Walter Raleigh: a reprehensible snob and killer?


‘…in Ireland he was a reprehensible snob and killer.’ Such is Michael Twomey’s blunt assessment of Walter Raleigh published in History Ireland in 2014. He might have added that Raleigh was also a racist – he simply detested the native Irish. Twomey bolsters his assessment with a litany of incompetence and brutality committed by Raleigh during his time in Ireland, with the damning conclusion that Raleigh added nothing to Youghal’s infrastructure and very little to its economy.‘ Indeed, this isn’t just Michael Twomey’s assessment – when Richard Boyle bought Walter Raleigh’s vast estate of 40,000 acres he was appalled by the sheer incompetence of Raleigh’s estate management – thousands of perfectly good oak trees had been felled on the banks of the river Bride, and then left there to rot! No wonder Raleigh was nearly bankrupt, thought Boyle, for he was simply wasting his resources. And to think that a part of the town of Youghal has been named…The Raleigh Quarter!
Walter Raleigh, then about 26 years of age, came to Ireland in July 1580 and got stuck into the atrociously brutal suppression of the second Desmond Rebellion (1579-1583). Two key figures in the rebellion were James FitzMaurice and his son-in-law, John Fitzedmund FitzGerald, the seventh Seneschal of Imokilly. One of Raleigh’s allies was John FitzEdmund FitzGerald, the Dean of Cloyne, who, despite being a convinced Catholic remained totally loyal to Elizabeth I throughout the two Desmond rebellions.
Read noted local historian, Tony Harpur’s full article inside this week’s Midleton & District News.