Around Camross, the decades that followed the march of the O’Neills and the O’Donnells were relatively quiet. The area was still heavily forested and was barely populated but as John Feehan points out ‘castles and fortified farms began to appear in a still wild and uncertain landscape’. However, this relatively peaceful period was not to last long, as was often the case in early modern Ireland. The situation in the three kingdoms was deteriorating rapidly. In England, the parliament was at loggerheads with King Charles I. They looked upon his marriage to a French Catholic with suspicion and they were opposed to his belief in the divine right of kings and the royal prerogative. There was a crisis in Scotland where a war was raging over the rights of the Crown to interfere with the Church of Scotland. And in Ireland the condition of the remaining landed Catholic gentry was deteriorating under Lord Deputy Thomas Wentworth’s rule.
A failed attempt was made to seize control of the government in Dublin which led to a widespread rebellion in 1641 throughout the island. The loyalty to the Crown shown by previous generations of the Barons of Upper Ossory was not shared by the Fitzpatricks of the early 1640s. They were strident opponents to English rule and one of the most prominent rebel leaders in Laois during the rebellion was Florence Fitzpatrick of Castletown, heir to John Fitzpatick. His deeds and the deeds of the rebels that he commanded are described in graphic detail in the 1641 Depositions collection currently housed in Trinity College Dublin.
But before we look at these depositions, it is very important to look at the context within which the depositions were taken. As the violence in 1641 escalated, English and Scottish settlers fled to the Pale around Dublin for their safety. Authorities in Dublin realised that drastic measures were needed to quell the violence and unrest in Ireland so they decided to speak to the refugees that were coming into the capital and have them explain what the native Irish had done to them. The ‘Commission for the Despoiled Subject’ was established to gather this information and it consisted of eight Church of Ireland clergymen and the 8,000 statements that they heard and transcribed became collectively known as the 1641 Depositions. The depositions’ content became the basis of the justification for the putting down of the Irish rebellion with such force and the invasion of Ireland by Oliver Cromwell and the New Model Army in 1649.
Much of the contents of these depositions is truly harrowing. The Irish rebels are portrayed as being akin to demonic beings who were committing near unspeakable acts upon the English settlers. But the fact that the depositions themselves were used to justify later atrocities brings into the mind of an unbiased observer the possibility for exaggeration and unreliability. Indeed, a project in 2011 which looked at the language of the depositions all but proved that the statements were largely based upon wild rumour and could not be demonstrated to be legitimate and credible sources of information. For instance, the linguistic project showed that the ‘more obvious items relating to violence are associated with the hearsay marker than with the eyewitness marker’. In other words, when descriptions of heinous and bloody violence is given in the deposition it is usually preceded by the witness stating ‘I heard that’ or ‘someone told me that’ as opposed to ‘I saw’. And when the witness does mention that they had heard from someone else of acts of violence, the source is very rarely named and was usually ‘a neighbour’, ‘a friend’ or ‘someone I met’.
Some of the most violent and disturbing passages of the depositions seem to be taken straight from biblical stories and contemporary accounts of massacres taking place in Europe. The depositions were deliberately leaked in England with the obvious intention of stirring up the anger of the Church of England. Indeed, several of the depositions relating to the Mountrath area include the story of how rebels ‘did dig up many Coffins and other dead bodies and dead men’s bones of Protestants in the parish Church of Mountrath’.
 Feehan, Slieve Bloom, P. 108.
 Barbara Fennell, ‘Dodgy dossiers’? Hearsay and the 1641 Depositions’ in History Ireland, 3: 19 (May/June 2011), p. 28.
 The Guardian, 18 Feb. 2011.
 Deposition of Thomas Cutlar, MS 815 183r, Trinity College Dublin 1641 Depositions Collection.