The Irish Penny Journal, Vol. 1 No. 39, March 27, 1841 online

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There is scarcely in all Ireland a scene which has so many exciting
associations connected with it as that which we have chosen as the
pictorial subject for the present number of our Journal. The bridge is
indeed a new one; but it is erected on the site of that most ancient one
which was the scene of so many a hard-fought battle for all that men
hold dear; and the castle - ruined and time-worn, it is true - is the same
fortress which served in turn the race by whom it was erected, and, as if
partaking of the change which our soil is said to make in the feelings
of all those who settle on it, became the last and most impregnable
stronghold of those it was designed to subdue.

But some of the events connected with this scene - and these events, too,
the most important - though honourable to the manly character of all
concerned in them, and such as all the members of the great family of
the British empire may now feel a pride in - are still associated with
remembrances which to many are of a saddening cast, and which require to
be softened by distance or time before they can be distinctly awakened
without giving pain - like our country’s music, of which even some of the
most exhilarating movements have strange tones of sorrow blended with
them, which to many temperaments are too touching if strongly accented.
And we do not therefore regret that in the short notice of Limerick
Bridge and Castle which we have to present to our readers, neither our
plan nor our space will permit us to give any sketch of their history but
such as may be read by all, if not with pleasure, at least without pain.

The Castle and Bridge of Limerick owe their origin to the first
Anglo-Norman settlers in Ireland, and were erected to secure their
possessions and facilitate the extension of them. It is probable,
however, if not certain, that the site of the castle had been previously
occupied by a stronghold of the Ostmen or Danes who settled in Limerick
in the ninth century, and with whom, if they were not its founders, its
authentic history as a city at least begins; for the earlier historical
notices connected with it relate only to its church or churches.

These churches, with whatever town may have been connected with them,
were plundered by the Danes as early as the year 812; and there is every
reason to believe that they fortified the island in the Shannon, or
what is now called the English town, with walls and towers very shortly
afterwards, as our annalists record the predatory devastations of the
Danes of Limerick in Connaught and Meath as early as the year 843, as
well as at various years subsequent. They were, however, at length
conquered, but not removed, by the victorious arms of Brian Boru, and
afterwards Limerick appears in history only as an Irish city, though its
inhabitants were chiefly of Danish descent. It was here that Turlogh
O’Brien, king of Munster, received in 1064 the homage of Donlevy, king of
Ulidia; and his son and successor, Murtogh O’Brien, having given Cashel,
the ancient metropolis of Munster, to the church, made Limerick his chief
residence and the capital of the province, from which time it continued
to be the seat of the kings of Thomond or North Munster, who were hence
called kings of Limerick until its final conquest by the English in the
commencement of the thirteenth century.

But though thus relieved from the terrors of foreign aggression, Limerick
was not secured from the equally sanguinary attacks of the Irish
themselves; and our annalists record the burning of the city by Dermod
Mac Murrogh in 1014, the very year after the death of Brian, and again
in 1088 by Donnell Mac Loughlin, king of Aileach, or the Northern Hy
Niall. It was besieged in 1157 by Murtogh, the son of Niall Mac Loughlin,
at the head of the forces of the North and of Leinster, when the Danish
inhabitants were forced to renounce the authority of Turlogh O’Brien, and
to banish him east of the Shannon; and though he was soon after restored
to a moiety of his principality, he was obliged in 1160 to give hostages
to Roderic O’Conor, to escape his vengeance.

Thus weakened and harassed by the intestine divisions which so fearfully
increased in Ireland after the successful and splendid usurpation of the
supreme monarchy by their ancestor Brian Boru, it should not be wondered
at if the kings of Limerick had made but a feeble resistance to the
enthusiastic and disciplined bravery of the Anglo-Norman adventurers,
or that their city should have been easily won and as easily kept by
these bold warriors; and yet it was not till after many towns of greater
importance, if not strength, had been taken by them and securely held,
that Limerick ceased to acknowledge its ancient lords as masters. Its
king, Donnell O’Brien, was indeed one of the first of the Irish princes,
who, forsaking the Irish monarch after the arrival of Strongbow, leagued
himself with the English in support of Mac Murrogh, whose daughter, the
half sister of the Earl’s wife, he had married; and as a reward for his
defection, the king of Limerick claimed the assistance of Strongbow in
attacking the king of Ossory. The result of this request is so honourable
to the character of one of the Norman chiefs, and is so graphically
sketched by Maurice Regan, the king of Leinster’s secretary, that we are
tempted to relate it in his own words, as translated by Sir George Carew.

“The Erle was no sooner come to the city (Waterford) but a messenger
from O’Brien, kyng of Limerick, repaired unto him from his master,
praying hym with all his forces to march into Ossery against Donald,
that common enemie. The cause of friendship between the Erle and O’Brien
was, that O’Brien had married one of the daughters of Dermond, kyng of
Leinster, and half sister to the Erle’s wife. Unto the message the Erle
made answeare, that he would satisfie O’Brien’s request, and they met at
Ydough, and being joined, their forces were two thousand strong. Donald,
fearinge the approach of his enemies, sent to the Erle to desire hym that
he mought have a safe guard to come unto him, and then he doubted not
but to gyve hym satisfaction. The request was graunted, and Maurice de
Prindergast was sent for hym; but he, for the more securitie, obtained
the words of the Erle and O’Brien, and the othes of all the chieftains
of the army, that the kyng of Ossery shuld come and return in safetie;
which done, he went to Donald, and within fewe hours he brought hym to
the campe in the presence of all the army. The Erle and O’Brien chardged
him with divers treasons and practices which he had attempted against
his lord the kyng of Leinster, deceased; and O’Brien, and all the
captens, disallowinge of his excuses, councelled the Erle to hang him,
and O’Brien, without delay, commanded his men to harrasse and spoile
Donald’s countrie, which willingly they performed. Maurice de Prindergast
misliking these proceedings, and seeinge the danger the king of Ossery
was in, presently mounted on his horse, commaunded his companie to do
the like, and said, ‘My lords, what do you mean to do?’ and turning to
the captens, he tould them ‘that they dishonoured themselves, and that
they had falsified their faitths unto hym,’ and sware by the cross of his
sword that no man there that day shoulde dare lay handes on the kyng of
Ossory; whereupon the Erle having sense of his honour, calling to mynde
how far it was ingaged, delivered Donald unto Maurice, commaunding him
to see him safely conveyed unto his men. Upon the way in their retorn
they encountered O’Brien’s men, laden with the spoiles of Ossery.
Prindergast chardged them, slaying nine or ten of those free booters;
and having brought Donald to his men, lodged with him that night in the
woods, and the next morning returned to the Erle.”

For the part which Donnell O’Brien thus acted, he had to defend himself
from the merited vengeance of the Irish monarch; and though he was for
a time able to ward it off by the assistance of Robert Fitzstephen, he
deemed it prudent, on the death of Mac Murrogh in 1171, to return to
his allegiance to Roderic, and give him hostages for his fidelity. On
the arrival of King Henry II. in Ireland, however, in 1172, he again
submitted to the authority of the English monarch, to whom he came upon
the banks of the river near Cashel, swore fealty, and became tributary.

But these oaths were not long held sacred by Donnell. The return of the
king to England was soon followed by a general outburst of the Irish
princes against the unjust encroachments of the adventurers, and Donnell
O’Brien, once more taking possession of Limerick, led his troops,
which were strengthened by the battalions of West Connaught, into the
strongholds of the English in Kilkenny, who hastily retreated before
them into Waterford, and left the country a prey to their devastations.
To punish these daring aggressions of Donnell, Earl Strongbow, in the
following year, as stated in the Annals of Inisfallen, collecting a large
body of the English from the various parts of Ireland, marched into the
heart of O’Brien’s territory, where he was met and encountered by him
at Thurles, and defeated with a loss of four knights and seven hundred
men. Strongbow, returning to Waterford, found the gates closed against
him; the people, hearing of his defeat, having seized on the garrison in
his absence, and put them to the sword. After a month’s sojourn on the
little island, as it is called, in the mouth of the river at Waterford.
Strongbow returned to Dublin, and summoning a council of the chiefs, it
was determined to carry on the war with the king of Limerick with the
greatest vigour. The success which they experienced might, however, have
been of a different kind, if they had not been joined on this occasion
by the king of Ossory, who had been already so grievously treated by
O’Brien, and who was naturally rejoiced at the opportunity thus afforded
him of wreaking his revenge upon his old enemy.

“With the good likeinge,” says Maurice Regan, “of all the chieftains,
Reymond le Grosse, the Constable of Leinster, whoe was a man discreete
and valiaunt, and by his parents of good livelyhood, was designed to
be general of the army: their randevouse for the assembling of their
troops was Ossory. The kyng of Ossory joined with them, and undertook to
guide the army upon O’Brien. Nevertheless, Reymond mistrusted his faith,
whyche the kyng of Ossory perceaving, protested his integritie with suche
fervency, as it gave full satisfaction, that he would be faithfull unto
him; which Donald performid with sinceritie, in guiding the army until it
came to the cittie of Limericke, whyche was invironed with a foule and
deepe ditch with running water, not to be passed over without boats, but
at one foord onely. At the first approach the soldiers were discouraged,
and mutinied to return, supposing the citie, by reason of the water,
was impregnable. But that valiaunt knight, Meyler Fitz Henry, having
found the foord, wyth a loud voice cried, ‘St David, companions, let us
courageouslie pass this foord.’ He led the waye, and was followed but
by four horsemen, who, when they were gotten over, were assailed by the

The account given by Cambrensis of this affair, as translated by Sir
R. C. Hoare, is somewhat different in its details. He says that “upon
this occasion, one David Walsh clapped spurs to his horse, and, plunging
boldly into the stream, reached the opposite shore in safety, and
exclaimed loudly ‘that he had found a ford,’ yet never a man would follow
him, save one Geoffrey Judas, who, on his return with David to conduct
the army across the river, was carried away by the impetuosity of the
current, and unfortunately drowned. Meyler, however, undismayed by this
accident, and seeing the awkward manner in which his kinsman Reymond was
placed, ventured into the river, and gained the opposite bank; and whilst
he was engaged in defending himself against the citizens of Limerick, who
attacked him with stones, and threatened to kill him. Reymond, who had
hitherto been employed in the rear of his army, appeared on the river
side, and seeing the imminent danger to which his nephew Meyler was
exposed, exhorted his troops to try the passage of the Shannon; and such
was the influence of this brave leader over them, that at the risk of
their lives they followed him across the river, and having put the enemy
to flight, took quiet possession of their city.”

Having left a strong garrison in Limerick under the command of his
kinsman Milo of St David’s, Reymond returned to Leinster with the
remainder of his army. But in consequence of unfavourable representations
respecting his conduct made to the king, he was on the point of returning
to England, when intelligence reached Strongbow that Donnell O’Brien
was again in arms, and investing Limerick with a powerful army; and
that, as the garrison had nearly consumed their whole winter stock
of provisions, immediate succour was absolutely necessary. Strongbow
resolved accordingly to fly to their relief without loss of time; but the
whole army refused to march to Limerick under any leader but Reymond,
who was consequently persuaded to postpone his departure, and to take
command of the troops. He set out, accordingly, for Munster, at the
head of 80 knights, 200 cavalry, and 300 archers, to which were joined
a considerable body of Irish, as they passed through Ossory and Hy
Kinselagh, under the command of their respective princes. Donald O’Brien
was not inactive, but advanced to meet him to the pass at Cashel, which
was not only strong by nature, but rendered more difficult of access
by trees and hedges thrown across it. Meyler’s usual success, however,
attended him. Whilst Donald was animating his troops to battle, the
impatient Meyler burst forth like a whirlwind, destroyed the hedges,
opened a passage by his sword, and putting the enemies to flight, again
took possession of the city.

Shortly afterwards, a parley was held with Reymond by the king of
Limerick and Roderic O’Conor, in which the Irish princes once more swore
allegiance to King Henry and his heirs, and delivered up hostages as a
guarantee of their fidelity.

The death of Earl Strongbow, however, which followed soon after these
events, once more restored Limerick to its native prince, never again
to be wrested from him but by death. In consequence of the necessary
departure of Reymond from Ireland, it was deemed expedient, as well by
himself as by his friends, to relinquish the possession of a city so
surrounded by enemies, and which it required so large a force to defend,
and particularly as no person could be found willing to take the command
of its garrison after his departure. Making a virtue of necessity,
therefore, Reymond unwillingly conferred the command on Donnell himself,
as a liege servant of the king, who, in accepting of it, renewed his
former promises of fidelity and service by fresh oaths of allegiance. But
oaths were very lightly observed by all parties in those troubled times;
and Reymond and his followers had scarcely passed the farther end of the
bridge, than the citizens, at the instigation of Donnell, who declared
that Limerick should no longer be a nest for foreigners, broke it down,
and set fire to the city in four different quarters.

Yet it was not resigned to Donnell without another effort. In 1179, a
grant of the kingdom of Limerick, then wholly in the possession of the
Irish, having been made to Herbert Fitz-Herbert, who resigned it to
Philip de Braosa, or Bruce, the English, with their Irish allies, led by
Miles Cogan and Robert Fitzstephen, invested the city, with a view to
establish Bruce in his principality; but they were no sooner perceived
from the ramparts of the town than the garrison gave a striking proof of
their inveterate hostility by setting it on fire; and though Cogan and
Fitzstephen still offered to lead on the attack, Bruce and his followers
refused to risk their lives in a contest whose first beginnings gave so
bad an omen of success.

After a series of conflicts with the English in different parts of
Munster, in which he was usually the victor, Donnell O’Brien died a
natural death in 1194, and with him the line of Irish kings of Limerick
may be said to have terminated. In the following year we find the town in
the possession of the English, and though it was again taken from them
in 1198, it was recovered shortly afterwards by the renowned William de
Burgo, who formed a settlement, which from that period defied all the
power of the Irish.

This result was in a great measure owing to the natural strength of
position of the city itself; but it was not till years afterwards that
its strength was rendered such as it might be supposed was impregnable,
by the erection of the proud fortress, of the ruins of which our view
will give a tolerable idea. This castle, and the bridge, which has been
recently rebuilt, were erected by King John in 1210; and though the
former has since that period been the scene of many a national conflict,
its ruins still display a proud magnificence, and are not an unworthy
feature of the scenery on the banks of that mighty river which has so
often witnessed its trials and contributed to its defence.



There are not many things we like better than a row, a paper war between
a couple of newspaper editors; there is something so delectable in the
sincere cordiality with which they abuse each other - so amusing in the
air of surpassing wisdom and knowledge with which they contradict, and
in the easy confident superiority with which they demolish each other’s
assertions and positions. The most pleasant feature perhaps in the whole,
however - and it is one that pervades all the manifestoes of their High
Mightinesses - is the obvious conviction of each that he is demolishing,
annihilating his antagonist; while you, the cool, dispassionate, and
unconcerned reader, feel perfectly satisfied (and here lies the fun
of the thing) that this said antagonist, so far from being demolished
or annihilated, will become only more rigorous and rampant for the
castigation inflicted on him.

Another amusing enough feature of editorial controversies is the
infallibility of these worthy gentlemen. An editor is never wrong; it is
invariably his “contemporary,” who has misunderstood or misrepresented
him, either through ignorance or wilfulness. He did not say that - what
he did say was this; and if his contemporary had read his article with
ordinary attention, he would have found it so.

The editorial war being carried on in different styles according to
circumstances and the tempers of the belligerents, the hostile articles
assume various characters, amongst which are what may be called the
Demolisher or Smasher, the Contradictor (calm and confident), the Abuser,
and the Rejoinder and Settler (with cool and easy accompaniments).
Of these various styles we happen to have at this moment some pretty
tolerable specimens before us, two or three of which we shall select for
the edification of our readers. The first is from “The Meridian Sun,” and
is of the description which we would call


Our contemporary “The Northern Luminary,” as that concentration of
dullness and opacity has the effrontery to call itself, is, we see, at
his old tricks again. In the present case he is amusing himself with
nibbling and cavilling at our account of the great public political
dinner given by the inhabitants of our good town to our independent
member, Josiah Priggins of Parsley-green, Esq. Our veracious contemporary
accuses us of having omitted all notice of the hisses with which,
_he_ says, some portions of Mr Priggins’s speech were received. He
further charges us with passing over in silence certain “disgraceful
disturbances” by which, _he_ asserts, the evening was marked, and
concludes by stigmatizing the meeting as one of the lowest in character,
and most unruly in conduct, that ever brought odium on a respectable

Now, can our readers guess the secret of all this spleen on the part
of “The Northern Luminary,” of which, by the way, a certain prominent
feature of that gentleman’s face is no bad type? We will tell them: he
was not invited to the dinner! And, more, let us tell _him_, had he
presented himself, he would not have been admitted!

Here, then, is the whole secret of the affair, and having mentioned
it, we have explained all, and need not say that the “hisses” and
“disgraceful disturbances” are gratuitous inventions of the enemy - in
other words, downright fabrications.

We had the honour of bring at the dinner in question, and sat the whole
evening at Mr Priggins’s left hand, and, thus situated, if there had
been hissing, we certainly must have heard it. But there was none. Not a
single hiss; and for the truth of this assertion we unhesitatingly pledge
our word of honour. So far from any part or parts of Mr Priggins’s speech
being hissed, every sentiment, almost every word that gentleman uttered,
was hailed with unanimous and unbounded applause. In fact, we never heard
a speech that gave such general satisfaction. As to the “disgraceful
disturbances,” these we leave to the party of which the Northern
Luminary is the avowed supporter.

Has he forgotten the scene that occurred at the last public dinner of his
friends at the Hog and Pigs Tavern? He may, but we have not.

* * * * *

This statement, of course, rouses the utmost wrath of the editor of the
“Northern Luminary,” who to the Demolisher of his contemporary replies
with a red-hot


It is (says the editor of “The Northern Luminary”) the nature of the
serpent to sting, of the cur to bite, and of the editor of the Meridian
Sun, save the mark! - the farthing candle - to fabricate falsehoods. This
low scurrilous scribbler, this vile reptile, who leaves his slimy track
on every subject over which he crawls, is again spitting his venom at
us, and the friends of social order. But we will put our heel on the
loathsome toad, and crush him as we would the disgusting little animal
which he so much resembles. We were not invited to Mr Priggins’s dinner!
We _were_, thou prince of liars! We _were_ invited to the dinner, but
we treated the invitation with the contempt it deserved. We knew that
_you_, the editor of the Farthing Candle, were to be there - (when did
_you_ refuse a dinner, pray?) - and on _this_ account we declined the
invitation. We would not be seen sitting in the company of a man so
utterly devoid of the feelings and principles of a gentleman, as the
person alluded to is well known to be; and this, we repeat, was the
reason why we did not honour the dinner in question with our presence.

That Priggins was hissed, and that the evening was marked by a most
disgraceful disturbance, we have most respectable and most undoubted
authority for repeating, and we repeat it accordingly. The effrontery is
indeed monstrous and unblushing that would deny facts so notorious. Let
the dastardly editor of the Farthing Candle _again_ deny those facts _if
he dare_.

* * * * *

Our next specimen is from “The Patagonian,” a paper of gigantic
dimensions. It is


(with calm and confident accompaniments).

Our contemporary “The Watch Tower” is grossly mistaken when he asserts
that Ministers were outvoted on the question of the potato monopoly.
They were _not_ outvoted. They merely abandoned the measure, as _we_
foresaw they would do from the first, and as _we_ from the first advised
them to do. Our contemporary is equally wrong in ascribing to a certain
political party an undue influence in the affairs of this city. _We_ know
for certain that the party alluded to have no such influence. The idea is

Pray what _can_ “The Watch Tower” mean by saying that the balance of
power would not be in the least disturbed by Russia’s taking possession

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Online LibraryVariousThe Irish Penny Journal, Vol. 1 No. 39, March 27, 1841 → online text (page 1 of 3)