An illustration of the sack of Baltimore by Yeats

The sack of Baltimore, County Cork

Now here is an example of Irish genealogy that requires knowledge of history.

The 17th century was traumatic for all those in Ireland. The Battle of Kinsale, the Flight of the Earls, Cromwell, The Treaty of Limerick all happened in that century.

Tens of thousands of men were exiled to the continent; these were the wild geese of Ireland. The native Irish families lost their lands and influence entirely. A way of life was gone.

Irish town torn asunder

Originally under the shadow of O’Driscolls Castle, Baltimore seaport was profitable in business. English settlers had been granted rights there. Many say that Coppinger of County Cork had designs on the town and its profits, and he may have had something to do with the tragic affair.

John Hacket the Traitor

It seems Hacket, a fisherman from Dungarvan, was captured by the pirates earlier and he gave up the town of Baltimore to the pirates, in exchange for his safety.

So, two ships with these pirates arrived to burn, rob, terrorize and take hostages. The bloody band included Algerians, Ottoman Turks and Dutchmen. Their captain was Dutch. They took around 107 hostages, only two of which are said to have ever returned.

Of those who survived, some may have descendants in foreign lands today, perhaps proven by a swab of DNA !

Justice Served

Several books have been written on the subject, and even a screenplay. The fate of the hostages was grim, with many serving as galley slaves, or in the harem of the Sultan. Justice was served to the traitor Hacket however. He was hung two years later, near the village he had destroyed. Many of the surviving townspeople relocated to the town of Skibbereen – which is noted for later tragedy, during the 19th century great famine in Cork. Song and story have recorded that misery as well.

Thomas Osborne Davis

The story is well told by Thomas Davis, and is one of my favorite recitations here at the hedge school. Here is an extract from that work based on the events in 1631. We take up with the fate of the hostages below:

“Oh, some must tug the galleys o’er, and some must tend the steed- This boy will bear a Sheiks Chibouk, and that a Bey’s jerreed.

“Oh, some are for the arsenals, by beautious Dardanelles; and some are in the caravan to Mecca’s sandy dells. The maid that Bandon gallant sought, is chosen for the Dey. She’s safe – he’s dead- she stabbed him in the midst of his serai; And, when to die a death of fire that noble maid they bore, She only smiled – O’Driscolls child, She thought of Baltimore ‘Tis two long years since sunk the town beneath that bloody band, and now amid its trampled hearths a larger concourse stand.

“Where, high upon a gallows tree, a yelling wretch is seen - ‘Tis Hacket of Dungarvan – He who steered the Algerine !

“He fell amid a sullen shout, with scarce a passing prayer For he had slain the kith and kin of many a hundred there- Some muttered of MacMurchaidh, who brought the Norman ‘oer.”

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