Archbishop Miler Magrath

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Magrath, Miler, Archbishop of Cashel and Bishop of Emly, was born in the County of Fermanagh about 1522. Originally a Franciscan Friar, he became a Protestant, and was consecrated Bishop of Clogher, and in 1570-71 advanced to the archbishopric of Cashel and bishopric of Emly. He also held the bishoprics of Waterford and Lismore in commendam from 1582 to 1589, and from 1592 to 1607, when he resigned them, and was placed in charge of Killala and Achonry. He contrived to recommend himself favourably to Queen Elizabeth, but appears to have been an unscrupulous waster of the temporalities of the sees committed to his charge. In the Regal Visitation of 1615, the Commissioners speak of him as the "Archbishop, Miler Magrath, who would give the Commissioners no satisfactory information respecting the revenues. He held four bishoprics and a great number of benefices in various dioceses."

Among the Patent Rolls of James I. (1624) will be found an important letter from the King to the Lord-Deputy concerning Magrath's abuse of the archbishopric. He had four sons and four daughters. Some of the former, although Catholics, contrived to possess themselves of several church livings. Amongst other nefarious alienations from the Church was that of the manor and see lands of Lismore, with the castle, to Sir Walter Raleigh, for the annual rent of £13 6s. 8d. In 1602 this property was purchased by the Earl of Cork, from whom the greater part of it is inherited by the present Duke of Devonshire.

In the Life and Letters of MacCarthy More will be found well authenticated proofs of the Archbishop's complicity with Carew and Cecil in their high-handed government of Ireland, and in their attempts to secure the assassination of some of the Irish chieftains. After occupying the archbishopric for fifty-two years, he died at Cashel in December 1622, aged 100 years, and was buried in the cathedral under a monument previously erected by himself, which may still be seen. Upon it are some curious Latin verses, of which the following translation is given in Harris's Ware. One line has doubtless given rise to the tradition that he became a Catholic at the last, and directed his body to be secretly buried elsewhere:

"Patrick, the glory of our isle and gown,
First sat a bishop in the see of Down.
I wish that I succeeding him in place
As bishop, had an equal share of grace.
I served thee, England, fifty years in jars,
And pleased thy Princes in the midst of wars; [is,
Here, where I'm placed, I'm not; and thus the case
I'm not in both, yet am in both the places."

Sources

118. Ecclesiae Hiberniae Fasti: Rev. Henry Cotton: Indices by John R. Garstin, M.A. 5 vols. Dublin, 1851-'60.

222. MacCarthy Mor, Memoirs: Daniel MacCarthy. London, 1867.

339. Ware, Sir James, Works: Walter Harris. 2 vols. Dublin, 1764.

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