Fleeing the Irish Rebellion 1641 – Refugees’ experiences

On the 23rd of October 1641 – about a year before the outbreak of civil wars in England and Wales – a bloody Rebellion swept across Ireland.

Lead by a small group of Catholic gentry and military officers, many of whom were Gaelic Irish, the rebels’ goal was to oust the hated English administration and to regain the lands and influence they had lost in preceding decades of the Plantation.

They planned to surprise the authorities and seize Dublin Castle and other strategic points.  But on the 22nd  October  their plot was betrayed and some of the leading conspirators arrested.  That vital element of surprise had been lost.

But despite this setback, the uprising went ahead and spread rapidly through Ulster and across Ireland, largely unchecked by the overwhelmed authorities.  Protestant and Presbyterian homes were burnt,  families butchered and towns besieged.

Soon panic spread through the Protestant communities as in the words of one contemporary observer: “…the floodgate of rapine, once being laid open, the meaner sort of people was not to be contained”. In turn the Protestants’ response was described as one of:excessive and indiscriminate brutality”

As news of the atrocities became widely known  – often exaggerated by rumour – Protestant refugees fled to defended towns such as Dublin and to the ports where they desperatly sought ships to take them to safety in England or Scotland.  They took with the lurid news which  was soon filling the newsbooks

How would this wave of refugees be received in an increasingly divided England where Civil War was imminent?  Would Parliament support their fellow Protestants?  How could the money be found to provide support and relief?

To answers these questions we talk to Dr Bethany Marsh, whose research  into the fate of the Irish refugees in towns and rural parishes across England has recently been  recognised with the award of  the prestigious Midlands History Prize.

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The World Turned Upside Down
The World Turned Upside Down - The British Civil Wars 1638-1651
Fleeing the Irish Rebellion 1641 - Refugees' experiences
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Bethany Marsh

Assistant Head of Sixth Form, Abbot Beyne School

Dr Bethany Marsh completed her PhD at the University of Nottingham, where she specialised in researching refugees of the British and Irish Civil Wars (1641-1651). She completed…

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