Heritage Talk – The Pass Of The Plumes

Marking the 425th Anniversary

On the 17th of May in the year 1599, a significant confrontation unfolded at what is now known as the Pass of the Plumes. This clash, known as the Battle of the Pass of the Plumes, arose amidst the tumultuous backdrop of Maryborough’s besieged Fort and the strategic maneuvers of notable figures such as Owny MacRory O’More and the Earl of Essex.

The Fort of Maryborough had endured a prolonged siege by native Irish forces, led by Owny MacRory O’More, until relief came at the hands of the Earl of Ormond. However, the arrival of the Earl of Essex in Ireland in April 1599 altered the dynamics of the conflict. Tasked with commanding Queen Elizabeth’s forces, Essex embarked on a campaign aimed at subduing the Munster Geraldines, with plans to reinforce the beleaguered garrison at Maryborough along the way.

Essex’s expedition led his forces through the heart of Leinster, seizing Athy before setting his sights on Maryborough via Stradbally. Along this route, they traversed the rugged terrain of Blackford Pass, where O’More and his forces lay in wait. Sensing the approach of Essex’s men, O’More tactically withdrew, closely monitoring their movements.

Ancient style depiction of Owny MacRory O'More
Owny MacRory O’More

Upon reaching Stradbally on the 15th of May, Essex successfully reinforced the garrison at Maryborough before returning to his encampment near Croshy Duff hill, situated close to Lamberton Demesne. Meanwhile, O’More and his men secured advantageous positions on the surrounding hills, concealed within dense woodland, preparing for the impending confrontation.

The fateful 17th of May saw Essex’s forces en route to Kilkenny, opting to march through the Pass of Cashel. Bedecked in their distinctive helmets adorned with colorful plumes, they found themselves ambushed by O’More’s forces. The ensuing battle raged for two hours, resulting in significant casualties among Essex’s ranks, with conflicting accounts of the toll taken. Essex’s chronicler, John Harrington, reported the loss of two officers and a handful of soldiers, while the Irish chronicler, O’Sullivan-Beare, claimed a far greater toll of 500 soldiers.

Owny MacRory O’More’s men await the Earl of Essex

The aftermath of the battle left an indelible mark on the landscape. The Pass of Cashel earned the moniker “Bearna na gCleiti” or the Pass of the Plumes, owing to the abandoned English helmets strewn across the battlefield. Nearby, the site of Ned Duff’s old house is said to hold the memory of the conflict, with tales of human remains unearthed during its construction.

In 1999, on the 400th anniversary of the Battle of the Pass of the Plumes, a monument was erected in remembrance. Located in the vicinity of Cashel Cross, it stands as a testament to the valor and sacrifice of those who fought in this pivotal moment in history.


Jun 02 2024


3:30 pm - 4:30 pm


Free Event
Timahoe Heritage Centre


Timahoe Heritage Centre
Timahoe, Co. Laois

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