Hugh Roe O'Donnell escapes

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXVII

Hugh O'Donnell made another attempt to escape from confinement at Christmas, A.D. 1592. He succeeded on this occasion, though his life was nearly lost in the attempt. Turlough Roe O'Hagan, his father's faithful friend, was the principal agent in effecting his release. Henry and Art O'Neill, sons of Shane the Proud, were companions in his flight. They both fell exhausted on their homeward journey. Art died soon after, from the effects of fatigue and exposure, and Hugh recovered but slowly. He continued ill during the remainder of the winter, and was obliged to have his toes amputated. As soon as he was sufficiently recovered, a general meeting of his sept was convened, when he was elected to the chieftaincy, and inaugurated in the usual manner. He then commenced incursions on the territories occupied by the English; but as the Earl of Tyrone was anxious to prevent a premature rebellion, he induced the Lord Deputy to meet him at Dundalk, where he obtained a full pardon for his escape from Dublin Castle, and a temporary pacification was arranged.

In 1593 he collected another army; Turlough Luineach resigned his chieftaincy to the Earl of Tyrone; and Ulster became wholly the possession of its old chieftains—the O'Neill and O'Donnell. An open rebellion broke out soon after, in consequence of the exactions of two English officers on the territories of Oge O'Rourke and Maguire. Several trifling engagements took place. The Earl of Tyrone was placed in a difficult position. He was obliged to join the English side, while his heart and inclination were with his own people; but he contrived to send a messenger to Hugh Roe, who had joined Maguire's party, requesting him not to fight against him.

He was placed in a still greater difficulty at the siege of Enniskillen, which took place the following year; but he compromised matters by sending his brother, Cormac O'Neill, with a contingent, to fight on the national side. Cormac met the English soldiers, who had been sent to throw provisions into the town, almost five miles from their destination, and routed them with great slaughter. The site of the engagement was called the "Ford of the Biscuits," from the quantity of that provision which he obtained there. An Irish garrison was left at Enniskillen, and the victorious party, after retaliating the cruelties which had been inflicted on the natives, marched into northern Connaught to attack Sir Richard Bingham.