Friday 22 January 2021

Three Franciscan Martyrs of Down: Edmund Fitzsimon, Donough O'Rourke and John O'Loughran


On January 21, 1575, according to the seventeenth-century writer Anthony Bruodin (1625-1680), three Franciscans in Saint Patrick's own city of Down were hanged within the confines of their friary, a foundation which dated from the 1230s. The deaths of Friars O' Lochran, Fitzsimon(s) and O'Rourke were recorded by several of their Order's martyrologists.  The following account is based on the work of two of them - Bruodin and the famous Louvain scholar, Waterford man Luke Wadding (1588-1657): 

Rev. John O'Lochran, Edmund Simmons, and Donat O'Rorke, Franciscans.

These fathers were members of the Franciscan convent of Down. A military commissioner, named Britton, and his ravaging band, resolved to fix their winter quarters in that ancient town. Their thirst for religious spoils soon impelled them to the convent. But the sacred vessels had been concealed, and none could be found. The three fathers were their only prey. These they first subjected to a variety of tortures, and then, dragging them to the adjoining garden, strangled them from the branches of a large oak that overshadowed the sanctuary.

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. 55-56.

Father Denis Murphy based his account on that of another seventeenth-century Irish Franciscan scholar of Louvain, Donegal man Hugh Ward (1593-1635):

 1575. John O'Lochran, Edmund Fitzsimon, and Donogh O'Roarke, O.S.F.

(From Ward's Catalogue.)

In 1570 a certain Englishman named John Britton, or Brereton, accompanied by a body of soldiers, seized Brothers John O'Lochran, Edmund Fitzsimon, and Donogh O'Roarke, priests, in the convent of Down, and after putting them to the torture repeatedly, hanged them near the place commonly called St. John's Well, the spot where the angels appeared to St. Patrick. He hanged two more in the garden of the convent from a tree, though he had received a large sum of money from the townsmen to set them free. It is said that the tree, which formerly bore fruit in abundance, soon became withered, and never sent out a leaf. Bruodin gives January 21st, 1575, as the date of their martyrdom. 

Rev. Denis Murphy, S.J. , Our Martyrs,  (Dublin, 1896), p. 94.

Father Ward has provided a hagiographical flourish to his account by adding the detail of the withered tree. He also states that the executions took place in 1570 rather than 1575, something confirmed in another Louvain manuscript attributed to Ward which mentioned the history of Downpatrick Friary:

....The friars were first expelled from this convent by John Brittan, an English Protestant, who, with a number of wicked followers, invaded the place in the year 1569. The friars were apprised of his approach, and saved themselves by flight, but returned again; and in the following year, 1570, he made an attack on the convent, hanged all the friars he caught, and almost totally destroyed the establishment, with the exception of the church which was kept as a court house for the English judges of Assize.... 

Rev. James O'Laverty, An Historical Account of the Diocese of Down and Connor, Ancient and Modern, Vol. I (Dublin, 1878), pp. 260-261.

The website of the Irish Franciscans adds that the names of these Franciscan martyrs are all local to the area, substituting Rooney for O'Rorke:

Driven out of Downpatrick in 1569, [the Franciscans] returned the following year when three friars with local names (Fitzsimons, Rooney and Loughran) were hanged from an Oak tree near Toberglory which is now called St. Dillon’s Well.

Our three martyred friars of Down, Edmund Fitzsimon, Donough O'Rourke and John O'Loughran are numbers 39, 40 and 41 on the Official List of Irish Martyrs (1918) whose names were submitted to Rome. No further progress has been made on their cause.


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Wednesday 20 January 2021

Father John Wallis and Father John Walsh

One distinct sub-grouping within the Irish martyrs whom I find particularly interesting are those Irishmen who were martyred in England. I have already written about a number of them and links to the various posts can be found here.  In most cases the circumstances in which these Irish victims came to be in Britain have been established, but not in the case of Father John Wallis, who died in prison in Worcester on January 20, 1582.  In his classic work Our Martyrs, Father Denis Murphy translated the 1669 account of Irish Franciscan martyrologist Anthony Bruodin:

1582. John Wallis

(From Bruodin's Propugnaculum, p. 445)

He was a priest, a native of Leinster, noble by birth but still more noble by reason of his reverence for the things of heaven. He was seized by the heretics, and bore with wonderful patience the various kinds of torture inflicted on him. At length he was sent to England, and imprisoned in the gaol at Worcester. There he died of hunger and other hardships, and triumphed gloriously for Christ, January 20th, 1582. 

See also Rothe and Molanus. The latter gives 1600 as the date of his death. Challoner makes no mention of him.

Rev. Denis Murphy, S.J. , Our Martyrs,  (Dublin, 1896), p. 124.

 Initially I wondered, given the date of his death and his Leinster origins, if the noble father might be another victim of the executions following the Baltinglass Rebellion. There were two problems with this idea though, first the 'Martyrs of the Pale' executed in the aftermath of the Rebellion were mostly aristocratic laymen, among whom I have never seen a Father Wallis mentioned. Secondly, I would still be left to wonder what was so special about the case of this priest that he would be sent to England, instead of simply being executed in Ireland. Unfortunately, Bishop Challoner (d. 1781), whose detailed and authoritative account of the English martyrs included many of the Irish among them, does not mention Father Wallis. But then if we examine the 1600 date another possibility arises. Myles O'Reilly, in the other great nineteenth-century catalogue of Irish Martyrs, translates the entry from Bishop Rothe cited by Father Murphy above:

Anno 1600.

Rev. John  Walsh,

A priest and Vicar-General of the diocese of Dublin, was thrown by chance on the coast of England, questioned of his faith, and for his constancy thrown into prison in Chester, where he ended his life and confession of the faith in chains, about 1600. 

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. 165.

Could Father John Walsh be the same person as Father John Wallis ? I strongly suspect that this might be the case. Indeed, by his reference to Bishop Rothe and Molanus and the year 1600 when dealing with Father Wallis, Father Murphy himself seems to link the two. A number of things can be said to support this possibility. Bishop Rothe was closer to the events than Bruodin for he recorded the case of Father Walsh in his De processu martyriali published in 1619, fifty years before Bruodin's own work was issued. The scenario of 'being in the wrong place at the wrong time' as an explanation for the Irish priest's imprisonment is a perfectly reasonable one. Irishmen Christopher Roche and James Dowdall, for example, were martyred in England while trying to make return passage to Ireland. It would also be fair to say that Bishop Rothe has a greater reputation for accuracy than Bruodin, whose work has been shown to have garbled names and dates and places of execution of other Irish martyrs. The names Walsh and Wallis are similar and given the circumstances in which all of these martyrologists were working, writing from exile and often dependent on hearsay reports of varying quality and reliability, it is not surprising if there are inconsistencies in their accounts.

The name of Father John Wallis  does not appear on the Official List of Irish Martyrs (1918) submitted to Rome for consideration and neither have I been able to find him on any of the lists of English martyrs. Father John Walsh, however is number 20 on the 1918 Official List, but no further progress has been made with his cause.

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Wednesday 6 January 2021

'A priest of great age and venerable appearance': Patrick O'Derry.



There is a some uncertainty surrounding the date and place of execution of Irish priest, Patrick O'Derry. According to the seventeenth-century martyrologist John Molanus (Mullen) who published a work known as the Idea Togatae Constantiae in 1629, he was an elderly man who suffered the full rigours of hanging, drawing and quartering at Lifford, County Donegal in the year 1609:

1609. Patrick O'Derry, O.S.F.

(From Molanus' Idea, p.72)

 He was a priest of great age and venerable appearance. He was hanged at Lifford, in the territory of the most illustrious Earl of Tyrconnell. He was cut down while still breathing, disembowelled, and quartered by the heretics hardened in their cruelty, and in this way he triumphed as a martyr, in 1609.

Possibly this is one of the priests of whom F. Holywood, S.J., wrote in 1609: 'A priest was put to death in Dublin, and another in the north'. 

Rev. Denis Murphy, S.J. , Our Martyrs,  (Dublin, 1896), p. 237.

But another seventeenth-century martyrologist, Anthony Bruodin, wrote of a priest, Patrick O'Dyry who had been martyred in Derry and gave the date as January 6, 1618. It seems more than likely that he is speaking of the same person:

Rev. Patrick O'Dyry

"He was a native of Ulster, and a priest, and received the crown of martyrdom at Derry, of St. Columbanus, for having disobeyed the iniquitous law of Elizabeth and James.*  He preferred to suffer tortures, the ignominy of the scaffold, and the cutting of his body in four parts, rather than deny the truth. He died, venerable for age and virtues, the 6th January, 1618, and, as we may piously trust, enjoys a crown of glory with the saints." Bruodin, lib. iii. cap. xx

 *That making it treason for monks and priests to reenter the kingdom.

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.225.

Apart from the date and place of execution Bruodin has also given a variant spelling of the name but here he may be forgiven. According to Edward Mac Lysaght, who has written authoritatively on Irish surnames, there are two separate families in Ulster, one called O'Derry (Ó Doirighe) and the other O'Deery (Ó Daighre). Lysaght describes the O'Derrys as 'An erenagh family in the diocese of Raphoe, distinct from Deery though the two are often confused'. The O'Deerys he says are 'A notable ecclesiastical family in Ulster. To be distinguished from, though often confused with O'Derry'. (The Surnames of Ireland, (New York, 1969), p. 69, p. 71). 

The Official List of Irish Martyrs (1918) seems to have followed Bruodin's identification as at number 103 we find 'Patrick O'Derry [O'Deery], native of Ulster; hanged at Derry, 1618'. He is listed among the secular clergy, although as we have seen above Father Murphy had referred to Patrick O'Derry, O.F.M. in his translation of the Molanus account.

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Monday 4 January 2021

Bishop William Walsh, O.Cist



On February 4 1560, three Irish bishops were officially summoned to take the oath of supremacy. Only one of them, Archbishop Bodkin of Tuam, gave his assent, the other two, Thomas Leverous, Bishop of Kildare and William Walsh, Bishop of Meath refused. Bishop Leverous based his opposition to affirming that Queen Elizabeth I was 'supreme governor' of the Church on the grounds that a woman was precluded from exercising any such authority and he was deprived of his see, retiring to Limerick to become a teacher. This left only the Cistercian Bishop of Meath, William Walsh, who had already established a reputation as an uncompromising opponent of the Reformation, to try to continue the fight. He had been appointed by the Catholic Queen Mary in 1554 but the accession of her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth just four years later changed everything. By July of 1560 Walsh had been arrested and began a long period of imprisonment which ended only when he escaped in 1572.  He eventually made his way to Spain where he died on January 4, 1577. While he did not die a martyr's death on the scaffold, Bishop Walsh was a courageous confessor of the faith who endured much suffering. The account of his life below has been taken from Myles O'Reilly's 1869 collection Memorials of those who Suffered for the Catholic Faith in Ireland in the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries:

Anno 1560 


During the reign of Henry VIII, Meath had been disgraced by an apostate bishop. Dr. Edward Staples, an Englishman, had been appointed, in 1530, at the request of Henry VIII, Bishop of Meath. As to the early years of his episcopate little is known. In 1534, he fled to England, in order to escape the anger of Silken Thomas, then in rebellion, to whom he had made himself obnoxious. In 1535, he returned to the diocese of Meath, deeply infected with the principles of the Reformation; and from that time he was a willing assistant of Dr. Browne, the intruder into the see of Dublin, in the work of despoiling the monasteries and endeavouring to force the new heresy on the Irish people.

Mary ascended the throne in 1553, and in April, 1554, Dr. Dowdall, Archbishop of Armagh, lately returned from banishment, and Dr. William Walsh, received a commission to proceed against immoral ecclesiastics, and to depose such as were married and impenitent. By their authority, Edward Staples was, in June of the same year, removed from the diocese of Meath, deprived of his benefice, and suspended from all ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and this Dr. William Walsh was afterward duly appointed  Bishop of Meath.

Sir James Ware says that he was a native of Waterford; but another authority, who certainly had better opportunities of information, namely, John alias Malachy Hortrey, a Cistercian monk of the Abbey of Holy Cross, in a manuscript treatise entitled De Cistertiensium Hibernorum Viris Illustribus, states that William Walsh was born at Dunboyne, county Meath, joined the Cistercian order, and lived in the Abbey of Bective, previous to its suppression. Whatever doubt there may be about the place of his birth and his early history, there is none whatever as to his eminent virtues, distinguished abilities, and the heroic fortitude with which he bore numerous and prolonged sufferings for the faith. His unbending orthodoxy and opposition to the innovations of Henry VIII. and Edward VI. marked him out for promotion after the accession of Mary, and accordingly we find him associated with the zealous primate. Dr. Dowdall, in the commission to drive from the sanctuary all such as were faithless to their trust. A congé d'élire was issued to the Archdeacon and clergy of Meath for the election of Dr. Walsh, and, after having received the royal assent and the confirmation of the Holy See, he addressed the following petition to Mary and Philip:

“Petition of William Walsh, stating that he was elected bishop by the chapter and clergy of the bishopric of Meath, and had for his consecration their graces’ letters-patent ; but, not having his lawful consecration from the Universal Catholic Church, like other bishops, he could not, with good conscience, be consecrated; and stating that he was sent into Ireland at his own cost, by commission, to deprive certain married bishops and priests, and was so occupied in execution of this office that he could not attend to his consecration. He therefore prays a grant of the temporalities of the see from the date of the deprivation of the late incumbent, which was the feast of Saints Peter and Paul last past."

On the receipt of this petition the king and queen wrote to the Lord Deputy, the Chancellor, and the Council of Ireland, thus:

" We send you herein enclosed a supplication exhibited to us by our loving subject, Dr. Walsh, Bishop of Meath elect. He desires the temporalities of the bishopric from the time of the deprivation of the late incumbent. Our pleasure is that you shall give order to make forth an utterlemagne, under our Great Seal, whereby 'he may enjoy the whole temporalities of the bishopric from the time of the amotion or deprivation of the late incumbent." — Oct. 18th, 1st and 2d Mary and Philip.

Dr. Walsh was consecrated about the close of 1554, and immediately applied himself with zeal and energy to reform abuses, and to heal the wounds which during the last two reigns had been inflicted on faith, morals, and discipline. The period of his usefulness was, however, destined to be brief, and he had time merely to stimulate his priests and to fortify his diocese when the gathering storm burst over the Irish Church, and sacrificed the Bishop of Meath among its first and noblest victims. Queen Mary died in 1558, and was succeeded by Elizabeth, who at once publicly embraced the reformed tenets, and proceeded to have them enforced on all. In 1560, an act was passed, under the deputyship of the Earl of Suffolk, which ordered all ecclesiastical persons, judges, officers, justices, mayors, and all the other queen's officers, to take the oath of supremacy under penalty of forfeiture, and also enacted that if any person should, by writing, printing, teaching, preaching, by express words, deed, or act, maintain any foreign spiritual jurisdiction, he should for the first offence forfeit all his goods and suffer one year's imprisonment, for the second offence should incur the penalty of praemunire, and for the third be deemed guilty of high treason. (2d Eliz. cap. i.)

It was now the fidelity of Dr. Walsh was tested to the utmost. Had he, like a few of his contemporaries, sacrificed conscience to expediency, worldly comfort and ephemeral honour were soon to have been his portion. But he felt he had a higher authority to obey than Queen Elizabeth, and hence he repudiated her pretensions to rule the church, and guarded his flock, even at the peril of his life, against her parliamentary creed. Ware thus narrates the event:

"After the return of the Earl of Sussex to Ireland, letters came from her majesty signifying her pleasure for a general meeting of the clergy of Ireland, and the establishment of the Protestant religion through the several dioceses of this kingdom. Among the bishops, the Bishop of Meath was very zealous for the Romish Church; not content with what offers her majesty had proposed, but very much enraged, (after the assembly had dispersed themselves,) he fell to preach against the Common Prayer in his diocese at Trim, which was newly come over and ordered to be observed, for which the lord lieutenant confined him till he acquainted her majesty with it, who sent over her orders to clap him up in prison. Within a few months after, persisting in the same mind, he was deposed, and the bishopric of Meath was about two years vacant, till, by her majesty's provision, Hugh Brady became Walsh's successor."

On the 16th of July, 1565, Adam Loftus, Protestant Archbishop of Armagh, writes to Sir William Cecil:

" The XIIIth of this monthe by vertu of our commission for cawsis ecclesiastycall, we committed to the castell of Dublyn, doctor Welcke, late byssippe of Methe, there to remayne untill the queenes majesties pleasure were knowne. He refused the othe and to answer such articles as we required of him; and besides that, ever sithens the last parliament, he hath manifestly contemned and openly showed himself to be a mislyker of all the queenes majesties proceedings; he openly protested before all the
people the same day he was before us, that he would never communicate or be present (by his will) where the service should be ministrid, for it was against his conscience and (as he thought) against God's woord. If it shall seeme good to your honour and the rest of her majesties most honourable counseyle, in myne opinion, it wer fit he showld be sent to England, and peradventure by conferring with the lerned bishoppes there, he might be brought to sum conformitie; he is one of great creadit amongst his countrimen, and uppon whome (as tutchinge cawsis of religion) thay wholy depend."

As no pretext could be devised for leading him to the scaffold, he once more received the culprit's chains, (he bore the scars of them to his tomb) and was reconducted to his former prison; this was "a subterraneous dungeon, damp and noisome — not a ray of light penetrated thither; and for thirteen years this was his unvarying abode." During all that time his food was of the coarsest kind, and, with the exception of rare intervals, when the intercession of some influential friends obtained a momentary relaxation, he was allowed no occupation that could cheer the tedium of his imprisonment. In all this lengthened martyrdom, prayer was his resource, and, as he himself subsequently avowed, he oftentimes passed whole days and nights overwhelmed with heavenly consolations, so that his dungeon seemed transformed into a paradise of delights. To preclude the possibility of idleness, he procured a bed made of twisted cords, and whensoever his mind was fatigued with prayer, he applied himself to untie those cords, and often was he well wearied with the exertion before he could reunite them to compose himself to sleep.

His persecutors, overcome by his constancy, and finding his fervour in spiritual contemplation a continual reproach to their own wickedness, at length, about Christmas, 1572, connived at his escape. Sailing from our shores, his only regret was to abandon the field of his spiritual labours, and to leave his flock defenceless amid the many enemies that now compassed its destruction. He says himself, (letter of July 5th, 1573,) "I was snatched from that place by the liberality and care of my friends, and having met with the opportunity of a ship of Brittany, I threw myself into it, not heeding my age, which was above sixty years, or my state of health, deeming it safer to trust my life to the danger of the sea than again to experience the cruelty of the enemies of the Catholic religion." For sixteen days he was tossed on the waves by a violent storm, and was at length driven in shipwreck on the coast of France. Weighed down with the infirmities which he had contracted in prison, and with the burden of more than sixty years, he was compelled to remain for six months unknown and abandoned in Nantes. At length, receiving aid from the nuncio, he proceeded to Paris, and thence to Spain.

The closing years of his life were spent in Alcalá. A noble Spanish lady received him into her house, and attended him as though he were an angel from heaven. The sores which yet remained from his dungeon chains she kissed as the trophies of his martyrdom. She would allow none but herself to wait on him, and on her knees she usually dressed his wounds and ministered to his wants. From this asylum of charity, thus providentially prepared for him, he passed to the convent of the Cistercian fathers in the same city, and there, on the 4th of January, 1577, he happily closed his earthly life, which, as many attested, he had never sullied by any stain of mortal sin.His remains were placed in the Collegiate Church of Saint Secundinus, and a monument erected over them by the Bishop of Grenada, with the following inscription:

"Here lieth William Walsh, a Cistercian monk, and Bishop of Meath, who, after thirteen years imprisonment, and many labours for the Catholic faith, at last died in exile at Alcalá, on the day before the nones of January, 1577”

He is held in veneration by his Cistercian brothers as a holy martyr in the cause of the Catholic faith, and his memory lives in benediction in the diocese he adorned.

M. O'Reilly, Memorials of those who Suffered for the Catholic Faith in Ireland in the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries, (New York 1869), 25-31.

The name of Bishop William Walsh was among those submitted to Rome for consideration and he is number 4 on the Official List of Irish Martyrs (1918).

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Friday 1 January 2021

Tadhg O'Daly, O.S.F.


On the first day of January, 1579, Tadhg O'Daly from the Franciscan foundation of Askeaton, suffered death by hanging, drawing and quartering in the city of Limerick. The friar had been living in the 'interesting times' of the Elizabethan conquest of the province of Munster and accounts of his martyrdom were preserved in a number of Irish and continental sources. In his 1935 study of Irish martyrs Father Myles Ronan argued that the build-up to the rebellion launched by the returned exile James Fitzmaurice in 1579 forms the context for Friar O'Daly's execution:

It would be futile to try to number those who suffered for the faith during the years of expectation of the coming of Fitzmaurice to Ireland. The Munster people were in a fever of expectation. Letters were constantly passing between Spain and Kerry telling of efforts at the accumulating of forces. Hopes were shattered by disappointments.  If only Fitzmaurice would come, the Earl of Desmond thought all would be well. But he was disappointed with the support of the Munster chiefs, and he too temporised. But, all this time, there were men who did not fear to travel the countryside in their Franciscan habits. They were the friars of Askeaton, some sixteen miles west of Limerick. They were evidently in touch with events on the Continent, and their hopes loomed large. But they suffered for their enthusiasm for the faith. We have the report of Drury, President of Munster, to the Privy Council, March 24, 1578, for what happened:

There have been, to my judgement, since my first entry into office, about 400 executed by justice and martial law, within this province...Among the which a Friar was of late apprehended arraigned and hanged in his habit at Limerick for having about him certain letters with blanks, and the seals of several Friars in this province, with letters of commendation to the Provincial of Portugal, imparting seditious practices to be intended and he as a trusty messenger sent to negotiate. He was apprehended, being ready to depart to the sea into Portugal from the river of Limerick....

The friar referred to is evidently Brother Tadhg O'Daly, a native of Kinvarra, and a member of the Franciscan Friary at Askeaton. He was evidently the bearer of cryptic letters to the Earl of Desmond. At the time of his arrest he was wearing his religious habit publicly, and having refused, when asked to admit the Queen as Governor of the Church, he was conducted to Limerick, where he was hanged in his habit.

Rev. Myles V. Ronan, The Irish Martyrs of the Penal Laws (London, 1935), 30-31.

Commenting in 2004 on the report of the Elizabethan soldier and administrator Sir William Drury (1527-1579) quoted above, Irish Franciscan historian, Father Benignus Millett, confirmed that the threat of rebellion formed the backdrop to the execution of Brother Tadhg: 

He [Drury] mentions the latest news on the James Fitzmaurice expedition, or crusade. In both Ireland and England crown officials were very worried about papally sponsored campaigns. And their official attitude to priests and religious had changed from 1576 onwards. They were convinced that they were dealing with less pliant Catholics than those confronting them at the beginning of Elizabeth's reign and they blamed priests, Jesuits and friars. They spoke about Catholic ill-will and disobedience and they also sponsored anti-Catholic propaganda. This propaganda would be reinforced by the execution of priests and friars.

He also confirmed Father Ronan's identification of Tadhg O'Daly with the anonymous friar mentioned by Drury:

In his report Drury records that he hanged a friar in his habit at Limerick (which the printed calendar of the report does not mention). This was Teige O'Daly, an Observant Franciscan priest, who in fact was the first priest and friar to be sentenced to death in the province of Munster in Elizabeth's reign.  With the evidence available in the Catholic sources there can be no doubt about the identification. All agree that he was put to death in Limerick. No friar other than O'Daly is known to have been martyred there in Elizabeth's reign.

Yet whereas Father Ronan seemed to hint that O'Daly was acting as a courier for the Earl of Desmond, Father Millett argued that the letters found on the friar had an entirely religious nature and purpose: 

The Lord President notes that the friar had in his possession a letter recommending him to the provincial of Portugal and other letters with blank spaces and with seals. This does not mean that Drury was convinced that this Irish friar was a political subversive. The explanation was simple. O'Daly had decided that if the religious situation in Ireland deteriorated, he would take refuge overseas and he obtained from his minister provincial a letter of introduction and recommendation to the provincial of Portugal, where it was likely he would first arrive, and some blank letters of obedience, sealed and probably signed.  These would be necessary if O'Daly were to find himself in Spain or France or Italy and wished to receive hospitality from his Franciscan brethern, for he could present these letters in proof of his claim to be a genuine Franciscan, and not an imposter. 

The removal of the suggestion that Friar O'Daly was acting as a secret conduit between the Earl of Desmond and potential European Catholic supporters for a rebellion in Ireland allows Father Millett to conclude that this execution should be viewed in a purely religious light:

The killing of this priest had a religious motive, not a political one. He was totally innocent of any treasonable activity. Drury, like other crown officials, was beginning to panic with the ever-increasing reports of an imminent expedition from Spain. The public execution of O'Daly was intended to strike terror into the hearts of the Catholic priesthood and laity.

Rev. Benignus Millett, O.F.M., “A Report from the President of Munster, Sir William Drury, 24 March 1577 (1578 New Style).” Collectanea Hibernica, no. 46/47, 2004, pp. 7–15, at p.8.

Father Denis Murphy S.J. in his classic 1896 work Our Martyrs brings us an account of the death of Friar O'Daly based on the catalogues of Irish martyrs drawn up by Father John Howling, S.J. (d.1599) and Anthony Bruodin (d.1680). As we will see the martyrologists do not allude to letters at all as for them Brother Tadhg's real crime is the unashamed wearing of his religious dress and profession of his faith.  His arrest takes place at the friary rather than on a ship trying to escape the country and culminates in the ultimate crime of denial of the royal supremacy. He dies a true martyr's death, singing the Te Deum on his way to the scaffold and continuing to praise God even post mortem:

 1579. Tadhg O'Daly, O.S.F.

(From Holing's Compendium and Bruodin's Propugnaculum, p.437)

Brother Tadhg O'Daly, a native of Kinvarra, and a monk of the Order of St. Francis, was seized by the heretics in the monastery of Askeaton, because he wore the habit of his Order and made open profession of the Catholic faith. He was led, as if he were a robber or a traitor, to Limerick, sixteen miles off. There he was stripped of his habit and cast into prison by order of the President of the province. After nine weeks during which time he gave proofs of his attachment to the faith and of his constancy, he was brought to trial, many crimes being laid to his charge. But persevering in the confession of the Catholic faith, he was condemned to death by the verdict of twelve men, heretics and schismatics, because he would not admit that the Queen was Head of the Church. To all the promises and threats held out to him by the heretics, he replied with a smile, that no one on account of bodily torments or even death itself should separate himself from the friendship of God. 'I care not', he used to say, 'how you treat this mortal body of mine; the Almighty God has given you no power to injure my soul.' Again he was thrown into prison. There he was often visited by pious Catholics and by a certain holy priest, who obtained access to him in the dress of a layman; from him he obtained absolution of all his sins and received the Blessed Eucharist.

The heretics took him out of the prison, and binding his hands behind his back, had him tied to a horse's tail and dragged through the streets. But he showing not sorrow but delight, repeated aloud with great devotion the hymn: 'Te Deum laudamus'. On the way to the place of execution, he besought his friends who accompanied him, to obtain from the heretics that he should be allowed to wear his religious habit at the time of his death. These laughed at the request; but they granted it after a way, and ordered that the habit should be hung up too on the beam by the side of his body. After he had hung for a short time, he was taken down half-alive. Many of those who were standing by expressly stated that the martyr's head when cut off uttered these words distinctly: 'Lord, show me thy ways.' The fact is attested by Fr. John Good, S.J., who was then in Limerick, in his Theatre of Protestant and Catholic Religion.  And so the brave soldier of Christ earned the palm of martyrdom on January 1st, 1579.

Rev. Denis Murphy, S.J. , Our Martyrs,  (Dublin, 1896), pp. 106-108. 

 The case of Friar Tadhg O'Daly was among those submitted to Rome and he is number 43 on the Official List of Irish Martyrs (1918). 

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