Hardiman's History of Galway

Chapter 5: From 1641 to the restoration of Charles II in 1660

Lord Forbes arrives with a fleet in the bay

Chapter 5

From 1641 to the restoration of Charles II in 1660

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Old map of Galway

Such was the situation of affairs about Galway, on the 7th of August, 1642, when considerable agitation and suspence were occasioned in the town by the appearance of squadron of seventeen ships, on the morning of that day, sailing into the bay. They came to anchor in the road, and boats were soon observed to pass and re-pass between them and the fort. This was the fleet of Alexander, lord Forbes, who was appointed by parliament, (without his majesty's concurrence,) lieutenant-general of the additional forces raised by the London adventurers, to waste the coasts of Ireland in a privateering way. His first exploit, after his arrival, sufficiently indicated his intentions, and put the town on its guard against him. He landed a body of men on the county of Clare side of the bay, and burned the houses and wasted the lands of Daniel and Turlough O'Brien, the only two gentlemen in that country who adhered to their allegience, invariably relieved the English, and assisted with their long boats and provisions for the relief of the fort, when it was besieged. Lord Forbes declared openly against the late pacification, and required the town to receive a garrison of his men. A messenger arrived from him with a letter for the mayor, and the form of a submission which he insisted upon, by which they were to confess themselves to have been rebels, and humbly submitting to beg his majesty's intercession for them to the parliament of England, and to declare they would admit such governors as the king and state should appoint, and until then put themselves under the protection of lord Forbes. This was followed by a proclamation of safe conduct to repair to his ship,[k] but the town's-people were too wise to be caught in such a snare, and his lordship was a good deal mortified to find that they refused all his proposals, and declined to receive his garrison, or to make the submission he required. On the contrary, insisting upon the pacification which they had made and observed, they applied to the earl of Clanricarde for protection. His lordship represented to lord Forbes the fatal consequences that would attend a breach of the pacification and the commencement of hostilities against the town by endangering the peace of the country, and making it the seat of war, which he would be totally unable either to prevent, or effectually oppose.

Forbes besieges the town

But Forbes, stimulated by Willoughby and Ashley, and governed by the advice of the famous fanatic, Hugh Peters, whom he brought with him as his chaplain, and who was afterwards hung and quartered for his rebellious proceedings and the murder of the king, was entirely deaf to every remonstrance of reason or discretion. He landed his men on the west side of Galway, took possession of St. Mary's Church, planted two pieces of ordnance against the town, and burned all the surrounding villages. In this extremity lord Clanricarde, and lord Ranelagh, president of Connaught came to Tirrelan, to endeavour to pacify matters; and, even while there, they could perceive the country around on fire, and heard of several women and children inhumanely killed by his men. They exerted all their power and influence to put a stop to these proceedings, and to persuade lord Forbes to withdraw his forces, and leave the town and country in quiet; but even these entreaties would have proved ineffectual, had he not perceived what little effect his battery had upon the walls, and that his men were becoming troublesome for want of payment.

At length, finding himself unable to take the town, or to execute his designs against it, he quit the bay on the 4th of September, and sailed for Limerick; after having, with brutal rage, defaced St. Mary's church, dug up the graves in that ancient burial-place of the town, and burnt the coffins and bones of those that lay there interred; which barbarbous conduct served but to make his memory detested, and exasperated the minds of a people already rendered almost desperate from the treatment which they received. Immediately after his departure, a pinnace, which he left behind him in the bay, took a merchantman belonging to the town, valued at nearly six thousand pounds, and made her a prize. Thus were these ill-fated people doomed to suffer all the miseries of war, and to be treated as enemies or the worst of rebels, at a time when they were desirous of peace, and particularly zealous in the cause of the king, and in the public avowal of their loyalty and allegience. That there were, at the same time, many discontented and disorderly persons in the town is certain. The young men and lower orders would not be governed by the magistrates: the influence and interference of the clergy, who from the beginning, were advocates for violent measures, were considerable; and the failure and prevention of their trade and traffic, at home and abroad, (a great portion of which, between the ships in the bay and the neighbouring towns, was usurped with many advantages by Willoughby;) all conspired gradually to lessen the influence of the earl of Clanricarde in the town, and to prepare for the courses which were afterwards adopted.

Next: The fort besieged, taken and demolished

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