John McCullagh July 11, 2006
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It was in the reign of Henry VIII, the most famous of English Kings that Nicholas Bagenal fled to Ireland. He served with The Great O’Neill for three years ….



 ……. and it was by the intervention of the latter (Conn Bacach) that Nicholas was pardoned of his earlier transgression. Then he went to serve his King in France for three years. When he returned he did some military service in Ireland before he settled in Newry. 

His service had been but a preparation for this. He had ambitions to assume the hegemony previously enjoyed by the Cistercian monks in this town.  Nicholas knew that the earlier intervention of Arthur Magennis to ‘save’ the Monastery by converting it to a collegiate college could not last. Though removed from their valuable lands, power and influence, the  lay priests still commanded respect and a following.  That could and would not be allowed to continue.

By then Nicholas had acquired his rabid detestation of the Catholic Church and of the Irish.  He was fortunate that Henry’s minor successor, his son Edward VI, had anti-Papist ministers who wanted an end to the influence of the former inhabitants of the dissolved Monasteries.

As we have seen from an earlier article, Bagenal may have been instrumental in the suppression of the Franciscan Monastery in Carlingford and also the Carmelite Convent in Carlow.   We know nothing of his influence – if any – over the dissolution of the convent at Killeavy.

We believe that in the early summer of 1550 Bagenal removed the lay abbot and remaining monks from the Abbot’s House and occupied it himself as his Newry stronghold.  Whether he added some fortification (Canavan refers to added castellation) then or later is a moot point.

By 1553 the Catholic Mary was on the English throne and the proud Bagenal was removed from the office of Marshal and had to keep his head low for the rest of her reign (till 1558).

He might have expected better from Mary’s sister Elizabeth, a committed Protestant but by the time of her accession, circumstances in Ireland had changed also with the disputed O’Neill succession.

The rampant Shane O’Neill, in addition to his general conquests in a wider campaign, drove Bagenal and the English out of Newry.

After Shane O’Neill’s betrayal and death, the fortunes of Bagenal again revived.


This brings us to the period c. 1570 when he had a ‘map’ of Newry drawn up, including (well, centrally featuring, actually!) ‘The New Castell’.

It was an application to London for grant-aid – a thing not unknown even today!

But let us look in detail at the coming of Bagenal to Newry in 1550, and study that ‘Lythe’ map again for clues to the whereabouts of the ‘missing’ monastic settlement!

1550: Abbott out: Bagenal in …

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