Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-65dc7cd545-fz4lj Total loading time: 0.163 Render date: 2021-07-25T04:25:53.875Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

Providence and exile in early seventeenth-century Ireland

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2016

Marc Caball
Get access


The depth of change which the country experienced in the reign of James I has become an axiom of early modern Irish historiography. The extension of crown government throughout the island, the flight of the northern earls, the subsequent plantation in Ulster and the putative religious reformation of the indigenous inhabitants contributed to a climate of flux and tension. The burgeoning scholarly interest in this phase of Irish history has resulted in a more detailed understanding of administrative, political, regional and religious trends in the period. Progress has also been made in the study of contemporary mentalities. An interesting development has been the use of sources in the Irish language for the reconstruction of previously obscure intellectual currents amongst the Gaelic élite. The recent appearance of Michelle O Riordan’s monograph on the Gaelic reaction to the collapse of traditional society represents the fullest exposition yet of an interpretation which has characterised the early modern Gaelic ideological response to conquest and social change as fundamentally passive and backward-looking. O Riordan has, in effect, elaborated upon the conclusions of preceding commentators, notably Tom Dunne and Bernadette Cunningham, in portraying the Gaelic understanding of socio-political transformation as lacking in critical perception. This essay is intended as a further contribution to the elucidation of the mental climate of the time. More particularly, it will focus on two themes which figured prominently in the separate, but in this instance similar, communal reactions of the Gaelic Irish and the New English settlers to their respective political and social environments.

Research Article
Copyright © Irish Historical Studies Publications Ltd 1994

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.


1 For such mental analysis see, in the case of the Old English, Canny, N.P., The formation of the Old English élite in Ireland (O’Donnell Lecture, Dublin, 1975)Google Scholar; Clarke, Aidan, ‘Colonial identity in early seventeenth-century Ireland’ in Moody, T.W. (ed.), Nationality and the pursuit of national independence: Historical Studies XI (Belfast, 1978), pp 57-71Google Scholar; in the case of the Gaelic Irish see Riordan, Michelle O, The Gaelic mind and the collapse of the Gaelic world (Cork, 1990) (for a review of this book see below, pp 259-60Google Scholar; for the New English see Canny, Nicholas, The upstart earl: a study of the social and mental world of Richard Boyle, first earl of Cork, 1566–1643 (Cambridge, 1982)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; idem, ‘Identity formation in Ireland: the emergence of the Anglo-Irish’ in Canny, Nicholas and Pagden, Anthony (eds), Colonial identity in the Atlantic world, 1500–1800 (Princeton, N.J., 1987), pp 159212 Google Scholar; Bradshaw, Brendan, ‘Robe and sword in the conquest of Ireland’ in Cross, Claire, Loades, David and Scarisbrick, J.J. (eds), Law and government under the Tudors (Cambridge, 1988), pp 139-62CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2 O Riordan, The Gaelic mind; see also Caball, Marc, ‘The Gaelic mind and the collapse of the Gaelic world: an appraisal’ in Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, xxv (summer 1993), pp 8796 Google Scholar; Dunne, Tom, ‘The Gaelic response to conquest and colonisation: the evidence of the poetry’ in Studia Hib., xx 1980), pp 730 Google Scholar; Cunningham, Bernadette, ‘Native culture and political change in Ireland, 1580–1640’ in Brady, Ciaran and Gillespie, Raymond (eds), Natives and newcomers: essays on the making of Irish colonial society, 1534–1641 (Dublin, 1986), pp 148-70Google Scholar.

3 Dunne, ‘The Gaelic response’, p. 11.

4 Bradshaw, Brendan, ‘Native reaction to the Westward Enterprise: a case-study in Gaelic ideology’ in Andrews, K.R. et al. (eds), The Westward Enterprise: English activities in Ireland, the Atlantic and America, 1480–1650 (Liverpool, 1978), pp 6580 Google Scholar.

5 For the idea of providence see Thomas, Keith, Religion and the decline of magic (Harmondsworth, 1978 ed.), pp 90132 Google Scholar; Worden, Blair, ‘Providence and politics in Cromwellian England’ in Past & Present, no. 109 (1985), pp 5599 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 Buachalla, Breandán Ó, ‘Na Stíobhartaigh agus an t-aos léinn: Cing Séamas’ in R.I.A. Proc., lxxxiii (1983), sect. C, pp 81134 Google Scholar.

7 For Ó Cadhla see Bannerman, John, The Beatons: a medical kindred in the classical Gaelic tradition (Edinburgh, 1986), p. 106 Google Scholar.

8 Walsh, Paul (ed.), Gleanings from Irish manuscripts (2nd ed., Dublin, 1933), pp 159-61Google Scholar.

9 See The bardic poems of Tadhg Dall Ó Huiginn (1550-1591), ed. Knott, Eleanor (2 vols, London, 1922-6) i, p. xvi Google Scholar.

10 O’Rahilly, T.F. (ed.), Measgra dánta (2 vols, Dublin, 1927), ii, no. 52, p. 141,ll 53–6Google Scholar.

11 Williams, N.J.A. (ed.), Pairlement Chloinne Tomáis (Dublin, 1981), ll 102-16Google Scholar; Caball, Marc, ‘Pairlement Chloinne Tomáis I: a reassessment’ in Éigse, xxvii 1993), pp 4757 Google Scholar.

12 Williams, (ed.). Pairlement, ll 402-3, 417–26, 754Google Scholar.

13 For the traditional interpretation of the Pairlement see Mercier, Vivian, The Irish comic tradition (Oxford, 1962), pp 155-60Google Scholar.

14 Trí bior-ghaoithe an bháis: Séathrún Céitinn do sgríobh, ed. Bergin, Osborn (2nd ed., Dublin, 1931), ll 3542-51 (my translations unless otherwise stated)Google Scholar.

15 Williams, (ed.), Pairlement, ll 417-26Google Scholar. For the irreligion of Clann Tomáis see the incident where Labhrás ridicules the priest giving him the last rites (ll 1157–70).

16 ‘unfortunate races of Ireland’, ‘Irish Catholic’, ‘dissolute people of Ireland’ ( bior-ghaoithe, Tri, ed. Bergin, ll 6048-9, 6107, 3543Google Scholar).

17 Ibid., ll 5338–9.

18 Ibid., ll 5356–61.

19 Ibid., ll 5439–52.

20 Ibid., ll 5462–6. Cf. Conaill’s, Seán Ó Tuireamh na hÉireann (composed c. 1655–9) in Rahilly, Cecile O’ (ed.), Five seventeenth-century political poems (Dublin, 1952), pp 5982 Google Scholar, 11 253–8.

21 Meehan, C.P. (trans.), The Geraldines, earls of Desmond, and the persecution of the Irish Catholics (Dublin, 1847), p. 121 Google Scholar. ForO’Daly see Curtin, Benvenuta, ‘Dominic O’Daly: an Irish diplomat’ in Studia Hib., v 1965), pp 98112 Google Scholar; D.N.B., art. Daly, Daniel.

22 Text and translation in Gillies, William (ed.), ‘A poem on the downfall of the Gaoidhil’ in Éigse, xiii (1969-70), p. 208, quatrain 19Google Scholar.

23 Ibid., p. 209, quatrain 26.

24 Duanta Eoghain Ruaidh Mhic an Bhaird, ed. Raghallaigh, Tomás Ó (Galway, 1930), no. 14, pp 208-11, quatrains 7, 8–11Google Scholar. This poem was addressed to Hugh O’Neill (d. 1616), probably after he had left Ireland for the continent in 1607.

25 Ibid., p. 212, quatrain 12.

26 Brún, Pádraig de, Buachalla, Breandán Ó and Concheanainn, Tomás Ó (eds), Nuadhuanaire (3 vols, Dublin, 1971-8), i, no. 26, pp 31-4,11 28, 44, 77Google Scholar.

27 Ibid., p. 33,ll 79–88.

28 Ibid., ll 73–6.

29 For the popularity of the apocrypha in the Irish tradition see McNamara, Martin, ‘The Bible in Irish spirituality’ in Maher, Michael (ed.), Irish spirituality (Dublin, 1981), p. 45 Google Scholar. The prose version of Saltair na Rann has been edited and translated by Dillon, Myles, ‘Seel Saltrach na Rann’ in Celtica, iv (1958), pp 1—43 Google Scholar; cf. McNamara, Martin, The apocrypha in the Irish church (Dublin, 1975), pp 16,35Google Scholar. As well as the prose version of the Saltair, two other texts may be cited in relation to the Israelite motif. The text entitled Stair Mac nlsrahel mentioned in the booklist of Tadhg Ó Duinn (fl. 1475) may have been similar to the extant tract Teacht Chloinne Israel, a history of the Exodus and Joseph which is possibly sixteenth-century in date. I am indebted to Professor Ann Dooley, University of Toronto, for drawing my attention to the Ó Duinn booklist. B.M. cat. Ir. MSS, i, 56; Fiannachta, Pádraig Ó, Clár lámhscríbhínní Gaeilge (2 vols, Dublin, 1978-80), i, 108Google Scholar. For the Ó Duinn booklist see McGrath, Cuthbert (ed.), ‘Notes on Í Dhuinn family’ in Collect. Hib., ii (1959), p. 16 Google Scholar; cf. Nicholls, K.W. (ed.), The O Doyne (Ó Duinn) manuscript (I.M.C., Dublin, 1983), pp 116-17 n. 18Google Scholar.

30 McCone, Kim, Pagan past and Christian present in early Irish literature (Maynooth, 1990), pp 67-8Google Scholar; Tuama, Seán Ó, ‘Téamaí iasachta i bhfilíocht pholaitiúil na Gaeilge (1600-1800)’ in Éigse, xi (1964-6), pp 207-8Google Scholar.

31 Tri bior-ghaoithe, ed. Bergin, p. 124,ll 3931–4. For the figure of Moses in medieval Irish literature see Hennig, John, ‘The literary tradition of Moses in Ireland’ in Traditio, vii (1949-51), pp 233-61Google Scholar.

32 In relation to Ó Gnímh see McGrath, Cuthbert, ‘Ollamh Cloinne Aodha Buidhe’ in Éigse, vii (1953-5), pp 127-8Google Scholar; Cunningham, Bernadette and Gillespie, Raymond, ‘The east Ulster bardic family of Ó Gnímh’ in Eigse, xx 1984), pp 106-14Google Scholar. For the text of Mo thruaighe mar táid Gaoidhil! see Rahilly, O’ (ed.), Measgra, ii, no. 54, pp 144-7Google Scholar. The poem’s date of composition is discussed ibid., p. 206, and in O’Rahilly, T.F., ‘Ó Gnimh’s alleged visit to London’ in Celtica, i 1950), pp 330-31Google Scholar.

33 Rahilly, O’ (ed.), Measgra, ii, 146-7,ll 48, 65–8, 77–80Google Scholar.

34 Brún, De et al. (eds), Nua-dhuanaire, no. 28, pp 36-7, 11 33, 41, 45–6Google Scholar.

35 Mac an Bhaird’s reference to O’Neill’s possible return from Rome would suggest that it was composed after O’Neill’s arrival in Rome in 1608 and at some point up to the time of his death there in 1616 (R.I.A., MS 23 F 16, p. 72).

36 Mór do mhill aoibhneas Éireann remains unpublished; it is extant in two manuscripts: R.I.A., MS 23 F 16, pp 70–73 (the O’Gara manuscript, written in the Low Countries between 1655 and 1659); and the nineteenth-century B.L., MS Eg. lll, ff. 63–64r (see cat, B.M.. Ir. MSS, i, 382-3Google Scholar). In the O’Gara manuscript the date 10 December 1655 follows directly after this poem (p. 73); this is presumably the day of its entry into the manuscript. The poem has been edited by Macháin, Pádraig Ó in his ‘Poems by Fearghal Og Mac an Bhaird’ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Edinburgh, 1988), ii, poem XII, pp 719-62Google Scholar.I am grateful to Dr Ó Macháin, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, for providing me with a copy of his edition of the poem. All quotations cited here, however, are from R.I.A., MS 23 F 16.

37 R.I.A., MS 23 F 16, p. 71.

38 Ibid.

39 Ibid.

40 Ibid., p. 72.

41 Ibid.

42 Ibid.

43 Ibid.

44 Gillies (ed.), ‘A poem on the downfall’, p. 209, quatrain 24.

45 Duanta Eoghain Ruaidh Mhic an Bhaird, ed. Ó Raghallaigh, no. 14, pp 210, 216, quatrains 8, 23.

46 Brún, De et al. (eds), Nua-dhuanaire, no. 26, pp 31-4,ll 91–2Google Scholar.

47 Burke, Peter, Popular culture in early modern Europe (London, 1978), p. 226 Google Scholar.

48 For such anti-Catholic invective see Andrewe, George, A quaternion of sermons preached in Ireland (Society of Stationers, Dublin, 1625)Google Scholar; Rider, John, The coppie of a letter sent from M. Rider, Deane of Saint Patricks, concerning the newes out of Ireland, and of the Spaniards landing and present estate there (London, 1601)Google Scholar.

49 For the Protestant depiction of England as a modern Israel see Wiener, C.Z., ‘The beleaguered isle: a study of Elizabethan and early Jacobean anti-Catholicism’ in Past & Present, no. 51 (1971), p. 28 Google Scholar. Cf. Morgan, Hiram, ‘Writing up early modern Ireland’ in Hist. Jn., xxxi, 3 (1988), p. 708 Google Scholar; Barnard, T.C., ‘Crises of identity among Irish Protestants, 1641–1685’ in Past & Present, no. 127 (1990), p. 53 Google Scholar.

50 D.N.B., art. Leslie, Henry; Leslie, J.B., Armagh clergy and parishes (Dundalk, 1911), pp 5960 Google Scholar; Leslie, J.B. and Swanzy, H.B., Biographical succession lists of the clergy of the diocese of Down (Enniskillen, 1936), p. 9 Google Scholar; Ford, Alan, The Protestant Reformation in Ireland, 1590–1641 (Frankfurt am Main, 1985), p. 205 Google Scholar.

51 D.N.B., art. Jerome, Stephen; Venn, J. and Venn, J.A., Alumni Cantabrigienses (10 vols, Cambridge, 1922-54), pt 1, ii, 473Google Scholar; Ford, Protestant Reformation, p. 205; MacCarthy-Morrogh, Michael, The Munster plantation: English migration to southern Ireland, 1583–1641 (Oxford, 1986), p. 257 Google Scholar.

52 Venn, , Alumni, pt 1, iii, 280 Google Scholar; Leslie, J.B., Ossory clergy and parishes (Enniskillen, 1933), pp 298, 327Google Scholar; Ford, Protestant Reformation, pp 205–6. For Sir Charles Coote (d. 1642) see O’Hanlon, John et al., History of the Queen’s County (2 vols, Dublin, 1907-14), ii, 771Google Scholar.

53 Alan Ford has utilised the writings of Leslie, Jerome and Olmstead in his exploration of the predestinarian theology and apocalypticism of the Church of Ireland. See Ford, Protestant Reformation, ch. 8; cf. idem, The Protestant Reformation in Ireland’ in Brady, and Gillespie, (eds), Natives & newcomers, pp 5074 Google Scholar.

54 Canny, The upstart earl, ch. 3.

55 Hickson, Mary, Ireland in the seventeenth century, or the massacres of 1641–2, their causes and results (2 vols, London, 1884), ii, 385Google Scholar. For a note on Spratt see Leslie, J.B., Ardfert and Aghadoe clergy and parishes (Dublin, 1940), p. 27 Google Scholar.

56 Advertisements for Ireland, ed. O’Brien, George (Dublin, 1923), p. 27 Google Scholar.

57 Olmstead, Richard, Sions teares leading to joy: or the waters of Marah sweetned. First preached at Clonenagh in the Queenes County in severall sermons, and now published for the benefite of the church (Society of Stationers, Dublin, 1630), pp 129-31Google Scholar.

58 Ibid., p. 2.

59 A different interpretation of New English consciousness is to be found in Canny, Nicholas, ‘Dominant minorities: English settlers in Ireland and Virginia, 1550–1650’ in Hepburn, A.C. (ed.), Minorities in history: Historical Studies XII (London, 1978), pp 5169 Google Scholar.

60 Leslie, Henry, A warning for Israel, in a sermon preached at Christ-Church, in Dublin, the 30. of October, 1625 (Society of Stationers, Dublin, 1625), p. 40 Google Scholar.

61 Olmstead, Sions teares, p. 83.

62 Olmstead, Richard, A treatise of the union betwixt Christ and the church, or mans felicitie and happinesse. First preached in severall sermons (Society of Stationers, Dublin, 1627), pp 62-3Google Scholar, 242.

63 Jerome, Stephen, Irelands jubilee, orjoyes Io-pean,for Prince Charles his welcome home (Society of Stationers, Dublin, 1624), p. 86 Google Scholar.

64 ‘... hee hath come as neere us, as to Israeli, in drawing the furie and brandished sword of his wrath’ (ibid., p. 159).

65 Ibid., p. 160.

66 Ibid., p. 159.

67 Leslie, A warning for Israel, p. 6. His reference to famine is probably an allusion to the harvest difficulties of the period 1621–4; for these food shortages see Gillespie, Raymond, ‘Meal and money: the harvest crisis of 1621 —4 and the Irish economy’ in Crawford, E.Margaret (ed.), Famine: the Irish experience, 900–1900 (Edinburgh, 1989), pp 7595 Google Scholar.

68 Leslie, A warning for Israel, p. 32.

69 Ibid., p. 42.

70 Shuckburgh, E.S. (ed.). Two biographies of William Bedell (Cambridge, 1902), p. 57 Google Scholar.

71 Ibid., p. 166; cf. Strange and remarkable prophesies and predictions of the holy, learned, and excellent James Usher, late L. Arch-Bishop of Armagh, and Lord Primate of Ireland (London, 1678), pp 23 Google Scholar.

72 Ironically, Sir Thomas Smith writing about his projected plantation on the Ards peninsula in a tract published in 1572 proposed to entice potential settlers in the following terms: ‘Let us, therefore, use the persuasions which Moses used to Israel, they will serve fitly in this place, and tell them that they shall goe to possesse a lande that floweth with milke and hony, a fertile soile truly if there be any in Europe’ ( Hill, George, An historical account of the MacDonnells of Antrim (Belfast, 1873), p. 409)Google Scholar.

73 See Stephen Jerome’s comments: ‘So to reflect upon our selves, for this our English Israell, hath not the Lord sequestred and separated us from Pagans and heathens, yea even from Turkes, (and Jewes themselves)’ (Jerome, Irelands jubilee, p. 153).

74 Ford, Protestant Reformation, pp 244–5.

75 Jerome, Irelands jubilee, pp 90, 151, 204.

76 Ibid., pp 154–5.

77 Ibid., p. 162.

78 Leslie, A warning for Israel, p. 5.

79 Ibid., p. 11.

80 Ibid., p. 42.

81 For the modern reverberations of the Israelite theme in Ireland see Elliott, Marianne, Watchmen in Sion: the Protestant idea of liberty (Derry, 1985), pp 68 Google Scholar; Paisley, Ian, ‘The three Hebrew children’ in Deane, Seamus (ed.). The Field Day anthology of Irish writing (3 vols, Derry, 1991), iii, 371 Google Scholar; Kiberd, Declan, ‘Bloom the liberator’ in Times Literary Supplement, 3 Jan. 1992, pp 36, esp. p. 3Google Scholar.

Cited by

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Providence and exile in early seventeenth-century Ireland
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Providence and exile in early seventeenth-century Ireland
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Providence and exile in early seventeenth-century Ireland
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *