Felim O'Connor

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XIX

As usual, on the death of Hugh O'Connor, the brothers who had fought against him now fought against each other. The Saxon certainly does not deserve the credit of all our national miseries. If there had been a little less home dissension, there would have been a great deal less foreign oppression. The English, however, helped to foment the discord. The Lord Justice took part with Hugh, the younger brother, who was supported by the majority of the Connaught men, although Turlough had already been inaugurated by O'Neill. A third competitor now started up; this was Felim brother to Hugh O'Connor. Some of the chieftains declared that they would not serve a prince who acknowledged English rule, and obliged Hugh to renounce his allegiance. But this question was settled with great promptitude. Richard de Burgo took the field, desolated the country—if, indeed, there was anything left to desolate—killed Donn Oge Mageraghty, their bravest champion, expelled Hugh, and proclaimed Felim.

The reign of this prince was of short duration. In 1231 he was taken prisoner at Meelick, despite the most solemn guarantees, by the very man who had so lately enthroned him. Hugh was reinstated, but before the end of the year Felim was released. He now assembled his forces again, and attacked Hugh, whom he killed, with several of his relations, and many English and Irish chieftains. His next exploit was to demolish the castles of Galway; Dunannon, on the river Suck, Roscommon; Hags' Castle, on Lough Mask; and Castle Rich, on Lough Corrib; all of which had been erected by Roderic's sons and their English allies. But the tide of fortune soon turned. The invincible De Burgo entered Connaught once more, and plundered without mercy. In a pitched battle the English gained the day, principally through the skill of their cavalry [1] and the protection of their coats-of-mail.

Felim fled to the north, and sought refuge with O'Donnell of Tir-Connell. O'Flaherty, who had always been hostile to Felim, joined the English, and, by the help of his boats, they were able to lay waste the islands of Clew Bay. Nearly all the inhabitants were killed or carried off. The victorious forces now laid siege to a castle [2] on the Rock of Lough Key, in Roscommon, which was held for O'Connor by Mac Dermod. They succeeded in taking it, but soon lost their possession by the quick-witted cleverness of an Irish soldier, who closed the gates on them when they set out on a plundering expedition. The fortress was at once demolished, that it might not fall into English hands again.


[1] Cavalry.—Horse soldiery were introduced early into Britain, through the Romans, who were famous for their cavalry.

[2] Castle.—The Annals of Boyle contain a wonderful account of the pirrels or engines constructed by the English for taking this fortress.