Tuesday, 17 August 2010



William Ireland (alias Ironmonger) was born in Lincolnshire in 1636. In 1655, at the age of 19, he entered the Jesuit Novitiate and was ordained in 1667. In June 1677, Fr William Ireland was sent upon the English Mission, taking up work in London. Little more than a year later, 28th September 1678, he, Fr John Fenwick, and their assistant, John Grove, were arrested by a group led by the evil Titus Oates. The perjurer Oates was the instigator of the fabricated but deadly, Popish Plot. The two Jesuits and the layman, John Grove, were imprisoned in Newgate Prison where they were bound in heavy chains.

The three came to trial on 17th December 1678. At the trial, Titus Oates testified that in April the Jesuits had held a meeting to make plans to assassinate King Charles and place his Catholic brother, James, Duke of York, on the throne. Oates claimed to have been present at this meeting and that Frs Ireland and Fenwick and Mr Grove were also present. Fr Ireland, stated Oates, had been seen loitering about the royal residence during August. Fr Ireland had witnesses to prove that, at the time he was supposed to have been around the royal residence, he was actually in North Wales and the Midlands. Absurdly, the word of a convicted perjurer was taken over the word of reliable witnesses. Fr Ireland, John Grove and a Benedictine brother, Thomas Pickering, were found guilty of high treason and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

The King, Charles II, never believed in the claims of Titus Oates and he postponed the execution. However, popular opinion, whipped up by certain politicians, was in agreement with Oates. Perhaps remembering his own father’s fate, the King allowed the executions to take place. On 24th January 1679, amid the taunts and insults of the people of London, Fr William Ireland was dragged to Tyburn. There he was hanged then cut down to be drawn and quartered.

The diabolical fabrication of the vile Titus Oates had claimed its first Jesuit martyr. Fr William Ireland was the first Jesuit to die during the frenzy generated by the Oates Plot but before it ended, seven more Jesuits, including St David Lewis, would be executed.

Fr William Ireland S J was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929.


  1. Hi Jackie

    They were hard times weren't they. We are very blessed, indeed. Thanks for looking in and God bless you.

  2. The royalist Cavalier Irishman Col. Sir Robert Welsh, friend of Prince Rupert during the English Civil War was accused, but later released. In 1679 he wrote and published in Holland a Manifest to vindicate his innocence. Is there any further information on his involvement as an accused victim of the spurious 'Popish Plot'?


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