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by the recollections of traditionary record, all its scenes are rendered romantic by the impressive associations of the past: every wild glen, or rugged height, or solitary and savage lake and creek, has its tale to tell. The most splendid scene is not more awakening to the imagination, affections, and memory, than the names that have left their echo there: the MacDonalds, the MacGregors, MacLeods, Grames, Campbells, &c. But here, our very guide books babble of green fields, and talk their tasteful slipslop, as if the hills of Wicklow or Glengariffe had no history; or tell the plan, site, and architecture of the dwellings of modern proprietors, as if no one had lived there, or nothing happened there before them. All this is, to be sure, what should be, because it is what the public demand; yet we do these clever and useful books no wrong, when we express our trust to see other works in another spirit from the same competent hands.
The country of the O'Byrnes, in an ancient map, lately published by the State Paper Committee, is marked in that part of the county of Wicklow, east of the river Avon, which runs from Lough-Dan to Arklow. The O'Byrnes and O'Tooles, always mentioned together as belonging to the same sept, occupied this region of the Wicklow mountains. Spenser, who collected his account from the people themselves, and improved his knowledge by extensive study of such documents as were to be then had, affirms their descent from the ancient Britons, and observes that this descent is evidenced by their names, as Brin signifies woody, and Tool hilly, in the ancient British. It is not improbable, that a hardy race had, at an early period, when driven from their native woods in Britain, taken possession of a district which, considering its coldness, dampness, and barrenness, was little likely to be disputed with them. Amid this wild district, these septs spread and built many castles, of which the ruins were abundant in the 16th century. They were subjects to the MacMurroughs; but after the English settlement, when by the subjection of Leinster to the English, they were set free from the strong control of the paramount lord, they began by degrees to assume independence, and to make themselves very conspicuous by inroads to which their near propinquity to the pale, and the difficulty of access into their steep and marshy fastnesses, rendered resistance or retaliation difficult and dangerous.
Spenser mentions, we should presume on the authority of the Byrnes of MacHugh's own time, that Shane MacTirlogh, the grandfather of Feagh MacHugh, “was a man of meanest regard among them [the O'Byrnes] neither having wealth nor power! But his father, Hugh MacShane, first began to lift up his head, and through the strength and great fastness of Glanmalur, which adjoineth to his house of Ballinacor, drew unto him many thieves and outlaws, which flew unto the succour of that glen as to a sanctuary, and brought unto him part of the spoil of all the country, through which he grew strong, and in short space got unto himself a great name, thereby, among the Irish.”* Such is the account given by Spenser; and, if there is any strength in the testimony of position, this account is well attested by the rude and cliffy chains of steep hills which run parallel to each other
* Spenser's View.
at a quarter of a mile distance along the narrow vale, through which the Avon runs in a south-easterly direction towards Ballinacor. It was one of the three passes by which the surrounding mountaincountry could be entered; and was, so late as the rebellion of 1798, a formidable pass, and the scene of many bloody deeds, when a military road was made through the glen, and a barrack built at Drumgoff.
In this well-known fastness of rebellion, Byrne held a position of power which, in the great struggle then fast rising to its height, gave him personal importance among the surrounding opponents of the English. "The Cavanaghs, the O'Mores, and the Butlers, swelled his wealth and force, and drew protection from his mountains and ramparts and forest coverts. Some miles north, near Annamoe, and a little to the east of Glendalough, stood castle Kevin, the stronghold of the chief of his allied and kindred clan the O'Tooles.
From this place of strength, Feagh MacHugh, made himself so formidable to the English governor, that it became at length an object of urgent necessity to expel him, and obtain possession of a place of such importance to the security of the pale.
In the year 1580, lord Grey de Wilton was sent over with instructions such as were not uncalled-for by the state of the country. In England there prevailed the utmost ignorance of the real difficulties which prolonged an interminable strife between foes whose utter disparity in all by which civilized nations are accustomed to estimate power, made the unsatisfactory and uncertain war seem quite unaccountable. In their ignorance of the real character of this warfare, conjecture but too often supplied accusations against the deputies and lords-lieutenant, whose seeming remissness allowed a barbarous, untrained, and almost naked enemy, to keep the field against a British army. Thus lord Grey was ignorant alike of the affairs of the country, and of the difficulties he should have to encounter. Looking no further than the prepossessions and prejudices of the English court, and rudely estimating the defensive resources of the Irish chiefs by the known inferiority of their armies in the field, he could conceive no reason for the failure of the queen’s former deputies in reducing the country to tranquillity, but the absence of a sufficient promptness and determination to sweep all opposition from the field by force of arms. Thinking too lowly of the claims of the Irish chiefs to consideration, and neglecting to consider that amongst the causes of their disaffection, there were some just grounds of complaint, and many wise reasons for tempering force (for this was still the main desideratum) with conciliatory moderation, he resolved to bear down all resistance by unhesitating and unrepressed exertions of military strength. An occasion but too soon occurred to let him into the secret of Irish resistance. Shortly after his landing in Dublin, he received intelligence that captain Fitz-Gerald, an officer of a company in the queen's pay, had revolted with lord Baltinglas, and joined Feagh MacHugh, and that they were encamped within twenty-five miles of Dublin, and daily increasing in numbers. Grey was naturally enough indignant that the power of queen Elizabeth should be held in defiance within so short a distance of the seat of government; and, without delay, ordered off such forces as could be brought together to attack them. The
veterans who received these orders were fully aware of the dangerous and difficult nature of the service on which they were sent. They knew that the enemy they were peremptorily commanded to rout, was secure in the same impenetrable fastnesses which had already for nearly 400 years enabled them to hang over the pale like a thunder cloud, ever ready to scatter waste and devastation from its unassailable position and desultory explosion; and that to encounter a strong force, in positions so peculiarly framed for their mode both of attack and retreat, and so unsuited to the tactics of the English, must be attended with the utmost risk. When they arrived at the pass into the valley of Glendalough, the danger became more apparent; and here it is said that captain Cosby, a veteran officer,of considerable experience in the wars of Ireland, remonstrated with lord Grey. The remonstrance must appear to have been needless to any one who is aware of the nature of the ground. A long, winding, and deep marsh termi. nating in lakes, and thickly masked with copse and stunted forest, which has since disappeared, ran between two ranges of wild precipitous mountains, which overhung it with their projecting sides, or here and there retreated in secret and shaded outlets, so as to present the most complete model of an ambuscade contrived by nature. In this position, which a little military knowledge might have seen to be inaccessible, an invisible enemy was prepared to receive them. Cosby's remonstrance was disregarded; and it now seems like infatuation that no precaution appears to have been taken to ascertain the position of the enemy, or the securest mode and points of attack. Lord Grey stood on a neighbouring height, and ordered his troops to march into the valley; and it is nearly certain, that the leaders and foremost companies of that gallant and devoted band, as they entered the still and ominous hollows of the swampy vale, knew that they were not to return. All was for some time still; and lord Grey, from the hill on which he stood, saw his veterans tread on unobstructed into the dangerous maze: he probably thought that the enemy whom he held in ignorant contempt, had sculked away from the approach of the queen's representative and his army. His error was not of long duration; scarcely was the last of the English column secure within the fatal defile, when wood, and craggy cavern, and all the dark steeps above its marshy and tangled hollows echoed with a yell of deadly defiance. It was followed by the roar of musketry, which poured thick, incessant, and unreturned from the enclosing heights on every side. There was no battle, for there was no resistance. Every thicket, and each projecting steep, as the devoted victims of Grey's precipitation came within its range, sent forth its vollied thunder, and poured its deadly shower upon the defenceless victims. Discipline and valour were impotent, and retreat as dangerous as advance. Some, desiring at least to grapple with a foe, attempted to rush up the steeps: these, however, were only pervious to an accurate local experience: they who thus attempted, soon came to some fatal stop, and were butchered in detail. Others became more deeply entangled in the morass, and presented sure marks for the ambushed foe, who took them down with cool deliberation from the nearest heights. Lord Grey perceived his error when it was too late; his men could not be extricated from a position so fatal; the soldiers were slain in heaps as their efforts, either to find an enemy or to effect their escape, chanced to throw them into parties. The most active of the officers fell in the vain attempt to extricate their men. Captains Dudley, Moore, and Sir Peter Carew, were among the slain.
The next noticeable trace we find of Feagh MacHugh, occurs about two years later. The tale is curious enough, but not very distinct. It is first mentioned that one of the Byrne's offered captain George Carew, to bring him the head of his leader Fitz-Gerald, already mentioned as an ally of MacHugh's. Before Byrne could effect his traitorous purpose, he was himself hanged by Fitz-Gerald, who received some intimation of what was going on; but immediately after, alarmed at the summary justice he had executed, or as we should suspect, himself tempted by some report of the reward to be received by his own murderer, he made overtures to Carew, for the delivery of the much more valuable head of Feagh MacHugh, He was, however, caught in the same trap with Byrne; Feagh was informed of the intended favour, and hanged Fitz-Gerald ; or as Cox tells the story, “fairly hanged his friend Fitz-Gerald in his stead."
In 1584, he seems to have found the expediency of entering into amicable terms with the government, or was led by the wise and equitable character of Sir John Perrot, and the general tranquillity which made its transient appearance, to deliver pledges for his conduct. During the following ten years he is not very distinctly to be traced; but it is quite sufficiently apparent, that he continued through that interval to be as troublesome to the inhabitants of the Wicklow side of the pale as his force and safety admitted. In 1594, we read of an order of council ordering the lord-deputy on some important service, in which a provision is made for the defence of the pale against Feagh MacHugh, during his absence. At this time the Irish rebellions, for a time partially extinguished, had begun to increase, and assume a character of method, concert, and military discipline, till then unknown. The celebrated Red Hugh O'Donell, whom a few years before O'Byrne had succoured in his flight from Dublin castle, and entertained at his castle of Ballinacor, was sweeping like a torrent over the western counties; and the emissaries of Spain and Rome were with secret influence awakening and combining the scattered fires that were so soon to burst forth under the command of that able and powerful leader, Hugh, earl of Tyrone. In the beginning of 1595, the lorddeputy entered MacHugh's own territory, and, driving him and his people into the Glenmalur, took possession of Ballinacor, in which he placed a garrison. In the same year Feagh came into Dublin castle, and made his submission on his knees, on which he received the queen's pardon; nevertheless, while under solemn engagements, and having a protection, he continued to correspond with the northern rebels, and watching his opportunity, surprised and took Ballinacor, which he razed to the foundation. On this the lord-deputy marched into Wicklow, and encamped for a few days at Rathdrum, where he took several preys of cattle and many prisoners. It was probably his expectation, that MacHugh would have come into terms; but finding this hope vain, he ended by hanging two of
his pledges—a proceeding which surely stamps the barbarity of the time, yet which was nevertheless difficult to be evaded. Without such a severe equity, the system of pledges, the firmest security of the period, must have been absolutely null, and more valuable interests, both in life and property, must have been sacrificed to the absolute want of any security. The pursuit of MacHugh, was pleaded as an injury, and as an excuse for rebellion, by Tyrone.
At the close of 1596, Feagh was brought to an action by captain Lea, and defeated with a loss of upwards of 80 men ; and in a few months after, May 1597, the lord-deputy again overtook him with a strong party, when he was slain in the skirmish which took place.
Hugh Boe O'Donell, last Chief of Tyrconnell.
As we shall have to relate the particulars of the war in Ulster, which occupied the latter years of the reign of queen Elizabeth, with great detail, in our memoir of Hugh, earl of Tyrone, whose actions occupy the main position in this period of Irish history; we have, in this life, thought it advisable to adhere as nearly as we can to the statements and spirit of the ancient document from which it is mainly drawn. This account, yet unpublished, and only half translated from the original Irish, was written by the secretary of O'Donell; and, though evidently the production of one who saw with a partial eye the characters and events which he describes-an objection common to all contemporary history—yet unquestionably, his account must be considered to be a faithful and honest representation of his own impressions, which were those of the Irish of his day, and must be allowed to contain true statements of the facts of which he was the witness, and the reports and opinions which passed current in the sphere of his observation. Both the translation and the original are preserved in the library of the Royal Irish Academy.
Sir Hugh O'Donell had been always on the most amicable terms with the English government; his sons were four-Hugh Roe, Rory, Manus, and Cahveen. Among the tribes of Tyrconnell, there was a lively competition for the fosterage of the eldest, Hugh Roe; and he was intrusted to O'Doherty, a chief, descended from the stock of O’Niall; and, according to the ancient biographer from whom these particulars are drawn, there was a prophetic expectation that great and singular events were to await on his maturer years. As he grew to man's estate, these expectations were strengthened by the promise of his youth: at the early age of fifteen, his singular accomplishments of mind and body were the theme of universal wonder; and his reputation for every gift that his age knew how to appreciate, was spread over the five provinces of Ireland.*
The most unquestionable tribute to his growing reputation was, however, the apprehension which soon began to be entertained by the English government. According to the biographer, they feared