The question asked cannot in the slightest degree impeach our traveller's authenticity. He merely records what he heard, which he guardedly states to be according to the calculation of the Protestants. But the Abbé MacGeoghegan claims attention in this controversy.
(Histoire d'Irlande, p. 670).It is impossible to determine with exactness the number of the unfortunate who perished during the twelve years that this barbarous scene lasted, with more or less violence. Protestant authors endeavouring to charge the Catholics with the infamy of this massacre; the extravagant and romantic list produced by Sir John Temple, and some other authors of the same stamp, of three hundred thousand Protestants massacred in a single province are not only ridiculous, but altogether impossible. Mr. Hume draws a frightful picture, and at the same time less faithful, of the massacre which occurred in Ireland, 1641. He lays the charge on the Irish alone; all that he says is but a recital of what the republican and fanatic authors had so many times repeated after Sir John Temple, and which had been so frequently answered
Now, no such assertion as Sir John Temple is here twice represented to have made, and which charge is repeated even to satiety against that historian, can be even inferred from any
p.60construction of his words. Sir John Temple says, that in not full two years after the breaking out of the hostilities of 1641, above three hundred thousand British and Protestants [were] cruelly murdered in cold blood, destroyed some way or other [that is, in the course of warfare, by want of food, exposure to the weather, fright, or other causes,] or [mark the or] expelled out of their habitations, These are the precise words of Sir John Temple, which Catholic writers have distorted by a sweeping assertion into an actual massacre of the total number, including therein all those who suffered even inconvenience by removal of abode; and thus is Sir John Temple popularly stigmatised in Ireland as having written as many lies in a manner as lines in his romantic legend of the Irish rebellion, on purpose to blacken the people, and exasperate the Republicans of England against them, and against the King too, upon the account of the murders he pretends to have been committed.
This quotation is made from the last edition of The Impartial History of Ireland, or The Genuine History of Ireland, by Hugh Reily, of which the reprints of 1782 and 1833 for popular circulation, lie before me. Hugh Reily's impartial history, it should be observed, is nothing more than a political pamphlet, written to prove the justice of resuming the Roman Catholic estates forfeited under Queen Elizabeth and Cromwell. The writer observes:Before I proceed any further, 'tis necessary to examine what I heartily wish for the credit of both parties could be buried in eternal oblivion, that is, the many outrages and barbarous murders committed on both sides during the unhappy war [To this I heartily subscribe.] Neither party can be excused, but those to be sure are more to blame who began the tragedy. 'Tis certain,
p.61continues Hugh Reily, that each of them has laboured to throw the first scene upon the other; but upon the whole matter, I think, it is very plain, that the Protestants were the first actors upon the stage, who immediately upon the discovery of the plot in Dublin, finding there were not many concerned in the Northern insurrection but men of desperate fortunes, and apprehending that few estated natives would willingly engage in a rebellion, took what measures they could to provoke and frighten them into it. [?] In order to which design they sent out several parties, as well in remote places as round about Dublin, who murdered a great many without distinction of age or sex; particularly at Santry, Clontarf, and Bullock, all within three or four miles of the city, where they massacred in the beginning of November, 1641, near upon four score of the poor country people; as the garrison of Carrickfergus some days before butchered in one night all the inhabitants of the country called Island Magee, to the number of two or three thousand men, women, and children. The like feats were done by Lord Broghill, late Earl of Orrery, in the counties of Cork, Waterford, and parts adjacent; by Sir Charles Coote, in his expedition into the County of Wicklow; by Captain Peasely Brown and others, in the county of Tipperary; and in fine, because it was a general contrivance by most of the Protestant garrisons of any strength all over the kingdom.
Hugh Reily, after a paragraph upon which there is not space to comment here, thus proceeds:'Tis not yet known how many were thus sacrificed on either side; but too many they were, be they never so few. Sir John Temple's romantic legend, where he draws up his muster roll of two or three hundred thousand of English Protestants massacred in one province, is not only
p.62incredible, but most ridiculous and absolutely impossible. For (to omit that some hundreds said to have been there slain, were living for many years after, and some of them lived to see the Restoration,) all informed men must own, there was not half that number of Protestants in the whole kingdom in the summer of 1641, as the aforesaid author of the Catholic Apology, an English person of honour, who generously took some pains to examine this aspersion, has proved not only from good reasons, but even from Protestant writers; and concludes upon the whole matter, that all these hundreds of thousands said to have been murdered in the North could not exceed three thousand. And Sir William Petty, an Englishman and a Protestant too, who was Clerk to the Usurper's Council, and Surveyor General of the lands in Ireland, an ingenious inquisitive person, affirms that upon the exactest scrutiny there were not above thirty-six thousand on both sides killed in the field, or murdered in cold blood during the whole war.
Now all this, so far as regards Sir John Temple's assertions, is combatting with a shadow which the writer's fancy has conjured up. Sir William Petty's statement is, no doubt, that nearest the truth; but Sir John Temple's authority has been most unfairly assailed, as a romantic legend, by those who assert that two or three thousand men, women, and children were butchered (here there can be no mistake about the expression) in one night in the island of Magee.
Mr. MacSkimin, the ingenious author of the History of Carrickfergus, has investigated the question of the massacre in the island of Magee. with so much research, and has bestowed so much able and cool investigation on the subject, that his statement merits the serious attention of all interested in the
p.63history of Ireland, and who feel that history is no party question.
The earliest account, says MacSkimin, in which the Protestants are charged as being the aggressors in the harbarities of 16412, appears in an anonymous pamphlet, entitled The Politician's Catechism by R. S., printed and published in London in 1662; twenty-one years after the events are said to have happened, which it pretends to describe. A short paragraph in this tract has been the basis of all the gross misrepresentations that have been published on this subject. It is as follows:
About the beginning of November, 1641, the English and Scotch forces in Knockfergus murdered in one night all the inhabitants of the territory of Island Magee, in number above three thousand, men, women, and children, all innocent persons, in a time when none of the Catholics of that country were in arms or rebellion. To this article is added the following note. This was the first massacre committed in Ireland, on either side. Here we plainly perceive gross mis-statements, it being notorious that the rebellion began on the twenty-third of the previous October, and that the twenty-fourth of that month was marked on the part of the Roman Catholics by all the sanguinary atrocities of the period in question.
It is worthy of remark, that the season chosen for the publication of this slanderous and anonymous pamphlet was truly auspicious; the tide was turning fast from Puritanism to Popery; the Roman Catholics were a considerable body at Court, and both the King and the Duke of York had by several acts evinced their partiality for that faith.
Some years after the publication of this pamphlet by R. S., it was bound up as an Appendix to Lord Clarendon's
p.64History of the Affairs of Ireland, doubtless for the purpose of giving its falsehoods weight and publicity, by their being attached to a work bearing on its title the high authority of his Lordship's name.
Of the slanders thus propagated, the Protestants of that time appear to have been well aware. Sir Audley Mervin, speaker of the Irish House of Commons, in addressing the Duke of Ormond, 13th February, 1662, says The Roman Catholics of this kingdom may get a reputation and credit to those pamphlets which they have dispersed through Europe, that his Majesty's Protestant subjects first fell upon and murdered them.
The next notice we have observed on the same side is contained in a small work entitled The Genuine History of Ireland, said on its title to be written by Hugh Reilly (Dr. Nary) [?], printed in London in 1742. In this tract it is said that the massacre in Island Magee, happened early in November, 1641, and that the number of sufferers amounted to between two and three thousand persons; but it is admitted that the rebellion began on 23rd October, 1641.
Incorrect as these accounts are, as to the time and the number murdered, they are nevertheless repeated in a work entitled, A Dialogue on the Rebellion of 1641, published in 1747; and also in a book entitled, Memoirs of Ireland in a letter to Walter Harris, Esq., printed in 1757. A similar statement is also given, on the authority of Lord Clarendon, in Desiderata Curiosa Hibernica, printed in Dublin in 1772; and likewise by Dr. Curry, a Roman Catholic, in his Review of the Civil Wars of Ireland, published in 1775. Francis Plowden, Esq. an English Roman Catholic Barrister, also asserts the same in his ponderous
p.65Historical View of the State of Ireland printed in 1803, giving Lord Clarendon as his authority; although, in reality, his Lordship's work is a complete refutation of his assertions. A still later work, by an Irish Roman Catholic, contains similar information; he gravely tells his readers, that he will not disgust them with an account of that atrocious massacre, nor set down the terrible vengeance inflicted by the Irish on their sanguinary enemies. This is saying pretty plainly that the Protestants were the aggressors.
It is particularly worthy of remark, that the Remonstrance of the Roman Catholics, presented to the King's Commissioners at Trim, in March, 1642, takes no notice of any murders committed in Island Magee; nor is any mention made of them in the Humble Apology, of the Roman Catholics to his Majesty, for their taking up arms; nor yet in the second Remonstrance presented to the King. From their silence on this head we may fairly infer, that had their accounts of the massacre been true, as to time and numbers, it would have formed a chief feature, not only in one of these documents, but in them all.
It is not a little remarkable that Protestant writers should have inadvertently fallen into a portion of the same error, as to numbers, and have ascribed this massacre to the fanaticism of the Scotch Puritan soldiers, when it appears from several historical documents that no Scottish troops arrived at Carrickfergus till the following April. Carte, in his Life of the Duke of Ormond, mentions the massacre as committed by the garrison of Carrickfergus, but speaks with uncertainty as to the main points in dispute. Dr. Leland, in his History of Ireland, says that thirty families were massacred, but states it to have been committed early in January, 1642,
p.66when the followers of O'Neill had almost exhausted their barbarous malice. Since the time that Leland wrote, the minor Protestant historians appear to have contented themselves with merely quoting from one or the other of those authors.
Some years after the suppression of the rebellion of 16412, this massacre, among other matters, attracted the notice of Government, and about 1650, an inquiry concerning it took place. Bryan Magee, son of Owen, whose family was among the chief sufferers, deposed, that about the 8th of January, 1641 (1642, according to our present calculation), he was living in his father's house in Island Magee, when nine of the family were murdered by twenty persons reputed Scotchmen, and their goods carried off by them. That on the same day, in the house of his next neighbour, Daniel Magee, the same Scotchmen (as one who escaped told him) killed Daniel and ten other persons; and that they all retired to Carrickfergus with prisoners; but that Colonel Hill not being in garrison, the Scotchmen took them out of the gate and killed three of them.
Elizabeth Gormally, deposed seeing Bryan Boye Magee, son of the Magees, followed by drummers of the garrison of Carrickfergus, on Monday after the great murder, committed about the end of December, and after the breaking out of the rebellion.
Finlay O'Donnell, deposed, that it was the report of the country that the chief actors in this horrid business were Scotchmen, who came from the neighbourhood of Ballymena. Another deponent also stated the same report, with the name of the leader of the murderers, who it is said was from Ballymena. Some of the deponents also gave the sirnames of
p.67several of the assassins, with the weapons used by them; and relate that one of the ruffians stabbing at a female with a dagger, killed an infant in her arms.
The deposition of James Mitchel of Island Magee, a Dissenter, corresponds exactly, as to the time of the masacre, by stating that it was in the afternoon of Sunday, 8th January.
While, continues Mr. MacSkimin, we must all deplore this horrid deed, we must also reprobate that malignant spirit which even yet continues to advance such gross exaggerations, which we think is sufficiently apparent even from the general population of the parish at that period. In 1599 Fynes Moryson states, that the Island of Magee was desolate; and between that time and 1641, there was little tranquillity, Tyrone's rebellion having rendered the greater part of Ulster literally a desert. By the returns of the census of 1819, Island Magee then only contained 1931 inhabitants; and by that of 1821, 2300 persons, probably eighteen or twenty times the number of people at the period of the massacre; and we see that some of them were Dissenters, and that a number of Roman Catholics were preserved.
Before taking leave of this subject, it may not be amiss to remark how easily 30 could be altered to 3000, the number in the pamphlet of R. S.; in which pamphlet the small peninsula of Island Magee is called a territory, a word generally understood to signify a large tract of country, rather than a mere stripe, without either hamlet or village. Judging therefore by the depositions of the survivors, the probability is that thirty individuals were not under the number who suffered. C.