a Letter from Lady Kerry, wife of the Governor, to Pierse Ferriter
The letter writer, Lady Kerry, is Honora FitzGerald of Cloyne, wife of the county’s Governor, Patrick FitzMaurice, nineteenth Lord Kerry. Her tomb is to be found inside Ardfert Cathedral. The letter recipient is Pierse Ferriter, poet, privateer and rebel, member of a Hiberno-Norman family from the very west of the Dingle Peninsula where Ferriter appears in many place names. Pierse Ferriter is one of the great legendary-historical figures of Kerry; he fascinates Lady Kerry as a potential rebel albeit a member of the Old English community. She understood his dilemma: her own grandfather was James FitzMaurice FitzGerald, descendant of the principal Hiberno-Norman settlers in Kerry, who brought the Spaniards into Smerwick in 1579.
The insurrection, of which the siege is a part, was occasioned by the Ulster revolt of October 1641. The original of this letter was in the keeping of Sir Edward Denny (fourth Bart.) who donated it to the Victoria and Albert Museum in the nineteenth century. It was endorsed by Sir Edward’s ancestor Sir Thomas Denny as follows: “This letter I keep to shew the love that subsisted so many years ago between Lixnaw family and ours” (signed T. Denny). It carried a second endorsement from Sir Thomas’s sister-in-law, Lady Denny (Arabella FitzMaurice): “for curiosity sake I lay this letter by, ‘tis my great great-grandmother Kerry’s hand.”
Extract: “Honest Pierce and I hope I shall never have reason to call you otherwise, this very day is one come out of Kerry unto mee yt.by chance fell into the companie of Florence McFineen and the rest of that rebellious crue the very day that they robbed Haly: who tells me yt. You promised (as hee heard Florence say) to be with them the week s following, and to bring a piece of Ordinance wth. you from the Dingell and joyne with them to take the Castell of Traly but, and I hope in God it is far from your thoughts for you that have ever been observed to stand upon your reputation in smaller matters, I trust will not now be tainted with so fowle and offensive a crime to God and man, nor give your adversaries that cause of rejoicing and just way for them to avenge themselfes upon you nor us that are your friends that cause of discontent which would make us curse the day that ever wee saw you …”
The siege continued for many months and when the besieged were permitted to leave, they found refuge at Ballingarry Fort, on the Shannon, in the care of Col. David Crosbie of Ardfert. He protected them for about 100 days when the drawbridge was lowered by a traitor from inside and the Irish entered. There was no violation of the besieged, probably because Crosbie’s two nephews were among the leaders of the Irish. Some years later Crosbie surrendered Kinsale to the Cromwellians and became Cromwell’s Governor of Kerry.