Massacre of Cashel,15 September 1647

I brought my American cousins to The Rock of Cashel over the summer, we joined a tour. It was great, short and kept our attention.

I think the tours they used to do were far longer so they were able to add more information, I remembered a sad fact about the Rock that I’d heard on a tour years ago, and half attempted to tell them…death fire, church locked…anyway I found the below information on The Rock of Cashel Facebook page. And this is what I was trying to tell them.

On this day in 1647 around 1000 people lost their lives during the Massacre of Cashel. The 1640s was a politically precarious decade in Ireland. England had been gripped by Civil War between Royalists (people who supported King Charles I and the monarchy) and Parliamentarians (people who wanted to see the abolition of the monarchy and more powers given to parliament). Coupled with this, rebellion had broken out in Ireland in 1641 in an attempt to gain concessions for Irish Catholics. This rebellion formed itself into the Irish Catholic Confederates who allied themselves with Charles I who, they felt, would be more likely to give them what they wanted in exchange for military support. This would ultimately have grave consequences for Cashel. Cashel was under Confederate control and in September 1647 when, following the quick defeat of Cahir, the town was attacked by Parliamentarian forces under the leadership of the Baron Inchiquin. Inchiquin had a fearsome reputation and was known as Inchiquin of the Burnings as he would burn the lands and the properties of people who did not submit to his army, convert and become Anglicans. As his forces approached Cashel (around 3000 troops), people fled to the Rock for refuge. It is estimated that around 1000 people took refuge in the Cathedral – a mixture of confederate troops, townspeople, and clergy. This, however, did not stop Inchiquin. On the 15th September he attacked the Rock and his troops quickly breached the outside walls and laid siege to the Cathedral with the 1000 people trapped inside. Inchiquin’s troops gained access through the southern transept’s windows and proceeded to massacre the 1000 people trapped inside not discriminating between soldiers, civilians, and clergy.Only a handful of people escaped this massacre and it is from them that we get eyewitness accounts of what happened that day. The Parliamentarian troops then plundered the Cathedral. The troops destroyed as much as they could, including scraping the paintings from the walls with their swords. It is rumoured that Inchiquin took the Archbishop’s mitre and put it on, parading up and down and Cathedral mockingly declaring himself to be the new Archbishop of Cashel.Baron Inchiquin’s name was Murrough O’Brien and he was a direct descendant of Brian Boru who had been crowned as the King of Munster at the Rock of Cashel in 978AD. Within a year Inchiquin had quit the Parliamentarian cause in favour of the Royalists. When the Royalists were eventually defeated he fled to France and converted to Catholicism, the faith of his ancestors.Following the restoration of the monarchy under King Charles II, Inchiquin returned to Ireland and was made an Earl. He lived out the rest of his days peacefully in Ireland and died in 1674 and was interred in the O’Brien tomb in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Limerick.

By Michelle Moloney King

Artist. Poetish.