What's this ? Destruction of the Roman church ? How did this happen ? And from what apparently had been a Roman Catholic family that had endowed the Franciscan Abbey at Kilconnell ? I guess we have to look at our history books.
1531 - Henry VIII - Defender of the Faith - breaks with the
Pope and establishes the Church of England (Anglican).
1536 - '40 - the rascal dissolves (a most generous description) the monasteries.
1558 - Elizabeth I, Henry's daughter becomes Queen.
1582 - Roger O'Donnellan (unknown connection to Nehemiah) dies in Dublin prison on/about 13 February - with 5 other Roman Catholic clergy (See Catholic Encyclopedia Irish Confessors and Martyrs). The order of the day seems to be convert --- or else !
Hmm. Let us dig deeper.
In England, Henry's hands were red with the blood of those
who would not conform to the "reformed" church. In Ireland,
the Irish and Anglo-Irish who were the "settlers" from
the first wave back in 1172 were in terror. In fact, they had
become "more Irish then the Irish". As a correllation,
the Irish, at least some of them , were becoming "more English
then the English". Most of the Anglo-Irish had accepted Brehon
Law even though it was forbidden. Many had converted or remained
steadfast to the Roman church. The de Burgos had become Burkes
and a mutually
acceptable manner of living had evolved.
During the remainder of his reign, Henry had little success in forcing Ireland into the new religion. It was under Elizabeth I that things turned progessively worse. The forthcoming changes, on her behalf, were more political than religious, but who could separate the two at the time.
The Queen, possibly even mote ruthless than her father, was neither a good Anglican nor a dedicated persecutor of the Catholic Irish -- in the beginning of her reign. She had been Queen for seventeen years when the reign of terror began in earnest. Why the sudden change ? The Pope and the Spanish king had declared against her and the Irish Catholics had thrown their lot with them. In the middle of the intrigue and death was Nehemiah.
According to the on-line records of the Mormons, there is a Nehemiah Donnellan listed as being born in 1560. This is almost certainly "our" Nehemiah. There is a yet to be confirmed story that Nehemiah was taken to England as a "sort of a hostage" at a very young age. It was not uncommon for this to occur. The Irish would be taken when young , educated or indoctrinated, and sent back to become agents of the new faith. Nehemiah was 19 years of age on entry to Cambridge but it is not known (at least to me) how long he had been there before entering Cambridge.
But ley's get back to our history.
In 1575, Elizabeth appointed Sir Henry Sydney, the Lord Deputy, to make a survey of Connacht- one of the last remaining Irish territories under their own control. Connacht contained O'Kelly's country and was the last vistige of the once proud Hy Many. Herein, resided the Donnellan clan and the chapel they had endowed at Kilconnell.
The queen's plan was insidious. It was meant to bring the province under control without any armed resistance and Nehemiah was a part of it. The underlying strategy was to divide the land into English type shires, under the control of the shire-reeve (Sheriff). Dividing the land was the easy part. Getting the local chieftains to accept foreign control was another matter.
To put it fully into context, the remaining Irish were harassed,
robbed, and murdered by the English adventurers living in fortified
towns. The Anglican bishop of Tuam was supportive of the Crown
but getting on in years. He had assured the chieftain (O'Kelly)
and other leaders that by ceding control of their lands to the
Crown, they would have them returned to them under the protection
of the Crown.
Of course-----there were conditions. I quote from the relevant State documents:
"Wytnesseth territorie of Imanay (Hi-Maine) .divided into five principal baronies "
" The aforesaid lords, chieftains, etc. grant to her Majesty
the Queene, a penny and one-third out of every acre----- which
amounteth every year to 665 marks
sterling; and for lack of money to be paid; the Treasurer or general receiver shall receive kine ."
And the clincher:
"It is agreed by the lord Deputy, on behalf of the Queene,
and the said Hugh O'Kelly,
. And others of the Irishry above
named that captainshippe and
tannistshipe (chieftainshiop and tanistry) . Shall utterlye be abolished extinct, removed and put backe within said forever .. (and they) shall
bring uppe their children after the Englishe fashions, and the use of the
Englyshe tounge (English language "
.which brings down the curtain on the Hy Many, Irish culture, language and the Brehon law. The English have slayed the Dragon ! but there is a footnote
The Franciscan Friary at Kilconnell was erected by the diocese
of Clonfert in 1363.
The O'Donnellans had built a mortuary chapel there in 1412 and many of their dead were buried there. During the reign of Elizabeth, the Abbey was repeatedly robbed and sacked. The English custom of robbing monasteries had laid dormant for centuries--- after their apparent acceptance of the Roman faith from Irish monks. This was no longer the case. The Franciscans were reduced to six poverty stricken monks by 1616 ---still existing at Kilconnell. Even as late as 1709, it is mentioned by Sir Thomas Molyneux that two blind and ancient members of this order were living in a bog near the Abbey (the Bog of Friars) and living on the charity of the countryside.
The following are taken from the "Calendar of the State Papers for Ireland". Irrelevant passages have been deleted.
1. Date 19 August 1594, page 264, article 64.
Lord Deputy Sir W. Russell to (Lord) Burghley (Queen's Councellor).
For the Archbishop of Tuam (Lally) to resign his See in favor of his coadjutor Nehemios Donnellan.
2. Date19 August 1594, page 265, article 66.
The Earl of Ormonde (le Butleir) also made the same request regarding Donnellan.
3. Date 24 March 1595, page 307, article __.
Earl of Ormonde to Burghley. Requests appointment of Nehemias Donnellan to the See of Tuam.
4. Date 28 March 1595, page 308, article 132.
Archbishop Loftus (of Dublin) to (Lord) Burghley.
Nehemias Donnellan assured of his doing much good in the See of Tuam.
5. Same date as 4.
Lord Deputy (Russell) to Burghley. Also recommends Donnellan.
These are just a few of the efforts made on behalf of Nehemiah. The climax to these efforts is from Her Majesty:
" Calendar of Patent Rolls of Elizabeth "
Page 401, membrane 11, article 35, (vol. 2 of Morrin)
The Queen to the Deputy and Lord Chancellor.
" Right trusty and well-beloved we greet you well: where by the letters of you the Deputy, and others of the Council there to some of the Council here, we are informed that William Lawlie (Lally), Archbishop of Tuam, in province of Connaught, is lately deceased; and for his place you have recommended one Nehemia Donnellaine born in that province, and brought up long, a student of divinity in our University in Cambridge, wherein, as you write, he hath spent his time so well, that he is very well able to instruct the people (sic) of that realm in their mother tongue, and a very meet instrument to retain and instruct them in duty and religion (N.B.) for as much as we further understand, that for his fitness he was, by our Archbishop (William Lally) as also had resignation of it, for that said William was very aged, and Donnellaine hath taken great pains in translating and putting to press the Common Book (Anglican Book of Common Prayer) and New Testament (Protestant) in the Irish Inguage, a thing we do very well like of (sic) , and therefore, do think it meet the Archbihoprick were bestowed on him; we do therefore will and require you, our Deputy, to cause the warrants and process expeditions to be made in our name for the admittance and instalment of Donnellane into the Archbishoprick with the united bishopricks of Mayo and Anaghcowne (Anaghdown) in as ample manner as the late Archbishop (Lally) had or enjoyed the same, and as such case is accustomed; and because the value thereof is so small, as it seemeth that it cannot maintain him as were requisite, we are contented that he be tolerated to enjoy by way of commendam, such other small livings within the realm as he hath.
Elizabeth Regina, Greenwich
May 24th, 37 year (1595)"
And from the Patent Rolls, we see:
1. Date 17 August 1595, Membrane 27, article 43.
Appointment of Nehemia Donnellaine as Archbishop of Tuam. Dublin (Castle). (See Sir James Ware).
2. Date 18 August 1595, article 44, (following above).
Consecration of Nehemia Donnellaine. (Also granted the "other small livings" referred to in above letter). Dublin.