THE Beara Historical Society recently hosted the launch of a new book on Muratí Óg Ó Súilleabháin by retired Keeper of the Manuscripts, National Library and Lauragh native Gerard Lyne. Murtaí who resided in Eyeriesbeg, was a middleman, smuggler, captain of Lord Clare’s regiment of the Irish Brigade in France, recruiting officer for same and for the Spanish army.
His story provides an exemplar of the complex interface between the old Gaelic order of the early mid-eighteenth century and the new Anglo-Irish colonial establishment. One of the O’Sullivan Beare clan who, like other propertied old Gaelic families were reduced to the status of middlemen, he retained a deep devotion to the Stuart cause.
Shut out by the Penal Laws from secure title to land and access to the professions at home, they were forced to seek military and other service abroad. Shortly before his death, he killed his former smuggling ally, John Puxley of Dunboy, who had become a revenue officer and magistrate.
This act, on top of his recruiting activities, sealed his fate.
In May 1754 he was surprised in his home by troops from the Cork garrison. Backed by some 20 supporters, he put up a lengthy resistance, but when the thatched roof was set on fire they were forced out and he was shot dead.
His body was towed by boat to Cork and his head was put on display on the gate of Cork Gaol as a warning to other ‘papist traitors’. Murtaí’s story has all the ingredients of a Hollywood swashbuckling tale.
The book is titled ‘Murtaí Óg ÓSúilleabháin (c.1710-54): A Life Contextualised.’ The book is published by Geography Publications and retails at €25.