Sir Arthur Grey

Grey, Sir Arthur, Lord Wilton, landed in Dublin, 12th August 1580, as Lord-Deputy, to succeed Sir William Pelham, who was then at Limerick. On 6th September the latter came to Dublin, surrendered the sword to Lord Grey, and left for England. We are now told by the Four Masters that "James Eustace, the son of Roland, son of Thomas, broke down his castles, after having embraced the Catholic faith, and renounced his sovereign; so that war and disturbance arose on the arrival of Arthur Lord Grey in Ireland as Lord-Justice. The Kavanaghs, Kinsellaghs, Byrnes, Tooles, Gavel-Rannall, and the surviving part of the inhabitants of Offaly and Leix, flocked to the assistance of James Eustace; so that from the Slaney to the Shannon, and from the Boyne to the Meeting of Three Waters, became one scene of strife and dissension. These plunderers pitched a camp on the confines of Slieveroe and Glenmalure."

Lord Grey hastily collected an army and marched against this hosting. Those experienced in Irish warfare cautioned him against rashly attempting the Wicklow passes thus garrisoned; but haughtily rejecting their advice, he entered the defile of Glenmalure on 25th August 1580. The Deputy himself, with the Earl of Kildare, Wingfield, and George Carew, occupied an eminence in the entrance of the valley with their reserve, while the remainder of the army advanced up the valley. Cox says: "The rebels being well acquainted with these woods, laid their ambushes so cunningly that the English could neither fight in that devilish place, nor retire out of it; courage could but little avail them, whilst being mired in the bogs, they were forced to stand still like butts to be shot at. Discipline or conduct were of no use in that place, where it could not be practised; in short, the English were defeated, and the whole company slain, except some few who were rescued by the horsemen, and amongst the rest, Sir Peter Carew, Colonel Moor, and the valiant Captains Audely and Cosby were killed in this unfortunate conflict."

Lord Grey beat a hasty retreat to Dublin, and the news of the Spanish landing at Smerwick almost immediately called him south at the head of a small force of about 1,000 men. He invested the fort on 31st October, and obliged the defenders to capitulate on 10th November. The officers were reserved for ransom, and next day the garrison, about 600 men, were slaughtered in cold blood, and a few women and a priest amongst them were hung. The bodies, 600 in all, were stripped and laid out on the sands — "as gallant and goodly personages," says Grey, "as ever were beheld." "To him," says Mr. Froude, "it was but the natural and obvious method of disposing of an enemy who had deserved no quarter. His own force amounted to barely 800 men, and he probably could not, if he had wished, have conveyed so large a body of prisoners in safety across Ireland to Dublin."

Sir Walter Raleigh was one of the officers commanding the party who carried the Deputy's orders into execution. Further particulars of the war in Munster during his tenure of office, will be found under notice of the 15th Earl of Desmond. In the summer of 1582 the war was virtually at an end — James FitzMaurice and Sir John and Sir James of Desmond were dead, and the Earl was a hunted fugitive. Mr. Froude says he was recalled at his own request, while Cox gives the following account of the matter:

"But this good Deputy by the contrivance of the rebels was represented at the court of England as a bloody man, that regarded not the lives of the subjects any more than the lives of dogs, but had tyrannized with that barbarity, that there was little left for the Queen to reign over but carcasses and ashes. And this false story being believed in England, a general pardon was sent over to such of the rebels as would accept thereof, and the Lord-Deputy in the midst of his victories was recalled, so that in August [1582] he left Ireland to the care of Adam Loftus, Archbishop of Dublin, Lord-Chancellor, [and] Sir Henry Wallop, Treasurer-at-Wars, Lords-Justices."

He was subsequently one of the commissioners that sat in judgment on Mary Queen of Scots at Fotheringay, and one of the council of war for the defence of England against the Armada. He died in 1593.


52. Burke, Sir Bernard: Dormant, Abeyant, Forfeited, and Extinct Peerages. London, 1866.

134. Four Masters, Annals of Ireland by the: Translated and Edited by John O'Donovan. 7 vols. Dublin, 1856.

140. Froude, James A.: History of England, from the Fall of Wolsey to the death of Elizabeth. 12 vols. London, 1862-'70.

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

170a. Ireland, History of: Martin Haverty. Dublin, 1860.