Hardiman's History of Galway

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

Mac-an-Earlas, 1572 - 1577

Chapter 4

From 1484 to the commencement of the Irish Rebellion in 1641

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Old map of Galway

These troubles broke out with violence in 1572, and continued without intermission until 1575; when Sir Henry Sidney again visted the town, which was, in the interim, miserably harassed by the incursions of the incensed Irish under the Mac-an-Earlas. "When he arrived," says Stanihurst, "he found the town much decayed, and almost desolated; sundry of the good householders having sought new habitations, under Mac William Eughter." His own description of it is as follows:- "First, I find the towne of Galwaye moche decaied, both in nomber of expert sage men of yeares and yonge men of warre, in respect of that I have seene; which great decay hath grown thorough the horible spoyle odne upon them by the sonnes of the earle of Clanrickarde, in so moche as it was evidentlye proved before me that fiftie howsholders of that towne doe nowe enhabite under Mac William Croghter bb and it seemeth they have not onlye lost their wealth, but with it their wittes and hearts. Surely it may welle seeme they were in point to have given up all, and almost to have forgotten that they received any corporation of the crowne; but I trust they are now revived, and I hope on meridinage hande."cc; While his lordship remained in the town, the persecuted Irish, taking advantage of his presence, flocked into him for protection: seven of the family of the Clandonnels, and after them Mac William Oughter, "who could speak Latin, although he could not speak English,"dd submitted by oath and indenture. Mac William agreed to pay two hundred and fifty marks yearly for his country, besides contributions of men at risings out; and he also consented that the Clandonnels should hold their lands of the queen. Upon the ratification of this treaty he was knighted, and received some small presents from the lord deputy; and he requested that an English sheriff should be sent into his country, which was accordingly complied with. Owen O'Mayle,ee chief of Borishoole, in like manner, came in and submitted, as did all the other chieftains of the extensive districts now forming the county of Mayo.

The remainder of the country was still destroyed by the ravages of the Mac-an-Earlas, who obstinately stood out, and against whom infinite complaints were made to the lord deputy. They, either dreading his power, or wishing to dissemble for the present, as their subsequent conduct proved, voluntarily came to Galway, and, while the lord deputy was attending divine service in the church of St. Nicholas, on the sabbath day, they entered before him, and kneeling down in a suppliant posture, confessed their faults, submitted, and humbly craved pardon, promising amendment for the future, and that they would never more revolt from their allegiance to her majesty, or disobey her laws. They were, however, immediately put under arrest, and sent close prisoners to Dublin; but by the advice of the privy council, after receiving many sharp reprehensions, and some trifling punishment, they were soon after liberated, and the lord deputy having remained three weeks in Galway, departed for Dublin, where he arrived on the 13th of April, 1577.

Two months had scarcely elapsed when he received information, by express, from the mayor of Galway, that the Mac-an-Earlas, notwithstanding their late pretended repentance and submission, were again in arms; that by the counsel and consent of the earl, their father,ff they crossed the Shannon by night, threw off their English apparel, which they had agreed to wear, and put on the dress of the Irish; sent for all their friends to meet them, and bring the Scots whom they had solicited; and that, being assembled in considerable force, they marched towards Athenry which they took and sacked, destroyed the few houses which were lately built there, set the new gates on fire, dispersed the masons and labourers who were working, and broke down and defaced the queen's arms, and others there, made and ready to be set up. On receiving this intelligence, the lord deputy immediately set out from Dublin with an army, and in three days was in Connaught: the Mac-an-Earla's forces dispersed, and fled to the mountains. The old earl endeavoured to acquit himself, but no escuse would be accepted; his castles were taken possession of, and himself sent prisoner to Dublin, where he was kept in close confinement. The lord deputy then came to Galway, where having remained a few days, to secure and strengthen the town, and encourage the inhabitants who were in great consternation and dread that they would be surprised, and the town taken and plundered, as Athenry had been, he departed for Limerick.

The lord deputy was scarcely out of the province when these turbulent chieftains again rallied from the mountains, assembled their followers, and having hired two thousand Scotch forces, laid seige to the castle of Baille Riogh, or Loughrea, which lately belonged to the earl, their father, being one of the castles taken possession of a short time before, and then garrisoned by Thomas Le Strange and Captain Collier, with one hundred foot and fifty horse. The castle was strong, and the besieged behaved with great valour, they made different sallies, in which six of the principal captains of the besiegers were killed, together with one hundred and fifty of their men. Despairing of taking the castle, the assailants raised the siege, and directed their force against Mac William Oughter, who had never joined in their proceedings, and took several of his castles; but the lord deputy having arrived in the meantime, joined his forces, and the Mac-an-Earlas dispersed: the greatest part of their followers were destroyed, and they were never able to raise force sufficient to disturb the peace of the country. gg - From the detail of these melancholy transactions, which entirely originated in the narrow and unconciliating policy of the then Government of England towards its Irish subjects, there are few who would not be inclined not only to commiserate, but even to excuse and pardon, the infatuated resistance of the unfortunate Irish to that misguided government; and particularly so, when they beheld the heads of a noble and powerful family, of English race, forced, by the unrestrained atrocities of a petty provincial governor, into a rebellion, in which so large a portion of the kingdom was nearly destroyed. Happy would it have been for Ireland had the spirit of conciliation and peace, guided by justice and tempered with mercy, actuated its rulers for ages past: its history would not now abound with the manifold and gloomy descriptions of murder, treason and rebellion, which disgrace almost every page of it.

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