Rory O'Moore

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Rory O'Moore (Irish: Ruairí Ó Mórdha) (c. 1600 – 16 February 1655), also spelled Roger O'Moore or O'More or Sir Roger Moore, was an Irish landowner of ancient lineage, and is most notable for being one of the four principal organizers of the Irish Rebellion of 1641.

Early life[edit]

O'Moore belonged to an ancient Irish noble family claiming descent from the mythical Conall Cernach. He was born in Laois[clarification needed] around 1600.

O'Moore's uncle Ruairí Óg Ó Mórdha, King of Laois, had fought against the English. In 1556 Queen Mary confiscated the O'Mores' lands and created "Queens County" (now County Laois). Over 180 family members, who were peaceful and had taken no part in any rebellion, were killed with virtually all of the leaders of Laois and Offaly by English forces at a feast at Mullaghmast, County Kildare in 1577, Rory Óg and his wife Maighréad O'Byrne, sister of Fiach MacHugh O'Byrne, were hunted down and killed soon afterwards. This led to the political downfall of the O'Moore family; their estates were given to English 'undertakers'.

O'Moore's father Callogh (alias Charles, Calvagh, or Callough) had been granted the Balyna estate in 1574 by Queen Elizabeth I.[1] Balyna is in County Kildare, not far from Enfield, County Meath. Sir Roger Moore, as he became known, inherited this as a minor on his father's death in 1618.

Leader of the Rebellion of 1641[edit]

Given the causes of the rebellion and the Crown's weakness during the Bishops' Wars into 1641, O'More planned a bloodless coup to change the English Protestant government in Ireland, which was opposed to the Catholic landed gentry and peasantry. With Connor Maguire, 2nd Baron of Enniskillen he planned to seize Dublin Castle, which was held by a small garrison, on 23 October 1641. Allies in Ulster led by Sir Phelim O'Neill would seize forts and towns there. The planners would then govern Ireland while remaining loyal to King Charles. Unfortunately for them, the plan was discovered on 22 October and the rising failed in its first objective.[2] O'Neill had some success, and O'More quickly succeeded in creating an alliance between the Ulster Gaelic clans and the Old English gentry in Leinster.

In November 1641 the Irish forces besieged Drogheda, and a royalist force came north from Dublin to oppose them. O'More and the Leinster forces intercepted it and defeated it at the Battle of Julianstown on 29 November.[3]

In the ensuing Irish Confederate Wars, Rory's main achievement was to recruit Owen Roe O'Neill from the Spanish service in 1642. He commanded the Confederate forces in what is now County Laois and County Offaly, which remained peaceful, and helped arrange alliances with Inchiquin in 1647 and Ormonde in 1648. The resulting larger royalist alliance failed to stop the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland (1649–53) in which an estimated third of the Irish population died.

The Irish nationalist historian Charles Gavan Duffy thought highly of Rory:

Then a private gentleman, with no resources beyond his intellect and his courage, this Rory, when Ireland was weakened by defeat and confiscation, and guarded with a jealous care constantly increasing in strictness and severity, conceived the vast design of rescuing the country from England, and even accomplished it; for, in three years, England did not retain a city in Ireland but Dublin and Drogheda, and for eight years the land was possessed and the supreme authority exercised by the Confederation created by O'Moore. History contains no stricter instance of the influence of an individual mind.[4]

Final years[edit]

Bishop Michael Comerford wrote that after O'More's defeat at the Battle of Kilrush in April 1642 he retired and died in Kilkenny city in the winter of 1642–43, having co-founded the Irish Catholic Confederation there a few months earlier.[5] However this ignores his contacts with Inchiquin and Ormonde in 1647–48. Others say that he fled to the island of Inishbofin, County Galway after Galway city fell in 1652. St Colman's Church on the island once bore a tablet with the inscription:

  • "In memory of many valiant Irishmen who were exiled to this Holy Island and in particular Rory O'More a brave chieftain of Leix, who after fighting for Faith and Fatherland, disguised as a fisherman escaped from his island to a place of safety. He died shortly afterwards, a martyr to his Religion and his County, about 1653. He was esteemed and loved by his countrymen, who celebrated his many deeds of valour and kindness in their songs and reverenced his memory, so that it was a common expression among them; "God and Our Lady be our help and Rory O'More".

Comerford quoted earlier historians who wrote that a similar watchword in Kildare was: "Our trust is in God and Our Lady, and Rory O’More".[6]


O'More married Jane, daughter of Sir Patrick Barnewall of Turvey, Donabate, County Dublin, and they had two sons and four daughters. Many historians believe he was the father of James Moore, Governor of the Province of Carolina and therefore an ancestor of American General Robert Howe, Major James Moore (Continental Army officer), Confederate Secession Governor of Louisiana Thomas Overton Moore and modern day billionaire Louis Moore Bacon.

The Balyna estate was inherited from Calvagh O'More by Rory's brother Lewis. Balyna was passed down to Lewis' last surviving O'More descendant, Letitia, who was also descended from Rory O'More because her grandfather married a second cousin. Letitia married a Richard Farrell in 1751: this Farrell family henceforth took the surname More O'Ferrall and lived at Balyna until they sold it in 1960; members of the More O'Farrell family also owned Kildangan stud at Monasterevin until 1990.[7][8] One was the 19th century Whig/Liberal Richard More O'Ferrall, MP for the Kildare division.

His daughter Anne, married Patrick Sarsfield from a Old English Catholic family from The Pale. His grandson Patrick Sarsfield, 1st Earl of Lucan is one of Ireland's heroes, who led a Jacobite force in the Williamite War in Ireland.

The Rory O'More Bridge in Dublin was named after him.

Descendants to the 4th generation
  • Melaghlin mac Owny mac Gilla Padraigh Ó Mórdha, died 1502.
    • Connell Ó Mórdha (died 1537)
      • Lysaght (d. 1541?)
      • Kedagh Roe (d. 1542)
        • Kedagh/James? fl. 1584?
      • Ruairí Caoch Ó Mórdha, fl. 1554.=Margaret Butler
        • Ruairí Óge, d. 1578. = ?
          • Uaithne (Owney), d. 1600.
        • Calvagh/Callagh of Ballina, d. 1618. = Margaret Scurloug
          • Ruairí Óg Ó Mórdha = Jane Barnewall
            • (issue)
          • Lysaght=Mary O'Reilly
            • Anthony O'Moore = Anne Hope
          • Margaret
            • (issue)
          • dau.
            • (issue)
      • Gilla Padraigh d. 1548.
      • Connell Óge, d. 1557.
    • Pierce/Peter an Tainiste, fl. 1537.


The film Rory O'More, made by the Kalem company in 1911, directed by Sidney Olcott, set O'More's rebellion in 1798 rather than the 17th century, and moved the action to the Lakes of Killarney.[9]

A planxty called Rory O'More is still popular.[10]



  •  Bagwell, Richard (1895). "O'More, Rory (fl.1620–1652)". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 42. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 176–178.

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