Chapter 17: Rise and Progress of the Protestant Religion in Ireland; with an Account of the Barbarous Massacre of 1641 (5/9)

The papists having besieged the town and castle of Longford, and the inhabitants of the latter, who were Protestants, surrendering on condition of being allowed quarter, the besiegers, the instant the townspeople appeared, attacked them in a most unmerciful manner, their priest, as a signal for the rest to fall on, first ripping open the belly of the English Protestant minister; after which his followers murdered all the rest, some of whom they hanged, others were stabbed or shot, and great numbers knocked on the head with axes provided for the purpose.

The garrison at Sligo was treated in like manner by O’Connor Slygah; who, upon the Protestants quitting their holds, promised them quarter, and to convey them safe over the Curlew mountains, to Roscommon. But he first imprisoned them in a most loathsome jail, allowing them only grains for their food. Afterward, when some papists were merry over their cups, who were come to congratulate their wicked brethren for their victory over these unhappy creatures, those Protestants who survived were brought forth by the White-friars, and were either killed, or precipitated over the bridge into a swift river, where they were soon destroyed. It is added, that this wicked company of White-friars went, some time after, in solemn procession, with holy water in their hands, to sprinkle the river; on pretense of cleansing and purifying it from the stains and pollution of the blood and dead bodies of the heretics, as they called the unfortunate Protestants who were inhumanly slaughtered at this very time.

At Kilmore, Dr. Bedell, bishop of that see, had charitably settled and supported a great number of distressed Protestants, who had fled from their habitations to escape the diabolical cruelties committed by the papists. But they did not long enjoy the consolation of living together; the good prelate was forcibly dragged from his episcopal residence, which was immediately occupied by Dr. Swiney, the popish titular bishop of Kilmore, who said Mass in the church the Sunday following, and then seized on all the goods and effects belonging to the persecuted bishop.

Soon after this, the papists forced Dr. Bedell, his two sons, and the rest of his family, with some of the chief of the Protestants whom he had protected, into a ruinous castle, called Lochwater, situated in a lake near the sea. Here he remained with his companions some weeks, all of them daily expecting to be put to death. The greatest part of them were stripped naked, by which means, as the season was cold, (it being in the month of December) and the building in which they were confined open at the top, they suffered the most severe hardships. They continued in this situation until the seventh of January, when they were all released. The bishop was courteously received into the house of Dennis O’Sheridan, one of his clergy, whom he had made a convert to the Church of England; but he did not long survive this kindness. During his residence here, he spent the whole of his time in religious exercises, the better to fit and prepare himself and his sorrowful companions for their great change, as nothing but certain death was perpetually before their eyes. He was at this time in the seventy-first year of his age, and being afflicted with a violent ague caught in his late cold and desolate habitation on the lake, it soon threw him into a fever of the most dangerous nature. Finding his dissolution at hand, he received it with joy, like one of the primitive martyrs just hastening to his crown of glory. After having addressed his little flock, and exhorted them to patience, in the most pathetic manner, as they saw their own last day approaching, after having solemnly blessed his people, his family, and his children, he finished the course of his ministry and life together, on the seventh day of February 1642.

His friends and relations applied to the intruding bishop for leave to bury him, which was with difficulty obtained; he, at first telling them that the churchyard was holy ground, and should be no longer defiled with heretics: however, leave was at last granted, and though the church funeral service was not used at the solemnity, (for fear of the Irish papists) yet some of the better sort, who had the highest veneration for him while living, attended his remains to the grave. At this interment they discharged a volley of shot, crying out, Requiescat in pace ultimus Anglorum, that is, “May the last of the English rest in peace.” Adding, that as he was one of the best so he should be the last English bishop found among them. His learning was very extensive; and he would have given the world a greater proof of it, had he printed all he wrote. Scarce any of his writings were saved; the papists having destroyed most of his papers and his library. He had gathered a vast heap of critical expositions of Scripture, all which with a great trunk full of his manuscripts, fell into the hands of the Irish. Happily his great Hebrew manuscript was preserved, and is now in the library of Emanuel College, Oxford.

In the barony of Terawley, the papists, at the instigation of the friars, compelled above forty English Protestants, some of whom were women and children, to the hard fate of either falling by the sword, or of drowning in the sea. These choosing the latter, were accordingly forced, by the naked weapons of their inexorable persecutors, into the deep, where, with their children in their arms, they first waded up to their chins, and afterward sunk down and perished together.

In the castle of Lisgool upwards of one hundred and fifty men, women, and children, were all burnt together; and at the castle of Moneah not less than one hundred were all put to the sword. Great numbers were also murdered at the castle of Tullah, which was delivered up to M’Guire on condition of having fair quarter; but no sooner had that base villain got possession of the place than he ordered his followers to murder the people, which was immediately done with the greatest cruelty.

Foxe’s Book of the Martyrs, Chapter 17

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