Pass of the Plumes

The Battle of the Pass of the Plumes took place on the 17th May 1599. The Fort of Maryborough had been under siege by the native Irish, namely Owny MacRory O'More, for some time and had previously been relieved by the Earl of Ormond. The Earl of Essex landed in Ireland in April 1599. He was the commander of Queen Elizabeth's forces and was on an expedition southwards through Leinster to subdue the Munster Geraldines. On the way he intended to relieve the garrison in Maryborough (now Portlaoise).

Essex and his forces took Athy and headed towards Maryborough via Stradbally. En-route from Athy to Stradbally Essex marched through Blackford Pass where Owny O'More had been entrenched with his small army. Wisely, Owny withdrew ahead of Essex's men while closely observing their movement. They reached Stradbally that evening the 15th May.

The next day he relieved and reinforced the garrison at Maryborough and returned to his men encamped at the foot of a hill named Croshy Duff near Lamberton Demesne. Owny O'More and his men were securely posted on the hills around covered by thick wood. Here they planned their attack.

On the 17th May the Earl of Essex en-route to Kilkenny decided to march through the Pass of Cashel. They marched wearing their helmets of brightly coloured plumage (feathers) and were ambushed by Owny's men. They attacked the army train and rearguard and the ensuing battle lasted 2 hours. The result was the death of a large number of Essex's men while more fled. Essex's chronicler, a man by the name of John Harrington, claimed that Essex lost 2 officers and a few privates. On the other hand the Irish chronicler, O'Sullivan- Beare, claimed Essex lost 500 soldiers.

The Pass of Cashel where the battle took place became known as Bearna na gCleiti or the Pass of the Plumes because of the plumage of the English helmets left on the battlefield. There is an old house known as Ned Duff's near the site of the battle and it is believed that in the digging of the foundations for this house that many human remains were exhumed.

In 1999, a monument was erected to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Pass of the Plumes. It is located in the nearby area known as Cashel Cross.