Cromwellian Devastation of Ireland

As one of the ancient Irish families which have drunk to the dregs of the bitter cup of adversity, consequent on the Cromwellian confiscations in Ireland, we have ventured to introduce this Paper by a few observations on our own family:

At the time of the English invasion of Ireland the O'Harts were located in the Kingdom of Meath; and, as Princes of Tara, ranked next to Murcha, Meath's last King. For a short history of that invasion, its causes, and some of its unhappy consequences to Ireland, the reader is referred to the "English Invasion of Ireland," next, ante; and, for the patrimony of our family, see Note (17), p. 672.

Dispossessed of that patrimony by King Henry II., Shane O'Hart, No. 106, p. 672, who was the last Prince of Tara, settled in the territory now known as the barony of Carbury, in co. Sligo,[1] which O'Mulroy, the Prince of

Tirconnell, of that period, granted to him. The Prince of Tara's descendants acquired and held other landed property in the barony of Leyney, in the said county; down to the middle of the seventeenth century, when, as they were "Papist Proprietors" (see No. 120, p. 676), their estates were, A.D. 1652, confiscated, under the Cromwellian settlement of Ireland.

At the Restoration, some of the Irish gentry, who had good interest at court, got back their estates, which had been confiscated under the "Protectorate" of Cromwell; others obtained decrees of the Court of Claims, to be restored to their ancient inheritances; but as the Cromwellian adventurers,[2] officers, and soldiers in possession were not to be removed without being first reprised (that is, provided with other lands of equal value, which were not to be had, so large was the number of Cromwellian claimants for whom provision had to be made in Ireland), the dispossessed owners, especially the ancient Irish, were not restored.

"The master's bawn, the master's land, a surly bodagh [3] fills;

The master's son, and outlaw'd man, is riding on the hills."

Driven from their homes and lands, these dispossessed Irish owners wandered, many of them, about their ancient inheritances, living upon the bounty of their former tenants, or joined some band of Tories:[4]

"The poor Irish peasantry," writes Prendargast, "with a generosity characteristic of their race and country, never refused hospitality to the dispossessed owners, but maintained them as gentlemen; allowing them to 'cosher' upon them as the Irish called the giving their lord a certain number of days' board and lodging."

Archbishop King (see King's "State of the Protestants of Ireland under the Government of King James the Second." Dublin: 1730.) and the Cromwellian possessors of the lands of these dispossessed Irish gentlemen complained much of their pride and idleness in not becoming labourers to them (the new possessors)!

"Their sons or nephews," writes King, "brought up in poverty, and matched with peasant girls, will become the tenants of the English officers and soldiers; and, thence reduced to labourers, will be found the turf-cutters and potato-diggers of the next generation."

The dispossessed Irish proprietors, or their sons, who remained in Ireland, were the gentlemen, who, in 1707, were described in the (Irish) Act, 6 Anne, c. 2, "For the more effectual suppression of Tories;" and who were, on presentment of any Grand Jury of the counties which they frequented, to be seized and sent on board the Queen's fleet, or as slaves to Barbadoes, or to some of the English Plantations in America:

"One of the first steps towards the Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland," writes the learned Prendergast, "was to get rid of the disbanded Irish soldiery. Foreign nations were apprised by the Articles of Kilkenny, that the Irish were to be allowed to engage in the service of any state in amity with the Commonwealth. The valour of the Irish soldier was well known abroad. From the time of the Munster Plantation by Queen Elizabeth, numerous Irish exiles had taken service in the Spanish Army. There were Irish regiments serving in the Low Countries . . . Agents from the King of Spain, the King of Poland, and the Prince de Condé, were contending for the services of Irish troops . . . The thirteen years' war,[5] from 1641 to 1654, followed by the departure from Ireland to Spain of 40,000 Irish soldiers, with most of the chief nobility and gentry, had left behind a mass of widows and deserted wives with destitute families. There were plenty of other persons too, who, as their ancient properties had been confiscated, had 'no visible means of livelihood.' Just as the King of Spain sent over his agents to treat with the Government for the Irish swordsmen, the merchants of Bristol had agents treating with it for men, women, boys, and girls, to be sent to the sugar plantations in the West Indies. The Commissioners for Ireland gave to those agents orders upon the governors of garrisons, to deliver to them prisoners of war; upon the keepers of gaols, for offenders in custody; upon masters of workhouses, for the destitute in their care 'who were of an age to labour, or, if women, were marriageable and not past breeding;' and gave directions to all in authority to seize those who had no visible means of livelihood, and to deliver them to the agents of the Bristol sugar merchants; in the execution of which direction Ireland must have exhibited scenes in every part like the slave hunts in Africa. How many girls [6] of gentle birth must have been caught and hurried to the private prisons of these men-catchers none can tell . . . Ireland, in the language of Scripture, now lay void as a wilderness. Five-sixths of her people had perished. Women and children were found daily perishing in ditches, starved. The bodies of many wandering orphans, whose fathers had embarked for Spain, and whose mothers had died of famine, were preyed upon by wolves. In the years 1652 and 1653, the plague and famine had swept away whole countries, that a man might travel twenty or thirty miles and not see a living creature. Man, beast, and bird, were all dead, or had quit those desolate places."

At that gloomy period in Irish history, the Irish people, it may be said, had realized the fate foretold (Leviticus xxvi. 31, 32,) for the Jews; for, like that nation, the ancient Irish Proprietors and their children, who survived the Cromwellian devastation in Ireland, were, alas! scattered among all people, from one end of the earth unto the other.

By industry and education, however, many of the descendants of those Irish exiles, and of others who more lately were driven to seek homes in foreign lands, have, in those lands, attained to positions of social eminence; and, in England, Scotland, Canada, Australia, the great Western Republic, etc., possess considerable political influence. It is calculated that, in the United States of America, alone, the Irish race now constitutes an "Irish Nation," in population at least twice that at present in Ireland:

"Long, long be my heart with such memories fill'd.

Like the vase, in which roses have once been distill'd—

You may break, you may shatter the vase if you will,

But the scent of the roses will hang round it still."



[1] Sligo: "Carbury," in the county Sligo, where the last Prince of Tara settled after he was dispossessed of his patrimony in the kingdom of Meath, then belonged to the principality of Tirconnell.

[2] Adventurers: In sect. 12, of the Paper in the Appendix to Vol. II., headed "The New Divisions of Ireland, and the New Settlers," see the names of the Adventurers for Land in Ireland, at the time of the Cromwellian Settlement of that unhappy country.

[3] Bodagh: The correct Irish word is bodach, which means "a churlish, surly fellow."

[4] Tories: The "Tories" of that period, who were more lately known as Rapparees, were bands of men who retired to the wilds or mountains rather than transplant themselves from any of the other provinces wherein their confiscated estates were situated; and, headed by some of the dispossessed gentlemen, incessantly attacked the Cromwellian planters. In those troublous times in Ireland, the Priest and the Tory were classed with the wolf, as the three burdensome "beasts" on whose heads were set rewards; for, according to "Burton's Parliamentary Diary," of the 10th June, 1657, Major Morgan, Member for the county Wicklow, in the first United Parliament of the Three Kingdoms, at Westminster, A.D. 1657, deprecated the taxation proposed for Ireland, by showing that the country was then in ruins, and said: "We have three beasts to destroy, that lay burdens upon us. The first is the wolf, on whom we lay five pounds a head if a dog, and ten pounds if a bitch. The second beast is a priest, on whose head we lay ten pounds; if he be eminent, more. The third beast is a Tory, on whose head if he be a public Tory we lay twenty pounds; and forty shillings on a private Tory. Your army cannot catch them; the Irish bring them in; brothers and cousins cut one another's throats."

[5] War: See Note (2) under No. 116, p. 324.

[6] Girls: Morison, in his Threnodia Hiberno Catholica (Innsbruck: 1659), relates that, in his presence, Daniel Connery, a gentleman in the county Clare, was, in 1657, sentenced to banishment by Colonel Henry Ingoldsby, for harbouring a priest. Mr. Connery had a wife and twelve children. His wife fell sick and died in poverty. "Three of his daughters, beautiful girls, were transported to the West Indies, to an island called the Barbadoes; and there, if still alive," he says, "they are miserable slaves."