« PreviousContinue »
only the men, but even the women and children who fell into the hands of the English, were deliberately and systematically butchered. Bands of soldiers traversed great tracts of country, slaying every living thing they met. The sword was not found sufficiently expeditious, but another method proved much more efficacious. Year after year, over a great part of Ireland, all means of human subsistence were destroyed. No quarter was given to prisoners who surrendered, and the whole population was skilfully and steadily starved to death. The pictures of the condition of Ireland at this time are as terrible as anything in human history. Thus Spenser, describing what he had seen in Munster, tells how, 'out of every corner of the woods and glens, they came creeping forth upon their hands, for their legs could not bear them. They looked like anatomies of death; they spoke like ghosts crying out of their graves. The people, in the words of Holinshed, 'were not only driven to eat horses, dogs and dead carrions, but also did devour the carcases of dead men, whereof there be sundry examples. The land itself, which, before these wars, was populous, well inhabited, and rich in all the good blessings of God, being plenteous of corn, full of cattle, well stored with fish and other good commodities, is now become ... so barren, both of man and beast, that whoever did travel from the one end of all Munster, even from Waterford to the head of Smeerweeke, which is about six score miles, he would not meet any man,
"ASHES AND CARCASES'
or child, saving in towns and cities, nor yet see any beasts, but the very wolves, foxes and other like ravening beasts, many of them laie dead, being famished, and the residue gone elsewhere.' 'From Dingle to the Rock of Cashel,' said an Irish annalist, 'not the lowing of the cow nor the voice of the ploughman was that year to be heard.' The troops of Sir Richard Percie ‘left neither corn, nor horn, nor house unburnt between Kinsale and Ross.' The troops of Captain Harvie 'did the like between Ross and Bantry.'
The troops of Sir Charles Wilmot entered without resistance Irish camp, where 'they found nothing but hurt and sick men, whose pains and lives by the soldiers were both determined.' The lord president, he himself assures us, having heard that the Munster fugitives were harboured in certain parts of that province, diverted his forces thither, 'burnt all the houses and corn, taking great preys, : :: and, harassing the country, killed all mankind that were found therein. From thence he went to other parts, where ‘he did the like, not leaving behind him man or beast, corn or cattle, except such as had been conveyed into castles.' Long before the war had terminated, Elizabeth was assured that she had little left to reign over but ashes and carcases. It was boasted that, in all the wide territory of Desmond, not a town, castle, village or farmhouse was unburnt; and a high English official, writing in 1582, computed that, in six months, more than 30,000 people had been starved to death in Munster,
besides those who were hung or who perished by the sword. Archbishop Usher afterwards described how women were accustomed to lie in wait for a passing rider, and to rush out like famished wolves to kill and to devour his horse. The slaughter of women as well as of men, of unresisting peasants as well as of armed rebels, was openly avowed by the English commanders. The Irish annalists told, with horrible detail, how the bands of Pelham and Ormond killed blind and feeble men, women, boys and girls, sick persons, idiots and old people ;' how, in Desmond's country, even after all resistance had ceased, soldiers forced men and women into old barns, which were set on fire, and, if any attempted to escape, they were shot or stabbed; how soldiers were seen to take
infants on the points of their spears, and to whirl them about in their agony;' how women were found 'hanging on trees with their children at their breasts, strangled with their mothers' hair.'
'In justice to the English soldiers,' writes Mr Froude, it must be said that it was no fault of theirs if any Irish child of that generation was allowed to live to manhood. The English nation,' he continues, was shuddering over the atrocities of the Duke of Alva. The children in the nurseries were being inflamed to patriotic rage and madness by tales of Spanish tyranny, yet Alva's bloody sword never touched the young, defenceless, or those whose sex even dogs can recognise and respect.'
In 1580 a small force of Italians and Spaniards, bringing succour to the rebels, landed at Smer
1580] CAPTURE AND DEATH OF DESMOND 99
wick, and took possession once more of the old fort of Dunanore. After holding out for a few weeks, they surrendered, and were butchered almost to a man. Leland tells the story. “The Italian general and some officers were made prisoners of war, but the garrison was butchered in cold blood; nor is it without pain that we find a service so horrid and detestable committed to Sir Walter Raleigh.'
Proclaimed an outlaw and hunted like some wild animal, the old Earl of Desmond, attended by his devoted wife and a handful of faithful adherents, wandered from place to place with a price upon his head. After many hairbreadth escapes and untold misfortunes, he finally took refuge in the Kerry mountains. There he was tracked by a party of English soldiers, and ruthlessly slain. His head was cut off, sent to England as a trophy, and impaled on London Bridge.
The Geraldine rebellion was quenched in blood, and the southern provinces, crushed and broken, lay prostrate at the feet of the conquerer. Yet, ten years later, Ulster was again in arms, and Ireland rallied to the standards of O'Donnell and O'Neil.
O'DONNELL AND O'NEIL
UGH ROE O'DONNELL was born about 1571.
His House had, as we have seen, fought against Shane O'Neil, but Shane was dead and the old feud was forgotten. The O'Donnells were now a growing power in Ulster,
and the government, fearing their influence, resolved to put them down. The first step taken for this purpose was characteristic of the times.
In the summer of 1587 young Hugh was on a visit with his foster-father, MacSweeny of Fanat, at Rathmullen in Tyrconnell. MacSweeny's castle of Dun - Donald overhung Lough Swilly, and commanded a beautiful view of that picturesque spot.
One afternoon a merchantman entered the