The alliance was eventually doomed to failure at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601. The Government was ready to pardon Phelim on his own terms but he refused to sue for peace. He
defeated the English near Imaal and later obstructed Lord Essex in his passage from Munster in 1599.
Following the battle of Kinsale, Irish control over
South Wicklow came to an end and in 1606 Phelim and his brother Redmond (Reaman) received grants of what lands that were left to them to be held under English
law. In 1613 Phelim sat in Parliament as MP for County Wicklow but in 1628, with the English wanting to confiscate his lands, he was tried and condemned on
trumped up charges. He was imprisoned in Dublin Castle (from which Art O'Neill had already escaped in the winter of 1591) in 1629. Two days later his wife Una died, her "heart strings broke" and their sons and her kinfolk, the O'Tooles, were to find themselves on the wrong side of the law through the 1620's and the 1630's.
Phelim's son Brian, who married Marie O'Toole, visited England in 1624 and was later imprisoned in Dublin Castle for anti-English activities. After his release, he continued with his activities and led the Gabhall Raghnaill troops in the Catholic Confederacy of 1645. His son Sean also fought
with the Confederacy with the rank of Colonel.
Other members of the family to be "in trouble" at this time included Turlough who was a prisoner in 1625, Gerald who was killed in a "skirmish" and Hugh and Shane who were to become Colonels in the Confederacy. Hugh later became a General and was appointed as Governor of Wicklow, Carlow and Wexford on 4 September 1648. Fiach, Cahir and Cahal (author of great note) also suffered during the period of imprisonment without trial. False charges, estate confiscations and accusations of cow
stealing, fighting, breaking the law and finally not agreeing to accusations made against them were all used to "put away" members of the family. Unfortunately many of the accusations were made by members of their own clan who
were trying to save their own skins. Indeed many were executed during this period of inter-family rivalry in an O'Byrne versus O'Byrne clash set up by the E nglish administration. All the different branches now squealed on each other reducing themselves to penury, poverty and obscurity with the main protagonists centred at Ballymanus and Ballinacor. This reflected the upstaging by the junior
Ballinacor branch of the senior Ballymanus branch and led to an east/west divide, centred on Aughrim and the rivers,
(hence the term Aughrim - ridge of the O'Byrnes).
Cahir, Fiach's grandson, tried to re-establish power and his
son Hugh had successes against Ballymanus but it appears that his son Cahir Og was the last generation of this sept with the line becoming extinct in the late seventeenth century.
A great grandson of Taidhg Og (1578), Walter Boy of
Newrath, now assumed the position of head of the clan which was to last for 200 years. Another distinguished branch of the senior sept was seated at Kiltimon
(ruins of the castle still remain) and later a branch seated at
Killoughter (near Newrath) and also another at Kilnamanagh under Brian and his son Bran. The
Killoughter sept under Loughlin, Redmond, Edmond and
Charles assumed importance (without necessarily the lineage pedigree) and during the Cromwellian period
they extended their estates. It is from this family that the Lord de Tably and the O'Byrnes of Cabinteely House and the O'Byrnes of Ballymanus claim descent.
Yet another branch, the sept of Art McTeigh O'Byrne, located at Ballygannon but lost their lands in 1648 to
a Sir Richard Kennedy. They rented the lands for many years, eventually bought them back only to dispose of them in 1733 (The Kilcoole Estates).
Another unusual individual was Daniel O'Byrne
of Redcross who being a second son and not therefore an heir to property, became a tailor and went into the "rag trade" (another O'Byrne, Martha has continued this
tradition in our own time). He bought all the white cloth in Dublin, dyed it red and sold it at an exorbitant profit to Cromwell. From his profits he bought estates at Luggacurren, the Heath at Portlaoise, and his jewel, Shean.
The Lord of Shean, Lord Whitney, had got himself into debt. Daniel said he would look after his debts and get a buyer for his estate if only Lord Whitney would marry his daughter. The Lord replied that he could not think of smothering his blood by marrying a common tailor's daughter. Whereupon Daniel demanded that the debt (which was to himself) be cleared. Whitney had to sell his estates (bought by Daniel unknown to Whitney) but was
allowed to continue to reside there. Later, Daniel was invited to a meal by Lord Whitney and given plenty of meat but no knife. When he requested a knife he was told to cut it with the scissors he had in his hand whereupon
he replied "I drew the scissors to clip the Lordship
of Shean from your backside" and promptly had Whitney thrown out. He later bought a Baronet in 1660 for his son Gregory and this later passed to his grandson also called
In 1739, John O'Byrne from the senior branch, was made a
naturalised citizen of France and in 1770 he and his sons, Gregory and Daniel, were welcomed into the French nobility. They owned huge estates in Bordeaux and with the Hennesseys (of Brandy fame) became owners of the chief vinyards of France. Unfortunately, forty years of work came to nothing when
their estates were taken from them after the French Revolution of 1789.
Hughie O'Byrne of Aughrim.
Originally published in Leabhar Branach Vol. 1. 1991
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