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Wars and Feuds

SHRULE – J.F. Quinn’s History

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Old Feuds

The Annals have many references to Shrule from the coming of the Nomans down to comparatively modern times, and long before Bingham operated it was a place of note. In 1262 0’Conor Sligo plundered the foreigners from Balla and Mayo of the Saxons to Shrule, burned towns and cornfields, slaying many and getting their demands, and in the following year the 0’Donnells ravaged the territory of Clanricarde returning home by Shrule, Ballinrobe and Tirawley, having obtained all their demands. It may seem strange to have them returning home by Tirawley, but I have an old account which says they sailed home from the Moy, which had then another name. Bingham’s dark deeds at Shrule and throughout Kilmaine I have already referred to.

We have still the remains of the historic castle, and a fine stone bridge spans the Bloody Ford. Early in the 14th century all Connaught was ravaged by tribal wars. In 1377 the chiefs were constantly at each other’s throats, and in the following year Sligo chieftains pooled forces to have a resounding blow at the Burkes of Mayo, and wrought great destruction in a campaign that occupied seven months. The 0’Connors, MacDonoghs, 0’Haras and 0’Dowdas seem to have had the best of it. The Annalists say that they burned MacWilliam’s country from Carnglass to the borders of Umhall. This is taken to be the barony of Tirawley, Iverglas being an ancient name for the River Moy. They also burned Burke’s country from Ballinrobe to Shrule and Killenbrenan, and carried off great preys of cattle. The old account says that Cormack MacDonogh carried off the preys of John Burke’s sons to Umhall, while another account says that the 0’Malleys opposed the raiders and drove them from Umhall. This raid also extended to East and South Mayo, for it is recorded that the Clan McDonogh of Sligo attacked Ballylahan castle (Athleathan) and carried its: gates away to Ballymote, after receiving great punishment from the De Exeter Jordans.

While carrying the raid into the barony of Costello the MacDonoghs and their allies surprised the clan Costello, Teige MacDermott Gall, chief of his name, and many of his people being killed. An apologist for the 0’Dowdas says they were forced into this row by other Sligo chiefs, who threatened their territory if they remained neutral, while another account says that it was the last desperate attempt of the 0’Dowdas to recover chieftainship of the barony of Carra. lost through an outrage on a female of the Clan Cuain by Rory 0’Dowd, who was murdered for his crime. I have seen it stated that the MacDermotts of Moylurg, who were instrumental in depriving the 0’Dowds of Carra, declined to amalgamate their forces with 0’Dowda’s in the execution of this raid, while yet anxious to scourge the Mayo chiefs, and this possibly explains why they were raiding in the east and south, while the other Sligo brigands were plundering what was called MacWilliam’s territory. Shortly after the MacDermotts made a lightning raid on the territory of Clanmorris, penetrated as far as the Castle of Brize, burned the outbuildings and corn, slew many and returned safely, the Prendergasts and Burkes in hot pursuit, but they did not enter Sligo. In the same year the MacDonoghs came to plunder Clan Cuain, but the MacWilliam opposed them and drove their force out of Castlebar. On this occasion the MacDonoghs turned back with the intention of robbing Carra, but the Stauntons, supported by the Burke’s. fell upon them. slaying many. So hard pressed were the invaders that when making their way home they took the old road running by the crown of Cruckspullaghadaun, and were pursued as far as Swinford, where they scattered in the bogs.

Destroying The Castles

In 1571, after it having been reported that Shane Mac Oliverus Burke, who shortly before had been made MacWilliam was engaging Scots and preparing for a rebellion. Sir Edward Fitton then went to South Mayo, accompanied by the Lords Clanricarde and Thomond, remaining from the beginning of September to the end of October. The account says that one castle was defended. and on being taken the ward of twelve men were slain. The keepers of the other castles abandoned them, the Burkes themselves fled from the country, and Fitton laid waste over an extent of about sixteen miles long and as many broad. destroying about £500 worth of corn. He is reported to have taken nineteen towns and castles in Kilmaine on this trip alone.

Cry Of The Oppressed

Sir Edward Fitton, in 1570, when there were protests against the billeting of officers and soldiers on the people, reported to the Council: “Shane Burke Mac Oliverus, who was standeth to be MacWilliam Ewter, being exclaimed upon to his face by a poor widow of his country being undone by his rebellious practices in maintaining the Scots for our own defence. I see the destruction of the country. Again, if I shall take upon me the name of the MacWilliam, I shall be driven for maintenance thereof to spoil it myself. And if we shall submit ourselves to the English nation, they will be as bothersome as MacWilliam or Scots. The cess is very heavy, but soldiers must be kept, as they are always wanted all of a sudden. If the Queen’s victuallers would furnish supplies for soldiers in every province the service would be no worse, and the people would be less oppressed, and as men of experience think their good will might be soon obtained. Yet they will not for a time readily consent to abandon old customs, but must be kept in fear.” In the same year he put them in fear when he besieged Shrule Castle.

Fooling The Chieftains

When Sir Henry Sidney came as Lord Deputy in 1575 he put aside the cruel methods of Bingham and set about ensnaring the old chiefs by inducing them to take their lands under Crown tenure, the terms being acceptable. Though they also distrusted him as much as Bingham they were ready to make sacrifices to get from under the heel of the latter, and most of them accepted the terms offered. Sidney’s first resting place in Mayo was at Shrule Castle, but here he could not tarry long, as most of the Mayo chiefs were in revolt, and a force he had sent in advance had attacked Castlebar, the castle of which was held by the stout sons of Edmund Burke. Sidney threw into the attack the strong force he had taken with him. Mrs. Burke fearing for the safety of her sons, went to Sidney’s camp and offered terms for them. Sidney, recognising that he was in the presence of a lady, courteously received her, but also refused to raise the siege on promise of surrender. When the castle was taken it was found the Burkes had escaped during the night, and from that forth Castlebar knew them only as fugitives. On this trip Sidney broke the power of the Mayo chiefs. On his return to Galway he rested at Shrule, where many of the chieftains got audience, and shortly after they all including the MacWilliam and Grace O’Malley, appeared before them and made submission.

JF Quinn

J.F. Quinn series of articles on Mayo history published in the Western People during the 1930s

History of Mayo

by J. F. Quinn , Brendan Quinn
ISBN 0951928007 (0-9519280-0-7)
Hardcover, Brendan Quinn

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