Irish Martyrs

Fighting for the Faith in Ireland…this is how it’s done!

The following accounts are taken from a book entitled Our Martyrs by Rev. D. Murphy, S.J. and published in 1896.

Nihil Obstat: Gulielmus H. Murphy, D.D., Censor Deputatus.
Imprimatur: E Gulielmus, Archiepiscopus Dublinensis, Hiberniae Primas &c, &c.

Recordings of more lives of Irish martyrs from this book are available here:


1585 (?) Forty Cistercians of St. Mary’s, Nenay

(From Bruodin’s Propugnaculum, p. 450)

There was formerly in the diocese of Limerick a celebrated monastery of the holy Order of Citeaux, situated on the river Maigue [1], from which the monastery took its name. It was founded in a most generous way by Donald O’Brien formerly Prince, or as other [sic] say, King of Limerick [2]. Here a larger community of monk, under the gentle rule of the Mellifluous Doctor Bernard, employed themselves profitably night and day praising God, till Henry VIII., King of England, begat Elizabeth, the active agent of the Prince of darkness. While she was on the throne, and, like her father, creating disorder everywhere throughout Ireland, she determined to put an end to the pious exercises of the monks of Nenay, so odious to the demons. The children of the holy Order of Citeaux refused to obey the unjust laws of that frantic woman. Wherefore her impious satellites made a sudden attack on the monastery, and slew at the same time forty monks and their abbot with spears and daggers, and cut off their heads, in the very church before the Blessed Sacrament. They awaited the attack calmly, and encouraged each other to contend bravely for the faith. This happened on August 14th; but I do not know the year. [3]

Hartry adds: “Very many grave authors whom the Chrysostom [4] of our Orders cites, have given a very remarkable account of forty Cistercian monks in Ireland, who with their Abbot died for the Catholic Faith, and after their glorious death are commemorated: Concerning Ireland there is a constant tradition in reference to forty monks, martyrs, who suffered the death of the body by the swords of the impious on August 14th, and on the same day having had their heads miraculously restored to them they sand at vespers in the choir.” [5]


[1] This river rising in Milford, Co. Cork, passes through Croom, and Adare, and falls into the Shannon seven miles below Limerick. Hence the name of the monastery De Magio.

[2] Hartyr says in 1151. Triumphalia, p. 192.

[3] Bruodin inserts this sketch between 1585 and 1586.

[4] S. Henriquez, the historian of the Order.

[5] Triumphalia, p.243


1597. Walter Fernan

(From Bruodin’s Propugnaculum, p. 465)

He was a native of Leinster, a priest, and a zealous preacher. He was taken by the heretics and sent to Dublin, where he obtained a glorious victory for Christ. He was thrown into prison by order of the chief judge, and iron chain was bound round his body, his hands and feet were tied to a beam, and he was forced to stand for forty hours without sleep. He was flogged, and salt and vinegar were rubbed into his wounds by the executioners. Being then asked whether he would take the oath of Supremacy, he answered with great firmness, that he would rather die than swear that a woman, who St. Paul says should be silent in the church, was the Head of the Church. The fierce and blood-thirsty judge, Walter Raleigh by name, angry at this answer, ordered Fernan to be put to the torture of the rack. The executioners had not been long engaged in drawing asunder the limbs of this confessor of Christ, when he exclaimed, “Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit,” and gave up his soul to his Creator March 12th, 1597.



1607. Neal O’Boyle, O.S.F.

(From Bruodin’s Propugnaculum, p. 499)

He was descended from a noble family in Ulster, and adorned the Order of St. Francis for many years by his strict observance of the rule and holiness of life. At last he was seized by the heretics min the county of Tyrone, scourged with whips, and hanged, in the hatred of the Catholic faith, and in this way he obtained the crown of martyrdom, January 15th, 1607.



1622. John Cathan, O.S.F.

(From Ward’s Catalogue)

He made his religious profession on the College of Saint Antony of Padua, Louvain. While he was employed as preacher in the convent of Buttevant [1], he was seized there by the heretics and cast into prison in Limerick. He died in his chains in the year 1622. On the night of his death, a bright flame, like a pillar, was seen by many, shining over the house in which he was lying. Many other wonderful things were seen at the time of his death.


[1] Founded by the Barry family about the middle of the 13th century. Some portions of it still remain. See the Kilkenny Arch. Journal, ii.83.