Death of Art MacMurrough

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXIII

John Duke, the then Mayor of Dublin, obtained the privilege of having the sword borne before the chief magistrate of that city, as a reward for his services in routing the O'Byrnes of Wicklow. About the same time John Dowdall, Sheriff of Louth, was murdered in Dublin, by Sir Bartholomew Vernon and three other English gentlemen, who were outlawed for this and other crimes, but soon after received the royal pardon. In 1404 the English were defeated in Leix. In 1405 Art MacMurrough committed depredations at Wexford and elsewhere, and in 1406 the settlers suffered a severe reverse in Meath.

Sir Stephen Scroope had been appointed Deputy for the royal Viceroy, and he led an army against MacMurrough, who was defeated after a gallant resistance. Teigue O'Carroll was killed in another engagement soon after. This prince was celebrated for learning, and is styled in the Annals [3] "general patron of the literati of Ireland." A few years before his death he made a pilgrimage to Rome, and was honorably received on his return by Richard II., at Westminster. In 1412 the O'Neills desolated Ulster with their feuds, and about the same time the English merchants of Dublin and Drogheda armed to defend themselves against the Scotch merchants, who had committed several acts of piracy, Henry V. succeeded his father in 1413, and appointed Sir John Stanley Lord Deputy. He signalized himself by his exactions and cruelties, and, according to the Irish account, was "rhymed to death" by the poet Niall O'Higgin, of Usnagh, whom he had plundered in a foray. Sir John Talbot was the next Governor. He inaugurated his career by such martial exploits against the enemy, as to win golden opinions from the inhabitants of "the Pale." Probably the news of his success induced his royal master to recall him to England, that he might have his assistance in his French wars.

His departure was a general signal for " the enemy " to enact reprisals. O'Connor despoiled the Pale, and the invincible Art MacMurrough performed his last military exploit at Wexford (A.D. 1416), where he took 340 prisoners in one day. He died the following year, and Ireland lost one of the bravest and best of her sons. The Annals describe him as "a man who had defended his own province, against the English and Irish, from his sixteenth to his sixtieth year; a man full of hospitality, knowledge, and chivalry." It is said that he was poisoned by a woman at New Ross, but no motive is mentioned for the crime. His son, Donough, who has an equal reputation for valour, was made prisoner two years after by the Lord Deputy, and imprisoned in the Tower of London. O'Connor of Offaly, another chieftain who had also distinguished himself against the English, died about this time. He had entered the Franciscan Monastery of Killeigh a month before his death.


[3] Annals.—Four Masters, vol. iv. p. 791.