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

section 4

The Third Year, 1594

¶33] Taking advantage of that period the Lord Deputy collected a great army unknown to those opposed to him. They marched into the neighbouring territories without any delay until they came suddenly to Inniskillen, on Loch Erne, in the middle of the territory of Fermanagh. This was the dwelling and principal stronghold of Aodh Maguidhir and of every one inaugurated as chieftain of the territory. It was a strong fort and a wall impregnable against a foreign force, but they were not on their guard then. The Lord Deputy sat down to besiege the fortress, and the forces proceeded to break in the wall as well as they could; this was of no avail to them till some of warders gave up the place at last for a bribe. As soon as the castle was in the possession of the Lord Deputy Sir William Fitzwilliam, he left thirty soldiers to keep it against any one by whom it would be attacked, with proper supplies of food and arms, and he turned back himself again. They ceased after that on each side plundering or slaughtering each other for four months, from February to June. Aodh Ruadh O Domhnaill felt ashamed at being so long without going to the aid of Maguidhir, for it was he who urged on the war, and by his advice it was enkindled in the beginning. What caused him not to go at once to his aid, as he intended, was that he was expecting and awaiting the Scots, who had promised to come to him for pay. As he thought they were long in coming, he mustered the Cenél Conaill then, and he marched forward with his forces to Inniskillen. He sat down there besieging the fortress from the beginning of June to the middle of August, till they destroyed and wasted and plundered whatever was under the oppression of the English in the territory of Oriel and Bréifne O Reilly, and they gave the cows and herds as provisions to their auxiliaries and mercenaries. The


English were dwelling at that time in the strong points which they had seized some time before, in the monastery of Monaghan, Clones in Oriel, and the monastery of Cavan in Bréifne, for it was very often in the churches of the saints and religious they took up their position, plundering and wasting the country and taking pledges and hostages.

¶34] As for O Domhnaill he was with his forces besieging and attacking Inniskillen up to the beginning of harvest as we have said, till all but a small part of the provisions which the party that was in the castle had was exhausted. When the English of Dublin learned they were in this state, they sent messengers to the English who were in the province of Connacht, ordering them to go and bring supplies of food and drink to the castle. The English assembled a great host in one place as they were ordered, so that there were fifteen hundred armed soldiers, with a multitude of the men of Meath, of Bréifne O Reilly, and of Bingham's men from the province of Connacht. After assembling they proceeded to bluster and threaten the Irish and to assert that they would go to the relief of the place in spite of them; but indeed their fear did not allow them to go immediately. The Irish were on the watch for them whenever they should come.

¶35] Now the Scots who had promised to enter O Domhnaill's service, came with a large fleet to the Loch of Feabhal, son of Lodan, between Cenél Conaill and Cenél Eóghain, and they occupied the famous church which is called Derry, the place which Criomhthann, son of Fedhlimidh, son of Fergus, who was called Columba the Mild, blessed. They were told that O Domhnaill was on a hosting in the neighbouring territory, as we have said. They sent messengers and letters too to invite him to them. When the messengers came to the place where O Domhnaill was they gave their letters to him. He read them, and this was their substance: Domhnall Gorm Mac Domhnaill and MacLeod of Harris had come at the invitation of O Domhnaill with the fleet we have mentioned until they reached Derry aforesaid, and if he did not come


immediately to retain them as he had promised, they would turn back to their country without dallying or delay. When O Domhnaill read the letters, a great silence came on him, so that for a long time he did not speak, meditating on and forecasting what he should do. At one time he was ashamed not to fulfil his promises to the Scots after inviting them to him from a distance. Again, he was greatly afraid that the English of whom we have spoken would come to the relief of the fortress if he left the encampment. Wherefore in the end he resolved to leave his army at the encampment and siege where they were, and to go himself with a small body of men to meet the Scots to retain them, as every one advised him. He went after that with a troop of horse to the place where they were. He bade them welcome. They were attended and entertained afterwards for three days and three nights with intoxicating ales and every sort of food that was best in the country.

¶36] Domhnall Gorm took leave of O Domhnaill and left with him his youngest brother and five hundred armed soldiers and active warriors. MacLeod remained with the same number and O Domhnaill retained both of them. They were recognised among the Irish soldiers by the distinction of their arms and clothing, their habits and language, for their exterior dress was mottled cloaks of many colours with a fringe to their shins and calves, their belts were over their loins outside their cloaks. Many of them had swords with hafts of horn, large and warlike, over their shoulders. It was necessary for the soldier to grip the very haft of his sword with both hands when he would strike a blow with it. Others of them had bows of carved wood strong for use, with well seasoned strings of hemp, and arrows sharp-pointed, whizzing in flight.

¶37] As for the English, when they were told that O Domhnaill had gone away from the camp and left his army behind at the siege in which they were engaged, and that great numbers of them had gone to their homes for want of provisions, they marched in haste on hearing the news till they were on the


borders of Fermanagh, west of Loch Erne. When Maguidhir heard they had crossed the boundary of his territory he took his troops with him to meet the English, viz., his own faithful people with O Néill's brother Cormac, son of Ferdorcha, son of Conn Bacach, with a number of his people and of the Cenél Eóghain, son of Niall, and some of O Domhnaill's troops, for fear did not allow these to transgress the word or the warning of their prince, for he ordered them to remain in the encampment until he returned to them again, and their provisions were not exhausted as were those of such as had gone away from the encampment. When Maguidhir and the people of whom we have spoken came near the foreign army they halted opposite them at a rough difficult ford, where they were sure the enemy would come to them marching by the road they did, and their stay in that place was not long when the army of the English came up. The entertainment which they received from the party there was unfriendly. A battle, sharp and fierce, took place between them until in the end the English were defeated, and they left a multitude of heads of high and low born and a large prey of steeds and stallions which they had loaded with supplies of food and drink for the fortress to which they were going, so that from the many cakes and biscuits left at the ford then, the ford and the battle got the well-known name of the battle of The Ford of the Biscuits. The men of Meath and the O Reillys escaping from that battle went as fugitives, scattered and disordered, to Bréifne O Reilly. The road by which George Og Bingham went with the people who followed him out of that fight was through Largan of Clan Cobthaigh Ruadh Magauran, through Bréifne O Ruairc and thence to Sligo. This took place in the month of August. When the warders of the castle of Inniskillen heard of the defeat of the army which intended to come to their aid they gave up all hope of relief and surrendered the town, to Maguidhir, and he gave them a protection during their journey through the district till they came to a place where they were safe.


¶38] As to O Domhnaill, after engaging the Scots, he went to the territory of Fermanagh to continue the same siege in which he was engaged before at Inniskillen. After the journey he met some of his soldiers who had been inflicting the defeat on the English with their plunder in their possession. They gave him the account of how it happened. He was pleased with them, but yet it was anguish to him that he was not himself in that battle, so that as many of the English would not escape as there did. O Domhnaill turned back with the Scots, and he remained in his territory until Maguidhir's messengers came to him again to tell him that the Lord Deputy Sir William Russell, was threatening and asserting that he would go to Inniskillen to take it a second time. When O Domhnaill heard this news he assembled his forces, both high and low-born, and he went to Fermanagh. He stayed afterwards in Tír Kennedy, to the east of Loch Erne. The army made huts and bivouacs there, and remained so from the end of August to the 5th of October. When the Lord Deputy heard that O Domhnaill was lying in wait for him, and Maguidhir with his auxiliaries also, and as he knew that O Néill would come to their aid, he was so afraid of them that he did not leave Dublin then. When O Domhnaill was certain that the Lord Deputy would not come to Inniskillen then, he returned to his own country and sent away his Scots after giving them their pay, and they made a promise to come to him again in the very beginning of the next summer 1595.