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Aughrim Military History | Summer School | Colonel Charles ó Kelly

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This is our fourth year of “Aughrim Remembered” and our event is taking the shape of a Military Summer School with the focus on irish battles and individuals. It is therefore fitting that it should be called after the man who wrote the book “MACARIE EXCIDIUM” or The Destruction of Cyprus. It was a secret history of the war of the revolution in Ireland. This is the only book written from the Irish point of view on the battle and the situation in Ireland at the time. This little known soldier, although in his 70th year took to the field on that faithful day. His brother, John was his Lt Col. and his son Denis was a Captain in Galmoy’s cavalry Regt. That was some commitment from one Irish family. Shortly after Limerick a heart broken Col. Ó Kelly wrote his book on the destruction of his country.


We have this year a fantastic team of lecturers once again put together by Dr. Padraig Lenihan of the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Friday starts with a short talk on the 1st World war, followed by "March away me Brothers" a one man play by Brendan MacQuaile. The Saturday programme is varied and extremely interesting, covering poetry, battle field archaeology, weapons demonstration, Aughrim folklore and many other interesting aspects of the aftermath of 1691. Simultaneous to the lectures will be the Soldiers Bivouac and ‘living history’ personnel , depicting  Jacobite soldiers and equipment of the 1691 Aughrim battle.

Sunday is a family fun day with many medieval arts and crafts, and a puppet show. Full details to follow but a draft outline is on under "Up coming Events"





Paintings depicting cavalry and infantry actions will be discussed by Ester Barret and Sean Ó Brogain.

For further information please contact:

Captain (retd.) Joe Kelly
Phone: 00 353 86 8138552.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Marie Mannion,
Heritage Officer, Galway County Council
Phone: 091 509198.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Col. Charles Ó Kelly 

He took part in the Aughrim battle and many of the others in the Connaught area. He was Involved at the negotiations in Limerick when terms were agreed, and he was from only a few miles down the road from Aughrim, and wrote a book about his wartime experiences. 
This was the only book written from the irish point of view. Macarie Excidium - “The Destruction of Cyprus. 
His brother John was in his regt. and fought beside him as his Lt Col. His only son, Denis, was a Captain in My Lord Galmoy’s unit. There is no doubt that this family was fully committed to the royal cause. He was line 39 from Maine Mor and ninth Lord of the Manor of Screen.
Classical scholar – professional soldier – politician – author – nobleman.


1621 – born in Skrine Castle which was south east of the village of Athleague, in the area of Rahara known for it’s very steep hill.
1633 – school at age of 12 he leaves home and travels to St. Omer college in the north of France and starts a classical education. 
Because of the penal laws, children would have to travel on their own. Dangerous for parents to travel with them, they could be arrested and imprisoned if caught. 
Many children used a false name and gave an alias. He was a brilliant student. “His progress was extensive in the knowledge of the belles lettres; in addition to Irish, English, Latin and Greek tongues. He became acquainted with the Flemish, Spanish, French and Italian languages.” Thats eight languages.
Even then his love of Country was acknowledged and he was known as the “Irish Patriot”.
St Omer college has an interesting history. It was founded in 1593 by a Jesuit priest, Father Robert Pearsons.
First located in Artois, France, which was part of the Spanish Netherlands at that time.  It was set up during the penal laws. when Irish and English children of aristocratic families could not receive a Catholic education and many were forced to go to Europe, otherwise it was a private education which was very risky, or the option here in ireland would be a hedge school.

King Philip II of Spain was a patron of the college.
Fought under the flag of the Marquise of Ormonde.


1641 – at age 20 he was summoned home.
Civil war had broken out in the autumn of 1641 and he was summoned home to 
join the royal cause. His father John acquired the rank of Colonel and 
distinguished himself during the war under the flags of the Marquises of Ormond 
and Clanrickard and as a result, the family sufered under the Cromwellian’s. In 
the Restoration, all of their estates were restored to them.
Young Charles had first joined the colours in Europe during the reign of King 
Charles Ist. and on returning to Ireland obtained the command of a troop of horse 
under the Marquis of Ormonde and distinguished himself in the royal army on 
several occasions, while the war lasted. 
1649ish -After the Cromwellian victory Charles O’Kelly with 2,000 fellow 
countrymen retired into the Spanish dominions to serve Charles II, as he had 
previously served his father. On hearing that King Charles was in France, O’Kelly 
went there with most of the officers and men who had accompanied him to the 
continent. He was commissioned by the King to form a regiment which was under his command.
1660ish -When Cardinal Mazarin of France and Oliver Cromwell signed a treaty of alliance against Spain, and as a result, the banished English royal family had to leave France and go to Spain. Spain accorded the irish equal rights as Spanish citizens.  Charles O’Kelly with other loyal exiles transferred his services to the crown of Spain. O’Kelly stayed in Spain until the reinstatement of the English monarchy in 1660. He then went to England where he stayed until his father died in 1674. He returned to Ireland to succeed to the family estates as ninth lord of the manor of Screen. 
1687 – nominated as a Burgess for the town of Athlone, (a County councilor) by Charter of King James II.(d. 1685)
In the reign of King James II Charles O’Kelly’s younger brother John O’Kelly of 
Clonlyon (near the present town of Ballygar), was High Sherif of the County of 
Roscommon in1686. 
Charles O’Kelly and his brother John were two of twenty four Burges of the 
reformed Corporation of Athlone in 1687.
1688 - SUPPORTED King James II revolution in England and Scotland.
1689 – elected to a Parliamentary seat for the County of Roscommon.
1689 – June or July of that year he was commissioned to raise a regiment of infantry by King James 11. 
Not on the Army list, nor were three other Ó Kelly regt’s that were formed at the time. 
As the political situation in Ireland deteriorated he was detailed by Brig Patrick Sarsfield, 39 years his junior, to engage the hostile troops of King William of Orange in the Connaught region.
Like his father before him, He served in Lord Mountcashal’s force and his Regt. took a hammering in various engagements against the Enniskillens.



Regimental flag of Justin McCarthy.

By and large the fortunes of war did not favour him, nor the Jacobite cause. In August of 1689 Justin McCarthy’s regiment was virtually destroyed at Newtownbutler. 
The remaining Irish troops withdrew but was shortly afterwards Charles was again in battle. A few weeks later in September 1689 – as a result of a surprise attack in the Boyle area of Roscommon, his post was overrun. He was in command of a force made up of local militia. 
These were irregulars and maybe even rapparees. After a 10 mile chase he again 
escapes, this time with his Cavalry. 40 of his officers were captured and approximately 8000 cattle in his charge were confiscated. This would suggest his role was also logistical. 
His opponent in that engagement was Col, Thomas Lloyd known as 'the Little Cromwell'.  Nothing more is heard of Col Ó Kelly till Aughrim. 
It could be he was captured and later made his escape, or else he called to his home in Screen. (Skrine)
1691 – 22nd of July.- new style -
It’s not known if he was at the Boyne but he next appeared at the Aughrim battle still supporting the Jacobite cause.

His role in the battle is unclear. It looks like he was now without a command, so he could have been in one of the regimental HQ’s. It was at Aughrim he nearly looses his son. Capt Denis, who was in Lord Galmoy’s Regt. had his horse shot from under him in the fighting.
Fighting At Galway
1691 – 26th of July surrender of Galway. It was at Galway his brother John along with a Capt. Richard Martin were held as hostages, while the terms for the fall of Inis Bofin were being discussed.
Sometime after the fall of Galway and during the siege of Limerick, while holding a strong point at Lough Glin, near Sligo, he met Captain Baldearg Ó Donnel ( later Brigadier in the Williamite cause). Ó Donnel was well in advance with his plans to join the other side, and, trying his best Col Charles was unsuccessful in getting Ó Donnel to change his mind.In face of overwhelming superior forces this post was later surrendered and he makes his way to Limerick, a journey of about 120 miles, not bad for a man who now 70 years of age.

 The Irish charge at Aughrim

1691 – 13th of October Treaty of Limerick. 
when the Irish troops reformed in Limerick, he was adamant that Col Henry Lutteral should be court-martialed for treason and executed. His argument fell on deaf ears but as we know, Luttrell, although well rewarded, subsequently paid with his life when he was murdered in Dublin some years later. The story of Luttrell’s treachery has been confirmed to me by a member of the Luttrell family.
He was not part of the negotiating party because he did not want to surrender and his views were well known. His motto was ‘consistency, no capitulation, and confidence in God’ Treaty Stone with John’s Castle in the background.

1691- he retires to his estate in Aughrane castle and writes two books. The first Macarie Excidium was somewhat written in code and is the only book written from the Irish perspective. Col Ó Kelly for the purpose of secrecy gave Latin pseudonymous to 18 of the main players and locations.
‘Macarie’ could be taken from the ancient Greek. He makes a comparison between the island of Cyprus and the island of Ireland. In his book he refers to Ireland as Cyprian. So Macarie Excidium could well be translated as -- The Destruction of Ireland. The book concentrated on the military situation rather than the politics.
It was written in the first instance in Latin and later translated by Denis Henry Kelly of Castle Kelly (Ballygar) - a very learned but unsavory man by all accounts. Dennis Henry was related to the Col. It transpired that another relative living in France by the name of Count Henry Ó Kelly Farrell had in his possession the actual original version. Both copies were compared and found to be the same. The work of editing and printing was commissioned by the Irish Archaeological Society based in Dublin in 1844.
A shortened version had been published earlier in London.
Copious notes by John Cornelius Ó Callaghan accompany the publication of 1845.   Another bloke of great interest to the O’Kelly clan, and students of Irish social history, is the “Tribes and Customs of Hy Many, or a Kelly Country”. This book was written by Donovan in the early 1840s. Although a surveyor, his interest was genealogy. While in the Galway/Roscommon area in pursuance of his work, he interviewed many of the surviving members of the O’Kelly clan. This included Dennis Henry Ó Kelly of Aughrane. It was from he he got a lot of information, and this is shown on the very interesting and extended chart of the O’Kelly of Ui Maine families.
His second book, I understand, is more descriptive and goes into greater military and political detail. We are led to believe the original copy of this book was destroyed but a copy is still in the possession of the family of Count Henry Ó Kelly Farrell of Montauban, France.
1695 - Col Charles Ó Kelly dies, broken hearted, aged 74 in Aughrane Castle, his home. 
This was later rebuilt by Denis Henry Ó Kelly as Castle Kelly near Ballygar.
His immediate family;

 His Grand father Cola Ó Kelly d 1614, commanded a Regt of Foot for the Englishat Kinsale. He supposedly had an affair with Queen Elizabeth.

His father, John Kelly of Aughrane was married to Isma Hill the daughter of Sir William Hill of Carlow.  Col Charles was married to Margaret O'Kelly of Gallagh, who were also one of the auld Ui Maine families. They had one son, Dennis who fought in my lord Galmoy’s Regiment at Aughrim.Col Charles was of one of Irelands oldest families.
He was a highly motivated man with a deep love for his country and a strong believer in his religion. These, I feel, were his main motivation and driving force behind his actions.  He was once described by a contemporary -‘ he was always highly esteemed for his learning, loyalty, and great services both at home and abroad’.
He was a brave man - very determined - very committed - strong sense of Justice.
He was intelligent - strong - principled - tenacious - courageous - in every way a patriot, and the worthy descendant of Maine Mor.
I think he is a man that we can be proud of.

                     Forget not the field where they perished, 
                    The trusted, the last of the brave,
                    All gone – and the bright hope we cherished, 
                    gone with them, and clenched in the grave!
                                                                                                Thomas Moore.

Feach tu ag Eachroim.


Note. The Regimental flags of Ormond and Mountcashal are authentic reproductions of 
the actual flags.
These flags have not been flown in Aughrim in 322 years.