Religious fanaticism, the scourge of the twenty-first century political world merely reflects that of the seventeenth century in Europe.
I am about to relate the story of the worst ever atrocity in Newry but the amateur local historians among you will appreciate that I must first put it in context.
Nicholas Bagenal, that figure beloved of today’s Council employees, lost no time, after he had ruthlessly displaced the historic Cistercians from their abode and possessions, in importing ‘all criminals except those guilty of serious offences as treason, murder (he should talk!) and also bankrupts etc’ to populate his newly acquired territories. The provision was that they be Protestant and not ‘mere Irish’, the latter of course being displaced by them.
As a result, the town and immediate district of Newry did not have to be included in the brutal Plantation of Ulster that followed the Flight of the Earls in 1607. But just as the native population of displaced Irish throughout Ulster seethed through the following generation, so too did the Catholics of Newry and when the inevitable uprising came in September 1641, Newry was one of the first towns to be taken by the rebels.
There were massacres of Protestants in some places in the early part of rebellion but not apparently in Newry, according to the (English written and inspired) documentation.
Would that the same might be said when the town was retaken later by a joint force of English and Scots troops.
That is the story about to be told ……..
……more later ………