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A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The March of O'Sullivan Beare/The Irish Brigade

In January, 1602, the Nine Years War came to an end with the defeat of the Irish and Spanish by the English at Kinsale.  This resulted in the Flight of the Earls (O'Neill and O'Donnell).  One of the holdouts was the O'Sullivan Beare, Donal Cam, who in 1603 gathered his remaining followers, including women and children, and set off for the North, on a 250-mile march which he and his people completed in 14 days.  He fought a long rearguard action across Ireland, during which the much larger English force harried him all the way -- as did rival Irish clans. The march is one of the most poignant in Irish history and was marked by enormous suffering as the fleeing and starving O'Sullivans sought food from an already decimated Irish countryside in winter, often resulting in hostility, such as from the Mac Egans at Redwood Castle in Tipperary. O'Sullivan marched through Aughrim in Co. Galway, where he raided villages for food and met with local resistance. He fought a skirmish with crown forces at Glinsk Castle, where he was victorious, and led his refugees further north.  This brought him into the Sil Maelruain, for the Bridge of Glinsk was the southernmost bound of O'Flynn's County.  O'Sullivan's route through O'Flynn's Country is well authenticated and must have been facilitated by O'Flynn guides. How else could complete strangers find their way safely through water logged marshes and rugged mountains in mid winter?  He made his escape across Ballymoe and over O'Flynn's Mountain, avoiding the village of Ballinlough (Town by O'Flynn's Lake). He camped over-night in the woods north of the village where he was befriended by the O'Flynns from their castle on the hill.  Such befriending would not have been seen in a favorable light by the pursuing crown forces and O'Flynn would not have done himself any favors in their eyes.    
Of course, some twenty years before, Fiachra O'Flynn of Ballinlough, chief of his name, had refused to sign the Indenture and Compossicion of Conoght, and his son Thomas had been hanged at Ros-Comain the following year; and in 1650, Cromwell's council will order the arrest of Fiachra O'Flynn ("armed and dangerous") for resisting the Commonwealth.  So maybe kissing English butt was not a high priority in the eyes of the O'Flynn. 
There is a tradition that many of O'Sullivan Beare's followers dropped off here and there on the route and settled in friendly places. There is evidence of this in O'Flynn's Country with southern names such as Carty, McCarthy and O'Callaghan that can trace their roots back to that time.  

When the O'Sullivans Beare finally arrived at The O'Rourke's castle in Leitrim, only 35 of the original 1,000 remained. 






And speaking of the Wild Geese off to France....

2 comments:

  1. Is O'Flynn's Mountain the same as Sliabh Ui Floinn in "An Draighnean Donn" (The Blackthorn Tree)?

    Because that young man's side in the song is described as white like the snow over that mountain, so it would kinda be nice to know what mountain to look at. :)

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    Replies
    1. O'Flynn's Mountain is the Sliabh Ui Floinn. It is a smallish hill when you first see it from the street of Ballinlough (Baille na locha Ua Fhloinn) and no trace of the castle remains today. It is just north and east of the village itself and at its base if O'Flynn's Lake (Lough Ua Fhloinn). There is a road that wends to the top, where some houses have recently been built, snd from the top you realize why the castle was built there: You can see for miles and miles. No army can approach unobserved. And the lake wards a frontal assault.

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