Irish Battles with the Danes

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XII

In the year 913 new fleets arrived. They landed in the harbour of Waterford, where they had a settlement formerly; but though they obtained assistance here, they were defeated by the native Irish, both in Kerry and in Tipperary. Sitric came with another fleet in 915, and settled at Cenn-Fuait.[6] Here he was attacked by the Irish army, but they were repulsed with great slaughter. Two years after they received another disastrous defeat at Cill-Mosanhog, near Rathfarnham. A large cromlech, still in that neighbourhood, probably marks the graves of the heroes slain in that engagement. Twelve kings fell in this battle. Their names are given in the Wars of the Gaedhil, and by other authorities, though in some places the number is increased. Nial Glundubh was amongst the slain. He is celebrated in pathetic verse by the bards. Of the battle was said:—

"Fierce and hard was the Wednesday
On which hosts were strewn under the fall of shields;
It shall be called, till judgment's day,
The destructive burning of Ath-cliath."

The lamentation of Nial was, moreover, said:—

"Sorrowful this day is sacred Ireland,
Without a valiant chief of hostage reign!
It is to see the heavens without a sun,
To view Magh-Neill [7] without a Nial."

"There is no cheerfulness in the happiness of men;
There is no peace or joy among the hosts;
No fair can be celebrated
Since the sorrow of sorrow died."

Donough, son of Flann Sinna, succeeded, and passed his reign in obscurity, with the exception of a victory over the Danes at Bregia. Two great chieftains, however, compensated by their prowess for his indifference; these were Muircheartach, son of the brave Nial Glundubh, the next heir to the throne, and Callaghan of Cashel, King of Munster. The northern prince was a true patriot, willing to sacrifice every personal feeling for the good of his country: consequently, he proved a most formidable foe to the Danish invader. Callaghan of Cashel was, perhaps, as brave, but his name cannot be held up to the admiration of posterity. The personal advancement of the southern Hy-Nials was more to him than the political advancement of his country; and he disgraced his name and his nation by leaguing with the invaders. In the year 934 he pillaged Clonmacnois. Three years later he invaded Meath and Ossory, in conjunction with the Danes. Muircheartach was several times on the eve of engagements with the feeble monarch who nominally ruled the country, but he yielded for the sake of peace, or, as the chroniclers quaintly say, "God pacified them." After one of these pacifications, they joined forces, and laid "siege to the foreigners of Ath-cliath, so that they spoiled and plundered all that was under the dominion of the foreigners, from Ath-cliath to Ath-Truisten."[8]


[6] Cenn-Fuait.—Fuat Head. The site has not been accurately identified.

[7] Magh-Neill, i.e., the Plain of Nial, a bardic name for Ireland.—Four Masters, vol. ii. p. 595.

[8] Ath-Truisten.—From Dublin to a ford on the river Green, near Mullaghmast, co. Kildare.