seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


Leave a comment

Earliest Verifiable Viking Invasion of Ireland

The earliest verifiable date of a Viking invasion of Ireland is September 9, 872, in Dunrally in what is now County Laois.

The Vikings conduct extensive raids in Ireland and found many towns, including Dublin, Limerick, Wexford, Waterford, Wicklow, Arklow and Leixlip. Literature, crafts, and decorative styles in Ireland and Britain reflect Scandinavian culture. Vikings trade at Irish markets in Dublin. Excavations find imported fabrics from England, Byzantium, Persia, and Central Asia. Dublin becomes so crowded by the 11th century that houses are built outside the town walls.

The Vikings pillage monasteries on Ireland’s west coast in 795, and then spread out to cover the rest of the coastline. The north and east of the island are most affected. During the first 40 years, the raids are conducted by small, mobile Viking groups. From 830 on, the groups consist of large fleets of Viking ships. From 840, the Vikings begin establishing permanent bases at the coasts. Dublin is the most significant settlement in the long term. The Irish become accustomed to the Viking presence and culture. In some cases they become allies and also intermarry.

In 832, a Viking fleet of about 120 ships under Turgesius invades kingdoms on Ireland’s northern and eastern coasts. Some believe that the increased number of invaders coincides with Scandinavian leaders’ desires to control the profitable raids on the western shores of Ireland. During the mid-830s, raids begin to push deeper into Ireland. Navigable waterways make this deeper penetration possible. After 840, the Vikings have several bases in strategic locations throughout Ireland.

In 838, a small Viking fleet enters the River Liffey in eastern Ireland, probably led by the chieftain Saxolb, who is killed later that year. The Vikings set up a base, which the Irish call longphorts. This longphort would eventually become Dublin. After this interaction, the Irish experience Viking forces for about 40 years. The Vikings also establish longphorts in Cork, Limerick, Waterford, and Wexford. The Vikings are driven out of Ireland for a short period around 900, but return to Waterford in 914 to found what would become Ireland’s first city. The other longphorts are soon re-occupied and developed into cities and towns.

The last major Irish battle involving Vikings is the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, in which a large force from the pan-Viking world and their Irish allies oppose Brian Boru, then the High King of Ireland and his forces, a small contingent of which are Viking defectors. The battle is fought in what is the now Dublin suburb of Clontarf on Good Friday of that year. Boru, the Irish High King has allowed the Viking King of Dublin, Sigtrygg Silkbeard, one year to prepare for his coming assault. Silkbeard responds by offering the bed of his mother to several Viking lords from Scandinavia, Ireland and Britain. The savage mêlée between the heavily mailed Norse and the unarmoured, yet undaunted Gaels ends in a rout of the Vikings and their Irish allies. Careful accounts are taken by both sides during the battle, and thus many famous warriors seek each other out for personal combat and glory. High King Brian, who is nearly eighty, does not personally engage in the battle but retires to his tent where he spends the day in quiet prayer.

The Viking Brodir of Man chances upon Brian’s tent as he flees the field. He and a few followers seize the opportunity, and surprise the High King, killing the aged Brian before being captured. Brian’s foster son Ulf the Quarrelsome later tracks down and dispatches Brodir by disembowelment. The battle is fairly matched for most of the day and each side has great respect for the prowess of the other, however, in the end, the Irish forces the Norse to return to the sea. Many of the fleeing Vikings are drowned in the surf due to their heavy mail coats as they struggled for the safety of their longships. Others are pursued and slain further inland.

After the battle, Viking power is broken in Ireland forever, though many settled Norse remain in the cities and prosper greatly with the Irish through trade. With Brian dead, Ireland returns to the fractured kingdom it had once been, but is now cleared of further Viking predation.

(Pictured: Guest from Overseas, Nicholas Roerich, 1901)

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Death of Cathal Crobhdearg Ua Conchobair, the King of Connacht

Cathal Crobhdearg Ua Conchobair, the King of Connacht and youngest son of the Irish High King Tairrdelbach mac Ruaidri Ua Conchobair, dies on May 27, 1224. This finally opens the way for the Norman occupation of Connacht.

Ua Conchobair is born in 1153 and serves as King of Connacht from 1189 to 1199, and is re-inaugurated on the stone at Clonalis about 1201, reigning until 1224. He first succeeds his elder half brother Ruaidri‘s son Conchobar Máenmaige Ua Conchobair as ruler of Connacht. Conchobar Máenmaige’s son Cathal Carrach Ua Conchobair then rules from 1199 to 1202, with Cathal Crobhdearg back in power from then.

From his base west of the River Shannon he is forced to deal with the Norman invaders. He is a competent leader despite problems, avoiding major conflicts and winning minor skirmishes. Ua Conchobair attempts to make the best of the new situation with Ireland divided between Norman and Gaelic rulers. His long reign is perhaps a sign of relative success. He is the subject, as Cáhal Mór of the Wine Red Hand, of the poem A Vision of Connaught in the Thirteenth Century by the 19th-century Irish nationalist James Clarence Mangan.

Ua Conchobair founds Ballintubber Abbey in 1216, and is succeeded by his son, Aedh Ua Conchobair. His wife, Mor Ní Briain, is a daughter of King Domnall Mór Ua Briain of Thomond, dies in 1218.

In 1224 Ua Conchobair writes to Henry III as Lord of Ireland, asking that his son and heir Od (Aedh) be granted all of Connacht, in particular those parts, Kingdom of Breifne, owned by William Gorm de Lacy.

An account of Ua Conchobair’s inauguration has been preserved, written down by Donogh Bacach Ó Maolconaire, the son of O’Connor’s very inaugurator Tanaide Ó Maolconaire, who is also his historian.

(Pictured: Ruins of the 12th century Cistercian Knockmoy Abbey which contains the burial site of King Cathal Crobhdearg Ua Conchobair)


Leave a comment

Death of Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill

máel_seachnaill_II_sculptureMáel Sechnaill mac Domnaill, King of Mide and High King of Ireland, dies on September 2, 1022, at Lough Ennell, County Westmeath. His great victory at the Battle of Tara against Amlaíb Cuarán in 980 results in Gaelic control of the Kingdom of Dublin.

Máel Sechnaill belongs to the Clann Cholmáin branch of the Uí Néill dynasty. He is the grandson of Donnchad Donn, great-grandson of Flann Sinna and great-great-grandson of the first Máel Sechnaill, Máel Sechnaill mac Máele Ruanaid. The Kings of Tara or High Kings of Ireland have for centuries alternated between the various Uí Néill branches. By Máel Sechnaill’s time this alternating succession passes between Clann Cholmáin in the south and the Cenél nEógain in the north, so that he succeeds Domnall ua Néill in 980.

In 980, Amlaíb Cuarán, King of Dublin, summons auxiliaries from Norse-ruled Scottish Isles and from Man and attacks Meath, but is defeated by Máel Sechnaill at Tara. Reginald, Olaf’s heir, is killed. Máel Sechnaill follows up his victory with a siege of Dublin which surrenders after three days and nights. When Maél Sechnaill takes Dublin in 980 he frees all the slaves then residing in the town.

In 997, at a royal meeting near Clonfert, Máel Sechnaill meets with his long-time rival Brian Boru, King of Munster. The two kings make a truce, by which Brian is granted rule over the southern half of Ireland, while Máel Sechnaill retains the northern half and high kingship. In honour of this arrangement, Máel Sechnaill hands over to Brian the hostages he has taken from Dublin and Leinster. The following year Brian hands over to Máel Sechnaill the hostages of Connacht. In the same year, Brian and Máel Sechnaill begin co-operating against the Norse of Dublin for the first time.

Late in 999, however, the Leinstermen, historically hostile to domination by either the Uí Néill overkings or the King of Munster, ally themselves with the Norse of Dublin and revolt against Brian. The Annals of the Four Masters records that Brian and Máel Sechnaill unite their forces and, according to the Annals of Ulster, they meet the Leinster-Dublin army at Glenmama on Thursday, December 30, 999. Glenmama, near Lyons Hill in Ardclough, County Kildare, is the ancient stronghold of the Kings of Leinster. The Munster-Meath army defeats the Leinster-Dublin army. Ó Corráin refers to it as a “crushing defeat” of Leinster and Dublin, while The dictionary of English history says the battle effectively “quelled” the “desperate revolt” of Leinster and Dublin. Most importantly, the defeat leaves the road to Dublin “free and unimpeded for the victorious legions of Brian and Mael Sechlainn.”

The system of alternating succession between the various Uí Néill branches is ended by Brian Boru’s so-called overthrow of Máel Sechnaill in 1002. It is a bloodless shift resulting from the failure of the Northern Uí Néill to support Máel Sechnaill against the aspirations of the extremely militarized overlord of Munster.

With the deaths of Brian Boru, his son, grandson, and many other Munster nobles at Clontarf in 1014, Máel Sechnaill succeeds in regaining the titular High Kingship, but the High Kingship, albeit with opposition, does not reappear until Diarmait mac Maíl na mBó of Leinster rises to power.

(Pictured: Sculpture of Máel Seachnaill in Trim, County Meath, by James McKenna)


Leave a comment

Viking Settlement That Becomes Dublin is Founded

founding-of-dublinA Viking settlement that would later become the city of Dublin is founded on the banks of the River Liffey on July 10, 988.

The first documented history of Dublin begins with the Viking raids in the 8th and 9th century. These lead to the establishment of a settlement on the south side of the mouth of the Liffey, named Dubh Linn (Black Pool) after the dark tidal pool where the River Poddle enters the Liffey which is where the Danes first moor their boats.

The Vikings, or Ostmen as they call themselves, rule Dublin for almost three centuries, although they are expelled in 902 only to return in 917 and notwithstanding their defeat by the Irish High King Brian Boru at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. From that date, the Norse are a minor political force in Ireland, firmly opting for a commercial life. Viking rule of Dublin ends completely in 1171 when the city is captured by King Dermot MacMurrough of Leinster, with the aid of Anglo-Norman mercenaries. An attempt is made by the last Norse King of Dublin, Ascall mac Ragnaill, to recapture the city with an army he raises among his relations in the Scottish Highlands, where he is forced to flee after the city is taken, but the attempted reconquest fails and Ascall is killed.

Dublin becomes the centre of English power in Ireland after the Norman invasion of the southern half of Ireland (Munster and Leinster) in 1169-1171, replacing Tara in Meath, seat of the Gaelic High Kings of Ireland, as the focal point of Ireland’s polity. On May 15, 1192 Dublin’s first written Charter of Liberties is granted by John, Lord of Ireland, and is addressed to all his “French, English, Irish and Welsh subjects and friends.” On June 15, 1229, his son Henry grants the citizens the right to elect a Mayor who is to be assisted by two provosts. By 1400, however, many of the Anglo-Norman conquerors are absorbed into the Gaelic culture, adopting the Irish language and customs, leaving only a small area of Leinster around Dublin, known as the Pale, under direct English control.


Leave a comment

The Battle of Clontarf

battle-of-clontarfThe Battle of Clontarf takes place on Good Friday, April 23, 1014, at Clontarf, near Dublin, on the east coast of Ireland. The battle is the culmination of two centuries of strife, treachery, failed alliances and treaties that pits the forces of Brian Boru, high king of Ireland, against a Norse-Irish alliance comprised of the forces of Sigtrygg Silkbeard, king of Dublin, Máel Mórda mac Murchada, king of Leinster, and a Viking contingent led by Sigurd of Orkney and Brodir of Mann.

The first Norsemen, also known as Vikings, arrive in Ireland some two centuries earlier, initially plundering the gold, chalices, crosses, and manuscripts of the monasteries and the corn harvests of the settled communities. Gradually they establish Viking settlements around Ireland and engage in trade and commerce.

There is, however, significant opposition to their presence in Ireland, not least in Munster where King Brian Boru has defeated their armies on several occasions. Brian’s aim is to unite all the warring Celtic kingdoms under one rule and one High King.

In 1013, Máel Mórda, the king of Leinster goes into revolt after inter-marriage alliances with Brian have broken down, and joins forces with the Vikings. Together, they initially attack the kingdom of Mael Sechlainn of Meath who summons the help of King Brian. Brian sets off toward Dublin with 4,900 troops. Opposing them are Máel Mórda’s army of 4,000 Leinster men allied to 3,000 Viking warriors.

Although but a small segment of the battle is fought close to the seafront at Clontarf, the historic encounter of Good Friday 1014 enters the annals as the Battle of Clontarf. This is largely because some 2,000 Vikings had landed in longboats at Clontarf by sunrise on the morning of April 23.

As the two opposing armies face one another, the Vikings and the Leinster men are lined across the sloping plains bounded by the sea and the River Tolka, while King Brian’s army occupies the rising ground near Tomar’s Wood in Phibsboro.

The most ferocious part of the battle is fought at the “Battle of the Fishing Weir,” which approximates to the site of the former D.W.D. Whiskey Distillery on Richmond Road. Historic accounts of the battle also refer to the “savage encounters” fought on the “Bloody Fields of Marino” and what is today Phibsboro and Cross Guns.

The result of the bloodiest day in ancient Ireland is a rout for King Brian, although some 4,000 of his troops are killed on the battlefield. In contrast some 6,000 Leinster men and Vikings are slaughtered including every single Viking leader. King Brian’s army drives the fleeing Vikings back towards the sea at Clontarf.

Although Brian has won the greatest victory of his long career, he does not live long to enjoy it. As he kneels praying in his tent near Cross Guns, the Isle of Man Viking Leader, Brodir, who is hiding in the adjacent woods, runs into his tent and kills the 84-year-old Brian with his axe. Brodir is later captured and slaughtered by Ulf the Quarrelsome, the younger brother of King Brian.

The Battle of Clontarf is the watershed of all the hatred, division, and rivalries that have consumed Ireland for centuries. A period of relative peace follows where the Celtic chieftains and the Vikings live together in a spirit of harmony with the emphasis on greater integration, cooperation, and commerce.