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The Rebels of Ireland: The Dublin Saga



Octor Simeon Pincher knew all about Ireland. Doctor Simeon Pincher
was a tall, thin, balding man, still in his twenties, with a sallow
complexion and stern black eyes that belonged in a pulpit. He was a
learned man, a graduate and fellow of Emmanuel College, at
Cambridge University. When he had been offered a position at the
new foundation of Trinity College in Dublin, however, he had come
thither with such alacrity that his new hosts were quite

"I shall come at once," he had written to them, "to do God's work."
With which reply, no one could argue.

Not only did he come with the stated zeal of a missionary. Even
before his arrival in Ireland, Doctor Pincher had informed himself
thoroughly about its inhabitants. He knew, for instance, that the
mere Irish, as the original native Irish were now termed in
England, were worse than animals, and that, as Catholics, they
could not be trusted.

But the special gift that Doctor Pincher brought to Ireland was his
belief that the mere Irish were not only an inferior people, but
that God had deliberately marked them out --- along with others,
too, of course --- since the beginning of time, to be cast into
eternal hellfire. For Doctor Simeon Pincher was a follower of

To understand Doctor Pincher's version of the subtle teachings of
the great Protestant reformer, it was only necessary to listen to
one of his sermons --- for he was already accounted a fine
preacher, greatly praised for his clarity.

"The logic of the Lord," he would declare, "like His love, is
perfect. And since we are endowed with the faculty of reason, with
which God in His infinite goodness has bestowed upon us, we may see
His purpose as it is." Leaning forward slightly towards his
audience to ensure their concentration, Doctor Pincher would then

"Consider. It is undeniable that God, the fount of all knowl-edge
--- to whom all ages are but as the blinking of an eye --- must in
His infinite wisdom know all things, past, present, and to come.
And therefore it must be that even now, He knows full well who upon
the Day of Judgement is to be saved, and who shall be cast down
into the pit of Hell. He has established all things from the
beginning. It cannot be otherwise. Even though, in His mercy, He
has left us ignorant of our fate, some have already been chosen for
Heaven and others for Hell. The divine logic is absolute, and all
who believe must tremble before it. Those who are chosen, those who
shall be saved, we call the Elect. All other, damned from the
first, shall perish. And so," he would fix his audience with a
terrible stare, "well may you ask: 'Which am I?'"

The grim logic of John Calvin's doctrine of predestination was hard
to refute. That Calvin was a deeply religious and well-meaning man
could not be doubted. His followers strove to follow the loving
teachings of the gospels, and to live lives that were honest,
hardworking, and charitable. But for some critics, his form of
religion ran a risk: its practice could become unduly harsh. Moving
from France to Switzerland, Calvin had set up his church in Geneva.
The rules governing his community were sterner than those of the
Lutheran Protestants, and he believed that the state should enforce
them by law. Following their strict moral regime --- and reporting
their neighbours to the authorities for any failure to live
according to God's law --- his congregation did not only seek to
earn a place in Heaven, but also to prove to themselves and to the
world that they were indeed the predestined Elect who had already
been chosen to go there.

Soon Calvinist communities had sprung up in other parts of Europe.
If the Scottish Presbyterians were known for their somewhat dour
adherence to the doctrines of predestination, the Church of England
and its sister Church of Ireland had nowadays a Calvinistic air.
"Only the Godly are part of the Church," its congregations would

But could it be that certain among the community might in fact not
be chosen to go to Heaven at all? Most certainly, the Calvinists
would concede. Any moral backsliding might be an indication of it.
And even then, as Doctor Pincher put it in one of his finest
sermons, there remained a great uncertainty.

"No man knows his fate. We are like men walking across a frozen
river, foolishly unmindful that, at any time, the ice may crack,
and buckle, and drop us down into the frozen waters --- below
which, hidden deeper yet, burn the fiery furnaces of Hell. Be not
puffed up with pride, therefore, as you follow the law of the
scriptures, but remember that we are all miserable sinners and be
humble. For this is the divine trap, and from it there is no
escape. All is foretold, and the mind of God, being perfect, will
not be changed." Then, looking round at his disconsolate
congregation, Doctor Pincher would cry out: "And even though, if
God has so ordained, you may be doomed, yet I beseech you, be of
good cheer. For remember, no matter how hard the way, we are
commanded, always, to hope."

Might there, perhaps, be hope for some of those not in the
Calvinist congregation? Perhaps. No man could know the mind of God.
But it seemed doubtful. In particular, for those in the Catholic
Church, the future looked bleak. Did they not indulge in popish
superstitions and worship the saints as idols --- things
specifically prohibited in the scriptures? Hadn't they had
opportunity to turn away from their errors? To Doctor Pincher it
seemed that all followers of the Pope in Rome must surely be on
their way to perdition, and that the natives of Ireland, whose bad
character was so well-known, were probably in the devil's clutch
already. And might they not yet be saved if they converted? Could
not their case be remedied? No. Their sin, to Doctor Pincher, was a
clear sign that they had been selected to be damned from the first.
They belonged, like the pagan spirits that infested the place, deep
underground. Such were the thoughts that had strengthened the keen
resolve of Doctor Pincher as he crossed the sea to Dublin.

Yet what of his own fate? Was Simeon Pincher sure, in the secret
places of his heart, that he himself was one of the Elect? He had
to hope so. If there had been certain sins, indiscretions at least,
in his own life, might they be signs that his own nature was
corrupt? He turned his face from the thought. To sin, of course,
was the lot of every man. Those who repented might indeed be saved.
If sins there had been in his life, therefore, he repented most
earnestly. And his daily conduct, and his zeal for the Lord,
proved, he hoped and believed, that he was, indeed, not the least
amongst God's chosen.

It was a quiet day, with a light breeze, when he arrived at Dublin.
His ship had anchored out in the Liffey. A waterman rowed him to
the Wood Quay.

And he had just clambered onto the terra firma of Ireland
represented by the old quay when, quite suddenly, something
happened and the world turned upside down.

The next thing he remembered, he was lying facedown, conscious of a
great roar, and that something had given him a huge blow in the
stomach so that he could hardly breathe. He looked up, blinked, and
saw the face of a man, a gentleman by his clothes, dusting himself
off and gazing down at him with concern.

"You are not hurt?"

"I do not think so," Pincher answered. "What has happened?"

"An explosion." The stranger pointed, and, twisting round, Pincher
saw that, in the middle of the quays, where he had noticed a tall
building with a crane standing before, there was now a broken stone
stump, while the houses in the street opposite were blackened

Pincher took the stranger's proffered arm gratefully as he stumbled
to his feet. His leg hurt.

"You are just arrived?"

"Yes. For the first time."

"Come, then, Sir. My name, by the way, is Martin Walsh. There's an
inn close by. Let me help you there."

Having left Pincher at the inn, the obliging gentleman went off to
inspect the damage. He returned an hour later to report.

"The strangest business. An accident without a doubt." It seemed
that a spark from a horse's shoe upon a cobble had ignited a keg of
gunpowder, which had set off a large gunpowder store by the big
central crane.

"The lower part of Winetavern Street is destroyed. Even the fabric
of Christ Church Cathedral up the hill has been shaken." He smiled
wryly. "I have heard of strangers bringing bad weather, Sir, but an
explosion is something new. I hope you do not mean the Irish any
further harm."

It was gentle banter, kindly meant. Pincher understood this very
well. But he had never been very good at this sort of thing

"Not," he said with grim satisfaction, "unless they are

"Ah." The gentleman smiled sadly. "You will find many of those,
Sir, in Dublin."

It was not until after this Good Samaritan had conducted him up to
Trinity College and seen him safely into the care of the porter
there that Doctor Pincher discovered that Mr. Walsh himself was of
the Roman faith. It was an embarrassing moment, it couldn't be
denied. Yet how could he have guessed that the kindly stranger, so
obviously English, so clearly a gentleman, could be a papist?
Indeed, as Walsh had warned him, he was soon shocked to discover
that many of the gentlefolk and better sort in Dublin were.

But this very discovery only showed, he was also to understand, how
much work there was to be done.


A midsummer evening. Martin Walsh stood with his three children on
the Ben of Howth and stared across the sea. His cautious, lawyer's
mind was engaged in its own careful calculations.

Martin had always been a thoughtful soul --- old for his years,
people used to say. His own mother had died when he was three, his
father Robert Walsh a year after. His grandfather, old Richard, and
his grandmother had brought him up and, used to the company of
older people all the time, he had unconsciously taken on many of
their attitudes. One of these had been caution.

He gazed fondly at his daughter. Anne was only fifteen. It was hard
to believe that he must already make such decisions about her. His
fingers clasped the letter in the hidden pocket in his breeches,
and he wondered, as he had been wondering for hours: should he tell
her about it?

The marriage of a daughter should be a private family affair. But
it wasn't. Not nowadays. He wished his wife were still alive. She
would have known how to deal with this. Young Smith might possess a
good character or a bad one. Walsh hoped that it was good. Yet
something more would be necessary. Principles, certainly. Strength,
without a doubt. But also that indefinable and all-important
quality --- a talent for survival.

For people like himself --- for the loyal Old English --- life in
Ireland had never been more dangerous.

It was four and a half centuries since the Norman-French king Henry
Plantagenet of England had invaded and, taking the place of the old
High Kings of Ireland, bullied the Irish princes into accepting him
as their nominal lord. Apart from the Pale area around Dublin, of
course, it had still been Irish princes and Plantagenet magnates
like the Fitzgeralds --- who were soon not much different from the
Irish --- that had ruled the island in practice ever since. Until
seventy years ago, when King Henry VIII of England had smashed the
Fitzgeralds and made plain, once and for all, England's intention
to rule the western island directly. He'd even taken the title King
of Ireland.

A few years later, the disease-ridden English monarch with the six
wives had been dead. For half a dozen years his son Edward, a
sickly boy, had ruled; his daughter Mary for another five. But then
it had been Elizabeth, the virgin queen, who for nearly half a
century had remained on England's throne. They had all tried to
rule Ireland, but they hadn't found it easy.

Governors were sent over, some wise, some not. English aristocrats,
almost always, with resonant names or titles: Saint Leger, Sussex,
Sidney, Essex, Grey. And always they encountered the same,
traditional Irish problems: Old English magnates --- Fitzgeralds
and Butlers --- still jealous of each other; Irish princes
impatient of royal control --- up in Ulster, the mighty O'Neills
had still not forgotten they had once been High Kings of Ireland.
And everyone --- yes, including the loyal Old English gentry like
the Walshes --- only too glad to send deputations to the monarch to
undermine the gover-nor's authority wherever the governor did
something they didn't like. If they came to turn Ireland into a
second England, this was not only supposed to be for the benefit of
the Irish. With them came a collection of fortune hunters --- the
New English, they were called --- hungry for land. Some of these
rogues even tried to claim they were descended from long-forgotten
Plantagenet settlers and that they had ancient title to Irish

So was it surprising that the English governors found that Ireland
resisted change, or new taxes, or English adventurers trying to
steal their land? Was it surprising that during Martin Walsh's
childhood there had been more than one local rising, especially
down in the south, where the Fitzgeralds of Munster felt
threatened? There was more than a suspicion, however, that some of
the English officials were deliberately trying to stir up trouble.
"If they can provoke us into rebellion," some Irish landowners
concluded, "then our estates are confiscated and they can get their
own hands on them. That's the game." But it was at the end of
Elizabeth's long reign that the big rebellion had come.

Of all the provinces of Ireland, Ulster had the reputation as the
wildest and the most backward. Ulster chiefs had watched the
progress of the English officials in the other provinces with
disgust and increasing restlessness. The greatest of them all,
O'Neill --- who had been educated in England and held the English
title Earl of Ty-rone --- had usually managed to keep the peace up
there. Yet in the end it had been Tyrone who led the revolt.

What did he want? To rule all Ireland as his ancestors had done?
Perhaps. Or just to frighten the English so much that they'd leave
him to rule Ulster as his own? Also possible. Like Silken Thomas
Fitzgerald, sixty years earlier, he had appealed to Catholic
loyalties against the heretic English and sent messages to the
Catholic king of Spain asking for troops. And this time, Catholic
troops --- four and a half thousand of them --- had actually come.
Tyrone was quite a skilful soldier, too. He'd destroyed the first
English force sent against him up in Ulster, at the Battle of the
Yellow Ford, and people had rallied to his cause from all over the
island. That had only been a decade ago, and no one in Dublin had
known what was going to happen; but in due course Mountjoy, the
tough and able English commander, had broken Tyrone and his Spanish
allies down in Munster. There was nothing Tyrone could do after
that. At the very moment that old Queen Elizabeth had been on her
deathbed in London, Tyrone, last of the princes of Ireland, had
capitulated. The English had been surprisingly lenient; he was
allowed to keep some of the old O'Neill lands.

There was a new king, Elizabeth's cousin James, on the throne now.
Tyrone's game was over, and he knew it. Yet was Ireland any

Excerpted from THE REBELS OF IRELAND: The Dublin Saga ©
Copyright 2011 by Edward Rutherfurd. Reprinted with permission by
Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights

The Rebels of Ireland: The Dublin Saga
by by Edward Rutherfurd