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Cultures in conflict in late sixteenth-century Kerry: the parallel worlds of a Tudor intellectual and Gaelic poets

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 March 2016

Marc Caball
UCD Humanities Institute of Ireland, University College Dublin
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Demarcated to the north by the Shannon and its estuary and to the south by the Kenmare river and the Caha mountains, the south-western territories of Kerry and Desmond provide a microcosm of the tensions and interactions characteristic of early modern Ireland. Although historically divided into roughly two corresponding halves representing the outcome of thirteenth-century Gaelic/Anglo-Norman conflict, the area approximating to the modern administrative division of Kerry was defined by Gaelic cultural ascendancy and by the similar (though differing in scale) seigneurial ambitions of successive Fitzgerald and MacCarthy magnates. Significantly, a territorial division configured along ethnic lines was not replicated at a cultural level, where a remarkable level of homogeneity prevailed in terms of the currency of Gaelic language and literature. However, the defeat and execution of the fourteenth earl of Desmond and the distribution of his lands among English settlers under the auspices of the government-sponsored Munster plantation inaugurated profound political, social and religious turmoil in the province. In Kerry, also, consolidation of the New English military, social and legal presence in the wake of the redistribution of the earl of Desmond’s lands precipitated levels of political and cultural dissonance unparalleled since the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

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14 The popularity of material relating the daring exploits of the poet and 1641 insurgent, Piaras Feiritéar, in the oral tradition down to modern times is indicative of the extent to which local folklore preserved an admittedly attenuated consciousness of early modern conflict. See, for example, Jackson, Kenneth (ed.), Scéalta ón mBlascaod (Dublin, 1968 ed.), pp 3740Google Scholar; Súilleabhá, Muiris Óin, Fiche blian agfás (Maynooth, 1981 ed.)Google Scholar, ch. 6; Caball, John, The singing swordsman (Dublin, 1953).Google Scholar

15 Carey, ‘“Neither good English nor good Irish’”.

16 All dates are given old style. Fiants Ire., Eliz. I, no. 5312; Cal. S.P. Ire., 1586–8, p. 331.

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18 MacCarthy-Morrogh, Munster plantation, p. 30.

19 Christopher Maginn, ‘Herbert, Sir William (c.1553-1593)’ in Oxford D.N.B.

20 Canny, Making Ireland British, pp 159–64.

21 N.A.I., M.3044, f. 32; M.5037, p. 13; Cal. S.P. Ire., 1588–92, pp 190, 192. For Kerry’s relative inaccessibility see H.M.C., Salisbury MSS, xvi, 429Google Scholar; Barnard, T. C., ‘Sir William Petty, Irish landowner’ in Lloyd-Jones, Hughet al. (eds), History & imagination: essays in honour of H. R. Trevor-Roper (London, 1981), pp 209, 215Google Scholar. However, Castleisland was located on one of the two main routes between Limerick and Tralee, and, as such, was a transport and communications hub within the Desmond lordship: McCormack, Earldom of Desmond, p. 36. The settlement’s regional significance is reflected in its inclusion on Gerard Mercator’s map of Ireland published in Duisburg in 1564: Andrews, J. H., Shapes of Ireland: maps and their makers, 1564–1839 (Dublin, 1997), p. 39.Google Scholar

22 Cal. S.P. Ire., 1586–8, p. 331; ibid., 1588–92, p. 210.

23 Ibid., 1586–8, p. 569.

24 In contrast, Nicholas Canny has suggested that Denny and Herbert were ultimately at one ideologically on the basis of their shared commitment to absolute English authority in Munster: Making Ireland British, p. 158.

25 Cal. S.P. dom, 1586–88, pp 331, 533. For Herbert’s advocacy of the Protestant reform movement in Monmouthshire and his assessment of the challenges facing its progress there, see Cal. S.P. dom, 1581–90, p. 374. See also Heal, Felicity, ‘Mediating the word: language and dialects in the British and Irish reformations’ in Jn. Ecc. Hist., lvi (2005), p. 278.Google Scholar

26 Cal. S.P. Ire., 1586–8, p. 533; Leslie, J. B., Ardfert and Aghadoe clergy and parishes (Dublin, 1940), p. 4.Google Scholar

27 Cal. S.P. Ire., 1588–92, p. 192.

28 Ibid., p. 191. Tomás Óg was presumably the son of Thomas Fitz David Gerald of Ardnagragh, who was killed during the Desmond rebellion having risen in support of the earl Gerald. The David Óg Fitzgerald who held Castleisland in 1622 may well have come of the Ardnagragh branch of the family. Interestingly, while the latter was ‘the son of an arch-rebel and hath been a rebel himself’, he was perceived to be ‘conformable in religion’. Fiants Ire., Eliz. I, no. 5312; N.A.I., M.5037, pp 25–6; Hickson, M. A., Selections from old Kerry records (London, 1872), pp 186-7Google Scholar; ‘Desmond inquisition of 1584’ in Kerry Archaeological Magazine, i (1910), pp 268–9; Stat. Ire., 1, 418; Dunlop, Robert (ed.), ‘An unpublished survey of the plantation of Munster in 1622’ in R.S.A.I. Jn., liv (1924), p. 137.Google Scholar

29 B.L., Lansdowne MS 58, f. 81; Cal. S.P. Ire., 1588–92, pp 133–4.

30 Cal. S.P. Ire., 1588–92, pp 134, 190. The degraded organisational state of the Catholic Church is reflected in the comments of the Peyton commissioners on ecclesiastical properties in Kerry in the context of their general survey of the earl of Desmond’s estates begun in 1584: N.A.I., M.5037; MacCarthy-Morrogh, Munster plantation, pp 4–19. See also O’Shea, Kieran, ‘Rickard O’Connell (1572-1653)’ in Kerry Arch. Soc. Jn., xi (1978), pp 524.Google Scholar

31 For Denny’s hostility to native converts and his appropriation of church land see Cal. S.P. Ire., 1588–92, pp 191–2; Marsh’s Lib., MS. Z 3.1.3, f. 128. The Peyton commissioners recorded that the Franciscans were still active in their house near Lough Leane, and complained ‘that the numerous inhabitants of that country frequent it and come thither to Mass and other diabolical services’: N.A.I., M.5037, p. 33. In fact, Herbert admitted local support for the Catholic Church: Cal. S.P. Ire., 1586–8, p. 529.

32 MacCarthy-Morrogh, Munster plantation, pp 190–4, 246; Edwards, David, ‘A haven of popery: English Catholic migration to Ireland in the age of plantations’ in Ford, Alan and McCafferty, John (eds), The origins of sectarianism in early modern Ireland (Cambridge, 2005), pp 95126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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35 Cal. S.P. Ire., 1586–8, p. 313; ibid., 1588-92, pp 90, 190, 210.

36 Ibid., 1586–8, pp 531, 534, 540; ibid., 1588–92, p.91 ; Canny, Making Ireland British, pp 154–5.

37 Denny, H. L. L., The biography of Sir Edward Denny (Hertford, 1905)Google Scholar; Fiants Ire., Eliz. I, no. 5043.

38 McCarthy, B. G., ‘The surrender of an Armada vessel near Tralee: an exploration of the state papers’ in Kerry Arch. Soc. Jn., xxiii (1990), p. 99Google Scholar; Denny, H. L. L., ‘Some Kerry records’ in The County Kerry Society (1937), pp 22-4Google Scholar. Herbert was sufficiently concerned by the threat posed by the Armada to dispatch intelligence to London on its progress off the Kerry coast: Certaine advertisements out of Ireland, concerning the losses and distresses happened to the Spanish navie (London, 1588), A2.

39 Cal. S.P. Ire., 1586–8, pp 568–74; ibid., 1588–92, pp 90–1, 189–92, 210, 221–2; Herbert correspondence, ed. Smith, W. J. (I.M.C., Dublin, 1963), p. 62Google Scholar. Brendan Bradshaw has argued for Herbert’s rational moderate civic humanism in the Irish context in ‘Robe and sword in the conquest of Ireland’ in Cross, Claireet al. (eds), Law and government under the Tudors (Cambridge, 1988), pp 139-62CrossRefGoogle Scholar. In contrast, Brady has proposed that Herbert’s suggested policies for Ireland were informed by a complex and occasionally contingent interweaving of humanism and colonial theory: ‘New English ideology in Ireland’, p. 104.

40 Cal. S.P Ire., 1588–92, p. 222; ibid., 1586–8, p. 569; MacCarthy-Morrogh, Munster plantation, pp 94–6; Canny, Making Ireland British, pp 150, 158. For the hostility of the Kerry undertakers Sir Valentine Browne, Nicholas Browne, Jenkin Conway and Thomas Spring to Herbert see Cal. S.P. Ire., 1588–92, pp 107, 138, 190. Cf. Solon his follie … by Beacon, Richard, ed. Carroll, Clare and Carey, Vincent (Binghamton, N.Y., 1996), pp xxxxi.Google Scholar

41 N.L.I., MS 7861, ff 177–8. Cf. Canny, Making Ireland British, p. 147.

42 Cal. S.P. Ire., 1588–92, p. 169.

43 Ibid., 1586–8, p. 536; ibid., 1588–92, p. 211; Acts privy council, 1588, p. 147; MacCarthy-Morrogh, Munster plantation, p. 29. Cf. N.A.I., M.3044, f. 25.

44 N.L.I., MS 7861, f. 175v; N.A.I., M.5037, p. 14.

45 N.L.I., MS 7861, ff 175v, 177r; Leslie, Ardfert clergy, p. 75. Ewes was certainly dead by 1603 when he was succeeded as rector of Castleisland by Robert Chaffe. Pat. rolls. Ire., Jas I, ed. Erck, i, pt 1, 37.

46 N.L.I., MS 7861, ff 175v, 176v. Thomas, Keith, Man and the natural world: changing attitudes in England, 1500–1800 (Harmondsworth, 1984), pp 198212Google Scholar; Toby Barnard, ‘Gardening, diet and “improvement” in later seventeenth-century Ireland’ in idem, Irish Protestant ascents and descents, 1641–1770 (Dublin, 2004), pp 208–34. Several references to gardens and orchards in the Peyton commissioners’ survey of Kerry demonstrate that horticultural pursuits were not exclusively a New English introduction: N.A.I., M.5037, pp 7, 10–11,31-2.

47 N.L.I., MS 7861, ff 166r-173v; Breen, Colin, An archaeology of southwest Ireland, 1570–1670 (Dublin, 2007), p. 26.Google Scholar

48 Ibid. Cf. T.C. Barnard, ‘The political, material and mental culture of the Cork settlers, c.1650-1700’ in O’Flanagan & Buttimer (eds), Cork, pp 323–4.

49 Ogilvie, B. W., The science of describing: natural history in renaissance Europe (Chicago, 2006), p. 105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

50 N.L.I., MS 7861, f. 167r. Presumably, Herbert also brought with him his recently published theological polemic, A letter written by a true Christian catholike, to a romaine pretended catholike (1586) (S.T.C. 12752.5).

51 Peck, Linda Levy, Consuming splendour: society and culture in seventeenth-century England (Cambridge, 2005), p. 113.Google Scholar

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58 Cal. S.P. Ire., 1601–3, p. 607. In a general 1602–3 Crown pardon to the inhabitants of Munster and Thomond, Tomás Óg, along with a handful of prominent Irish leaders, was expressly excluded from its provisions: Fiants Ire., Eliz. I, no. 6773. For his experiences during the rebellion, see Cal. S.P. Ire., 1600, pp 367, 372, 374, 379, 606; ibid., 1600–1, pp 4, 61, 87, 98, 233–4-; Sheehan, A. J., ‘The overthrow of the plantation of Munster in October 1598’ in Ir. Sword, xv (1982-3), p. 17.Google Scholar

59 Dunlop, ‘Survey’, p. 137.

60 Cal. Carew MSS, 1515–74, p. 144. Cf. N.A.I., M.5037, pp 14, 16. The Crown authorities had previously forbidden the earl of Desmond to maintain praise poets: Cal. pat. rolls Ire., Eliz., p. 486.

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63 Muireadhaigh, Réamonn Ó (ed.), ‘Aos dána na Mumhan, 1584’ in Irisleabhar Muighe Nuadhat (1960), p. 83.Google Scholar

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65 Fiants Ire., Eliz. I, no. 4555.

66 Stat.Ire., 1,423.

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72 Fiants Ire., Eliz. I, no. 6477.

73 For the question of Irish natives occupying plantation holdings in the absence of available English tenants see N.A.I., M.3044, f. 29; for the reoccupation of plantation lands by the dispossessed in the aftermath of the 1598 rising see MacCarthy-Morrogh, Munster plantation, p. 133.

74 MacErlean, J.C. (ed.), Duanaire Dháibhidh Uí Bhruadair (3 vols, London, 1910-17), i, 184-95.Google Scholar

75 Brun, Pádraig deet al. (eds), Nua-dhuanaire (3 vols, Dublin, 1971-8), i, no. 42.Google Scholar

76 Black, ‘Poems’, pp 197–8.

77 Cabali, ‘Notes’, p. 187.

78 Greene, David (ed.), Duanaire Mhéig Uidhir (Dublin, 1972), no. xix.Google Scholar

79 Ibid., 1. 2154.

80 Ibid., 11. 2159–60.

81 Ibid., 11. 2185–6.

82 Ibid., 11. 2190, 2243–5.

83 T.N.A. P.R.O., S.P. 63/168/10.1, f. 55; Hore, ‘Bards’, p. 107. Cf.Sheehan, A. J., ‘Official reaction to native land claims in the plantation of Munster’ in I.H.S., xxiii, no. 92 (Sept. 1983), pp 297317.Google Scholar

84 Breatnach, ‘Cú Chonnacht’.

85 Ibid., p. 33.

86 Ibid., quatrains 15–20.

87 Ibid., quatrain 17.

88 Ibid., quatrains 17–18.

89 Ibid., quatrains 21–8.

90 Pat. rolls Ire., Jas I, p. 56.

91 Dánta Mhuiris mhic Dháibhí Dhuibh Mhic Gearailt, ed. Williams, Nicholas (Dublin, 1979), p. 7.Google Scholar

92 Fiants Ire., Eliz. I, no. 3354; ‘Desmond inquisition of 1584’, p. 273.

93 Dánta Mhuiris mhic DháibhíDhuibh, pp 7, 15. For Dingle and the wine trade in the sixteenth century, see Stat. Ire., 1, 353, 411.

94 Fiants Ire., Eliz. I, no. 6515.

95 Dánta Mhuiris mhic Dháibhí Dhuibh, pp 11, 26.

96 Ibid., p. 30.

97 Ibid., pp 48–9,11. 25–44.

98 Ibid., pp 49–50,11. 49–64.

99 Ibid., pp 50–1,11. 69–100.

100 Ibid., p. 52,11. 133–40.

101 Hosking, Geoffrey, ‘Trust and distrust: a suitable theme for historians?’ in R. Hist. Soc. Trans., ser. 6, xvi (2006), pp 102-3.Google Scholar

102 Danta Mhuiris mhic Dháibhí Dhuibh, p. 54,11. 209–16; Dickson, Old world colony, p. 21.

103 Cal. S.P. Ire., 1588–92, p. 107.

104 Croftus,p. 83.

105 Ibid.,pp77, 81–3.

106 Ibid., pp31,71.

107 Ibid., p. 97.

108 Ibid., pp 107–9.

109 Ibid., pp 85–7; Carey, Vincent, ‘The Irish face of Machiavelli: Richard Beacon’s Solon his follie (1594) and republican ideology in the conquest of Ireland’ in Morgan, (ed), Political ideology in Ireland, 1541–1641, p. 90.Google Scholar

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111 N.L.I., MS 7861, f. 174.

112 T.C.D., MS 828, ff 196, 205, 284.

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114 O’Donovan, John (ed.), ‘The Irish correspondence of James Fitz Maurice of Desmond' in Journal of the Kilkenny & South-East of Ireland Archaeological Society, new ser., ii (1858-9), pp 354-69.Google Scholar

115 T.C.D., MS 828, ff 222–3.

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