During the Civil wars of the 1640s, Garreth FitzGearld, along with most protestants, refused to give his support to the catholic Irish rebels, providing instead refuge to the many English settlers who had their lands confiscated during the outbreak of hostilities. Much of his own lands were also overrun, however, including Mountain Castle which was soon garrisoned by Irish forces. Sir Richard Osbourne (5) wrote to the Earl of Cork (6) on the 8th of May 1642 reporting that 'Mountaincastle is a good granarie, well stored and fortified with men.' (7) A month later Hugh Croker reported 'There layd certaine of the Enameyes companyes at Mountain castle.' (8)
Phillip McGrath, meanwhile, although absent from official lists, is named in contemporary accounts of the Civil Wars as being Sheriff of the county. (9) Contemporary accounts also recount the numerous outrages committed by the Irish rebels in the company of Phillip McGrath. (10)
In September of 1642, a cessation of arms was agreed between the hostile parties. During this time an Irish company under the charge of Fennell came across a company from the enemy Cappoquin garrison marching from Mountain Castle. On being challenged, they claimed that they were merely going about their lawful business, 'being therto invited.' (11) In reality, however, it is clear that they intended to seize and garrison Mountain Castle in time of cessation when they were surprised by Fennell's forces.
A skirmish ensued in which three of the English were killed and the rest captured. They were taken into the green of Mountain Castle where two of the prisoners being Irish were immediately executed as traitors - 'drawn up by a rope to ye limbs of a tree and hanged, Capt, ffennell not leaving ye place vntill he saw them both dead.' (12) The rest were interned, first at Dungarvan, and later at Carrick and Clonmel and eventually released after seven weeks.
Such minor victories of the Irish were short-lived and in 1647, not even twenty years after its completion, Sleady Castle was captured by Lord Inchiquin's forces. Later, in December 1652, Captain Fennell was tried in Cork for the murder of Ensign Cole and others at the above-mentioned skirmish at Mountain Castle.
(5) A local protestant landlord, who fought against the rebels, and who would later marry one of the McGrath daughters.
(6) Forefather to the present Duke of Devonshire, then and now resident at Lismore Castle.
(7) The Lismore Papers.
(10) See Appendix I.
(11) Fitzpatrick, Thomas, Waterford During The Civil War (1641-1653), Downey and Co. Publishers,(Waterford, 1912), lch.107.
(12) Ibid. lch.108
Author: Catherine & Liam Nugent