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The History and Topography of the County of Clare by James Frost

Part III. History of the County of Clare
Chapter 19. Rising of the Catholics, 1641; — Siege of Ballyallia Castle

Maurice Cuffe resolves to defend the castle of Ballyallia against the Irish Catholics

About the 23rd January, one John McBrodie of Kilkeedy, came to the castle of Ballyally to Winter Bridgeman, Esq., and called Mr. Chapling and him aside. He told them that the English in Thomond were in a very dangerous case, for there was not an Irishman in the county of any note, (except the Lord Inchiquin, Donogh O’Brien of Newtown, and his son Conor, whom he called great Puritans), but would be soon in actual rebellion, and he advised them to go speedily for England. He added, that the Irish gentry had resolved to take all the English castles in the county, and that they would begin with Ballyalley, expecting there stores of pieces, powder, and bullets, with which they might take other castles. Ballyalley, having a reasonably strong ward, and being well provided, notwithstanding the county’s malice, as the poorer sort of people, especially some of Mrs. Cuffe’s and her son’s tenants and neighbours, would furnish us privately, with some fresh provisions for money, as hen’s eggs, geese, lambs, and the like, which the country, taking notice of, did thereupon send some to lie in wait to prevent us of provisions for our money, and these villains, taking some women coming with provisions to the castle, would beat them, take away their provisions, and threaten them if ever they came again they should be hanged, by which means the castle was prevented of any further relief.

Hereupon, Sir Valentine Blake, who was the proprietor of the castle and land, sent a letter from Galway, to my brother Thomas, in my absence, dated the 24th of January, advising us that, in case we did not think ourselves able to maintain the castle, we should give it up to Captain Dermot O’Brien and betake ourselves to some place of greater strength. The above letter was not delivered till the 28th of January, and the answer we gave was, that by God’s help, the castle should be held for the King’s Majesty’s use, to the hazard of our lives, and further, we desired, that the said Sir Valentine should assist us with some powder for the better defence thereof, which he never did.

Now, there were divers poor English who were come into the castle for shelter, and provision being scarce, a party was sent forth which gained from the enemy eleven cows and thirty-two sheep, which were killed for the relief of the poor, whereby they might endure a siege of the castle the better.

February the 4th , Captain Dermot O’Brien, by agreement with Captain Turlogh O’Brien, which was the first noted rebel in Thomond, and with several others, they raised an army of near a thousand rebels out of Connaught and Thomond to besiege the said castle of Ballyallia. Hereupon, the said Dermot sent us a letter, from one Loghlen MacInerney’s house at Derry, which is not passing a mile from the castle, demanding the castle to be delivered to him in behalf of Sir Valentine Blake, and threatening, in case of refusal, that he would use means, by the assistance of the Earl of Thomond, to take the said castle and lands. Answer was returned by my brothers, that the foresaid Maurice Cuffe, merchant, had taken the castle and lands from the foresaid Sir Valentine Blake, for thirty-one years, beginning the last May, on whose behalf he and the rest would keep it for the King’s Majesty’s use, and till the expiration of his lease.

So soon as the said Dermot perused this answer, he presently sent the said Turlogh and the rest of their army to besiege us, endeavouring to prevent us of firing and water. They soon had the assistance of the county in general, and they agreed that each barony should lay against us by turns, conceiving it too great a charge for the whole to remain constantly, at that time of year, the weather being withal cold. Now, they began to build cabins under the hedgerows and bushes for their men to lie dry in, and daily presuming to come nearer and nearer, with their building, which we observing would venture sometimes forth and procure some of their houseing, and bring in for firing, so that they were often troubled to build new ones.