General Sir W. Butler presided over a meeting of the Irish Literary Society at the theatre of the Society of Arts, in John Street, Adelphi, where an audience of eager minds gathered to hear Dr John Todhunter read a lengthy and captivating paper on the “Life of Patrick Sarsfield.” The purpose of the gathering was to reflect on the significant contributions and history surrounding Sarsfield, whose story seems somewhat lost to the modern world. As Sir Butler recounted, not all Irish people know about their great heroes of the past, and citizens of other countries remain even more in the dark. Thus, the literary society sought to raise awareness of the hero and the role he played in Irish history.
Patrick Sarsfield was an Irish soldier, politician, and nobleman who served as an officer in the English Army in the late 17th century. Sir Butler asserted that Sarsfield’s life and achievements represent three key elements: God, country, and King. He was a devout Catholic in a time when the English army was predominantly Protestant, and his ardent faith was later epitomised in his close association with and loyalty to the Roman Catholic King James II. Sarsfield believed in his King’s cause wholeheartedly, and this unwavering faithfulness would eventually be instrumental in defining his legacy.
The time of Patrick Sarsfield was characterized by treachery, deceit, and audacity, particularly during the closing days of King James II’s reign. Among the multitude of people who betrayed the King, Sarsfield remained loyal and fought for the causes he believed in. His dedication to his faith and his people made him an inspiring figure amid a period marked by disloyalty and distrust. Sarsfield’s devotion to King James II, to his Irish compatriots, and to his Catholic faith led him to play a pivotal role in the Williamite War in Ireland, where he eventually lost his life while fighting for his beliefs.
Sir Butler delved deeper into the significance of Sarsfield’s actions in the context of history. What did Patrick Sarsfield fight for? He fought for his King, who eventually lost the throne. He fought for the feudal landlord system, which eventually disappeared, and according to Sir Butler, rightly so, as it had outlived its usefulness in the world. Yet, beyond these temporal concerns, Sarsfield also fought for something more enduring: his faith and his race, elements that still resonate within the Irish community to this day.
Indeed, while the King was ultimately deposed and the feudal order was dismantled, the spirit of Sarsfield’s struggle lived on through his faith and his people. Sir Butler noted that, while visiting the beautiful landscape of Ireland’s southern region, he observed that a significant majority of the farmers were of the old Irish race, and the land was dotted with churches and bell towers that catered to their faith. In this enduring connection with their ancestral roots and religious beliefs, the spirit of Patrick Sarsfield continues to thrive among the Irish people.
In conclusion, the meeting of the Irish Literary Society served to rekindle the memory of Patrick Sarsfield, his unwavering devotion, and his significant impact on Irish history. By shedding light on his life and the causes he so vehemently fought for, the society succeeded in reanimating the spirit of this long-forgotten hero. Sarsfield’s story serves as a timeless lesson on the importance of loyalty, faith, and patriotism, a lesson particularly resonant amid a world prone to rapidly shifting values. By remembering and celebrating the life and accomplishments of Patrick Sarsfield, we are reminded of the importance of holding fast to the things that matter most – faith, family, and homeland.
Western Daily Press – Tuesday 22 January 1901