• Wilde Irishe

Johan Bale and the Galoglasse's dog

The regency of young Edward VI saw a renewal of Protestant reform, and a former Carmelite monk turned Puritan divine, Johan Bale, was appointed Bishop of Ossory (#church) in Ireland in August 1552. Styled “bilious Bale” for his morose and quarrelsome personality, this zealous missionary relates his year-long Irish misadventure in a book, The Vocacyon of Johan Bale. Bale quickly made enemies of all and sundry, in that special way that Puritans have. Among these enemies was the neighbor he calls “Barnabe Mihell Patricke, Barne of Upper Ossorie.” —that is, Brían Óg Mac Giolla Phádraig, First Baron of Upper Ossory.



Title page of Vocacyon of Johan Bale, English Christian threatened by Irishe Papist
Title page of Bale's book.

The “Barne” of Upper Ossory had secured his titles by “Surrender and Regrant” in 1541, submitting to the King and transitioning from Gaelic chieftain to landlord. However, he continued the old habit of cattle raiding and served time in Waterford Gaol for “some preys seized in Leix.” (His son, Barnaby Fitzpatrick, 2nd Baron of Upper Ossory, raised at court as a close friend to King Edward VI, was now furthering his education in France, where he adopted a strict reformist version of Protestantism.)


In the confusion following Edward VI’s premature death in July 1553, Bishop Bale says rumors flew that Mac Giolla Phadraig’s son Barnaby had been killed in London. Amidst the unrest Bale says the wife of a certain Matthew King fled with family and goods from her castle to neighboring Kilkenny, only to be set upon by “the kearnes & galoglasses of the forenamed Barne of Upper Ossorie,” who killed three of her company and spoiled her of all “to her very petycote.”


According to a document called “The Power of Irishmen,” written circa 1500, the Mac Giolla Phádraig Lords of Ossory at this time kept an army of 40 horse, 1 battle of galloglass (60 or 80 men), and 60 kern. Bale would tangle with these men more than once. He had provocatively ordered five servants to mow hay on the feast day of the Nativity of Our Lady (September 8, 1553), resulting in their deaths at the hands of “certen kearnes of . . . the Barne of Upper Ossorie,” who “leaped out of their lurkynge bushes with sweardes and with darts.” He claims they were hired by resentful priests in Kilkenny. Bale fled to Germany later that year via a Flemish pirate ship! This, his second continental exile, allowed him to publish his book in a place more hospitable to his radical Puritanism. His chief targets are the Irish clergy, and he paints a droll, if questionable, picture of the “dronken Bishop of Galway” (sic; perhaps meaning the Archbishop of Tuam?), whom he claims “gadds from towne to towne in the English part (i.e., the Pale)” christening children for tuppence without proper examination of their religious knowledge.


To whome for a mocke now of late

a Galoglasse of the land brought hys dogge (#gallowglass)

wrapped in a shete with .ii. pence about his necke

to have him confirmed among neybers children.


Irish galloglass presents his dogg for confirmation to the Bishop of Galway
"A Galoglasse of the land brought hys dogge"

Well, it may never have happened, but I couldn't resist. Next week we’ll look at these Barons of Upper Ossory, and consider their bad reputation among nationalist historians as the first Gaelic Chiefs to submit to surrender and regrant. Were they sincere in their loyalty, or did they employ it as an effective strategy to maintain a large degree of independence?

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