Sunday 28 June 2020

Irish Martyrs for the Faith

I reprint below a contemporary review of Father Denis Murphy's 1896 book Our Martyrs from the National Library of Australia's digitized newspaper archive. The anonymous Victorian reviewer declares that 'after the lapse of years' reading of the brutality meted out to the martyrs 'creates peculiar sensations'. Father Murphy's book was reissued by Aid to the Church in Need last year, there is a scanned original but alas, poor-quality, copy available at the Internet Archive here.


The record of "Our Martyrs," by the late Rev. D. Murphy, S.J., covers the years 1536-1691, and in our matter-of-fact day this roll of the holy men and women who died barbarous deaths for the old Faith—bequeathing to us glorious traditions— reads like some awful fiction wrought around the bravery and the capacity for self-sacrifice and suffering of imaginary heroes and heroines. It affords searching illumination of the penal days. The heartless butcheries, the utter inhumanity, the gallant sacrifice, the savagery and heroism bred by the Penal Laws are vividly recalled, and it is appropriate that the text of that iniquitous code should be utilized as an introduction to the volume.

The description of the life and death of the venerable Oliver Plunkett, the famous Archbishop of Armagh, who was executed at Tyburn, July 1, 1681, and of Dermot O'Hurley, Archbishop of Cashel, who, after cruel tortures, was hanged in a green near Dublin (1584) are examples of the more lengthened histories.

The martyrs given by Cork, Kerry, and Limerick were numerous, and after the lapse of years the reading creates peculiar sensations.

In 1578 Edmond Tanner, Bishop of Cork, suffered death in Dublin after eighteen month's imprisonment. He was a native of the city, and was appointed Bishop of Cork November 5, 1574. More than once he was hung up for two hours, while his hands were tied behind his back with a rope. There is also the record of Thomas Moeran, Dean of Cork, who "underwent great toil and hardships while the persecution was raging, in order to encourage the citizens of that very famous city." He is buried in a marble tomb outside the choir of St. Peter's Church, Cork.

On page 198 we find the following taken from Hueber's Martyrologium concerning Matthew O'Leyne, O.S.F.: — "When the English soldiers rushed madly into the convent of Kilcrea, on the River Bride, in Muskery, they seized one of the brethren, Matthew O'Leynn, an aged priest, as he was striving to escape from them across the river, and cruelly pierced him through with their spears, March 6, 1590."

There is a long account of the martyrdom of Francis O'Mohuny, O.S.F., a native of Cork, and a distinguished Franciscan, having been twice Minister-General of the Irish Province, Commissary - General, and, lastly, Guardian of the College of St. Anthony, at Louvain. While Guardian in Cork, in the year 1642, he was seized by the Governor of the city and cast into prison. First his fingers were burnt off entirely, and he was hanged twice, the miracle by which he survived the first hanging being minutely described.

There is this slight note about Francis Fitzgerald, O.S.F.—" He was born of a very illustrious family in Munster. In this year he was hanged in Cork by order of the rebels, because he had administered the Sacraments and offered the sacrifice of the Mass."

In preparing this record, Father Murphy did little more than put together the statement made by the best accessible authorities, and having selected from the most authentic accounts, he refers the reader to several other sources from which supplementary or corroborative evidence can be obtained.

IRISH MARTYRS FOR THE FAITH. (1896, December 4). Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved May 16, 2020, from

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