ON THIS DAY: 10 MAY 1650: Battle of Macroom

And the murder of Baothnalach MacAodhagáin (Catholic Bishop of Ross)

The Battle of Macroom was a significant encounter that took place on the 10th May 1650, during the Cromwellian assault on Ireland. An English Parliamentarian force under the command of Roger Boyle (Lord Broghill) engaged a big Irish force that was commanded by Irish Confederate leader Daithí de Roiste.

At the time many of the towns in Cork had fallen under the control of the English Parliamentarian forces, while the Confederate Army held out in the rural hinterlands of Cork and Kerry.

Daithí de Roiste was a highly experienced Irish officer and organised an offensive against the English in the hope of relieving the Irish forces that were under siege in Clonmel.

Cromwell having received intelligence that a Confederate force was leaving Kerry to attack his forces sent Roger Boyle to intercept the Irish Army in Cork. Boyle had a force of 1,500 horsemen and 500 foot-soldiers, while the Irish Confederate Army had 300 horsemen and 4,000 foot-soldiers.

While in route to Clonmel de Roiste became aware that a significant force of English cavalry had been mustered to rout his forces. De Roiste decided to seek a more favourable ground for engagement, but the Parliamentarian forces who now consisted just of the 1,500 cavalry horsemen encountered the Confederate Army while they were passing on the outskirts of Macroom town.

In a surprise attack the English cavalry charged the Irish forces before they were able to form up for battle. In the pursuing attack the Irish forces lost several hundred men, while the English Parliamentarian losses were light. De Roiste’s force broke up in disorder and many fell back towards the hillier countryside around Baile Bhuirne and then into the mountains in Kerry.

The following day, Boyle besieged Carrigadrohid castle just outside of Macroom. They had taken Baothnalach MacAodhagáin (Boetius MacEgan), the Catholic Bishop of Ross prisoner, and had tried to get MacAodhagáin to entice the garrison to surrender. MacAodhagáin advised the garrison not to surrender and as a result he was hanged in view of the castle walls. Eventually a settlement was reached where the Irish forces within the castle surrendered and were allowed to march away unharmed.

Baothnalach MacAodhagáin had been born in the barony of Duhallow in north-west Cork and was educated in France and Spain as a Franciscan Friar in the 1630’s. He was an ardent supporter of the Irish Confederacy, which had regained control of most of Ireland between 1641 and 1649. In 1645 a new Papal nuncio had arrived in Ireland with arms and funds to support the Irish Confederacy and MacAodhagáin was first appointed as a chaplain of the Ulster forces, and later was consecrated as the Bishop of Ross in 1648.

MacAodhagáin was an important figure within the Confederates Army having rallied the troops at places like Battle of Benburb before his capture at the Battle of Macroom. After he was hanged at Carrigadrohid castle his body was taken to Aghinagh where he was interned in the local churchyard.

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