|Clare County Library||
in County Clare 1534 - 1911
Fr Wolfe, Description of Thomond, 1574
The Jesuit Fr David Wolfe, a native of Limerick city, was appointed papal legate for Ireland in 1560. He was subsequently imprisoned, spending five years in the dungeons of Dublin castle, from where he eventually escaped in 1572. The following year he fled to the continent and spent the remaining years of his life promoting the cause of the Counter Reformation. Fr Wolfe’s account of Thomond forms part of his Description of Ireland, which he wrote in 1574 shortly after his arrival in Spain, for the purpose of enabling the King of Spain to come to a decision in favour of armed intervention in Ireland.
The third part of Munster is called Thomond, and its lord up to our time is called O’Brien. . . In times past he was always king of all Munster and often monarch of the whole island. Not wishing to allow such a renowned name to continue in that country, Henry VIII, about the year 1540, called over to England him who was then O’Brien, and made him lay aside the name and called him earl of Thomond. To-day the lord of that country is Cornelius O’Brien, earl of Thomond, and he has a few lords in his country who obey him, but there are other nobles of the same nation who make continual war on him, and they are: Baron Inchiquin, the two MacNamaras who are great lords, and the two MacMahons also great lords.
There are O’Loughlin, O’Grady, O’Connor Corcomroe, Lord Donald O’Brien, and many other noble knights and gentlemen of Spanish descent, who have not the title of lord although they have large territories, castles, and towns, but the majority of these do not obey the earl, because he takes the side of the English and they do the opposite.
In Thomond there is no city, or even seaports, although the earl holds many beautiful castles near the river Shannon, where ships may have safe anchor in any storm, but there is no commerce with those castles or towns.
In Thomond are many mines of metal and silver, and so indeed in the whole island in abundance, and Earl Cornelius worked them with much profit, but the English do not allow him to work them any longer, and he was exiled from his country by Lady Elizabeth in the year 1571 but was afterwards received back into the Queen’s favour through the intercession of the king of France, although he is none too secure in his dominion or safe from the wickedness and perfidy of Lady Elizabeth.
From Myles V. Ronan, The Reformation in Ireland under Elizabeth (Dublin 1930), p. 484.