Hugh Maguire, Lord of Fermanagh

Maguire, Hugh, Lord of Fermanagh, who took a prominent part in the war during Elizabeth's reign, was son of Cuconnaught Maguire, Prince of Fermanagh, and cousin of Hugh O'Neill. His mother was Nuala, daughter of Manus O'Donnell. On the death of his father in 1589, he became possessed of the estates held by his ancestors since 1302. He soon took up a defiant attitude towards the Government, replying, when told by the Deputy Fitzwilliam that he must allow the Queen's writs to run in Fermanagh: "Your sheriff shall be welcome, but let me know his eric, that if my people should cut off his head I may levy it upon the country." He succoured Hugh Roe O'Donnell in his escape from Dublin Castle. In 1593 he besieged the sheriff and his party in a church, and would have starved them out, but for the intervention of Hugh O'Neill, then an ally of the Anglo-Irish. On 3rd July of the same year Maguire carried off a large prey of cattle from Tulsk, from under the eyes of Sir Richard Bingham, Governor of Connaught.

The Four Masters give a spirited account of the engagement. Sir William Clifford and a few horsemen were slain on Bingham's side, while Maguire lost, amongst several of his party, Edmond MacGauran (Archbishop of Armagh) and Cathal Maguire. Some months later he unsuccessfully endeavoured to prevent Marshal Bagnall and Hugh O'Neill crossing the Erne at Athcullin. We are told that his forces, a great number of whom were slain, consisted of Irish, armed with battle-axes, and some Scotch allies, armed with bows. Hugh O'Neill was severely wounded in the thigh in the contest. According to MacGeoghegan, the Anglo-Irish were ultimately forced back across the river. Early in 1594 the Anglo-Irish took and garrisoned Enniskillen; and in June it was invested by Maguire and his friend Hugh Roe O'Donnell, who had collected a large force for the purpose.

Sir George Bingham endeavoured to raise the siege in August, but was intercepted by Maguire at a ford on the Arney river (now Drumane bridge), in the County of Fermanagh, and defeated with a loss of some 400 men. This engagement was generally known as the battle of Bel-Atha-na-mBriosgaidh (the Ford of the Biscuits), from the quantity of biscuits and supplies taken by the Irish. The garrison of Enniskillen surrendered almost immediately after this disaster. Next year Maguire devastated Cavan, so that he did not leave a "hut in which two or three persons might be protected" in the entire district. He threw himself heart and soul into O'Neill's war, and took part in the victory of Clontibret and Kilclooney, and was in command of the cavalry at Mullaghbrack in 1596, where the Anglo-Irish were defeated with heavy loss. The same year he was, with O'Neill and O'Donnell, formally outlawed, and a price was set upon his head. In 1598 he held a command at the defeat of Marshal Bagnall at the Yellow Ford.

Next year Maguire joined O'Donnell in a marauding expedition into Thomond, and took Inchiquin Castle. In March 1600 he commanded the cavalry in Hugh O'Neill's expedition into Leinster and Munster. Accompanied by a small party, he reconnoitred the country towards Cork; but was intercepted by Sir Warham St. Leger and Sir Henry Power, with a superior force. Nothing daunted, he struck spurs into his horse, and dashed into the midst of the Deputy's band, where St. Leger inflicted a deadly wound on him with his pistol. Maguire, summoning his remaining strength, cleft his adversary's head through his helmet, and then fell exhausted and almost immediately expired. According to the Four Masters, "the death of Maguire caused a giddiness of spirit and a depression of mind in O'Neill and the Irish chiefs in general, and this was no wonder, for he was the bulwark of valour and prowess, the shield of protection and shelter, the tower of support and defence, and the pillar of the hospitality and achievements of the Oirghialla, and of almost all the Irish of his time." His wife was a daughter of Hugh O'Neill.

Hugh Maguire's name will probably live longest in the ode addressed to him by his bard, O'Hussey, which has been so forcibly rendered into English by Mangan.


3. Actors, Representative: W. Clark Russell. London,1875.

52. Burke, Sir Bernard: Dormant, Abeyant, Forfeited, and Extinct Peerages. London, 1866.

134. Four Masters, Annals of Ireland by the: Translated and Edited by John O'Donovan. 7 vols. Dublin, 1856.

135. Four Masters, Annals of the: Translated by Owen Connellan. Dublin, 1846.