Danish Invasion of Ireland

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XII

The first raid of the Danish pirates is recorded thus: "The age of Christ 790 [recte, 795]. The twenty-fifth year of Donnchadh. The burning of Reachrainn [8] by plunderers; and its shrines were broken and plundered." They had already attacked the English coasts, "whilst the pious King Bertric was reigning over its western division." Their arrival was sudden and so unexpected, that the king's officer took them for merchants, paying with his life for the mistake.[9] A Welsh chronicle, known by the name of Brut y Tywysogion, or the Chronicle of the Chieftains, has a corresponding record under the year 790: "Ten years with fourscore and seven hundred was the age of Christ when the pagans went to Ireland." Three MSS. add, "and destroyed Rechren." Another chronicle mentions, that the black pagans, who were the first of their nation to land in Ireland, had previously been defeated in Glamorganshire, and after their defeat they had invaded Ireland, and devastated Rechru.

If by bravery we understand utter recklessness of life, and utter recklessness in inflicting cruelties on others, then the Vikings may be termed brave. The heroism of patient endurance was a bravery but little understood at that period. If the heathen Viking was brave when he plundered and burned monastic shrines—when he massacred the defenceless with wanton cruelty—when he flung little children on the points of spears, and gloated over their dying agonies; perhaps we may also admit those who endured such torments, either in their own persons, or in the persons of those who were dear to them, and yet returned again and again to restore the shrine" so rudely destroyed, have also their claim to be termed brave, and may demand some commendation for that virtue from posterity.


[8] Reachrainn.—Rechru appears to be the correct form. It has not yet been ascertained whether this refers to Lambay, near Dublin, or the island of Rathlinn. See note, p. 32, to the "Introduction" to the Wars of the Gaedhil with the Gall.

[9] Mistake.—Ethel. Chron. Pro. book iii.