Massacre at Mullamast

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXVI

The Pale was kept in considerable alarm at this period, by the exploits of the famous outlaw, Rory Oge O'More. In 1577 he stole into Naas with his followers, and set the town on fire; after this exploit he retired, without taking any lives. He continued these depredations for eighteen years. In 1571 he was killed by one of MacGillapatrick's men, and the Pale was relieved from a most formidable source of annoyance. But the same year in which this brave outlaw terminated his career, is signalized by one of the most fearful acts of bloodshed and treachery on record. The heads of the Irish families of Offaly and Leix, whose extirpation had long been attempted unsuccessfully, were invited in the Queen's name, and under the Queen's protection, to attend a conference at the great rath on the hill of Mullach-Maistean (Mullamast). As soon as they had all assembled, they were surrounded by a treble line of the Queen's garrison soldiers, and butchered to a man in cold blood.

This massacre was performed with the knowledge and approval of the Deputy, Sir Henry Sidney. The soldiers who accomplished the bloody work were commanded by Captain Francis Crosby, to whom the chief command of all the kerne in the Queen's pay was committed. We have already related some incidents in his career, which show how completely destitute he was of the slightest spark of humanity.[9]


[9] Humanity.—Dr. O'Donovan, with his usual conscientious accuracy, has given a long and most interesting note on the subject of this massacre, in the Annals of the Four Masters, vol. v. p. 1695. Dowling is the oldest writer who mentions the subject, and he expressly mentions Crosby and Walpole as the principal agents in effecting it. Dr. O'Donovan gives a curious traditional account of the occurrence, in which several Catholic families are accused of having taken part.