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The Red Hugh of Irish Eyes in Ireland | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother

The Red Hugh of Irish Eyes in Ireland

[Donegal Castle. County Donegal, Ireland] (LOC)photo © 1890 The Library of Congress | more info (via: Wylio)
Last of the Irish chieftains to stand against the Brits, Red Hugh O’Donnell is an unsung hero, unknown to most Americans.

He’s prime material for an action adventure epic, which Hollywood has yet to make.

Son of Hugh Roe and Inghe Dub O’Donnell of Donegal County, Red Hugh was captured by the British when he was only 14 years old and was thrown into the prison tower of Dublin Castle. The Brits thought if they grabbed O’Donnell’s son, they could suppress rebellion. Inghe was desperate to save her son. She paid a ransom equivalent to 300,000 pounds and offered the Brits a prisoner exchange: 25 Spanish survivors of the Spanish Armada. The Brits accepted her offer, took her money and then took the Spaniards prisoner, beheading them. Then the Brits reneged and still kept Red Hugh.

The prison tower was not a country club prison but a place where men’s minds and bodies were broken. But not Red Hugh’s.  It was Christmas night, 1591, when the 20-year-old Red Hugh escaped with two young friends. They had to flee by foot across Ireland, for Donegal was in the northwestern corner of the Isle. Subjected to snowstorms and bitter cold, one of Red Hugh’s friends died from exposure during the escape. Red Hugh survived, but had to have his big toes amputated because of frostbite.

The next year, Red Hugh assumed the role of chieftain of the O’Donnell clan and fighting forces. His years of imprisonment trained him well to fight hard against the Brits. If you would like to read more about Red Hugh, Bethlehem Books sells a biography about him. (I sell Bethlehem Books on a fee basis –  no commission).

What does this have to do with St. Patrick’s Day and me? Twenty-four years ago on St. Patrick’s Day, I ventured through Donegal and Donegal Castle. My family tree includes O’Donnell’s. John O’Donnell, a one-legged sailor, fled to America after the O’Donnells suffered a final defeat at the hands of the British.

Mixing an Irish O’Donnell with a Scottish Wallace in my family tree means no two days are ever the same and I very much value freedom.

Not a bad legacy.

Erin Go Bragh!


Wow. It's Quiet Here...

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