The picturesque valley of Glemmalure, nestled in the ruggedWicklow mountains was the scene of one of Ireland’s proudestmoments when rebellious forces under the command of JamesEustace, Third Viscount Baltinglass, defeated Queen Elizabeth’stroops in 1580.


The families of the Earls of Desmond and of Ormand had, betweenthem, owned a quarter of Ireland and in the southwest and forgenerations, they had fought between themselves. However, in thelate 1560's, they united to fight off the colonists being imposedby Elizabeth I and her English government. The campaign endedwith the wounding of Desmond, who was handed over to the Englishby Ormand at the price of his own safety. After languishing inprison in England for seven years, Desmond was transferred toDublin. He escaped, and with the support of his people inMunster, lived for some years in peace. Then an expeditionsponsored by the pope and led by an Irishman landed in Munster.Desmond tried to avoid becoming involved, but was declared"traitor" by the English government. He joined therebels in the sacking of Youghal. Reinforcement of the Englisharmy and the absence of further help from papal sources resultedin the steady loss of Desmond strongholds. He became a fugitivein his own domain.

Three years later the English suddenly left Desmond alone. Theywere under new threat as a rebel force raised by James Eustace,Viscount Baltinglass, was burning villages around Dublin. Eustacehad inherited his title and estates in 1560 and had recentlyreturned from Rome with a crusading zeal to re-establish . theCatholic Church in Ireland. A big part of his force was drawnfrom the clansmen in the Wicklow hills. Eustace was expectingDesmond to join forces with him, but did not realize that Desmondwas by this time a fugitive.

Elizabeth sent a new general, Grey of Wilton, who landed atDublin in August, 1580, witha new but inexperienced army. Therewas talk of a Spanish invasion in the southwest, but Grey wouldnot march south with the threat to his flank and rear of Eustaceand his clansmen. He decided on a course, bold if successful butfoolhardy if not, of striking into the Wicklows and dealing withthe threat.
His every move was watched by the clansmen and reported toEustace who was at his home-in Ballymore. By riding through thenight he reached his troops shadowing the English army. WithO'Byrne, his chief ally, he positioned his crossbowmen andarquibusiers along the heights above the wooded Glenmalure. Greyadvanced via Naas and Lugnaquilla and entered Glenmalure fromabove. The English troops in scarlet and blue doublets with whitehose made easy targets for the ambushers, who poured a deadlyfire down upon them. Even downhill, arms and armour sapped thestrength of the marching army and when they tried to mount thesides of the glen to dislodge their attackers, they arrived atthe top so exhausted they they were easy prey for the clansmen.They were cut to pieces. It was the worse defeat that the Englishhad suffered in Ireland. Extricating his forces as best he could,Grey had to reinforce his army and march, regardless, to the westcoast where Catholic forces, mainly Basques and Italians, hadlanded and seized Smerwick. The invaders were besieged andcapitulated in three days. Some six hundred were put to thesword.

Eustace and his clans continued a guerilla fight from the hillsuntil the following year, but he and his two surviving brotherswere forced to escape into Ulster and thence to Scotland andFra.nce. The other Eustace men that were captured were all hangedand their heads sent to Dublin. In spite of his victory atGlenmalure, James Eustace's bid to free Ireland from theProtestants had failed through lack of support. His title andlands were forfeited under attainder and remain so to this day.He died three years later in exile.

(Details of this account have been taken from TheTwilight_._Lords, by Richard Berleeth.)