Rome: 1573

Pages 481-483

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Vatican Archives, Volume 1, 1558-1571. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1916.

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1573, January–December

1573 (?).
Vat. Lib.
Ottob. Lat.
2419. Pt. i.
f. 40.
865. Account of the Affairs of Ireland and of certain Catholic Chiefs that rule part of the Island: by David Wolf, S.J., native of the Island.
“Gerald Earl of Simonia [sic Desmond] and John, his brother, are among the chiefs of the island, and aforetime were heretics, but are now excellent Catholics: they have been in prison in England, but are now free.
“James [Fitz]Maurice, cousin german of Earl Gerald, succeeded him as governor in Ireland, and rules Munster in the fear of God: he is a young man, but a good Catholic and a brave captain. He was minded to enter some religious order, or to quit Ireland to live in some Catholic country, but by the advice of the good prelates and Catholic religious he stayed where he was for the good of the country.
“Cornelius [Connor O'Brien] Earl of Tuam [sic Thomond], is ever waning in power and losing his men by desertion.
“Richard [Clanrickarde], Earl of Connaught, had trouble with his sons, because the younger by the second wife claimed to inherit, and was countenanced by his mother, and so the State was divided: they are now at peace. The Earl repudiated his first and lawful wife without cause. Both he and his second wife, are, however, well-conditioned Catholics, and readily associate with the religious.
“Those of the see of Raimond [Redmund O'Gallagher] of Killala are barbarians untamed and ferocious, and of bestial habits; at one time they pursued the said bishop with intent to kill or take him prisoner; and he fled to Portugal, and abode some years in Lisbon, whence he went to Rome: he is now in Ireland in another see [Derry].
“Donald Ocnoc Senez [sic O'Connor Sligo], a great friend of the said Bishop Raimond and Father David [Wolf] was in England, and was there received with great honour by the Queen, and returned to Dublin with great power, and promised Father David, who was then in prison in Dublin, that he would procure his discharge by means of the Viceroy. He is a good Catholic.
“Lord Oddonel gave up his lands to live in England, professing himself the Queen's perpetual vassal.
“John [Shane] Oneil was a cruel, and impious heretical tyrant; he burned the Church of Armagh, the metropolitan church of all Ireland, and all the monasteries of that city, and all that pertained to the monastery of Dunagatil [Killodonnell, co. Donegal], the monastery and cathedral church of the city of Euse [Derry], the monastery of Valle [Moville], otherwise called in Canoin, and the monasteries of Monicao [Muckamore], Riul [Errigal], Ratain [Fahan] and Daunes [Devenish]; he kept in prison for six months in a most pitiable plight the Bishop of Dromore, an old man of great virtue, now dead; he caused a priest of holy life to be hanged without colour or semblance of justice; he took away the wife of one of his kinsmen, and had three sons by her, and being reproved for so doing by the Archbishop of Armagh, he ruthlessly persecuted him and his clergy. He lost 600 men in an engagement with his enemies in a place called Auselac; and when he had remodelled his army, the nobles of Tyrone rose against him, and as he was crossing a river called Fearzidmor [Farsetmore] (fn. 1) he suffered a prodigious defeat at the hands of Oddo [sic Hugh] Odanill [sic O'Donnell]; they say that the dead, including the drowned, numbered 8,000 besides 74 of the bravest and noblest gentlemen of Tyrone. This was on the 9th of May, 1567. And having sought refuge among the Scottish heretics [at Cushendun in Ulster], he was cruelly slain on the 2nd of June in the said year, an event which was predicted long before by that good and holy old man Richard [Creagh] Archbishop of Armagh in the presence of the said David and other persons, the year, the month, the place, and the persons by whom he was to be slain, being all specified. They cut off his head, and brought it to Dublin, where it was exposed in the Castle upon a lance.
“To his place succeeded Terence Lunac [sic Turlogh Luineach O'Neill] a man very expert in martial affairs, but very brutish in those matters that concern the weal of souls. His little finger is heavier than the fist of his predecessor, and whereas the one did but persecute the clergy with whips, the other persecutes them to the death with the most cruel torments.
“Oddo Odoneil [sic Hugh O'Donnell] governs his lands as he can, and has much ado to defend them against his enemies: there was a great quarrel between him and his nephew Conal [sic Con] but by the mediation of the Viceroy they were reconciled. Charles Odoneil and two others were in prison at Dublin, but are now at liberty.
“The bishops of Ireland are hirelings and dumb dogs, and acknowledge the Queen of England as supreme head of the Church, all except three besides the said Bishop Raimond, who have been strong as bulwarks of the Bride of Christ, to wit, Richard [Creagh], Archbishop of Armagh, William [Walsh], Bishop of Meath, and Thomas [Leverus], Bishop of Kildare; they are now either in exile or in prison. The Archbishop of Armagh was taken twice and this last time, now in Dublin, now in London, has been and is confined in a dark and gloomy dungeon. Bishop William spent three months in prison in Dublin, and was then discharged and banished. Bishop Thomas visited Father David in prison, and, being unable to endure the foul and fetid stench that issued from the said dungeon, returned without accomplishing anything. The Archbishop of Armagh is kept in the stocks in a subterranean place, where none can visit him or speak to him but the warden of the gaol; he has many sores on his body, and though he is but forty-four years old, he has already lost all his teeth. He has been many a time brought before the magistrates; but neither by threats nor by torments have they ever been able to induce him to renounce the Catholic faith; and when they offered him great honours and dignities, ipse omnia arbitratus est ut stercora, ut Christum lucri faciat. Great is the amazement of everyone and especially of his enemies at his constancy and staunchness in the Catholic faith. From his youth up he has made little account of the delights of this world, using his body very harshly. Much might be said of the upright and holy life of this great man, but it were not meet at present; it will be said in due time and place, for these things cannot remain hidden, since in him God has shown the world a servant of His of so grand a type.”
[1573 ?] (fn. 2) Italian. Copy. Printed by E. Hogan, S.J. in Ibernia Ignatiana (1880), vol. i. pp. 18–19.


  • 1. Cf. Annals of Loch Cé [Rolls Ser.], vol. ii, pp. 393–4.
  • 2. The date of this document is not precisely determinable. Though released from the Tower of London in 1570, the Earl of Desmond and his brother were not suffered to return to Ireland till March 1573, and in the meantime were kept in surveillance. It is not clear whether Wolf refers to their release from the Tower or their return to Ireland. Wolf himself appears to have got out of Dublin Castle and away to Spain in 1573. He was residing in Spain in 1574. Cal. Carew MSS., 1515–1574 [Rolls Ser.], pp. 430–38; Cal. State Papers, Ireland, 1509–73 [Rolls Ser.], pp. 437, 472, 524. Bagwell, Ireland under the Tudors, vol. ii. p. 235. The document is here inserted for the retrospect of Irish affairs which it affords.