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Travels in County Clare 1534 - 1911
(extracts from The Strangers Gaze, edited by Brían Ó Dálaigh)

William Penn, Diary of an English Sea Captain, 1646

William Penn, admiral and general of the fleet, was born at Bristol in 1621. He was the father of William Penn, a prominent Quaker and founder of the state of Pennsylvania. Appointed captain of the Fellowship, a ship of twenty eight guns, by parliament in 1644, Penn was engaged in active service on the Irish coast until 1651. During the siege of Bunratty castle in 1646, Penn’s mission was to keep the Parliamentarian garrison supplied by sea. He marauded up and down the Shannon estuary, burning houses, plundering villages and driving off cattle in a vain attempt to provide food for the besieged soldiers. Despite the spectacular failure at Bunratty, no blame was attached to Penn and he continued in his command. In 1648 he was taken into custody on suspicion of being engaged in the royalist interest. Suspicion soon passed and a month later he was made rear-admiral of the Irish fleet. He pursued the royalist fleet under Prince Rupert into the Mediterranean in 1652 and a year later fought with distinction against the Dutch at the Battle of Portland. As part of the Cromwellian settlement, Penn was awarded large estates in County Cork but being discontented with parliament was in regular communication with royalists. Appointed commander in chief of the fleet in 1654, he was directed to
William Penn
William Penn
act against the Spanish West Indies where he captured the island of Jamaica in May 1665. Returning to England he was imprisoned for being absent from his post without leave. Released after a few weeks he retired to his estates in Ireland. On the restoration of King Charles II Penn was knighted and confirmed in his Irish estates. Appointed a commissioner in the navy, he fought against the Dutch at the battle of Lowestoft in 1665 where he incurred the censure of the admiralty and was not employed at sea again although he continued in the navy until his death in 1670.

In 1646 Bunratty castle was occupied by Barnabus O’Brien, sixth earl of Thomond. O’Brien had little in common with the native Irish, being born of an English mother, he was educated at Oxford, married an English wife and stood aloof from the people. The Thomond estate, which he had inherited from his brother Henry in 1639, was hopelessly in debt and unlikely to yield any income for many years. Rather than allow Bunratty to fall into the hands of the Irish Confederates, he surrendered it to the English Parliamentarians and retired to England. The castle was quickly besieged by the confederate forces under Muskery and fell to the Irish 14 July 1646. Penn’s diary is a detailed day to day record of the events associated with the siege of Bunratty from 24 January to 16 August 1646; it illustrates the critical use made of shipping in supplying the land forces and the kind of warfare employed against the Irish population in the 1640s.

[25 January 1646]. At two in the afternoon [the ships] arrived in Cork bay.

27th. The admiral and myself went in our pinnace [boat] up to Cork, to take advice of my Lord of Broghill, vice-president of the province of Munster, about the affairs of these parts; how and where we might do service to the state, in helping or encouraging our friends, or in weakening or disheartening our enemies, the merciless rebels in this kingdom. . . .

[11 March 1646]. I received order from my admiral to take charge and command of all the frigates in the fleet, and to dispose of all the soldiers and seamen. . . Between six and seven we anchored near Bonratty, and sent a trumpeter to my Lord of Thomond, with a letter from my admiral and Lieutenant Colonel M`Adam; who received it kindly, embracing our motion, and promising to join with us; but not being well himself, would send a gentleman of his to treat in his behalf with the lieutenant-colonel and myself, the next day.

12th. We landed our forces, being about 700, upon an island close to Bonratty, where the gentleman of my lord’s, Captain Huntley by name, came unto us, inviting us to my lord to confer with his honour, which we did. Having dined with his lordship, we held consultation about the end of our coming hither, to see how his lordship stood affected to the parliament of England. . . We found his lordship willing (as he said) in what he could to comply with us, only he feared we were not a party considerable (enough) to undergo so great a work. We promised to do our best; and, God blessing our endeavours, we doubted not of success in so good and honest a design. The soldiers marched over, and quartered in Bonratty this night.

14th. About eleven at night my admiral went down from Bonratty in his barge, after all discourse ended with the Earl of Thomond.

15th. We drew out our forces, marching to a place adjoining, called Smith’s-Town, where we faced a part of the enemy, being gathered together into a body; but night coming on we were not able to do any good upon them, and so made our retreat.

23rd. I dispatched away our carpenters on shore to Bonratty, for the service of the lieutenant-colonel. We put our men to half allowance, by reason of the scarcity of our provisions, together with the necessity of our continuance here; and agreed to give, one half provision, the other half money. My men desiring fresh meat for their money, I promised to make what provision I could for them. . . .

[1 April 1646]. The lieutenant-colonel intended to beat up the enemy’s quarters, and to see what strength their main body did consist of, but they saved us that labour; for, about five this morning, they having drawn up a party from Six-mile-bridge, to the number of 120 horse and 300 foot, came to fire Bonratty, with commission to kill man, woman, and child; and accordingly began at the end of the town, fired seven houses, killed some English, etc. The alarm being given, 25 of our horse issued out under the command of Captain Vauclier, charged the enemy, and by a fortunate shot wounding Captain M’Gragh, commander-in-chief of the horse, they were totally routed, and both horse and foot took flight. We followed the pursuit, slew 80 upon the place, took Captain M’Gragh alive, with his brother who came to his rescue; a lieutenant of foot, and another of horse; with about an 100 arms; not one man of ours being hurt. In the afternoon, our horse and foot being refreshed, we marched with two drakes, 600 foot, and 50 horse, to the rebels’ camp at Six-mile-bridge, consisting of 1400 horse and foot; having fortified themselves with scarffes and counter-scarffes, etc. We set upon them, beat them out of their works, and, being hotly charged, they betook them to their heels. Our horse and foot pursued them two miles; yet little execution was done, by reason of the woods, and a river near hand. Having killed about 30, and taken five prisoners, we retreated to the town, possessed their strong works, lay therein that night, fired the town, excepting those houses wherein the provision was; and brought away 250 barrels of oatmeal, which served the soldiers six weeks for bread, our stores being much exhausted.

2nd. In the morning we marched from thence with 350 musqueteers to Bally-maguing, alias Smith’s-Town, the place of their first in-camping. Our horse marched some six miles into the country, burned one of their grand store-houses of corn, with many other houses, did much spoil unto the rebels, and so marched, with what lumber we had gotten, to our garrison of Bonratty. Captain M’Gragh, with lieutenant of foot, died, being desperately shot.

3rd. Upon the request of Lieutenant Colonel M’Adam, I went up to him to Bonratty, to consult of the affairs that most concerned the benefit of the service. My minister gave a sermon to the soldiers, being suddenly to march abroad. Captain M’Gragh and the lieutenant were honourably buried, with three volleys of small shot. . . .

9th. I went on shore to M’Adam, about raising of works for the strengthening the garrison; so that having considered how and where to raise the works, the rest of the day was spent in pulling down walls, removing thatched houses out of the town, into a field near adjoining to the castle. I gave order for the making of a platform for a great gun in the pigeon-house. . . .

13th. I went from Finnis’ Island to and again, about and upon several islands thereabouts, to see what cattle we could make purchase of. Upon one I found nothing but conies [rabbits]; another some deer, which if they had been killed had not been man’s meat; only five horses of my Lord of Thomond, and a hay-rick; which the very first opportunity shall be fetched off, and carried to Enislow, which island I intend (God willing) to make the common receptacle for such cattle as can be possibly gleaned up for the relief of our shipping and garrison. . . .

16th. This morning I went, with our own and the Ann Percy’s boats, unto the deer-island, where (after much time spent and labour had) we caught the five horses, none of them being, as was supposed, my lord’s; three of which we transported to Enislow: the other two, not being worth the labour, we let alone. It being near the evening, I returned on board. Those which landed the horses brought me word, that the rebels had killed and carried away all the sheep, save half-a-score or thereabouts, on Enislow; which much grieved me to hear, having taken such care, and used such diligence, for the preservation thereof, night and day. But the extremity of the weather, together with the rebels’ familiar acquaintance with these islands (being dry in some places at low water), did so disenable us, that all the art we had, or industry we could use, it seems could not possibly prevent them, they being both cunning and close in their roguery.

17th. Having consulted over-night with my guide, and finding it feasible, with his approbation, to gain some sheep and other cattle from off the island called Croneraughan [Kiladysert], in the possession of the rebels, half-musquet-shot from the main, where the rebels have a strong ward in a very good castle; I sent our own and Captain Smith’s boats on shore, the tide falling very opportunely, to get what cattle they could, for the subsistence not only of the garrison but ourselves. . . About eight, a party issued out of the garrison [Enislow] to look for prey; took 200 cows, 250 sheep, 80 garrans; killed six rogues, summoned Ballinclay Castle, commanded by John M’Namara; who, professing friendship to the Earl of Thomond, and we not possessing engines to annoy the same, being (contrary to report) very strong, drew off and returned home. . . .

[3 May 1646]. About ten in the morning Captain Liston came down from Bonratty, with many passengers, both men, women, and children, to be transported to Kinsale or Cork. . . .

6th. About eleven, at noon, I went on shore, where I heard the rebels had summoned Cappah Castle, but were slightly answered by the commander, whereupon they retreated to their quarters at the bridge again. . .

7th. I sent a warrant directed to the commanders of the several frigates, to send half their men every day on shore, to work at the fort which we had concluded should be raised at the water-side for the security of our ships; provided always and by all means (no excuse to the contrary) they repaired on board every night. . . .

9th. Near upon eight in the morning, the Earl of Thomond came down from Bonratty, and went on board Captain Grigge to go for Cork: I went on board to wait upon his honour. About ten, Captain Southwood weighed for the Blascoes. . . About two, my Lord of Thomond came on board our ship to dinner; I gave his lordship five guns at his entering. Not long after came down the lieutenant-colonel, with some of his commanders, to demand certain men which had an escape with my lord, but could by no means be spared. At his request I sent for them, and returned them up immediately to Bonratty in a boat. Having dispatched the present affairs, and dined, the lieutenant colonel and his company went up again; at whose departure I gave three guns. Not long after, my lord took leave, to whom I gave 9 guns.

10th, Sunday. At eight this morning came on board my lord’s gentleman, and told me, ‘twas his lordship’s desire that my minister should preach before him; which I consented to, sent him on board, and after went myself; dined with his honour. . . .

13th. I went to the fort, to view the works, and hasten them on, for the more security of the shipping. After, I betook myself to the lieutenant-colonel, with whom I consulted about the present affairs; and hearing some shot made not far from Bonratty, we conceived the rebels were then assaulting of Cappah Castle, about two miles from us, where a ward of ours consisting of two files of musqueteers of the lieutenant-colonel’s (of which one Serjeant Morgan had command), and some that formerly inhabited the castle or thereabouts. The rebels, having brought down their great guns, made 26 desperate shot, they within very gallantly maintaining it; but being much battered, with a breach made, and (as we heard after) being stormed by the rebels, our men, not able any longer to hold out, yielded upon quarter for their lives. Having entered the castle and taken our men prisoners, they marched from thence to a castle called Rossmonnahane, not a full mile from Bonratty, formerly commanded by one Hunt; which, but two days before, he quit, and was now with his wife and family in Bonratty Castle. This castle also they summoned, being kept by a file of our men; bringing Morgan with them, and using him as an instrument for the surrender. What he did, being compelled, or how the matter was ordered, is not yet known; but the castle was delivered up, without so much as a shot made: we believe the soldiers were hanged, as justly they deserve.

24th, Sunday. I received a letter from the lieutenant-colonel, requesting some minion shot, having spent what they had in this day’s service. I sent up to Captain Brown, by his pinnace, a 100 shot, to be disposed of as the lieutenant-colonel adjudged fit. Many shot were made this day by our men against the rebels: our men sallied out, upon the intended design of surprising the enemy’s guns, but were prevented, for they had drawn their artillery up the hill. However, our men set upon them, and, with the help of our seamen, beat them out of their works, killed divers of them, among the rest one principal commander; but their horse coming down, our men retreated. In this sally I had a man shot through the body, but not past hope. About twelve at night, Captain Smith’s ten men came down, and eight of ours; one being hurt, the other stayed to look to him. . . .

29th. We first landed at the fort, to see what was yet wanting for their better subsistence; and having spent some time there in ordering their affairs, upon the request of the lieutenant-colonel we went on shore on that side, to him. With whom, after much debatement, we concluded of the necessity of transporting many women and children (burthen some to the garrison, in regard of the scarcity of provisions; a thing which I desired, and might with some ease, and greater advantage, have been done long since,) to Cork or Kinsale. Now, necessity forcing their departure, and in a greater number than can be imagined, the lieutenant-colonel supposing Liston’s ship not capable of containing so many, desired Captain Smith might be ordered to transport one-half of them. But having no provisions to afford them out of the garrison, and Captain Smith very much straitened, he was not willing to take any of them on board. . . .

[4 June 1646] The lieutenant-colonel desired, that I would take down a 1000 lb. weight of lead, to cast into bullets for the use of our men; one quarter whereof was to be cast into pistol and cabine, which I took order with Captain Brown for. This day many shot were made between us and the rebels, some of which came into the castle, but did no harm. They have brought down two guns, which shoot directly down the river, and will much annoy us in our making to the castle. We unhappily lost, this morning early, about 80 mares and colts, being feeding over in the marshes, the guard whereof being too soon drawn off; at the loss of which we had some bickering with them; lost about two men, but could do no good. Having dispatched with the lieutenant-colonel, I came on board our ship.

9th. Our men, digging a trench to secure the corkasse, were set upon by the rebels, intending to beat them from their works; but, with the loss of 15 men, shamefully retreated. I considered the want of wood in the garrison, and took order for a timely supply. It growing late, and the lieutenant-colonel having business to do, I took leave of him, and went on board Darce, quartering there this night. . . .

10th. This day the hoy went down near so low as Enniscattery, and the next tide came up again; in which passage, up and down, they discovered not many cattle; yet where that small number was, upon their approach to the shore, the rebels drove them up into the country; so that I fear we shall do little good this way. . . .

17th. The barge came down according to my order yesterday, by which I sent up an 100 minion shot to M’Adam: our boats likewise carried up 60 soldiers to Bonratty, brought by Captain Coachman; which, with those that came with Liston, make up an 100 good proper men to look upon. God grant they may prove truer to their cause and colours than the Welsh have done. . . .

24th. Between one and two in the morning I received three letters from M’Adam: one for ten barrels of powder, (I sent order to Captain Winnall to spare so many of the Globe’s store which he had on board); another, desiring the assistance of what men and arms we could possibly spare, in regard of the intelligence he received of the rebels’ intention (this day being a festival with them) to storm all our works together; which I forthwith performed, sending up between 30 and 40 men out of our three ships here, besides them already there, and took order with the ships aloft to do the like: the third was concerning the sheep-skins, etc. With these letters from M’Adam, came one likewise from Captain Brown, by which I had notice of a sally made yesterday by our men upon the enemy; but being much engaged, and not able to make retreat, after some execution done upon the rogues, had near on thirty of our men killed and wounded. . . .

[1 July 1646]. Early this morning I received a letter from the lieutenant-colonel, certifying me, that in regard he hourly expected the enemy to make an assault . . . [I] went to Bonratty, where I found him and his officers at a council of war: in which I desired not to interpose, as not willing to engage myself in the shore-affairs, otherwise than I might with freedom perform my duty in my proper sphere; and so, walked about the works till the council was concluded and the assembly dissolved; I mean, from serious matters, but again convened to dinner. At which the lieutenant-colonel sitting, the rebels made divers shots at Jefford’s house; which they had often attempted to gain, but as yet could not. He (hearing them shoot so thick, and ply their guns so hard,) rose from the table, went to the house to see what breaches were made, and to encourage his men; where being entered, a shot was made, by which the lieutenant-colonel, John M’Adam, was most unhappily slain, to the general lamentation of us all. Upon which I, being there by, hearing a muttering among the common soldiers about some money that M’Adam had found in the castle, out of which they desired some part of their pay, I willed them to put a guard upon his chamber that night. As also, some differences among the officers being risen, I endeavoured the allaying thereof for the present, and moved that every one might be appointed his post, and charged carefully to attend it; lest any Welshman, or other, running away, should inform the enemy of the death of the lieutenant-colonel, and so encourage them to make an assault. . .

2nd. This morning, very early, I went on shore into the castle, where I found some of the officers in M’Adam’s chamber, having there 18 bags of money, and some plate, before them, which, with two more formerly disposed of, were found by the lieutenant-colonel in the castle. I, perceiving them to be resolute in sharing the money among them, willed them to consider, that money is the nerves and sinews of war, which being spent, the strength of that side must needs be weakened and abated; and therefore desired, that look, whatsoever they disposed of, yet a sufficient stock should be left as a reserve for the future, which would much encourage the common solider. But, what power my poor rhetoric to this purpose had, you may easily guess, if ever you saw or heard it practised on a covetous miser. They kept on their course, and would not be dissuaded. . . .

3rd. I was informed, that the guns the rebels shot were at Jefford’s house; and that another Welshman, running away the last night, told the enemy of the death of the lieutenant-colonel; who called to our men, and bid them ‘get a better commander’, when they had not such a one among them: I would also such rogues might be hanged, for example’s sake. The rebels intend this night an assault for the gaining of the corkasse, but I hope they will come short of it.

8th. Captain Line and myself went up to Bonratty to take some order with the major about the transport of the lame and wounded soldiers, together with such women and children as remained in the garrison. Captain Coachman, the hoy, and barge, came up again; having gotten from the enemy 40 steers and milch cows, 30 sheep, besides what cattle the soldiers had; all which I resolved for the present relief of the garrison, the enemy being set down so close that they must now look to be plyed hard; and therefore ordered the hoy to carry up part of the cattle to Bonratty. . . .

9th. I sent up 20 cattle more by the hoy to the garrison. Captain Line and Captain Coachman coming on board, we consulted about a conveniency of dispatching the maimed soldiers, women and children, so soon as they should be ready. The enemy plyed very hard at one Keeme’s house (which is within the house which Captain Jefford maintained so long), killed one man, hurt two; a great part of the house being battered down. A Frenchman, a trooper of ours, ran away to the rogues, with his horse, pistols, and carbine. The enemy got a gun down this day into the corkasse, which flanks all our works, and will thereby do us very much damage. . . .

11th. There was not one great gun or musquet discharged on either side the last night, nor as yet this morning. About eleven of the clock, Captain Dechicke and Lieutenant Gibbon, bringing with them a captain of the rebels, came on board the Peter frigate, where I was, to give me notice of the present condition of the garrison; that they had not above 300 serviceable men among them, the rest being either killed or maimed, and so not able to make their conditions, and so required my advice. I desired to know upon what terms, and to see their propositions; which were - having quarter, with a convoy to march to Cork by land, to quit the garrison with bag and baggage, their artillery and horse, drums beating, colours flying, and musquet-bullet in their mouths; with the rest that were hurt, to be transported by the shipping to Cork or Kinsale. I could not dislike the propositions, if granted by the rebels; but yet was more willing to have the garrison maintained, expecting daily to hear some comfortable news from my Lord of Broghill. Notwithstanding, they, concluding it could not be, departed. For my part, I could say nothing to, nor would determine anything further therein, because I saw how they in the castle stood affected. . . .

14th. About seven this morning came down a boat from the rebels, with a captain of theirs, a lieutenant and ensign of ours, with certain articles of agreement (interchangeably signed, by the Lord Muskerry on their part, and the major and officers on ours) for the surrender of the castle. The conditions were so mean, and so far beneath the honour of a solider, that I should never have consented thereunto. Yet, things past cure ought to be past care: I performed my part therein, which is, to send up Captain Fitz-Gerald to the garrison, with boats to bring off our seamen and soldiers, upon such conditions as per copy of the articles appears. . . About nine, the hoy, with all our boats, returned from Bonratty, as full of soldiers and inhabitants, men, women, and children, as they could thrust, which put me to no small trouble to dispose of; yet, so conveniently as the present opportunity would give leave, I shipped them on board our several ships.

15th. The rest of the inhabitants, with the commanders, came down, having quit the garrison, and the rebels taken possession of it; which did not a little grieve me, after all the care and pains which I had taken, night and day; but it was not in my power to work a remedy. I ordered these, with as much accommodation both for themselves and our seamen as the accommodation both for themselves and our seamen as the time (being night) would permit.

16th. We weighed from Beth-road [Bonratty], and came down to Enniscattery. In the afternoon I caused all the soldiers on board our ships to be landed on the island, mustered them there, taking also the number of the passengers, that so we might be able to distribute to every ship a proportionable number, according to her burthen and convenience of stowage; putting the sick, lame, and wounded, together into one ship, that so the whole and healthy might not be prejudiced by an intermixture. . . Our proportion of beer being small, our company great, and numbers many, we were constrained to make a more plentiful provision of water; which proved very scarce here, and not to be supplied on any of the adjacent islands; yet here we filled, and got on board, what we could. The wind S. and S. by E.; a hand some gale, and fair weather.

Extracts taken from Granville Penn, Memorials of the Life and Times of Sir William Penn, 1644-70, 2 vols (London 1833), i, pp 159-211.

Observations, 1606
Sir John Davies


Diary of the Parliamentary Forces, 1651