Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
Beatha Aodha Ruaidh Uí Dhomhnaill (Author: Lughaidh Ó Cléirigh)

section 6

The Fifth Year, 1596

¶64] After completing the aforesaid actions, O Domhnaill departed with his army across the Sligeach north-eastwards on the 15th of January, in the beginning of the year 1596, and he went across the Dubh, the Drowes, and the Saimer northwards. He remained after that in his own country without leaving it up to the beginning of summer. It was in that May precisely that a certain nobleman came from the King of Spain, Philip III. Alonzo Cobos was the nobleman's name. The reason why he came to Ireland was to confer with and get information from the Irish, for the Gaels of Fodhla were friendly to and united with the King of Spain on account of their having come from Spain long before, and a number of learned men and historians of the Irish had set down in remembrance and recollection for the King the doings and history of the sons of Mil, and besides, the people that were driven into exile by the English from the island of Erin, after their patrimony had been filched from them, used to go to complain of their hardship to him and his ancestors for a long time. The messenger, however, came, as we have said. The course he steered was westward, keeping the shore of Erin to the starboard hand until he landed in Tír Bóghaine in the harbour of Killybegs precisely. He received a welcome there from the nobles of the territory when they got news of him, and some of them went to guide him through Bearnas Mór until he came to Lifford, where O Domhnaill then was. He was entertained very hospitably, as was fitting, for the space of three days and three nights, and he set to inquire about the history of the war which he had heard the Irish had been waging against the English. They related it to him then. He said it was to inquire and get information he had come by order of the King, and he could not go to where O Néill was nor delay any longer


owing to haste, for he was afraid the English, hearing of his coming to Ireland, would send a fleet to intercept him. When O Domhnaill knew that his statement was true and the danger in which he was, he wrote by him to the King on his own part, and on behalf of O Néill, and the Irish generally. The purport of the letter was this: to request aid in men and a supply of arms and various weapons against their foes, and to rescue them from the bondage in which they were held by their enemies always (taking their patrimony from them and perverting them from the Roman Catholic faith, which St. Patrick had preached to their elders and ancestors, and which they held for long ages), and that they would be subject to him and to his successors always. The messenger then prepared to depart, and left his blessing. O Domhnaill accompanied him on his way, and he did not part from him till the next day, and he sent with him some of his soldiers on the road to protect him from robbers and kernes till he passed over the above mentioned Bearnas; this is an intricate mountain, difficult to pass over, and it was a place of refuge for robbers and rogues, robbing and plundering until Aodh Ruadh banished them, for he did not allow robbery or plundering in the country since he was inaugurated in the chieftaincy till he left the island, wherefore he was called the legal executioner on account of the number of robbers and thieves and of every kind of malefactors too whom he had executed. As for Alonzo Cobos, he came to the port where he had left his ship and embarked in it, and O Domhnaill's people gave him plenty of the flesh meat of fat hinds and whitefleeced sheep in the ship. He was waiting for the east wind whenever it should come. At last he set sail with the first breeze of wind from the north-east, keeping the shore of Ireland on the port hand steering due south-west until he reached Spain.

¶65] As for O Domhnaill, he was at rest up to the beginning of June. It was not long afterwards when a messenger came from Mac William to him to tell him that a war-general of the Queen, Sir John Norris, had come to the borders of his country,


having with him a great army, in order that he might subject the whole province of Connacht at once, wholly and entirely, to the English Sovereign. The chiefs and nobles who were with the General's army were the Earl of Thomond, Donncha, son of Conor, son of Donncha O Brien, with all his troops, and the Earl of Clanrickard, Ulick son of Rickard Sasanach, son of Ulick of the Heads with his force too. It was commonly said then that for a very long time there had not been gathered and collected in Ireland on behalf of the English Sovereign so great a number as was in that army. O Domhnaill did not neglect or slight the news which was reported to him, for his forces were in complete readiness to go into the province of Connacht even before the messengers came. Letters and despatches were written by O Domhnaill to the Irish of the province, and he summoned them to meet him to the west, where he heard the forces of the strangers had encamped.

¶66] Wherefore O Domhnaill with his army marched across the Erne westwards, across the Sligeach, keeping the extremity of Sliav Gamh on his right, through Leyny and the territory of the Gailenga, until at last he came to the rendezvous where Sir John Norris was threatening and boasting that he would go plunder the territory if they did not give up hostages and pledges. As soon as O Domhnaill's messengers went to the Irish of the province, as we have said, they came without delay or hesitation at this call. First came from the west O Ruairc, Brian Óg, son of Brian na Múrtha, son of Brian Ballach, son of Eóghan, with the fighting men of Uí Briúin. O Conor Ruadh came, Aodh, son of Turloch Ruadh, from the border of Magh Aoi, east of the ford of Slisean. O Ceallaigh (Ferdorcha) came from the south-east of Uí Maine, west of the Shannon. Mac Diarmada (Conor Óg) came from Magh Luirg of the Daghda, south-east of Corrshliav na Seghsa. There came also those who inhabited the territory from the Corrsliav to the sea in the northern part of the province, i.e. the two MacDonnchas, and the two O Haras, and O Dowda. After the Irish had assembled at one place they halted opposite Sir John Norris


on the banks of the river called the Robe. There was much parleying to and fro for peace and amity between them, but it was not so in truth, they were spying and circumventing and deceiving each other if they could. Mac William too, Tibbot, son of Walter Ciotach, with the whole of his forces, was at this gathering of O Domhnaill's. They remained for a while in this way facing each other, until the English had consumed their provisions. When their supplies were exhausted they resolved to leave their encampment, since they could effect nothing against the Irish. They did so. They turned back, and the mind of John Norris was not at ease, for it was not his custom to withdraw from the enemy's territories in this way. O Domhnaill and the Irish also went away to their homes merry and cheerful.

¶67] When the Council in Dublin saw that the bravery and valour of the Irish had grown and increased, and that they had a knowledge of the use of arms and of the management of war, they were much afraid of them. Another reason too why they feared was the union of friendship and sympathy with the King of Spain and the coming of the aforesaid ship from Spain, as was reported to them. The plan adopted by the Senate and Council in consequence was to send messengers to O Néill and O Domhnaill, and to propose and offer peace and friendship to them. The messengers chosen by the Senate to discuss the proposition of peace between them and the Irish were the Earl of Ormonde, Thomas Butler by name (the family to which he belonged had come from England; he was weak through old age then) and the Archbishop of Cashel, Miler Magrath. They went on the errand until they came to the town which is on the edge of the strand of Baile Mic Buain called Dundalk. They sent messengers to the place where O Néill was to tell him the business they had come about. O Néill sent the same message to O Domhnaill. He came over with a troop of cavalry to the place where O Néill was. They both went to Faughart Muirtheimhne, opposite Dundalk to the north. The Earl of whom we have spoken


and the Bishop came to the summit of the same hill. They told the princes the business on which they had come, and said peace would be better than strife, and they would all reproach one another if the peace was not made. They stated to them the terms which the Council offered in requital for the peace, viz. to forfeit the province of Ulster to them except the tract of territory from Dundalk to the Boyne which was cut off from it long before by the English, and that the English should not encroach beyond the boundary except the English of Carrickfergus, who were allowed for buying and bargaining always, and the English of Carlingford and Newry in the same way, and moreover, that they should not put stewards or governors over them, nor in any such way levy rents or tributes, but only the same tribute that was adjudged on their ancestors, to be presented by them to Dublin, and that hostages or pledges should not be demanded from them beyond this; and that the Irish in the province of Connacht who had risen in the confederate war should have similar terms.

¶68] After the Earl had set forth his statement and proposal, O Néill and O Domhnaill and the other chief men of the province who were with them rose up from where they were seated and went to the other side of the hill. They proceeded to take counsel and to recount the deeds of the English since they first seized on the island up to that time. This was easy for them, for they were remembered by them and by O Domhnaill in particular, for he had been listening to them during the four years and three months he was in the prison in Dublin; and that was the tale he remembered best from the captives cast into prison along with him, and he had them in recollection and remembrance; and he said that the promises of the English were always vain and deceitful, and that it was by false promises thay had stolen their patrimony from the Irish of the province of Leinster and of the province of Munster, and not that merely, but whomsoever else they deprived of their land in Ireland it was by fraud and a false peace they obtained it. It is thus they will act towards you


when your implements of war and conflict are few and your battle-ranks thin; and when one by one the Irish who have risen in alliance with you heretofore will be enticed away from you they will get whatever they ask, for abandoning you. The English will play false with you here, and they will attack you when they find you unprepared, unready, short of arms and armour, of soldiers and champions, if peace be made with them and no securities or hostages given by them for fulfilling to you what they have promised you. Another thing, too; you will throw back his friendship at the King of Spain if peace be made, and it will be disgraceful and shameful for you to practise deceit on him, who never tells a lie and who will fulfill what he has promised; and it would be a great dishonesty also for you to entertain any suspicion of him: and, besides, you will never again be helped by him, when you will need it, after the English turn on you. Some of the chief men commended what he said and agreed with the resolutions which he proposed. There was another party of them who were eager to make peace, and they said it was fitting to make peace, and they should be sorry if it was not made. Alas! what they said proved true, though later, for there were many women and children and veterans who suffered death by cold and hunger on account of that war. Besides, there were many proud heroes, and leaders in war, and freeborn nobles who met with an untimely fate on both sides in consequence of the same war. Yet, whether it was good or evil that came of it, peace had to be hindered at the suggestion and the command of O Domhnaill. The Earl and the Bishop returned to Dublin and told the Lord Deputy and Council how they had been refused peace and how the Irish had answered them.

¶69] Thereupon the Senate sent their news to England to Queen Elizabeth. Anger and wrath seized her. A large number of men was assembled and collected by her to be sent to Ireland, with proper equipment for every need too, so that there were no less than twenty thousand mercenaries and soldiers ready for the Irish war. The Governor and the chief


who was over the province of Connacht then, i.e. Sir Richard Bingham, and his kinsmen were removed and summoned to Dublin, and from thence sent to England. There came, in the month of December precisely, another in the office of Governor who was better and more faithful to his promises to the Irish. Conyers Clifford was his name. A knight famous by repute, he was noble by blood, a man who bestowed jewels and wealth. This was an advantage to him, for a great number of the chiefs of the province of Connacht went over to him on account of his good qualities. The first who came to him was O Conor Ruadh, Aodh, son of Turloch Ruadh, son of Tadhg Buidhe, and Mac Diarmada of Magh Luirg, Conor son of Tadhg; so that they became friendly and fixed terms with him. O Conor Sligo, too, i.e. Donncha, son of Cathal Óg, son of Tadhg, son of Cathal Óg, came from England in the harvest precisely, having been appointed by the Queen to the command of many hundred troops and soldiers full ready to bring under her power those who were near him of the men of Ulster and Connacht. He came to Connacht immediately to fight in alliance with the English against Cenél Conaill and wage war on them, for his illwill against that race was great ever since he withdrew his obedience from them, through force and pressure of the English, and he was not subject to them as he should be; and that he should be subject to O Domhnaill need cause no surprise, for his ancestor Brian, son of Eochaidh was so to Niall, who was younger than the children of Mongfinn; and it was by Fiachra, son of Eochaidh, that Conall Gulban was fostered, and his patrimony was in the province of Connacht until he left it by guile when he seized the portion of territory north of the Saimer to Loch Foyle on the east; and after taking it by force he divided it among his kinsmen, and gave the cantred which was from the Blackwater on the north-west, to Call Caoin on Loch Erne to Cairbre son of Niall, his brother; and as the family of Brian, son of Eochaidh, inhabited the territory after the failing of Cenél Cairbre all but a few, the Cenél Conaill put them under


tribute and hosting to themselves because the land had belonged to their kinsmen. It was no wonder, therefore, that O Conor Sligo should be loyal in friendship and amity with O Domhnaill and be subject to him without opposition, for the same was due by all the people of Connacht besides, since the race of Niall, son of Eochaidh, had become supreme over the Gaels long before, and to them belonged the sovereignty of the island.

¶70] As for O Conor of whom we have spoken, when he came to the province of Connacht his supporters and friends welcomed him, and his followers and trusted people were filled with pride and arrogance, and with anger and self-will, in consequence of his coming, and they proceeded to boast and bluster, to insult and threaten the Cenél Conaill. They were called the O Harts, and they were loyal to his representative always. When O Domhnaill heard of their coming against him and their boasting and their having entered into an alliance with the English to oppose him, he did not wait for the assembling of all his forces, but he went across the Sligeach westwards, with his soldiers and mercenaries, and plundered O Conor's subjects and friends, of whom we have spoken, in every place they were in dwellings ensconced in thickets and in dark obscure places so that he did not leave a single beast with them; and he disturbed no one in the country but them, though he had spared them up to that, on account of their weakness and poverty, until their insolent language, enmity, and hostility, which they could not conceal, hastened this plundering on them. O Domhnaill pitched his camp after a while in Bréifne of Connacht, to the east of Sliav Dá Én. He remained there until his forces came to him from every place where they were.