Wolves in Ireland

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXXI

As the majority of the nation had now been disposed of, either by banishment, transportation, or hanging, the Government had time to turn their attention to other affairs. The desolation of the country was such, that the smoke of a fire, or the sign of a habitation, was considered a rare phenomenon. In consequence of this depopulation, wild beasts had multiplied on the lands, and three "beasts" were especially noted for destruction. In the Parliament held at Westminster in 1657, Major Morgan, member for the county Wicklow, enumerated these beasts thus: "We have three beasts to destroy that lay burdens upon us. The first is the wolf, on whom we lay £5 a head if a dog, and £10 if a bitch. The second beast is a priest, on whose head we lay £10; if he be eminent, more.

The third beast is a Tory, on whose head, if he be a public Tory, we lay £20; and forty shillings on a private Tory."[5]

Wolves had increased so rapidly, that the officers who left Ireland for Spain, in 1652, were forbidden to take their dogs with them, and were thus deprived of the pleasure and the pride (for Irish dogs were famous) of this consolation in their exile. Public hunts were ordered, and every effort made to keep down beasts of prey. But the whole blame was thrown on the second beast. It was declared solemnly that if there had been no priests there would have been no wolves.[6] The syllogism ran somewhat in this fashion:—

The Popish priests are the cause of every misery in Ireland;
The wolves are a misery:
Therefore the priests are to blame for the existence of the wolves.


[5] Tory.—Cromwellian Settlement, p. 150.

[6] No wolves.—Declaration printed at Cork, 1650.