Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Lady of No Reputation Who Was Simply Amazing, Part I

Dermot MacMurrough,
The Man Whose Actions
Caused Centuries of Sadness
And Suffering for the Irish

"Dawson" is one of the "John Smith" names of Britain. The role of our family in history has not been great.

Even less significant to the world, and even to members of our family today, is our father's father's mother, Annie Fuller Mallon of Ireland.

To fully understand Annie's story, it is best to have at least a sketchy knowledge of the history of Ireland.

In the middle of the 12th century, before England "knew about" Ireland -- before she began to actively covet control of and exploitation of Ireland as a national policy, King Tiernan O'Rourke ousted King Dermot MacMorrough from his throne and lands. MacMorrough struck back, not only taking back his throne and lands, but also taking O'Rourke's probably-willing wife. In 1166, O'Rourke returned in force, easily retaking his throne and lands -- but the wife stayed with MacMorrough. MacMorrough then made an error for which the Irish would pay a terrible price for three quarters of a millenium -- he went to King Henry II of England for assistance, in exchange for accepting English sovereignty over Ireland. Henry jumped at the opportunity, and in 1169 enabled MacMorrough to conquer Ireland with English soldiers, and then reconquered Ireland again in 1171.

Over the next century, Norman rule based in England weakened, until the native Irish badly defeated the Normans at the Battle of Callann in 1261. English control and influence shrank until, in the 1300s, especially after the Plague made its landfall in Ireland in 1348, the English crown controlled only Dublin.

In 1487, the Irish foolishly allowed themselves to be the launching point of a Flemish and Burgundian army supporting a pretender to the English throne. Greatly disturbed, Henry VII began to reassert control over Ireland. The Irish did not much like resubjugation to the English, especially after Henry VIII began to lead the English out of the Catholic Church. And so, in 1534, Silken Thomas Fitzgerald commenced his famous rebellion, and, after his defeat and capture, despite English guarantees of safe conduct he was murdered on Henry VIII's order, in 1537.

In the two Desmond Rebellions, from 1569 to 1573 and 1579 to 1583, the English responded to Irish efforts to throw off English rule with terrible brutality. In the first Desmond Rebellion, Humphrey Gilbert, appointed Governor of Muenster, terrorized the Irish by murdering civilians at random and lining the roads to his camps with severed Irish heads -- somewhat reminiscent of that pathway of Jewish tombstones in "Schindler's List." One of Gilbert's successors William Drury broke the peace entered into after the first rebellion by simply arresting and murdering 700 of the participants.

In the second Desmond Rebellion, the Irish killed English soldiers and property. The English destroyed everything in sight by fire -- including the Irish families. They burned and murdered the Irish into submission. The enormous destruction by the English generated severe famine. Many thousands died of hunger.

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