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. The Life and Times of Art O Laoghaire. Start
3. The many Myths associated with the events.
These then are the bald facts. Way beyond these facts has arisen a wealth of Mythology about the details of the events. It is not proposed to go into these in any detail, but they are of great interest, and reveal the way that such Mythology is built up. There is a possibility that much of the Mythology is built up based on real fact, albeit somewhat glossed over the years of story telling.
Thus we learn that Art rode his horse to victory in a race on Dunisky Racecourse, beating Morris' horse, and thus provoking the demand for a sale at £5 by the thwarted loser. Another version is that Art, on his horse, took the brush at a meet of the Muskerry Hounds, with the same result.
It can clearly be read, between the lines, that Art was a show off. At these times when Catholics were forced to keep a low profile in order to survive, he was to be seen regularly in public, wearing a red military tunic, and a silver pommelled sword, and prancing around on a beautiful horse to the envy of the local squirearchy.
It is also probable that Morris was typical of his kind of Landlord at that time. Of low breeding, descended from a Cromwellian soldier, and elevated by circumstances to a position he was obviously not fit for.
4. The burial of Art.
Curiously, Art's body received three burials. Initially he was buried by Eibhlin in the Old Cemetery of Kilnamartra (Tuath na Dromann), ie. near to Dundareirke Castle. It was however the family wish that he be buried in Kilcrea Friary, although there is no evidence of this being in any sense the traditional family grave. At that time, burial in monastic ground was forbidden, so his body was removed to a temporary home in the field adjacent to the Friary. Then finally, when the Penal Laws had become non-effective, his final interment in Kilcrea Friary took place.
The stone over his tomb states "Lo Arthur Leary, Generous, Handsome, Brave, Slain in his bloom, Lies in this humble grave. Died May 4th.1773. Aged 26 years."
This part of the memorial can be seen to this day.
In 1949 John T.Collins reported seeing a further addition to this inscription, which was said to have been added by his grandson, GRP O'Leary.
"Having served the Empress Marie Therese as Captain of Hungarian Hussars, he returned home to be outlawed and treacherously shot by order of the British Government, his sole crime being that he refused to part with a favourite horse for the sum of five pounds." Mr.Collins adds "It is more than likely that the part indicting the British Government was not inserted until the penal laws had become a dim memory."
He also noted that the tomb at that time indicated that Art's son, Cornelius, and his grandson, GRP O'Leary, were also interred herein.
Morris may have had his revenge, but that was not the end of the story.
A Coroners Inquest held on May 17th. produced a verdict that Abraham Morris and the party of soldiers were guilty of the wilful and wanton Murder of Arthur O Laoire.
Art's brother Cornelius decided to revenge his dead brother.
He rode into Cork City on the 7th.July and up to Mr.Boyce's house in Hammonds Lane where Morris was lodging. He saw Morris at a window and fired three shots at him, wounding him. The shots were not fatal, but Morris only survived for two more years, dying in September 1775, believed to have been as a direct result of the wounding.
Cornelius meanwhile had taken passage to France, and from there to America, where he had a distinguished career.
The Magistrates were enraged by this attack. A Proclamation was issued on 26th.July against the Perpetrator, and large sums offered as a reward for bringing him to justice. But there were no acceptances. The bird had flown.
At a meeting of the Muskerry Constitutional Society held in Macroom on 2nd.August, further support for Morris was shown, and further rewards offered for the capture of Cornelius, but without avail.
On the 4th.September Morris submitted himself to trial by the local Magistrates. The O'Leary relatives were not represented, and the party of soldiers involved had conveniently been sent to the East India Colonies. The Cork Evening Post of 6th.September reported "Last Saturday September 4th. at Cork Abraham Morris was tried for the killing of Arthur O'Leary where he was honourably acquitted".
6. The Caoineadh. Eibhlin Dubh ni Chonnail.
The story of Art O Laoire would probably have been forgotten long ago, but for the Caoineadh which was composed over his body at the Wake, by Eibhlin Dubh. Keening the dead, was an old tradition, and the Keen itself followed a well established pattern. This was an oral tradition, but in many cases, as happened here, the Keen became retold by Seanachies and others over the subsequent years. Whether it was improved on as time passed, we have no means of knowing, but the version which was finally put to print and became part of our culture, is regarded as a master piece of its genre, has been translated many times, and is largely responsible for the continuation of the legend of Art O Laoire.
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