Rory O'Moore

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Rory O'Moore (Irish: Ruairí Ó Mórdha) (c, 1600 – 16 February 1655), also spelt as or 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.


He belonged to an ancient Irish noble family claiming descent from the mythical Conall Cernach. He was born in Laois[clarification needed] around 1600, but the exact date is unknown.

His 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). After having over 180 family members killed by English forces at a feast at Mullaghmast, County Kildare in 1577, in an effort to pacify the native Septs of Laois, Rory Oge became an enemy of Queen Elizabeth I of England. It led to the political downfall of the O'Moore family and reduced their estates.

His father Callogh (alias Charles, Calvagh, or Callough) remained loyal to the crown and 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. More than likely he was born there as well.

Leader of the Rebellion of 1641[edit]

Main article: Confederate Ireland

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 government in Ireland that had been opposed to the Catholic landed gentry. 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 in their own interests while remaining distantly 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 more pacific Old English gentry in Leinster.

In November 1641 the rebel forces besieged Drogheda, and a royalist force was sent north from Dublin to raise the siege. O'More and the Leinster rebels intercepted this relief force 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 about a 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]

Comerford said that after his 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 think 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 is was common expression among them; "God and Our Lady be our help and Rory O'More".

Comerford quoted earlier historians 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 2 sons and 4 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. (She 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 Monasterevan until 1990.[7][8] One was the 1800s Whig/Liberal Richard More O'Ferrall, MP for the Kildare division.

His great-nephew, Patrick Sarsfield, 1st Earl of Lucan led a Jacobite force in the Williamite War in Ireland. He is also an ancestor of Princess Diana.[9]

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

Family tree[edit]

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


A short film entitled Rory O'More was made by the Kalem company in 1911. Sidney Olcott directed. It sets O'More's rebellion in 1798 rather than the 17th century and moves the action to the Lakes of Killarney.[10]



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