The Irish Killing Time (1641)

By Brian Orr - Posted at The Reformation/ Ulster Scots Index:

It would take several large forests to write about all the events which allegedly occurred and to represent every point of view. The following is just a snapshot of how events affected the Presbyterian settlers.

In Ireland the persecution of the Presbyterians had sown the seeds for rebellion by the native Irish under Sir Phelim O`Neill who sought to rid themselves of British rule and recover forfeited lands. It is thought possible that the Irish took a leaf out of the Scottish Covenanters book, who in 1639-40 resorted to armed resistance, albeit minimal, in the Bishops Wars, and had wrung concessions from Charles I.

O`Neill is, however, quoted as declaring
"He would never leave off the work he had begun till Mass should be sung or said in every church in Ireland, and that a Protestant should not live in Ireland, be he of what nation he would."

At a meeting at the Abbey of Multifarnham in Westmeath about a fortnight before the rebellion commenced, some of the clergy present recommended that a general massacre was the the safest and most effectual method of putting down the Protestant ascendancy. In the ensuing rebellion the priests featured large and commonly anointed the rebels before they went about their murderous activities. A parting encouragement was an assurance that if they chanced to be killed they would escape Purgatory and go immediately to Heaven. They told the people that
"the Protestants were worse than dogs, they were devils, and served the devil, and the killing of them was a meritorious act."
The initial outbreak on 23 October 1641 aimed to seize Dublin Castle but this failed through the courage and vigilance of a Presbyterian Elder, Captain Owen O`Connolly, who passed information to Dublin Castle in good time. Elsewhere, however, the insurgents ransacked towns and massacred its inhabitants. with Protestants of any faith a primary target. This then was the " Killing Time " in Ireland and the cause for Scottish troops to be deployed to protect the Protestant settlers.


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