RORY O’MORE, (fl. 1620–1652)

, Irish rebel, often called Roger Moore or More, son of Calvagh O’More, was descended from the ancient chiefs of Leix. After the plantation of the Queen’s County the O’Mores raised various rebellions, which were afterwards reckoned as nineteen in number. A transplantation to Kerry, Clare, and Connaught was undertaken during the reign of James I, of which the state papers contain many details. But they kept always drifting back to their own district, and it was said that they preferred dying there to living anywhere else. Chichester, with a reference to Spanish history, called them White Moors. One of this harassed clan was Roger’s father, Calvagh, who had become possessed of a castle and lands at Ballina in Kildare, and these were not affected by the transplantation. Roger, the elder son, inherited Ballina, married a daughter of Sir Patrick Barnewall [q. v.], the noted catholic champion, and was thus connected with the best families of the Pale.

It has been said that O’More, who was in poor circumstances, had hopes of recovering the lands of his family from Strafford; but there is no trace of any such idea in that statesman’s correspondence. There was a moment of weakness after the great viceroy’s final departure in April 1640; the English government were busy in Scotland, and the time seemed propitious for an effort by the Irish catholics to regain their lost territories, and to restore the splendour of their religion. O’More, who afterwards admitted to an English prisoner (Temple, Hist. of Irish Rebellion, p. 103) that a plot had been hatching for years, began negotiations with John or Shane O’Neill, the great Tyrone’s younger son and last surviving heir, who was acknowledged by the Irish and on the continent as Earl of Tyrone. He sounded some of the discontented gentry of Connaught and Leinster, having an ally among the latter in Colonel Richard Plunkett, who was his wife’s first-cousin. Plunkett, who was a needy man, was well known at the English court and in Irish society, and had seen service in Flanders. The disbanding of Strafford’s army had left a great many officers and soldiers without employment, and these very willingly listened to the plotter. O’More’s means of persuasion were mainly two: there was a chance for old Irish and Anglo-Irish families to recover their lost estates or to win new ones; and there was something like a certainty that the puritan parliament in England would deal harshly with the adherents of Rome. Many lent a favouring ear; but all agreed that nothing could be done without a rising in Ulster. His position made O’More the fittest person to mediate between the Pale and the native clans.

In February 1641 O’More applied to Lord Maguire [see Maguire, Connor, second Baron of Enniskillen], who was in Dublin for the parliamentary session, with Hugh Oge MacMahon [q. v.], and others of the northern province. Richelieu promised arms, ammunition, and money to the titular Earl of Tyrone; but the latter was killed in Spain in the spring of 1641, and the conspirators transferred their hopes to Colonel Owen Roe O’Neill [q. v.], who was then in Flanders. O’More appears throughout as the mainspring of the whole plot, and his parish priest, Toole O’Conley, was chosen as the messenger to Owen Roe. It was O’More who swore Maguire, Sir Phelim O’Neill [q. v.], and the rest to secrecy (Hickson, Ireland in the Seventeenth Century, ii. 190). About 1 Sept. 1641 it was decided to seize Dublin Castle on 5 Oct., but the day was afterwards changed to the 23rd. O’More was to lead the party charged with seizing the lesser of the two gates. He visited Ulster at the beginning of October, shifting constantly from place to place to avoid suspicion, and was one of the five who made the final arrangements on the 15th. The place of meeting was his son-in-law’s house in Armagh county, Sir Phelim O’Neill [q. v.] and Lord Maguire being present there with him. But it is hard to be hidden in the country, and Sir William Cole, in a letter dated 11 Oct., warned the lords justices that there was mischief brewing (Nalson, Collections, ii. 519). He did not name O’More, and nothing really was known until the evening of 22 Oct., when Owen O’Connolly made his statement to Lord-justice Parsons. Late that night O’More went to Lord Maguire and told him that the cause was lost. It is from Maguire’s often printed narrative that we know most of the details. O’More, with Plunkett and Hugh O’Byrne, escaped over the river, and was perhaps not at first suspected, for O’Connolly did not mention him, nor does his name occur in the first statement made by MacMahon, or in the letter of the Irish government to Lord Leicester. His brother-in-law, Lord Kingsland, was one of those on whom the Irish government at first relied for the preservation of peace.

The plot to seize Dublin Castle totally failed, but the Ulster rebellion broke out as arranged, and O’More almost at once appears in the field as colonel with a large, but only partially armed, force under him. His brother Lewis had the rank at first of captain, and afterwards of colonel. O’More fought victoriously at Julianstown, in Meath, on 29 Nov., and acted as spokesman for the Ulster Irish at the conference held a few days later on the hill of Crofty, between their chiefs and the gentry of the Pale. The substance of his speech, which had been carefully prepared, is preserved by Sellings (Gilbert, Hist. of Confederation and War, i. 36). In the proclamation of the lords justices, dated 8 Feb. 1641-2, a price was put upon his head—400l. for its actual production, and 300l. for satisfactory evidence of having slain him. He was present when Ormonde defeated the Irish at Kilrush on 15 April 1642. Carte says he went to Flanders about this time; and, if so, he probably returned with Owen Roe O’Neill, who reached Ireland in July. He was serving in the King’s County at the end of that month, the title of general being accorded to him by the Irish thereabouts. On the formation of the supreme council of the confederate catholics at Kilkenny in October he was appointed to command in the King’s County and half the Queen’s County, and was present at the taking of Birr in January 1642-3 (Hist. MSS. Comm. 2nd Rep. p. 218).

In spite of his many connections, O’More was not thoroughly trusted by the Anglo-Irish; he was a Celt, and towards the Celtic party he drifted more and more. The gentry of the Pale were soon sorry for the war, which ruined most of them; and when O’More confessed to his brother-in-law Fleming that he was the real originator of it, the latter answered that he found himself mistaken, for he thought the devil had begun it (Carte). In 1644 O’More’s name appears in a list of Owen Roe’s followers, his title in the Irish cipher being ‘the shoemaker’ (Contemp. Hist. i. 605). In the same year he offered himself for service in Antrim’s Scottish expedition [see Macdonnell, Randal, 1609-1683], with a half-armed regiment of fifteen hundred men (ib. i. 652). In 1648 he was living at Ballinskill, in the district where his clan once ruled (ib. i. 229). In the same year he was in arms against the Kilkenny confederation, and was employed by Owen Roe in abortive negotiations with Inchiquin (ib. i. 747, 751). Early in the following year the author of the ‘Aphorismical Discovery,’ who regarded him as a mere temporiser, says he was one of O’Neill’s cabinet council, and that he tried to bring about an understanding between his leader and Ormonde, but only succeeded in offending both (ib. ii. 21). After the declaration of Jamestown on 12 Aug. 1650 O’More and his brother Lewis both took arms, and he commanded some foot in Connaught in the following year (ib. ii. 114, 158). He had Clanricarde’s commission as commander in Leinster, with full civil and military authority (ib. iii. 1, 15). But the cause was quite lost by this time, and O’More was driven into the remote island of Bofin. The author of the ‘Aphorismical Discovery’ says that he was basely deserted there by Bishop Lynch and others in December 1652; that he escaped to the Ulster coast, and lived there for a time disguised as a fisherman; and that he was reported to have escaped to Scotland (ib. iii. 143). It seems quite as likely that he perished obscurely in Ireland. Both brothers were excepted from pardon for life or estate in the Cromwellian Act of Settlement 12 Aug. 1652, and Lewis was soon afterwards hanged as guilty of murder (Ludlow, Memoirs, ii. 8).

O’More was an accomplished man, and could speak well both in English and Irish. He was undoubtedly the main contriver of the rebellion; but he was not a professional soldier, and played no great part in the war. He was distantly connected by marriage with Ormonde, and Carte gives him credit for doing his best to check the barbarities of which Sir Phelim O’Neill’s followers were guilty. That he was considered reasonable and humane by the protestants may be inferred from the fact that Lady Anne Parsons applied to him for protection. His answer has been preserved (Hist. MSS. Comm. 2nd Rep. p. 218). He wrote like a gentleman, but did not grant the lady’s request. Popular tradition clings to the name of Rory O’More, but it is probable that some of this glory really belongs to Rory Oge, who gave the government so much trouble in Queen Elizabeth’s time.

[Calendar of Irish State Papers, 1603-25; Carte’s Life of the Duke of Ormonde, bk. iii.; Nalson’s Collection, vol. ii.; Ludlow’s Memoirs; Temple’s Hist. of Irish Rebellion, ed. 1766; Lodge’s Peerage, ed. Archdall, art. ‘Viscount Kingsland;’ Hickson’s Ireland in the Seventeenth Century; Gilbert’s Hist. of the Confederation and War in Ireland and his Contemporary Hist. of Affairs in Ireland; Carte MSS. in the Bodleian Library, passim.]

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 42
O’More, Rory (fl.1620-1652)

by Richard Bagwell

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