Hardiman's History of Galway

Chapter 4: From 1484 to the commencement of the Irish Rebellion in 1641

The town beseiged by Hugh Ruadh O'Donnell, 1596

Chapter 4

From 1484 to the commencement of the Irish Rebellion in 1641

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Old map of Galway

Soon after the departure of the lord deputy the northern Irish, led by Hugh Ruadh O'Donnell, after destroying the castle of Enniskillen, penetrated into Connaught, and were joined by Tibbot M'Walter Kittagh Bourke. (upon whom they conferred the title of Mac William,) and by several other powerful confederates. They commenced hostilities in January, 1596, and wasted, burned and destroyed almost the entire county of Galway. On the 15th of that month they invested Athenry, burned the gates, and entered the town; but being repulsed in an attack on the castle, which was bravely defended, and having failed in an attempt to scale the battlements, they took possession of all the wall-towers, and as many of the inhabitants as guarded them they made prisoners. They then set fire to the town, which, with the exception of the castle that resisted them, and the abbey and church, which alone were spared. was soon reduced to ashes.[tt] After these proceedings they marched towards Galway, determined, if possible, to make it share the same fate; and, on the Sunday evening following, encamped in the suburbs. They immediately sent a priest to the gates, to request wine and other necessaries, promising to do no injury if they were relieved: he was answered from within, that it was the ancient and established custom of the town, never to open their gates at night; and with this reply he departed: but the following morning another messenger arrived with a letter from O'Donnell himself, entreating victuals and other necessaries for his own men, for which he offered to pay, in ready money, whatever was demanded; but in case of refusal he threatened the town with immediate hostilities. The mayor and council assembled, and, after some deliberation, resolved upon returning an answer not only of refusal, but also of admonition and reproach. This answer they fortwith dispatched, upraiding O'Donnell, and the rest of his adherents, with breaking their allegiance to thier natural prince, and wantonly destroying the country and goods of her majesty's loyal subjects; and finally gave them to understand, that unless they returned to their duty, reformed their evil courses, and made amends for all the damages they had occasioned, they neither could nor would afford them any relief; and as to their threats they held them at defiance. Enraged at this message, O'Donnell immediately set fire to several houses about the borders of the lake; and the wind happening to be in a north-east direction. full against that side of the town, the smoke hindered the inhabitants from perceiving the approach of the enemy, or preventing their design, until almost the entire of the east suburbs was in flames. He then assembled his forces on Fort-hill, then called the Abbey-hill; but as soon as they approached the side next the town, the great cannon was brought to bear on them from the walls, and they quickly retreated. An armed party then sallied from the great gate, and, having gained the height of the hill, the enemy fled before them, leaving behind several killed and wounded. They encamped that night about three miles distant, and the day following departed for the county of Mayo, burning every village in their way; amongwt which upwards of twenty, belonging to the town, were entirely destroyed.

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