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Sunday, August 20, 2017
Date Posted:

Days of Deliverance Part 7: The Irish Rebellion of 1641: A Vicious, Unprovoked Bloodbath Engineered by Rome against Protestants

Dr Clive Gillis

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chr. 7:14

The ‘shock and awe’ tactic of the 1641 Rebellion gave Rome her opportunity to seize Ireland.  Were it not for the subsequent Glorious Day of Deliverance, which appeared impossible at the time, Rome would surely have succeeded.

But first we must restate the facts of this massacre because they have been challenged with ever increasing vigour from the moment Rome realised she had failed.

We quote only one of the harrowing depositions found in Sir John Temple’s book (see below).  Our forefathers produced numerous editions of Temple to act as a preservative against popery.  For the same reason, we must not remain silent.

Anne Shearing

Temple describes, “The examination of Anne Shearing aged about 26 years”.  We learn that the dear saint testified under oath: “John Shearing her then husband, going from his farm, which he held from Master John Kennedy esquire, near to the Silverworks, one Hugh Kennedy, one of the brothers of the said John Kennedy, a cruel rebel, together with a great multitude of Irish rebellious soldiers fiercely assaulted … her said Husband, William Brock, William Loughlin, Thomas Collop and eight more English Protestant men, and about then women and children in their company”.

Anne tells us that they “there stript them of their clothes, and then with stones, pole-axes skeins swords pikes darts … most barbarously massacred and murdered her said Husband, and all those Protestant men women and children; the time being the Sabbath Day an hour before night”.  The victims “were hackt, hewed, slashed, stabbed and many of them were cut all to pieces”.  Then “that murder being done those barbarous rebels tied wyths about their necks and drew them into a deep hole, formerly made, one upon another so that none of those 23 men women nor children did escape death”.

And did the Lord ignore such doing on His Day?  Anne recalled: “the former part of that day had been all very fair … but after the Massacre was begun … thunder ligtening and tempest happened suddenly … insomuch as those murtherers themselves confessed it to be a sign of Gods anger”.  But Rome had whipped them up into such a frenzy of hatred, and their consciences were so seared, that, even in an age of great fear and respect of such portents, “it deterred them not”.  Moreover, if the deep hole she refers to was indeed “formerly made”, the outrage was clearly premeditated.

Sir John Temple

Sir John Temple, whom we have just quoted, was a Privy Councillor and Master of the Rolls.  He published one of the most enduring contemporary accounts of the Rebellion in 1641.  Further editions appeared well into the eighteenth century in Britain and Ireland.  An English edition, open before the present writer, dates from the Glorious Revolution.  Following Temple’s actual History is an appendix, with details of the Notorious Cruelties and barbarous Murthers committed by the Irish Rebels.  It extends from page 148 to the end of the book (page 333) that is about half the book.  Each deposition is attested upon Oath with the objective details of the witnesses and their examinations.

Only 50 years after the event, Dean William King notes in his The State of Protestants in Ireland, “It is well known to the world as to the many thousands yet alive, that in the year 1641 there was a most bloody massacre committed in this kingdom on the Protestants by their neighbours the Papists in which some hundred thousands perished and that not one Protestant whom they spared, escaped without being robbed and plundered of all he had, if not stripped and turned out naked to the extremities of cold and a desolate country: and to such a degree of madness they proceeded, that they destroyed the houses buildings churches and improvements of the kingdom out of their malice and inveteracy to the Protestants, the Founders of them.”

Professor J C Beckett, Professor Emeritus of Irish History at the Queens University, Belfast, writes as follows in his definitive one volume history, The Making of Modern Ireland 1603-1923, of the 1641 Killing Time: “there can, indeed be no doubt that great brutalities were committed.  Many English settlers (“settlers” meaning men, women, children and infants) were slaughtered in the first heat of the rising; others after being held as prisoners for a time, were deliberately murdered, sometimes by scores together.  Thousands more driven from their homes, plundered of their goods, stripped almost naked, were left to find some place of refuge, or perish in the attempt.”

The source material, on which contemporary historians, including Temple, drew, is to be found in Trinity College, Dublin.  Thirty-three volumes of attested Depositions numbered 809-841 deal with the horrors of the 1641 Rebellion county by county in harrowing detail.  The prints appended to various editions of these contemporary histories are here reproduced.  The hands that cut the woodblocks did so in the hope that men and women in the future would be reminded – and also their children when of an age to learn – of the awful consequences of unrestrained papal ambition and be warned in their own day.

Prof Richard Foster

Professor Richard Foster in his Penguin history, Modern Ireland 1988 brands the Trinity College volumes as resembling “a pornography of violence”.  He also challenges the numbers.  He reckons it to be only 2000.  He does however acknowledge a “bloody autumn” transpired.  He also quotes a contemporary source to illustrate the horror of the event’s suddenness, “The Irish servant which overnight was undressing his master in duty, the next morning was stripping his master and mistress with a too officious tyranny”.  He also confirms, “There is more than enough coincidence of evidence to indicate the horrific sufferings of non combatants”.  All this comes from one who is trying to tone down the massacre as far as possible.

So where did Professor Foster get his low figure of 2000 “casualties”?  He arrived at this by halving the estimate of 4000 given by Irishman W E H Lecky, an opinionated and rationalistic Irish historian of the latter half of the 19th century, who had made his name on the back of the Charles Darwin evolution bandwagon with his History of Rationalism.   This was soon followed by A History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century.  As a rationalist, he attacked the miraculous and therefore the Days of Deliverance which are the cement of Protestantism.

But why did Lecky include the 1641 Rebellion in a history of the 18th century?  He did this because of the enormous importance of the massacre of 1641 in explaining the attitude of Protestants to the Romanists in Ireland.   Once the Protestants were back in power, after the Williamite victory, the massacre quite rightly confirmed their belief that anti-Roman Catholic legislation was necessary for their safety.  This continued throughout the 18th century and indeed to the present day.  The determination of the Protestants to constrain Rome’s clandestine meddling in Ireland is obviously right and just.  It can only be denied by denying the awful facts of the unprovoked 1641 Rebellion.

Everything which concerns Rome in Ireland, has traditionally been judged by Protestants in the light of 1641.  The Protestants reasoned, understandably, that if such sudden and horrendous violence could happen once, surely under the right conditions it could happen again, if their guard against Rome be relaxed.  Little wonder therefore that Rome must undermine the facts of 1641 with every Jesuitical tool in hand and make use of anyone who will do her work.

So, do we believe Lecky, who lived a long time after the event and was constrained by his ideology to minimise 1641?  Or do we believe Dean King who will have heard first hand testimony from “the many thousands yet alive”?  Even Professor Foster admits that his figure cannot be pinned so low with certainty and must remain “speculative”.

Daire Keogh

Daire Keogh an Irish historian in Galway, and presumably no special friend of Protestantism, rightly links the 1641 argument to this all important matter of Days of Deliverance.  Keogh quotes Protestant William Synge giving the loyal toast in 1714.  “When I drink to the glorious memory of King William, I mean here is health to all those who love and honour the memory of King William, who when alive was the instrument of God’s hand to deliver me and the Protestants of this Kingdom from arbitrary power popery and slavery, and was instrumental by the same good Providence, to restore me and all Irish Protestants to our houses and lands.”

Keogh then comments, “This sense of deliverance was real – as were the vivid memories of the 1641 massacre, which were also revived at crucial moments”.  Indeed not just at crucial moments, but, as we have seen, annually with Anniversary Services of Thanksgiving to cultivate a corporate Protestant awareness of having been mightily delivered.  Further, there was a major drive in Irish Protestant schools during the 18th century to foster this sense of being on the Lord’s side.  Perhaps we will be able to come back to this later. 

This sense of deliverance is something to which Protestantism today must cling.  If Rome can use her Jesuits to promote the views of rationalists like Lecky who detest the miraculous and, God forbid, make us doubt the glorious annals of our very own mighty deliverances at the Lord’s hand, the Bloody Whore of Babylon will destroy Protestantism in Ireland altogether.  Our Protestant forefathers bore so much and waged such a mighty warfare both spiritually and in literal battles and sieges.  To doubt, or to let slip, or to fail to defend, the memories of the great pain and suffering that shaped their attitudes will surely sound the death knell of all we stand for.

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