The Irish
” Killing Time
– 1641

It would
take several large forests to write about all the events
which allegedly occurred and to represent every point of
view. The following is just a snapshot of how events
affected the Presbyterian settlers. A seminal work about the involvement
of the Scots Army in Ireland is Scottish Covenanters and Irish
by David Stevenson, published by the Ulster Historical
Foundation (1981,2004),

 In Ireland
the persecution of the Presbyterians had sown the seeds
for rebellion by the native Irish under Sir Phelim O`Neill
who sought to rid themselves of British rule and recover
forfeited lands. It is thought possible that the Irish
took a leaf out of the Scottish Covenanters book, who in
1639-40 resorted to armed resistance, albeit minimal, in
the Bishops Wars, and had
wrung concessions from Charles I. Perhaps they thought that they too,
might wring some concessions if they were ruthless enough.

O`Neill is,
however, quoted as declaring

would never leave off the work he had begun till Mass
should be sung or said in every church in Ireland, and
that a Protestant should not live in Ireland, be he of
what nation he would

At a
meeting at the Abbey of Multifarnham in Westmeath about a
fortnight before the rebellion commenced, some of the
clergy present recommended that a general massacre was the
the safest and most effectual  method of putting down
the Protestant ascendancy. In the ensuing rebellion 
the priests featured large and commonly anointed the
rebels before they went about their murderous activities.
A parting encouragement was an assurance that if they
chanced to be killed they would escape Purgatory and go
immediately to Heaven. They told the people that 

Protestants were worse than dogs, they were devils, and
served the devil, and the killing of them was a
meritorious act.”

The initial
outbreak on 23 October 1641 aimed to seize Dublin Castle
but this failed through the courage and vigilance of a
Presbyterian Elder, Captain Owen O`Connolly, who passed
information to Dublin Castle in good time. Elsewhere,
however, the insurgents ransacked towns and massacred its
inhabitants. with Protestants of any faith a primary
target. This then was the ” Killing Time ” in Ireland and
the cause for Scottish troops to be deployed to protect
the Protestant settlers.

Some of the
major towns such as Enniskillen, Londonderry, Coleraine,
Carrickfergus, Lisburn and Belfast received timely warning
and were able to prepare for and repulse attack . But
other small towns and the countryside in general were
ravaged. Protestant homes, farms, churches, minister`s
houses were torched and the occupants stripped naked and
left cowering in the hedgerows in what was one of the
severest winters in memory. It was said that the river
Blackwater in Co Tyrone turned red with the blood of the
murdered populace.

historians allege that the 1641 Rebellion was not as bad
as some might paint it. However, there are thirty two
volumes of sworn depositions in the library of Trinity
College, Dublin that give a horrific description of
events. These tell of children having their brains dashed
out against a brick wall; or being thrown into pots of
boiling water. Of people having their eyes gouged out,
hands and ears cut off; of being buried alive; of women
stripped naked and cut up with knives; and even strips of
flesh cut from a victims who were roasted alive.

Loughgall some 300 men women and children were stripped of
their clothing and locked in the church. They were then
selectively assaulted and brutalised, raped , butchered,
broiled over hot gridirons and hung drawn and quartered.
At Portadown it is reported that 196 persons were hurled
into the river and drowned in one day ; and that about
1000 in all suffered in this way.

of the church were particularly dealt with extreme
cruelty, hung, dismembered, and pieces of their bodies
thrust into their mouths in mockery. One was hanged at his
church door and another forced to swim in Lough Neagh
until he drowned. Thomas Murray, minister of Killyleagh
was actually crucified with the bodies of two English
gentlemen suspended either side of him in mockery of the
Crucifixion. The gruesome business did not stop there. The
minister`s two sons were hacked into pieces in front of
him and his wife grossly abused and had half her tongue
cut out. She survived and made an appearance before
Parliament where she was awarded compensation (though it
is thought it was never paid).

 Irish commander
Féilim Ó Néill, on his march from Newry to Armagh in 1641, ordered Mulmory
MacDonell “… to kill all the English and Scots within the parishes of
Mullebrack, Logilly and Kilcluney”. Among properties destroyed were the
Parish Churches of Mullaghbrack and Kilcluney, Achesons Castle at
Markethill and Hamilton’s bawn. The rectors of Mullaghbrack (Reverend
Robert Mercer) and Loughgilly (Reverend Burns) both lost their lives.

In the
fields and hedgerows multitudes suffered privation, cold
and disease. Bodies lay where they were and the smell of
death pervaded everything. A plague broke out and it is
said that 6000 died in Coleraine while Belfast,
Carrickfergus and Lisburn also suffered badly.

Into the
fray came Major General Munro and 10,000 Scottish troops,
who arrived in Carrickfergus in February 1642. The
Scottish soldiers were able to restore order in some parts
of the province but were unable to totally defeat the
Irish insurgents. Importantly the soldiers were
accompanied by their own chaplains who were to play a
prominent part in the Presbyterian rebirth in Ireland.
These chaplains organised a Session in each regiment and
when there were four they created the first regular
Presbytery on 10 June 1642.The ministers were Hugh
Cunningham who settled at Ray, Co Donegal; Thomas Peebles
at Dundonald and Holywood; John Baird at Dervock; John
Aird and John Scott who later returned to Scotland.
Support from Scotland soon helped the re establishment of
Presbyterian congregations but more tribulations were to

interesting event involving the Covenanters occurred in
May 1644.The English Parliament appointed General Munro
commander in chief of all the English and Scottish forces
in Ireland on 27 April 1644 . Sir James Montgomery,
knowing of this, called his officers together on 12 May
with a view to arranging the hand over of command to Munro
who was, at the time, in Carrickfergus. Scouts sent out
were captured and, under orders from Munro, deliberately
misreported no sign of movement towards Belfast and the
guard was relaxed. But Munro had speedily marched through
the night and caught Belfast by surprise, much to the
amazement of the British Colonels. Munro`s excuse was that
he did not feel safe in the town without his own troops,
and besides there were those, meaning Colonel Chichester
and his regiment, who had declined to accept the Solemn
League and Covenant. 

In the
course of this seizure of Belfast a troop of soldiers of
Col Arthur Chichester`s regiment had been stood down at
Stranmillis, on theRending the colours
outskirts of Belfast. Munro had ordered that they march
with drums beating and colours flying to the Market Place
and there they were required to ceremonially shred their
colours as an indication of obedience to the Scottish army
and the Covenant. The duplicity seems to have been
unnecessary as the British Colonels placed themselves
under his command forthwith but is indicative of the
mistrust that existed between the so called