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Page 16 of 32
The Seaman's Tale

(This is the second of three successive numbers telling the story of Red Hugh O'Donnell's successful defence, in 1597, of the Castle of Ballyshannon against an army led by Sir Conyers Clifford, English appointed Governor of Connacht. The 400th anniversary of the siege occurs next year, in 1997.)
Inis Saimer. August 1, 1597. Sling and tackle. Sling and tackle. Tote that barrel. Lift that bale. An ungodly spot to land cannon. An ungodly day to do it, too. The Sabbath. No good can come of it.

All the way from Galway Bay. Three days' haul. And now this. An island. An islet more likely.

"Put them ashore."

"No. Put them on the island."

"Makes no sense!"

"Sense? Orders say the island."

Orders. In code yet. Whoever drew them up was a fool.

"Let me see them."

"See. An arrow pointing to a dog's head. That's Inis Saimer."

"Still makes no sense!"

I told them so. But would they listen? Not on your nonny, with a heave and a ho, and "Orders is orders".

Big bronze cannon. Heavy brutes. Never reach the castle from here, though. Barrels of powder. Cannon balls and slingshot. Shocking stuff. Cut a man to ribbons. Never know what hit him.

And provisions. Hard tack and biscuit. Hay for the horses. Hay from Connemara! Whoever heard the like? If there's no hay to eat here, why bring horses? There must be enough fodder here. Looks green enough to me. I know! "Orders is orders." Mine not to reason why.

A bang. And a splash! What was that? They're firing at us from the castle. But the shot fell short. They're up there. We're down here. If they can't reach us, firing down, how the hell are we to reach them, firing up? Makes no sense. Told them so.

"On the Sunday on which they (Clifford's army) were in the monastery (Assaroe) the ships arrived which were promised to be sent after them from Galway, with ordnance and great guns, and other stores for their support whilst they should remain in this strange territory. This fleet put in at Inis-Saimer, close to Assaroe, and landed their stores on the island, leaving a sufficient number to guard them."
     (Annals of the Four Masters).
Assaroe. August 2, 1597. "I bear orders from the Governor. Get those cannons quick ashore."

I told them! Made no sense to put them here.

Now it's "Heave, boys, heave." Block and tackle. Block and tackle. Tote that barrel. Lift that bale. Load at Galway, unload at Saimer. Reload at Saimer, unload at Assaroe. Keep this up and I'll have a hernia. Damn fools! Damn orders! Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn!"

"On Monday the ordnance was landed and placed against the castle of Ballyshannon. The troops were then removed from the monastery to Mullach-Sithe-Aedha opposite the fortress, and about the ordnance."
     (Annals of the Four Masters).

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