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Clan Callaghan During the Nine Years War

Clan Callaghan During the Nine Years War

The Nine Years War, also known as Tyrone’s Rebellion, lasted from 1593-1603. In that conflict, which ensued throughout the country of Ireland but mostly in Ulster, Irish lords Hugh O’Neill and Hugh Roe O’Donnell of Tyrconnell led an alliance that was ultimately unsuccessful in stopping the Tudor monarchy’s efforts to consolidate its power throughout the Emerald Isle. The conclusion of the conflict marked the end of Gaelic Ireland and the beginning of the Plantation of Ulster.

In the following excerpt from his new book, Clan Callaghan: The O’Callaghan Family of County Cork, Professor Joseph F. O’Callaghan recounts the clan’s participation in the Nine Years War and its impact upon the O Callaghans.

Clan Callaghan: The O Callaghan Family of County Cork. Revised Edition

“In the very year that Conor [of the Rock] secured O Callaghan lands in full ownership under the crown, the outbreak of the Nine Years War signaled the beginning of the end of the old Gaelic way of life. The war began in Ulster under the leadership of Hugh O Neill, earl of Tyrone, and Hugh Roe O Donnell, who sought to rouse the rest of Ireland and to secure the assistance of Spain. In a report of 1596 concerning the attitude of the principal lords in Munster, Cahir O Callaghan, alias Cahir Modarta, dwelling near Mallow was described as “an instrument meet to be employed,” and was “to be maintained in his possession at the least till these rebellions be assuaged.” Cahir Modarta was the son of the chieftain Callaghan who died in 1578. Illegitimate and perhaps under age, he had been passed over when Conor of the Rock gained the chieftainship. Clearly the government had its eye on him, possibly as a potential rival to Conor.

Prior to the general rising, several O Callaghans incurred the government’s wrath for various transgressions. Among those pardoned in 1597 were Dermod McDonogh, Dermod Roe McCallaghan, Owen McTeige, Conoghor McTeige, and Kenedy and Donogh McDermod, both of Dromaneen. Owen O Callaghan, a nephew to Lord Barry, was charged on 13 March 1599 with having killed eleven principal leaders.

After O Neill’s victory at the Yellow Ford in August 1598, the lords of Munster rose in rebellion, and before the year was out O Neill’s forces entered the province. James FitzThomas put himself forward as earl of Desmond and was so acknowledged by MacDonough, O Callaghan, and others on 13 October about three miles west of Mallow, effectively in O Callaghan’s Country. Although government forces were at Mallow, no conflict took place, as both sides withdrew. A computation of Irish forces in rebellion upon the arrival of the earl of Essex as Deputy in April 1599 indicated that 5,030 foot, and 242 horse could be raised in Munster. About 4% of the total, that is, 200 foot and 8 horse were to be raised by MacDonough, O Keeffe, and O Callaghan. If that figure were divided equally among the three Duhallow lords, O Callaghan could provide about sixty-six footsoldiers and perhaps two or three horsemen. 

What does that suggest about the O Callaghan population at that time? Taking into account young children, both boys and girls under fourteen, and men no longer able to serve as soldiers, as well as women, let us suppose that there were approximately five persons in the families of each of the sixty-eight or sixty-nine soldiers (or in round numbers, seventy); then we would have  perhaps 350 men and  women.  Even if a larger number per family were assigned, there would still be less than 1,000 O Callaghans. Admittedly this is guesswork, but we must utilize whatever figures are available. 

As Essex marched through Munster in May and June, reaffirming royal authority, many submitted to him and were pardoned, including Maurice Roche, viscount Fermoy, and the following O Callaghans: Teige Óg, Owen McTeige, Daniel McTeige, Dermod McTeige, Donogh McDermod, Dermod Óg, and Donogh McTeige. After Essex failed to crush O Neill and returned to England in the fall of 1599, Sir George Carew was named Lord President of Munster. Carew, who compiled the genealogies of the principal Irish families, set out to destroy crops and seize castles. He remarked to the Privy Council on 30 April 1600 that “the confusion and distemper” in the province was greater than ever, and complained that little could be expected from “the lords of the countries who are only in personal show subjects, as . . . Cormock McDermott chief of Muskerry . . . O Callaghan and all others . . . Most of them have either brothers or near kinsmen in actual rebellion.” He went on to note that Florence MacCarthy, who claimed to be MacCarthy Mór, by reason of his friends, “as both the O Sulevans . . . the Carties of Desmond . . . most of the Carties of Muskery, all the Carties of Dowalla, O Kief, McAulyne [MacAuliffe], and many of the O Callaghans . . . is now the strongest and greatest force of any traitor in Munster.”

Within a few months, however, James FitzThomas and Florence MacCarthy were both captured and sent to London where they ended their days in the Tower. As a consequence, Munster was quieted and many of the rebels sought pardon. Carew informed Sir Robert Cecil on 2 May 1600 that he had received the submission of various gentlemen who gave pledges for their loyalty. “Amongst others of the best sort is O Callaghan and Barrett, lords of countries and chiefs of their names.” Thus Conor of the Rock, “alias O Calghan of Clonmine, gent.,” his wife Joan ny Tirrelagh, their son Callaghan McConoghor, Callaghan McOwen (a grandson of the chieftain, Teige Roe) and his wife Ellen ny Tirrelagh (probably a sister of Conor’s wife Joan, and a daughter of Turlough MacSweeney), and Dermot O Callaghan alias Squyncy received pardons. By late August, MacDonough, O Keeffe, and MacAuliffe also indicated their desire to come to terms with the crown. On 21 April 1602 Conoghor O Callaghan of Clonmeen posted 200 marks as a pledge of his loyalty to the queen. Owen O Diggenane [O Duignan] of Clonmeen, of whom nothing else is known, did so as well. Then on 17 October 1602 Conor provided bail of 200 shillings for John MacAuliffe so long as he “shall continue of dutiful behaviour.”

Keenly aware that such submissions were of transitory value, Cecil pointed out to Carew that the rebels would be “good subjects no longer than the sword hangs over them.” Suggesting that some freeholders should not be received with pardons of lands, if their “countries be good and lie in no remote places,” he indicated that O Callaghan was one whom he had in mind, especially as his country lay near Mallow, and was “fit to be adjoined  and not parted.” In other words, the queen’s principal adviser was proposing that O Callaghan lands be confiscated because they were valuable due to their location near Mallow. The importance of that location was emphasized in a report on the state of Munster drawn up at the close of the year. O Callaghan, protected but not pardoned, held lands that

‘are very great and good and very convenient for him that shall have Moyallo. It is a parcel of Dowalla called McDonogh’s country and lying marvellous pleasantly and profitable on both sides of the river Blackwater. It hath three fine castles upon it and goodly woods and hawks. O Callaghan himself, being a petty lord under McDonogh is but a silly fellow and can do neither good if he be in nor any great hurt if he be out; for a strong man at Moyallo will always inhabit that country and never suffer any other to dwell there.’

The report concluded that O Callaghan’s Country, together with Mallow, might be kept in the queen’s hands or, as an alternative that it be given to the earl of Desmond acknowledged by the government. As the earl was a Protestant, however, he was rejected by the Irish.

Conor of the Rock, acknowledged in the documents just cited as O Callaghan (“alias O Callaghan”), who only six years before had achieved a great coup in securing for himself the bulk of the O Callaghan lands, now stood in jeopardy of losing them entirely. The description of O Callaghan’s Country as pleasant and profitable, with three fine castles (Dromaneen, Clonmeen, Dromore), and abounding in woods and hawks, made it attractive for annexation to Mallow. Fortunately for Conor, his pardon extended not only to his person, but also to his property, and so he was spared the ignominy of confiscation.

As the pacification of Munster continued, additional pardons were given to other
O Callaghans. The list is rather lengthy and suggests that most of the principal members of the family had been involved in  varying  degrees  in the  recent  disturbances. 

The restoration of peace in Munster was interrupted, however, by the arrival of a Spanish fleet at Kinsale in September 1601. Various clans prepared for the renewal of warfare, while O Neill and O Donnell advanced to give comfort to the Spaniards who were besieged in Kinsale by government forces. Cormac MacCarthy of Muskerry was one of the Irish lords who supported the crown at this time, though as always the allegiance of an Irish lord was ambivalent. Quite possibly, Conor of the Rock, considering the threat of confiscation hanging over his lands, remained steadfast in his allegiance, and may have sent contingents to join Carew at Kinsale, where the Irish were routed on 24 December 1601. And yet O Callaghan, along with other lords of Munster, after the disaster of Kinsale, was thought to be favorably inclined if the Spaniards attempted a new landing, as he was “of the ancient race.” In the ensuing months Carew mopped up the resistance in Munster, climaxing it with the capture of O Sullivan’s castle of Dunboy in June 1602. O Neill submitted in March 1603, bringing the Nine Years War to a close.

As a consequence of developments in the last quarter of the sixteenth century, Pobul Uí Cheallacháin, the lands inhabited and belonging to the O Callaghans of Duhallow, was transformed into an estate held by the chieftain and heritable by his descendants in accordance with English law. Nevertheless, the upheavals of the seventeenth century eventually brought about the downfall of the O Callaghans and other families of the Gaelic aristocracy.”