CHAPTER VII. BATTLE OF GLENMALURE - SIR JOHN PERROTT'S ADMINISTRATION - THE SPANISH ARMADA - LORD DEPUTY FITZWILLIAM - ESCAPE OF HUGH ROE O'DONNELL FROM DUBLIN CASTLE - THE ULSTER CONFEDERACY FORMED.
In pursuing to its close the war in Munster, we were obliged to omit the mention of an affair of considerable importance, which somewhat consoled the Catholics for the massacre at Smerwick and the defeat of the Desmonds. We have already observed that what Aharlow was to the southern insurgents, the deep, secluded valley of Glenmalure was to the oppressed of Leinster. It afforded, at this period, refuge to a nobleman whose memory has been most improperly allowed to fall into oblivion. This was James Eustace, Viscount Baltinglass, who had suffered imprisonment in the Castle for refusing to pay an illegal tax of a few pounds, who was afterwards made the object of a special, vindictive enactment, known as "the Statute of Baltinglass," and was in the summer of 1580, on his keeping, surrounded by armed friends and retainers. His friend, Sir Walter Fitzgerald, son-in-law to the chief of Glenmalure, and many of the clansmen of Leix, Offally and Idrone, repaired to him at Slieveroe, near the modern village of Blessington, from which they proceeded to form a junction with the followers of the dauntless Feagh McHugh O'Byrne of Ballincor. Lord Grey, of Wilton, on reaching Dublin in August of that year, obtained information of this gathering, and determined to strike a decisive blow in Wicklow, before proceeding to the South. All the chief captains in the Queen's service - the Malbys, Dudleys, Cosbys, Carews, Moors - had repaired to meet him at Dublin, and now marched, under his command, into the neighbouring highlands. The Catholics, they knew, were concentrated in the valley, on one of the slopes of which Lord Grey constructed a strong camp, and then, having selected the fittest troops for the service, gave orders to attack the Irish camp. Sir William Stanley, one of the officers in command, well describes the upshot, in a letter to Secretary Walshingham: "When we entered the glen," he writes, "we were forced to slide, sometimes three or four fathoms, ere we could stay our feet; it was in depth, where we entered, at least a mile, full of stones, rocks, logs and wood; in the bottom thereof a river full of loose stones, which we were driven to Cross divers times * * * before we were half through the glen, which is four miles in length, the enemy charged us very hotly * * * it was the hottest piece of service that ever I saw, for the time, in any place." As might have been expected, the assailants were repulsed with heavy loss; among the slain were Sir Peter Carew, Colonel Francis Cosby of Mullaghmast memory, Colonel Moor, and other distinguished officers. The full extent of the defeat was concealed from Elizabeth, as well as it could be, in the official despatches; but before the end of August private letters, such as we have quoted, conveyed the painful intelligence to the court. The action was fought on the 25th day of August.
Lord Grey's deputyship, though it lasted only two years, included the three decisive campaigns in the South, already described. At the period of his recall - or leave of absence - the summer of 1582, that "most populous and plentiful country," to use the forcible language of his eloquent Secretary, Edmund Spenser, was reduced to "a heap of carcasses and ashes." The war had been truly a war of extermination; nor did Munster recover her due proportion of the population of the island for nearly two centuries afterwards.
The appointment of Sir John Perrott dates from 1583, though he did not enter on the duties of Lord Deputy till the following year. Like most of the public men of that age, he was both soldier and statesman. In temper he resembled his reputed father, Henry VIII.; for he was impatient of contradiction and control; fond of expense and magnificence, with a high opinion of his own abilities for diplomacy and legislation. The Parliament of 1585-6, as it was attended by almost every notable man in the kingdom, was one of his boasts, though no one seems to have benefited by it much, except Hugh O'Neil, whose title of Earl of Tyrone was then formally recognized. Subordinate to Perrott, the office of Governor of Connaught was held by Sir Richard Bingham - founder of the fortunes of the present Earls of Lucan - and that of President of Munster, by Sir Thomas Norris, one of four brothers, all employed in the Queen's service, and all destined to lose their lives in that employment.
The most important events which marked the four years' administration of Perrott were the pacification of Thomond and Connaught, the capture of Hugh Roe O'Donnell, and the wreck of a large part of the Spanish Armada, on the northern and western coasts. The royal commission issued for the first-mentioned purpose exemplifies, in a striking manner, the exigencies of Elizabeth's policy at that moment. The persons entrusted with its execution were Sir Richard Bingham, the Earls of Thomond and Clanrickarde; Sir Turlogh O'Brien, Sir Richard Bourke (the McWilliam), O'Conor Sligo, Sir Brian O'Ruarc, and Sir Murrogh O'Flaherty. The chief duties of this singular commission were, to fix a money rental for all lands, free and unfree, in Clare and Connaught; to assess the taxation fairly due to the crown also in money; and to substitute generally the English law of succession for the ancient customs of Tanistry and gavelkind. In Clare, from fortuitous causes, the settlement they arrived at was never wholly reversed; in Connaught, the inhuman severity of Bingham rendered it odious from the first, and the successes of Hugh Roe O'Donnell, a few years later, were hailed by the people of that province as a heaven-sent deliverance.