Hardiman's History of Galway

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

Sir Thomas Wentworth (afterwards earl of Strafford)

Chapter 4

From 1484 to the commencement of the Irish Rebellion in 1641

Return to table of contents
Old map of Galway

Sir Thomas Wentworth, (afterwards earl of Strafford,) lord deputy of Ireland, visited the town in 1634: his entry was splendid, and his reception equally correspondent. During his stay he resided in the mansion-house of Sir Richard Blake, for whose polite attention he made the most grateful acknowledgments. He conferred the honour of knighthood on Sir Dominick Brown, the mayor; and, having expressed much satisfaction at the highly finished state and opulent appearance of the town, his lordship departed for Dublin.

For the first fifteen years of the reign of Charles I. a time of profound peace in Ireland, there are but few particulars related of the town; but, during the turbulent remainder of the life of that unhappy monarch, it took a leading part in the political transactions of the times, invariably manifesting the greatest zeal, loyalty and affection in his cause. The only occurence worthy of remark during the former period, in addition to those already detailed, is the celebrated tyrannical proceeding of lord Strafford against the sheriff and jury of the county of Galway. This able but despotic ruler having formed the unjust and impolitic design of subverting the title to every estate in Connaught, by shewing that the province, notwithstanding all prior grants to individuals, was entirely vested in the crown, and still at its disposal, caused separate commissions to issue on the 15th of June, 1635, directed to certain commissioners, who were to inquire, by the oaths of a jury, what estate, right or title, the king, or any of his progenitors, had to every county in the province. Leitrim having surrendered without trial, the first inquiry was held at Boyle, in Roscommon, on 10th July following, when the jury found the king's title without scruple. This servile example was followed in Sligo, where the trial was held on the 20th of the same month, and in Mayo, where it took place at Ballinrobe, on the 31st;hhh but when they came to Galway their progress was stopped, and this arbitrary measure met with the most determined and effectual opposition from the gentlemen of the county, whose independent spirit, strict adherence to truth and justice, and conscientious discharge of their duty, on this occasion, deserve to be for ever commemorated. The trial came on at Portumna castle. where, notwithstanding the presence of the lord deputy himself, who sat on the bench, and the many specious arguments made use of by council, to induce the jury to find the king s title, they unanimously found against it. His lordship, violently enraged at this decision, immediately put the sheriff, Mr. Martin Darcy, of the family of Kiltolla, and the jury under arrest, had them brought close prisoners to Dublin, and there tried before himself in the castle chamber. "We bethought ourselves," says he, "of a course to vindicate his majesty's honor and justice, not only against the persons of the jurors but also against the sheriff, for returning so insufficient. indeed we conceived so packed, a jury, and therefore we fine the sheriff in l000l to his majesty, the jurors in 4000l. each, and to be imprisoned until the fines should be paid, and until they should acknowledge their offence in court upon their knees." iii -The jurors petitioned to be discharged, but were refused, except upon condition of their making a public acknowledgment that they committed not only an error in judgment but even actual perjury in their verdict, terms which they disdainfully rejected. The sheriff died in prison, owing to severe treatment,kkk and the jury were most cruelly used, until, after suffering all the rigors of confinement, their fines were reduced, and themselves released, at the solicitation of the earl of Clanrickarde.lll

The lord deputy, still determined to carry his point, again caused two further commissions to issue; the one. to find the king's title to the county: and the other, to the county of the town of Galway. The commissioners met at St. Francis's abbey on the 5th of April, 1637, when the present county jury, terrified at the example made of the former, was induced to find for the crown, as did the jury of the county of the town the day after, in the tholsel-hall.mmm Upon the return of these findings, the county was planted at a double rate, and the natives lost one-half of their lands, whereas the other less refractory counties lost but one-fourth. Thus terminated, through the influence of power, this illegal proceeding, for which, with other arbitrary measures resorted to in England, and during his government here, the ill-fated Strafford afterwards lost his head; but its injurious effects, without benefiting the crown, were lasting and considerable. Irritated beyond measure at so glaring an act of injustice openly committed against them, after so many royal assurances in their favour, the gentlemen of the county loudly proclaimed their discontent, and fixed resolution to embrace any opportunity which might offer to be revenged; and of the reality of their determination, the fatal events, which soon after took place, afforded melancholy proof.

Next: Concluding observations

Online edition of Hardiman's History of Galway, © 1995-2001 World Wide Web Marketing Ltd. This is still a work in progress.