Dominican Friars Sent to Barbados as Slaves?

I realized that the English transported a LOT of Irish and Scottish people to work the sugar cane fields and die of malaria. But I hadn’t realized that this included Irish Dominican friars sent to Barbados.

It talks about this in Cdnl. Patrick Francis Moran’s Historical Sketch of the Persecutions of Catholics under Cromwell and the Puritans, on p. 254.

The Dominicans’ General Chapter of 1656 reported: “….of forty-three convents which the Order possessed [in Ireland], not a single one survives today… there were counted about six hundred [friars], of which but the fourth part [about 150] is now in the land of the living, and even that number is dispersed in exile; the rest died martyrs at home, or were cruelly transported to the island of Barbadoes.” (De Burgh/De Burgo is quoted on the same page, and he estimates that about 70 friars were transported and enslaved.)

(On the same page, Wadding’s list of martyred Franciscans is noted to include Pr. Marianus Vardaeus (ie, Fr. Ferghall Ward, whose religious name was apparently Br. Marianus), who died “initio hujus belli a piratis suspensus ex malo navis” along with Cornelius O’Brien, Lord of Caringh.)

I knew that Cromwell transported a lot of people to Barbados, including the thirty or fewer survivors of his Drogheda massacre. But that is ridiculous.

Moran also says that Fr. David Roche, O.S.D., was sent to Barbados by General Ireton after Limerick was taken. I don’t know why he wasn’t executed like the other Dominican Fathers in the city (young, maybe, or related to somebody in Ireton’s forces).

However, Moran also says there was one shipload of slaves who were the only Irish speakers onboard, knew ships, and were allowed to walk around the ship in the daytime even though held in irons at night (I guess the captain wanted to sleep and not keep watches). The starved slaves took over their transport ship one day, put their captors in irons, sailed to Brest, freed the captain and crew to make their way home, sold the ship, and lived happily ever after in the large community of Irish exiles in Brest.


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