and an inveterate enemy to the protestants. By his orders they were again persecuted in various parts of the kingdom. The revenues of the city of Dublin were seized, and most of the churches converted into prisons. And had it not been for the resolution and uncommon bravery of the garrisons in the city of Londonderry, and the town of Inniskillin, there had not one place remained for refuge to the distressed protestants in the whole kingdom; but all must have been given up to king James, and to the furious popish party that governed him.
The remarkable siege of Londonderry was opened on the 18th of April, 1689, by twenty thousand papists, the flower of the Irish army. The city was not properly circumstanced to sustain a siege, the defenders consisting of a body of raw undisciplined protestants, who had fled thither for shelter, and half a regiment of lord Mountjoy’s disciplined soldiers, with the principal part of the inhabitants, making in all only seven thousand three hundred and sixty-one fighting men.
The besieged hoped, at first, that their stores of corn, and other necessaries, would be sufficient; but by the continuance of the siege their wants increased; and these became at last so heavy, that for a considerable time before the siege was raised, a pint of coarse barley, a small quantity of greens, a few spoonfuls of starch, with a very moderate proportion of horse flesh, were reckoned a week’s provision for a soldier. And they were, at length, reduced to such extremities, that they ate dogs, cats, and mice.
Their miseries increasing with the siege, many, through mere hunger and want, pined and languished away, or fell dead in the streets. And it is remarkable, that when their long expected succours arrived from England, they were upon the point of being reduced to this alternative, either to preserve their existence by eating each other, or attempting to fight their way through the Irish, which must have infallibly produced their destruction.
These succours were most happily brought by the ship Mountjoy of Derry, and the Phœnix of Colerain, at which time they had only nine lean horses left with a pint of meal to each man. By hunger, and the fatigues of war, their seven thousand three hundred and sixty-one fighting men, were reduced to four thousand three hundred, one-fourth part of whom were rendered unserviceable.
As the calamities of the besieged were great, so likewise were the terrors and sufferings of their protestant friends and relations; all of whom (even women and children) were forcibly driven from the country thirty miles round, and inhumanly reduced to the sad necessity of continuing some days and nights without food or covering, before the walls of the town; and were thus exposed to the continual fire both of the Irish army from without, and the shot of their friends from within.
But the succours from England happily arriving put an end to their affliction; and the siege was raised on the 31st of July, having been continued upwards of three months.
The day before the siege of Londonderry was raised, the Inniskillers engaged a body of six thousand Irish Roman catholics, at Newton, Butler, or Crown-Castle, of whom near five thousand were slain. This, with the defeat at Londonderry, dispirited the papists, and they gave up all farther attempts to persecute the protestants.
The year following, viz. 1690; the Irish took up arms in favour of the abdicated prince, king James II. but they were totally defeated by his successor king William the Third. That monarch, before he left the country, reduced them to a state of subjection, in which they have ever since continued; and it is to be hoped will so remain as long as time shall be.
By a report made in Ireland, in the year 1731, it appeared that a great number of ecclesiastics had, in defiance of the laws, flocked into that kingdom: that several convents had been opened by jesuits, monks, and friars; that many new and pompous mass-houses had been erected in some of the most conspicuous parts of their great cities, where there had not been any before; and that such swarms of vagrant, immoral Romish priests had appeared, that the very papists themselves considered them as a burthen.
But notwithstanding all this, the protestant interest at present stands upon a much stronger basis than it did a century ago. The Irish, who formerly led an unsettled and roving life, in the woods, bogs, and mountains, and lived on the depredation of their neighbours, they who, in the morning seized the prey, and at night divided the spoil, have, for many years past, become quiet and civilized. They taste the sweets of English society, and the advantages of civil government. They trade in our cities, and are employed in our manufactories. They are received also into English families; and treated with great humanity by the protestants.
The heads of their clans, and the chiefs of the great Irish families, who cruelly oppressed and tyrannized over their vassals, are now dwindled in a great measure to nothing; and most of the ancient popish nobility and gentry of Ireland have renounced the Romish religion.
It is also to be hoped, that inestimable benefits will arise from the establishment of protestant schools in various parts of the kingdom, in which the children of the Roman catholics are instructed in religion and reading, whereby the mist of ignorance is dispelled from their eyes, which was the great source of the cruel transactions that have taken place, at different periods, in that kingdom.
In order to preserve the protestant interest in Ireland upon a solid basis, it behooves all in whom that power is invested, to discharge it with the strictest assiduity and attention; for should it once again lose ground, there is no doubt but the papists would take those advantages they have hitherto done, and thousands might yet fall victims to their malicious bigotry.