Brian Boru (Boruma/ Boroimhe) Mac Cennetig was born 926-940 AD in Munster, the son of Cennetig (Cennedi) and Babhion or Bebinn. Members of the Dal Cais tribe, the family had an ancient royal ancestry. Brian was raised in the small village of Boru'mha where his father was king of the tribe there. The youngest of twelve sons (though only four other sons would leave issue), Brian would become truly one of the legends of Ireland. Educated in the monasteries of Munster, Brian was literate in both Latin and Greek. He learned about Caesar and how Caesar memorized his battle plans rather then allowing them to be written whence they might be intercepted. He was a strong Christian and felt very strongly about his faith. Brian would become the 175th king of Ireland and the founder of Siol mBrian/ Bryan/ Brien and the ancestor of the kings of Thomond.
Brian enjoyed the game of chess, which was popular in Ireland during this time. He was an excellent harp musician and the harp has become a symbol of peace and unity in Ireland in his memory.
Brian married four times: his first wife was Mor, daughter of Flan O'Hyne, Prince of the Hy-Fiachra Aidhne in Galway; his second wife was Eachraidh, the daughter of Cerbhall, son of Ollioll Fionn; his third wife was Gormlaith, sister of Maolmora, King of Leinster and widow of Aulaf, King of Dublin. Gormlaith was constantly conspiring with her son, Sitric and her brother, Maelmordha against Brian and Brian was forced to put her aside. His fourth and final wife was Dubhcobhla, daughter of Cathal O'Connor, King of Connaught. It is also said that Brian enjoyed over thirty concubines during his lifetime.
The young Brian had fought with his brother Mahon, King of Munster against the invading Viking Danes. Mahon sought a peaceful solution with the Vikings. Brian, who had witnessed the murder of his mother and other relatives at the hands of the Danes, was uninclined to seek a peaceful solution. Brian had waged guerilla warfare upon the Vikings during his brother's lifetime and had become a greatly skilled tactician and warrior winning many battles. The castle of Cashel had been anciently the seat of the Kings of Munster but had been lost to the Danes. In 968, Brian defeated the Danes and restored Cashel once again to the Kings of Munster. Eventually, Mahon, unable to find a peaceful solution with the Danes, joined forces with Brian, renouncing his truce with the Vikings. Together, Brian and Mahon drove most of the Vikings from southern Ireland, including their leader, Imar, King of the Ostermen of Limerick. Imar was allied to the O'Donovans and O'Mahonys of Carbery. In 975, the Dane Ostermen, led by Imar, returned and captured Mahon. Imar then delivered Mahon to Maolmuidh of the O'Mahoneys, who killed him at Aghabullogue.
Brian then succeeded his brother as King of Munster and sought revenge for the murder of his brother. In 978, he avenged his brother's death by killing Imar in single combat. He then picked off and killed O'Donovan. Brian met the O'Mahonys at The Battle of Bealach Leachta, in a day long battle in which Brian was reinforced in the battle by minor chieftains, who realized Brian's potential as a leader. Maolmuidh was supported by the remains of the O'Donovan clan and fifteen hundred Danes. Forced to retreat, Maolmuidh took refuge at Leacha Dubh, where he was discovered and killed by Brian's son, Murcha. In fullfillment of a curse placed uon Maolmuidh for the murder of Mahon, Maolmuidh is buried on the north side of this hill, where the sun never shines and a harsh wind always blows. Following the battle, Brian was crowned King of Munster. This was Brian's first major defeat of the Vikings, placing him in contention for the position of Ard-Ri.
Following Brian's lead, in 980, Mael or Malachy II Sechnaill led a successful expedition against the Danes in Dublin. Malcolm was then crowned King of Meath. He then joined forces with Malcolm Sechnaill II in 997 and defeated the Vikings of Connaught and Leinster. The two leaders agreed to divide Ireland with Brian ruling southern Ireland while Malcolm ruled over northern Ireland.
Brian defeated the Dublin Danes at Glen Mama, capturing the King of Leinster. He then defeated Sitric Silkenbeard, King of Dublin, Brian's stepson through his marriage with Gormlaith.
Following the defeat of the Dublin Danes, Brian was recognized as Ard-Ri, High King and sole King of Ireland in 1002, thus ending the six hundred year reign of the Ui Neils. Brian's name was inscribed in the Book of Armagh, in gold lettering, as "Emperor of the Irish" in 1005 during Brian's campaign in the north of Ireland. Twice earlier he had been repelled by the Ulstermen. In 1006, Brian again campaigned in northern Ireland, defeating the Danes of Leinster and Dublin, who then sought reinforcement from their native Danes.
Brian collected tributes from the minor rulers of Ireland, which he then endowed to the restoration of the monasteries and libraries destroyed by the Vikings. He was also responsible for the construction of roads, forts and churches, which were built between 1002-1014, a time of peace in Ireland.
Maelmordha, brother of Gormlaith, third wife of Brian, who had usurped the crown of Leinster in 999, rebelled against Brian's rule in 1013. Conspiring with Sitric, son of Gormlaith, the two resolved themselves to overthrow Brian. Sitric offered his mother's hand in marriage to the man that killed Brian Boru. The two then travelled to Scandinavia to rally their allies in the overthrow of Brian, thus completing their conquest of Ireland. Returning to Dublin, with 12,000 troops, including the sons of the King of Denmark, Carolus Kanutus and Andreas, they along with Dane Vikings of norhern Ireland in Leinster and Dublin, as well as native Irish rivals to Brian, gathered their forces in rebellion to Brian in 1014. Two Norwegian princes, Broder and Anrud at the head of a thousand mailed troops, arrived to reinforce the Danish contingent. As the Danes prepared for battle at Clontorf, they numbered sixteen thousand, as well as troops from Leinster under their king, Maelmordha.
The Danes divided their forces into three divisions. The first consisted of a thousand Northmen armored in full mail, commanded by Carolus and Anrud and of the Danes of Dublin, Dolat and Conmael. The second division was of about nine thousand Lagenians, commanded by their king, Maelmordha Mac Morogh and under him several minor princes including Mac Tuathal or Toole, of the Liffey territory, the prince of Hy-Falgy (Ophaly) along with a large body of Danes. The third division of Northmen, collected from the islands, from Scotland was commanded by Loder, Earl of Orkney and Broder, Norwegian prince and Admiral of the fleet, which had brought the Danes to Ireland. Broder had arrived in Dublin on Palm Sunday and insisted that the battle be fought on Good Friday, which was a day Brian would not wish to fight because of its sanctity.
The King of Connaught, Tadhg O'Conor refused to ally with Brian against the Ostermen, though Ui Fiachrach Aidne and the O'Kelly's of Ui Maine supported Brian. From Scotland, the steward of Lennox, the steward of Mar and many other Scottish chiefs joined Brian's forces.
With a force nearing thirty thousand, including the Dalcassion Knights, Brian marched into Leinster, where he was joined by Malclm II, King of Meath at Clontarf, four miles outside of Dublin. Brian also divided his troops into three divisions, the first under his son, Morrough, who, along with his son, Torlogh and a select body of Dalcassians, besides four other sons of Brian: Teige, Donald, Connor and Flan, along with various chieftains, Donchuah, Lonargan, Celiocar, Fiongallach and Johrachtach, and three chiefs of Teffia, together with a body of men from Conmaiche-mara, under Carnan, their chief. To this division, Malcolm II was ordered to join his followers. The second division was composed of Kian and Donald, two Eugenian princes, under whom were the forces of Desmond, and other parts of southern Ireland including Mothla, son of Faelan, King of the Desies; Murtogh, son of Anmchadha, Lord of Hy-Liathian; Scanlan, son of Cathal, Chief of Eoganacht of Lough Lein; Cathal, son of Donovan, Lord of Hy-Cairbre Eabha and Loingseach O'Dowling, Chief of Hy-Conall Gaura; son of Beothach, King of Kerry-Luachra; Geibbionach, son of Dubhagan, Chief of Fermoy as well as O'Carroll and his troops of Ely O'Carroll including another O'Carroll, prince of Oriel, in Ulster and Maguire, Prince of Fermanagh. The third division consisted of Connacians commanded by Teige O'Conor, as Chief, under whom were Mulroney O'Heyne, Chief of Aidline; Teige O'Kelly, King of Hy-Maine; O'Flaherty, King of Muinter Murchadha; Connor O'Mulroney, Chief of Moylurg; Hugh Guineagh O'Doyle, and Fogartagh, son of Donall, two Chiefs of Ely; Murtagh, son of Corc, Chief of Muscraighe-Cuirc; and Hugh, son of Louglin, Chief of Hy-Cuanach; Donall, son of Dermod, Chief of Corca-Baisgin; Donogh, son of Cathl, Chief of Muscraighe Aedlha; Ectigerna, son of Donegan, King of Ara.
The Battle of Clontarf lasted from dawn to dusk on Good Friday, 23 April 1014. As the battle began, Brian marched before his troops, crucifix in one hand, sword in the other, reminding them of the sacred day upon which the pagans chose battle, having refused an offer to postpone the battle until Sunday. In a loud and powerful voice, standing in the center of his army, Brian exhorted his followers: "Be not dismayed my soldiers, because my son Donough, with the third part of the Momonian forces is absent from you as he is avenging our wrongs in Leinster; for long have the men of Ireland groaned under the tyranny of these seafaring pirates! the murderers of your kings and chieftains, plunderers of yoru fortresses! profane destroyers of the churches and monasteries of God! who have trampled upon and committed to the flames the relics of the saints! May the Almighty God, through his great mercy, give you strength and courage today, to put an end forever to the Lochlunian tyranny in Ireland and to revenge uon them their many perfidies, and their profanations of the sacred edifices dedicated to his worship, this day, on which Jesus Christ himself suffered death for your redemption. He will return victorious, and in the glory of his conquests you shall share. On your valor rests the hopes of your country today; and what surer grounds can they rest upon? Oppression now attempts to bend you down to servility; will you burst its chains and rise to the independence of Irish freemen? Your cause is one approved by Heaven. You seek not the oppression of others; you fight for your country and sacred altars. It is a cause that claims heavenly protection. In this day's battle the interposition of that God who can give victory will be singnally manifested in your favor. Let every heart, then, be the throne of confidence and courage. You know that the Danes are strangers to religion and humanity; they are inflamed with the desire of violating the fairest daughters of this land of beauty, and enriching themselves with the spoils of sacrilege and plunder. the barbarians have impiously fixed, for their struggle, to enslave us, upon the very day on which the Redeemer of the world was crucified. Victory they shall not have! from such brave soldiers as you they can never wrest it; for you fight in defense of honor, liberty and religion-in defense of the sacred temples of the true God, and of your sisters, wives and daughters. Such a holy cause must be the cause of God, who will deliver your enemies this day into your hands. Onward, then, for your country and your sacred altars!" ( From Annals of Innisfallen, Mooney, p436).
Though his chiefs implored him to retire to his tent rather than attend the battle at his advanced age, Brian refused, insisting he was ready for the fight. At last, the eighty-eight year old King, riddled with the scars of many battles, relented to the will of his chiefs and went to his tent.
As the Irish forces marched towards the field, the Meath legions under Malcolm II, suddenly retired from the field. Malcolm II had plotted to betray Brian and to this end, sent a letter to the King of Leinster, to inform him that Brian had set his son, Donogh at the head of a third of the Irish forces to ravage Leinster and that he and his thousand men, would desert Brian on the day of the battle. With this information, Maelmordha determined to attack Brian before he could be reinforced by Donogh. Malcolm II watched the battle as a spectator, along with his men, taking neither side in the battle.
Prince Murrough, son of Brian, rallied the forces and continued the march towards the Danes. Following a fierce battle of single combat, in which the waters of the riverTolka turned red, the Vikings broke lines and fled, pursued to their ships by the Irish. Murrough had stopped to bathe his wounded right arm in a brook, when he was beset upon by a straggling party of Danes. A Dane chief, Anrud, son of Ebhric, rushed towards Murrough, who, unable to raise his right arm, managed to thrust Arnrudh, upon the ground, whereupon he drove his sword through the Daneman's body. The Dane, despite his mortal wound, snatched a scimitar from Murrough's girdle and before he died, he stabbed Murrough in the heart. Murrough lived until the next day, mortally wounded, he received the last rites and consolations from the priests. Prince Murrough was buried at Kilmainham, where a stone cross bearing his name was erected over his remains. It is also said that Brian's son, Murrough, was also buried at Armagh on the southside of the church.
The Battle of Clontarf was a victory for the Irish, though unfortunately, the great King Brian was killed. Brian had gone into his tent to pray. He had a premonition of his death, as the signs had warned him. As the Danes fled, a small group came upon Brian's tent, where he had retired alone and without guard, nor support, insisting that all remain on the field. Brian, seeing the first Dane enter the tent, grabbed his two-handed sword and cut the legs of the Dane, Brodar, the Viking admiral and King of Man,who, before dying, struck a mortal blow to Brian. Before Brian died, he gathered the strength, for which he was renowned and managed to behead his murderer. He then killed the second Dane before resigning himself to death. Brian was buried in a stone coffin on the north side of the high altar at Armagh, accompanied by the entire Irish army, which for twelve days celebrated the obsequies led by the clergy of Armagh. Four thousand Irishmen were also killed on that day including two of Connacht's kings as well as Brian's son, Murchadh.
Lost to the Irish was Brian Boru and his son, Morrough along with two of his brothers and his grandson Turlogh; his nephew Conaing; the chiefs of Corca Baisgin, of Fermoy, of Coonagh, of Kerry-Luachra, of Eoganacht Locha Lein, of Hy-Conaill Gabhra, of Hy-Neachach Mumhan, of the Desies who all fell in this battle as did the Connaught princes O'Kelly of Hymaine, O'Heyne and many others. Conaing and Moltha were also buried at Armagh, while Turlough and several other chieftains were buried at Kilmainham. The Great Stewards of Lennox and Mar along with other brave Albanian Scots, descendants of Corc, King of Munster, also perished. These Scots well knew their ancestry and history and knew that they were descendants of Corc.
At the Battle of Clontorf, in order to show that his family was not above that which he asked of his countrymen, every male in Brian's family attended his standard, along with the Dalcassion Knights, the chiefs of North Munster and South Munster.
The losses to the Danes included Maelmordha along with the princes of Hy-Failge (Ophaly) of Magh-Liffe and almost all the chiefs of Leinster along with three thousand of their troops. Of the Danes, aside from their officers, fell fourteen thousand men. In some of their divisions, not a man was left alive. The one thousand mailed troops were all killed.
Donogh, having plundered Leinster, arrived at Kilmainham on the evening of Easter Sunday, where he met his brother Teige, Kian, the son of Molloy, and all that survived the battle, both sick and wounded
Brian had led the people of Ireland through a successful campaign to regain Irish control of their native land. Following the Battle of Clontarf, the Dane in Ireland remained subordinate to the native kings of Ireland. They retreated to their ships, while the remaining Danes fled to the Viking centers of Dublin, Waterford, Limerick, Wexford and Cork where they were eventually amalgamated into the Hibernian society.
Following Brian's death, Malcolm Sechnaill assumed the High Kingship of Ireland. He died in 1022, upon which the HIgh Kingship of Ireland became merely a titled position rather than a position of any force or power. However, the O'Brien's continued to hold the kingship in Kincora for another two centuries because of Brian Boru's efforts during his lifetime.
1. Brian Boru. Stephen Butters. Internet. http://www.irishclans.com/articles/famirish/borub.html
2. Brian Boru. The Information about Ireland Site. Internet. http://www.ireland-information.com/articles/brianboru.htm
3. Brian Boru, High King of Ireland. O'Neill's in Ireland and O'Neall's in America. http://www.maui.net/~mauifun/bboru.htm
4. Brian Boru. Bealick Mill Restoration Project. Sleeping Giant. Internet. http://www.sleeping-giant.ie/bealick/boru.html
5. The Battle of Clontarf, The Death of Brian Boru. Reprinted with permission of Ancient Order of Hiberians Vol. I. O'Kelly.Net Barnageera Skerries Co., Dublin, Ireland. Internet. http://www.okelly.net/battles/boru.htm
6. The Battle of Clontarf. The Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. I, No. 17, October 20, 1832. John O'Donovan. Internet. http://indigo.ie/~kfinlay/General/battleofclontarf.htm
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