Around O’Leary country and Macroom they remember Franciscan priest, and later bishop, Boetius MacEgan, who played a significant part in the wars of the late 1640s. Cromwell was approaching the pinnacle of his power in England at the time, and had come over to Ireland. The Pope’s Nuncio and Archbishop of Fermo, Rinuccini, arrived in Ireland in 1645, landing near Kenmare. The Nuncio’s aim was to stiffen the Irish against any compromise. The compromisers consisted in general of the Old English Catholics, usually the gentry and nobility, whose forum was the Confederation of Kilkenny. The Nuncio denounced their truce with Ormond in 1646 and that with Inchiquin (when Inchiquin changed sides to the King) in 1648.
Boetius MacEgan was the Nuncio’s right hand man, as well as the chaplain to Eoghan O’Neill’s ulster army. In 1648 he was appointed Bishop of Ross, the diocese around Skibbereen. But the Nuncio departed the country when he failed to unite the Irish. In 1650 MacEgan helped Roche raise a force in Kerry to bring to the aid of Clomnel, which was being besieged by Cromwell. Cromwell sent Lord Broghill (Roger Boyle) to intercept it.
Broghill was the son of Sir Richard Boyle, first Earl of Cork. Boyle had bought the estates of Sir Walter Raleigh in Cork and Waterford, and accumulated so much other landed wealth in Munster that the province became almost a personal fiefdom. Some of it was monastic land. He drew the attention of King Charles’s Irish deputy, Lord Wentworth, who looked into Irish titles and tried to bring Boyle to account. Broghill would become associated with Bandon, one of the towns developed by his father, and with Charleville, which was Broghill’s own town and where his manison was situated.
It was the month of May when Broghill confronted the Irish at Macroom. He inflicted a heavy defeat on them. A day or so later Bishop Boetius MacEgan was hanged – allegedly by the reins of his own horse – at the castle of Carrigadrohid, a few miles east of Macroom. Cromwell left the siege of Clomnel and departed for England ten days or so after Boetius MacEgan’s execution. Munster was left in the hands of Broghill, Hardress Waller, General Ireton and the regicide, Edmund Ludlow. General Ludlow would take over from Ireton when Ireton died at the siege of Limerick in 1651.