Puxley and the Famous Morty Oge

A Welsh adventurer named Puxley acquired at the time we are dealing with the seat of the O’Sullivans, Dunboy, and a tract of the adjoining district. His estate was a small one. On his demise a relative of the same name, who was a revenue officer for some time in Galway, succeeded to the property. Smuggling at the time was carried on extensively between France and this country. The export of Irish wool to any country but England was prohibited by the Government, with the result that the English manufacturers paid any price they liked for it. France afforded a much better market for the article, and hence the smuggling. The ships engaged in the trade brought brandy and wines into this country and returned laden with wool and other articles. The authorities winked at the trade because it provided them with good and cheap wines. Puxley regarded smuggling as a great crime, and he resolved to put an end to it. He made himself very active in suppressing the business, and he and the local authorities disagreed and contention arose between them. They considered him over officious, too meddlesome, and outstepping his duties. This Puxley introduced into the district a colony of Welsh dissenters who were engaged at fishing and aided him in his undertakings. They were privileged to have and carry arms, while the natives were prohibited. They assumed a superiority over the mere Irish, whom they looked down upon and treated with the greatest contempt. The parties often came into collision, with the result of course that the armed and disciplined body generally prevailed.

The famous Morty Oge was engaged in the smuggling trade. He had a checkered career. In 1742 he served in the army of Maria Theresa, who, as a token of her regard, presented him with a handsome sword. In May, 1745, he was at the battle of Fontenoy. In April, 1746, he was with the Stuart Prince Charles Edward at the battle of Culloden, which was disastrous to the Stuart cause. He was a skilful and daring sailor and no one knew the coast better than he did. Smuggling had a fascination for him, for he was fond of adventure, and it gave him the opportunity of striking a blow for Ireland and against England, which he hated. He loved the spot where he was born, and he delighted to visit it from time to time, as his wife and relatives resided here. It grieved him to see his ancestral home in the hands of a stranger, and he himself an outlaw. He came in touch with Puxley at Culloden, and on another occasion, and, no doubt, he meditated there would be another encounter and made his arrangements accordingly. Puxley had built a Conventicle for his dissenters and he himself conducted the services. On a Sunday morning in the year 1754 as he was on his way to this meeting house he and Morty met. There are different versions of the story, but all are agreed that Puxley was shot dead by Morty Oge.

This deplorable incident caused great sensation throughout Cork. The authorities took prompt action and despatched a military force to Berehaven. When they arrived Morty was in France. If he remained there he would be out of danger, but he could not resist paying a visit to his native home at Eyeries. It is supposed he was betrayed by his servant named Scully, who sent word to Cork of his whereabouts. The authorities at once despatched two vessels with a military force. They arrived safely and disembarked near Dunboy in the night time. It was a dark, wet, and stormy night, and they had a march of five miles before them. Among the military there was one who was friendly to Morty, and as he approached the house he discharged his gun to give the inmates warning of the danger ahead. He was ordered to be shot for this act of treason. Morty’s men were in an outhouse and he himself was in bed. The alarm was given by the barking of his watch-dog. All, at once, grasped their weapons. Morty ran to the door in his shirt with a blunderbuss which he discharged. He found that the besieging party were very strong, and he conceived a stratagem. He sent those in the house one by one away, thinking the soldiers would go in pursuit and he might escape in the melee, but they only fired at the retreating figures. The soldiers then set fire to the house, and had much difficulty in doing so on account of the rain. At last Morty rushed from the house and as he was going over a ditch he fell shot through the heart. A few of his followers were killed and two taken prisoners, Sullivan and Connell.

The soldiers lashed the body to the stern of their vessel and towed it to Cork, where it was beheaded and the head spiked over the South Gaol. Sullivan and Connell were treated in like manner.

The following beautiful lamentation was written by his faithful friend Connell in Cork Gaol on the night before his execution:—

“Morty, my dear and loved master, you carried the sway for strength and generosity. It is my endless grief and sorrow—sorrow that admits of no comfort—that your fair head should be gazed at as a show upon a spike, and that your noble frame is without life. I have travelled with you, my dear and much loved master, in foreign lands, you moved with kings in the royal prince’s army; but it is through the means of Puxley I am left in grief and confinement in Cork, locked in heavy irons without hopes of relief. The great God is good and merciful; I ask His pardon and support, for I am to be hanged at the gallows to-morrow, without doubt. The rope will squeeze my neck, and thousands will lament my fate. May the Lord have mercy on my master;

“Kerryonians pray for us.

“Sweet and melodious is your voice. My blessing I give you, but you will never see me again among you alive. Our heads will be put upon a spike for a show; and under the cold snow of night, and the burning sun of summer. Oh, that I was ever born; oh, that I ever returned to Berehaven; mine was the best of masters that Ireland could produce. May our souls be floating to-morrow in the rays of endless glory!

“The lady his wife. Heavy is her grief, and who may wonder at that, were her eyes made of green stone, when he, her dear husband, was shot by that ball.”

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Early Irish History and Antiquities, and the History of West Cork

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