(13) John Fitz-Thomas of Desmond's Life Saved by a Coppinger


Sir George Carew employed a person named John Nugent, a servant to Sir Thomas Norris, President of Munster (Pac. Hib., vol. i., p. 67), to assassinate John Fitz-Thomas.  On Nugent coming to make his submission to the president, and to desire pardon for his faults, answer was made him, that:

"for so much as his crimes and offences had been extraordinary he could not hope to be reconciled unto the state except he would deserve it by extraordinary service, which saith the president, if you shall perform, you may deserve not only pardon for your faults committed heretofore, but also some store of crowns to relieve your wants hereafter.  He presently promised not to be wanting in anything that lay in the power of one man to accomplish, and in private made offer to the president, that if he might be well recompensed, he would ruin, within a short time, either the Sugan Earl, or John Fitz-Thomas, his brother.

"And, indeed, very likely he was both to attempt and perform as much as he spake.  To attempt, because he was so valiant and daring, so that he did not fear anything; and to execute, because by reason of his many outrages before committed, the chief rebels did repose great confidence in him.  The president having contrived a plot for James Fitz-James gave him in charge to undertake John, his brother.

"But the matter had to be arranged so as not to excite the suspicion of the party in rebellion.  Here, again, the Lord president displayed his genius.  Nugent was to appear before the president and council in public, and ask for protection, and to be driven with obloquy and threats from their presence.

"But because the matter might be without suspicion upon the next morrow, the council being set, and a great concourse of people assembled, Nugent reneweth his suit for the continuance of his protection.

"But the president rehearsing in public audience, a catalogue of his mischievous outrages lately committed, told the council that having farther inquired, and better considered of man and matter, for his part he thought it an action of very ill example to receive into mercy such a notorious malefactor.  The council were all of the same opinion, who reviling him with many biting and bitter speeches, and assuring him that if it were not for a religious regard that was holden of the Queen's word, he should pay a dear price for his former misdemeanour, and so, with public disgrace, was dismissed from their presence.

"He goes forth with all the prestige of this abuse to work his diabolical purpose.  He finds his intended victim at Loughguire Castle.  It is just before the place is betrayed.  He also meets one John Coppinger there, to whom he reveals his object.  Coppinger seems to approve.  John Fitz-Thomas, John Coppinger, and John Nugent ride out together, leaving the castle in the care of Owen Grome.  Nugent permitted the young nobleman 'to ride a little before him, minding his back being turned to shoot him through with his pistoll, which for the purpose was well charged with two bullets.  The opportunity offered, the pistoll bent, both heart and hand ready to do the deed,' when Coppinger, whose eye was on him, snatched the weapon from his hand, and cried 'treason!'  John Fitz-Thomas turned about to seize the traitor.  Nugent rode a good horse and spurred it hard.  The horse stumbled, he was taken, and the next day hanged.  He confessed that it was his intention after shooting the younger brother, to post to the camp where the elder lay, call him aside, tell him of his brother's death, and 'execute as much on him.'"

Gibson's History of Cork, vol. i., p. 330.


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