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Annales Breves Hiberniae (Author: Thaddeus Dowling)


In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the darkest period of Irish society, there were amongst the ecclesiastics of Leighlin some men of inquiring minds and of literary habits. Nicholas Magwyr, bishop from 1490 to 1512, was educated in the University of Oxford, and we are told that, "when Prebendary of Ullard, he preached and delivered great learninge with no lesse reverence, being in favor with the king and nobilitie of Leinster, who, together with the Deane and Chapter, elected him Bishop of Leighlin.’’


When advanced to that see he was commended for his hospitality; and the number of cows which he grazed without loss upon the woods and mountains of Knockbrannen2, Cumnabally, Aghcarew, Ballycarew, and Moilglas, gave proof to his contemporaries how much he was beloved in those districts. This bishop had begun many learned works, but could not finish any, ‘saveinge one Cronicle summariely by him collected, and it is found in the handes of many in written hand laten.’


The Life of this learned and popular prelate was written by his chaplain, Thomas Brown, and 'his Cronicle' preserved in the Yellow Book of Leighlin, together with further collections made by Thomas Waterfeld, Archdeacon of Leighlin, seems to have formed the groundwork of the Irish collections subsequently made by Thady Dowling3, Treasurer and Chancellor of that diocese.

That the following pages contain those collections in the state in which they were left by Dowling it would be rash to affirm. In such collections every transcriber thinks himself justified in adding new matter, and in omitting what he esteems the mistaken entries of the original compiler. In successive transcripts marginal observations are apt to steal into the text, and from the way in which Dowling is hereafter mentioned it would seem that he is rather the chief authority than the sole compiler of these Annals. We must, however, observe, that in the manuscript they are ascribed to Dowling, and that we have found no quotation attributed to Dowling by Hanmer or Ussher, which is not to be found in these pages.

It is evident that the compiler of these Annals had access to no contemptible library of printed books. Giraldus Cambrensis, Powell's Caradoc of Llancarvan, and probably that learned Welshman's other works on British History, Lanquet's Chronicle, continued by Bishop Cooper, Sir J. Eliot, Stowe, and Holinshed, form a library, for which many a modern clerical student of Irish history would envy Queen Elizabeth's Chancellor of Leighlin. Yet in Dowling's days the old cathedral town of St. Lazerian, looking from its sheltered glen and bright stream, across the rich plain of the Barrow, to the blue and undulating outline of Mount Leinster, beautiful as it ever must have been to the eye of the painter, was a place ill-fitted for quiet study


and learned research. The neighbouring monastery of the Carmelites at the bridge had been converted into a royal garrison, and the goodly Barrow, as it flowed under its walls, reflected, not cowls and friars' frocks, but matchlocks and iron skull-caps.

In this transmuted monastery, in the beginning of the reign of Edward VI., Sir Edward Bellingham, Lord Deputy, kept a stall of twenty or thirty horse; and it was from this house that he rode into Munster, to the house of the Earl of Desmond, when, being unlooked for and unthought of, he found the Earl sitting at his Christmas fire, and took him, and carried him away with him to Dublin. Some years later, and in the time of Dowling, Leighlin was the residence of one of these bold and accomplished soldiers, at once worldly and romantic, who gave strength and glory to the throne of Queen Elizabeth. Here came Sir Peter Carew, who having been in his youth, as recorded by his faithful steward, at Constantinople in the Turk's court, at Vienna in the Emperor's palace, at Venice, and in the French king's court, and in the houses of most of all Christian princes, in every of which places he left some token of his value, settled down at Leighlin in his ripe manhood, determined to preserve by policy and the strong hand the great Irish inheritance which he claimed by descent, and had obtained by law. Here he kept continually, and here, as we shall find, he needed to keep, in his own private family, 100 persons, and had always in readiness 100 horsemen, well appointed, besides footmen, and 100 kerns; here his cellar door was never shut, and his buttery always open to all comers of any credit. Those days, however, of military strength and of proud hospitality, worthy of Branksome Hall, soon passed away; and when that worthy knight, old Sir Peter, died at Ross, his cousin and heir


young Sir Peter, was unable to defend his inheritance. In 1580, as we learn from Dowling, there was a great slaughter committed by the Ketings at Leighlin, and at Glynmalowra, in the county of Wicklow, by the Byrnes, where young Sir Peter, Baron of Odrone, and Francis Cosby, Esq., captain of the loyal kerns of Leix, and Master Moore, and Bernard Fitzwilliam, captains, were killed, with many other gentlemen of estimation, by Fiagh Mac Hugh O'Byrne, and other rebels, who afterwards, at the instigation of young Maurice Cavanagh of Garrowchill, burned ten townlands in Idrone, and carried off as prisoners Master Wood, who was probably one of the Chapter, and Roger Hooker, Dean of Leighlin.

The Chancellor relates the captivity of the Dean of Leighlin with great composure, indicating, perhaps, that Thady Dowling, with his two Irish names, had no great sympathy with this English-born Roger Hooker. Yet, if Roger Hooker, as seems likely, was the brother of the writer, John Hooker, alias Vowell, and promoted by the interest of the bookish Carew, he was probably no unworthy head of the Chapter of Leighlin, and no unfit associate in Dowling's historical inquiries. If the Dean had his brother's learning it is to be hoped that he did not make as vain a display of it as was made by that worthy English gentleman, who, when member for Athenry, in Connaught, in a speech reported by himself, assured the Irish House of Commons that the Lord Deputy, Sir Henry Sidney, was treated by them as ungratefully as Moses had been treated, and Camillus, and Scipio, as Socrates, Themistocles, Miltiades, and others, and proved the same by various histories. Such learning we can well spare, but it is to be lamented that the Dean has not left any record of his captivity. It would be interesting to read how the English Protestant churchman, the friend of the Carews and the brother of their law-agent, was treated, in the fastnesses of Glenmalure, by this Fiagh Mac Hugh, in his house of Balinecorr, who, from being a base varlet,


dared, in Spenser's time, "to front princes, and to make tearms with great potentates.’’

The successor of scholars, such as were the scholars of the time, and, as we suppose, the companion of scholars, Dowling spent a long life in the discharge of his ecclesiastical functions, and in the study of the literature and history of his country. There is something pleasing in the picture of such a life in such times, and we like to think of the old man, in the midst of an unquiet generation, as a relaxation from grave and important duties, now examining the new and costly volumes in the library of the learned English knight, and now poring over the manuscript records of his cathedral, or striving to find some traces of romantic history in the names of the neighbouring townlands, or searching for tombstones in the choir, and calling upon the clerk and the carpenter to bear witness that they had seen with their eyes the tomb which he had sought for. And, if the good Chancellor mistook the import of the epitaph which he read in simple verse, and, as has been suggested, confounded Burchard with Borard, and the Norwegian pirate with the Norman knight, — and, be it remembered, the mistake may not be on the part of Dowling, but on that of his would-be corrector, — still graver mistakes have been made by more learned men, who have not, like honest Dowling, preserved the document by which the truth could be ascertained.

As the O'Dowlings were one of the six septs of Leix, it is probable that our Chancellor was of Irish blood; the Statute against the promotion of Irish churchmen remaining, like many better Statutes, a dead letter on the Rolls of Parliament. We know from Ware that he was an Irish scholar, and the compiler of an Irish grammar; and in these

brief Annals he does not omit to mention that the art of printing and of founding the letters and characters of the Irish language was introduced into Dublin, in the year 1571, by John Kearna, Treasurer of St. Patrick's, and Nicholas Walsh, Bishop of Ossory. That an Irishman by birth and by blood should understand Irish in the sixteenth century provokes no observation; as in the beginning of that century the Irish language was generally understood among the Anglo-Irish nobles and churchmen.

In the catalogue of the Earl of Kildare's library, taken in 1518, there are nearly as many books in Irish as in English; and in 1541 the Irish lords of English blood, Barry, Roch, Fitzmaurice, and Birmingham, seem to have understood Irish alone; at least Sentleger4 writes to Henry VIII. that Sir Thomas Cusake's right solemn proposition in giving such laud and praise to His Majesty, as justly and most worthily His Majesty had merited, as well for the extirpation of the usurped power of the Bishop of Rome out of this realm, as also for his innumerable benefits showed to his realms and subjects, was briefly and prudently declared in the Irish tongue to the said lords by the mouth of the Earl of Ormonde, greatly to their contentation.’’

The policy of the English government, the great influx of English settlers in the seventeenth century, and the irresistible flow of circumstances, have made us an English-speaking population; but at no time, from the days of Dowling to the present days, have there been wanting, wise and kind-hearted men, who, however they may have rejoiced that the English language, rich with the richest trophies of genius and of thought, was their's by inheritance, were anxious, not to supplant English or to extend the use of Irish, but to perpetuate the knowledge of the older and the more venerable language, and to procure,


through its use, a readier access to the Irish heart and understanding.

It must be confessed, however, that in the following pages we derive but little profit from Dowling's Irish scholarship. It is true that he makes mention of the Hibernie Scriptores of the Life of St. Patrick, and of the Hibernie Antiquarii, as well as of the Historici Hibernie, but he cites no Irish manuscript or Irish author by name; and his ancient Irish history is made up of the traditions common to Giraldus Cambrensis, to Fordun, and the Four Masters, and left unsifted by them all, mingled with extracts from Saxo Grammaticus, and from Powell's edition of Caradoc of Llancarvan. Yet, notwithstanding this absence of Irish historical authority from Dowling's collections, historical compilations appear to have been at all times amongst the favourite productions of Irish literature. In the catalogue of the Earl of Kildare's Irish Library before referred to, which is given in the note5, there occur names of works evidently historical; and the Four Masters, who, although later compilers, were living in Dowling's old age, made use of nine sets of Irish chronicles, of which six were not completed before the commencement of the sixteenth century.

The publication of that great compilation of Irish annals in O'Donovan's splendid edition, rendered doubly valuable as it has been by his topographical notes, has made us indifferent to Dowling's neglect of Irish authorities, and has given to the student of Irish history


ready access to all the knowledge which can be expected from such compilations. However honestly drawn up, whether made by the Chancellor of Leighlin or by the Friars of Donegal, such compilations in no wise supersede the necessity of consulting the original authorities. They must always bear marks of the character and circumstances, not only of the author but also of the compiler, and it is possible that the unconscious substitution of one word for another supposed to be equivalent to it, may have destroyed the only clue left by the original writer for unravelling the system, political, legal, or ecclesiastical, of his times.

Nor have combinations of chronicles, however accurately and fully expressed, the interest which belongs to the work of one mind. It would be vain to expect in any collection of monkish chronicles the philosophy which could fuse and mould their discordant materials into one consistent whole; their very copiousness becomes a cause of obscurity, as the attention is worn out by the profusion of small events, apparently springing from no motive, and certainly leading to no result. As a national history such collections of annals must be confused and disheartening, but as materials for local history they are invaluable; and if ever freely and boldly used for that purpose, they will be found to suggest many thoughts relative to the social condition of the country; and being thus resolved into their original elements, — for it was as local histories that their chief materials were originally composed, — they will cluster in form and clearness round various points of great interest. Such is the meagreness of our historical records that it is only by the judicious use of these still and formal compilations, and of the wild legends of Irish hagiology, that we call hope to gain any knowledge of the form and pressure of the ante-Norman period of Irish history, to arrange it into its several eras, to ascertain the habits and manners of those who lived in them, and to comprehend their motives, their objects, and their characters,


and thus to form some vague notion how their past has influenced our present.

The troubles occasioned by the O'Mores in Leix, and by the Cavanaghs in Carlow and Wexford, form the staple of Dowling's peculiar contributions to Irish history. These troubles, as we learn from the following pages, like almost all other Irish troubles, did not spring originally from political causes, but were directly connected with quarrels about the possession of land.

The Norman conquest of England, which preceded the conquest of Ireland by little more than a hundred years, had effected as great a revolution in landed property in England, as was designed in Ireland; but the Saxon occupier soon learned to submit to his Norman landlord: the rights of property, however acquired, in England were universally assented to, and order and security arose from invasion and spoliation, It was not so in Ireland. Some of the causes of this great difference it is not difficult to discover. In England the grantees of the Crown — however enormous were some of the Conqueror's grants — formed a numerous and powerful body of feudal lords, all equally interested in the common title of all to their several estates. The presence of the central government, always interested in the maintenance of order, tended at once to repress the provoking insolence and tyranny of the landlord, and the insubordination of the peasant; and where order was observed, and property secure, the industry of the tenant and the tradesman, before they were hardened into a middle class, repellent alike of lord and of peasant, penetrated the lower poor with feelings of hope and of attachment to the existing state of society.

In Ireland, on the contrary, the grantees of the Crown were comparatively few; from the first the head lords of lands were scattered at wide intervals through the country. In the course of one or two generations several of their great inheritances descended upon English


nobles resident in England, and leaving their Irish estates to the care of Irish undertakers, who seized the first opportunity from agents to become proprietors. The power of the Deputy was unable to repress the outrages of the landlord or the discontent of the tenant; and where all things were in confusion there could be no accumulations of thrift or industry to give hope to peaceful ambition, and to make the poor man friendly to the authority of the law.

To all these causes of the security of the Norman possessors of Saxon estates, and of the constant resistance with which the grandsons of these Normans and their descendants were harassed when they relied upon royal charters for the grant of Irish lands, must be added, above all, the different systems of landed tenure which had previously existed in both countries.

Whatever may have been the privileges of the Saxon churl, the occupier of land, he was still a tenant, holding, on certain conditions, under an hereditary, an official, or an elective superior, and liable, on the failure of such conditions, to forfeit possession. To the immediate cultivator of the soil the distinction of Bocland and Folcland must have been indifferent. Whatever theory may be devised to account for the origin of rent in countries otherwise circumstanced, and whatever may have been the system of landed property originally prevalent amongst the Teutonic nations, it is plain that in Saxon Britain, a conquered country, in which the natives were not extirpated, there must have been a gradual progress with the increase of civilization from the absolute slavery of the indigenous race, from their being hewers of wood and drawers of water, through serfdom and villeinage, to the commutation of arbitrary into fixed services, ultimately resulting in the payment of rent either in money or in kind. And this change must have brought about the abolition of national distinctions between the native thrall, now raised to the rank of a farmer, and the family of the smaller Saxon proprietor,


who gained their livelihood by the profitable occupation of land.

Whether at the time of the Norman conquest this last result had, or had not, been universally arrived at in England in all cases, it is plain that by the substitution of a Norman lord for a Saxon thane, the status of the Saxon occupier was not essentially changed; the conditions of his tenure may have become more burdensome, but he still remained a tenant as he was before; and however strong may have been his Saxon indignation at the Norman superiority, there was little in it to affect his personal interest, or materially to deteriorate his actual condition.

In the greater part of Ireland, on the contrary, although the Saxon or Danish6 system seems to have been introduced into Fingal and into other parts of the east coast, previous to the time of Strongbow, there were neither landlords nor tenants. Every seignory or chiefry, with the portion of land that passed with it, went without partition to the tanist, who always came in by election, or the strong hand, and not by descent; but by the law of gavelkind7 all the inferior tenancies were partible, not, as in Kent, only amongst the first heirs male of the last possessor, but at the will of the head of the sept, amongst all the males of the sept, whether legitimate or illegitimate.

Such was the Irish custom of gavelkind, as explained by the sagacious and inquiring Sir John Davies; and although in the third year of James I. it was declared and resolved by all the Judges that this custom was void in law, not only for the inconvenience and this unreasonableness of it, but because it was a mere personal custom, and could not alter the descent of inheritance; yet so deeply rooted in Irish prejudices was the love of common holdings, with minute and changeable


subdivisions, that they survived to perplex Sir Henry Piers in Westmeath in 1697, and Lord George Hill in Donegal in 1846. Perplexing, however, as it may have been to landlords, barbarous as it was in the eyes of English lawyers, and however opposed to the general improvement of the country, this Irish custom of gavelkind not only opened to every man a possibility of becoming tanist, or heir apparent, at the death of the chief, but it had also the far wider-spreading effect of giving to every man a positive interest in the preservation of the family estate, and, when that estate was lost, of exciting every man to exert himself for its recovery.

Nor was it clear to the Irish understanding that the lands of the sept could ever legally be lost. By Irish law every occupier was but an occupier for life, and could alienate or forfeit only his own life-interest. As in the somewhat analogous case of the Kentish gavelkind, the father's felony could not forfeit the son's right to the lands: in the old adage, though the father might be hanged 'on the bough', the son had still a right to return 'to the plough'.

With such strong and generally diffused motives for striving to recover the landed property of the several septs, it is not surprising that the Irish should have availed themselves of the diminution of the small number of the original grantees, by absenteeism, by foreign wars, and by the wars of the Roses, to re-enter upon lands which had been wrested from their own sept, or from some other sept which had


not courage or opportunity to resume their rights. And as such attempts were contrary to English law, and inconsistent with English authority, the claims of private property excited public disturbance, and what might have been a lawsuit became a rebellion.

In the division made at Woodstock, by Henry III., of the great seignory of Leinster, between the five sisters of the five childless Earls Marshal, the country of Leix, with its chief castle of Dunamase, was assigned to the third sister, Eva, wife of De Braosa, Lord of Brecknock; and her daughter, Matilda, brought the manor to her husband, Roger Mortimer. The territory of Leix, previous to the English conquest, had been the patrimony of the O'Mores; and after the Scottish invasion, when the power of the English was everywhere shaken, the absentee Mortimer8 esteemed it a good device for the management of his lands to employ the services of one of that supplanted sept, and thought him not dishonoured by the service.’’

It was a common, but a perilous expedient, and the temptation proved too strong for the fidelity of Lysaght O'More. Towards the end of the reign of Edward II., and probably at the time when Mortimer was proclaimed a traitor by his injured sovereign, the hour came for gratifying his inherent desire of independence, perhaps his rankling longings for revenge. In one night Lysaght O'More burned ten English castles, and destroyed Dunamase, the head of Mortimer's barony; and on that night, to use the words of Clyn, from a serf he become a lord, from a subject a prince: De servo dominus, de subjecto princeps effectus.’’

After the death of Lysaght, who was murdered, when drunk, by his servant, the manor of Dunamase was recovered from the O'Mores, and in the reign of Edward III., during the forfeiture of the Mortimers, was in the hands of Sir John Wellesley; but although some


of the O'Mores were forced to acknowledge that they held their lands in Leix, which then formed part of the county of Kildare, from Mortimer, as of his manor of Dunamase, yet the greater part of the De Braos portion of Strongbow's palatinate was lost to the Mortimers. Nor was Leix the only territory in Leinster, the inheritance of Eva Mac Morogh, of which the princely Mortimers were deprived by native claimants. Through the De Burghs and the Earls of Gloster they had hereditary claims to the territory of Ossory, and when the youthful Earl of March, grandson of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, and presumptive heir of the crown of England, was appointed Lord Lieutenant by his friend and cousin, Richard II., the viceregal sword added but little to his dignity in Ireland, where he was by descent Earl of Ulster, Lord of Meath, of Connaught, of Leix, and of Ossory, claiming in all these vast franchises the authority of a Lord Palatine, absorbing the royal revenues, and exercising royal power. But all these titles, and all this power, hereditary and deputed, were vain when employed to recover estates once fallen into the hands of Irishmen. In his attempt to rescue lands belonging to his mother, which his father had been obliged to reconquer, the 'courteous' Earl of March was resisted by O'Nowlan, O'Byrne, Mac David More Mac Morogh, Mortagh Mac Laghlin, and others; a battle was fought at Calleston, now Kellistown, in O'Nowlan's country, where Raymond le Gros had a castle in the time of Henry II.; the Earl was slain, and his mother, as we learn from Dowling, gave two chalices, one to Myshall and one to Garrowcheill, to ransom his body, which was sent to England, and interred with his forefathers in the Abbey of Wigmore.

In this obscure skirmish, fought in a place whose name has hitherto been mistaken and its site unknown, were involved the


destinies of the British empire; for it was to revenge the death of his cousin and presumptive heir that King Richard came a second time into Ireland, and so left the field open to Bolingbroke, to whose towering ambition the superior claims of Mortimer's orphan children offered only a feeble obstacle; and hence the disputed succession, the thinning of the old nobles of England, the rise of the landed gentry, and all the thousand ever-spreading consequences of the wars of York and Lancaster.

Nor were the long and dangerous insurrections of the MacMoroghs and the Cavanaghs less directly connected with disputes about land, than those of the O'Nowlans and O'Mores. Connected with King Dermod, if not descended from him, and consequently allied in blood to all the noble posterity of Strongbow and the Countess Eva, and possessing the distinguished privilege of being one of the quinque sanguinum, the Mac Moroghs seem from the first to have held undisturbed possession of the hill country on the borders of Carlow and Wexford. As the power of the English settlers decreased, the native sept gradually spread over the low lands, and acquired extensive possessions in both those counties. In 1327, ten years after Bruce's invasion, at an assembly of the Irish at Leinster, the power of the sept, and certain traditional recollections, secured Donald Mac Murgh's election to the title of King of Leinster, as Pembridge says somewhat scornfully: Hibernici de Lagenia collegerunt se simul, et fecerunt quemdam Regem, videlicet Donaldum filium Arte Mac Murgh.’’


The vain boasts of the new king that he would plant his standard within two miles of Dublin, and then, after the fashion of the old Irish kings, go through all Ireland, were dissipated: he was taken prisoner by Sir Henry Traharne, and confined in the castle of Dublin, until, at the end of three years, he made his escape, with the help


of a rope, bought for him by Adam Nangle, for which, and perhaps with which, Adam Nangle was hanged.

Notwithstanding, Donald Mac Murgh's misfortunes, the captainship of the sept, with the title of king, long continued in this family.

In King Richard's10 first expedition, on the 16th day of February, 1395, Arte Mac Morogh, who was called king, although he had small territories anywhere,’’

came riding on a black horse to the field of Baligory, near Carlow, and having heard the King's letters read, and explained in English, by John Molton, clerk, of the diocese of Lincoln, and read in Irish by Friar Edmund Vale, Master of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in Ireland, with Gerald O'Bryn, Donald O'Nolan, Loy Oge, and Shane Mac Mauriceboy of Slewmergy, and Murogh O'Connohur of Offaly, all captains of their respective septs, Arte Mac Morogh, having taken off his girdle, sword, and cap, joining together the palms of his hands, and holding them upright within the hands of the Earl of Nottingham, who had then a special commission from the King, did homage and swore allegiance, and bound himself, on the restitution of his wife's barony of the Norragh, and on the annual payment of eighty marks as wages, to enter into the King's service, and to surrender all his lands in Leinster, for which he was to receive compensation by the grant of such lands as he might conquer elsewhere from the enemies of his lord the King.

By this promised removal from Leinster of Mac Morogh and the other Irish captains, the English of Leinster would have been relieved from troublesome neighbours; but the native grasp of hereditary lands is not easily relaxed; and although they now bent before the royal power of England, the Leinster septs were rather disposed to intrude upon the old settled possessions of the English than to relinquish the lands of their ancestors. It was at that very time that the Cavanaghs


were supplanting the Carews in Idrone. The barony of the Norragh, the estate of his wife, the heiress of the Calfes or De Veels, gave Mac Morogh a footing in Kildare; its non-restitution afforded him grounds for the continuance of hostilities, and he solemnly assured his wife,’’

wrote the Irish Council in 1399, that he will never be at peace until he has restitution of her lands.’’

Scarcely then were the two hampers, filled with Irish surrenders and indentures, delivered to the Court of Exchequer in England by the Bishop of Salisbury, before disturbances again broke out; and although the Norragh11 was restored to his wife, and the eighty marks annually paid to MacMorogh and to many successive Mac Moroghs, yet the lands of the sept in Leinster were never relinquished, nor was the title of King of Leinster given up for many generations. Even as late as 1522 we have in these Annals the death of Gerald Kevanagh Mac Murchad, qui se fecit vocari Regem Lagenie et Ducem Laginensium;’’

and this titular king was buried with the king's lieges at Leighlin.

But although, like the other sixty chief captains12 calling themselves kings, or kings' peers or princes, or dukes, or archdukes, living only by the sword, and making war and peace for themselves, the Mac Moroghs exercised imperial jurisdiction within their narrow boundaries, these Annals show the insecurity of their power and the troubles of their lives. While, however, the captains, by whatever title they were called, were occasionally defeated and compelled to submit, or were imprisoned in Dublin or in London, or were hanged, the main body of the sept continued to occupy their hereditary and acquired lands, acknowledging no lord but their own elected captain, and no law but that pronounced by their Brehons on the hill side.


The power of the government of Henry VIII., and the activity of Sentleger, brought about a change. The words of the intelligent Lord Deputy, in announcing his success to the king, are worthy of notice, as they show that the points now insisted on had not escaped his observation:

Perceiving that thos sectes of people called the Cavenaghes, as Mac Morogh, and other hys complicis, wer not, as then, in pece with Your Magestie, nor yet, at that tyme, had any pledges for securite of the same, yt was thought good by me, and other of the Counsell, to make a journay apon them, whiche we dyd the Monday next after myne arryvall. And contynueing teen daies in their countrey, burnyng and destroying the same, the said Mac Morogh, with the moste parte of his nation and sect, cam and submytted theymself to Your Heighnes obedience, clerely renunsing the name of Mac Morogh, and never more, after that day, to elect, nor choise emonge them none to bere the same name, ne yet to be their governor, but only Your Magestie, and suche as ye shall appoynte to the same; and have promysed to take their landes of Your Magestie, to holde the same by knight service, and not only to serve you from hensforthe truly according to ther dueties, but also to persecute all other of their nation that will disobey the same. And athoughe the nature of the Irishemen be very fikill and inconstant, yet it is thought here, by Your Magesties Counsell, that thes men whiche thus liberally have submytted, renunsing the same name, whiche they wolde never do bifor this tyme, will contynue in their sayde goode purpose, seeing we handled theyme after their saide submission very gentilly, not taking from theym any parte of their landes nor goodes, but only of suche as wolde not condescende to the same reasonable submission; whiche parte so taken we agayne gave on of theymselves, which we sawe moost conformable to the saide honest submission, savely to kepe to Your Magesties use, alleging that yt was neyther their landes nor goodes, that


your Majesty so moche estemed, as their due obedience to the same, which at lengthe they shuld well perceyve shulde redounde moste to their owne profyte.’’


The increasing tranquillity of the country, and the reviving strength of the English Government in the subsequent reigns, involved the Cavanaghs in new troubles. Where the English government was acknowledged there the English laws were to be exercised, and the legal rights of English subjects were to be maintained. When, therefore, Sir Peter Carew14 of the county of Devon, knight, bethought himselfe’’

upon such lands as his ancestors formerly had in Ireland, he laid claim, among other possessions, to the barony of Idrone, from which, after the death of Sir Leonard Carew in 1369, his ancestor, Sir Thomas, as he alleged, had been driven by M'Murchad, and which was then, and had been for 200 years, in the hands of the Cavanaghs. The legal evidence of Sir Peter's right both to the lordship of Maston, in Meath, and to this barony of Idrone, was sufficient to satisfy Weston, then Lord Chancellor, and he entered into possession. In the strange medley of Dowling's words, he made the Cavenages compound with him for Odrone, the which he quietly enjoyed, savinge that Maurice Oge Kavenagh of Garrowcheill per fas et nephas tenuit suas terras, vulgariter vocatas fyv mart landes absque titulo vel interesse.’’

Even the temporary quietness of Carew's possession may well be doubted. He had come from England to awaken obsolete claims, by a precedent capable of wide application, and shaking the titles to their lands of all those now loyal Irish captains, who, as tenants, managers, or enemies, had re-entered on the territories granted by the parchment charters of King Henry II. or King John, but which had been re-occupied by the Irish in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.


Such claims, however valid according to the principles of English law, naturally provoked resistance, even when supported by Sir Peter's 100 kerns, and by his wise and statesmanlike conduct; and in 1569, the year after he had received what Dowling calls quiet possession, the Leinstermen broke out in all sorts of enormities, and men talked of Peter Carew's wars, and the Cavanaghs, in Dowling's expressive language, which it is needless to translate, were ‘Diaboli contra Petrum Carew.’

Such was the origin, and such was the nature, of the wars which disturbed the neighbourhood of Leighlin in the days of Chancellor Dowling. As some compensation for these troubles, it is to be supposed that he enjoyed the luxury of consulting, in Sir Peter Carew's library, the books of modern date to which he often refers. He does not, however, appear to have derived any advantage from the collection of Anglo-Irish documents, once in the possession of Sir George Carew, which now enriches the library at Lambeth.

To some documents, which have since been lost, Dowling had ready access. He mentions the Registry, the Records, and the Yellow Book of Leighlin, all of which have disappeared; and we cannot but lament that of these diocesan and capitular muniments he did not make freer use. It is chiefly, if not solely, from incidental notices in such records that we can gain clear notions of the ancient state of agriculture, of the modes of subsistence, and of the mutual relation of landlord, farmer, and labourer, upon which the happiness and the character of a nation so much more depend than upon legislative enactments or political events. The invaluable series of Church records, printed by the Bannatyne Club, has cleared up many doubtful points of great interest relative to the social condition of Scotland; and the internal state of the Anglo-Saxon people cannot be fully understood without consulting the volumes of Mr. Kemble's Codex Diplomaticus.


Of the transactions which took place in the time of Dowling in the counties contiguous to Carlow we might expect to find fuller details in the following than in any other pages; yet even in these Dowling has commonly been anticipated by the publication of Hooker, his more copious contemporary. Of the massacre of Mullaghmast, which is omitted by Hooker, Dowling gives the following account:

1577. Moris Mac Lasy Mac Conyll O'More, Lord of Merggi as he asserted, and successor of the Baron of Omergi, with forty of his followers, after his confederation with Rory O'More, and after a certain promise of protection, was slain at Mullaghmastyn, in the county of Kildare, the place appointed for it, by Master Cosby and Robert Harpoole, having been summoned there treacherously, under pretence of performing service. Harpoole excused it that Morris had geven villanous wordes to the breach of his protection.’’

Such is Dowling's account of this event, the only recorded fulfilment of the blind prophecies15 current in Queen Mary's days, that there should be a bloody field fought at Mullaghmast, between the Irish and the English inhabitants of Ireland. And so bloody, forsooth, shall it be,’’

says Stanyhurst, that a mill in a vale hard by it shall run four and twenty hours with the stream of blood that shall pour down from the hill.’’

The value, however, of these Annals does not arise so much from any new facts contained in them, as from their showing the difficulty experienced by an inquisitive and not unlearned man, at the close of the sixteenth century, in his endeavours to gain some knowledge of the history of his country. Well might Hooker16 complain that the Irish public records were slenderly and disorderly kept, and that private historical collections remained in odd and obscure places.


The more fully the student of Irish antiquities is acquainted with the earlier collections, manuscript and printed, so much the deeper will be his gratitude for the benefits conferred on him by the sagacity and industry of Sir James Ware, and by the stupendous learning and sun-bright truthfulness of Archbishop Ussher.

The following pages possess some interest, from the indications of the personal feelings of the compiler on religious and political events. Dowling, it must be recollected, was an Irish Protestant churchman, holding ecclesiastical preferment in the reigns of Elizabeth and James I.; yet there is little in his Annals to indicate that he felt any interest in the religious excitement of his times. When, at 1420, he tells how James Earl of Ormonde, in his attack on the Irish enemy, made the clergy of every district, twice every week, in solemn procession, pray for his good success, he adds: Would that the clergy of this time would so devoutly call upon God in prayer that the soldiers should believe that victory was from God.’’

Of Bishop Magwir and Bishop Deoran, ante-Reformation bishops, he speaks with great respect; and Travers, the first bishop of Leighlin nominated by royal authority subsequent to the Reformation, he calls cruel, covetous, vexing his clergy.’’

It is, indeed, to be feared that in the times immediately preceding, as in the times immediately following the Reformation, when as yet religious and political feelings did not run in the same channels, there was not much earnest religion in this country. The barbarous murder of Bishop Deoran, by his Archdeacon Maurice Cavanagh, gives an evil distinction to the diocese of Leighlin, and tends, at least with regard to that district, to confirm the lamentable description of all orders in the Irish Church, as given in the State of Ireland in 1515.


With regard to his political sentiments, it is plain from the tenor of all his observations that Thady Dowling was zealously, and — if he was the author of the peevish wish, I would the rest of the rebels had been so bestowed’’

— somewhat intemperately loyal to the English Government. In the dissensions which harassed the country there was nothing to attract to the side of revolt thoughtful and cultivated men, even when, like the Chancellor of Leighlin, they were of Irish descent. In the centuries of resistance to English law and English government, from the days of Edward Bruce to the days of Roger Moore, notwithstanding the bold pretensions of Hugh O'Neill, there never appeared amongst the opposers of the Government any system or combination which could awake the thought of national independence. Of all such disturbances the objects were local and personal, and violence and lawlessness were the means used to effect them. Evil as was the conduct of the English party (and, however it may be palliated and accounted for, no one will now justify it), their side was the side of order, and of social and mental progress. It is doubtful that a single town can be named which existed in any merely Irish country, inland or on the coast, independent of English authority and of English municipal regulations. The overthrow of the English Government, at any period from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries, would have brought about total anarchy, and would have quenched the faint and flickering light of civilization.


It is only necessary in conclusion to say, that the text of the Annals has been taken from a transcript on paper made for Archbishop Ussher, now preserved in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, Class E. Tab. 3. No. 20.

The original brass matrix of the Chapter Seal of Leighlin is preserved in the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy; from it the following wood-cut has been engraved, and is added here as a suitable illustration of this work. It is probably a seal of the fifteenth century.