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William McCartan (1703)

Although of the Down McCartans, he was born in Munster at Doon, county Cork.  He was a fervent Catholic and Royalist.  He wrote on 14th of July 1700 a poetical address to Sir James FitzEdmond Cotter (Egerton Ms 154 in British Museum), which contains, as has been pointed out by Standish Hayes O’Grady, the true name of the slayer of John Lisle at Lausanne on 11th August 1664.  Thomas MacDonnell, the name given in the English accounts, was a pseudonym circulated to avoid discovery, and this Sir James FitzEdmond Cotter, in  Irish Semus mac Emoinn Mhic Choitir, who lived safely in Munster till after 1700, was well known in his own country to be the real man who killed Lisle.  The address praises the valour and gererosity to literary men of this popular hero.  On 29th December 1701 William McCartan wrote a poetical epistle to John Baptist MacSlevin, the catholic Bishop of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross, thanking him for the loan of a book of old Irish literature, beginning ‘A leabhair bhig trath do dhail dam sult ar fhiannaib’ (‘O little book that for a little while has afforded me amusement about the Fianna’).  The bishop was afterwards banished on 27th February 1703, under a provision in the penal laws then in full force, and went to Portugal.  MacCartain composed two poems on his exile (all three in Egerton, 154).  On 28 April 1703 he wrote a poem called ‘The Lion of the Provinces of Ulster,’ and on the 29th May 1703 a song to the air of Grainne Mhaol, in which he deplores the ruined state of the native gentry, and again alludes to the bishop’s expatriation.  All his works are in Irish, and, excepting those printed by by S.H. O’Grady in his ‘Silva Gadelica’ (1892), have circulated exclusively in manuscript.

This poem seems to have been composed while the boat was still waiting for the Bishop to go on  board.

When the Bishop of  Cork was Banished from Erin

My grief, my hardship, this thorn that ever wounds me,

John fast bound by tyrants' locks!

The flapping sail, prepared to take him over the drowning waves,

Sickens and causes to tremble, our churches and our dearest friends.

 

O great, holy Son of God, who on the tree of torture didst purchase

Hosts of individuals of Adam's true descendants,

Grant that once again, in affection and noble speech,

John be unscathed and this land in peace.

 

Conduct, I beseech thee, O Father and King of Heaven,

Home across the main our cavalcade of strong heroes,

In Justice and valour and vigour without loss of health,

And scatter without much respite the army beyond the sea.