Philip O’Sullivan Beare (c. 1590-c. 1650) was born in the western part of County Cork during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, a member of a family that fought alongside O’Donnell and O’Neill, and when he writes of his countrymen he usually refers to them not as “Irish” but as “Catholics.” This is important, for it is a sign of a new sense of identity in Ireland. O’Neill and O’Donnell’s early victories are seen here as religious rather than nationalist triumphs.

O’Sullivan was a theologian, and even this work, which is a lively propaganda piece clearly intended for a popular audience, was written in Latin. It contains two surprising appearances: one is St. Patrick (died c. 461) helping the O’Neill cause by flying around the spire of his cathedral in Armagh, the other is the devil as a black man in a scene right out of Faust.

The “sow” mentioned during O’Sullivan’s account of the English attack on Sligo Castle was a roofed-over siege device with roots going back to the Romans. In a contemporary account of a 1641 attack on Ballyally Castle, a sow is described as being thirty-five feet long, nine feet wide, riding on four wheels, and covered with cow hides and sheep skins “so no musket bullet or steel arrow could pierce it, while men worked under it to destroy the fortress walls.”


These risings increased daily. There is in Ulster a river which the Irish call the Abhainn-mhor, and the English the Blackwater, either because it is more turbid than other Irish rivers, which are usually clear and pellucid, or because the English often met with defeat and disaster on its banks. On this river there was a fort, famous in many occasions in this war, as will appear later on, called by the English, the Blackwater fort, and by the Irish, Portmore, that is to say the great fort. It was situated three miles beyond Armagh, the seat of the Primate of Ireland, and seven miles south of Dungannon, Earl Tyrone’s chief town. From this fort the Queen’s English garrison and heretical minister were expelled by certain Irishmen. Moreover, some of the MacMahons besieged Monaghan castle, the capital of Oriel, unjustly taken from that family by the Viceroy’s decree and fortified by an English garrison. The besiegers cutting off all supplies, it seemed as if the garrison must surrender from want. A quarrel having broken out in Armagh, as we have seen, between the Catholic priest in charge of the principal church and some English soldiers, a certain Irish nobleman, who at the time chanced to be there, cleared the town of all the Queen’s garrison who were well punished, some severely wounded and some killed. For all these things the English laid the blame on [Hugh] O’Neill.


By these risings of the Catholics, commotions, and defeats, Elizabeth, Queen of England, was sorely worried, and strained every nerve to quiet Ireland and break down the Catholic forces. In the year 1594 she appointed William Russell viceroy instead of William Fitzwilliam, who had held that office but had resigned. She recalled from France the English veterans who were employed there against His Catholic Majesty, Philip II, and ordered a levy in England and Ireland. John Norris, an English knight, with 1,800 English veterans from France, speedily landed in Ireland. Such royalist troops as he found in Ireland—veterans and raw recruits alike—he summoned to his standard, and hastened into Ulster as if to relieve Monaghan castle which, as above mentioned, was surrounded by the MacMahons.

At this time died Turlough, who had been The O’Neill, and who was regarded as the impediment to the Earl of Tyrone’s making war on the English. On his death Tyrone [Hugh O’Neill] was after the Irish fashion declared The O’Neill by the clansmen and by this title we shall henceforth call him. However, he wrote to Norris asking him not to take extreme measures and stating that he would prefer to preserve the Queen’s friendship than to be her enemy; that he had never conspired against the Queen’s crown; and that he had been unjustly accused by envious persons. He sent a similar letter to the Queen. But Bagnal, the Governor of Ulster, and O’Neill’s bitterest enemy intercepted and suppressed both letters. O’Neill when he saw that an answer to his letters was too long delayed and that the enemy was approaching, prepared to meet him and prevent him relieving Monaghan, which MacMahon’s people with the slender force at their command, could not do. Maguire, a most redoubtable hero and Chief of Fermanagh, who was captain of the horse; O’Kane and other chiefs at the head of about 2,000 horse and foot, accompanied him. Norris is said to have increased his army to 4,000 horse and foot splendidly armed. Some were English veterans trained in France, some Anglo-Irish, others old Irish, especially O’Hanlon, Chief of Orior in Ulster, who by hereditary right was royal standard-bearer beyond the river Boyne. Bagnal, Governor of Ulster, was in attendance, and Norris himself, who had displayed the greatest courage and military skill in fighting the Spaniards during the French and Belgian wars, in which he had deservedly earned glory and fame, for in truth he was the greatest of the English generals of his time, although in this war fickle fortune or rather Divine Justice showed him little favour.

Figure 13. Europe, c. 1200. In this map from Gerald of Wales’s Typography of Ireland, mainland Europe is at the top; England and Scotland are in the middle; and Iceland and Ireland are at the bottom. Irish cities on the map are Waterford, Wexford, and Limerick. The charted rivers are the Slane, the Suir, the Shannon (which is drawn to include the Erne), and the Liffey, called the Auenliffus. Courtesy the National Library of Ireland.

Figure 14. King Dermot MacMurrough of Leinster—losing a war with high king Rory O’Connor—asked Henry II to invade Ireland. Henry declined, but in 1169 the Normans living in southern Wales accepted. This illustration is from a thirteenth-century manuscript of The Typography of Ireland by Gerald of Wales, who, in his history of the English conquest of Ireland, depicts Dermot frolicking on the battlefield with the heads of his Irish enemies.

Figure 15. King John was declared Lord of Ireland by his father, Henry II, in 1177 when he was ten years old. In 1185, still a prince, he was dispatched to administer the English-held parts of the island in person, although he soon returned to London. Under his older brother, Richard I, he continued his lordship from afar and reigned as king from 1199 to 1216.

Figure 16. This illustration depicts an Irish officer or nobleman of the sixteenth century. Unlike Irish or English common soldiers, he is fully armored in a suit of plate-mail. Artist unknown.

Figure 17. Siege of Enniskillen, February 1594, as drawn by John Thomas. English forces besiege a castle on the southern tip of Lough Erne held by Hugh Maguire, an ally of Hugh O’Neill and Hugh O’Donnell. The siege equipment is much the same as that used seven years later at Kinsale. Courtesy the British Library.

Figure 18. Ulster, 1600-1603. A three-part illustrated map by Richard Bartlett showing (top) an attack on a dwelling in a lake; (middle) the O’Neill castle at Dungannon; and (bottom) the O’Neill coronation chair at Tara. Courtesy the National Library of Ireland.

Figure 19. Art MacMurrough (with spear), an Irishman, confronts the Earl of Gloucester in an ambush during Richard IPs journey to Ireland in 1399. The English appear in full armor while MacMurrough rides without a saddle. From Jean Cretan’s account of the expedition, illustrated by an unnamed Parisian painter between 1401 and 1405.

Figure 20. A knight—or perhaps a gallowglass—displaying the insignia of the De Burgo family from the west of Ireland. From the De Burgo Genealogy that dates from about 1583.

Figure 21. Although his helmet is not the pointed one usually associated with the gallowglass (mercenary soldiers from Scotland), the long-handled battleaxe and the chain-mail jerkin (as well as the fact that he is not barefooted) suggest that he is a Scot and not an Irish foot soldier, or kern. The figure is a detail from Queen Elizabeth’s charter to the city of Dublin.

Figure 22. “The execution was don upon our men alongst this high waie by the rebells,” reads a notation on this English map of a 1599 ambush by O’Neill’s allies near a ford on a stream in Wicklow. Another note reads, “Heer broke our battaille and heer fell downe all our collors.”

Figure 23. Yellow Ford. This short stretch of road through the rolling hills near the Blackwater River, just north of Armagh, is the site of one of Ireland’s greatest psychological victories against the England. In the 1598, the small forces of O’Neil and O’Donnell overwhelmed the England troops, killed their general, and sent shock waves through Elezabeth’s court in London. Artist unknown.


The great General Norris, with his army, entered Oriel in MacMahon’s country and came to a place not far from Monaghan which is called Clontibret (Cluoin Tiburuid), where he displayed his forces to the enemy. O’Neill, not less skilful as a general, but very inferior in strength, came against him. Here for the first time the two far-in-a-way most illustrious Generals of the two most warlike islands faced each other. The ground here was an open and level plain, but somewhat heavy with moisture. The waters flowing from the surrounding bog formed a ford over which the English might most conveniently cross. O’Neill blocked this ford; Norris tried to force it. O’Neill endeavoured to drive him back. A cavalry fight and musketry skirmish commenced simultaneously round the ford. The Royalist horse were better armed; the Irish troops were more nimble. The Irish sharpshooters were far better marksmen. This advantage was often common to both parties since there were generally more Irish than English in the Royalist army. The Queen’s musketeers were twice worsted by the Catholics, and recalled by Norris, who was always the last to leave the fight, and had even a horse shot under him by a leaden bullet. All of both parties justly admitted the superiority of Maguire’s cavalry. Norris being annoyed at his men having been twice repulsed and unable to hold their ground, James Sedgreve, an Irish Meath-man of great size and courage, thus addressed him and Bagnal—“Send a troop of cavalry with me and I promise you I will drag O’Neill from his saddle.” O’Neill was stationed on the other side of the ford supported by forty horse and a few musketeers surveying the battle thence and giving his orders. For the third time the cavalry and musketeers renewed the fight and Sedgreve accompanied by a troop of picked Irish and English horse charged the ford. In the ford itself a few horse fell under the fire of O’Neill’s bodyguard, but Sedgreve rushed upon O’Neill and each splintered his lance on the corslet of the other. Sedgreve immediately seized O’Neill by the neck and threw him from his horse. O’Neill likewise dragged Sedgreve from his horse and both gripped each other in a desperate struggle. O’Neill was thrown under but such was his presence of mind, that prostrate as he was, he slew Sedgreve with a stab of his dagger under the corslet between the thighs and through the bladder. Eighteen illustrious cavaliers of the Royalists fell round Sedgreve and their colours were captured; the rest sought safety in flight. With them all the Queen’s forces were likewise compelled to retreat, having lost seven hundred more or less, whilst the Catholics had only a few wounded, and no number of killed worth mentioning. On the following day as Norris retreated, being short of powder, he was followed and attacked by O’Neill at Bealach Finnuise, where O’Hanlon, Chief Standard Bearer of the Royalist Army, was wounded in the leg and others were shot down by leaden bullets. Hinch, an Englishman, who held the Castle of Monaghan with three companies of foot and a troop of horse, was obliged to surrender it for want of provisions. He, himself, was let go scot free as agreed.


While this campaign between O’Neill and Norris was in progress in that part of Ulster which adjoins Meath and faces England there was no lack of activity between [Hugh] O’Donnell and Richard Bingham in that other part of Ulster which adjoins Connaught and in Connaught itself.

In Connaught George Bingham Oge held Sligo Castle [for the English] with 200 foot, of whom some were Irish. Leaving this in charge of Ulick Burke, son of Raymond, an Irish chief, with some of the soldiers, Bingham himself with the rest sailed round to Ulster in two ships and raided Rathmullan, the chief town of MacSweeny Fanad who was then absent; dismantled the Carmelite Convent and forced the monks to fly to the castle. Laden with booty, he returned to Sligo. Ulick thought that the Irish soldiers were defrauded in the division of the booty and took council with them as to how they should be revenged on Bingham and the English. He arranged to wrest the castle from them on a certain day, and when it came round the Irish attacked the English. Bingham was poniarded [stabbed] by Ulick and the others were either killed or seeking safety in flight, paid the penalty of their sacrilege in raiding the home of the holy Carmelites. The castle was surrendered to O’Donnell, who appointed Ulick commander of it. About this time Tomaltagh and Cathal MacDonough took Ballymote castle from George Bingham the Elder.

In the following autumn, about the time of Norris’s defeat by O’Neill, Richard Bingham made an incursion to recover Sligo and take vengeance on Ulick for the slaughter of his kinsmen. He besieged Ulick locked up in Sligo castle. Ulick sallying out every day with the defenders fought before the walls. O’Donnell hastened with 1,600 troops to raise the siege. He pitched his tent at Duraran within view of the enemy. On the first two days the cavalry of both sides riding up to the river which flowed between them, skirmished with javelins. On the third day Roderic, brother of O’Donnell, with Felim MacDevit and another gentleman, having crossed the river, reconnoitred the camp. Against him came Martin, an Englishman, who was accounted the best horseman in Bingham’s army, accompanied by his troop. Roderic giving reign to his horse fled to his own people. Martin followed and was the first of his troop to rush the ford when Felim turning round pierced him with a spear and knocked him dead from his horse, into the stream, while Roderic and Felim and their comrade got off safely. On the following day, the fourth of the siege, Bingham raising the blockade, returned home, O’Donnell following and harassing him with missiles.


In the following year the English proclaimed O’Neill an enemy and traitor to his country, and now, thoroughly incensed against him, Russell the Viceroy and Norris, commander of the Queen’s army took the field.

There is in Ulster a town called Newry, which the English always kept strongly garrisoned. Thence the royalists with all their forces sallied forth, fully determined to capture the city of Armagh, the seat of the [Catholic] Primate of Ireland. However, they had gone scarcely eight miles when at Kilcloney, O’Neill met them with half as numerous forces, and accompanied by Maguire, O’Kane, the sons of O’Hanlon and other noblemen. Here a battle commenced after midday, and the royalists having suffered severely, were forced to retreat to Newry. On this day the Catholics had 200 and the Royalists 600 killed.

Bingham on his side was by no means asleep. He summoned the Irish earls of Thomond and Clanrickarde, and made a levy in Connaught. He collected the garrisons and Anglo-Irish gentry of Meath, and with 24 standards attacked and blockaded Sligo. Ulick Burke and his garrison advancing outside the ramparts fought stoutly, but at last was shut up in the castle by the overwhelming numbers of the besiegers and kept off the enemy by hurling missiles from the towers, battlements, windows, and other fortifications. The Royalists advanced a sow under the walls of the castle and began to bore and undermine them. Ulick pounded the roof of the sow and the soldiers in it with a beam of great size fastened by ropes to the battlements and alternately raised and dropped. O’Donnell advanced to the rescue of the besieged, and Bingham fled. Six hundred Royalists perished in that siege. However the castle was so troublesome to defend that O’Donnell demolished it.


Since the Royalists were unsuccessful in the field, they made truces with O’Neill and O’Donnell and opened negotiations for peace. Henry Wallop, Treasurer of Ireland, and Robert Gardner, Chief Justice, came to them to ascertain with what terms they would be satisfied. O’Neill complained that the reward of his labours and merits had been intercepted by [Marshal of the Army] Bagnal, and that he had been falsely accused of crimes, and also complained bitterly of other wrongs. Amongst other terms he asked a full pardon for all offences and that he and his people should be allowed to profess the Roman Catholic faith, and that the Queen’s judges and ministers should never enter his country. O’Donnell and others made the like demands, first complaining much of their wrongs.

Meantime 1000 English foot who were hired in Belgium by the Batavians against the Spaniards, were recalled and sent into Ireland. Russell the Viceroy and Norris quickly marched into Ulster these and the veteran English and Irish troops from France and Ireland, as well as the English recruits in Munster, Leinster and Meath, and so called Anglo-Irish:—a regular army three times the size of O’Neill’s. Without any resistance they entered Armagh, the most celebrated and holiest metropolitan city of Ireland, expelled the monks, priests, and holy nuns, and other townspeople, the town being without natural protection and entirely defenceless. They entered and profaned the churches, turning them into stables and to profane uses. They fiercely destroyed images of the saints and in the height of their delight went on not doubting but that with so strong an army they would on this single expedition crush O’Neill and all the Catholics and cow their resolution. However, they had not gone more than a mile and a half from Armagh when O’Neill at the head of his slender forces met them, later than, perhaps, he would have wished, as he would have desired to keep them out of Armagh. At Beal antha Killotir [the battle at Yellow Ford] O’Neill blocked the road and vigorously attacking the English veterans from France and Belgium in the midst of their triumph, he threw them into confusion and drove them before him, and pursued them as with broken ranks they retreated to Armagh, killing and wounding many. The Catholics lost only forty, amongst them two noblemen, Farmodirrhy O’Hanlon and Patrick MacGuilly. The Royalists leaving 500 soldiers under Francis Stafford, knight, at Armagh, returned and halted not far from Dundalk, whence the Viceroy leaving the entire management of the war against O’Neill to Norris, returned to Dublin to look after affairs in Leinster and Connaught.


Negotiations for peace were again opened. The Queen offered fair and honourable terms to the Catholic clergy and laity. Hostages were given by O’Neill and O’Donnell and other Irishmen that they would agree to fair and honourable terms and not prosecute the rebellion any further. But before peace was concluded or arms laid down Cobos and other ambassadors of Philip II, King of Spain, reached O’Neill and O’Donnell, bidding the Irish in the King’s name to be of good heart, that an army would be sent to their assistance by His Catholic Majesty without delay. The result of this embassy was to break off negotiations for peace, and the war was renewed on both sides. O’Hanlon, Magennis, and all Ulster except the Royalist garrison towns and the Anglo-Irish of Louth, joined the Confederation. The war spread in Leinster, and Connaught was very unsettled.

O’Neill was so sorely vexed at the holy city of Armagh being contaminated by heretics, that he determined to cut it off from provisions, not daring to assault it while so strongly garrisoned. St. Patrick, however, the Patron and Guardian of Ireland, and who was the first to consecrate this city to God, would not put off the punishment of the crime which impiously defiled the sacred town with heretics. It is believed that he was the Bishop who, clad in pontificals, frequently and plainly appeared to the English at night and threatened them; took away the iron tips of their spears; and extracted the bullets and powder from their guns. Rowley, an English captain, was so terrified by these portents, that he became almost insane; and Baker, an English adjutant, being carried by the Bishop to the pinnacle of the church, swore he would never again profane churches and dreading Divine vengeance, he abandoned the army, was converted to the Catholic faith, and began to do penance. Meditating on this incident, I cannot restrain my tears or refrain from deploring the state of things in these times and the perverse behaviour and madness of not merely the new, but even of many of the ancient Irish who, although they were Catholics, assisted the English heretics who had placed a garrison in the holy city of Armagh and defiled it, laying impious hands on the images of St. Patrick, the Patron of Ireland, and of other saints and expelling God himself as present in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, trampling them under foot or hacking with their swords when pursued. Nor do I bewail so much the folly of laymen as the crass stupidity of our parochial guides and masters and other clergy who during this war yielded obedience and afforded assistance to the heretics. Baker, an English heretic soldier, swears to Saint Patrick that he will never again violate churches in Ireland, and, lest he be compelled to break his oath, he gives up the army, his pay, rank and glory, and (O shame!) the Anglo-Irish Catholic priest will not influence Irish Catholics against assisting the English heretics who have desecrated the Church of Saint Patrick and attacked its defenders.


To return to our subject. A great swarm of lice afflicted the garrison of Armagh and many perished of this plague. Famine soon followed. The Royalists, exercised by this circumstance, sent three companies of foot and one troop of horse with supplies. O’Neill with eight companies and some horse intercepted these at Mount Bued, routed them in a night attack, and captured the provisions. At dawn the next day he dressed some of his own cavalry and foot in the English uniform and ordered them to go towards the city carrying the captured standards and the provisions. He, himself, followed with the rest and commenced a feigned attack. The cavalry on both sides dexterously encounter and break their spears on one another’s cuirasses: guns are briskly fired at the report and flash of which soldiers fall as if wounded. Stafford the Governor of Armagh garrison, seeing this, sent half of the garrison to assist those conveying the supplies. There is a monastery within a gunshot of Armagh, having passed which the garrison were attacked in the rear by Con, son of O’Neill, who had been placed in ambush in the monastery with some foot, and in front O’Neill with all his men who had been engaged in the feigned fight bore down and destroyed them under Stafford’s eyes. Not long after this Stafford was compelled by want of food to surrender Armagh to O’Neill, and as agreed, was sent to his own people.

Twenty-four miles from Armagh and eight from Newry is Carlingford castle, overhanging the river and fortified by nature and art. It was now held by half a company of English with whom were Thomas Kellody and eight other Irishmen. Thomas and the eight Irishmen, as arranged with O’Neill, suddenly attacked the English and killed six and drove the rest out of the castle. O’Neill had promised Thomas that he would be at the castle at cock-crow that night and Thomas waited for him in the castle until near dawn, but O’Neill delaying too long, Thomas left the castle and fled. At break of day O’Neill halted with his men before the castle, and fearing lest it was held by the English did not venture too close, until Thomas should give the signal. The English who had been expelled from the castle, seeing O’Neill halting and no signal given from the castle, guessed that it had been abandoned by Thomas, and themselves entered the empty fort and defended it. O’Neill disappointed in his expectations returned home.


Again Norris with all his forces seeks Armagh deserted by O’Neill, and places there a garrison of four companies under Henry Davers, a knight. Thence he makes for Fortmore and occupies that place also; the fort having been dismantled and the buildings burned by O’Neill. He was prevented advancing further by O’Neill’s appearance with his army, encamped on the road where he could not be attacked with advantage. Norris commenced to erect a fort which he called after himself Mountnorris. O’Neill endeavoured to obstruct him. Fighting went on for some days, some falling on both sides but the Royalists suffering most. At last Norris retired, leaving a garrison under Williams in the new fort. After his retirement O’Neill soon reduced this fort and Armagh into his possession by cutting off the garrisons from supplies. He sent the garrisons safely away as agreed. Norris again set out in force to recover Armagh. At Mullaghbrack, in Orior, O’Neill ventured a battle and routed and scattered the enemy, who reorganised by Norris, renewed the fight. Again they were defeated by the skill and valour of O’Neill’s gunmen and of Maguire, his master of the horse. For a second time reanimated by Norris they renew the combat, and for the third time are compelled to retire before the fierce attack of the Catholics, and to retreat, Norris himself receiving a bullet wound, according to many. The gentlemen of both parties justly conceded the honours of this day to Maguire.


I do not find that after this day Norris again faced O’Neill. Setting out for Connaught he halted at Athlone and assembled all his forces. Thither came the Earls of Thomond and Clanrickarde; Na-long; and other Irish chiefs of the English party; the Anglo-Irish; the levies of Munster, Leinster and Meath; Irish and English veterans; and the reinforcements recently sent from England. He is said to have had about 10,000 horse and foot. O’Donnell mustered his forces of 5,000 against him. At this time there accompanied O’Donnell out of Ulster, the three MacSweenys and O’Doherty, bound to him by ancient ties of fealty, and the ever valiant Maguire; out of Connaught came O’Rourke, MacWilliam, O’Kelly, MacDermott, O’Connor Roe, O’Dowd. With him came also Murrough MacSheehy, a Munster gentleman of birth, with 300 men, who had been for about two years lurking in the woods in Munster and there raiding the heretics as opportunity offered and going through many trials in harassing them. There were also some ecclesiastics, especially Raymond O’Gallagher, Bishop of Derry, and Vice-Primate of Ireland, who absolved from the ban of excommunication those who went over from the Royalist army to the Catholics. Norris advancing from Athlone with his great and well-ordered army came to the village of Ballinrobe in MacWilliam’s country and halted there to the south of the river as O’Donnell was encamped on the other side thereof. On the first day and following night a brisk fire was kept up on both sides. On the following day Norris beat a parley, to which O’Donnell agreed. Out of the conference arose negotiations for peace. Every day under truces terms of peace were discussed, and the entire nights were spent in fighting, making attacks on one another’s camps, capturing outposts and scouts and fighting hand-to-hand and at long range. It happened that on one night when Na-long was on sentry, three hundred Royalists were killed. Some fled from Norris to O’Donnell, especially Thady O’Rourke, The O’Rourke’s brother, who had lived with his kinsman the Earl of Ormond from his childhood. In treating for peace Norris offered O’Donnell, O’Rourke, MacWilliam and others, great advantages if they would return to the Queen’s allegiance. The treaty was delayed by the arrival at this time in Donegal of a Spanish ship urging O’Neill, O’Donnell and the other Irish chiefs in the name of his Catholic Majesty not to abandon the course they had begun, and assuring them of Spanish aid. And so when the negotiations had wasted a whole month, Norris being about to return, shifted his camp. O’Donnell followed him and seriously harassing his rear ranks and outside wings with missiles. Norris, however, decided not to help his distressed followers until the Catholics who were attacking them crossed the nearest hedge, thinking, indeed, that those who should cross the hedge might easily be cut off by his men. O’Donnell also seeing this, and being mounted on a fleet horse, rode up to the hedge and recalled his men who were eager to cross it. Norris baulked in this plan, railed with terrible imprecations against the fate which condemned him to lose in Ireland, the smallest speck of the wide world, that fame which his great valour and military skill had earned for him in France and Belgium, and complained sorrowfully that the enemy’s generals were not to be surpassed by him in military skill nor their troops to be excelled by his in stoutness and steadfastness. And fairly, indeed, might so great a general launch complaints against the fickleness of fortune. For in the opinion of all whom I have consulted in this matter, Norris was of all the English who flourished at this time, first alike in military skill and in valour, and in France and Belgium earned a great name by the success of his campaigns. Therefore I do not doubt but that it was Divinely ordained the Catholics should have most luck, but the Royalists, although stoutly and courageously fighting, should nevertheless be unfortunate. Nor is this strange, for I have no doubt but that the Irish Catholics in the Royalist army must have fought with a heavy conscience against the Catholic religion, and the English were not as strong and as suited for sustaining the burthens of war and battle as the Irish, and O’Neill studiously chose ground suitable for himself to meet Norris upon and where he fought at an advantage which seemed necessary to him, as he was inferior in point of numbers.


Now I must notice events in Leinster which, although provided with meagre resources, yet joined the Catholic confederation with great resolution and valour. After the removal by treachery of that resolute hero and relentless enemy of heretics, Fiagh O’Byrne, his sons Felim and Raymond took up their father’s arms. While Raymond headed risings against the heretics, started in Leinster, Felim went into Ulster, to O’Neill, to ask help, and having got from O’Neill nearly 300 foot under command of Brian O’More, surnamed Reagh, a Leinster chief, most opportunely came to the assistance of his struggling brother and after some successful forays recovered his entire patrimony, at this time nearly altogether lost. Thence Brian harassed with sudden raids those English who inhabited Wexford, and the Irish of the English party. As he was driving off a prey, four English companies with 400 Irish auxiliaries overtook him in an open plain. Brian having drawn up his column of 400 Irish foot (he had no more), hazarded a battle and by the Divine assistance conquered. The English were slain to a man, and not a few of their Irish auxiliaries were missing. The rest sought safety in flight. The risings in Leinster swelled when Owny O’More came of age. He was the son of Roderic, of whom we have made mention above, and having been concealed and reared by Fiagh O’Byrne was, with his brother Edmund, sent by Fiagh’s sons into Leix before he was of an age for war. Here, with the aid of some kinsmen and of some of his father’s tenants in Leix, he endeavoured to recover the patrimony of his ancestors from the heretics. Wareham St. Leger, Governor of Leix, endeavouring to suppress his young efforts, was defeated with the loss of about 50 men.

I have detailed these out of many incidents of the time of Russell and Norris, who were deprived of their government for their unsuccessful management of the war, and a successor was appointed. The Presidency of Munster was left to Norris, and he filled this office for three years until he met a most extraordinary death. It is said that as he was amusing himself by night at Mallow, a person of black visage and garments suddenly entered the room, with whom Norris, leaving his game, retired into his bedroom, whence all witnesses were excluded except one boy, who concealed himself near the door and heard the conversation which is said to have been somewhat as follows: “It is time,” said the black one, “for us to put the finishing touch to our plans.” “I don’t wish to do it,” said Norris, “until we have wound up the Irish war.” “On no account,” said the other, “will I wait longer than the appointed day which is now come.” Suddenly a great uproar was heard, attracted by which, those at play and the servants forced the door and burst into the room, when the Black one, who undoubtedly was the Devil, was nowhere to be found, but Norris was on his knees with his neck and shoulders so twisted that the top of his chest and his face were over his back. He was, however, still living and ordered the trumpeters and drummers to be called to sound his death-knell, and whilst they were clamouring, he died about midnight. His body was embalmed with aromatic and fragrant perfumes, and sent into England. A propos of this incident, I am amazed at the folly of the heretics in bestowing this great honor on the corpse of an impious man, while they scatter the relics of saintly martyrs. It may, however, be seen how much the Good God helped O’Neill in not only often defeating Norris, the most skilled of the English generals and superior in every warlike equipment, but even in conquering the Devil himself, who it is thought agreed to help Norris.

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