Young Limerick man “killed by the Tories” in 1703

Grave-slab of Peirce Green in Shanagolden Limerick.
Grave-slab marking the burial place of Peirce Green in Shanagolden, Co. Limerick (© Irish Heritage News).

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This feature investigates the killing of a young man by a band of armed rebels near Shanagolden, Co. Limerick, in the early 18th century, reveals the names of those held responsible for his death, and asks the question: who were the “Tories”?

On 12 November 1703, 24-year-old Peirce Green was killed at his home in Old Abbey, a short distance east of Shanagolden village in Co. Limerick. Peirce (or Pierce) was the eldest son of John Green and Catherine, daughter of Captain Horsey. It is believed that they were a wealthy, Anglican family. The seat of the Green(e) family was in “Abbey” for most of the 17th and 18th centuries. 

The grave-slab pictured above marks Peirce Green’s final resting place in Shanagolden cemetery, and carries an inscription stating that he was “killed by the Tories”. The inscription in full reads:

OF HIS AGE 1703.”

Inscription on the grave-slab of Peirce Green in Shanagolden Limerick.
Inscription on the grave-slab marking the burial place of Peirce Green in Shanagolden, Co. Limerick (© Irish Heritage News).

Who killed Peirce Green?

Twelve days after Green’s death, on 24 November, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland offered a reward for the apprehension of his killers. From his council office in Dublin, the Lord Lieutenant revealed the names of the supposed murderers and proclaimed the following:

“… Donough Carty alias Garruffe, late of Drishane, co. Cork, yeoman; Dermod Leary alias Mountagh, of the same, yeoman; Philip Nonane and Morris Nonane, his brother, of Aghasollus, Peter Leary, otherwise called Tubrid, of Shanacrane, yeoman, and Cornelius Callaghan alias Carty, of Cumber, yeoman, all in co. Cork; and John and James Feanagh, of Cleanliss in co. Limerick, and several other proclaimed Tories are still in arms and robbing her Majesty’s subjects, and having lately murdered Pierce Green, of Abbey, co. Limerick, we hereby order all magistrates and other persons to do their best to apprehend them. No person shall harbour or assist them, and all who knowingly conceal or succour them shall be guilty of felony without benefit of clergy.

Any person herein proclaimed who, while at large, makes discovery of any two more of such persons by which they are apprehended and convicted, or who kills any two of the other proclaimed persons, shall be pardoned for any burglary or robbery committed by him before the time of such killing or discovery.

… offering in addition to the benefit of this proclamation … £20 and pardon for all crimes except murder to any who shall apprehend or convict the murderers of Green.”

Among those suspected of the heinous crime, the Noonan brothers hailed from east of Kanturk, Peter Leary came from north of Dunmanway and Cornelius Callaghan – or Callanane as it was recorded elsewhere – was possibly from north of Newcestown, all in Co. Cork. The Feenagh brothers were probably natives of Cleanglass not far from Feenagh village in Co. Limerick. Donough Carty and Dermod Leary were both from Drishane near Millstreet, again in Co. Cork. Drishane Castle had previously been a MacCarthy stronghold but at the end of the 17th century it was granted to the Hollow Sword Blade Company who had financed the Williamite campaign in Ireland and was acquired by the Wallis family from Waterford in the early decades of the 18th century.

Drishane Castle c.1915.
Drishane Castle c.1915 (credit: © S.T. McCarthy; source: Kerry Archaeological Magazine, 1915).

No evidence is supplied in proof that it was these men who killed Green but they were wanted by the law long before the murder took place. Months before Green’s death, on 25 February 1703, these eight men had been ordered to surrender themselves by 25 March or be convicted of high treason. No one was to aid them and anyone who killed them would be pardoned, while there was also a £10 reward for the discovery of any harbourers of these men. Did these eight tories kill Green or were they just convenient scapegoats?

Who were the “Tories”?

Today the term “Tories” is a popular nickname for the British Conservative party. In terms of modern history, it is synonymous with traditionalism: support for the Crown, the established (Anglican) Church, and Ireland’s Union with Britain. But the word “tory” is of Irish origin and meant something quite different to its more recent usage.

“Tory” derives from the Irish word “tóiraidh” meaning “pursued” and so in Ireland it was naturally applied to bandits, outlaws, robbers, brigands and others who were pursued by the law. It was also used to describe the displaced Irish who were dispossessed of their lands as a result of the plantations. It was occasionally applied to any Irish Catholic but especially radical Irish Catholic fighters. In 17th-century Ireland most tories supported Kings Charles I and II – who were considered sympathetic to Catholics – and of course the Catholic King James II. At this juncture in history, the Irish tories were royalists and so the term became intrinsically connected with royalism.

Not surprisingly then, in England, the insulting nickname “tories” was applied to the English who supported the Crown during the English Civil War in the mid-17th century, thereby linking them to the wild Irish rebels. Later in that century, during the Exclusion Crisis, the name was disparagingly given to the political faction within the Parliament of England who wished to maintain the legitimist rights of James II to succeed his brother Charles II to the thrones of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland; they were in opposition to the Exclusionists, nicknamed the “Whigs”, who wished to exclude James from succeeding to the throne on the grounds of his Catholic religion.

Although the Tories, as a political party, emerged by supporting a Catholic’s rights to succession, all subsequent monarchs were Protestant and so the Tories became intimately connected with Anglicanism. The term “Conservative” was only applied to the party in the 1830s during the leadership of Sir Robert Peel but despite the adoption of a new name, their nickname endured.

Ireland in the late 17th and early 18th century was a place divided into several groups defined by class and religion. The Protestant settlers – often gentry, noblemen, soldiers and civil officers – were under threat of attack from well organized groups of armed Catholics who travelled in small parties and were engaged in a constant guerrilla war.

In the state papers of the time, the ominous name “tory” was often used interchangeably with “rapparee”, which refers to a guerrilla operating on the Jacobite side during the 1690s’ Williamite War. The disbanded Jacobites continued to present a risk to William and so in reconciliation he encouraged them to join his own army; some did but more refused. As in the case of Green’s professed killers, the tories and rapparees were often former yeomanry, with the remnants of the Irish forces having turned to a life of crime and brigandage after the wars and formal hostilities had ceased. The groups of Catholic rebels typically comprised men but some women were involved, such as “Sarah, wife of Dermod Sulivan alias Skeltagh of Curloon” who was declared a tory and ordered to surrender by 21 May 1703 or be outlawed.

The Treaty Stone in Limerick city c.1908.
The Treaty Stone in Limerick city c.1908 (credit: © The American Stereoscopic Co.; source: Library of Congress via PICRYL). This was reputedly the location of the treaty signing on 3 October 1691, which ended the Williamite War in Ireland. It allowed those serving in the Jacobite army to leave for France; this became known as the ‘Flight of the Wild Geese’. It also set out that Catholics would retain freedom of religion and retention of property, though these freedoms were eroded by subsequent penal laws.

In retaliation to these guerrilla groups, the Protestant elite introduced various pieces of legislation that restricted the rights of their opponents and in 1695 the holding of arms by Catholics was forbidden. While some tories were known to threaten the lives of both Catholic and Protestant indiscriminately, many of these agitators sought to make a political statement of resistance to English colonial rule, land confiscations and religious persecution. The link between the tories and their Catholic religion can be seen in numerous proclamations made by the Lord Lieutenants of Ireland, such as that which stated, “If any burglary, robbery, or murder is committed by tories, the parish priest is to be arrested and transported unless the criminal is discovered in 14 days” (26 Mar. 1679). If the tories evaded capture, their relations too would be imprisoned. To suppress these groups, large sums were offered by the government for the capture of the leaders, as in the case of those suspected of killing Peirce Green.

Our research has not revealed what became of the eight named tories wanted in connection with Green’s murder. But interestingly a townland less than 30km east of Shanagolden, near Croom village, is named “Toryhill”. In Irish it is “Cnoc Droma Asail” meaning the “Hill of the Ridge of Asal”, with Asal probably a personal name rather than a reference to a donkey.

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Of course, the word “tory” appears in many placenames in Ireland, such as the well-known Tory Island in Donegal, and often the “tory” element can derive from the Irish “tor” or “toraigh” meaning “tall rock”, “steep rocky height” or “bush” and has nothing to do with the tories. However, in relation to Toryhill in Limerick, E. J. Bennett writing in the 1930s noted that its English name was not in use before the 18th century and according to local knowledge, it was indeed a hideout for robbers, highwaymen and outlaws up to the 19th century. Could this band of eight tories, the reputed killers of Peirce Green, have taken refuge in Toryhill?

The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland

The Lord Lieutenant who issued the proclamation for the apprehension of Green’s killers deserves a closer look. James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormond, was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1703–07 and 1710–13. A few decades earlier, he lent his support to William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne and served in all of King William’s Irish campaigns. Placing the interest of the established church before everything else, Ormond prospered during William’s reign, though perhaps surprisingly he supported the Tories in government. He reached even greater heights during Queen Anne’s reign being appointed various important posts. But the crisis caused by her death in 1714 meant that the Tories were no longer in favour. Consequently Ormond was stripped of many of his appointments.

Portrait of James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormond and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
Portrait of James Butler, c.1686, later Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (artist: William Gandy; source: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain).

Ormond had cousins and other contacts with strong Jacobite leanings and soon he was impeached for treason, being accused of supporting the Jacobite rising of 1715 which sought to reinstate the Stuart monarchy. And so he eventually threw in his lot with the Old Pretender.

>>> READ MORE: The notorious Miler Magrath, simultaneously a Catholic and Protestant bishop

Fleeing to France, a reward of £10,000 for Ormond’s apprehension was offered should he return to Ireland. Ormond remained exiled on the Continent, fighting and working for the Jacobite cause until his death in 1745. During this time he gained the status as the Jacobites’ foremost military commander. While remaining a staunch Protestant all his life, ironically Ormond may have come to share much in common with the many Irish Catholic tories whom he outlawed during his reign as Lord Lieutenant.

The skull and crossbones

The recumbent slab bearing the name Peirce Green is located in the chancel of the ruinous medieval church at Shanagolden among a group of other large grave-slabs including that commemorating his mother Catherine (Horsey) Green, as well as the oldest dateable gravemarker in the cemetery which bears the date 1545. The two Green slabs were restored by Lt. Col. Greene in 1892 but the style of the carvings on Peirce Green’s slab indicates that they are likely contemporaneous with his death. The decoration on the stone consists of three separate panels. As we have already seen the square middle panel carries the inscription; the upper section displays the Green coat of arms, with its three stags, cut in relief; and the lower portion displays a skull and crossbones. 

Grave-slab marking the burial place of Peirce Green in Shanagolden, Co. Limerick.
Grave-slab marking the burial place of Peirce Green in Shanagolden, with skull and crossbones carved at the foot of the slab (© Irish Heritage News).

The skull and crossbones is a memento mori (translation: remember that you must die). It was an artistic reminder for the onlooker of the inevitability of their own death and served as a warning to prepare their souls for this eventuality. While a small number of Catholic monuments bear these symbols, memento mori typically appear on elite Protestant burial monuments, which could be indicative of the Protestant treatment of death and commemoration which was centred around the notion of judgement.

The origins of memento mori or mortality symbols can be traced to western European art and literature in the period following the Black Death. These symbols were commonly carved on burial monuments in Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries, and this trend had arrived in Ireland by the late 16th century. The most common mortality symbols appearing on gravemarkers in Ireland are the skull and crossbones, hourglass, bell, and coffin, all of which served to represent the finite nature of life on earth.

Although the skull and crossbones symbol is carved on numerous burial monuments in Ireland, particularly in the North, better parallels can be found in Scotland where the recumbent slab displaying inscription, heraldic crest and a mortality symbol, often in the form of a skull and crossbones, was widespread in the 17th century. The grave-slabs from Kilmadock, Perthshire, in particular bear resemblance to Green’s slab in terms of their form and decoration.

The use of mortality symbols declined sharply in the 1760s, when they were replaced by symbols of salvation such as Crucifixion and Resurrection scenes, which encouraged hope in the viewer.

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A footnote to the rescue at Knocklong: a bystander’s role

Maolra Seoighe: the hanging of an innocent Connacht man

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