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


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The Final Donnybrook Fair

The last ever Donnybrook Fair, a fair held in Donnybrook, Dublin since 1204, takes place on August 21, 1855. The general uproar of the annual event results in its suspension.

In the year 1204 King John of England grants a licence to the corporation of Dublin to hold an annual eight-day fair in Donnybrook. In 1252 the duration is extended to fifteen days. Over the years the terms of holding the fair change slightly, until in the 18th century it is held on August 26 on Donnybrook Green for a fortnight.

By the beginning of the 19th century the fair has become more a site of public entertainment and drinking than a fair proper and many attempts are made to have it abolished. However, the licence-holder has by law the right to hold the fair, and refuses to bow to public pressure.

The licence is passed from Henry Ussher, who dies in 1756, to William Wolsey, who leases it in 1778 to John Madden and then sells it to him in 1812. A committee, The Committee for the Abolition of Donnybrook Fair, is established to acquire the licence in order to put an end to it, and it is finally bought from John and Peter Madden in 1855 for £3,000, under the auspices of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Joseph Boyce.

The Donnybrook Fair has given its name to a popular Irish double-jig known as “Donnybrook Fair,” the  upscale supermarket chain, and a broadsheet ballad called “The Humours of Donnybrook Fair” whose author is unknown but is recorded by Tommy Makem. It is also a slang term for a brawl or riot.


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The Norman Invasion of Ireland

Cambro-Norman mercenaries land in Ireland on May 1, 1169 at the request of Diarmait Mac Murchada (Dermot MacMurragh), the ousted King of Leinster, who has sought their help in regaining his kingdom. The Norman invasion of Ireland takes place in stages during the late 12th century, at a time when Gaelic Ireland is made up of several kingdoms, with a High King claiming lordship over all.

Diarmait and the Normans seize Leinster within weeks and launch raids into neighbouring kingdoms. This military intervention has the backing of King Henry II of England and is authorized by Pope Adrian IV.

And there and then the high king stood strong and lay down too led by Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, more commonly known as Strongbow. By May 1171, Strongbow has assumed control of Leinster and seized the Norse-Irish city kingdoms of Dublin, Waterford, and Wexford. That summer, High King Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair (Rory O’Connor) leads an Irish counteroffensive against the Normans, but they manage to hold most of their conquered territory. In October 1171, King Henry lands a large Anglo-Norman army in Ireland to establish control over both the Cambro-Normans and the Irish. The Norman lords hand their conquered territory to Henry. He lets Strongbow hold Leinster in fief and declares the cities to be crown land. Many Irish kings also submit to him, likely in the hope that he will curb Norman expansion. Henry, however, grants the unconquered Kingdom of Meath to Hugh de Lacy. After Henry’s departure in 1172, Norman expansion and Irish counteroffensives continue.

The 1175 Treaty of Windsor acknowledges Henry as overlord of the conquered territory and Ruaidrí as overlord of the rest of Ireland, with Ruaidrí also swearing fealty to Henry. However, the Treaty soon falls apart. The Anglo-Norman lords continue to invade Irish kingdoms and they in turn launch counter-attacks. In 1177, Henry adopts a new policy. He declares his son John to be “Lord of Ireland” (i.e. of the whole country) and authorizes the Norman lords to conquer more land. The territory they hold becomes the Lordship of Ireland and forms part of the Angevin Empire. The largely successful nature of the invasion has been attributed to a number of factors. These include the Normans’ military superiority and programme of castle-building, the lack of a unified opposition from the Irish, and the Church’s support for Henry’s intervention.

The Norman invasion is a watershed in the history of Ireland, marking the beginning of more than 700 years of direct English and, later, British involvement in Ireland.


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Death of John Comyn, Archbishop of Dublin

st-audoens-churchJohn Comyn, Archbishop of Dublin, dies on October 25, 1212, and is buried in Christ Church Cathedral.

Born in England in 1150, Comyn 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, he is elected to the archbishopric of Dublin by some of the clergy of Dublin, who have assembled at Evesham for the purpose. He is not then a priest, but is subsequently, in the same year, ordained such, at Velletri, and on Palm Sunday is there 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, with all its appurtenances in lands, manors, churches, tithes, fisheries, and liberties, 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, and erects a new building, next to his Palace of St. Sepulchre, which he elevates to the status of a collegiate church, and which later becomes St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This enables him to rule in his own Liberty, without the interference of mayor and citizens. About the same 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, 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, with a good portion for himself, and 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 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.

(Pictured: St. Audoen’s Church, the only remaining authentic medieval church in Dublin, built by Archbishop John Comyn around 1190)


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Union of the Dioceses of Glendalough & Dublin

diocese-of-dublin-and-glendalough-armsThe union of the diocese of Glendalough with that of Dublin, having been promulgated by Pope Innocent III, is confirmed by Pope Honorius III on October 6, 1216.

The broad Dublin area is Christian long before Dublin has a distinct diocese, with monasteries such as Glendalough as well as at Finglas, Glasnevin, Rathmichael, Swords, and Tallaght. Several of these function as “head churches” and the most powerful of all is Glendalough.

In the early church in Ireland, the church has a monastic basis, with greatest power vested in the Abbots of the major communities. There are bishops but not organised dioceses in the modern sense, and the offices of abbot and bishop are often comprised in one person. Some early “Bishops of Dublin,” as far back as 633, are mentioned in Ware’s Antiquities of Ireland but the Diocese of Dublin is not considered to have begun until 1038.

The Kingdom of Dublin first seeks to have a bishop of their own in the 11th century, under Sitric MacAulaf, who has been on pilgrimage to Rome. He sends his chosen candidate, Donat, to be consecrated in Canterbury in 1038, and the new prelate sets up the Diocese of Dublin as a small territory within the walled city, over which he presides until 1074. The new diocese is not part of the Church in Ireland but of the Norse Province of Canterbury. Sitric also provides for the building of Christ Church Cathedral in 1038.

At the Synod of Ráth Breasail, convened in 1118 by Gillebert, Bishop of Limerick, on papal authority, the number of dioceses in Ireland is fixed at twenty-four. Dublin is not included as the city is described as lying within the Diocese of Glendalough and still attached to Canterbury.

In 1151, Pope Eugene III commissions Cardinal Giovanni Paparo to go to Ireland and establish four metropolitans. At the Synod of Kells in 1152, Armagh, Dublin, Cashel, and Tuam, are created archiepiscopal sees. In a document drawn up by the then Archbishop of Tuam in 1214, Cardinal Paparo states that he delivered the pallium to Dublin which he determines to be preferred over Glendalough and appoints that the Glendalough diocese should be divided, and that one part thereof should fall to the metropolitan.

The part of North County Dublin known as Fingall is taken from Glendalough Diocese and attached to Dublin City. The new Archdiocese has 40 parishes, in deanaries based on the old senior monasteries. All dependence upon English churches such as Canterbury is also ended.

The founding Archbishop of the larger Dublin Diocese is Gregory, with the Bishops of Kildare, Ossory, Leighlin, Ferns, and Glendalough reporting to him.

In 1185, the Lord of Ireland, John Lackland, grants the merger of the dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough. This is initially without effect as the charter lacks papal approval. When the bishop Macrobius dies in 1192, a synod is held in Dublin under the direction of the papal legate Metthew O Enna. William Piro is elected as Bishop of Glendalough and remains in office at least until 1212. Robert de Bedford is elected as successor in 1213 or 1214 but never has the opportunity to take possession of the diocesan seat. Instead, John, now King of England, reissues a grant to join Glendalough to Dublin which is finally approved in by Pope Innocent III in 1216 and confirmed by his successor Honorius III in the same year.


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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.


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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.