Insurrection in Connaught

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XX

In 1248 the young men of Connaught inaugurated the periodical rebellions, which a statesman of modern times has compared to the dancing manias of the middle ages. Unfortunately for his comparison, there was a cause for the one, and there was no cause for the other. They acted unwisely, because there was not the remotest possibility of success; and to rebel against an oppression which cannot be remedied, only forges closer chains for the oppressed. But it can scarcely be denied that their motive was a patriotic one. Felim's,son, Hugh, was the leader of the youthful band. In 1249 Maurice FitzGerald arrived to crush the movement, or, in modern parlance, "to stamp it out"—not always a successful process; for sparks are generally left after the most careful stamping, which another method might effectually have quenched. Felim at once fled the country. The English made his nephew, Turlough, ruler in his place; but the following year Felim made a bold swoop down from the Curlieus, expelled the intruder, and drove off a cattle prey. After this proof of his determination and valour, the English made peace with him, and permitted him to retain his own dominions without further molestation. Florence MacCarthy was killed this year, and Brian O'Neill, Lord of Tyrone, submitted to the Lord Justice—thereby freeing the invaders from two troublesome combatants. The next year, however, the English, who were not particular about treaties, invaded the north, and were repulsed with such loss as to induce them to treat the enemy with more respect for the time.

Under the year 1249 the Annals mention a defeat which the Irish suffered at Athenry, which they attribute to their refusal to desist from warfare on Lady Day, the English having asked a truce in honour of the Blessed Virgin. They also record the death of Donough O'Gillapatrick, and say that this was a retaliation due to the English; for he had killed, burned, and destroyed many of them. He is characterized, evidently with a little honest pride, as the third greatest plunderer of the English. The names of the other two plunderers are also carefully chronicled; they were Connor O'Melaghlin and Connor MacCoghlan. The "greatest plunderer" was in the habit of going about to reconnoitre the English towns in the disguise of pauper or poet, as best suited him for the time; and he had a quatrain commemorating his exploits:—

"He is a carpenter, he is a turner,
My nursling is a bookman;
He is selling wine and hides,
Where he sees a gathering."

The quatrain, if of no other value, gives us an idea of the commodities bartered, and the tradesmen who offered their goods at Irish fairs in English towns during the thirteenth century.