Sunday 13 December 2020

Christopher Roche



On December 13, 1590 Wexford man Christopher Roche died in prison in London. The seventeenth-century martyrologist Anthony Bruodin (1625-1680) recorded Roche's case in his 1669 catalogue of Irish martyrs, Propugnaculum Catholicae Veritatis. He states that the prisoner was subjected to a particular form of torture known as the 'Scavenger's Daughter' during which he perished:


(From Bruodin's Propugnaculum, p. 457.)

 He was the son of a citizen of Wexford. When he had nearly completed his studies at Louvain, he was obliged, through ill health, to return home. He was arrested at Bristol, examined, and asked to take the oath of Supremacy. He absolutely refused to stain his soul with such a perjury. In consequence he was sent to London. First, he was flogged through the streets by the executioners in a very cruel manner. Then, after enduring the horrors of Newgate prison for four months, he was put to the torture of the scavenger's daughter, and under it gave up his soul to God, December 13th, 1590.

See also Copinger

Rev. Denis Murphy, S.J., Our Martyrs (Dublin, 1896), p. 198

English Jesuit writer Father Henry Foley (1811-1891), who meticulously researched the martyrs of his order, gave a description of the 'Scavenger's Daughter' and explained what was involved in this type of torture:

 This was one of the racks employed in the Tower for the torture of Catholics; it was a broad iron hoop, consisting of two parts fastened together by a hinge. The prisoner was made to kneel on the pavement, and to contract himself into as small a compass as possible. Then the executioner forcing down his shoulders, and introducing the hoop under his legs, compressed the victim close together, until he was able to fasten the extremities of the hoop over the small of the back. The time allotted to this kind of torture was one hour and a half, during which time it commonly happened, that for excess of compression the blood started from the nostrils, and sometimes, indeed, from the extremities of the hands and feet. 

Rev. Henry Foley, S.J., Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus, Vol. IV, (London, 1878), p.351.

Immediately after this account Father Foley records two of its English clerical victims, Fathers Cottam and Kirby who  'suffered this fearful torture for longer than an hour on the 10th of December, 1580; the former bleeding profusely from the nose'. Yet both survived the embrace of the Scavenger's Daughter and were executed in 1582, whereas Bruodin records that our Irish layman did not. Perhaps this might be explained by the fact that Roche's health may not have been that strong to being with, given that he had been forced to abandon his studies on health grounds and could hardly have been improved by flogging and imprisonment.

I was unable to find any record of Christopher Roche in the English writers on the Tudor martyrs but at the end of his translation of the Bruodin account above Father Murphy cited John Copinger. Like Anthony Bruodin Copinger was also an Irish priest in exile on the Continent. He published a catalogue of martyrs as part of his 1620 work The Theatre of Catholique and Protestant Religion. Father Copinger's account contains all of the elements of Roche's story as later given by Bruodin but attributes his death to the 'extreamitie' of his imprisonment, without any specific mention of the 'Scavenger's Daughter': 

Christopher Roche natiue of Wexfoord, for that he could not enioy his health in Flanders where he was a student, passing by Bristoe to come for Ireland, was there apprehended, and was putt to the oath of the supremacy; which when he refused, he was carried vp to Lōdon where he was sore whipt about the streetes, and was putt into a most filthy prison in gyues & fetters, and died there through extreamitie Anno 1590.

J. Copinger,  The Theatre of Catholique and Protestant Religion (St Omer, 1620), p. 584.

Interestingly, Christopher Roche is not the only Irish bearer of this Norman surname to have been martyred in England, for in 1588 Irishman John Roche was executed at Tyburn along with Saint Margaret Ward. There is also an Irish female martyr, Lady Ellen Roche of Fermoy, County Cork, who was hanged in 1652.

Christopher Roche is number 95 on the Official List of Irish Martyrs (1918). No further progress has been made on his cause.

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Friday 27 November 2020

Arthur McGeoghegan, O.P. : An Irish Priest Hanged in England


November 27, 1633 is the day on which an Irish Dominican priest trying to get back to Ireland from the continent was martyred at Tyburn. I have already posted an article by Father Reginald Walsh O.P. which gives the full background to the arrest of Father Arthur McGeoghegan here, but below is a reminder of his sufferings, taken from a book review in the April 30, 1908 edition of Australian newspaper The Catholic Press:

Notes and Reviews.

'Our Martyrs.' 


Arthur McGeoghegan, a priest of the Order of  Preachers, died for the faith at Tyburn, in the year 1633. The General Chapter of the Order, held in Rome in 1644,  thus speaks of him: The Venerable F. B. Arthur Geoghegan, having completed his studies in Spain, find transacted with great prudence certain business entrusted to him, when returning to his province was seized by the English heretics and cast into prison in London. He endured many calumnies from the heretics through hatred of the faith, and was brought to trial on a charge of high treason, as their custom is, and was condemned to death. At the place of execution he made open profession that he was a Catholic and a Dominican. He was hanged, and while still alive he was cut down, his limbs cut asunder, and his entrails burnt. And so so he ended his life gloriously in the year 1633.

His Trial and Death

We have several accounts of his trial and death, written at the time. The following one is taken from the Mostyn MSS., and was given in the Irish 'Ecclesiastical Record' for November, 1894: 'On Wednesday, the 27th of November, Arthur Gohegan was drawn on a hurdle from the King's bench to the City of London and so to Tiburne, from whence he was lifted off into a cart, where, undismayed, and with a fearless countenance, he spake these words: 'In manus tuus commendo spiritum meum, quia redemisti meae, O Deus veritatis meae,' which he often repeated. Then, desiring all good Christians to pray for him, he earnestly commended his soul to God, and said: 'Oh, thou glorious Virgin Mother of our Lord and Saviour, pray to thy Son .Jesus Christ to receive my soul; I would fain have received the Holy Sacrament, according to the injunction of our Order, but I could get no priest to give it me.' Then, being stripped to his shirt, holding up his hands to heaven with great earnestness, repeating:  'In manus tuus commendo spiritum meum, quia redemisti meae, O Deus veritatis meae,' the cart was drawn away, when he hanged a little time; then the rope was cut with a bill, the hangman holding him fast in his arms that he should not fall to the ground, at which time the cord being slack, he made a great noise in his throat. Then they laid him on the earth, drew him along (being alive) near the fire, threw there his bowels find heart, laid him afterwards upon his face, cut off his head by the neck, divided his body by the waist, and then cut it asunder into four parts, which were not dispersed on the gates; but some of his friends obtaining the disposing of them, and sent them over sea to be interred as he requested. He requested on the scaffold that his body be not dismembered, and that the Spanish Ambassador would send it to be buried in some abbey or place belonging to an abbey of St. Dominick.

After His Execution

Two days after his execution, Nicolaldi, the Spanish Ambassador, wrote: 'They hanged an Irish Dominican Friar here two days ago. He can enter into the number of the martyrs. I cannot send the account of the case now, but will do so another day, and they will see in Rome, whatever the French may say to the contrary about the trivial nature of the persecution here on account of religion, that this friar suffered for religion. His persecutors maliciously invented a pretext, and, all I could do with tho King and his Ministers was of no avail. The King was Charles I. and the Queen his wife was Henrietta, Maria, sister of Louis XII., King of France. In his 'Palma Fidei O.P.,' Father Mulphaeus, of the Order of Preachers, says 'that when Father McGeoghegan was returning to his native country from Lisbon, where he had lived for some time in the College of Our Lady of the Rosary, he landed in England. He was soon after accused in London of having said in Spain that it was lawful for anyone to kill the King of England. He was found guilty, hanged, and his heart and entrails cut out. But, on closer examination, when the matter had been brought under the notice of the Queen, though too late, he was declared, in a placard fixed up in the streets, to have been falsely accused, and condemned to death though innocent; and it was proved that he had not said what was laid to his charge, but only asserted when disputing with a heretic, who denied man's freewill, that nothing would be criminal or unlawful in human acts, not even tho killing of a King, if liberty did not exist. When the executioner was throwing Father McGeoghegan's entrails into the fire prepared for the  purpose, a certain young  man who stood by, seeing the liver of the martyr outside the fire, thrust it in with a stick which he had in his hand, and went away cursing the man himself and his religion; but he did not escape the avenging hand of God, for his sacrilegious hand immediately trembled, and he was struck down with such internal pains, that he was obliged to throw himself down on the nearest mound of earth.

The foregoing narrative is taken from an excellent work written by the late Rev. Denis Murphy, S.J., and entitled 'Our Martyrs,' being a record of those who suffered for the Catholic faith under the Penal Laws in Ireland. 'Our Martyrs' should be in every Catholic library. It can be easily procured from any respectable Catholic bookseller. The publishers are Fallon and Co, 10 Lower Sackville Street, Dublin. J.B.

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Father Arthur Mac Geoghegan, O.P.

On November 27 1633 an Irish Dominican, Westmeath man Arthur Mac Geoghegan, was dragged on a hurdle to Tyburn and there suffered death by hanging, drawing and quartering. He had been accused of stating that it would be no sin to kill King Charles I and indeed he would willingly do the deed himself as the king was a heretic. The man who reported this to the authorities was a sea captain who Father Mac Geoghegan had encountered in Portugal and with whom he had held a theoretical discussion. Captain Edward Bust harboured resentment against the priest, despite the fact that he had interceded for English sailors who were having difficulties with the Spanish authorities. Two years after the pair had last met Bust spotted Father Arthur in London and made the accusations of treachery against him. There was an audience only too receptive to such stories of 'Popish plots' to be found in the English capital and the priest was arrested, tried and condemned to a traitor's death. Charles I himself seems to have accepted Father Mac Geoghegan's innocence, as did Queen Henrietta Maria, but failed to save him.  Below is an account from the Postulator of the Cause of the Irish Dominican martyrs, Reginald Walsh, O.P. (1855-1932), who featured the case of his confrère in a series published in The Irish Ecclesiastical Record in the last decade of the nineteenth century. Father Walsh carried out detailed, thorough research into the cases he presented and so I have omitted some parts of his article to try and keep the narrative flowing, but have included a link at the end to the original. It is worth noting that although Father Mac Geoghegan suffered the full penalty reserved for traitors his quartered remains were not displayed on the four gates of the city but seem to have been privately buried. This small measure of mercy is attributed to the efforts of the royal couple. Father Walsh concludes with Father Mac Geoghegan's last words on the scaffold, the supernatural occurrences which took place at the time of the execution and the fate of those who had betrayed the priest, all of which reflect familiar tropes found in accounts of martyrs at that time.




Hastings. "If they have done this deed, my noble lord" 

Glo'ster. "If! . . Talk'st thou to me of 'ifs' ? 'Thou art a traitor."

SHAKESPEARE, Richard III., Act iii., Sc. 4.

HOW much depends on the presence of that little word "if!" If Archimedes had a fulcrum, he would have moved the earth ; there is no doubt whatever about it. But Archimedes had not, and the earth remains in its old position. The Greek philosopher, however, postulated an impossibility; and, though he spoke logically, what he said was only in illustration of his system or theory.

Let us take another case, a real one. A theologian, a priest engaged in a religious controvery, makes a hypothesis, and it is as true as he can make it: as an argument ad hominem it is unanswerable. But suppose it to be as orthodox as the Nicene Creed, or as loyal as an oath of fealty, yet it can be turned into heresy, or into high treason, by merely taking away the supposition on which it rests. In exact proportion to its original truth and force will its falsehood and wickedness now be. In such cases the monosyllabic particle is all-powerful. Let the priest have some malicious accusers; let them suppress the conditional manner in which he spoke, and falsely ascribe an absolute statement to him, then at once he is made to affirm what he has in reality denied. Let some enemies of Catholicity, who are unwilling that their odium fidei should be detected, but who are determined on ending the priest's life, be his judges,  they will eagerly take advantage of the absence in the evidence of that short word ''if." All the priest's protests are in vain; his proffered explanation of the "whole truth" will not be listened to, simply because his death is a foregone conclusion. To keep up appearances, to condemn him ostensibly for high treason, it is necessary to fasten the crime on him ; and what more efficacious means of doing so can be conceived, than quoting one-half of his own words?

We who live in quiet times may find it difficult to conceive how a priest's death could be brought about by such knavery and bigotry; but this is what really happened to the holy martyr, Arthur MacGeoghegan, whose history is contained in the following pages. He was accused of having said, "It would be no sin to kill Charles I, King of England." The preliminary examination, before a committee of the Privy Council, was held with the utmost secrecy; it lasted three months. The State Papers, &c., contain allusions to this examination which throw considerable light on the real motives of some of the chief actors, as well as on the hopes and sentiments of their sympathizers. The subsequent proceedings in the Court of King's Bench, London, were watched with the deepest interest. On one side, the Catholics were in anxious suspense, though there could hardly be a doubt as to the ultimate issue; on the  other, the Protestants, especially those of the Puritan party,  were confident that the priest would be condemned. Both the public trial for high treason and the execution at Tyburn, on November 27th (O.S.), 1633, have been graphically described by eye-witnesses. They appear to have been the chief topic of the day. Ambassadors mentioned the occurrence in their despatches, and missionary priests wrote one, that the dangers of his position were greatly increased on account of the excited state of the London populace; another, that he had been thrown into prison on suspicion of his being a fellow-conspirator of the Irish priest; and a third, that a sudden change took place that a general belief in the Dominican's innocence was manifested immediately after his death.

In the history of the numerous martyrs of the Irish Province, we meet with few accounts so complete, and, from a certain point of view, so interesting, as that of Father Arthur MacGeoghegan. A great many of his contemporaries have given us their impressions, and have described the event minutely. We can realize it all, the whole scene seems to pass before our eyes, while, on the contrary, we know comparatively little about some others of our martyrs. They passed their days in the silence and retirement of their cloisters, where life glided calmly on unnoticed save by God, till its sudden close revealed in a moment to the world the brightness of perfect sanctity. And when the cloisters lay in ruins, the remainder of their brethren continued the missionary work of the order as long as they could do so,  till the hour came when they too sealed their preaching with heir blood. But, in either case, the death of a martyr was so common, that unless some unusual circumstances called for special mention, a place on the long roll published in various General Chapters was almost all that these heroic servants of God received.

And how few and short are the words that tell us of many a glorious end! The martyr's name, the place, the date, and sometimes not even these. Of Father Arthur's life in the cloister nothing is recorded, the account of the martyrdom in the Acts of the General Chapter, 1644, does not extend beyond eight lines as the reader may see, nor should we perhaps know more about his death than about those of many others, but for a series of extraordinary events which preceded it. Occurrences which happened outside his convent home, transactions which did not belong to his ordinary personal duty as a religious, are precisely those which have left their mark in history. During his stay in Portugal, which was at the time, as our readers know, under the dominion of Spain, Father Arthur was brought into close relations with a high Spanish official; and the faithful discharge of his duty as theological censor, his fulfilment of the trust reposed in him, and his charity, were the occasion of his subsequent arrest in London, and of his martyrdom.

As regards the various sources of information already enumerated, most of these documents are short, and their contents, especially those of the dispatches, almost identical. Without interrupting the course of our narrative we shall insert them in their proper places. In putting them before the reader for comparison, there will, occasionally, be some slight repetition; this, of course, is unavoidable where accounts coincide ; but such repetition is amply compensated for by seeing the mutual illustration which these statements afford. It is indeed most interesting to note the complete agreement that exist between all these independent accounts; for instance, between that of an English official and that of a  priest, or between that of an ambassador and that of a Dominican historian.

Among them all, three claim pre-eminence, and these accordingly have been selected to form the basis of the present article. Two of them, moreover, supplement each other. One narrates at length what took place in Lisbon, the other what happened afterwards in London; one informs us of the real cause of Father Arthur's death, of the events which originally led to it, and of the miracles that followed it; the other describes his arrest, and the scenes in the King's Bench and at Tyburn. They are respectively the Palma Fidei, by Malpe, and the Moystyn MS. Father Malpe who was Prior of the Dominican house in Brussels, says he took down from the words of eye-witnesses what he relates about the miracles. He does not indicate the source of the rest of his knowledge, but he probably heard the whole tale from the lips of some Irish Dominicans that had lived with Father Arthur in Lisbon, and had subsequently been present at his martyrdom. At the time there were a good many members of the Province in Louvain. In his description of some other martyrdoms, Malpe says his informant was a certain Irish Dominican, Father Thaddeus, who, after spending years in prison for the faith, ended his days in Flanders. Father Thaddeus, who died about 1620 (?), could not have told about Father Arthur, but after 1633 there were  several who could.

The Mostyn MS. may, perhaps, be best described by saying that it is what would be called at the present day a special correspondent's report. It has, however, a semi- official look, and it evidently is the work of a legal expert who took down minutely what he saw and heard. What it contains is more circumstantially narrated than it is even in the Palma Fidei. In those days such descriptions were often written separately or printed on a single sheet. Noblemen and others residing at a distance from London  usually got in this way the news of important trials, &c. Collections of such accounts form the series which is now known as the State Trials. But while many of them betray the author's bigotry, and are distinctly anti-Catholic in tone, the Mostyn MS. shows no sign of Protestant origin; indeed one or two phrases would almost indicate that the writer was a Catholic, or at any rate had strong sympathies with the martyr. The Mostyns were a powerful Catholic family until the time of James II., and the elder branch (Sir Piers Mostyn) still keeps the faith. The MS. has never been printed or given to the public before, and of all the English MSS. relating to any of our martyrs, it is unquestionably one of the most interesting.

The third, namely, Nicolaldi's description has many points of contact with both these accounts. It informs us of what happened both in Lisbon and in London, but it also contains a great many important details which are not in Malpe's work nor in the Mostyn MS. For instance, it is our only source of information about Father Arthur's sufferings in prison, and the efforts made for his release up to the last by Nicolaldi himself. As the document is long, and the old Spanish seems to require a translation, instead of being inserted here, both have been relegated to the appendix. This arrangement will be more convenient, and the great value of Nicolaldi's narrative will be better appreciated when one has got a clear idea of the whole transaction. As far as possible it has been sought to let each of our authorities in turn speak for himself. Many of Nicolaldi's details are passed over here, interesting though they are; only those have been introduced which clear up obscure points, or seemed necessary to prevent incidental misconceptions on the part of some readers.

Around these accounts, all the others naturally group themselves. The most important of the latter for our narrative are the Vatican account, Passio, &c., and the Carmelite. Besides giving them in extenso in the appendix, we shall sometimes have occasion here to quote them for a passing illustration. In this case they will be referred to by their initials, thus, V. C., and in the same way the Mostyn account by M., and Nicolaldi's by N. The Palma Fidei is in a sense the groundwork of our whole description of Father Arthur MacGeoghegan's career, or rather the original of which the present article is little more than a translation. It has been strictly adhered to throughout, and whatever statements are made relative to the martyr for which no authority is here given, are all to be understood as taken from it.

The greater part of Father Arthur's life as a religious was spent in Spain, where he made his ecclesiastical studies apparently at Toledo. As we saw already  during the first half of the seventeenth century, the novices of the Irish Dominican Province were on account of the persecution at home sent abroad soon after their profession some to Italy, others to Belgium or France, but the majority to Spain. In 1613 the famous Peter Lombard, Archbishop of Armagh, wrote to Philip III. in behalf of the many Irish Dominican students resident in his Catholic Majesty's realms, especially in Spain; and a list of the members of the Irish Province sent to the Propaganda in 1629, shows that there were then in Spain about fifty students. Both documents may be seen in the Spicilegium Ossoriense. In the Propaganda list we find the name of "Frater Arturus Geoghegan," the subject of the present article. He had already shown exceptional tact and aptitude for transacting difficult affairs, when after a short stay in Corpo Santo, Lisbon, which was then recently founded (begun in 1615, finally established in 1629, by  Dominic of the Rosary), he was commanded to go to Ireland in order to procure subjects for the new missionary institution. The Chronicle of the Portuguese Province in its account of Father Arthur's martyrdom states that he left Lisbon with some companions, and the Agiologia Domenicana (or Lives of Dominican Saints, &c., for Every Day in the Year), Lisbon, 1719, in the chapter which it devotes to his memory remarks that his companions on his journey homewards are all commemorated elsewhere in the work itself on their respective days as martyrs. Neither work, however, informs us who these companions were. But if their names are those which we see near his in the 1629 list, and of this there can hardly be a doubt, the little band destined to wear in heaven the crown of martyrdom consisted besides, of Terence Albert O'Brien, the future Bishop of Emly; Thaddeus O'Moriarty, and John O'Cuillain.  The first two were certainly Toledo students, as we saw in the articles just referred to; hence it is very probable that our martyr read his theology in that grand old university city; and as Terence Albert O'Brien commenced his studies there in 1622, and as our martyr said on the scaffold, "I have been eleven years in Spain" (M.), it is equally probable that he and the future bishop travelled out together.

We do riot know whether Father Arthur's companions separated from him early on their journey home, or whether they came with him as far as London. As he was already two months in England (N.) when he was apprehended in July (M. and Eex. Boll.), he is probably the person referred to in the following correspondence: "May 18th, 1633, Whitehall. Secretary Windebank, to write to Lieutenant N of Dover, to examine the Irish priest to know upon what errand he goes thither into Ireland." Endorsed by Sir John  Coke. And the answer "May 22nd, London. Sir Francis Windebank, for your Honour. The French Ambassador is gone from hence, but such course shall be taken with the priest as you have directed."  Sir John Coke was, as we shall see, one of the Privy Councillors that subsequently examined  Father MacGeoghegan. As the latter, so far as we are informed, was the only one of the young Dominicans that had business in London, it may have been judged more expedient that he should enter England alone. At that time, even though Charles I. was disposed to act leniently, and though his Queen was a devout Catholic, still it might have been dangerous for four priests to return from the Continent  together. However, they may have done so, for at this period a great many priests did go back from France to England. 

In the State Papers we find it asserted that Father MacGeoghegan had three companions. The letter dated 17th December, which contains the assertion, is addressed to Lord Newburgh who had been one of the Privy Councillors that had sent him to be tried at King's Bench. In it by mistake he is called a Jesuit. The writers, Sir Benjamin Ayloffe and Sir Thomas Wiseman, magistrates of Colchester, say that they have committed to jail a certain Francis Barrett, "for speakeing wordes which amounte to Treason  (as we conceave), being uttered in this manner. The said Brewer demanding of him if hee came from London, the said Barrett answered hee did. Then you heard, said Brewer, of a Jesuit lately executed for treason, to which hee replyed hee did, and there is Three more of the companie, but it skills not wheare theay be, I knowe not. These words Brewer, &c." It is amusing to observe the trepidation of these worthy justices of the peace, and their nervous anxiety that none of the "Jesuit's" fellow-conspirators should escape. They appear to have been at the same time desirous of impressing on Lord Newburgh that their loyalty and zeal in no small degree resembled his own. We learn also from the Mostyn MS. that when Father Arthur was apprehended in London, there were "two of his countrymen in the chamber with him who spake Irishe among themselves;" but whether they were Dominicans that had travelled with him, or only friends who came to visit him while he was in London, is quite uncertain.

But to return to himself, and the purpose of his journey homeward to the island he was never more to see. Joyfully did Father Arthur set forth on his perilous mission, which he fulfilled, as we shall now find, but in a way which he and his superiors could hardly have hoped for. The blood of martyrs had ever been the seed of Christians; it was now, moreover, to be the seed of Apostles. Father Arthur did, in fact, draw many fervent postulants to Corpo Santo, there to be clothed with the white habit and to be prepared for the toils and dangers of the Irish mission ; but the sacrifice of his own life had first to be made, the grain was to fall into the ground that it might bring forth much fruit.

The singular occurrence which, as we said above, took place during his sojourn in Lisbon, must be described here, for it is the turning-point of his life, and it eventually led to his betrayal and martyrdom In London. Father MacGeoghegan stood high in the favour of the Duke of Maqueda, Don Jorge de Cardenas y Manrique, who in 1626 was appointed Lord High Admiral of the Spanish fleets in the Atlantic (Capitan General del Mar Oceano) and Councillor of State. Malpe calls him Viceroy of Portugal; but this appears to be a mistake according to one of the greatest living authorities on Spanish history. According to this writer, there was at the time no Viceroy of Portugal, but the Duke of Villahermosa governed there as President of the Council. If this were so, it would follow that Maqueda had, properly speaking, no authority in Lisbon itself, but only over the ships which entered its port. He had been Viceroy of Sicily from 1601, the date of his father's death, until the arrival of the Duke of Feria. In 1618 he was made Governor of Oran and Meraquiver in Algiers, and when next heard of he is Admiral; and, as we shall see, Admiral he remained up to 1641, at least.  However, as two of Maqueda's own contemporaries, Malpe and Father Arthur ("at Lisbon, with the Duke of Macada, Governor there," M.; "que governava en Portugal," N.), who ought to know, state that in 1631 the Duke had authority; they must be believed, even though there is an uncertainty on our part about the duration, or the correct name of his office. The question does not affect Father Arthur's history very much; so far as it is concerned, it is enough to know that the Duke of Maqueda had a high position in the Government of Lisbon. An error, however, which may be noticed in passing is mentioned in Vincenzo Gussoni's dispatch. He writes: "It is reported that the Dominican was confessor of the Viceroy of Seville." If it is meant by this that Maqueda was Governor there, the rumour was unfounded; and it may be added, there is no trace of the confessorship in the Seville archives.

However this may be, the Duke did really avail himself of Father Arthur's services as censor of books (in Catholic countries an object of close scrutiny at the douane or custom-house) in the ordinary inspection of vessels that entered the port of Lisbon. In this capacity the Irish priest, well versed in theology, who in addition to his own language spoke at least English, Spanish, and Portuguese, rendered valuable services to all, but received a bad return from some whom he had especially befriended. It happened in this way. An English ship which had captured a Dutch one came up the Tagus with its prize, and the latter was immediately declared forfeit to the Spanish treasury in consequence of the treaty then existing between Spain and England.  But such was the address of Father MacGeoghegan, and his influence with the Lord High Admiral, that the vessel was released on the condition that some other Dutch ship when captured should within a certain time be sent to Lisbon. The English sailors also  who had been thrown into prison, either because they violated the terms of the treaty by not delivering up their prize, or because they were with good reason suspected of being secretly in league with the Dutch, so that the seizure of the vessel was a pretended one, were liberated at Father Arthur's intercession. He innocently believed the Englishmen's profession of their intention to fulfil the condition, and pledged his word for them; so they were allowed to weigh anchor and depart. The Dutch vessel with her cargo would be a valuable prize for the Spanish Exchequer; Malpe says it was worth fifty thousand florins. But the promised one never arrived, the result of which was that the Duke of Maqueda removed Father MacGeoghegan from his position of trust.

In order that that his patron should not be overreached, so far as he could prevent it, the latter then resolved to go to London on his way home, as the reader already knows. He met the captain of the ship there, told him why he came, and requested him to fulfil the engagement made with the Spanish Admiral. The captain, as if willing to keep his promise, expressed his happiness at seeing his benefactor once more, and asked him where he was staying. Father Arthur little suspecting the motive of the man's inquiry, gave his address, and before long to his utter amazement saw a number of constables enter his room to apprehend him on a charge of high treason. He knew well that his being a priest was the real and only cause of his arrest.  On the charge, however, of high treason, the one commonly resorted to against Catholics, he was taken before Lord Coventry, Keeper of the Great Seal; Sir John Coke, Secretary of State; Lord Newburgh, and Lord Falkland.

On that day, we may be sure, the humble religious felt that in all likelihood his fate was sealed, and began to prepare for death. He understood now the purpose of the captain's question. Falkland and Newburgh had issued the warrant for his arrest (M.), and the King afterwards appointed the first two noblemen to take part in the committee of inquiry (N.). All four were rank Puritans. In the Star Chamber, however, Coventry was usually on the side of clemency.  As regards Coke, Gardiner says: "He was a man without any fixed political views, except a hatred of everything that savoured of the Papacy." He was also, according to Prynne, "a most bitter hater of the Jesuits, from whom he intercepted access to the King; he entertained many according to their deserts, he diligently inquired into their factions."  The Puritan divine, perhaps, had Father MacGeoghegan's examination before his mind as he wrote these line; at any rate, we may be sure it was congenial occupation for Coke. Lord Newburgh is best known on account of his loyal adherence to Charles I. Lord Falkland, of whom more anon, was of the four most inimical to our martyr. (N.)

All were Privy Councillors. The Privy Council did not, however, act in its corporate capacity. All its extant records have been carefully searched, page by page; but nowhere is there mention of this inquiry. The King named these four to examine the prisoner; that is, to find out whether there were grounds for proceeding against him in the public law courts. Charles gave express orders that Father MacGeoghegan should not be interfered with on account of his religion; but in case he had offended against his allegiance as a subject, that justice should take its course. (C.) Malpe remarks that the Privy Counsellors, with the exception of Lord Falkland, viewed the matter very quietly, and were disposed, in appearance at least, to acquit the prisoner. ...

Lord Falkland, as he himself soon afterwards acknowledged, was punished by God for the part he took in the condemnation of Father Arthur MacGeoghegan. (V.) After his decease, however, as it would appear, the other noblemen answered the King's question in the affirmative, and instructed the Attorney General (Sir William Noye) to prosecute. The Committee of Council had made its investigation with ominous slowness. It would appear from the Mostyn MS. that the secret examination began early in August, and, from the Coram Rege Roll, that it ended late in November. The Privy Councillors were probably desirous of appearing to act irrespectively of difference in religion, or perhaps they hoped to elicit from the accused some valuable information about other ecclesiastics in England, about  private negotiations with those in Spain, &c. The writer of the Vatican MS., who was thoroughly cognizant of all the external or public facts, conjectures that Father Arthur's judges (apparently including those of the King's Bench) condemned him to death either because one of the judges bore an ill-will to him, or because they wanted to satisfy the Puritans, who were discontented, and murmuring at  Charles's clemency towards the Catholics; or, again, because they intended to strike terror into the Puritans, to deter them from reviling the King, as they were accustomed to do in conversation; or, lastly, because they wished to clear themselves from the imputation of being so partial to Catholics as was commonly said.

Salvetti, the Florentine Ambassador, who was equally well informed, writes thus: "It was a long time since any regular had been put to death; and it fell to the lot of this poor victim that in his person the old maxims of persecution should once more be put into practice; and this simply to please the Puritans, and, at the same time, to hinder the Catholic party from increasing." ....

....  And, as we shall see, the Spanish Ambassador Nicoldaldi, says (December 9th) that he had used his utmost endeavours with the King and his ministers to save the life of the martyr, but all in vain; and that he would be glad to leave a country where malice, enmity to Catholics, and lies, abound.

Meanwhile Father MacGeoghegan was a close prisoner in Newgate.  On Friday, November 22nd, he was taken from the Gatehouse Prison (Newgate), in custody of Aquila Wykes, gentleman jailor, to the court assembled at Westminster. At the bar he pleaded not guilty; and, as the Roll, has it, "thereof he put himself upon his country," or submitted his case to the justice of his fellow-countrymen. The jury was empanelled on Monday, November 25th. The Dominican was sentenced to death, and handed over to the custody of the marshal, by whom he was then taken to the Marshalsea, in Southwark, there to remain till he should be drawn on a hurdle through the middle of the city to Tyburn.  

But to return to Malpe's narrative. At length, to the general surprise, on November 25th, it was sworn in open court that Arthur MacGeoghegan was guilty of high treason of the worst possible kind. The charge was, that he asserted, in September, 1631, while in Portugal, that it would be no sin to kill the King of England, Charles I., because he was a heretic; and that if he ever got the opportunity, he would do so himself. His accusers alleged, in addition, that he had actually came to England with this regicidal intention.

The only witnesses were two companions of the captain, two merchants (V.), to whom Father Arthur had been so kind when his ship had been seized in Lisbon. Their testimony was accepted, of course. The captain deposed that he had not heard Arthur MacGeoghegan say these words, but only heard the others state that he had said them. The prisoner answered the Lord Chief Justice (Thomas Richardson, C. R. Roll) that he had never, even in thought, held that the King of England might lawfully be killed. What he had really asserted in a discussion with a man who denied free will was, that if his tenets were true, it would be no sin to take the life even of a king. He was, moreover, at the time, alone with this man, the ship's pilot, so that the captain's companions could not have overheard his words. On that occasion, he had gone on board the English ship to examine all books, as was his duty; and a Lutheran or Calvinist work which had been submitted to his judgment by the pilot was the cause of the discussion. But the malicious suppression of that little word if decided the Dominican's fate. At the time, in England, any pretext was sufficient to ensure the condemnation of a priest; Father MacGeoghegan was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, while, as a matter of course, the public crier proclaimed by the command of the Chief Justice and the Attorney-General, that he was condemned to death, not because he was a priest, nor because he was a religious, nor for any other cause connected with the Catholic creed, but because he was a criminal convicted of high treason. Many were found who openly disapproved of the iniquitous sentence, and various expedients were suggested, by which the unoffending victim might be delivered, but all in vain; the Puritans were resolved on doing away with the priest, and no time was to be lost, for they were thirsting for his blood. On the 27th of the same month he was dragged on a hurdle, through the city to Tyburn, where six thousand persons had gathered to witness his execution, when he reached it, sore and bruised as he was, he loudly expressed his happiness at being permitted to die on the spot made holy by the sufferings of all those who had given their lives there for the faith, and thanked God for the privilege. He then protested that he forgave from his heart his false accusers, and everyone else that had a hand in his death, and entreated the bystanders that if, after his death, the truth should come to light, and his innocence should be made manifest, they would intercede with the King for his enemies' pardon. He also called God to witness that he never even harboured the thought of doing that for which he was now ostensibly to be executed. Lastly, he gave expression to his grief, at not being allowed to have a confessor, but hoped that God would accept his desire, and have mercy on him; declared that he was a Dominican and a priest; then he recited the Creed, commended himself particularly to the Blessed Virgin, made the sign of the cross, and gave himself into the hands of the executioner. While actually hanging he was seen, with joy depicted on his saintly countenance, frequently to make the sign of the cross; for, in the final struggle with the powers of evil, the great truth, "In this sign thou shalt conquer," was borne in upon him with more vividness than ever before. According to the barbarous practice then customary in England, he was cut down when half dead, disembowelled, and his heart torn out. The hangman held up the heart that the crowd might gaze upon it, saying as he did so, "Behold the heart of the traitor." Instantly the body, more dead than alive, turned its eyes towards him, as if in abhorrence of the crime of treason, to reproach him with the calumny, and to protest that death was being endured for the holy Catholic faith.

...Inquiries about the martyr's burial-place have been made without result in Holland, Belgium, France, and Spain, and none of the many documents discovered up to the present gives the desired information... 

Malpe relates two prodigies which then took place, as he heard on good authority one, that when the executioner was throwing the heart, &c., into the fire prepared on such occasions, a young man in the crowd perceived that a part had fallen on the ground outside, and put it into the fire with his walking-stick, at the same time cursing the Popish priest and his belief. He had hardly done so, when he was seized with violent interior pains, and trembled like an aspen leaf from head to foot. He fell helplessly to the ground, and could only tell by faint groans the agony he was enduring when some nobleman went to his assistance.

The other wonderful occurrence that Malpe describes testifies still more clearly to Father Arthur's sanctity. Two women, who were going by chance towards Tyburn after the martyr's death, perceived that the air was redolent with fragrance, sweeter than they had ever inhaled before; and the fragrance became stronger as they approached the spot, where, to their amazement, they found that only mangled  remains were lying. Though one of the women was not a Catholic, yet she openly acknowledged that it was from the priest's dead body the heavenly aroma proceeded. A German perfumer also, who happened to pass that way, asserted, on his part, that in all his experience he had never known any odour comparable to it.

These supernatural signs, by which God glorified His servant, could not be concealed. Queen Henrietta Maria, the Catholic consort of Charles I., was informed of all that had occurred. Ever since her coming into England, Henrietta whose married life, as her god-father, Pope Urban VIII., is said to have predicted, was a series of afflictions had done all that piety and zeal could suggest for the support of the Catholic religion. In the first year of their marriage, Parliament reproached the King with having, "through the Queen's influence, spared the lives of twenty priests who had been condemned to die as
traitors; " and, later on, Buckingham had the insolence to tell his sovereign "to beware how she behaved, for in England queens had their heads cut off before now."

Notwithstanding this dastardly opposition and persecution, which must have cost her many a tear, the Queen held out courageously, and as an angel of peace calmly continued her mission of doing good. One of her favourite practices of devotion was a pilgrimage to Tyburn. She went as an act of reparation to the memory of those who had unjustly suffered there, and as a public profession of the veneration in which she held the martyrs. To her the spot was hallowed and dear, even though, while she knelt there, as Queen of England she could not but fear that it called to heaven for vengeance on many of her blinded subjects.

She had now a new reason for sorrow. For the first time in her own reign a martyr's blood had been shed at Tyburn. She communicated to Charles the sad tidings of Father MacGeoghegan's execution, and the King, in consequence, ordered an investigation of the whole trial to be made, with the result that the sentence of condemnation was retrospectively reversed when too late. All, however, that could  be done in atonement was faithfully performed: the King ordered that the quartered remains of the victim of the Star Chamber should not be exposed to view. ...

Public opinion certainly branded the action of all concerned in the priest's execution as one of consummate  iniquity. Rechac says that the judges acknowledged they had done wrong, but pleaded in self-defence that they had been imposed upon. However, notwithstanding all their protestations of impartiality, the occasion was seized for a renewal of hostilities against the Catholics. The accusation  which the judges had now reluctantly acknowledged to be false was nevertheless made a pretext for the necessity of taking further precautions for the King's safety, and by the very party which, a few years later, was to rebel against him, and to send him, too, to the scaffold...

Let us now see what befell some of the witnesses. The report of Father MacGeoghegan's fate soon reached people in Spain, and naturally created intense indignation against those who had sworn his life away. One of them [Henry Elzey of Southampton] was not slow in asking the Privy Council to indemnify him for the losses he sustained thereby, as well as to reimburse him for his travelling expenses...

We have not met his name before; but the name, Elsey of Southampton, occurs elsewhere in the State Papers in a letter to Sir John Coke, and there is also in the same collection a letter from a John Ellzey, Southampton, to the Secretary of the Admiralty, Nicholas, who was so desirous of seeing Father MacGeoghegan hanged,

A word about the betrayer, Captain Bust, and we have done. He appears also to have been rewarded according to his deserts. His petition for aid shows that Father Arthur's death was long remembered by the Duke of Maqueda.

"Edward Bust was Capt & Henry Fabian Mr wth him of a shipp in a voyadge to Lisbon 8 yeares now past, where abord the said shipp Arthur Graogan,an Irish preist, threatned to take away his Majts life.

"About 12 months after Capt. Bust did aprehend the said preist in London, whoe was tryed at the Kinges bench barr, & there convicted, and suffered death at Tyburne according to his demerrits.

"Since wch time neither the said Capt. nor Mr durst travell into those parts by reason of threats against themselves and their company for the death of the said preiste.

" This winter Fabian went to Barselona, where the Duke of Makeda is Admirall of the Spanish fleete, who was informed of Fabians beinge there, and therupon gave order for his present aprehendinge & execution, wh. Fabian had notice of by an English man, whoe is guner of the Admiral('s) Gaily, by whose helpe & the assistance of the company of 3 Dartmouth shipps he escaped, though the said shipps were serched for him.

" The Duke hath sollemly vowed to execute all that he can take that were in the said shipp wth Capt. Bust 8 years since, as the said guner enformed, w ch Fabian is able to prove by the testimony of above 40 men belonging to the Dartmouth shipps.

" Edward Bust being comanded by the Lords of his Mats most honoble Councell to attend hys tryall, whoe was then bound to sea, to trade between the Straights and the Spanish dominions, lost his imployment & before 6 monthes were past heard of these threats, therefore durst not since follow his usuall imployments, being forced to live heere wholly upon expence these 7 yeres, to the utter undooing of himself and his.

" Both pray to be releeved by some speedy imployment in his Mats Navy, & to be secured by the Spanish Embasador if they shall finde occasion to travell into those parts.

" And shall dayly pray, &c."

Such were the misfortunes that overtook Father Arthur's enemies, such was the just retribution of their crime. While events were passing thus on earth, never-ending glory was, we believe, the reward of the Dominican in heaven. He had confessed his Lord and Master before men, and now was honoured for it by angels and saints. Let us hope that the day may soon come when the Church on earth will unite with the Church triumphant in celebrating the martyr's praises.


Rev. Reginald Walsh, O.P., 'Some of Our Martyrs', Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 3rd series, Volume XV (1894), 885-916.

I have been unable to find out exactly where the cause of Father Arthur Mac Geoghegan currently stands. He was featured in the 1907 supplementary Catalogus Secundus of Irish Martyrs whose causes were submitted to Rome but I was surprised to see that his name does not appear to have then been translated to the 1918 Official List. It is customary for the cause of a martyr to fall under the jurisdiction of the bishop in whose diocese he was martyred. All of those executed at Tyburn thus fell under the remit of the Diocese of Westminster and had their causes included with those of the English Martyrs. However, I have been unable to find his name among the lists of the English martyrs either. I do hope that he hasn't been lost or overlooked somewhere between Ireland and England, it would grieve me to think that he has suffered another injustice.

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Thursday 19 November 2020

A Vision of a Suffering Soul


As November is the month in which we remember All Souls as well as All Saints, below is an account of a vision of a suffering soul experienced by the Jesuit martyr Father John Cornelius. This priest was born in Cornwall to Irish parents whose family name may have been Mohun or O'Mahoney. As a boy he was taken under the wing of the local lord Sir John Arundell, who sponsored his education and later studies for the priesthood at the English College in Rome. The Arundells were a prominent recusant family and on his return to England Father Cornelius became their chaplain, eventually being discovered in hiding at their home and executed in 1594. Father Cornelius was uncompromising in his attitude to the Reformation, while some priests were sympathetic towards those wealthy and powerful Catholics who attempted to hold on to their lands and titles by outwardly conforming to the new state religion, he refused even to say grace if a heretic was present at the table.  Lady Arundell had a son John, Lord Stourton (1553–1588) by her first marriage. Stourton was as convinced a Catholic as his mother and the Arundells but after an unsuccessful attempt to flee to the Continent in 1573, he submitted to the new religious regime and ended up agreeing to sit at the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1586. Stourton was tormented by the decisions he had made and tried to have a priest on hand so that he may return to Catholicism on his deathbed. Sadly for him, he died without a priest but professed the Catholic faith openly to his family and in a private confession of his sins to a trusted servant. His mother, Lady Arundell, therefore approached Father Cornelius to say a Mass for the repose of the soul of her unhappy son. Her daughter Dorothy, Lord Stourton's half-sister, who wrote a Life of Father Cornelius gives us an eyewitness account of a vision which occurred during the Mass:

One day my mother, Lady Arundell, begged Father Cornelius to offer up Mass for the soul of her son John, Lord Stourton, which he consented to do. When at the altar he remained a considerable time in prayer between the consecration and the memento for the dead. After Mass he made an exhortation on the words, Beati mortui qui in Domino moriuntur, and then he told us that he had just seen a vision. Before him was presented a forest of immense size, in which all was fire and flame, and in the midst he perceived the soul of the deceased Lord who with tears and lamentable cries accused himself of the evil life he had led for several years especially whilst at the Court, and his dissimulation in frequenting the Protestant Church, though still a Catholic, to the scandal and grievous hurt of the souls of his relations. But above all, in the most bitter terms, he accused himself of having been one of the forty-seven chosen by Queen Elizabeth to condemn the innocent Mary Queen of Scots, a crime for which he had experienced so deep a contrition that it had hastened his death. After these avowals of the deceased Lord to Father Cornelius, he exclaimed in the words of Holy Scripture, Miseremini mei, miseremini mei, saltem vos, amici mei, quia manus Domini tetigit me — " Have pity on me, have pity on me, at least you my friends, for the hand of the Lord hath touched me." Having implored the Father to assist him with prayers, the appearance, by which he had been recognized, vanished. Father Cornelius wept much in relating his vision to us, and all the household, who to the number of about eighty persons were listening to him, united their tears with his. The server of the Mass, John Carey, afterwards a sufferer for the faith with Father Cornelius, saw and heard all that passed in the vision; but as for myself and the rest of those present, we only perceived, while it manifested, a glimmering reflection like that of live coals on the wall against which the altar stood.
Dorothy Arundell, MS Life of Father Cornelius in Rev. Henry Foley, S.J., Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus, Volume III, (London, 1878), 445.


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Saturday 31 October 2020

Dominic Collins, S.J.

On October 31 1602 Jesuit lay-brother Dominic Collins was hanged, drawn and quartered in Youghal, County Cork. Born into a Gaelic aristocratic family, he had pursued a military career in both France and Spain but was drawn to the religious life. His bravery was matched by his humility and he entered the Society of Jesus as a lay-brother, feeling he was not worthy to be a priest. He returned to Ireland aboard a Spanish ship but was quickly captured and condemned to death. The account below has been taken from an Australian newspaper of 1909 and the author, "J.B.", testifies to the holiness of Blessed Dominic and the courage and steadfast faith with which he met his death as a martyr:  

One of Our Martyrs.

Donogh Oge O'Cullen, alias Dominic Collins, Jesuit lay Brother and martyr, was born at or near Youghal, Co. Cork, Ireland, A.D. 1553, and died at Youghal on the 3lst of October, 1602. When brought from prison before his judges, he professed himself a Catholic and a member of the Society of Jesus. He was promised a command in the army if he would do some acceptable service; he refused to do anything so abominable. He was offered preferment in the Protestant Church if he renounced his faith and religious profession, and he rejected the proposal. He was threatened with the direst torments and with death if he did not yield; and he told his enemies that he could not serve two masters, and preferred to suffer and die for Christ rather than renounce his religious profession or do any thing against his conscience. When he could not be won by promises or threats, he was sent back to prison, and his relations and friends were prevailed on to visit him, and try and shake his constancy. When neither the the fair promises and dire threats of his enemies, nor the pleadings of his friends, availed to shake him in his resolve to live and die in the Catholic faith and in the Society of Jesus, he was sentenced to be hanged, to have his, entrails torn out while he was still alive, and have his body cut in quarters. He received this sentence with joy. His masterful self-possession and the rapturous happiness which radiated from his heart over his countenance so irritated his enemies that he was put to the torture repeatedly during the days previous to his execution, a thing which is contrary to all human and divine law.

He bore these dreadful torments as if they were a pleasure to him, and he was thankful for them as for special favours from heaven. His tormentors were so maddened at his sublime patience and power of suffering that they sent him to the gallows before the time fixed by the sentence of death, and hanged him on the 31st of October, 1602, even the Lord's Day, for which Protestants profess so much respect. He was led out from Cork amidst the prayers and tears of nearly all the citizens, and was conducted by soldiers to Youghal with his hands tied behind his back and a halter round his neck.

On his way to the place of execution he kept before his mind the picture of Our Lord going from Jerusalem to Calvary; he walked with great modesty and composure, his eyes fixed on heaven, his thoughts intent on God, his bearing dignified and showing great self possession. When he saw the gallows he saluted it with tender affection, and when he reached it he knelt down and kissed it, and then prayed to God for himself and his fatherland, and, after the example of the martyrs, he prayed also for the Queen and all his enemies. He then with great alacrity and a steady step went up the ladder. Standing on its top as if in a pulpit, he began more zealously than ever before to exhort the Catholics to preserve the faith with constancy till death, to be on their guard against the threats and promises of the Queen, the wrath of the Ministers, and the wiles of the heretics; and he concluded thus:

'Look up to heaven, and be not unworthy of your ancestors who boldly professed the faith; do you too uphold it. In defence of it I desire to give up my life to-day.'  These were his last words; they were most effective in encouraging the Catholics. Uttered in that place and at that solemn moment by one of high birth who had shown contempt for worldly goods, they fell like a thunderbolt on the ears even of the heretics. The officers, perceiving the effects of his words on the bystanders, and fearing that the crowd might be still more confirmed in their hatred of heresy, ordered him to be thrown off the ladder. He was but a short time hanging on the gallows, and still breathing and his breast heaving, when the executioner, in punishment of his bold profession of the Catholic religion, disembowelled him, cut his body in quarters, and tearing out his heart, held it up to the people, uttering the usual formula, 'God Save the Queen.'

The martyr's mangled and holy remains were collected with piety, reverence, and affection by the people of Youghal, and were religiously buried in a chapel close to the gate at which he was hanged. In that chapel he is honoured by the veneration of the faithful, and as the Catholics affirm, he is glorified by God, Who works miracles there at his intercession.

The O'Cullens were formerly Lords of Castlelyons and the surrounding territory, and our martyr, Donogh Oge O'Cullen, was chief of his clan in the 16th century; but Boyle, Earl of Cork, managed to get hold of his property, and in his last will left the suppressed monastery of Castlelyons to his daughter, Lady Barrymore, "to buy her gloves and pins." When Donogh, the youthful Irish chief, reached manhood, he went to France for the sake of more easily preserving his faith, and through a generous desire of defending the Catholic religion in that country he resolved to adopt a military career and to fight against the Calvinists who at that time were waging war against Catholicism with the sword as well as with voice and pen. When the war of the League came to an end, O'Cullen went in search of other services, and passed into Spain, where he was taken into the army of the Catholic King, and got a position suitable to his birth and merits. To this step he was impelled by a desire of military glory, and no doubt by a hope of returning to Ireland with a Spanish armada. His biographers tell us that he was made Capitan de la Armada, Real at Coruna, a port of Galicia.

While in this city he turned his attention more closely than heretofore to the practice of piety, and being free from the cares of war, he pondered over in his heart the vanity of transitory things and the inanity of human glory, and he began to realise the deep sense of joy, happiness, and hope which is found in serving under the standard of Jesus Christ. In order to wage war on the world, the flesh, and the devil, he frequently approached the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist. He gave himself up to the reading of instructive and edifying books, and to the daily meditation of divine things, while he was a model of attention to his military duties, and he kept his body under subjection by fasting and continual corporal austerities.

As he continued this pious mode of life, he began by degrees to feel a desire to lead a life of still greater severity, and to view things of the other world in a different light.

Having made up his mind to enlist under the banner of Christ as his leader, he examined the Orders fighting for Him to see in which of them he should enrol himself. First he was attracted, by the mortified life of the Discalced Franciscans and by the strict observance of the Order of Preachers throughout Spain. Both these Orders, knowing his dispositions, would have conferred on him the order of the priesthood, but having recommended the matter to God long and earnestly, he determined to enter the lowly Society of Jesus, and to ask admittance as a humble temporal coadjutor. At St. James of Compostella he was received into the house of the Society on December 8th, 1598, and made his religious vows on February 4th, 1601. The next year he was appointed to accompany Father James Archer, S.J., who was to go with the fleet which the Catholic king was fitting out in aid of the Catholics of Ireland, under the command of Don Juan De Aguila. During the voyage he employed his zeal in caring both the bodies and souls of the sailors; attending on the sick night and day like a servant, and exhorting them to patience, urging on those who were in good health in the practice of virtue and horror of vice, and the use of the Sacraments. He continued his practices of mortification on shipboard, and when he landed in Ireland, as if he had no external labours to perform.

These voluntary mortifications prepared him, soul and body, to meet the sufferings he had to endure at the hands of the enemies of the faith. Soon after he landed at Dunboy Castle, he was seized and. put in chains by the heretics, contrary to the law of nations and in violation of their oath; for the besiegers had guaranteed the safety of all who defended the castle if they surrendered it, and had given a pledge, ratified by oath, into the hands of Dominic himself, who had proposed the terms of peace, and was the messenger of the besieged.

In February, 1905, the cause of beatification, of 350 Irish martyrs, amongst them Donogh Oge O'Cullen, alias Dominick Collins, S.J., was formally proposed to the Sacred Congregation of Rites, and it bids fair to obtain a successful issue, so that we may hope to see him and them beatified at no distant period.

Further information regarding Brother Collins may be found in 'Distinguished Irishmen,' by Edmund Hogan, S.J., and in 'Our Martyrs,' by Rev., D. Murphy, S.J.

J. B.

[ One of Our Martyrs, (1909, May 6). Freeman's Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1932), p. 11. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from ]

Dominic Collins, S.J., is number 73 on the Official List of Irish Martyrs (1918) and is one of the Seventeen Beatified in 1992.

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Friday 30 October 2020

Terence Albert O'Brien, O.P. : The Martyr-Bishop of Emly


On October 30, 1651, the Bishop of Emly, Terence Albert O'Brien, O.P.,  was put to death in Limerick by the victorious Parliamentarian forces who had beseiged the city. The man who captured and condemned him was Cromwell's son-in-law, Henry Ireton. When Ireton met his own death less than a month later, it was claimed that Bishop O'Brien had prophesied that his tormentor would soon follow him; and that at his end Ireton said he regretted ever having seen 'that Popish bishop'. In the extract below, the Postulator of the cause of the Irish Dominican martyrs, Reginald Walsh, O.P. (1855-1932), introduces us to the life and turbulent times of Terence Albert O'Brien. Father Walsh undertook much detailed research and this account formed part of his series 'Some of our Martyrs', published in The Irish Ecclesiastical Record. He illustrates his article with some contemporary documents and records Bishop O'Brien's last words as: "Preserve the faith, keep the Commandments, be resigned to the will of God, for thus will you preserve your souls. Weep not for me, but pray that I may meet death with gratitude, and happily finish my course."


THOUGH all true followers of the Crucified are willing to lay down their lives for Him, and a multitude that no man can number has received the grace to do so, yet amongst all the martyrs the bishops shine with a brightness of their own. The aureola becomes a mitred head best. The hand that carries a crozier here most suitably bears a palm branch in the Church triumphant. The very episcopal consecration of itself culminates in that love "greater than which no man hath." And still more so when the bishop has through life, in spite of dangers and difficulties innumerable, defended and maintained the faith in all its purity.

Such a pastor was he to whose memory the following pages are dedicated. One of the most conspicuous figures in the ecclesiastical history of Ireland during the eventful seventeenth century is unquestionably Terence Albert O'Brien, the martyr-bishop of Emly. His unswerving rectitude and devotion to duty, joined to his nobility of soul and his loyalty to the Holy See, have won for him the admiration of posterity.

We do not know the exact place of his birth, but the boundaries of his ancestral domain are clearly marked, for the sept or clan to which he belonged was the Mac I-Brien Arra, whose chief fortress stood on Keeper Hill, and whose other castles were Ballina, Cnoc-an-ein-Fin, and Kilmostully.

They sprang from Brien Roe O'Brien, Prince of Thomond, eighth in descent from Brian Boru, and younger brother of Teige, the ancestor of the earls of Thomond and Inchiquin. Terence or Turlough (his was a family name in the Arra branch, but rarely met with amongst the other O'Briens) while still young conceived the desire of devoting himself to the service of God in the Dominican Order, and applied to his uncle, Father Maurice O'Brien, then Prior of St. Saviour's, Limerick. The request was gladly acceded to. Could his family and his new superior have seen the future that was in store for that child of many hopes, they would have acknowledged that it surpassed their highest expectations. At his reception he took the name of Albert, dear to Dominicans, as being that of one of the prodigies of the thirteenth century, known to all succeeding ages as "Albert the Great."

If lustre was ever added to that name, it certainly was by him who was now henceforward to bear it. The year's probation showed what was in the youthful novice, so richly endowed with the gifts of nature, and the still better ones of grace. At its close, with all the devotion of his young heart, he pronounced his solemn vows before the altar of St. Saviour's, Limerick, and soon after bade a temporary farewell to the land of his birth.

In the Regesta of the Most Rev. Father Seraphino Sicci, General of the Order (1620-24), we find the following entry: "1622, May 22nd. Brother Albert O'Brien was sent to Toledo for his studies." (Archives of the Order, Rome.) Archdeacon Lynch of Tuam also states in his manuscript history of the Irish bishops, to which we shall often have occasion to refer, that Terence Albert O'Brien went through his course of ecclesiastical studies in St. Peter Martyr's, Toledo. It was at that time one of the most famous schools of theology in Spain. In the list of the fifty Irish students residing in Spanish houses of the Order, which was sent to Propaganda in 1627, amongst the last names we see those of Frater Albertus Brian, Frater Arturus Geoghegan, Frater Thaddeus Moriarty, Frater Joannes Cuillain." All four were destined to receive the palm of martyrdom, though not at the same time. How closely united in mutual charity, and how true to their high vocation were these devoted religious! Far away from Ireland as they were, they ever remembered that she expected them to do their utmost to maintain her dearest cause, that of the true faith. And fervently they prayed that God would protect the Island of Saints, and enable themselves, when their turn should come, to promote her highest interests to the best of their ability.

The subject of our article was still in Spain, in 1629, as another list sent to Propaganda shows. This is an instructive instance of the importance attached to a full course of study, at a time when less enlightened superiors would have been induced to curtail it by the specious plea of the urgent necessities of the Irish mission. The Dominican legislation of the period not only takes into account, it even lays stress on, the peculiar circumstances of the country, but only to find in them a cogent argument for bringing home none but matured priests, men of solid virtue and learning, able to guide others, and ready to face the dangers which awaited the ministers of the Gospel. How wise this was, and how well Terence Albert O'Brien repaid the care that had been bestowed on his ecclesiastical training, will abundantly appear in the sequel. With regard to the companions of his novitiate, who, with one exception, were not the companions of his martyrdom, it will be enough to say here that Father Thaddeus O'Moriarty and Father John O'Cuillin were amongst the most zealous priests that ever returned to the shores of Ireland. The third, Father Arthur Geoghegan, was apprehended on his way home; he suffered at Tyburn, in 1633. Their history will be contained in other articles.

On his arrival in Ireland, Father Albert O'Brien was assigned to St. Saviour's, Limerick. For many years, unobserved by men, he laboured assiduously for his own sanctification, as well as for that of his neighbour. During this period he was twice Prior of St. Saviour's, and once of St. Peter Martyr's, Lorrha, near Portumna. As regards his own inner life at this time, it is to be regretted that no detailed account of it has been preserved such as that given of his actions and of his influence on others at a later period. We have, however, sufficient evidence of his virtues, as well as of the esteem with which he was regarded, in the fact of his being thrice elected Prior. This of itself would entitle him to our respect; and still more does the choice made of him in the Chapter held in the Black Abbey, Kilkenny, A.D. 1643, to be Provincial of Ireland. We may mention that in the letters patent of the confirmation of his election (Archives of the Order, Rome) he is called " Albertus Bernardinus, vulgo O'Brien;" why "Bernardinus," we know not. But Lynch also states, in the manuscript already quoted, that he took as his name in religion, "Albertus aut Bernardinus"! Those who elected him to be their Provincial acted wisely in entrusting their common weal to one who, in the words of a contemporary, was conspicuous for his zeal. It was a time of hope, when the hearts of Catholics throbbed with the expectation of a brighter day. The Confederation had assembled in Kilkenny, and all around the social and political horizon looked fair, and promised the sunshine of national liberty. Efforts were joyfully made on every side to remove the traces of all the crimes that Queen Elizabeth and James I. had committed; and men vied, as it were, with each other in restoring religion to its ancient splendour.

It is interesting to note that nearly all the old chalices, &c., still in use in Dominican churches throughout Ireland belong to this period. Only two or three at most bear an earlier date; but, speaking from memory, even these are of the seventeenth century. This fact in the case of one Order shows how complete was the confiscation of church plate in the reigns of Elizabeth and James, even allowing for accidental losses, &c. And the other remarkable fact points as clearly to a great revival, almost instantaneous, made with a determination like that of the Macchabees, to reinstate divine worship in all its due solemnity. It is equally interesting to note that many of these chalices, as well as some other ones without date, appear to be of Spanish workmanship. Such sacred memorials of the past tell their own history. Young priests returning home from Toledo, Salamanca, &c., must have brought these chalices to Ireland. Thus it is morally certain that some of those still in daily use were often in the hands of one or other of the "martyrs."

We saw already that at the same period the number of Dominicans in Ireland was about six hundred. They had in a few years increased most marvellously, in the designs of God, no doubt, in order to meet the enemies of His Church in the struggle that was nearer than perhaps anyone thought then. The few religious who had survived the last persecution united once more in community life; schools and novitiates were re-opened or enlarged; and large numbers of students were sent to the best schools of theology on the Continent. How holy their lives must have been, how apostolic their spirit, appeared when their virtue was put to the severest of all tests.

The guiding spirit of all the good then effected by the Dominicans in Ireland was their saintly Provincial. His energy made itself felt everywhere. We may well be surprised that, amidst the pressing cares of his new position, and the exigencies of the times, he could hope to find time for reading. Yet so it was. A letter from the General, of a later date, gives him permission to have, for his own use, a history of the General Councils, the works of St. Thomas, Cajetan, Baronius, &c. Towards the end of the year 1643 he received a summons to attend the General Chapter of the Order in Rome. The high esteem in which he was held by the Supreme Council is evident from the following letters of safe-conduct and recommendation :


"As the Very Rev. Father Albert O'Brien is summoned, on account of his office, to the General Chapter of the Order of Preachers, which is to be held in Rome next May, by authority of our Holy Father Urban VIII., we deem it right, on account of his noble birth, his spotless life, his eminent learning, and his office of Provincial of his Order in Ireland, to commend him to all Catholics to whom these presents shall come, because he has exerted every effort to promote the Catholic cause in Ireland. We trust that he will be welcome to all that favour our cause, and that, as is meet, he will be received by them with Christian charity and courtesy.

"Given at Kilkenny, 10th Feb., 1643 (4)."
The letter of recommendation had been written the day before.

"REVEREND FATHER, The bearer, Father Albertus O'Brien, Provinciall of the Friars Preachers in this kingdome, beinge sent for to the Generall Chapter of his Order, to be held at Rome, hath merited soe well of us and our cause, and hath beene soe zealous in furtheringe of it, both by himselfe and those subject to his authoritye, that we may not omitt to recommend him unto you as a man who hath made it his studye to advance our designes, as well by cherishinge and encouradginge those who did assist us, as by chastising some who thought to disquiet our proceedings. Wee pray you, therefore, to further and to give all due countenance to his affairs.

" Kilkenny, the 9th of Februarie, 1643 (4)." 

The Provincial must have set out immediately, and travelled with expedition, for he reached Rome on the 24th of April, as appears from an entry of that date (General's Archives). The room in the Minerva (the head house of the Order) which he occupied may still be seen.

The famous Franciscan, Father Luke Wadding, was the agent of the Confederate Catholics at Rome; and none could have been found more capable or more deserving of that high office. He gave, we may be sure, a warm welcome to the Dominican, from whom, in turn, he would learn the latest news of the great events then occurring at home.

In the General Chapter of 1644 many important enactments relating to the Dominican Province of Ireland were made, in all which one may trace the noble spirit, and the influence for good which were the characteristics of Terence Albert O'Brien. These, as being so much private legislation, we shall pass over; suffice it to say that they all testify to his wisdom and zeal. Two other matters, however, may be of interest to many readers, and so will be mentioned here. It was in this Chapter that the privilege was granted to all Irish Catholics that wear the white scapular bestowed on the Order by the Blessed Virgin, of participating in the benefits enjoyed and in the merit of the good works performed by all Dominicans throughout the world. It was in this General Chapter also that the first list of our martyrs was made. For many years no representative of the Irish Province had been able to take part in such an assembly, and unfortunately the names of those who died for the faith during that period have not been recorded in the contemporary " Acta Capitulorum Generalium" The exceeding violence of that long persecution which sent so many to heaven, "clothed with white robes and palms in their hands," was at the same time the partial cause of their names with few exceptions being no longer remembered on earth. But Terence Albert O'Brien resolved, as regarded the martyrs of his own time about whom he could bear witness, that this omission should not be suffered to continue. A succinct list was accordingly drawn up and presented to the Chapter. The first name on this roll of the Church's heroes was that of his fellow student, Arthur MacGeoghegan. As he gave testimony to the glorious death of his former companion, did a voice from heaven whisper in his ear, "To-day for me, to-morrow for thee." His humility might forbid such a presentiment, but in his heart glowed a martyr's spirit, and the desire, if God so willed, of standing once more side by side with the friend of his youth, never again to be separated. And so it was to be; a few years afterwards his own name was to be the first on another list of martyrs.

During the Chapter the virtue and learning of the Irish Provincial won the admiration of all, and in time became known to the Pope, Urban VIII. At its conclusion, he and some other Irish fathers received the highest distinction, the degree, namely, of Master in Theology. As soon as his presence in Rome was no longer required, he set out for home, and on his way stopped at Lisbon for the purpose of making the usual visitation of the members of the Irish Province, priests and nuns residing in that city, the former at Corpo Santo, the latter at Belem (Bethlehem). It was during his stay in Lisbon that he received the announcement that, in consequence of a petition received from the Supreme Council, it was the Pope's intention to appoint him to the see of Emly; and in consequence he bade farewell to his brethren in Corpo Santo, including its founder the famous Dominic of the Rosary (O'Daly), and returned without further delay to Ireland in order to convoke the Provincial Chapter for the election of his successor.

The date of Father Albert O'Brien's actual elevation to the episcopacy was unknown to Dr. Burke  and other writers, the fact being that, perhaps in consequence of the death of Urban VIII. (29th July, 1644), he was not appointed immediately. In the following year, on October 22nd, the Papal Nuncio, Rinuccini, landed at Kenmare, and on November 12th entered Kilkenny when the Supreme Confederation was sitting. His first care, as Father Meehan shows so clearly, was to fill up the ranks of the episcopate, for at the time several sees were vacant, and one at least required a coadjutor. The Nuncio's letter to Cardinal Panfilio Kilkenny, 31st December, 1645 contains the following interesting passage: "Father Terence, the Dominican Provincial, has been in Italy. He is a man of prudence and discretion, and experienced in the management of affairs. We may be sure that he will be a success, and the Bishop who desires to have him as Coadjutor feels himself to be in extremely bad health."  And on 11th August, 1646 (Latest account of the dioceses), "the Bishop of Emly is confined to his bed, speechless and senseless. It appears necessary therefore to give him a Coadjutor, and a better cannot be found than Father Terence O'Brien, whose support, moreover, of the Catholic cause at the present time is deserving of the highest possible reward, as the memorial of the clergy sets forth."

Then "on Monday, 11th March, 1647, a secret consistory was held, in which (as according to the report of the Cardinal D'Este, the see called Calamensis had become vacant on account of the translation of Edmund Dwyer to the see of Limerick) his Holiness appointed thereto Terence Albert O'Brien, O.P., as bishop and pastor, and made him Coadjutor to the Bishop of Emly, with right of succession, &c." (Consistorial Records.) The appointment was notified at once, for in the Regesta of the General (De Marinis), we find the entry, "March 25th, permission was granted to Father Terence O'Brien, Master of Theology, to accept the bishopric." It is certain that he was consecrated by the Nuncio (as Lynch affirms), the ceremony being performed probably in St. Canice's Cathedral, or in the Black Abbey, Kilkenny. Lynch also states, that in November, 1651, he had been more than four years a bishop. This enables us to ascertain approximately the date of the ceremony.

The consecration of Terence Albert O'Brien, whose zeal and activity were indefatigable, marked the commencement of a new era not only for the diocesans of Emly, but for the Catholics of Ireland. As was, however, to be expected, those very qualities which endeared the bishop to the people made him, according to the remark of another contemporary writer,  the man in all Ireland whom the Protestants hated most. His energy and firm resolve were but too well known, and they felt instinctively that even if they got the upper hand, they might break but not bend him. Dr. O'Hurley was unable to attend to the wants of his flock, but his place was well filled. Such was the verdict of friend and foe. Very soon the diocese of Emly began to experience the bitter results of the defeat sustained by the Confederates at Cnoc-na-noss, 13th November, 1647, when Inchiquin in the pride and insolence of victory overran the whole district west of Cashel, and in his hatred of the Nuncio revenged himself on his own noble kinsman. The latter, on his part, left nothing undone to succour and console his flock in their misfortunes. Night and day, through wood and glen, did this good shepherd, at the risk of his own life, seek his sheep and defend them from the wolf. When the raid was over he was one of those thirteen bishops who on April 27th, 1648, signed at Kilkenny the famous declaration that no truce should be made with Inichiquin.

With that fidelity to the Holy See and its representatives characteristic of the Order to which he belonged, he gave on every occasion proofs of his unalterable loyalty and attachment to Rinuccini till that prelate's departure from Galway, January 23rd, 1649. At the first announcement he had hastened to bid him farewell, but when he reached the neighbourhood of the city, to his disappointment, he was informed that the Nuncio's vessel, the San Pietro, had already sailed. He was also in Galway, August 23rd, 1650, when with four other bishops he subscribed the Jamestown Declaration (August 6th, same year) against the iniquitous policy of Ormond; and a letter written in the same city, 29th March, 1651, states that he had been unable to enter his own diocese for more than a year.

Through all this troubled time the cause of the nation was the cause of God. This must be ever kept in mind as the reason why the Irish hierarchy took the lead in affairs which otherwise would be purely secular. The motives which animated the bishops may best be understood from their own words:

"We, the Archbishops, Bishops, &c., having met at Clonmacnoise, on the fourth day of December, in the year of our Lord God, 1649, taking into our consideration among many other affairs then agitated and determined for the preservation of the Kingdom, that many of our flock are held by a vain opinion of hope that the Commander-in-Chief of the Rebels' forces (commonly called the Parliamentaries) would afford them good conditions, and that relying thereon, they suffer utter destruction of religion, lives, and fortunes, if not prevented. We cannot, therefore, in our duty to God, and in discharge of the care we are obliged to have for the preservation of our flocks, but admonish them not to delude and lose themselves with the vain expectation of conditions to be had from that merciless enemy. And. consequently, we beseech the gentry and inhabitants, for God's glory and their own safety, to contribute with patience to the support of the war against that enemy, in hopes that by the blessing of God they may be rescued from the threatened evils, &c. Admonishing also those that are inlisted of the army to prosecute constantly, according to each man's charge, the trust reposed in them, the opposition of the common enemy, in so just a war as that they have undertaken for their religion, king, and country, as they expect the blessing of God to fall on their actions; and to avoid God's heavy judgment, and the indignation of their native country, they neither plunder nor oppress the people, &c."

Among the twenty-two signatures is that of Frater Terentius Imolac.

We now approach the most glorious part of his career. He was in Limerick when that devoted city was first besieged. He had gone there, as Lynch observes, when the power of the Confederate Catholics began to wane. Such was the opinion entertained of his energy and influence, even by those outside the walls, that Ireton secretly sent him word that he would give him forty thousand golden crowns and a safe-conduct out of the kingdom to any place he pleased, if he would only cease to exhort the inhabitants to the defence of the city, and connive at its surrender. From the commencement of the siege he had opposed the very mention of a compromise with the Parliamentarians, and had used every  means to encourage the garrison to hold out. His efforts redoubled when he saw that some began to waver. The Cromwellian general estimated correctly the bishop's power, but he must not have known what sort of a man the bishop was. The base suggestion was indignantly rejected. Filled with rage at being disappointed, Ireton vowed that if he ever got possession of Limerick he would immolate O'Brien.

As Linehan says:

"When Ireton heard of the stern inflexibility of the Bishop, he resolved at once to except him from amnesty and every other condition he proposed to the besieged. He swore, too, that he would visit with the most awful consequences the citizens if they hesitated to bring him the head of the Bishop, together with those of the twenty men who had voted against giving the city into his hands. A council assembled; a debate ensued. Two hundred ecclesiastics now met, and with one voice they proclaimed their determination to interpose between Ireton and the twenty he had named for death; but in vain, for all ecclesiastics were excepted. O'Daly ["Dominic of the Rosary"] throws out a dark hint, which is supposed to reflect on some of those who were engaged inside the walls at the time, and adds that the witnesses to the circumstances to which he alludes were in Lisbon at the moment he wrote. O'Brien offered to give himself up, so that the others should be saved; but his proposal was rejected by the ecclesiastics."

On October 29th, after a heroic resistance of five months, the city surrendered. Besides those slain in its defence, five thousand had already died of pestilence within its walls. The remaining inhabitants would perchance have held out longer, and might have forced Ireton to raise the siege, but for Fennel's treason. At length, however, the gates of Limerick were opened; a rush was made by the eager Puritans; and the noble-hearted bishop, faithful to the end, in ministering to the crowd of the dying in the pest-house, fell into the clutches of his enemies. He was a coveted prize, for he had often foiled their most desperate efforts. With his hands bound, and his feet chained with fetters, he was taken before Ireton, whose fiendish exultation at having the Popish prelate in his power at last may easily be imagined. He charged O'Brien with inciting the people against the English rule and religion; and without more ado passed sentence on him. The latter calmly answered that he was a bishop; that all they did and could condemn him for was the faithful discharge of a bishop's duty; and that for it he was prepared to die. While those who surrounded him offered a last insult to his sacred person, he fearlessly denounced the hypocrisy and wickedness of Ireton, and summoned him soon to appear before the divine tribunal.

The words were prophetic. The ruthless persecutor was only permitted to fill up the number of the martyr's brethren, in part, by the slaughter of the others Dominic Fanning, Thomas Stritch, &c. whom he had not "received to pardon." Then the avenging arm of God's justice was no longer stayed, and the unhappy wretch, haunted by remorse and terror, like Herod's, in his dying hours, had to acknowledge that the innocent blood of O'Brien was the cause of his own death, was heard to shriek out: " Oh, that I had never seen that Popish bishop! It was not I, it was not I ; the Council did it.''  But remorse was not repentance; and the ruling passion, strong in death, finally claimed the man of iron, the pitiless murderer, as its victim. Another author, whose testimony is here above suspicion for his chief aim is ever to glorify Cromwell and his relatives thus describes Ireton's end: "While in this last appointment, in the height of his most prosperous success, he was seized, November 15, 1651, before Limerick, with the plague, which carried him off on the 26th of the same month; and if we may believe Sir Philip Warwick (who had it from a person who was present), he died raving, crying out: 'I will have more blood, blood, blood!'" Such was the fate in store for this implacable enemy of religion. The prophecy and its awful fulfilment was so well known in Limerick that the new Protestant inhabitants of that city for years afterwards boldly kept Thursday, the day on which Cromwell's worthy son-in-law expired, as a festival, lest the Catholics should point to his untimely end as to a visible mark of divine vengeance.  The devotion which imposed this weekly feast in commemoration of Ireton, no doubt suggested also the title of his funeral oration, ''The Labouring Saint's Dismission to Rest." Such was the shameless hypocrisy, or the blind fanaticism, of his followers.

But to return to the Bishop. The old jail, which until a few years ago stood near Mary Street, was probably the place of his imprisonment during the two days previous to his execution. On his way from it to the scaffold he did his best to console the Catholics, who, according to Lynch's narrative, were weeping bitterly at the sight of the indignities already heaped on the beloved bishop. Many were overcome with dismay at the thought of being about losing, in the hour of direst need, their best friend and protector. He recommended himself to the prayers of all, while the serenity of his own look showed the gladness which filled his soul. His last words, spoken from the scaffold, were: "Preserve the faith, keep the Commandments, be resigned to the will of God, for thus will you preserve your souls. Weep not for me, but pray that I may meet death with gratitude, and happily finish my course."

It was the eve of All Saints a fitting day to bear testimony to their King, and then to be numbered amongst them. The martyr's body was left hanging for three hours, during which the Puritan soldiers treated it with every mark of contempt. They swung it to and fro in derision, and so beat it with their muskets that it almost lost the appearance of having once been human. Three days after this horrible scene had been enacted, Ireton sent the following despatch, which is in his usual canting style, to Lenthal, the Speaker of the Parliament: "November 3rd. It hath pleased God, since the surrender, to discover and deliver into our hands two persons of principal activity and influence in the obstinate holding out of Limerick the Bishop of Emly and Major-General Purcell, whom we presently hanged, and have set up their heads on the gates." What Protestant historians thought of the former deed of savage cruelty, may be gathered from these words of Borlase, the son of the persecuting Lord Justice of the same name. In his History of the Execrable Irish Rebellion, p. 299 (ed. 1680), copying Clarendon, as usual, he says:
"The instances of blood and severity which Ireton gave on being possessed of this place were very remarkable, whilst Ireton manifested what his [the Bishop of Limerick's] fate would have been by the treatment they gave to Terlough O'Brien, the Bishop of Emly, whom they took, and without any formality of justice, and with all reproaches imaginable, caused to be publicly hanged. This unhappy prelate had from the beginning opposed with great passion the King's authority, and obstinately adhered to the Nuncio and to that party which was most averse from returning to their allegiance, and was thus miserably put to death even in that city whence he had been a principal instrument to shut out his Majesty's authority."
Borlase wrote long after the Restoration, and this may explain his choice of certain words. The "King's" authority mentioned by him must be the pretended one in spirituals, peculiar to the successors of Henry VIII. in the government of England, by whatever name they were styled; for surely he knew that in 1651 there was no English monarch, and that the Cromwellians despised royal authority in temporals. Writing in 1680, he could not hope to impose on anyone by calling Ireton a good subject; nor, on the other hand, to escape unpleasant consequences himself if he expressed sympathy with the Roundhead policy. He may have had the unblushing hardihood to assert that the Bishop of Emly was a rebel to lawful temporal authority; but that is false. All true Catholics, but pre-eminently the Bishop and the others of the Nuncio's party, were thoroughly loyal to Charles I. It may not, however, be known to every reader that the unfortunate monarch was well aware of the fact. He writes thus to the Earl of Glamorgan: "Tell the Nuncio, that if once I can come into his or your hands, which ought to be extremely desired by you both, as well as for the sake of England as Ireland, since all the rest, as I see, despise me, I will do it." But Rinuccini, in his mission to Ireland, and Terence Albert O'Brien in co-operating with him, had a higher motive than allegiance to an earthly king; and Ireton in Limerick, was actuated more by hatred towards the Catholic religion than by the desire of establishing the Parliamentarian power.

The head of the martyred bishop was fixed on a pole. It was then placed upon one of the towers of King John's Castle, over the archway leading to the city, where it long remained, perfectly incorrupt, with fresh blood dropping from it. This prodigy, which still continued when Dominic of the Rosary wrote his history, four years later, has always been looked on as a token of the Bishop's spotless purity. Throughout life he had been distinguished by his great holiness, which was subsequently attested to by Father Denis Hanrahan, O.P.,  who heard his general confession on the very day the English entered Limerick. It was from the account of the saintly prelate's life and death, written by this Dominican, that Archdeacon Lynch made the epitome contained in the oft-quoted manuscript history of the Irish bishops.

All succeeding writers have paid honour to the memory of the glorious martyr-bishop. Their words would be too long for insertion here. A testimony, however, of special interest is found in the memorial on behalf of Ireland presented, in 1667, to Clement X. by Nicholas Ffrench, the famous Bishop of Ferns: "Interfecti in Odium Fidei: 2. D. Fr. Terentius O'Brien, Episcopus Imolacensis, Ordinis Praedicatorum, laqueo strangulatus fuit in civitate Limericensi sic jubente Iretonio Cromuelli Genero, et exercitu haeretico barbare ei insultante." An official document in the archives of the Propaganda also testifies to the fact: "Fra Vescovi, Imolacense ottimo, morto martire."  In the same collection, fol. 610, is preserved the summary of a petition drawn up by the Secretary of Propaganda, which ends thus: "Per gloriosam mortem sui consanguinei Terentii O'Brien ejusdem sedis ultimi Antistitis." The petition itself, presented in 1652, is on the preceding page, fol. 609; in it the clergy of Emly pray that Dermot O'Brien, a relative of the late bishop, and a faithful imitator of his virtues, be appointed Vicar-General of the bereaved diocese. The memory of Terence Albert O'Brien has never ceased to be one of the brightest glories of Emly. A few years ago, if the writer is not mistaken, the clergy of the now united dioceses of Cashel and Emly presented as their offering to the new church in Emly a memorial window representing the two martyr-prelates, Dermot 'Hurley (Cashel) and Terence A. O'Brien. The only relic of our bishop now apparently extant is his pectoral cross.... 


Rev. R. Walsh, O.P., Some of our Martyrs: Terence Albert O'Brien and Companions, Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Vol 15 1894, 97-120.

Bishop O'Brien is number 160 on the Official List of Irish Martyrs (1918) and is one of the Seventeen Irish Martyrs beatified in 1992.

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