O'Kelly and Kildare

[From the Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 9, August 25, 1832]

Having in our previous numbers given something respecting the Kildare family, we here present a story which is extracted from Mr. Hardiman's "Irish Minstrelsy," and which is probably not well known to the great body of our readers.

"In the year 1579, Fergus O'Kelly, of, Leix, married the daughter of O'Byrne of Glenmalure, in the county of Wicklow. The young lady remained at her father's until a suitable stone-wall house should be built by her husband for her reception, there being but few stone buildings at that time in the Queen's County. For this purpose O'Kelly set a number of his tenantry to work. The building was commenced on a Monday morning in spring, it was completed on the Saturday following, and the bride was soon after brought home with great rejoicings. This house was then called the week house, and its ruins are now known by the name of the old stone.

It happened on the following Michaelmas eve, O'Kelly's lackey, Mac Leod, was from home. On his return he found that none of the goose had been reserved for him. Of this he complained to his master, who desired him to settle the matter with the cook, or go to the yard and kill a goose for himself, but not to trouble him with such trifles, Mac Leod, disappointed and dissatisfied with this answer, departed, resolving to seek revenge. He immediately repaired to the Earl of Kildare's castle of Kilkea, where he remained until Christmas-eve, and then he told the earl that his master, O'Kelly, had sent to invite his lordship to spend the Christmas with him. The invitation was accepted, and the earl set out with a numerous retinue for O'Kelly's residence. When they came to the top of Tullyhill, near the house, Mac Leod gave three loud calls or signals, as was customary with lackeys in those times. His master hearing them said, that wherever Mac Leod had been since Michaelmas, that was his voice, if he was alive. He soon after arrived and announced the earl's coming, who was received with dishonour and attention. His lordship about Twelfth, day began to prepare for his departure, and expressed the greatest satisfaction at his kind reception, and the friendship of O'Kelly, whose hospitality, and particularly the profusion of his table, he highly praised. O'Kelly observed that it should be more plentiful had he been aware of his lordship's intention to visit him. The earl surprised, asked if he had not sent to invite him. O'Kelly replied not, but that notwithstanding his lordship was welcome; and added that, as he had been pleased to remain until Twelfth day on his lackey's invitation, he hoped he would honour him by remaining until Candlemas on his own. To this the earl assented, but requested that as he had so many attendants, he might be at liberty to send occasionally to Kilkea for provisions. O'Kelly answered, that as soon as his lordship should find the supplies beginning to fail, he might do so, but not before. Accordingly the fare increased, and the banquets became more sumptuous than ever. When Candlemas arrived, his lordship departed with many professions of gratitude, having particularly requested that he might have the honor of standing sponsor for O'Kelly's first child, in order to cement the friendship that subsisted between them. Mrs. O'Kelly was soon after delivered of a son, and his lordship attended the christening, which was celebrated with great pomp and rejoicings. The house was filled with guests, and resounded with music and merriment; but the morning after the earl's arrival, the poor young lady and infant were both found dead. This melancholy catastrophe was attributed to the boisterous revelry and noise with which they were surrounded. O'Kelly's joy was turned into sorrow, but even this was only a prelude to still greater misfortunes.

Kildare remained for some time to console his friend, whom he invited to Kilkea until he should recover from the effects of his grief, offering him, at the same time, his sister in marriage, and proferring his service in any other way which might be most agreeable or acceptable. Unfortunately for O'Kelly, he accepted the invitation, and fell, an unsuspecting victim, into the snare which had been insidiously laid for him. A few days after his arrival at Kilkea, the earl took him to the top of the castle under pretence of viewing the. surrounding scenery; and with the assistance of a few followers, whom he had placed there for the purpose, he cut off O'Kelly's head. This atrocious and treacherous murder was soon communicated to queen Elizabeth, as a meritorious proof of Kildare's loyalty in beheading an Irish rebel; and her majesty was so well pleased, that she directed a grant to be forthwith passed to the earl, of all O'Kelly's estates."