The Four Masters compiled their annals at a Donegal monastery almost within the shadow of an O’Donnell family castle. Readers ever since have noticed a certain partisanship shown the local lords. In the following entry, the two Hughs—O’Neill and O’Donnell—rush south to Kinsale upon hearing of the Spanish landing, but the Masters are clearly much more interested in O’Donnell’s passage through the west than O’Neill’s through the east. Both men take time to inflict damage to the English (and pro-English Irish) along the way. O’Donnell even allows time for a bit of sightseeing (a side trip for some of the men to visit Clonmaurice) and escapes being trapped by the enemy near Cashel. In his diary, the Englishman Fynes Moryson writes that the escape was helped by an ice storm (“frost”), but the Masters take no note of the foul winter weather. Perhaps, as Donegal men, there was nothing noteworthy about it.

1601: A SPANISH FLEET ARRIVED in the south of Ireland. Don Juan de Aguila was the name of the chief who was general over them. The place at which they put in was the harbour of Kinsale, at the mouth of the green river of Bándon, on the confines of Courcy’s country on the one side, and Kinalea, the country of Barry Oge, on the other. On their arrival at Kinsale they took to themselves the fortifications, shelter, defence, and maintenance of the town from the inhabitants who occupied them till then. They quartered their gentlemen, captains, and auxiliaries, throughout the habitations of wood and stone, which were in the town. They conveyed from their ships into the town their stores of viands and drink, [their] ordnance, powder, lead, and all the other necessaries which they had; and then they sent their ships back again to their [own] country. They planted their great guns, and their other projectile and defensive engines, at every point on which they thought the enemy would approach them. They also appointed guards and sentinels, who should be relieved at regular hours, as had been their constant custom before their arrival at that place, for they were very sure that the Lord Justice would come to attack them with the Queen’s army, as soon as the news [of their arrival] should reach him.

There was another castle, on the east side of the harbour of Kinsale, called Rinn-Corrain, situate[d] in Kinelea, the territory of Barry Oge; in this town the Spaniards placed a garrison of some of their distinguished men, to guard it in like manner.

When the Lord Justice of Ireland [Mountjoy] heard these news, he did not delay until he arrived at Kinsale, with all the forces he was able to muster of those who were obedient to the Queen in Ireland. Thither arrived the President of the two provinces of Munster, with the forces of Munster along with him. The Earl of Clanrickard, and every head of a host and troop that was obedient to the command of the Lord Justice in Connaught, together with their forces, arrived at the same place. Thither in manner aforesaid came the Leinstermen and Meathmen, as they had been commanded by the Lord Justice.

After they had come together at one place, they pitched and arranged a camp before Kinsale, and from this they faced Rinn-Corrain; and they allowed them [the garrison there] neither quiet, rest, sleep, nor repose, for a long time; and they gave each other violent conflicts and manly onsets, until the warders, after all the hardships they encountered, were forced to come out unarmed, and surrender at the mercy of the Lord Justice, leaving their ordnance and their ammunition behind them. The Lord Justice billeted these throughout the towns of Munster, until he should see what would be the result of his contest with the other party who were at Kinsale. It was on this occasion that Carbry Oge, the son of Carbry Mac Egan, who was ensign to the son of the Earl of Ormond, was slain.

The Lord Justice, and his forces, and the Spaniards at Kinsale, continued to shoot and fire at each other during the first month of winter, until the Queen and Council advised the Earl of Thomond to go with many ships and vessels, with men, good arms, and stores, to relieve and succour the Sovereign’s people in Ireland. On the Earl’s arrival with the fleet in the harbour of Kinsale, they landed on that side of the harbour at which the Lord Justice’s people were. Four thousand men was the number under the Earl of Thomond’s command, of this army. Some say that, were it not for the great spirit and courage taken by the Lord Justice at the arrival of the Earl of Thomond and this force, he would have left the camp void and empty, and afterwards would have distributed the English [forces] among the great towns of Munster. The Earl of Thomond pitched a camp apart to himself, at that angle of the Lord Justice’s camp which was nearest to Kinsale.

At this time the Spaniards made an assault by night upon a quarter of the Lord Justice’s camp, and slew many men; and they thrust stones and wedges into a great gun of the Queen’s ordnance, in order that they might prevent their enemies from firing on them out of it; and they would have slain more, were it not for the Earl of Clanrickard, for it was he and those around him that drove the Spaniards back to Kinsale. There was not one hour’s cessation, by day or night, between these two camps, without blood being shed between them, from the first day on which the Lord Justice sat before Kinsale until they [ultimately] separated, as shall be related in the sequel.

When O’Neill, O’Donnell, and the Irish of Leath-Chuinn in general, heard the news of [the arrival of] this Spanish fleet, the resolution they came to, with one mind and one intention (although their chieftains and gentlemen did not assemble together to hold their consultation or conclude their counsel), was, that each lord of a territory among them should leave a guard and protection over his territory and fair land, and proceed, without dallying or delaying, to aid and assist the Spaniards, who had come at their call and instance; for it was distress of heart and disturbance of mind to them that they should be in such strait and jeopardy as they were placed in by their enemies, without relieving them, if they could.

O’Donnell was the first who prepared to go on this expedition. Having left guards over his creaghts [cattle herds] and all his people in the county of Sligo, he set out from Ballymote in the very beginning of winter. The following were some of the chiefs who were along with him: O’Rourke (Brian Oge, the son of Brian); the sons of John Burke; Mac Dermot of Moylurg; the sept of O’Conor Roe; O’Kelly; and the chiefs who had been banished from Munster, and were with him during the preceding part of this year, namely, Mac Maurice of Kerry (Thomas, the son of Patrickin); the Knight of Glin (Edmond, the son of Thomas); Teige Caech, the son of Turlough Mac Mahon; and Dermot Mael, the son of Donough Mac Carthy. These forces marched through the county of Roscommon, through the east of the county of Galway, and through Sil-Anmchadha, and to the Shannon. They were ferried over the Shannon at Ath-Croch; and they proceeded from thence into Delvin-Mac-Coghlan, into Fircall, as far as the upper part of Slieve-Bloom, and into Ikerrin.

O’Donnell remained near twenty days on the hill of Druim-Saileach, in Ikerrin, awaiting O’Neill, who was marching slowly after him; and, while stationed at that place, O’Donnell’s people continued plundering, burning, and ravaging the country around them, so that there was no want of anything necessary for an army in his camp, for any period, short or long.

As soon as the Lord Justice of Ireland heard that O’Donnell was marching towards him, he sent the President of the two provinces of Munster, namely, Sir George Carew, with four thousand soldiers, to meet him, in order to prevent him from making the journey on which his mind was bent, by blocking up the common road against him. When O’Donnell discovered that the President had arrived with his great host in the vicinity of Cashel, he proceeded with his forces from Ikerrin westwards, through the upper part of Ormond, by the monastery of Owny, through Clanwilliam, on the borders of the Shannon, to the gates of Limerick, and south-westwards, without halting or delaying by day or night, until he crossed the Maigue, into Hy-Connell-Gaura. As soon as the President perceived that O’Donnell had passed him by into the fastnesses of the country, and that his intention was frustrated, he returned back with his force to the Lord Justice. On this occasion Mac Maurice was permitted by O’Donnell to go with a part of the army to visit and see Clanmaurice. As they were traversing the country, they got an advantage of some of the castles of the territory, and took them. These were their names: Lixnaw, the Short-castle of Ardfert, and Ballykealy. In these they placed warders of their own. It was on the same occasion that O’Conor Kerry (John, the son of Conor) took his own castle, namely, Carraic-an-phuill, which had been upwards of a year before that time in the possession of the English, and that he himself, with the people of his castle, joined in alliance with O’Donnell.

O’Donnell remained nearly a week in these districts of Hy-Connell-Gaura, plundering, devastating, ravaging, and destroying the territories of every person in his neighbourhood who had any connexion or alliance with the English. After this O’Donnell proceeded over the upper part of Sliabh-Luachra, through Clann-Auliffe, through Muskerry, and to the Bandon in the Carberys. All the Irish of Munster came to him there, except Mac Carthy Reagh (Donnell, the son of Cormac-na-h-Aaoine) and Cormac, the son of Dermot, son of Teige, Lord of Muskerry. All these Irishmen promised to be in alliance and in unison with him from thenceforward.

As for O’Neill, i.e. Hugh, the son of Ferdorcha, son of Con Bacagh, he left Tyrone a week after Allhallowtide, to go to assist the aforesaid Spaniards. After he had crossed the Boyne he proceeded to plunder and burn the territories of Bregia and Meath. He afterwards marched through the west of Meath, and through the east of Munster, westwards across the Suir; but his adventures are not related until he arrived at the [River] Bandon, where O’Donnell was. John, son of Thomas Roe, son of the Earl [of Desmond], was along with O’Neill on this expedition.

When the Irish chiefs and their forces met together at one place, they encamped a short distance to the north of the camp of the Lord Justice at Bel-Guala, in Kinelea. Many a host and troop, and lord of a territory, and chief of a cantred, were along with O’Neill and O’Donnell at this place. Great were the spirit, courage, prowess, and valour, of the people who were there. There was not a spot or quarter in the five provinces of Ireland where these, or some party of them, had not impressed a horror and hatred, awe and dread of themselves among the English and Irish who were in opposition to them, till that time. Frequent and numerous had been their battles, their exploits, their depredations, their conflicts, their deeds, their achievements over enemies in other territories, up to this very hour. They met no mighty man whom they did not subdue, and no force over which they did not prevail, so long as the Lord and fortune favoured, that is, so long as they did the will of their Lord God, and kept his commandments and his will. Efficient for giving the onset, and gaining the battle over their enemies, were the tribes who were in this camp (although some of them did not assist one another), had God permitted them to fight stoutly with one mind and one accord, in defence of their religion and their patrimony, in the strait difficulty in which they had the enemy on this occasion.

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