Tuesday 29 September 2020

The Martyr of Inishowen: Father James O'Hegarty


 Below is a paper from the Irish Ecclesiastical Record of 1904 detailing the sad case of Father James O'Hegarty, a priest from the Inishowen area of County Donegal, ordained in 1672 by Saint Oliver Plunkett and martyred in the early eighteenth century, a victim of the Penal Laws. The author is the then Bishop of Derry, John Keys O'Doherty (1833-1907), a man with a keen interest in the history of his diocese and who published a number of articles on its saints and martyrs. He was not the first Bishop of Derry to take an interest in Father O'Hegarty for his predecessor Edward Maginn (1802-1849) also researched this local martyr whose memory was kept alive in oral tradition. The photograph above, taken in September 2020, shows the memorial plaque and grave site dedicated to the priest. It bears witness to the fact that to this day he has never been forgotten in the locality where he ministered and died. The circumstances of Father O'Hegarty's betrayal by his own in-laws, the Doherties, also remained in popular memory. Bishop O'Doherty describes the poetic justice of their ultimate fate at the hands of an outlaw called 'Stumpy'. Interestingly, the attempts of the Doherty sponsor, Colonel Vaughan, to convert the locals are portrayed as 'souperism', something more usually associated with the Great Famine of the 1840s. Overall, it is the rich human drama, where the courage and selflessness of the priest contrasts sharply with the venality of the informers and the bad faith of those in authority, which makes the story of 'the Martyr of Inishowen' so compelling. Bishop O'Doherty both begins and ends his account with two familiar tropes of the period. He starts with the charge that the English surpassed Nero in cruelty and concludes with the romantic image of the windswept, wild and lonely grave site, a landscape which for people of this generation was synonymous with the 'Celtic church'. The martyr of the early eighteenth century is thus linked to the Church of his ancestors. The commemorative  plaque below suggests that Father O'Hegarty was not a secular priest but a member of the Dominican Order. I have not been able to confirm this and Bishop O'Doherty does not raise the issue in his article, but I will be looking at the fate of the Domincan community of Derry in future posts.



IN no time during the Penal days did the fire of persecution burn more fiercely than in the reign of Queen Anne, and the beginning of the reign of King George the First. No weapon that bigotry could invent was then left untried. The Papists, as they were termed, were subjected to every kind of civil disability; but it was on the heads of the clergy, in an especial manner, that the full vials of heretical wrath were mercilessly poured. Nero did not gloat with more inhuman pleasure over the agonies of the early Christians converted into living torches to light the darkness of Rome, than did our English rulers over the hanging, drawing, and quartering of Catholic bishops and priests both in this country and in England. The laws passed at that period, and preserved in the statute books, published by the Government itself, bear ample testimony to the horrors of the time. Even the eloquence of Burke failed to designate these enactments properly, for they seemed to be the product, not of ‘the perverted ingenuity of man,' as he mildly termed them, but the fierce onslaught of fiends upon the Church of God. As a sample of these laws we may take that passed in 1703, entitled 'An Act to prevent the further growth of Popery,' and followed immediately by another called, 'An Act for registering the Popish clergy.' It is with the latter we have principally to deal, as well as with another Act passed in 1709.

This Registration Act begins as follows: —
Whereas two Acts lately made for banishing all Regulars of the Popish clergy out of this Kingdom, and to prevent Popish priests from coming into the same, may be wholly eluded, unless the Government be truly informed of the number of such dangerous persons as still reside among us: for remedy whereof, be it enacted by the Queen's most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords spiritual and temporal and Commons in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, That all and every Popish priest or priests, who are now in this Kingdom, shall, at the next general quarter-sessions of the Peace to be held in all the several counties, or counties of cities or towns, throughout this Kingdom, next after the feast of St. John the Baptist, which shall be in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and four, return his or their names and places of abode to the respective clerks of the peace in the several counties, or counties of cities or towns, in this Kingdom, where the said Popish priests shall dwell or reside, together with his or their age, the parish of which he pretends to be Popish priest, the time and place of his or their receiving Popish orders, and from whom he or they received the same ; etc., etc.
The second section of this Act provides that if any priest apostatize, 'he is to receive a pension of twenty pounds sterling yearly and every year, during their residence in such county, for their maintenance, till they are otherwise provided for'; this sum was to be levied off the county or district in which the said priest last officiated or resided, but the particular cruelty in this was, that the money was to be levied off Catholics only.

The third section ran thus: 
And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid. That no Popish parish priest shall keep or have any Popish curate, assistant, or coadjutor. And that all and every Popish priest that shall neglect to register himself pursuant to this Act, shall depart out of this Kingdom before the twentieth day of July which shall be in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and four, on pain of being prosecuted as a Popish Regular clergyman: and that such Popish priest and priests that shall neglect to register him or themselves as aforesaid, and remain in this Kingdom after the said twentieth day of July, shall be esteemed a Popish Regular clergyman, and prosecuted as such.
The priests regarded this law of registration as a kind of toleration if not of protection, and believed that by complying with it they would secure peace to follow their sacred calling, and to minister to the spiritual necessities of their flocks. Little they dreamed it was a deep-laid plan to effect their ruin by giving them the choice of death or apostacy. Yet this was the dilemma in which an Act passed in 1709 placed them.

In obedience to the Government edict most, if not all, of the parish priests got themselves registered. Among the number we find the name of Father Hegarty, or O'Hegarty, the subject of this sketch. The list of those registered was 'Printed by Andrew Crook, Printer to the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty, on the Blind-Key, 1705. Dublin.' It has been reprinted more than once since as a literary and historical curiosity. We believe the last reprint of it was in the twelfth volume of the first series of the I. E. Record, under the auspices of its then Editor, the present Archbishop of Dublin. We there find: 'Registered at a General Sessions of the Peace held for the said County of Donegall, at Raphoe, the Eleventh day of July, 1704, James Hegarty, aged 55, residing at Gortergan, Parish Priest of Fawn, etc., ordained at Dundalk, in May, 1672, by Oliver Plunket, Titr. Primate of Ireland.' The Fawn, etc., of which he was parish priest was the united parish of Fahan and Desertegney; the Fahan being spelt in the registry as it is still pronounced. Fawn. Of his life and labours, as of those of his contemporaries, we know but little save what tradition has preserved for us. Even the names of those apostolical men are, for the most part, forgotten ; all that remains of them is the fruit of their labours — the living faith which they transmitted to us in spite of every persecution.

Fortunately, however, tradition in the case of Father Hegarty has been both clear and abundant, owing to the fact that many of his collateral relatives still reside in the locality, and have treasured up every item of information regarding him. Some of these, now far advanced in years, learned from their grand-parents, who were almost contemporaries of Father Hegarty, all the particulars of his birthplace, life, and cruel death. These traditions, given by persons in widely separate parts of the locality, agree most wonderfully, even in minute details. From these we learn that Father Hegarty was born in the very townland in which he was afterwards murdered; that he had a sister named Mary, to whom, on the occasion of her marriage with Thomas Doherty (the subsequent betrayer of the priest), her father gave a portion of his own farm as a dowry, and that of this marriage there were three sons born. The family resided on this small farm until they got a larger one adjoining from Colonel Vaughan, as a reward for betraying the priest.

This Vaughan came to Buncrana in command of the troops in 1707. No sooner had he taken up his residence than he began his work of priest-hunting, and of endeavouring to Protestantize the inhabitants of the locality. Owing to a variety of circumstances, but especially owing to the fact that the peninsula had never recovered from the desolation spread over it in the preceding years by Chichester and his agents, poverty something akin to famine prevailed in Inishowen, and materially assisted Vaughan in his missionary campaign. Like modern zealots, he believed the way to the souls of the people was to be found through their empty stomachs, he at once had recourse to the method of establishing soup-kitchens for the starving poor; not by any means as an act of charity for the famishing people, but as a means of perverting them from their faith.

None, however, were permitted to partake of this soup till they had publicly attended the Protestant church for three Sundays, and then they must take the broth or soup publicly on Friday — the only day it was ladled out to them. Those who consented to these terms were rewarded with money or lands, or both. Among the first to avail themselves of this offer were the brother-in-law of Father Hegarty — Thomas Doherty — and his friends, and ever after they and their descendants were known as the Friday Doherties. From their readiness in giving up the faith Doherty and his sons became favourites of Colonel Vaughan, and as the sons were stout, burly fellows, they became a kind of body-guard to him when he went into possession of the Castle of Buncrana, which, according to some, was built in 1713, or, according to others, a few years later. The result of this unhallowed friendship we shall see later on. When Colonel Vaughan made it known that, in addition to the Government reward, he himself would give both lands and money to anyone who would betray Father Hegarty to him, the offer was too tempting to be resisted by Thomas Doherty and his sons. On their return home to Ballynary, they talked freely over the matter, said as the reward was now so great there would be plenty to look for it, and the priest could not long escape. Such being the case, they said they might as well have it as some other, and they determined to secure it. The poor wife and mother, having heard their diabolical conspiracy, fell on her knees, and with streaming eyes begged of them not to imbrue their hands in innocent blood — in the blood of their own relative and God's anointed — but all in vain. She succeeded, however, in having word conveyed to her brother, who at once changed his hiding-place, and betook himself to that cave where he was afterwards betrayed, and where he met his doom.

We said above that the Act of registration of the parish priests had an object in view that the priests never anticipated. This became manifest in 1709, when the period of registration expired. An Act was passed in that year to the following effect: —
And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all and every Popish priest and priests, who have been registered in pursuance of the said former Act for registering the Popish clergy, shall take the oath of Abjuration before the twenty-fifth day of March, one thousand seven hundred and ten, in one of the Four Courts, at Dublin, or at some quarter-sessions to be held for the respective counties, cities, or towns where such Popish priest or priests have been registered; and upon neglect or refusal, and after the said twenty-fifth day of March celebrating Mass, or officiating as a Popish priest, such Popish priest shall incur and suffer such pains, penalties, and forfeitures, as a Popish Regular clergyman convict by the laws and statutes of this realm is liable unto.
By this Act we come to see clearly the object of the registration of the clergy. It was not for the purpose of protecting them, or of giving them freedom in the exercise of their ministry, but of knowing for certain their whereabouts, that they might be at any moment seized and obliged to deny their faith, or to go to exile or death. It seemed a certain means of getting the country cleared of priests of every rank, for as the parish priests were forbidden to have curates or assistants of any kind, when they would go there would be no successors to take up their work, and the faith would then die out of sheer inanition.

The seeming protection given by the Registration Act was merely ' the protection that vultures give to lambs — covering and devouring them.' All the priests who had been registered in 1704 were now called upon to take the oath of Abjuration, or abide the penalties. That oath was similar in its tenor to the Accession Oath still taken by the Sovereign of these realms on coming to the throne. The person taking it had to solemnly declare: —
That I do believe that in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper there is not any transubstantiation of the elements of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, at or after the consecration thereof, by any person whatsoever; and that the invocation and adoration of the Virgin Mary, or any other saint, and the Sacrifice of the Mass, as they are now used in the Church of Rome, are superstitious and idolatrous, etc.
And this was what the priests were called on to swear if they wished to be allowed to live in the land. If they refused to take this oath, they were at once to be treated as Regulars, i.e., to be transported, and, in the event of their returning, to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. Moreover, the same penalties attached to a priest who dared to marry a Catholic and a Protestant together.

In this same year had been passed an Act offering a bribe of £50 to anyone who discovered and betrayed an archbishop, bishop, vicar-general, or other person exercising foreign ecclesiastical authority in this kingdom ; and what rendered this law particularly odious was, that the bribe or reward thus offered was to be levied off the Catholic people alone. Now since the Commons had declared ' that the prosecuting and informing against Papists was an honourable service,' it is not strange that spies, informers, and priest-hunters became at once numerous.
The priest-hunter had an infamous corps under his command [says Dean Cogan] designated priest-hounds, whose duty was to track, with the untiring and unrelenting scent of the bloodhound, the fissures of the rock and the caverns of the earth where the poor humble priest took refuge. Religion was now in a lamentable condition. The wretched mud-wall, thatched chapels of which the Irish Catholics were then glad to have the use, were levelled or closed over the whole kingdom. In cities and towns the Catholic clergy were concealed in garrets or cellars, and in the country districts they were hid in the unfrequented caves, in the lonely woods, and the ever welcome homes of the poor Irish peasant. During these storms of persecution the Sacraments were dispensed in the dead of night, and during the week-days word would be sent round the people where to meet their pastor on the following Sunday morning. The place of sacrifice was constantly being changed in order to baffle pursuit, and many a time, while the stars were twinkling, Mass was celebrated on the lone mountain or by the side of a ditch, while a few of the most active of the congregation kept vigil, lest the bark of the blood-hound, or the stealthy steps of a more remorseless enemy, the priest-hunter, would break in on the sacred ceremonies and subject the unfortunate priest to the dread penalties of the law. [Diocese of Meath, Vol.1, pp.266-267.]
Such was the life of Father Hegarty, and of his contemporaries.

In his letters to Lord Stanley, the illustrious Dr. Maginn, Bishop of Derry, thus expressed himself regarding this victim of persecution. Showing the immunity from crime, particularly the crime of murder, which characterized Inishowen, the Bishop says: 
The only one that tradition hands down to us is the murder of a parish priest of this union, and Dean of the diocese of Derry, Dr. O'Hegarty. He was dragged from a mountain cavern — his hiding-place by day (by night only could he appear in those times, commune with his flock, instruct the living, console the dying, and bury the dead) — and was butchered on a rock on the banks of the Swilly, which shall be ever memorable from this bloody tragedy. The perpetrator of this murder was a Captain Vaughan, the son of an English colonel who served in the army of Oliver Cromwell (as Carlyle would say) 'of blessed memory.' The good captain believed he was doing the work of God, when imbruing his hands in the blood of Popish priests, as many now believe they are doing the same holy work in calumniating them.'
Dr. Maginn had exceptional opportunities of learning all the traditions about Father Hegarty's murder. He came in 1806, when only four years old, to reside in Buncrana, where he afterwards became parish priest, and which, even when appointed Bishop, he held as his mensal parish till the time of his death in 1849. His uncle. Father John Maginn, had been parish priest of Fahan and Desertegney before him for a considerable period, so that the pastorate of the latter must have gone back to a time not far distant from Hegarty's murder, and when all the details were still fresh in the minds of the people. From his uncle and family, then, he could have learned the rank and character of the murdered man, the name and status of the murderer, and the circumstances that led to the barbarous tragedy.

It is not easy at this date to know whether there was any specific charge preferred against Father Hegarty, but it was enough that he had declined to take the oath of Abjuration, as happily the other priests had also done, and this made him liable, as we have seen, to transportation in the first instance, and to death if he dared to return again to the country. Besides, he was a dignitary, being Dean of the diocese, and we know that £50 was the reward for apprehending such as he. We are also to take into account that £50 at that period represented a much larger sum than at present.

In an interesting little book, compiled by the late Mr. Michael Harkin, of Carndonagh, published in Derry, in 1867, and entitled Inishowen, its History, Traditions, and Antiquities, an account is given of the scene and circumstances of the murder, which we have reason to believe is accurate, and which therefore we have pleasure in transcribing: —
In the village of Ballynary. about two miles north-west of Buncrana, on the banks of the Swilly, is a sea-cave which served as a hiding-place for a humble and zealous priest of the name of O'Hegarty. From this wild seclusion he was accustomed to steal, under the shadow of night, to carry the ministrations of his religion to the hearths of the faithful fishermen around the coast, and the hardy mountaineer further inland. His retreat was unknown to all save his sister, who lived with her husband and family in the above-named village. None of her family ever questioned her on the object of her journey when she departed from her cottage in the gray dawn each morning to carry him the provisions for the day. At last, her husband suspecting her mission, was led by curiosity to watch her unseen, and so became acquainted with the hiding-place of her fugitive brother. This, once known, he had not the fidelity to keep secret, for, tempted by the reward held out for such a discovery, he led a guard of soldiers from the garrison at Buncrana to apprehend the priest, his own brother-in-law, in that lonely dwelling. Often did the poor woman return that morning from the entrance of the rude domicile charging her brother to be wary, and endeavouring to cheer him with the hope that these ruthless times would pass away and be succeeded by others, when he could live in the habitations of men, and go abroad in daylight in the service of his Divine Master.

But the dawn was brightening, she might, if she remained longer, be discovered, and her object at least suspected. She received the usual parting benediction, and commenced her toilsome ascent, when, horror of horrors, there, full before her, were the soldiers descending by the same path to terminate that life which she had so long and so anxiously laboured to preserve. She called frantically to her brother that the guard was upon him. He rushed from the cave; above him were the soldiers, beneath the whole breadth of the deep-flowing Swilly, but deeming it the friendlier of the two, and putting his trust in God, he plunged into its depths with the bold, almost reckless resolve of swimming to the opposite shore. The guard, seeing they were in danger of losing the object of their pursuit, or fearing that if they fired and killed him in the water, they should have no evidence of the fact, called to him to return and they would spare his life, but no sooner had he gained the top of the precipice than they seized him, cut off his head, and buried his body on the spot where they had committed the deed.

His poor sister, the informer's wife, seeing all that had been done, became a raving maniac. Though fear of the soldiers' vengeance prevented the peasantry from marking his grave, yet was the memory of the place so engraven on their hearts, and carefully transmitted from father to son, that the villagers' children could at any time point out to the curious stranger that sad memento of the horrors of bygone days, under the name of Hegarty's Rock. Long afterwards, when civilization had made a proper impression on the governing classes, and when the disabilities imposed on the professors of the Catholic faith had been removed, two gentlemen, the Right Rev. Edward Maginn, D.D., and Hugh O'Donnell, Esq., M.D., visited the spot, and, with the view of testing the accuracy of the account, dug up the clay, and brought a portion of it for analysation to the College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, where Mr. O'Donnell was then studying. They afterwards raised a green mound on the spot, which now marks the place where the priest was interred.
We may add that the result of the analysis proved that human remains had been buried in the spot.

One statement in the foregoing narrative seems incorrect, viz., that the priest's sister, when she beheld the murder of her brother, became a raving maniac. All the traditions in the locality testify the contrary. When she beheld the atrocious murder committed before her eyes, and saw that the band of soldiers was led by her own degenerate husband, she is said to have fallen on her bare knees and prayed to God that she might not die till she had seen vengeance fall on that husband and his sons. That prayer or imprecation, coming as it did from her broken heart, did not go unheard. She separated from the family at once, and went to live with a family named McDonald, in Buncrana. These McDonalds were probably relatives, and they occupied the only two-storied and slated house in the town. Here she remained, spending her time in prayer, and in lamenting the fate of her murdered brother.

After the betrayal of the priest Tom Doherty and his sons became the henchmen of Colonel Vaughan, and the recipients of his favours. A gentleman at this time came from the neighbourhood of Maghera, in County Derry, on a visit to Buncrana Castle. When there he mentioned to Sir John — for it seems he was a knight as well as a colonel — that he was harassed incessantly by an outlaw known by the sobriquet of Stumpy, that all his efforts to capture him were fruitless, and that he was willing to give a large sum to anyone who would bring him to him either dead or alive. Colonel Vaughan at once offered to send him his servitors, the two young Doherties, guaranteeing that if anyone on earth could capture him, they would. Dazzled by the prospect of so great a recompense, they set out with their new employer, and after a few days waiting, they learned that their intended victim might now be caught poaching on the side of a neighbouring mountain. They started in pursuit of him, and as he threatend to outrun them, one of them fired, wounding Stumpy in the leg. Finding it impossible to continue the race, the wounded man threw himself between two ridges of potatoes, where one of the pursuers rushed up to seize him, but as he approached, Stumpy presented his pistol and shot him through the heart. The second brother, stunned by what had occurred, came forward to aid his brother, only to share a similar fate. News was brought to Buncrana of the sad death of the brothers, and the father started on horseback to meet their remains. There were no country roads then as now, and the father had to pursue a kind of bridle-path that went up hill and down vale. Going down a declivity towards a rivulet, the horse suddenly stopped to drink, throwing his rider forward on his head, and breaking his neck in the fall. When the cart containing the bodies of his sons came to the spot, that of the father was placed along with them, and from the second-storey window of M'Donald's house, the sister of Father Hegarty beheld the sad realisation of her prayer, for the vengeance of Heaven had fallen on the heartless betrayers of the outlawed priest — her brother. She lived for some years wholly devoted to prayer, and she obtained in the end, what her husband and sons did not — the grace of a holy death.

What a life of toil, of misery, and of danger did Father Hegarty lead! Wandering through the deep glens and rugged hills of the extensive district of which he had charge; lighted by the moonbeams, or groping his way beneath a starless sky, he went from cabin to cabin in sleet and storm to administer the Last Sacraments to the poor but faithful people, to baptize the little ones, to console the suffering and afflicted, or to offer up on a bare rock or bleak mountainside the Holy Sacrifice for the living and the dead. Well might he say with Saul of Tarsus that he was
In journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers,in perils from his own nation, in perils from the gentiles, inperils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils from false brethren; in labour and painfulness, in much watchings, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.'' (2 Cor. xi. 26, 27).
A hundred years before, this fair and romantic region had been over-run by the sleuth-hounds of Chichester who lacerated the entire peasantry; but now the blood-hounds of Anne sprang at the throats of the priests in particular. They were to be exterminated, and the method adopted for their extermination seemed, according to human calculation, absolutely certain of success. No curates were permitted, nor assistants of any kind, therefore there would be no successors to the present parish priests. The parish priests had been registered and were consequently known, and by the Act of 1709 they were called on to take the oath of Abjuration; in other words, to deny their faith or else go into exile or suffer death. Under all these fiendish devices of our legislators nothing but a special mercy of God could have preserved the faith, and with St. John we may say, 'This is the victory that overcometh the world, our faith.' Between this Scylla and Charybdis was Father Hegarty placed. Had he taken the oath of Abjuration, had he been recreant to his God, and sworn that to be blasphemous and idolatrous which he knew to be sacred and divine, then he might have lived at ease, and enjoyed the pension that was wrung from the poverty of his down-trodden fellow-Catholics. But he nobly spurned the bribe, preferring to be ranked amongst the white-robed band described by St. John, and of whom the angel said to him: 'These are they who are come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.' (Apoc, vii. 14)

That Father Hegarty died for his faith and for his fidelity to the duties of his sacred calling, there is not the shadow of a doubt; and it was the death of martyrs such as he that strengthened the faith of the people, and encouraged them to cling the closer to the Rock of Ages.

No long procession or funeral pomp accompanied him to the grave; no solemn dirge nor swinging censer consecrated his last dwelling-place; but the waters of the Swilly for nigh two centuries have chanted their Miserere around his lonely habitation; and the breezes of that Lake of Shadows, round which for years he ministered, have ceaselessly sung their Benedictus over the ashes of him whom the vox populi has long since canonized as the Martyr of Inishowen.

John K. O'Doherty.

Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 4th series, Volume XV, June 1904, 482-492.
Father O'Hegarty is number 245 on the Official List of Irish Martyrs where he is described as a secular priest and tradition as the main source testifying to his martyrdom. 

Content Copyright © De Processu Martyriali 2020. All rights reserved

Tuesday 15 September 2020

The Martyrdom of Father Richard Barry, O.P.


On September 15 1647 the ancient fortress formed naturally by the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary was stormed by Parliamentarian forces. The resulting massacre has been remembered ever since as one of the worst atrocities against Irish Catholics in what was overall a very bloody decade. Yet the leader of the Protestant forces was himself an Irishman, Murrough O'Brien, Lord Inchiquin (1614-1674). Inchiquin embodies the complexities of religion and politics in Ireland at this time; his father had been a Catholic but after his death in 1624 the young Murrough was in the hands of Protestant guardians and grew up to be an effective military leader for the Crown. His scorched earth tactics in Munster during the Irish Confederate Wars gave him a notorious reputation, one which the sack of Cashel confirmed. Cashel was a venerable site with a religious tradition reputedly stretching back all the way to Saint Patrick himself.  In September 1647 many people would perish when it fell to Inchiquin's army, some of whom are numbered among the Irish Martyrs. Below is an article from 1896 looking at one of the better-known cases, that of Dominican Prior Father Richard Barry. In it the author, Laura Grey, (yet another Victorian lady writer I would like to know more about) provides both an historical overview of the site and the particulars of Father Barry's case. She draws upon the testimony of the torture and heroic death of this Dominican martyr provided by his confrère Dominic O'Daly plus the eyewitness account of Jesuit Andrew Sall. Father Dominic makes it clear that Father Barry embraced death for his faith and not as a defeated rebel or victim of war. He confirms that his death was for Christ by recording that after three days the wound in the martyr's side was still bleeding. Father Sall's account is equally compelling as he conveys a vivid sense of the terror and destruction wrought by the victors, calling it 'the most disgraceful sacrilege that was ever seen in Ireland'. Since no article of this period is complete without some lines of verse, Laura Grey ends hers with a poem which 'a random muse' inspired her to write:

Laura Grey.

Ireland's most remarkable ruin, known as the Rock of Cashel, stands adjacent to a small town bearing the same name, in the County Tipperary. A cluster of ancient buildings crowns the gigantic rock, and frowns down in lonely grandeur on the hamlet nestling at its base.

The modern town of Cashel was anciently known as "Cashel of the Kings." The ruins consist of an ecclesiastical round tower — which Lord Dunraven called "the belfry of Cormac's chapel,"the weatherbeaten Celtic cross, the old cathedral, the castle, formerly the archiepiscopal palace, and the Vicars' hall, or Canon's residence. The Rock itself rises almost perpendicularly out of the "golden vale" of Tipperary.

 It bore on its summit the stronghold and fortress of the kings of Munster, and on the green, velvety sward is shown the spot where King Aengus (the reigning monarch) was baptized by St. Patrick. The saint pierced the king's feet by mistake with his crosier, but the royal convert betrayed no signs of pain, believing it to be part of the ceremonial of baptism.

The ancient name of the Rock of Cashel was Sidh-dhruim, "the fairies' ridge," as Mr. Joyce the antiquarian informs us, and the name Cashel, "caiseal," signifies a circular stone fort, and is derived from the Latin castellum.

The Rock, which is of limestone formation, increases in grandeur as one approaches it, and is accessible only on the south side. In 1101 the Four Masters tell us that Mortogh O'Brien, king of Munster, bestowed "Cashel of the Kings" "Deo et Ecclesia" and that his successor, Cormac McCarthy, erected the chapel which was consecrated about 1134.

 In 1152 the Grand Cathedral was built by King Donald O'Brien. In 1421 Richard O'Hedian repaired the structure, and founded the Hall of the Vicars Choral. In 1495 the former was burnt to the ground by the Earl of Kildare who alleged as an excuse that "he thought the Archbishop of Cashel was hiding there". In 1647 the cathedral and Rock were stormed by Lord Inchiquin, and it was during this sack and massacre that the heroic Father Richard Barry, O. P., Prior of St. Dominic's Abbey, Cashel, won the martyr's crown.

Murrogh O'Brien, sixth Baron of Inchiquin, was reared in the English schools of Wards, and perverted. His father was a most edifying Catholic, and in his early days, Murrogh had been educated in the ancient Faith, but association with Protestant companions had robbed him of the treasure. Father Sall, S.J., calls him the "Scourge of God," but the general sobriquet attached to his name is  "The Burner," because of the wanton barbarities he perpetrated in Munster during the Confederate War. Tradition affirms that he repented before death of his evil life, and became reconciled to the Church. Certain it is that he bequeathed to the Franciscans of Ennis a sum of money for Masses for the repose of his soul.

Father Dominic O'Daly, better known as "Dominic of the Rosary," gives us an interesting account of Father Richard Barry's martyrdom on the Rock of Cashel, when that citadel was besieged by the notorious "Murrogh the Burner," in 1647.

He says: "When Murrogh O'Brien (a man whose name must be execrable to the widow and orphan) sat down before Cashel, a band of Catholics took refuge on the Rock, resolved to sell their lives with bitter cost to the assailants. On the eminence stood a gorgeous shrine erected by King Cormac, and next to it the cathedral church to St. Patrick. To this church Father Barry betook himself. About eighty men fell on both sides, and when the priests had been cut to pieces, Richard Barry alone survived."

Father Reginald Walsh (a Dominican of the Irish Province), in his "Irish Dominican Martyrs," continues the narrative, and tells us:

"Father Barry had not only permitted, but even commanded, members of his own Community to seek safety in flight, whilst he himself remained at his post. Struck by his tall stature and noble bearing, the captain, who was the first to enter the cathedral, offered him his life if he would put off his habit — his 'insignia' the Puritan called it.

 "Never," was the firm reply; "these are my colors in war; my habit represents the Passion and death of our Saviour, and is the badge of my Order. I have worn it since my youth, and I shall do so till I die." The captain warned him of his impending fate, and tried to shake his constancy, but in vain.

"To me," replied the saintly Prior of St. Dominic's, "sufferings are welcome, and death itself a gain."

Without further delay he was seized by the soldiers, buffeted, covered with spittle, and then bound to a seat, under which a slow fire was kindled. The martyr's legs and feet were slowly consumed, the torture lasting about two hours, till he was released from his acute sufferings by a sword being thrust through his breast, and the habit he loved crimsoned with his own blood.

 A devout woman of the Third Order of St. Dominic, recognized Father Barry's body thrown amongst a heap of slain, and had it conveyed to St. Dominic's Abbey, where it was buried in the cloister by the white-robed brethren, who chaunted a Te Deum over the prior's sacred relics.

Dominic of the Rosary informs us that though three days had elapsed between the martyrdom and burial of Father Barry, the burnt limbs and wound in his side were bleeding freely.

The martyrdom took place September 15th, 1647. A linden tree marks the spot where he lies awaiting the Resurrection.

Some quotations from Father Sall's letter, describing the enormities perpetrated on the Rock of Cashel, may prove interesting, as he appears to have been an eye-witness. He writes:

"Before attacking, a messenger left the hostile lines, and came up to the Rock to treat about a surrender on these terms, viz.: that the garrison should be allowed to depart in possession of their muskets, and with their mouths full of bullets, but that the clergy and citizens should be left to the mercy of the commander.

"Here the bravery of the Catholic soldiers shone out, and they replied that they would risk their lives in defense of those whom they had vowed to protect, rather than break their word; that they preferred to dye with their hearts' blood that holy ground, to allowing it to be desecrated by heretical miscreants.

"Stung to the quick by this generous answer, the Puritan leader ordered the charge to be sounded. On they came with lightning speed, at the same time throwing firebrands into the air, one of which happened to fall into the vestibule of the monastery of the Friars Minor, set the hall on fire, and burnt it to the ground.

"The enemy charges the north and south doors of the cathedral, but are driven back with no less determination by our soldiers. Unable to effect an entrance in this direction, the Puritans plant their ladders against the walls of the church, and leap through the windows.

"Hemmed in on all sides, nevertheless our brave defenders fight with the energy of despair, and nothing could be heard through the vast edifice but the clash of arms.

"At length our defenders, now reduced to sixty, turn and ascend the bell-tower, followed by the enemy, who called on them to surrender. With the alternative before them of death by starvation or by the enemy's sword, they surrender on condition of their lives being spared. The deceitful commander gave his word, but as soon as the swords were collected, he gave the order to kill without exception. All with the exception of one or two, are either despatched by the sword or retained as prisoners.

"Thus ended the cruel butchery — the most disgraceful sacrilege that was ever seen in Ireland. We lost 1000 men; the enemy, at least 500 men. Three of the secular clergy, the Prior of the Dominicans (Father Richard Barry), and one of our Society (the Jesuits), had fallen in the performance of their sacred duties. Old men on the verge of the grave, whose weapons were their rosaries, defenceless women and children, were struck down on the very altars without regard to age or sex. In one word, the enemy, exulting over their prey, hew in pieces, and burn all the statues, overthrow the altars, and pollute the sacred vessels.

"The large crucifix that towered over the entrance to the choir had its head, hands, and feet struck off.

"The organ was broken, and the bells that cheered our soldiers whilst they fought were deprived of their clappers and their beautiful tone.

"The Puritans loaded themselves with the goods of the citizens with which the church was filled. They excavated the very crypts themselves, and broke open the marble tombs in hope of plunder.

"Those who remembered the splendor of the cathedral in the celebration of sacred ceremonies on holidays and feast-days, and the sumptuous workmanship of the altars and monuments, could not bring themselves to view the scene of horror, and shed abundant tears the while.

"The soldiery dress themselves in the precious vestments and birettas, and invite the rest to Mass. Others dash the holy images against the wall, and others bear aloft in solemn procession a headless statue of the Immaculate Virgin, curiously wrought with golden tracery. The pictures of St. Patrick and St. Ignatius, together with those of other saints (deaf and dumb idols, as they called them), were turned into horse cloths or used as sacks. Lord Inchiquin himself put on the Archbishop's mitre, boasting aloud he was Governor of Munster and Archbishop of Cashel.

"All the passages, even the altars, chapels, sacristies, bell-tower, steps, and seats were so thickly covered with corpses, that no one could walk a step without treading on a dead body. Already were the burning brands applied to the wooden partitions when some of the chief men stepped forward, and by the promise of a large sum of money to be contributed by all the citizens, saved the city from a deluge of fire.

"Yet the conflagration could not be got under, and the most ancient city of Cashel, that had seen a long succession of kings and Archbishops, was burnt to the ground.

"Whilst we mourn the loved ones that are no more, we rejoice that they are crowned with the martyr's crown above, and it is not wrong to think that their souls are in bliss. For on the night preceding the destruction of the city, we went to the soldiers of the garrison and exhorted them to abstain from swearing and other practices of the camp, and we found them compliant beyond measure, and prepared to shed their blood for the Faith.

"Before they engaged the enemy, most of them, several times at least, cleansed their conscience by confession, and received the Bread of Life.

"But if they are detained in the cleansing fires of Purgatory, I recommend them most earnestly to the sacrifices and prayers of this day, the commemoration of the souls of the faithful departed.

"Your Reverence's servant in Christ,

"Andrew Sall, S. J."

The above is Father Sail's letter; some minor portions have been suppressed, fearing to weary our readers.

To-day, when the tourist visits the Rock, and enters its desolate cathedral, walks up its silent nave and aisles, peopled with grass-grown graves, he will find it difficult to realize the scene of carnage described by the learned Jesuit. Some tombs of remarkable men still exist. That of Myler McGrath, the first apostate Archbishop of Cashel, with its enigmatical epitaph, has been for ages past an object of interest to the historian and archaeologist.

 The finely-wrought altar and roof have vanished, and the blue sky of Heaven is the only canopy.

Cormac's chapel has been more fortunate in this respect. Its flagged roof still remains intact, as perfect in every detail as it stood eight hundred years ago, on the day of its consecration. These venerable walls saw the Irish chieftains pay fealty to Henry II., King of England, and some remains of coloring and gilding are still to be seen on the wall overhanging that monarch's throne.

The round tower has been roofed, and restored by the Board of Works. The surrounding townsland is redolent with historic and sainted memories, and the tourist to the south of Ireland will be amply repaid by a visit to the now forlorn City of the Kings.

The spot where the subject of our sketch (Father Richard Barry) suffered the tortures of St. Lawrence is still shown under the ancient gallery at the end of the cathedral.

On seeing the sod sanctified by the death-agonies of the sainted Dominican, some erratic muse suggested to the writer the following lines in Father Barry's honor:

FATHER RICHARD BARRY. O. P. Martyred on the Rock of Cashel, Sept. 15th, 1647.

From Cashel holy fane they bore him,
The martyred dead;
Whilst in the sable vault of Heaven
The moon burnt red.

With tearful eyes they whispered lowly,
"His course is run —
Hark to angelic lips proclaiming
 A victory won " —

"Weave a crown of golden laurels
For his head;
In his hand the palm-branch dapple
With rubies red. "

"Type of the blood he shed for Christ"
The angels sang;
And swelling through the sapphire gates
The echoes rang.

The voice that woke the sinner's death-swoon
 Lulled to rest;
The hands that tilled the stubborn vineyard
Crossed on breast.

Beneath the Abbey's dome they laid him,
 Home at last;
The bark had kissed the port of Heaven —
Anchored fast.

The Rosary Magazine, Vol. VIII. January— June, 1896, 362-369.

Father Barry is number 130 on the Official List of Irish Martyrs whose cases were submitted to Rome for consideration and is also among the forty-two cases currently being re-submitted.

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Friday 11 September 2020

"I would not take money and lose my share in this persecution": Patrick Browne

We turn today to the final case of the three Irish martyrs for whom a date of death was not recorded by Bishop Rothe in his De Processu Martyriali. Dubliner Patrick Browne has a good deal in common with the subject of yesterday's post, James Dowdall of Athboy. Both were prominent laymen and members of elite families of the Pale. Their shared commitment to Catholicism led them to prefer long periods of incarceration rather than compromise. Both were eventually released in order to die at home. One point of difference though is that while Dowdall was a devout Catholic all his life, according to Bishop Rothe Browne had been raised in the new state religion:
A distinguished citizen of Dublin, had been reared up from his youth in heresy, but by a special grace of God was received into the church; and for the profession of the faith he suffered in Dublin, for nearly twenty years, a most cruel imprisonment, which he bore with unshaken mind, but from which he contracted a fatal disease; and although he was at length, on giving security, allowed home for a time to recover from his disease, he was only delivered from it by a happy death.

M. O'Reilly, Memorials of those who Suffered for the Catholic Faith in Ireland in the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries, (New York 1869),  pp. 223-224.
Bishop Rothe, however, is not the only early seventeenth-century source to mention Patrick Browne and his willingness to accept the consequences of his recusancy. Jesuit priest Christopher Holywood kept a record of events in Ireland during the year 1606 and noted that at the end of January Patrick Browne was one of three prominent Dublin citizens who faced fines and imprisonment:
  January 29, 1606, Philip Conran of Dublin, alderman, condemned in the Star Chamber to pay 200 marks sterling; and Patrick Browne, alderman, and J. Golding, merchant, to £100 le peece, and to be imprisoned.
The same source also recorded a rejoinder from our alderman when it was suggested he could buy his way out of trouble:
Alderman Patrick Browne had often sanctified the prison-cell for the sake of religion, and he was asked to purchase by money immunity from the coming persecution. He answered in a manner worthy of Proxenetes, "I would not take money and lose my share in this persecution".
Rev. Henry Fitzsimon S. J. ,  ed. Edmund Hogan, S. J. Words of Comfort to Persecuted Catholics (Dublin, 1881), pp. 129; 157. 
It must be said that Browne stood to lose a great deal for the sake of his conscience. He was not just a civic figure of note but also a landholder and merchant, involved in the profitable trade between the port of Dublin and Chester. He was willing to risk all of this as well as his health and liberty for the sake of upholding his faith. Is this a demonstration of convert zeal?  I would be interested to find out if Patrick Browne was indeed raised as a Protestant or whether his father was one of those who had outwardly conformed but continued with Catholic practice in private. This was possible in the earlier part of Queen Elizabeth's reign but later the authorities in the Irish capital began to more rigorously enforce the requirements to attend the state church and to take action against those who refused. The entry for Patrick Browne in the online Dictionary of Irish Biography which can be viewed here references his strong Catholicism, mentioning for example that his Dublin home was often used as a mass house, but does not say that he was a convert. The Dictionary also supplies the date of 1614 for his death. There is no date of birth recorded but as Browne was first elected as an Alderman of the city of Dublin in 1579, it would seem that he was at least in middle age by the time of his death. One can only salute his courage in being prepared to sacrifice his wealth and social standing for the sake of his conscience and for exchanging his comfortable home for a prison cell.
Patrick Browne is number 97 on the Official List of Irish Martyrs whose names were submitted to Rome for consideration of their causes.

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Thursday 10 September 2020

'A noble-minded man': James Dowdall of Athboy

 I recently looked at the case of Drogheda merchant James Dowdall who was executed in England in 1599. One of the impediments to the progress of the cause of this brave man was the existence of a namesake and kinsman, James Dowdall of Athboy, County Meath. There was no doubt in the mind of Bishop Rothe, however, that there were two distinct individuals who shared the name of James Dowdall, one from Drogheda and the other from Athboy.  In his 1619 catalogue of Irish martyrs De Processu Martyriali, each was given his own entry but the year of their deaths was unknown. Other evidence has established 1599 as the year of James of Drogheda's execution but whether his Meath kinsman died prior to or after him remains unclear. When nineteenth-century writer Myles O'Reilly compiled his collection he included both men and below is his translation of Rothe's account of James Dowdall of Athboy:

One of the leading men of the municipality of Athboy, was frequently summoned to Dublin by the chancellor to answer for his profession of the Catholic faith, and chiefly because he harboured priests. He was several times thrown into prison, where he patiently spent many years. At length, as the noble-minded man could neither be induced to bend to the times nor abandon his determination of patient endurance, the enemies of the faith let him go for a time, when he returned home, and peaceably died there about the year ___

M. O'Reilly, Memorials of those who Suffered for the Catholic Faith in Ireland in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, (New York, 1869), p.223.

 It is not a surprise to see James described as one of the leading citizens of Athboy as the Dowdall family was a prominent one in Louth and Meath. Of Old English origin, they were known for their piety and for contributing generations of clergy to the Church.  James Dowdall, along with his namesake from Drogheda and Cistercian Father John Baptist Dowdall, is one of three family members who upheld the faith at great personal cost. But the cause of James Dowdall of Athboy does not feature among those submitted to Rome for official consideration as a martyr. I assume that this is because Bishop Rothe's account suggests that although he had suffered imprisonment for lengthy periods, he appears to have died at home. Yet although he was not called upon to end his life on the scaffold like his Drogheda namesake, nor to meet his death in prison like Father John Baptist, the sacrifices made by James Dowdall of Athboy were no less real. He chose to endure repeated periods of imprisonment rather than cease to provide support for priests or to dissemble and compromise to avoid this fate. As a man of substance he would have been giving up a respectable, comfortable life to embrace the hardships of the prison regime and his willingness to do so repeatedly must have been irritating to the authorities.  We do not know the exact circumstances under which he was finally released, but there may be a clue in Bishop Rothe's account of another imprisoned layman, Patrick Browne. Like Dowdall, Browne had also endured long periods of imprisonment which had broken his health. He too was allowed to return home on providing some sort of surety and died thereafter. In the case of Dowdall, Rothe suggests that the authorities realized that they could not break his resolve but presumably the time in prison had consequences for his health too. James Dowdall of Athboy was a man of deep faith and conviction whose patient acceptance of his chosen path and indomitable spirit make him worthy to be remembered. A noble-minded man indeed.


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Wednesday 9 September 2020

'This venerable old man' : Father Nicholas Young


 I am going to look at the accounts of a trio of Irish martyrs who feature in Bishop Rothe's 1619 catalogue De Processu Martyriali but whose deaths occurred on dates he was unable to record. Two and a half centuries later Myles O'Reilly featured their cases in his compilation Memorials of those who Suffered for the Catholic Faith in Ireland in the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries. The first of the three is an elderly priest, Father Nicholas Young, who died in prison in Dublin:
A priest from the village of Newton, near Trim, a venerable old man for hatred of his religion was cast a prisoner into the Tower of Dublin, where he ended his days, worn out with suffering and misery, about the year_
M. O'Reilly, Memorials of those who Suffered for the Catholic Faith in Ireland in the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries, (New York 1869),  pp. 222-223.

The other major nineteenth-century work on the Irish Martyrs, Our Martyrs, by Irish Jesuit Denis Murphy also features Father Young's case. He too translates the same account from Bishop Rothe but for reasons which are not immediately obvious assigns the year 1600 as the date of the priest's death:

(From Rothe's Analecta, p. 387). 

He was a priest from the village of Newton, near Trim. This venerable old man, through hatred of his calling, was thrown into the prison of Dublin Castle, where, worn out with suffering and misery, he ended his life.
See also Molanus. 
Rev. Denis Murphy, S.J. , Our Martyrs,  (Dublin, 1896), p. 209.

The reference to Molanus is to another seventeenth-century martyrologist, John Molanus (Mullen) who published a work known as the Idea Togatae Constantiae in 1629. I can only assume that Father Murphy derived the date from this source.

Father Young's cause was among those submitted to Rome and is number 21 on the Official List of Irish Martyrs published in 1918.

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Monday 7 September 2020

" I desired my cause to be tried in my own country": Blessed Ralph Corby, S.J.

 September 7 is the feast of Blessed Ralph Corby, an English Jesuit martyr with a link to Ireland. The Corby family originally hailed from County Durham. There Ralph's grandfather had conformed to the State Church but his father Gerard was convinced by reading Catholic books to turn back to Catholicism. Persecution in England drove Gerard to Ireland where he took service with the Kildare family. Ralph was born at Maynooth in 1598, a circumstance which was to assume a significance later in his life. The family ended up in exile on the Continent and almost unbelievably all of them entered the religious life. Ralph's parents separated when they were in their sixties, Gerard to enter the Jesuits as a lay-brother and his mother Isabella to join the Benedictines in Ghent, following their children into the religious life. Longevity was in the family genes for sources say that Gerard converted his father back to Catholicism at the age of one hundred and that despite her reputation for strictly observing fasts and other austerities, Isabella Corby (Sister Benedicta) also reached the same milestone. Alas, Ralph himself was never to see extreme old age, dying at Tyburn in his mid-forties on September 7 (17th on the old calendar) after being found guilty of returning to England 'having been made a priest and Jesuit beyond the seas'. What is interesting, however, is that it appears that the possibility of a stay of execution was offered by the fact that Father Corby was Irish by birth. Some sources suggest that his supporters actively attempted to procure legal documentation to this effect but it arrived too late. Other martyrologists insist that Corby did not want to pursue this possible escape route as he willingly embraced the prospect of martyrdom, as a good martyr should. Jesuit historian Father Henry Foley tells us:
It was the opinion of some that, with regard to Father Corby, if authentic certificates could be procured of his birth in Ireland, and could be brought forward in time, sentence would be stayed. He heard, then, with great regret, that such letters were being procured, and as far as he might, consistently with obedience, he abstained from promoting that object. Certainly Divine Providence seems to have favoured his ardent aspirations against the attempts made by his friends to save his life; whose success in obtaining this public testimony, God was pleased to render so tardy, that a notary at Ghent made out the certificate of his early birth-place on the same day, and almost at the same hour, that he, being hanged at London, began to be born in heaven. ...

In his own writings, however, it seems clear that Father Corby raised the fact of his Irish birth himself with the authorities during his trial. In the end it was all academic as the statute under which he was condemned was held to be in effect in all of the royal dominions, including Ireland, as Father Foley explains:
Let us hear then, from the facts recorded in the letter of Father Corby, dated September 15, 1664. He says:

''When the sessions were held on Sept. 4 (O.S.), which day is in Catholic countries the 14th, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, I was the second called. After I had made my appearance, and the indictment had been read, which was to this effect, 'That Ralph Corby, an Englishman, having been made a priest and Jesuit beyond the seas, had returned into England, contrary to law,' I was asked by the Recorder of the city, the ordinary judge in these cases, 'Guilty or not guilty?' I answered that I was a priest and Jesuit, and acknowledged it; but that I considered this an honour, not a crime. He urged me to answer 'Guilty, or not guilty?' I repeated a second and third time that I was a priest and Jesuit, and that if that was guilt, I confessed myself to be guilty. When no other answer could be got out of me, he asked whether I had anything further to say for myself; but I said, 'That I was not born in England, as was laid in the indictment, but in Ireland, at a time when my parents, for conscience and religion's sake, had fled thither from England; and that I had mentioned this to the commissioners before whom I was brought at my first coming to this city.' 'But this,' said the judge, in a somewhat irritable manner, 'will be no excuse for you. Why, do you not know the statute of Queen Elizabeth?' And he ordered the statute to be read. I do not remember its language; but, according to his interpretation, the wording of the statute extended to all parts of the Dominions of Queen Elizabeth, of which Ireland was a part, 'And so,' he said, ' if you be so courageous, you must die.' Whereupon the jury immediately came forward and pronounced me guilty of the crimes charged in the indictment, and convicted by my own evidence, and I was ordered to be led away.

"The next day I was sent for into court, and when I was placed at the bar, the Recorder again asked what I had to say that sentence of death should not be passed on me according to law. I said that I had pleaded yesterday that, having been born in Ireland, I desired my cause to be tried in my own country, and that this had been denied to me. 'To this,' said he, sufficient answer was given yesterday for the statute comprises both England and Ireland.' And so he passed sentence on me, as follows: ' That I was to return thence to prison, to be taken from prison, placed on a wicker hurdle, and dragged to Tyburn, where I was to be half hanged with a rope, and when half dead, to have my bowels taken out, and my body divided into four parts, which parts were to be taken to Newgate, and exposed in some place appointed by his Majesty.' This sentence having been passed on me, I went gladly back to my prison of Newgate, where I expect that blessed and happy Saturday (he wrote this two days before September 7), which is the vigil of Her glorious nativity by whose holy intercession I hope to be born again to a new and everlasting life; which may the infinite goodness of God grant, by the prayers and merits of the same Mother of God and of His glorious saints. Amen."
 Henry Foley, S.J., Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus: historic facts illustrative of the labours and sufferings of its members in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Vol III (London, 1875), 75-76; 77-78. 

Father Ralph Corby was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929.

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Friday 4 September 2020

'For that he said Masse was hanged and quartered': Father John Stephen

Among the martyred priests of Ireland is a Father John Stephen (Stephens) who was hanged and quartered in 1597 on the orders of the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Thomas, Lord Burgh (Burrowes, Burrough). Irish exiled priest John Copinger in his martyrology published in France in 1620, suggested that Father Stephen was a chaplain to the Lord of Ranelagh, Fiach McHugh O'Byrne:
Iohn Stephen priest, for that he said Masse to Feigh Ma-Hugh was hanged and quartered by the L. Burrowes 1597. 
The Theatre of Catolique and Protestant Religionp. 582
If this is so then both chaplain and lord suffered in the same year, for Fiach was also killed in 1597 by Burgh's predecessor, Sir William Russell. Both were victims of the ongoing Elizabethan conquest of Ireland. In his entry on Father Stephen, Irish Jesuit Denis Murphy cites another seventeenth-century martyrologist, Anthony Bruodin, who supplies a date for the execution:
1597. John Stephen

(From Bruodin's Propugnaculum)

This priest was a native of Leinster. He was accused by the heretics of celebrating Mass. He was hanged and quartered by order of the cruel tyrant Marshal Burrowes, and so deserved to obtain a martyr's crown September 4th, 1597.

Rev Denis Murphy, S.J., Our Martyrs (Dublin, 1896), p. 207.
If Bruodin is correct in his dating then Lord Burgh did not survive the martyred priest for long as he died on October 14 1597.

Father Stephen's was among the names submitted to Rome and his cause is number 17 on the Official List of the Irish Martyrs issued in 1918. No further progress to date has been made with it. The name of the Irish Lord he offered Mass for, Fiach McHugh O'Byrne, remains alive in popular memory largely due to P.J. McCall's stirring song Follow me up to Carlow commemorating Fiach's victory over the English at Glenmalure in 1580. Now for me it will be linked too to that of his martyred chaplain, Father John Stephen.

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