§ 2.—Sufferings Of Catholics In Cashel.
In 1647 the Earl of Inchiquin, having administered the covenant to his apostate followers, led them on to the assault of Cashel. Along his march he everywhere burned the crops, and massacred the peasantry; and to the present day his name is familiar in the household traditions of our country, as " Murrough of the burning." All the cruel deeds, however, of that sanguinary monster sink into insignificance, when compared with the sack of the ancient city of Cashel. "There is not on record," says Rev. Mr. Meehan, " a more appalling tragedy;" and the following details, taken from the manuscript narrative of the Irish superior of the Jesuits, written early in 1651, more than justifies this assertion : [Relatio rerum quarumdam, &c. ut sup.]
"Cashel became not only a prey to the enemy, but rather a slaughter house.[“Hosti cessit non modo in praedam sed et in lanieuam."]
The city being but badly fortified, it accepted the offer of conditions from Inchiquin, and opened its gates. The garrison, about 300 in number, together with the priests and religious, as also very many of the citizens, retired to the cathedral church, which holds a strong position, and is styled the Rock of St. Patrick. The enemy, having taken possession of the city, and in part destroyed it by fire, assailed the cathedral with all their forces, but were heroically repulsed by our troops. After a long combat, the general of the enemy suspended the fight, and, demanding a surrender, offered permission to the garrison to depart with their arms and ammunition, and all the honours of war, requiring, however, that the citizens and clergy should be abandoned to his mercy. It was then that the true heroism of the Catholic soldiers was seen. They refused to listen to any conditions unless the citizens and clergy, whom they had undertaken to defend, should be sharers in them; and they added, that they chose rather to consecrate their lives to God on that Rock of St. Patrick, than to allow their sanctuary to be profaned by dogs. The assault was then renewed with extreme ferocity; the enemy, being seven thousand in number, assailed the church on every side, entering by the windows and the shattered doors. Nevertheless, for some time the struggle was bravely maintained within the church, till our few troops were rather overwhelmed by the multitude of the enemy, than vanquished by them.[Obruti potius quam superati sunt]
"When all resistance ceased, then was the cruelty of the heretics displayed against the priests and religious, one of whom was of our society, by name F. William Boyton. Many old men, of eighty years of age, aged females, some of them in their hundreth year, besides innumerable other citizens, who had grown old, not only in years but in piety, and whose only arms were their prayers, prostrate around the steps of the altar, now empurpled them with their blood, whilst the infirm, who had been borne to the church as to a place of sacred refuge, and the innocent children, were slain on the very altars.
"Within the cathedral nine hundred and twelve was the number of the slain, of whom more than five hundred were of the heretical troops, and about four hundred of the Catholics.[Ex quibus Catholici fere quadringenti; ex hjereticis supra quingentos.]
Everywhere dead bodies were to be seen, which for some days remained uninterred. The altars and chapels, the sacristy and seats, were covered with them, and in no place could the foot rest on anything save on the corpses of the slain.
One of the priests who had taken refuge in the cathedral, Father Theobald Stapleton, was remarkable for his piety; clothed with surplice and stole, and holding a crucifix in his left hand, he sprinkled with holy water the enemy's troops as they rushed into the sacred edifice. The heretics, mad with rage, strove with each other who should pierce him with their swords, and thus he was hewn to pieces. At each wound the holy man exclaimed, "strike this miserable sinner!" till he yielded his soul into the hands of his Creator.
In the town itself no fewer than 3,000 were massacred by the heretical enemy, and twenty priests were martyred within the sanctuary. The heroic death of Father Richard Barry, of the order of St. Dominick, is especially recorded:
"When the priests had been cut to pieces, Richard Barry alone survived. Him did God reserve for greater trials. The captain seeing the venerable friar in his habit, and struck by his noble and sanctified appearance, said to him: 'Your life is your own, provided you fling off that habit; but if you cling to such a banner, verily you peril life itself.' When the father replied, that his habit was an emblem of the passion of the Redeemer, and more dear to him than life; 'think more wisely,' rejoined the captain; 'indulge not this blind passion for martyrdom, for if you comply not with my orders, death awaits you.' 'But if so,' said the father, 'your cruelties will be to me a blessing, and death itself great gain.' Infuriated at this answer, they bound the venerable man to a stone chair, kindled a slow fire under his feet and legs, and after two hours of torture his eyes flashed their last upon that heaven which he was about to enter. Then did his persecutors transfix the lifeless body with their spears, while yet the bubbling blood trickled from the parched arteries."
The demoniac scenes that followed most clearly prove how great a share religious hatred had in stimulating the fervent Covenanters to this fearful massacre:—
"The heretics set to work at once to destroy all the sacred things which had been stored in the cathedral of St. Patrick. The altars were overturned; the images that were painted on wood were consigned to the flames; those on canvas were used as bedding for the horses, or were cut into sacks for carrying burdens. The great Crucifix which stood at the entrance of the choir, as if it had been guilty of treason, was beheaded, and soon after its hands and feet were amputated. With a like fury did they rage against all the other chapels of the city; gathering together the sacred vases and all the most precious vestments, they, through ridicule of our ceremonies, formed a procession. They advanced through the public squares wearing the sacred vestments and having the priestly caps on their heads, and inviting to Mass those whom they met with on the way. A beautiful statue of the immaculate Virgin taken from our church was borne along (the head being broken off), in mock state with laughter and ridicule. The leader of the Puritan army had, moreover, the temerity to assume the archiepiscopal mitre, and boast that he was now not only governor and lieutenant of Munster, but also archbishop of Cashel." [•Relatio, &c., ut sup.]
§ 3.—Sufferings Of The Catholics In Drogheda.
Cromwell landed on our shores firmly resolved to acquire popularity amongst his fellow-Puritans by the extermination of the Irish papists. On his arrival in Dublin he addressed his soldiers, and declared that no mercy should be shown to the Irish, and that they should " be dealt with as the Canaanites in Joshua's time." ["Dr. Anderson's Royal Gen.," 786.]
The city of Drogheda was the first theatre of his exterminating fury. No sooner had the garrison of the town submitted on the promise of quarter, than orders were given for an indiscriminate massacre. There were in the city 3,000 choice troops, commanded by the brave Sir Arthur Ashton, a Catholic. Three times did they repel the charge of the 10,000 assailants, till, seeing further resistance fruitless, they accepted the conditions proposed to them. Cromwell, writing to the Parliament, makes it a boast that, despite the promise of quarter, he himself gave orders that all should be put to the sword [Letter Sept. 17, 1649, to Hon. William Lenthall, Speaker of the Parliament in England] and, subsequently, in the usual Puritanical phrases of that period, he styles that worse than brutal massacre, a righteous judgment of God upon the barbarous wretches; a great mercy vouchsafed to us; a great thing done, not by power or might, but by the Spirit of God" As to the slaughter of the inhabitants, it continued for five days, and the Puritan troops spared neither age nor sex, so much so, that the Earl of Ormond, writing to the secretary of Charles II., to convey the intelligence of the loss of Drogheda, declares that " Cromwell had exceeded himself, and anything he had ever heard of, in breach of faith and bloody inhumanity." General Ludlow, in his despatches, speaks of it as an extraordinary severity, and, indeed, Cromwell's own letters present sufficient data to justify these statements.
The church of St. Peter, within the city, had been for centuries a place of popular devotion: a little while before the siege the Catholics had re-obtained possession of it, and dedicated it to the service of God, and the holy Sacrifice was once more celebrated there with special pomp and solemnity. Thither many of the citizens now fled, as to a secure asylum, and, with the clergy, prayed around the altar; but the Puritans respected no sanctuary of religion: " In this very place” writes Cromwell, "near one thousand of them were put to the sword believe all the friars [They were Carmelites.] were killed but two, the one of which was Father Peter Taafe, brother to the Lord Taafe, whom the soldiers took the next day, and made an end of; the other was taken in the round tower—he confessed he was a friar, but that did not save him."We learn some further particulars about this massacre in St. Peter's church from Johnston's History of Drogheda:—
"Quarter had been promised to all those who should lay down their arms; but it was only observed until all resistance was at an end. Many, confiding in this promise, at once yielded themselves prisoners, and the rest, unwilling to trust to the mercy of Cromwell, took shelter in the steeple of St. Peter's; at the same time the most respectable of the inhabitants sheltered themselves within the body of the church. Here Cromwell advanced, and, after some deliberation, concluded on blowing up the building. For this purpose he laid a quantity of powder in an old subterraneous passage which was open, and went under the church, but, changing his resolution, he set fire to the steeple, and, as the garrison rushed out to avoid the flames, they were slaughtered. After this he ordered the inhabitants in the church to be put to the sword, among whom many of the Carmelites fell a sacrifice. He then plundered the building, and defaced its principal ornaments."
Thomas Wood, one of the Puritan officers engaged in this massacre, and brother of the justly celebrated Anthony Wood, relates that a multitude of the most defenceless inhabitants, comprising all the principal ladies of the city, were concealed in the crypts or vaults of the church; thither the bloodhounds tracked them, and not even to one was mercy shown. Lord Clarendon also records, that during the five days, that the streets of Drogheda ran with blood, " the whole army executed all manner of cruelty, and put every man that related to the garrison, and all the citizens who were Irish, man, woman, and child, to the sword." [ Hist., vol. vi. page 395.]
Dr. Fleming, archbishop of Dublin, in a letter to the Sacred Congregation (5th June, 1650), says, that four thousand brave men, amongst whom his own nephew, Colonel Fleming, were slain in this frightful massacre; and Cromwell himself reckoned that less than thirty of the defendants were not massacred, and these, he adds, are in safe custody for the Barbadoes:
The manuscript narrative often referred to presents many details regarding this horrid tragedy. "The city being captured by the heretics, the blood of the Catholics was mercilessly shed in the streets, and in the dwelling-houses, and in the open fields; to none was mercy shown, not to the women, nor to the aged, nor to the young. The property of the citizens became the prey of the parliamentary troops; everything in our residence was plundered; the library, the sacred chalices, of which there were many of great value, as well as all the furniture sacred and profane, were destroyed. On the following day, when the soldiers were searching through the ruins of the city, they discovered one of our fathers, named John Bathe, with his brother, a secular priest: suspecting that they were religious, they examined them, and finding that they were priests, and one of them, moreover, a Jesuit, they led them off in triumph, and, accompanied by a tumultuous crowd, conducted them to the market-place, and there, as if they were at length extinguishing the Catholic religion and our society, they tied them both to stakes fixed in the ground, and pierced their bodies with shot till they expired."
Father Robert Netterville was another victim of their fury. He was aged and confined to bed by his infirmities; nevertheless, "he was dragged thence by the soldiers and trailed along the ground, being violently knocked against each obstacle that presented itself on the way; then they beat him with clubs, and when many of his bones were broken, they cast him on the highway; on the fourth day, having fought a good fight, he departed this life to receive, as we hope, the martyr's crown."
For the unparalleled brutality displayed on this occasion a vote of thanks was passed by parliament to Cromwell, a day of general thanksgiving throughout the kingdom was ordered, and it was decreed " that the house does approve of the execution done at Drogheda, as an act of justice to themselves and of mercy to others who might be warned thereby.'"
Taken from - MEMOIRS OF THE MOST REV. OLIVER PLUNKET, WHO SUFFERED DEATH FOR THE CATHOLIC FAITH IN THE YEAR 1681.