The following was kindly transcribed by Máirtín D’Alton from Seosamh MacCába’s book, ‘Dúthaí Uí Ríagáin’ (Imperial Print, 1967):
‘During the Confederate Wars 1641-49, the O Dunnes of Ui Riagain led by Captain Daniel Dunne (Dónal óg) and Edward Dunne were up in arms for Owen Roe [O’Neill] and Ireland. Daniel on whose head was a price of £400 no small sum in those days, took by strategem the castle of Baile na Sagart. He brought from a distance a straight well trimmed and suitable coloured tree trunk drawn by eight horses, placed it on a strategic hillock, and directed on the castle, demanded of the Cooteites immediate unconditional surrender or else he would show no mercy.
After a short parley Daniel chivalrously granted their urgent request to be allowed depart peacefully unarmed to Birr where they could find refuge in that town, then Governed by Sydney Coote a relation of Charles. The O Dunnes took possession of the castle also a great booty of arms and ammunition household goods harnesses and anything worth taking. They then burned the castle whose ruins are there to tell the tale.
Locally it used to be said that Castle Cuffe was blown up by Cromwell. No, Donal Og Dunne, guerrilla leader, bombarded it with his powerful four yoke home-manufactured piece of artillery about seven years before Cromwell set foot in Erin about 1649. That big gun must have caused great explosions of Irish laughter still in fact reverberating, while the welkin rang to the ancient resounding war cry ‘Mullach Abú’.
Notes on Above.
- Seosamh Mac Caba was principal of Clonad National school from 1907 to 1948 and compiled the book from a variety of sources, including local.
- Ballynasaggart was the old name of the district. It seems that a memory of the resentment caused by Sir Charles Coote erecting his ultra-modern house in the middle of O Dunne lands, which were not part of the Plantation of Leix and Offaly, and had survived relatively intact as a Gaelic tuath, still lingered in Mac Cabas’ time.
- The broad mullioned windows of Castle Cuffe would have been unlikely to survive a cannon assault for any length of time.
- It would have been customary to allow the garrison to depart with their arms, not unarmed as mentioned above.
- It would be interesting to check the Commonwealth lists of 1650-51 to see what happened to Donal Og Dunne. Mac Caba doesn’t say, but given the £400 bounty, and the character of Sir Charles Coote, it’s unlikely Donal Og would have survived to boast about his actions.