Letter of Conn O’Neill during his Imprisonment in Dublin Castle, 1552

Eleanor Hull
Volume I, Appendix VI

[Dated from Dublin, April 10, 1552.]

My duty remembered to your Honours. It is not to you unknown, noble magistrates, that like as the ground is well tilled, so doth it bring forth fruit accordingly. And so as I, a man from the beginning of rude education, in anywise could not temper myself after such sort but that some spark of the old leaven must remain … And as, before the time of my submission, for lack of knowledge, I used a certain kind of discipline with those under my jurisdiction, as when they disobeyed me in things reasonable, I took away their kine and cattle; so after, upon occasion, I omitted not the like. And this was because, after my submission, no Deputy repaired into the confines of my said territory either to prescribe any order to those of my jurisdiction to do their duty towards me, or to limit to me how I should use them.

“Nevertheless, now of late I am so scourged by means of my Lord Chancellor here [Cusack] that as a captive or prisoner I am kept in Dublin, not once able to go and see my country, to my great impoverishment, wonderful discredit and utter undoing of my tenants …

“After my submission, no man can prove that I misbehaved myself against my prince in any point, but to the uttermost of my power served at the Deputy’s commandment from time to time; yet have I the Baron of Dungannon so maintained against me; I am detained, as is afore declared, to my undoing; my country in the meantime spoiled and made desolate, my tenants and followers killed, robbed and spoiled; and this in respect of rewards given by the same baron.”

He then makes the curious suggestion that “it might please his Majesty to appoint a Chancellor, born within the realm of England to supply the room here; for, albeit I am Irish, I take mine own countrymen to be neither of like estimation or indifferency to rule here, as I see in Englishmen”—a rare tribute to the comparative justice of English officials in remote parts of Ireland. He concludes by desiring his freedom, that he may return to his country and be serviceable to the King in his old age “and that the lady my wife may have licence to go see his Majesty and confer with your Honours of weighty matters.” He complains of the official pilfering of a nest of hawks he had sent to the King (Edward VI), “which contained three goshawks and a tarssell, whereof one of the best came into the Chancellor’s hand, whereby it may be known who was the stealer of them. … And besides, four years past, having three hawks to send to his Excellency, I was persuaded by the now Chancellor, in respect of the King’s lack of years, not to send them; by which shift one of the best of them was given to him and the rest to others.”[1]

He says there was a suspicion of four hundred kine having been given as a bribe to the Chancellor and others to agree to the Calough (Calvagh) O’Donnell “evulsing the castle of Neffynne out of his father’s hand,” which is a piteous case.


[1] Cal. of Carew MSS. (1575–88), Introduction, pp. xcix.-ci, n.