Hardiman's History of Galway

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

Opulence of Galway at the commencement of the Irish Rebellion, 23d October 1641

Chapter 5

From 1641 to the restoration of Charles II in 1660

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Old map of Galway

A period is now arrived, which will be for ever memorable in the history of Ireland, and in the transactions of which our town acted a very conspicuous part. Already, for upwards of sixty years, since the troubles raised by the Mac-an-Earlas were appeased, Galway enjoyed peace and tranquility under the rule of its own magistrates. Warmly attached to the ancient religion of the land, firm in its allegience to the crown, and obedient to the laws, it had arisen to an eminent degree of respectability, wealth and national consequence, when the never to be sufficiently lamented rebellion, or civil war, broke out in Ireland, on the 23d. Of October, 1641.

Report of Sir Francis Willoughby, governor of St. Augustine's fort, near Galway, on that event

Sir Francis Willoughby, who was then governor of St. Augustine's fort, near Galway, (which had been thoroughly repaired at considerable expense, in 1636, and rendered one of the most complete fortifications in the kingdom,) in the month of October, 1641, departed for Dublin, leaving the fort, with two companies, under the command of his son, captain Anthony Willoughby. He arrived there on the night of the 22d, and stated, in council, that neither at Galway, nor all the way from thence, did he observe the least disposition in any of the inhabitants to rise; nor did he entertain any suspicion for the safety of his own person: and yet, had the design of an insurrection been general, he conceived the rebels might have thought the seizing of him of some advantage towards gaining possession of that important fortress.[a]

The care of the earl of Clanricarde to secure the peace of the county

Ulick, the fifth earl of Clanricarde, governor, for life, of the town and county of Galway, having fortunately returned to Ireland in the summer of 1641, was then at his castle of Portumna. [b] As soon as he heard of the troubles, he took every precaution for the security of the county. On the 28th October he dispatched messengers to Galway, to Sir Richard Blake, with an account of the breaking out of the rebellion, and directions that the town should be most strict and vigilant in its watch and guards. This information was immediately communicated to the mayor and council: arms and ammunition, with which they were but badly provided, were supplied: orders were issued to strengthen the town gates where they were weak and defective, and the guards and watches were doubled. On the 6th of November his lordship arrived; he remained two days, during which time he put the town and fort in the best possible posture of defence, augmented the two companies of the latter to two hundred men, and directed the mayor and corporation to furnish it with provisions, with which it was but indifferently stored; and, to provide for his own company in Loughrea, he took out of the store-house one hundred firelocks and as many pikes; but more than half of these, upon trial, was found unserviceable.

Loyal resolutions of the town

The consternation of the town was considerably increased by the archbishop of Tuam deserting his castle, and flying for refuge to the fort, and the subsequent treacherous surprisal of lord Clanricarde's castle of Aghnenure, in Iar-Connaught, by young Morough-na-dubh O'Flaherty. On the 11th, a general assembly was convened in the tholsel; and it was, amongst other things, unanimously resolved, "that to the last man the said town of Galway would lose their blood and lives in his majesty's service, in the defence. and for the safety of the said fort and town." The fort was furnished with one hundred pecks of wheat, fifty pounds worth of timber and other necessaries, all of which were to be paid for upon the restoration of tranquility in the kingdom.

Notwitstanding these exertions, some misunderstanding interrupted the harmony which hitherto subsisted between the fort and town. Captain Willoughby, who was a young and unexperienced man, of hot and ungovernable temper, began to conduct himself in the most rash and violent manner towards the townsmen, who, on their part, were not without a large portion of pride, and particularly piqued themselves on entertaining high notions of honor. With these dispositions, on both sides, disputes were inevitable. Willoughby, on some trifling or pretended occasions, imprisoned some of the inhabitants, and placed guards of musketeers on their goods and ships; and the town, exasperated at those proceedings, seized and imprisoned some soldiers belonging to the fort. At this juncture the earl of Clanricarde hastened to Galway, and with difficulty prevailed on the town to furnish the fort with supplies, which they had before refused to do without ready money. He remained in the town from the 5th to the 11th of February, and from the 1st to the middle of March; [c] and, so far succeeded in composing those unhappy differences, the mayor and corporation, on the 13th, signed a declaration, wherein they stated, "the fast fidelity of their ancestors to the crown of England, and how far this ancient colony hath been trusted and beloved by the kings successively, and in what happy condition and prosperity they lived under their powerful protection." They then declared their allegience and determination, at the hazard of their lives, lands and goods, to preserve the town in obedience, to defend his majesty to the utmost of their power and contribute for the mutual defence of the town and fort, for his majesty's service. Willoughby, on the same day, signed a similar declaration of mutual amity and defence; and lord Clanricarde departed, on the 14th, well pleased at having reconciled two such important places, upon which the peace and security of the province so much depended.

Next: Revolt of the town, and siege of the fort

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