Cavanagh was a layperson of the diocese of Ferns during the reign of Elizabeth I. In 1581 Cavanagh, alongside five others, was found guilty of treason for aiding in the escape of Viscount Baltinglass and refusing to acknowledge the English monarch as the head of the Church.
Patrick Cavanagh, a baker Matthew Lambert, and four fellow sailors including Robert Meyler and Edward Cheevers were hanged, drawn and quartered on July 5, 1581 in Wexford. The group is known colletively as the Wexford Martyrs.
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