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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