Bishop Heber MacMahon

MacMahon, Heber, Bishop of Clogher, and General of the Ulster Irish, was a Catholic prelate who took a prominent part in the War of 1641-'52 in Charles I.'s interest. Clarendon speaks of him as "much superior in parts to any man of that party," and says that during Stratford's government "he gave frequent advertizements of some agitations by obscure and unknown persons of that nation at Rome, and in France and Spain... From the beginning of the rebellion his power was very great with those who had been (and he was with least dissimulation) violently opposite to any reconciliation;.. and so he continued firm to that party which followed Owen O'Neal, or rather governed Owen O'Neal, who commanded that party."

He was created Bishop of Clogher in June 1643. 0n the death of Owen Roe O'Neill, in November he was appointed, at Belturbet, Commander of the Ulster Irish, and received his commission from the Earl of Ormond. He immediately put himself at the head of 5,000 foot and 600 horse, and marched to Charlemont, where he issued a manifesto inviting the Scots serving under Coote and Venables to make common cause with the Irish; but only a small number of them joined his standard. Hoping to crush Coote and Venables in succession, he marched northwards and crossed the Foyle near Lifford, but was too late to prevent the junction of their troops. Against the advice of his officers, he attacked the united forces at Scarriffhollis, two miles from Letterkenny, on 21st [339a] June 1650.

In the early part of the engagement his troops carried all before them, but they were afterwards defeated, and almost annihilated. Major-General O'Cahan, many principal officers, and 1,500 soldiers were killed on the spot; and Carte states that Colonels Henry Roe and Felim O'Neill, Hugh Maguire, Hugh MacMahon, and many more, were slain after quarter given. The Bishop quitted the field with a small party of horse. His fate is thus related by Clarendon: "Next day, in his flight, he had the misfortune, near Enniskilling, to meet with the governor of that town, in the head of a party too strong for him, against which, however, the Bishop defended himself with notable courage; and after he had received many wounds, he was forced to become a prisoner, upon promise, first, that he should have fair quarter; contrary to which, Sir Charles Coote, as soon as he knew he was a prisoner, caused him to be hanged, with all the circumstances of contumely, reproach, and cruelty which he could devise." "Nor is it amiss to observe," says Cox, in his History of Ireland, "the variety and vicissitude of the Irish affairs; for this very Bishop, and those officers whose heads were now placed on the walls of Derry, were within less than a year before confederate with Sir Charles Coote, and raised the siege of that city, and were jovially merry at his table, in the quality of friends."


80. Clarendon, Earl of: History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars. 8 vols. Oxford,1826.

128b. Episcopal Succession in England, Scotland, and Ireland, from A.D. 1400 to 1875: W. Maziere Brady. 3 vols. Rome, 1877.

170. Ireland, History of: Richard Cox. London, 1689.

254. Notes and Queries. London, 1850-'78.
O'Callaghan, John C., see No. 186.

271. Ormond, Duke of, Life 1610-'88: Thomas A. Carte, M.A. 6 vols. Oxford, 1851.

339a. Ware, Sir James, Works. Dublin, 1705.