Dingle of the Husseys, Part 10

The next daie being the twenty-first we went to see the Forte of Smerwicke, five myles from the Dingell to the westward, accompanied by Sir William Wynter, Captain Bingham, and Mr. Greville. The thing itself is but the end of a rocke shooting out into the Baye of Smenvicke, under a long cape, whereupon a merchant of the Dingell, called Piers Rice, about a year before James Fitz-Maurice's landing, built a perty castel under pretence of gayning by the resort of strangers thythir a fishinge, whereas, in very truth, it was to receive James at his landinge, and because at that very instant tyme, a ship laden with Mr. Furbisher's newe found riches happened to presse upon the sandes near to the place, whose carcase and stones I saw lie there, carrying also in his mynde a golden imaginacion of the cominge of the Spaniards, called his bylding Down-enoyr, which is as much as to say, "The Golden Downe."

The ancient name of the Baye, in the Irish tongue, is the Haven of Ardcanny, compounded of these words Ard and Canny, and signifieth "Height," and "Canny," as derived from a certain devout man named Canutius, which upon the height of the cliffs, as appears at this day, built a little hermitage for himself to live a contemplative there, and so is it as much as to say "Canutius's Height;" and afterwards by the Spaniards it was called Smerwicke, by what reason I know not.

James Desmond did cut a necke of the rocke from the mainland, to make it the stronger, it lyeth equal with the maynlande, having a hole, with grete labour, digged into it, and to my measurement, it conteyneth but 40 foote in length, and 20 for brode, at the brodest place, now all passed and judged by menne of skyll a place of noe strength. The whole ground whereof it is parcel, is a peninsula, within which the Knight of Kerry's house standeth, and is called "The Island of Ardcanny."

We went then aborde the Queen's shippes, with some merrie scruple, whether the realme should be without a governor, whereas the Lord Justice was uponne the sea; but hunger moved us to make a favourable construction of the lawe. We had grete entertainment on boarde, and the Admiral and the reste of the Captains lente us of their stores to refresh our camp withall, both byer (beer) and byskett for two dais, which we stretched to fower, and sent theyr pinnace to Castel-Mayne.

After our coming from aborde, the Admiral shott off an ayre (discharge) of ordnance whereoff one demi-culverin in the stemme did flame, and therewith the master-gunners cabin brake out the side one grete piece of tymber, and like to have made fowle worke, but God be thanked, no manne hurte, nor the ship brought out of plight to serve. All this while the Erle of Ormonde was over agaynst us in this journey through the mountayn of Desmond, towards Valentia, whose fyres we might discern from us by the baye, about ten miles over.

This is almost a year after the Desmond rebellion had been sparked by James FitzMaurice landing a small force at Smerwick, and five months later a besieged Spanish force were to be massacred by Walter Raleigh and his men.

There is a theory that the local name for Smerwick, "Dún an Óir", "fort of gold" (as White says), is a mistake for "Dún an Áir", "fort of the massacre", but since White reports the "gold" derivation five months before the massacre that seems unlikely. The fort itself was based on an Iron Age construction.

"Ard na Caithne" is still the official Irish name for Smerwick. However it seems more likely to be from "caithne", the arbutus or strawberry tree. The name associated with the ancient hermitage, which still stands, is Gallarus, not Canutius.

The question of whether the Lord Deputy could leave Ireland without royal permission was to have fatal consequences for the Earl of Essex two decades later.

Good to hear of the Earl of Ormonde again – I was wondering what had happend to him.