[Count] Redmond O’Hanlon (?-1681)


Life
b. Poyntzpass; operated successfully as a highwayman who for 10 years in Armagh, Down and Tyrone; orig. a footboy to Sir George Acheson, Markethill, he joined kinsman Loughlin O’Hanlon, an Irish tory; imprisoned for stealing horses; bribed his way out of Armagh jail; attempted betrayal by Franciscan Edmund Murphy, using Cormack Raver O’Murphy; kills Henry St John, grandson of former lord deputy; proclaimed himself ‘Chief Ranger of the Mountains, Surveyor-General of the High Roads, Lord Examiner of all Travellers, and High Protector of his Benefactors and Contributors’; William Lucas authorised to hunt him outside the law;
 
O’Hanlon shot dead by Art O’Hanlon, his foster brother, at Eight Mile Bridge, nr. Hilltown; popular biog. of 1681. lost estates in the Cromwellian settlement; became leader of tories in Ulster, c.1670; levied contributions under arms in counties Armagh, Tyrone and Down; a reward of £200 was posted after many fruitless attempts at capture; held out near Eight-Mile-Bridge, Co Down, till treacherously shot to death with a blunderbss while sleeping by his foster-brother Arthur O’Hanlon, under Ormonde’s commission, April 1681;
 
his spiked head was shown over Downpatrick Jail; bur. nr. Tanderagee, Co. Armagh; left many traditions in Slieve Gullion; object of Count O’Hanlon, The Irish Rapparee, (1862), a novel by William Carleton loosely based on his career, and a celebrated poem by Francis Carlin (“The Ballad of Douglas Bridge”). ODNB DIB

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Criticism
  • Count O’Hanlan’s Downfall, a true account of the killing of that arch traytor and Tory Redmond o Hanlan, by Art o Hanlan [... &c]. (Dublin: W. Winter Dublin 1681), 4o.;
  • The Life and Death of the ... Tory Redmond o Hanlon commonly called Count O’Hanlyn in a letter to Mr Robert A in Dublin ([Dublin] 1682), 23pp., 4o;
  • The Surprising Life and Adventures of the Gentleman robber Redmond O’Hanlon &c (Glasgow [1840]), 24pp.;
  • William Carleton, Redmond Count O’Hanlon: The Irish Rapparee [1860] (Dublin: James Duffy 1862; rep. Duffy 1886);
  • J. Cosgrave, Lives and Actions of the Most Notorious Irish Highwaymen, Tories and Rapparees; from Redmond O’Hanlon to Cahier Na Gappul, to which is added The Goldfinger, or the History of Manus Maconiel (Dublin: for the Booksellers [n.d.]; 9th edn. Belfast 1777).
 
See also:
  • Terence O’Hanlon, The Highwayman in Irish History (Dublin: M. H. Gill 1932), viii+185pp.;
  • Dáithí Ó hÓgain, The Hero in Irish Folk History (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1985), p.181-85 [extract]
 
Note that a tale of Redmond O’Hanlon is told in Sean O’Sullivan, Legends of Ireland (London: Batsford 1977), [No.79] narrating the capture of O’Hanlon by a clever little boy to the enrichment of his farmer-family (pp.136-38). O’Sullivan cites Terence O’Hanlon, op. cit., and J.R.S.A.I, IV (1867), pp.57-68.

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Commentary
Patrick Kennedy, Modern Irish Anecdotes (n.d.), gives an account of O’Hanlon under the chapter headings ‘Redmond O’Hanlon and the Pedlar’, ‘How Redmond Despoiled the Soldiers’, and ‘Redmond Meets His Match’ (pp.21-25).

D. J. O’Donoghue, in Sir Walter Scott’s Tour of Ireland in 1825, Now First Fully Described (Dublin: O’Donoghue & Gill 1905), documents the circumstance of Scott’s hearing the stories of the Irish outlaw Redmond O’Hanlon, and seeking material for a novel about him, but finding the information available too scanty; and William Carleton’s later attempt to make the legendary rapparee a character in a novel, ‘Carleton did eventually write a novel, called Count Redmond O’Hanlon, the Irish Rapparee, but it does not really treat of the historical personage of that name, the hero being a creature of his own imagination.’ (10-11).

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Benedict Kiely, The Poor Scholar (1947) gives an account of the background of Carleton’s novel drawing on a chapbook by J. Cosgrave entitled The Lives and Actions of the Most Notorious Irish Highwayman &c.’ (Kiely, p.178; see Niall Ó Cosáin, infra).

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Alice Curtayne, The Irish Story: A Survey of Irish History and Culture (Dublin: Clonmore & Reynolds 1962): ‘[...] many of the Rapparees were romantic figures, idolized by the populace. Count Redmond O’Hanlon is a typical example. His father had once owned considerable estates in Armagh. Redmond was educated in England and had received his military training in France. He returned with excellent manners and was a fluent French, Irish and English speaker. Dashing and debonair, it was said that in the matter of presence, only the Viceroy’s son could rival him. O’Hanlon was also a born mimic. He could impersonate an English captain, a merchant, a French traveller, or an Irish farmer. He had chests full of different disguises, and often joined the King’s soldiers in their man-hunts for himself, thoroughly enjoying the discussion of his character which usually enlivened such expeditions. He was a dead shot and recklessly brave. His exploits were legendary even in his own day, and Armagh rang with accounts of his hairbreadth escapes and his dare-devil subterfuges to avoid capture.’ [Cont.]

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Alice Curtayne, The Irish Story: A Survey of Irish History and Culture, 1962) - cont.: ‘He brought the organization of the Rapparees to a high degree of [112] efficiency by dividing his fifty followers into brigades, one for each district. Families desiring immunity on the roads paid him a tax of 2s. 6d. a year. O’Hanlon never molested the poor but often helped them generously. He also tried to clear from the ranks of his followers unworthy members. On one occasion he handed over to the nearest sheriff a bandit who did not belong to his company, with an order to the sheriff for the robber’s prosecution, because he had been robbing people in O’Hanlon’s name!’ [Cont.]

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Alice Curtayne, The Irish Story: A Survey of Irish History and Culture, 1962) - cont.: ‘Not all the Rapparees could boast of the same romantic and generous temperament. Deserters from the English militia and escaped prisoners were attracted to the life [...] Even if the principle of liberty cannot be found expressed in any writenn document of the period, it was out there in the hills. By their very lives, this defeated remnant said “No surrender”. Their activity is like a thread of light in a long, dark tunnel. Evern the revolutionaries of the twentither century did not distain to study the methods of the Raparees.’ (pp.112-13; further quotes “The Ballad of Douglas Bridge” by Francis Carlin, q.v., infra.)

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James Cahalan, Great Hatred, Little Room, The Irish Historical Novel (Syracuse UP/Gill & Macmillan 1983: Carleton celebrates the rapparees of the older period in a way that he could not celebrate the ribbonmen of his own, ‘The three great principles of their lawless existence were such as would reflect honour upon the most refined associations, and the most intellectual institutions of modern civilisation. These were, first, sobriety; secondly, a resolution to avoid the shedding of human blood; and, thirdly, a solemn promise never to insult or offer outrage to woman, but in every instance to protect her.’ (Count Redmond O’Hanlon, Duffy, 1886 [edn.], pp.84-85; Cahalan, pp.83-84.)

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Dáithí Ó hÓgain, The Hero in Irish Folk History (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1985), espec. p.181-85: ‘A great deal of lore surrounds this Redmond O’Hanlon, and many accounts of him have been written. He led a band of about fifty outlaws, and their activities were arranged by him with great precision and discipline. Their principal source of income was a “black rent” or protection money which allowed safe passage to merchants, settlers, and other well-to-do people. Redmond enjoyed a reputation of scrupulous “honesty” in adhering to the terms of such arrangements, and in the popular mind his role was seen as that of the noble bandit. He proclaimed himself “Chief Ranger of the Mountains, Surveyor-General of the High Roads, Lord-Examiner of all Travellers, and High Protector of his Benefactors and Contributors”. Repeated attempts to capture him and to offset his effectiveness proved a failure, and his reputation became so great that he was referred to in French newspapers as a Count.’ (p.182; for longer extract, see attached.)

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Niall Ó Cosáin, ‘Highwaymen, Tories, and Rapparees’, in History Ireland, 1, 3 (Autumn 1993), rep. title-page of J. Cosgrave, Lives and Actions of the Most Notorious I rish Highwaymen, Tories and Rapparees; from Redmond O’Hanlon to Cahier Na Gappul, to which is added The Goldfinger, or the History of Manus Maconiel (Dublin: for the Booksellers [n.d.]). Further cites C. G. Duffy’s ballad“The Rapparees” [‘Now Sassenach and Cromweller, take heed what I say / Keep down our black and angry looks that scorn us night and day / For there’s a just and wrathful judge that every action sees / And he’ll make strong to right our wrong, the faithful Rapparees’.

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References
Dictionary of National Biography
: ?-1681; Irish outlaw; lost estates in civil war, leader of tories in Ulster, c.1670; levying contributions in Armagh, Tyrone, and Down [DIB: ‘kept these counties under tribute’]; left many traditions in Slieve Gullion; after fruitless attempts at capture a reward of £200 posted; held out near Eight-Mile-Bridge, Co Down, till treacherously shot by his foster-brother Arthur O’Hanlon, under Ormonde’s commission; head spiked over Downpatrick Jail.

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Notes
Edmund Murphy: Jonathan Bardon (History of Ulster, Belfast: Blackstaff Press 1992), refers to judicial murder of Lawrence O’Toole at Tyburn 1681 on evidence trumped up by Edmund Murphy (Bardon, pp.144-45).

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