Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/33

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Birthplace—Childhood and Youth—Early Apprenticeship—Sojourn in England—Enlists in "The Prince of Wales' Own "—Conspiracy, Detection, and Arrest—"The Old School Clock."

DROGHEDA is a town with a history, and, as it is an Irish town, the history is mainly a tragedy. Tradition says that it was the landing place of the Milesians, the last and greatest of the early invaders of Ireland. A more enduring glory attaches to it as the place where St. Patrick landed when he came down from the North country to brave the power of the Druids, at the royal seat of Tara. Its name, "Drochead-atha," signifies the Bridge of the Ford, or, as it was Latinized, "Urbs Pontana." Danes and Normans successively conquered and occupied the old town. It lies on both sides of the river Boyne, about four miles from its mouth, and two and one-half miles from Old-Bridge, the scene of the famous battle between the forces of King James and those of William of Orange.

Forty years before that disastrous fight, Drogheda had suffered at the hands of a conqueror more ruthless than Dane or Norman. In 1649 the English nation kept public fast to invoke God's blessing upon Cromwell's forces, "Against the Papists and others, the enemies of the Parliament of England in Ireland." The Protector came with the Bible in one hand and the sword in the other, not, as a Mohammed, to offer the choice of religion or death, but in the name of the one to inflict the other. He laid siege to the town on September 2. At five o'clock on the afternoon