O'Hanlon, Redmond (c.1641–1681), outlaw, was the son of Laughlin O'Hanlon of Poyntzpass, Co. Armagh, and a descendant of Sir Eochaidh O'Hanlon (qv). Little is known of his early life but he probably had an English education and may have served as a footman to Sir George Acheson of Markethill, Co. Armagh. He emerged as the leader of a tory (bandit) gang that ravaged Ulster in the late 1670s and early 1680s and defied numerous plots to catch him. First mentioned in official records when he was proclaimed an outlaw in December 1674, O'Hanlon was again proclaimed, with his relation Laughlin O'Hanlon, Patrick Fleming (qv), and other notable tories, in 1676, when a reward was offered for his arrest. The extent of his activities was such that he was pursued by four parties of troops in 1677, but the optimism expressed by Sir George Rawdon (qv) of ‘having his head shortly’ was vain, and O'Hanlon continued to defy every plot, legislative imposition, and financial inducement for his capture.
O'Hanlon's ability to stay one step ahead of his pursuers was a credit to his elusiveness but is also attributable to the density of the remaining fastnesses in Ulster and North Connacht, particularly in his old foraging ground around Slieve Gullion, the Fews, and the great Fews road between Armagh and Dundalk. Despite occasional examples of army incompetence and collusion, there was no lack of effort on the part of his pursuers, and he was sought by the armed forces and local government officials alike. A fund was established to support those who were trying to capture him, and for three months 9d. was collected from voluntary contributors in three counties. O'Hanlon not only defied the authorities, he also feuded with other tories, including Cormac Raver O'Murphy and his associates. When the pressure became too intense in south Ulster he moved his operations to Fermanagh, Leitrim, Longford, and Roscommon. In October 1678 ‘Count O'Hanlon’ was referred to as the most dangerous tory in Ulster, and was again proclaimed in January 1679 with a price of £200 on his head.
O'Hanlon's ability to evade capture is well attested in contemporary sources and has become enshrined in folklore. On 9 September 1679 O'Hanlon's associates murdered the tory hunter Henry St John, the great-nephew of Oliver St John (qv), Viscount Grandison, lord deputy of Ireland in 1616–22, at Knockbridge in Tandragee; St John was the owner of the castle and manor of Ballymore, which were part of the ancestral lands of the O'Hanlons. Brief reports of St John's death appeared in at least two London newssheets, the True Domestic Intelligence and the Domestic Intelligence.
Such was the level of tory activity that a meeting was called, which brought together the leading county justices (and tory hunters) of Ulster, including Sir George Acheson, Sir Hans Hamilton, George Hill, and Sir George Rawdon (qv); Hill and Rawdon made voluntary contributions to a fund for the destruction of O'Hanlon. The meeting made a decision to establish a mercenary army of twenty dragoons and twenty foot, which suggests that the threat posed by O'Hanlon was widespread and underlines the inability of central government to come to grips with him. Father Edmund Murphy (qv), parish priest of Killevy and titular chanter of Armagh, denounced O'Hanlon from the pulpit, whereupon O'Hanlon proclaimed that anybody who attended his church would be punished with the loss of a cow for the first offence, two cows for the second offence, and their life for the third offence. Murphy, lacking support from the local armed forces who were in collusion with the tories, was forced to retire from his parish. In mid September 1679 relentless tory activity in counties Leitrim and Fermanagh and O'Hanlon's exploits in Armagh prompted the government to cut down the Glin wood in the Fews, O'Hanlon's favourite retreat.
Through the Annesley family of Castlewellan O'Hanlon tried to negotiate a surrender on terms in 1680. Deborah Annesley and her father Henry Jones (qv), bishop of Meath, saw the possibilities that O'Hanlon's surrender offered and wanted him brought to London as a witness to the popish plot. The price of his pardon would be his giving evidence about a planned French invasion of Ireland. While the negotiations were in train to procure O'Hanlon's pardon, on 4 March 1681 the lord lieutenant of ireland, the duke of Ormond (qv) granted to William Lucas of Drumintyne full powers in Ulster to enable him to take O'Hanlon, including the assistance of such of the king's civil and military officers as he desired. Lucas made contact with Redmond's foster brother, Art O'Hanlon, granting him protection and an assurance of a pardon for his cooperation. Lucas maintained the utmost secrecy in the design in the knowledge that O'Hanlon had access to intelligence within the ranks of the army: to avoid arousing O'Hanlon's suspicions a certain Captain Whitney's regiment was left at its station in the Fews. On 25 April 1681 Redmond O'Hanlon was shot by his foster brother near Eight Mile Bridge in Co. Down. Lucas required O'Hanlon's head to exhibit on Downpatrick jail and issued assurances of protection and pardon to William O'Sheel, who had fulfilled O'Hanlon's last wish by severing and burying his head to keep it out of the clutches of the authorities. O'Sheel succumbed and the head was finally mounted on a spike over the jail entrance. His body was put on display at Newry, Co. Down.
Although O'Hanlon was a symptom of the distorted condition of Ireland in the seventeenth century, his methods and destructiveness cannot be taken as typical of the activities of others of his kind, and none of his fellow outlaws made such an imprint on Irish folklore and romantic legend. This influence can be best explained by the nature of many of his deceptions, his aristocratic bearing and apparel, and the diligence with which many of his deeds were catalogued. According to a local tradition recorded in 1926, O'Hanlon's remains were interred in the catholic graveyard of Ballynabrack on the road from Tandragee to Scarva. In the neighbourhood of his former haunts many a cave is named for him on the claim that he hid there. The growth of his legend can be attributed to John Cosgrove's A genuine history of the lives and actions of the most notorious Irish highwaymen, tories and rapparees, first published in 1747 and reprinted many times in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, William Carleton's (qv) historical novel Redmond Count O'Hanlon, the Irish rapparee (1862), and the inclusion of O'Hanlon by Thomas Clarke Luby (qv) in The lives and times of illustrious and representative Irishmen (1878).