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

section 12

The Eleventh Year, 1602

¶190] The plan which was arrived at by O Domhnaill after his great grief, was, to leave Ireland and to go to Spain to complain of his distress to King Philip III and to ask for more forces and soldiers. When he had determined on this plan, those whom he chose to accompany him on that voyage (in addition to a number of his own retainers) were Réamon de Burca, son of Seaán na Seamar, and Captain Aodh Moss, son of Roibeárd. When this plan was heard by all and sundry pitiful and sad were the great clapping of hands, and the violent lamentations, and the loud wailing cries which arose throughout O Domhnaill's camp the night before his departing. There was good reason for it, if they knew it at the time, for those whom he left behind never again set eyes on him, and if they were aware of that, twould be no wonder if heavy tears of blood coursed down their checks.

¶191] O Domhnaill then went on board a ship at Castlehaven and his comrades with him the sixth of January, and when the first breeze of wind came they fared over the wild stormy ocean and came to port the 14th of the same month, near Corunna, a famous fortress in the kingdom of Galicia in Spain. Breóghan's tower, called Brigantia, was there which had been built long before by Breóghan, son of Bratha, and it was from that place that the sons of Míl of Spain, son of Bile, son of Breóghan, had first come to take Éire from the Tuatha Dé Danann. When O Domhnaill landed at Corunna, he goes a-journeying and visiting the town and goes to see Breóghan's tower. It gave him much satisfaction to land there, for he thought it a good omen of success that he should have come to the place from which his ancestors had obtained sway and power over Ireland formerly, and that he should have returned on their track. After remaining a short time resting at Corunna, he went to the place where


the King was in Castile, for 'twas there he happened to be at that time (after making a circuit of his kingdom) in the city called Zamora. When O Domhnaill came into the King's presence, he went on his knees before him and asked his three requests of him. His first petition was that an army should be sent with him to Ireland with suitable equipment and proper arms. The second petition was that he would not place any of the nobles of Ireland, unless one of his own nobility, in power or authority over him, or over his successor so long as they lived, if the King's majesty gained power and sovereignty over Ireland. The third request was that he should not lessen or impair the rights of his ancestors as regards himself or whosoever should succeed him in any place in Ireland where they held power and sway since times long gone by. The King promised him all this, and bade him rise from his knees, and received entertainment and great respect from him, so that it he might be held that no one of the Irish ever before received so much and so great respect and honour from any other King as he received. That was proper, for his appearance, his fame, and his eloquence, the validity of his claims, and his lordly language pleased him much. The King bade O Domhnaill return to Corunna, and wait there until everything which he wanted to take with him on his return should be ready. He did so, and remained at rest there, as he seldom was heretofore, during the spring and summer seasons up to the beginning of the following autumn, one time in delight and joy when he considered the aid and help which the King had promised him, another time in grief and gloom at the length of time he was absent from his native land and the long delay in getting ready the army promised to him, for it was torment of heart and sickness of mind to him to reflect on the state in which the Irish were, without aid or help, waiting for him.

¶192] He was in this condition until he started to go into the King's presence again to find out what was the delay and tarrying that was on the troops and the army that had been promised him. When he came to the town called Simancas (two leagues


from Valladolid, the King's palace) God granted, and the ill-luck and misfortune, the wretchedness and the curse attending the island of Eremon and the Irish of fair Fodhla too, that O Domhnaill should catch his death-disease and his mortal illness. He was for sixteen days on his bed of sickness. At last he died at the end of that time, the tenth day of September exactly, lamenting his faults and transgressions, after fervent penance for his sins and iniquities, having made his confession without reserve to his spiritual confessors, and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, and being duly anointed by the hands of his confessors and his own ecclesiastical elders, who were in his company always to that very hour. It was in the palace of the King of Spain himself in the town of Simancas he died. His body was then taken to Valladolid, to the King's Court, in a four-wheeled ornamental chariot, with countless numbers of State officers, of the Council, and of the Royal Guard all round it, with lighted lanterns and bright torches of beautiful fair wax blazing all round on each side of it. He was buried after that in the monastery of St. Francis in the chapter house with great honour and respect and in the most solemn manner any Irishman ever before had been interred. Masses, and many hymns, chants, and melodious canticles were offered for the welfare of his soul, and his requiem was celebrated as was fitting.

¶193] Alas! It brought sorrow to multitudes the early withering of him who died there for his thirtieth year was not yet full run when he died. He was the head of support and planning, of counsel and disputation of the greater number of the Gaels of Ireland whether in peace or in war. He was a mighty bountiful lord with the attributes of a prince and the maintenance of justice, a lion in strength and force, with threatening and admonishing so that it was not allowed to gainsay his word, for whatever he ordered had to be done on the spot, a dove in meekness and gentleness to privileged men of the church and the arts, and every one who did not oppose him. A man who impressed fear and terror of him on


everyone far and near, and on whom no man at all put dread. A man who banished brigands, crushed evildoers, exalted the sons of life, and hanged the sons of death. A man who did not allow himself to be injured or afflicted, cheated or insulted without repaying and avenging it immediately; a determined, fierce, and bold invader of districts; a warlike, predatory aggressive plunderer of others' territories; a destroyer of any of the English and Irish that opposed him; a man who never failed to do all that befitted a prince so long as he lived; a sweet-sounding trumpet, with power of speech and eloquence, sense and counsel, with a look of affection in his face according to all who beheld him; a prophesied chosen one whom the prophets foretold long before his birth.

¶194] Pitiful, indeed, the state of the Gaels of Ireland after the death of the true prince, for they changed their characteristics and dispositions. Thet gave up bravery for cowardice, courage for weakness, pride for servility. Their hatred, valour, prowess, heroism, triumph, and military glory vanished after his death. They abandoned all hope of relief from any one, so that most of them fled thereafter to the mercy of foes and enemies, those who were noblest of them, under the guise of peace and friendship. And some of them were dispersed and scattered not only throughout Ireland but all over Europe in groups and bands, poor and miserable, and others as soldiers of fortune in foreign lands for pay and hire, so that many of them were killed and others died, and the graves they are buried in are unknown. But, indeed, it would be tedious to recount or relate the great woes which were sown and propagated in Ireland as a result of the death of Aodh O Domhnaill, whose tale thus far we have told.