Page images
PDF
EPUB

the result of the union likely to be established by fosterage, (a bond more strong than blood,) between this young chief and the family of Niall: and the more so as Hugh Roe's sister was the wife of the earl of Tyrone. Repeated complaints against this earl had been made to the government; and, though at the time submissive to them, he was yet an object of suspicion and fear. It appeared, therefore, on all accounts, desirable to secure the districts of Donegal and Derry, by obtaining possession of Hugh Roe-yet a boy, but likely to become a restless, ambitious, and able enemy.

On these grounds, Sir John Perrot and his council came to the resolution of seizing the youth. It was the opinion of some of the council that a force should be sent into Tirconnell for this purpose; but Sir John alleged that it would demand an army of between 2,000 and 3,000 men. A stratagem was therefore resolved on. The following plan was accordingly devised and effected:-a ship was sent laden with wine, chiefly sack, of which the Irish were fond. The captain was ordered to sail and take up the nearest position he could to the house of O'Donell, and to manage matters so as to inveigle him on board. The vessel sailed, and arriving in the harbour of Swilly, anchored opposite Rathmullin, which stood on the sea-shore. The captain next continued to spread the report of his cargo, and soon the people flocked in from every side to buy his wines. It was, most probably, according to their expectations, that Hugh came on a visit to Dundonald, the castle of MoSwiney, and a message was immediately dispatched to the ship for a supply of wine to entertain the guest. The captain sent back word that there was now only enough of wine remaining for the use of the crew, and that he could not dispose of any; but that if the gentlemen would come on board, he would willingly entertain them, and give them as much as they could drink. M'Swiney, the master of the fort, vexed at the refusal, advised Hugh O'Donell, his lord, to accept of the invitation. Hugh, who had come there on a truant excursion from the constraint of his governors and teachers, needed no better sport; and the party visited the ship with the design of making the captain's wine pay for the refusal. Hugh had been accompanied by other noble youths of the O’Niall family: the sons of the famous Shane O'Neale, whose tale we have already related.'

Taking a boat, the party rowed over to the ship. The captain received Hugh Roe, M-Swiney, and the most distinguished of the party, but refused the rest; and a plentiful entertainment was followed by a rapid circulation of the wine cup, until the deluded guests were become incapable of resistance. In the mean time their arms had been secured, the hatches shut down, and no means of escape left, when the crew collected round the party, and told them they were prisoners. M‘Swiney, and a few of the party were sent on shore; and we are informed by the MS. biographer, that the report was soon spread, and the people crowded to the shore to rescue their chief: but in vainthe vessel was already out at sea. Hostages were offered and refused.

The vessel reached Dublin; and Hugh, after being brought before Sir John and the council, was confined in the castle. Here he remained three years and three months.* Sir John Perrot left Ireland in

* MS.

1588; and at his departure left Hugh Roe O'Donell together with several others of his kindred in confinement, as pledges for the peace of Tirconnell. While Hugh was thus in a state of constraint so galling to his spirit, the resentment occasioned by his capture was working into a flame; and the north of Ireland was growing into a state of exasperation, which was the origin of the subsequent bloody and expensive rebellion in Tyrone.* Hugh was, in the mean time, heated with plans of escape, and schemes of future vengeance. But to escape was no easy matter. Every night he was shut up in one of those close and dreary cells, which yet remain in the ruins of ancient dungeons. A wide fosse, filled with water, surrounded the castle; and the only outlet, over a narrow wooden bridge, was strongly guarded.

In spite of these precautions, a scheme of escape was planned by O'Donell and his companions. By a long rope, they let themselves down from the battlements on a dark night, before their hour of separation; and by contriving to fasten the door of the enclosure, so that the guards could not get out, until assisted by the citizens from without, they contrived to evade all immediate pursuit, and to reach the Dublin mountains. Then, however, Hugh Roe after suffering great hardships from the badness of his shoes and the tenderness of his feet, found that he could go no farther, and took refuge with Felim O'Toole, who had been some time before his fellow-prisoner, and had professed great friendship for him. The pursuit was, however, so warm, that O'Toole was deterred by his fears from harbouring his friend; and worse motives than fear probably influenced him, when he resolved to give him up to his enemies. This design, which no excuse can clear of its baseness, he effected; and O'Donell was once more consigned to the hardships which were aggravated by increased caution and suspicion.'

A year of dreary confinement elapsed, when in December, 1592, Hugh Roe resolved on another effort for liberty. It was the feast of Christmas; and his keepers had, perhaps, indulged in the festivities of the season too freely for their charge, and Hugh Roe saw, and seized upon, the opportunity for escape. According to the minute detail of our ancient authority, he first proceeded with his companions to the refectory, where they stole off their fetters. They then went to the jakes, taking with them a long rope, by which they let themselves down through the jakes into the deep ditch that fenced the fortress all around. From this they crossed over to the other mound on the opposite side of the ditch!! Having cleared all impediments, they were under the unpleasant necessity of throwing off their defiled upper garments: but the danger of re-capture was greatly lessened, both by the darkness, and also by the circumstance of the streets being still crowded with people who were visiting from house to house. Advancing silently and swiftly, Hugh Roe and his companions—of whom the chief were Henry and Art O'Neale, the sons of Shane O'Neale—soon cleared the city; and, as on the former occasion, made their way over hedge and ditch to the mountains.

It was, perhaps, also in favour of their escape, though a sad aggravation of their hardships, that the night came on with a drizzling tempest of rain and driving snow, which chilled their half-naked bodies, and made the way slippery and difficult. As they reached the mountains Art O'Neale became severely fatigued; and O'Donell, who had, as yet, suffered least, endeavoured, with the help of a servant, who was their companion, to support him up the hill: the effort was severe, and the whole party became so worn, that when they found a high ledge of rock on the summit of one of the hills, they were glad to rest themselves beneath its shelter.

* MS. VOL. II.

From this they sent on the servant to Glenmalur, to inform Feagh M'Hugh O'Byrne of their situation, and to desire refuge. On receiving their message, O'Byrne selected a party of the stoutest of his people, and sent them off with all necessaries to the relief of the party. · Hugh Roe and his suffering companions had, in the mean time, yielded to the dreadful influence of cold, and lain down in their halfnaked state, to be covered with freezing snow. When the party dispatched by O'Byrne came up, they were found nearly insensible; and for some time resisted all efforts to rouse them from a sleep which, had it been protracted but a little longer, must have ended in death. In the language of the old biographer, “ the sleeping coverlet that enveloped their tender skin, and the bolster that supported their heads was a high roll of white-bordered hail, freezing on all sides of them; covering their light vests and shirts of fine thread, encompassing their bodies, their well-proportioned thighs, their wooden shoes, and their feet, so that they appeared to those that came in search of them, not like men, but as sods of earth after being rolled in the snow; for there was no motion in their members, and they were lifeless as if they were really dead." Art O'Neale was past recovery; but Hugh Roe gradually revived, so as to be able to swallow a portion of the ardent spirit which they poured into his mouth. He quickly regained his strength, but his feet were chilled beyond the power of any remedy they could apply, and they were under the necessity of carrying him away to Glenmalur.

In Glenmalur, he continued for some time concealed in a private house, in the covert of a thick wood, where the physician that was employed to heal his frost-bitten feet, might have constant egress, and also where he might be free from the noise and bustle of a small fort, during his illness. But his safety was sedulously watched over and all his wants supplied by the care of O'Byrne. A messenger was dispatched to his guardian and kinsman, Hugh O'Neale, and it was not long before he was sent for. He was, however, not yet healed, and it was found necessary to lift him on his horse. O'Byrne sent a strong guard with him, to protect him until he should have passed the Liffey, at all the fords of which strong guards were posted by government, which, having received information of the place of O'Donell's concealment, made arrangements to intercept him. Notwithstanding these precautions, his party crossed the Liffey, near Dublin, without being perceived.

Having passed this ford, the party separated, and Hugh remained alone with O’Hogan, the servant who had been sent for him. This man was a confidential servant of Hugh O'Neale; he could speak English, and was commonly sent by his master to Dublin, to communicate with his numerous English friends. He was, therefore, here a useful guide, and knew well how to avoid real danger, and seize with confidence the safest ways. Travelling through the night, they crossed the county of Meath, and near morning, came to the river Boyne, near Drogheda. Their way lay through this town, but they feared the risk of being recognised, and therefore they turned from the road, towards the banks of the river, where there was a poor fisherman's hut. The man was at the moment loading his boat, when the fugitives calling him aside, asked him to row them across, promis.. ing a recompense; he agreed, and landing them on the other side, received a liberal reward. In gratitude for this, the poor man then re-crossed the river, and brought their horses through the town, to where they waited at the landing-place.

They rode on a little way, until they came to the dwelling of a wealthy Englishman, who fortunately chanced to be a steadfast friend of the earl of Tyrone. Here they entered freely, and were received with all hospitable care. A secret chamber was fitted for Hugh Roe, and he was enabled to rest that day and the following, after all his fatigue. On the evening of the next day, as it grew dusk, they once more mounted their horses, and began their journey over the hill of Slieve Breagh, in the county of Louth, which they crossed, until they came to Dundalk. It was, fortunately, still early in the morning, and they were thus enabled to cross the town without being noticed; this course they preferred, as they were aware that the English had stationed soldiers to watch for Hugh Roe on either side, wherever there was any possibility of his passing; but it struck Hugh that they would not suspect so bold a course as that which he now wisely selected. They passed through, therefore, without any halt, and felt a sense of thankful security that the danger was now all over. They stood on the territory of Hugh O'Neale, earl of Tyrone. It is needless to pursue the remainder of their progress from friend to friend, until they reached their immediate destination, the abode of the earl. He, though rejoiced to see Hugh Roe, was compelled to observe a strict secrecy during his guest's sojourn, as he was himself in subjection to the English government. Nothing was, however, neglected to contribute to the comfort and refreshment of Hugh Roe, who remained with his kinsman until he was quite recovered from all sense of fatigue. We shall not follow him in the short eventless journey which brought him to his own father's castle, at Ballyshannon, on the river Erne. Here he was received with enthusiasm by the people of his own tribe, who honoured him as their future prince.

These people were at the time in a state of great distress. O'Donell's father was very old, and little capable of the active efforts necessary to keep his own people in subjection, or to repress the incursions of the English from the province of Connaught. The biographer of

O'Donell mentions, that a party of English had taken possession of the monastery of the order of St Francis, which stood near O'Donell's; they amounted to two hundred men, under the command of captains Willes and Conville. From the stronghold thus seized, they made plundering parties, and exercised considerable power over the country. According to the Irish biographer, O'Donell sent word to them to leave the monastery, to quit the district of his father, and leave all their plunder behind. To this they felt themselves under the necessity of submitting, and their submission was attributed to the terror of the youthful chieftain's name and reputation; but it is probable, that having, with so small a force taken up the position, on the ground that there was no danger from the divided and dispirited population of the surrounding country—they had the sagacity to estimate justly the change of circumstances attending on the new enthusiasm, union and spirit, awakened by the presence of a spirited young leader. Preparatory to this message, Hugh Roe called upon the people of Tirconnell to meet, and they were fast flocking in from every side.

Some months, however, elapsed before Hugh Roe found himself in a condition for any decided step. His feet were yet unhealed, and he was obliged by his ulcerated chilblains, to submit to a tedious confinement under the care of his physicians; and it was in opposition to their advice, that, when the spring was far advanced, he again sent forth a summons to the chiefs and people of Tirconnell, to meet him on the west side of a lofty hill in Donegal. The ancient MS. proceeds to enumerate at length, the numerous chiefs who flocked together at the summons; amongst the assembly were his father and mother, a woman distinguished for her masculine virtues and political ability. It was, perhaps, by the influence of this lady, that on this occasion it was unanimously agreed to by the assembly, with the consent of his old father, to raise Hugh Roe to the chieftainship. He was, therefore, solemnly inaugurated on the spot. Before he allowed the force, thus brought together, to separate, Hugh Roe determined on a probationary essay of his strength in an expedition into the neighbouring territory of Cincal Owen, the clan of Tirlogh Lynnogh O'Neale, who was then hostile to O'Donell's tribe, as well as to the earl of Tyrone. We shall not delay to describe particulars, which were in no way memorable; nor shall we detail a second incursion into the same district, when the conquering progress of O'Donell was stayed by the remonstrance of a chief who asserted the claim of having been once his fosterer: on which, the chief returned home to Donegal, where he was again compelled to place himself under the care of his physicians for two months. At the end of this time, he once more collected his men and invaded the same territory, and marching on to Strabane, he set fire to the town. They here found and drove away a large prey of horses, and returned home unmolested by Tirlogh Lynnogh and the English party which he entertained in his castle of Strabane.

The earl of Tyrone, in the mean time, made a journey to Dublin, where lord Fitz-William was lord-justice, and made an earnest application in behalf of O'Donell, that he should be admitted to the king's peace. The lord-justice assented, and a meeting between him and O'Donell was appointed at Stradbally. O'Donell was found by the earl on his sick bed; the physicians, unable to prevent the spreading of the dreadful ulcers on his feet, were obliged to have recourse to a desperate remedy, and his great toes were both amputated. It was with no small difficulty that he was persuaded to consent to the arrangement made by his kinsman; but he yielded, and the meeting took place, when he was received with kindness by the lord-justice,

« PreviousContinue »