Bishop Dermod O'Hurley

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXVII

The other execution is, if possible, more barbarous. If the duty of an historian did not oblige me to give such details, I would but too gladly spare you the pain of reading and myself the pain of writing them. The name of Dermod O'Hurley has ever stood prominent in the roll of Irish martyrs. He was a man of more than ordinary learning, and of refined and cultivated tastes; but he renounced even the pure pleasures of intellectual enjoyments for the poor of Christ, and received for his reward the martyr's crown. After he had taught philosophy in Louvain and rhetoric at Rheims, he went to Rome, where his merit soon attracted the attention of Gregory XIII., who appointed him to the see of Cashel. O'Sullivan describes his personal appearance as noble and imposing, and says that "none more mild had ever held the crozier of St. Cormac." His position was not an enviable one to flesh and blood; but to one who had renounced all worldly ties, and who only desired to suffer like his Lord, it was full of promise. His mission was soon discovered; and though he complied with the apostolic precept of flying, when he was persecuted, from one city to another, he was at last captured, and then the long-desired moment had arrived when he could openly announce his mission and his faith.

When he had informed his persecutors that he was a priest and an archbishop, they at once consigned him to "a dark and loathsome prison, and kept him there bound in chains till the Holy Thursday of the following year (1584)." He was then summoned before the Protestant Archbishop Loftus and Wallop. They tempted him with promises of pardon, honour, and preferment; they reasoned with him, and urged all the usual arguments of heretics against his faith; but when all had failed, they declared their determination to use "other means to change his purpose." They did use them—they failed. But these were the means: the Archbishop was again heavily ironed. He was remanded to prison. His persecutors hastened after him; and on the evening of Thursday, May 5, 1584, they commenced their cruel work. They tied him firmly to a tree, as his Lord had once been tied. His hands were bound, his body chained, and then his feet and legs were thrust into long boots, filled with oil, turpentine, and pitch, and stretched upon an iron grate, under which a slow fire was kindled.

The spectacle which was exhibited when the instruments of torture were withdrawn has been described, but I cannot write the description. What sufferings he must have endured during that long night, no words could tell. Again he was tempted with the offer of earthly honours, and threatened with the vengeance of prolonged tortures. Through all his agony he uttered no word of complaint, and his countenance preserved its usual serene and tranquil expression. His sister was sent to him, as a last resource, to tempt him to apostatize, but he only bade her ask God's forgiveness for the crime she had committed. Meanwhile, the cruelties which had been executed on him became known; public feeling, as far as it was Catholic, was excited; and it was determined to get rid of the sufferer quietly. At early dawn of Friday, May 6, 1584, he was carried out to the place now called Stephen's-green, where what remained of human life was quickly extinguished, first by putting him again to torture, and then by hanging.