FROM the signing of the first Cessation, in September, 1643, until the arrival of the Nuncio in November 1645? Ormond and the Supreme Council were like members of one political family. No higher recommendation could be given to any candidate for office in Kilkenny than a friendly word from the Viceroy: —

“All their chief clerks, attorneys, and judges, were the greatest knaves, and cheatingest rogues they could hit upon, newcomers from Dublin for whose reputation they cared not so they be obedient to the Council and to great Ormond.”

The orders from Dublin Castle were cheerfully obeyed by the Confederate authorities; armies were moved as Ormond directed, and Ormond took good care to direct nothing that could tend to the advantage of Ulster or of Owen Roe O’Neill. To the residents in Kilkenny this was a pleasant time. Taxes, rents, and tithes poured in, but the pomp and state of the Confederate court and its army of officials could hardly be maintained even on such a revenue. No one, however, dreamt of calling for an account; bishops and peers were satisfied; the spotless patriots — Cusack, Fennell, and Belling — controlled the exchequer, and there was none who dared to say a word.

But beyond Kilkenny and the rich estates of the Pale, sorrows multiplied in Ireland. Obedient to the mandate of the Supreme Council, O’Neill had marched away from the fat plains of Meath, and led his men back to the rude northern hill-sides. While prancing cavalcades encircled the carriages of bishops and peers as they progressed in state through the cities of the south, Owen and his devoted creaghts were left to find their bitter shelter in the most inaccessible mountain nooks, where guarded by quaking bogs they clung to the natural citadels of Ulster while the soldiers of Monroe and Ormond ran riot over the plains. During this same time of ease for the sleek accommodators of Kilkenny the Catholics of Cork were mercilessly expelled by Inchiquin; Belfast was seized by the Scotch; an Irish contingent was cut down and butchered in cold blood at Nantwich by order of the English Parliament; the fearless islesmen of McDonnell, after shedding glory by their valour on the standard of Montrose, were butchered in cold blood at Edinburgh by order of the Scotch Parliament; and the wretched king for whose cause they were sacrificed was at that very time ready without one qualm of conscience to hand over Ireland to her fellest enemies. And while Ormond held high state in Dublin, receiving his rents out of his Tipperary estates by the obedient assistance of the Catholic Confederates and their august Council, courted by the Leinstermen who flocked to Dublin to salute him, — “the ways full of beeves, muttons, hogs, turkeys, geese, capons, pheasants, and all kinds of dainties,” — this scene was taking place at Tyburn:

The Sheriff. – “Your case is desperate. Tell us who were actors and plotters with you or gave you a commission?”
Lord Maguire. – “For God’s sake give me leave that I may depart in peace.”
Sheriff. – “Had you some Bull or pardon from the Pope?”
Lord Maguire. – “I saw none and knew of none. I believe the Irish were justified in what they did.”
Dr. Sibbalds. – “The question is was it a sin or not, do you think, to shed innocent blood?”

Here he answered not but continued poring over a paper as he had done from his coming.

Dr. Sibbalds. – “He makes use of that paper to pore on.”
Sheriff. – “Search his pockets whether he hath no Bull or pardon.”

Here his pockets were searched where they found some beads and a crucifix which were taken from him.

Dr. Sibbalds. – “My lord, no more of these; is it not your Ave Marias nor these things will do you any good.”

Then the Lord Maguire read out of a paper as followeth:

“Since I am here to die I desire to part hence with a quiet mind, asking forgiveness first of God and next of the world. I forgive all my enemies from my heart, even those that have a hand in my death. I die a Roman Catholic, and although I have been a great sinner yet do I confidently trust to be saved, not by my own works but only through the passion, merits, and mercy of my dear Saviour Jesus Christ, into whose hands I commend my soul.”

“I beseech you, gentlemen, let me have a little time to say my prayers.”

The sheriff and Dr. Sibbalds were too robust for that; they still tortured the hapless young man.

Dr. Sibbalds. – “If this be all we can get of you, you must stand or fall to your own master.”

Here he expected to be suddenly turned off and thereupon fell to his prayers: uttering the word “Jesus” about twenty or thirty times altogether.

More questionings follow and more appeals for a little time to pray.

Lord Maguire. – “I beseech all Catholics that are here to pray for me; I beseech God to have mercy on my soul.”

Here when the cart was going away notice was given that a Lord was present.

Alderman Bunch. – “Here is a Lord of Ireland who sat in Parliament with your Honour, have you anything to say to him?”
Lord Maguire. – “I have nothing to say.”

After this the executioner did his office…

In the hands of the poor dead man were found two papers; one a prayer and religious exhortation in Latin, a wonderful composition; the other a farewell letter from his heart-broken footman.

“By the grace of God you will know my coach with two whitish grey horses. Pray earnestly for your country and I humbly entreat you to pray for me. My thousand blessings upon you, son of my soul.

YOUR POOR OLD GREY.

So died one of the nephews of Owen Roe O’Neill after a trial which is a disgrace to the history of English law.[1] But Lord Maguire’s illustrious uncle had to pass through worse than the bitterness of death: he had to look on while his heart’s hopes were wrecked by imbecility and cowardice. O’Neill still held to his fortress home in Charlemount. That eyrie withstood all shocks; Leslie, Monroe, the Stewarts, Chichester never dared to assail it. Ensconced in his stronghold the Irish leader kept watch and ward over his creaghts and their cattle, and he saved his people from open plunder. But too often, led by miserable spies, the Scotch foraging parties stealthily came over the “toghers” and drove away “countless herds.” In O’Neill’s mind the determination deepened that if Ulster had to suffer the burden should be shared by the other provinces, and so leaving his troops under the command of General O’Farrell he journeyed to Waterford and appealed for help to the National Assembly. He enumerated the grievous woes of the Ulstermen, who without winter quarters had to withstand the constant harassing attacks of three Scotch armies, ably led, abundantly supplied and strongly entrenched behind a great line of eastern towns and castles. To this petition for assistance the General Assembly — an Assembly carefully nominated by the Kilkenny Junto — made no sympathetic response. Then the General raising his voice declared that he would no longer guard the passes into the Pale, but would leave open the broad way by which, save for him and his soldiers, Monroe could pour down his vast army on the Leinster plains. This argument, we are told, impressed the Assembly much more than the former one had done, and after much foolish talk they voted for an expedition to Ulster, in which 6,000 foot and 600 horse were to take part. Inquiring of O’Neill what his forces might be, they were informed by him that he could bring together 4,000 foot and 400 horse, and that the united armies of north and south would be more than ample, not only for the relief of Ulster, but even for the total clearing out of the Scotch. All were pleased and the matter seemed settled.

But now an unexpected question presented itself; – who was to command the joint forces during the campaign? The question, one might suppose, would have answered itself; but the wise men of the Council shook their solemn heads at the name of Owen O’Neill, and pronounced him to be of very questionable loyalty to our sovereign lord the king. And so this historic scene took place: –

“The assembly sitting, those they thought fit to come in competition they wrote their names down one under another, and from each name a long line was drawn ; then at the table where the clerk sat every member of the general assembly, one after another, put a pen dash on the line of him that he would have to be general, and to the end that none should mark more than once four or five supervisors were chosen (two of whom were bishops), being upon oath to overlook this marking. Now, contrary to Owen O’Neill’s expectation, who had designed this generalship for himself as generalissimo, I happened (!) to be chosen, which Owen Roe took extremely to heart, as I have reason to believe. However, he carried it fairly, and came to congratulate me and wish me good success, assuring me of his readiness to serve me to the utmost of his power.”

Thus, by austerest form of open free election, was Lord Castlehaven-Audley put in command of Owen Roe O’Neill. The poor babbling narrator who described this inspiring scene bad not sufficient military skill to lead a corporal’s guard; and Lord Orford slily says of him that had he not enlightened posterity by recording his own actions we should have known nothing about him, “our historians scarce mentioning him.” In chronicling his great deeds he took pains to inform his beloved sovereign, Charles II., that never for one moment had he any sympathy with the Ulster rebels, and that his extremity of suffering alone drove him to side with the Confederates, while at heart he was ever devoted to the throne. Young, weak, capricious, as vain as he was ignorant, his worthlessness already openly manifested by his conduct of the war in Munster during the past year, and even later when he had lain helplessly cooped up in a corner until Owen’s army had cleared Leinster by the victory of Portlester — in spite of all this Lord Castlehaven was now Commander of the whole Confederate force in Ulster.

With his picked army increased by 400 dragoons more the “Tyro-General” first marched to Connaught — not against Puritans or Parliamentarians, but against Lord Mayo, who refused to abide by the Cessation until the Cootes and Ormsbys submitted too. Castlehaven was allowed free passage by Clanricarde; he marched to Castlebar and Castlecarrow and forced both into compliance with the “Ormondian” policy. Then learning that O’Neill was at Portlester he set out to form a junction with him, and fixed Granard on the line of march for a meeting-place of all the Leinster forces under his command. Reviewing his men he found that they numbered over three thousand. That evening, he tells us, he was informed that the Scots were three score miles off on a certain mountain that they numbered over 17,000 men, and that they had provisions for 21 days. Feeling safe he was about to “rest himself,” when a spy came with sure tidings that the Scotch were at Cavan, only twelve miles off, and thereupon, “I packed away as fast as I could and gained Portlester, having ordered the rest of the army to follow, and commanded a colonel with 700 men to guard the bridge of Finea, and so protect my retreat.” Monroe drove off the guards, captured much booty in the Irish camp, pushed on to Portlester, and retreated suddenly; awed, Castlehaven assures us, by the immense works he had constructed after his headlong flight. But Monroe, who had not 17,000 but about 7,000 men, makes no secret of the cause of his retreat; he had no intention to fight Owen O’Neill on a field selected by that “vigilant and adventurous man.”

All danger being over Castlehaven tells us, “I was now at leisure to call upon Owen O’Neill for his 4,000 foot and 400 horse;” and to O’Neill’s urgent advice, “Come on to Ulster,” this worthless poltroon only answered by enumerating all the dangers in his way. The country was unknown to him, there were no fortified towns, no base of supply, the Irish could not fight the Scotch. Unwillingly at last he entered the northern province with 6,000 foot and 1,000 horse and dragoons. Again he whined to O’Neill, “Where are your 4,000 foot and 400 horse?” His soldiers, said Owen, were guarding the creaghts and maintaining supplies and lines of communication. With over 4,000 men Castlehaven then pushed on to Dromore, where his cavalry had an encounter with Monroe’s horse; “the enemy drew off and I drew off too.” Turning helplessly to O’Neill for advice, he was told to fall back on Charlemont for the present, and while Owen’s hardy followers camped on the hills. Lord Castlehaven’s forces lay sheltered in the safe fortress which O’Neill had erected, and the Leinster cavalry were pleasantly quartered at Benburb. Owen Roe was at this time very ill, but he was ever ready with soldierly advice when Castlehaven condescended to listen. “My men are angry,” said Castlehaven, they say you called them cowards.” “Yes, I confess I did,” said Owen, “when I saw my brave fellows deserted in the fight by this cowardly cock with the feather in his hat, Colonel Fennell; but, my lord, we shall answer for these things before the Supreme Council which employs us both.”

Not one offensive step was taken by that powerful army gathered under Castlehaven during its whole time in Ulster; and this is how he describes at last the cause and course of its departure: —

“During this idle time I went often to see my horse quarters, and being one day merry with the officers several soldiers came about us, and in a pleasant way I asked them what would they give to come to a day’s work with the enemy. They answered they would be glad of it if their doublets and skins were made proof against the lances of the Scotch, of which they had many squadrons. Seeing their fears, I passed off the discourse and resolved to march away. Which to effect (for I did not desire fighting) I caused a togher to be cut and made as if we were to march straight against the enemy, and then leaving our cannon and luggage behind us in the fort, we marched off that night and all next day.”

So ended Lord Castlehaven-Audley’s memorable campaign of 1644. “But after all, ” as he says, “the other three provinces had no reason to complain of this campaign, for this army that they sent kept them from being troubled by Scots or Ulster people that year.” But Ulster was not without a guardian. With or without Castlehaven, Owen O’Neill looked to the safety of his people and sheltered them from the marauding bands of Enghsh and Scotch soldiers who, under cover of the Cessation, claimed to hold military occupation of the most fertile fields of the North. When harvest ripened Chichester led his troops into Monaghan and Armagh and began to reap. Owen called upon him to withdraw. He declined, saying that these places had been in his occupation on the eve of the Cessation.

Owen again told him that “his continuance within the Irish quarters and daily spoils of corn and cattle should cease.”

To this Chichester replied: — “Our forces do claim all Ulster for their quarters, which if you interrupt us in you are breakers of the Cessation. For the corn reaped it is all ours.”

Owen answered: — “Your pretence that open fields and plains are yours I certainly did admire, which truly is as much as to leave one man upon every hill in Ulster, and call that a possession at the time of Cessation.”

Chichester, in the accredited English style, prolonged negotiations, sorry there should be any misunderstanding, politely wearing out, as he hoped, the precious harvest time. But he was dealing with a man who saw through such schemes like glass.

A week later he wrote: —

“Owen McArt O’Neill came with about 3,000 men some days since to Loughall, and possessed himself of all our quarters. Most of our men were reaping, and McArt ordered them to march away, and not to come near these corn fields any more. Some of our captains expostulated, and said they had no orders to quit their quarters, and much debate arose between them and McArt’s officers; but McArt himself came up and gave orders to his officers to expel us by force, which was accordingly done, and our men marched away to Port of Down, the next garrison town.”

After this Chichester became most reasonable, and the Irish quietly took possession of “all the corn up to the Bann river,” and the rich valleys of Armagh and Tyrone. Nearly three years later, in April, 1646, Owen’s deep indignation sounds in his vigorous protest to Major Harrison, a resolute raider who in the happy peace of the Cessation only discovered welcome opportunity to seize cattle and corn at will —

“SIR,
I am informed that some of the horsemen residing the last week in your garrison, contrary to the Articles of Cessation, have taken horses from Shane O’Neill, which, if you obey the said Cessation, I desire to be restored; otherwise assure yourself I will take a course to see them redressed. It were better for us to have absolute wars than this corrupted Cessation. Expecting your answer,

I rest,
Your assured friend,
OWEN O’NEILL.”

Little wonder that this great-hearted man of genius, pining in ignoble fetters, the daily witness of his country’s humiliation and sorrow, should hail the coming of Rinuccini, and welcome in the messenger of Rome a power which might even now break the unhallowed spell under which Ireland had lain for four miserable years.


[1] Lord Maguire’s counsel, one likes to remember, bore the great and honoured name of Matthew Hale.