Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/O'Hurley, Dermot

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1429035Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 42 — O'Hurley, Dermot1895Robert Dunlop

O'HURLEY, DERMOT (1519?–1584), archbishop of Cashel, called in Irish Diarmait Ua Hurthuile, the son of William O'Hurley, by his wife, Honora O'Brien of the O'Briens of Thomond, was born about 1619. His father, a well-to-do farmer at Lycodoon in the parish of Knockea, near Limerick, also acted as agent for the Earl of Desmond. Being destined for a learned profession, he was sent, after receiving what education was possible for him in Ireland, to Louvain, where he took his degree with applause in the canon and civil law. Afterwards he appears to have gone to Paris, and about 1559 he was appointed professor of philosophy at Louvain. Subsequently he held the chair of canon law for four years at Rheims, where he acquired an unhappy notoriety for contracting debts. He then proceeded to Rome, where he became deeply engaged in the plans of the Irish exiles against Elizabeth's government. On 11 Sept. 1581 he was appointed by Gregory XIII to the see of Cashel, vacant since 1578 by the death of Maurice Fitzgibbon, and on 27 Nov. he received the pallium in full consistory. He was a mere layman at the time, and a contemporary congratulates him on the triple honour thus conferred on him: —

Quid dicam? vel quid mirer? nova culmina? mirer
Uno te passu tot saliisse gradus!
Una sacerdotem creat, una et episcopon bora,
Archiepiscopon et te facit bora simul.

In the following summer he set out from Rome to take possession of his diocese, proceeding by way of Rheims, where he discharged his debts 'recte et gratiose,' and where he was in August detained for a time by a severe illness. He embarked at Cherbourg, and landed at Skerries, a little to the north of Dublin, about the beginning of September. His baggage and papers he had sent by another vessel, which was captured by pirates, and in this way government was apprised of his intentions, and caused a sharp outlook to be kept for him at the principal ports. Disguising himself, and attended by only one companion. Father John Dillon, he made his way to Waterford; but being recognised there by a government agent, he retraced his steps to Slane Castle, where he lay for some time concealed in a secret chamber. Becoming more confident, he appeared at the public table, where his conversation aroused the suspicions of the chancellor. Sir Robert Dillon. Finding himself suspected, he proceeded by a circuitous route to Carrick-on-Suir, where, with Ormonde's help, he was shortly afterwards, about the beginning of October, captured. He was taken to Dublin, and committed to prison. Being brought before the lords-justices Archbishop Loft us and Sir Henry Wallop for examination, little of importance was elicited from him, though he admitted that he was 'one of the House of Inciuisition,' and his papers revealed his correspondence with the Earl of Desmond and viscount Baltinglas. Walsingham recommended the use of 'torture, or any other severe manner of proceeding to gain his knowledge of all foreign practices against her majesty's state;' but the lords justices, especially Loftus, were loth, out of respect for his position and learning, to resort to such extreme measures, and, on the ground that they had neither rack nor other instrument of terror, advised that he should be sent to London. Walsingham, however, impressed with the dangerous nature of his mission, suggested toasting his feet against the fire with hot boots, and a commission having been made out to Waterhouse and Fenton for that purpose, O'Hurley was subjected to the most excruciating torture, He bore the ordeal with extraordinary patience and heroism, and was taken back to 'prison more dead than alive. Torture having failed, and government being advised that ' an indictment for treason committed abroad would not lie, and fearing to run the risk of a trial by jury, O'Hurley, after nine months' imprisonment, was condemned by martial law. The warrant for his execution was signed by Loft us and Wallop on 20 June 1584, and next day, very early in the morning, he was executed, being hanged for greater ignominy with a withen rope, at a lonely spot in the outskirts of the city, probably near where the Catholic University Church now stands in St. Stephen's Green. His remains were interred at the place of execution, but were privately removed by William Fitzsimon, a citizen of Dublin, who placed them in a wooden urn, and deposited them in the church of St. Kevin. His grave became famous among the faithful for several miracles reputed to have taken place there.

According to Stanihurst (Descript. of Ireland, ch. vii.), one Derby Hurley, 'a civilian and philosopher,' wrote 'In Aristotelis Physica.'

[Rothe's Analects Sacra nova et mira de rebus Catholicorum in Hibernia, ed. Moran, Dublin, 1884, contains nearly all that is known about him. Rothe's account has been translated, with additions and notes, by Myles O'Reilly in Memorials of those who suffered for the Catholic Faith in Ireland, London, 1868, pp. 55–84. A short devotional life by Dean Kinane was published at Dublin in 1893. In R. Verstegan's Theatrum Crudelitatum Hereticorum nostri temporis there is a sketch of O'Hurley undergoing torture and of his death by hanging. Bruodinus (Catalogue Martyrum Hibernorum. p. 447) adds other tortures besides 'the boot,' for which there is no good authority. Other references are: Records of the English Catholics, vol. ii., containing Letters and Memorials of Cardinal Allen, pp. 151. 155, 156, 162; Cardinal Moran's Spicilegium Ossoriense, i. 80; Brady's Episcopal Succession, ii. 10–22; O'Sullevan Beare's Historiæ Iberniæ Compendium, tom. 2, lib. iv. ch. xix, translated in Renehan's Collections, p. 253; Irish Ecclesiastical Record, i. 475; Bagwell's Ireland under the Tudors, iii. 116.]

R. D.