seamus dubhghaill

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


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Death of Saint Laurence O’Toole

st-laurence-o-tooleLorcán Ua Tuathail, also known as Saint Laurence O’Toole, Archbishop of Dublin at the time of the Norman invasion of Ireland, dies in Eu, Normandy, France on November 14, 1180.

O’Toole is born in Castledermot in what is now County Kildare in 1128. His father is Maurice O’Toole, King of Hy Murray. It is common practice in the day for princes of one clan to be given as hostages to another clan, as a guarantee of peace. When he is ten years old O’Toole is given as hostage to Dermot McMurrough, King of Leinster, who treats him very badly. He is sent in chains to a remote place, where he gets very little to eat and does not have enough clothes to keep him warm in the winter. For two years, even though he is a king’s son, he learns what it is like to be poor and to be oppressed.

After two years, it is agreed that O’Toole is to be released. He is sent to a monastery at Glendalough, and the monks make him welcome. It is agreed that his father is to come and collect him there. But he soon comes to love Glendalough and likes joining the monks in prayer. After his two years as a hostage, he realises that wealth and power are not important. He feels very close to God in Glendalough. He asks his father’s permission to stay there and become a monk, to which his father agrees. At the age of only 25 years old, he is elected Abbot of the monastery. As the leader of the community he encourages the monks in their learning. There is always a welcome in the monastery for the poor. When there is a famine in the area, he sells some of the treasures of Glendalough to provide food for those who are hungry.

In 1162 O’Toole becomes the first Irish-born Archbishop of the Danish city of Dublin. In those days, many of the people of Dublin do not take their Christian religion very seriously. He encourages them to become real Christians. He brings monks to Dublin from France and they live at Christ Church Cathedral. They help many people to come back to Mass and the Sacraments. O’Toole himself never forgets his own days of poverty. He continues to care for the poor, especially homeless children. He makes room for them in his own house, and they share the food at his table.

The Normans land in Ireland in 1169. The following year they besiege Dublin under their leader, Strongbow. O’Toole meets Strongbow to arrange peace but the Normans attack while the talks are going on. They seize the city and begin killing the citizens and looting their houses. O’Toole saves the lives of many people.

As Archbishop of Dublin, O’Toole participates in the Third Council of the Lateran in Rome in 1179, with some of the other Irish bishops. Pope Alexander III knows that Ireland has been going through a bad time. He knows that many people, including priests, are no longer taking their religion seriously. He entrusts to O’Toole the task of reforming the Church in Ireland.

A new dispute breaks out between the King of England and the Irish Kings. In the spring of 1180, O’Toole leaves Ireland to see if he can help settle the dispute. The English King, Henry II, does not have much time for bishops. He has already arranged to have the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, murdered. He does not welcome O’Toole. He sees a chance to get rid of O’Toole as Archbishop of Dublin and does not let him return to Ireland. Henry has control of Normandy as well as England. O’Toole follows him there. As long as there is a chance of peace, he would not give up trying.

In 1180, O’Toole becomes seriously ill. The monks at Eu in Normandy look after him in their monastery but on November 14, 1180, at the age of 52, he dies. His tomb is in the crypt under the Collegial Church at Eu. Many people still go there to pray. Laurence O’Toole is canonized in 1225 by Pope Honorius III.

(From “St. Laurence O’Toole: a spiritual leader for difficult times,” CatholicIreland.net, November 30, 1999)


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The Irish Free State Takes Drogheda

millmount-droghedaA large Irish Free State force takes Drogheda, County Louth, on July 4, 1922, during the Irish Civil War. They defeat Anti-Treaty fighters who are based at Millmount Fort, a large fortified complex situated on a great mound on the south bank of the River Boyne.

Millmount has been fortified in historical times since the early 12th century when invading Normans built a mote and bailey on what was probably originally a neolithic passage grave similar to Newgrange. In Irish cosmology, it is often assumed to be the burial place of Amergin Glúingel, whose name indicates that in ancient Irish mythology he was regarded as the originator of the arts of song, poetry and music.

Hugh de Lacy, one of the Normans who comes to Ireland after Strongbow, builds the original fort circa 1172, having been granted the Kingdom of Meath by Henry II of England. Later a stone castle is built on the site. This castle forms part of the defences of the town during the Siege of Drogheda during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in 1649. The fort’s English defenders attempt to surrender to Parliamentarian troops under Oliver Cromwell but are massacred when they give themselves up on September 11, 1649. The complex is later called Richmond Barracks. Some of the present buildings, in the courtyard, are built circa 1714. After the unrest and rebellions of the 1790s and the Acts of Union 1800 the complex is re-fortified and the Martello tower is built.

The fort suffers considerable damage during the Irish Civil War. It is occupied by Anti-Treaty forces and on July 4, 1922, it becomes the target of shelling by the army of the Irish Free State. The Free State Forces under Michael Collins have been given extensive support by the British Army at the express wish of Winston Churchill who insists that the Republican Forces be crushed. Using the same British Army 18-pounder artillery piece which had shelled the Republican H.Q. in the Four Courts in Dublin some days earlier the Free State Forces bombard Millmount fort for several hours before the Republican garrison retreats. The famous Martello tower is all but destroyed during the shelling.

Today, after being restored in 2000, the complex houses the Millmount Museum which houses a wide variety of artifacts of local and national importance. The complex is Drogheda’s most dominant feature, clearly visible from all parts of the town. The Martello tower is affectionately known as “The Cup and Saucer” by locals. The whole fort is a national monument and has been designated as Drogheda’s Cultural Quarter.


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Henry II Lands at Waterford

henry-ii-at-waterfordHenry II, fearful that Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, also known as Strongbow, will grow too powerful in Ireland, lands with an army at Waterford on October 17, 1171. The Normans, Norse, and Irish all submit to him, except for the most remote Irish kings.

Henry is worried about the growing power of the Cambro-Norman knights, in particular Strongbow, who has in the previous two years carved out what is a substantial new territory, as well as a delicately located new territory with regard to Henry’s own holdings in what is termed the Angevin Empire.

Henry’s presence changes the game for the Norman lords. Either they agree to do as he asks, submit to his sovereignty and accept the land they have grasp through force of arms as his gift, or branded as rebels they face their King with an army of 1,000 knights.

The Lords see the way of things and agree to the demand. Many of the Gaelic Irish, seeing Henry as a potential ally against the power of the Norman Lords, swear allegiance as well.

Henry receives recognition and hostages from the Ostmen of Wexford, who have captured Robert FitzStephen, as well as from many other kings in Ireland including Diarmait MacCarthaigh, king of Cork, Domnall Mór Ua Briain, king of Limerick, Murchadh O Cearbhaill, king of Airgialla, Tighearnán Mór Ua Ruairc, king of Breifne, and Donn Sléibe mac Con Ulad Mac Duinn Sléibe, king of Ulaid.

Henry formally grants Leinster to Strongbow in return for homage, fealty, and the service of 100 knights, reserving to himself the city and kingdom of Dublin and all seaports and fortresses. He also grants the kingdom of Meath, from the River Shannon to the sea, to his own follower Hugh de Lacy.

Henry II’s arrival at Waterford puts to rest the idea of an independent Irish kingdom that any Norman lord might imagine and determines a course for Ireland for some 750 years.


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Hugh de Lacy Appointed 1st Earl of Ulster

1st-earl-of-ulster-coat-of-armsKing John of England appoints Hugh de Lacy, a leading figure in the Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th century, as the 1st Earl of Ulster on May 29, 1205.

Circa 1189 de Lacy is appointed Viceroy of Ireland, a position previously held by his father, Hugh de Lacy, Lord of Meath. He is replaced in 1190 by Guillaume le Petil. He is later reappointed to serve as viceroy from 1205 to 1210.

In 1199, King John authorises de Lacy to wage war on John de Courcy, who has conquered much of Ulster without help or permission from the King. Hugh captures de Courcy in 1204. An account of the capture appears in the Book of Howth.

After King John creates him Earl of Ulster in 1205, he makes what was de Courcy’s territory in Ulster the Earldom of Ulster. He grants Drogheda its charter and continues the conquest of the northeastern over-kingdom of Ulaid, building on de Courcy’s success, with the earldom spanning across the modern counties of Antrim and Down and parts of Londonderry.

In 1207, war breaks out between the Earl of Ulster and the justiciar. This brings King John to Ireland, where he expels the earl’s brother, Walter de Lacy, from Meath, and compels the earl himself to flee to Scotland.

For several years Ulster takes part in the wars in France, and de Lacy does not return to Ireland until 1221, when he allies himself with the O’Neills against the English. In 1226, his lands in Ulster are handed over to his brother Walter, but they are restored to him in the following year, after which date he appears to loyally serve the king, being more than once summoned to England to give advice about Irish affairs.

De Lacy purportedly separates from his first wife and lives in adultery. He has legitimate and natural children. In 1226, his daughter by his first wife marries Alan, Lord of Galloway. He marries his second wife, Emmeline de Riddlesford, the daughter of Walter de Riddlesford around 1242. Hugh de Lacy dies shortly thereafter in 1242 or 1243. Emmeline’s second marriage takes place around 1243 with Stephen Longespee, grandson of Henry II of England, by whom she has two daughters, Ela Longespee, Lady of Ashby, and Emmeline Longespee, Lady of Offaly.

Left with no surviving legitimate children, the earldom of Ulster reverts to the crown upon de Lacy’s death.


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Death of Diarmait Mac Murchada, Irish King of Leinster

diarmait-mac-murchadaDiarmait Mac Murchada, Irish King of Leinster whose appeal to the English for help in settling an internal dispute leads to the Anglo-Norman invasion and conquest of Ireland by England, dies on May 1, 1171 of “an insufferable and unknown disease.”

Mac Murchada is born around 1110, the son of Donnchad mac Murchada, King of Leinster and Dublin. His father is killed in battle in 1115 by his cousin Sigtrygg Silkbeard, king of the Dublin Vikings, and is buried by them in Dublin along with the body of a dog which is considered to be a huge insult.

After the death of Énna Mac Murchada, his older brother, Mac Murchada unexpectedly becomes King of Leinster. This is opposed by the High King of Ireland, Toirdelbach Ua Conchobair, who fears that Mac Murchada will become a rival. Toirdelbach sends one of his allied Kings, the belligerent Tigernán Ua Ruairc, to conquer Leinster and oust the young Mac Murchada. Ua Ruairc goes on a brutal campaign slaughtering the livestock of Leinster and thereby trying to starve the province’s residents. Mac Murchada is ousted from his throne, but is able to regain it with the help of Leinster clans in 1132. Two decades of an uneasy peace followed between Ua Conchobair and Mac Murchada. In 1152 he even assists the High King in a raid of the land of Ua Ruairc who has become a renegade.

As King of Leinster, between 1140–70, Mac Murchada commissions Irish Romanesque churches and abbeys at Baltinglass, Glendalough, Ferns, and Killeshin. He sponsors convents at Dublin, two at Aghade, County Carlow, and at Kilculliheen near Waterford city. He also sponsors the successful career of churchman St. Lorcán Ua Tuathail and presides at the synod of Clane in 1161 when Ua Tuathail is installed as archbishop of Dublin.

In 1166, Ireland’s new High King and Mac Murchada’s only ally, Muirchertach Ua Lochlainn, has fallen and a large coalition led by Mac Murchada’s arch enemy, Tigernán Ua Ruairc, marches on Leinster. The High King deposes Mac Murchada from the throne of Leinster and he flees to Wales and from there to England and France seeking the support of Henry II of England in the recruitment of soldiers to reclaim his kingship. Henry authorises Mac Murchada to seek help from the soldiers and mercenaries in his kingdom. Those who agreed to help include Richard de Clare (Strongbow) and half-brothers Robert FitzStephen and Maurice FitzGerald.

In Mac Murchada’s absence, Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair, son of Mac Murchada’s former enemy, the High King Toirdelbach Ua Conchobair, has become the new High King of Ireland.

Mac Murchada brings an advance party of adventurers back to Ireland in 1167, recaptures Wexford, and waits for Strongbow to arrive. From his base in Wales, Strongbow launches an offensive in 1170, capturing Waterford and Dublin, taking control of the East coast, much to the dismay of the Gaelic Chieftains and Ua Conchobair. To cement the alliance, Mac Murchada marries his daughter, Aoife, to Strongbow, in Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin 1170.

The Irish Chieftains do not allow the invaders to settle, however, and they are continually attacked and harassed. It begins to appear likely that they will be driven from Ireland. However, they receive support from Henry II, who has become concerned about the amount of power and influence that Strongbow is amassing in Ireland. The subsequent domination of South Wales by the Normans is a result of the need to keep supply lines into Eastern Ireland open.

Mac Murchada dies on May 1, 1171, leaving Strongbow to declare himself King of Leinster. Mac Murchada is buried in the Cathedral graveyard of Ferns village.


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Death of Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke

strongbow-effigy-christ-church-dublinRichard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, Lord of Leinster, Justiciar of Ireland, and Cambro-Norman lord notable for his leading role in the Norman invasion of Ireland, dies in Dublin on April 20, 1176. Like his father, he is also commonly known by his nickname “Strongbow.”

As the son of the 1st Earl of Pembroke, Richard succeeds to his father’s estates after his death in 1148, but is deprived of the title by King Henry II of England in 1154 for siding with King Stephen of England against Henry’s mother, the Empress Matilda. He sees an opportunity to reverse his bad fortune in 1168 when he meets Diarmait Mac Murchada, the deposed King of Leinster.

In 1167, Diarmait Mac Murchada is deprived of the Kingdom of Leinster by the High King of Ireland, Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair. To recover his kingdom, Mac Murchada solicits help from King Henry II of England. Henry provides a letter of comfort for willing supporters of Mac Murchada’s cause in his kingdom. However, after his return to Wales, he fails to rally any forces to his standard. He eventually meets Richard de Clare and other barons of the Welsh Marches. Mac Murchada comes to an agreement with de Clare where, for the Earl’s assistance with an army the following spring, he can have Mac Murchada’s eldest daughter, Aoife, in marriage and the succession to Leinster.

Mac Murchada and Richard de Clare raise a large army, which includes Welsh archers and arranges for Raymond FitzGerald to lead it. The force takes the Ostman towns of Wexford, Waterford, and Dublin in rapid succession between 1169 and 1170. Richard de Clare, however, is not with the first invading party and arrives later, in August 1170.

In May 1171, Diarmait Mac Murchada dies and his son, Donal MacMurrough-Kavanagh claims the kingdom of Leinster in accordance with his rights under the Brehon Laws. Richard de Clare also claims the kingship in the right of his wife. At this time, Strongbow sends his uncle, Hervey de Montmorency, on an embassy to Henry II, which is necessary to appease the King who is growing restive at the count’s increasing power. Upon his return, de Montmorency conveys the King’s terms – the return of Richard de Clare’s lands in France, England, and Wales as well as leaving him in possession of his Irish lands. In return, Richard de Clare surrenders Dublin, Waterford, and other fortresses to the English king. Henry’s intervention is successful and both the Gaelic and Norman lords in the south and east of Ireland accept his rule. Richard de Clare also agrees to assist Henry II in his upcoming war in France.

Richard de Clare dies on April 20, 1176 of an infection in his leg or foot. He is buried in Holy Trinity Church in Dublin with his uncle-in-law, Lorcán Ua Tuathail, Archbishop of Dublin, presiding. King Henry II takes all of Strongbow’s lands and castles for himself and places a royal official in charge of them.


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John Comyn Elected Archbishop of Dublin

Swords Castle

Swords Castle

John Comyn is elected Archbishop of Dublin and consecrated by the pope at Velletri on March 21, 1181. He is the first Englishman to be appointed to an Irish see.

He is chaplain to King Henry II of England and on his “urgent” recommendation is elected Archbishop of Dublin following the death of St. Laurence O’Toole in 1180. He has been a Benedictine monk at the Evesham Abbey.

In 1181, some of the clergy of Dublin assemble at Evesham and Comyn is elected to the archbishopric of Dublin. He is not then a priest, but is subsequently ordained such later in the year at Velletri and on Palm Sunday, March 21, is consecrated archbishop by Pope Lucius III. The following year the pope grants him manors and lands in and around Dublin, which subsequently form the Manor of St. Sepulchre which remains under the authority of the Archbishop of Dublin until the 19th century. The pope also, in an effort to protect the Dublin archbishopric from claims from Canterbury, extends certain privileges to Comyn, which intensifies the rivalry between the sees of Dublin and Armagh for the Primacy of Ireland.

Comyn waits three years before visiting Ireland, until he is sent there by King Henry to prepare the reception of his son, Prince John. The king grants him lands and privileges which make him a Lord of Parliament. After his arrival in Ireland, John grants Comyn the Bishopric of Glendalough, although Comyn never has an opportunity to take this up in his lifetime. Under Pope Urban III, Comyn carries out a number of reforms of the Irish church to bring it into line with the church in England and in continental Europe.

In 1189, Archbishop Comyn assists at the coronation of King Richard I. The following year he demolishes the old parish church of St. Patrick, south of Dublin. He then erects a new building, next to his Palace of St. Sepulchre, which he elevates to the status of a collegiate church and later becomes St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This enables him to rule in his own Liberty, without the interference of mayor and citizens. Around this time he enlarges the choir of Christ Church Cathedral.

Prince John grants Comyn further legal rights throughout the country of Ireland, while Comyn also receives the church and lands of All Hallows to the northeast of Dublin. Between Lusk and Swords he founds the convent of Grace Dieu Abbey, which later becomes wealthy through grants from the Anglo-Norman prelates and magnates. However, when Hamo de Valoniis is appointed Justiciar of Ireland he seizes some of these lands for the treasury and himself. A dispute arises which causes Comyn to flee for his own safety to Normandy. Comyn appeals to Pope Innocent III, who settles the dispute, but John is angered by the actions of Comyn and does not reconcile himself with him until 1206.

Comyn dies six years later on October 25, 1212 and is buried in Christ Church Cathedral, where a marble monument is erected to his memory. Two years later William Piro, Bishop of Glendalough, dies whereupon the union of the sees granted by King John takes place.