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Irish Aristocracy - Fall of

Dermot MacMurray -

Here (Ferns-Wexford) lies the ruins of the memorable castle of Dermod M'Morragh, King of Leinster, whither, as his principle residence he retired with the beauteous & fatal Dervorgal, daughter of O'Malfechlin, King of Meath, & wife of O'Rorke, Prince of Breifny, now denominated the county of Leitrim, from whom, by every wily contrivance, he is said to have seduced & persuaded her to elope with him, which eventually produced one of the most momentous epochs that occurs in the history of Ireland, producing a complete & total change in its laws, customs, government, & proprietors. ...This libertine & licentious deed introduced the adventuring Anglo-Norman chiefs... for Dermod, odious as notorious for other acts of tyranny & violence, attracted by this flagitious crime, the aggravated execration & resentment of Roderic O'Connor, the reigning monarch, as well as of all other chiefs & princes of the land; who, making common cause against the execrable outrage, forced him out of the island, whither he ere long returned, introducing those invaders (from one of whom I am myself descended) who ultimately succeeded in its utter reduction. Hence it cannot be fantastical to deem in similitude, Dermod the Paris, Dervorgal the Helen, Ferns the Troy, and the Anglo-Norman adventurers, the Greeks of Ireland; and were there another Homer in existence, he might rejoice in having a second equivalent subject to display anew his powers."

- Edward Hay, Esq. (a participant in events in Wexford), History of the

Irish Insurrection of 1798; Boston: Patrick Donohue, #23 Franklin St.), p. 56-571

[This is obviously a new printing of an old book but no dates are given. Marguerite McCann has this copy. It must have been first published not too long after the events narrated.]2


"The fate of the once-formidable clan of MacCarthy is similar to nearly all the ancient families of Ireland: the descendents in the direct line may often be found working, as day laborers, around the ruins of castles where their forefathers had ruled; & as in many instances, a period of a little more than a century & a half had passed between their grandeur & their degradation, it can incite no marvel if, at times, they indulge the idea that what was swept from them by the strong tide of conquest, the eddy of events may bring back to them again. We have ourselves seen the legitimate heir of one of the ancient rulers & owners of West Carbery pause, as he delved the soil, lean on his spade, & point to the mountains & valleys, stretching far as the eye could reach, and speak as if they were still his own, of the wide districts of which his great-grandsire was the chief... "Forfeited estates," in Ireland are to be encountered as frequently as old Irish names... The county histories are full of such expressive sentences as this: "He joined the Irish, & forfeited his estate"... the partisans, English & Dutch, of William III divided the properties of the "mere Irish;" & perhaps in the whole country, there are scarcely a dozen of the descendents of families, antecedent to the Anglo-Norman invasion, who hold an acre of land that once belonged to their ancestors."

- Halls, Vol., I, p. 50-51


With William's victory (1699), 3/4 of a million acres passed to new owners.

"Thus the 3 rd conquest of Ireland within a century was achieved. The most illustrious names of the Irish nation disappeared from their country by attainder, death, or voluntary exile. Those that remained owned only about 1/7 of the soil. The middle classes suffered exclusion from corporations, trades, & professions, & the penal laws began with acts of the Dublin Parliament in 1695 & '98, which debarred conscientious papists from wearing arms, teaching publicly, & practicing law."

Ency. Brit., p. 609


1 Edward Hay, History of the Irish Insurrection of 1798, Giving an Authentic Account of the Various Battles Fought Between the Insurgents and the King's Army, and a Genuine History of Transactions Preceding that Event. New York : J. Kenedy, 1846.

2 Brackets in original.