Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XIII

The Dalcassians now obtained possession of Limerick, with immense spoils of jewels, gold and silver, foreign saddles, "soft, youthful, bright girls, blooming silk-clad women, and active, well-formed boys." The active boys were soon disposed of, for we find that they collected the prisoners on the hillocks of Saingel, where "every one that was fit for war was put to death, and every one that was fit for a slave was enslaved." This event is dated A.D. 968.

Mahoun was now firmly established on the throne, but his success procured him many enemies. A conspiracy was formed against him under the auspices of Ivar of Limerick and his son, Dubhcenn. The Eoghanist clans basely withdrew their allegiance from their lawful sovereign, allied themselves with the Danes, and became principals in the plot of assassination. Their motive was as simple as their conduct was vile. The two Eoghanist families were represented by Donovan and Molloy. They were descendants of Oilioll Oluim, from whom Mahoun was also descended, but his family were Dalcassians. Hitherto the Eoghanists had succeeded in depriving the tribes of Dal-Cais of their fair share of alternate succession to the throne of Munster; they became alarmed at and jealous of the advancement of the younger tribe, and determined to do by treachery what they could not do by force. With the usual headlong eagerness of traitors, they seem to have forgotten Brian, and quite overlooked the retribution they might expect at his hands for their crime. There are two different accounts of the murder, which do not coincide in detail. The main facts, however, are reliable: Mahoun was entrapped in some way to the house of Donovan, and there he was basely murdered, in violation of the rights of hospitality, and in defiance of the safe-conduct of the bishop, which he secured before his visit.

The traitors gained nothing by their treachery except the contempt of posterity. Brian was not slow in avenging his brother. "He was not a stone in place of an egg, nor a wisp of hay in place of a club; but he was a hero in place of a hero, and valour after valour."[4]

Public opinion was not mistaken in its estimate of his character. Two years after the death of Mahoun, Brian invaded Donovan's territory, drove off his cattle, took the fortress of Cathair Cuan, and slew Donovan and his Danish ally, Harolt. He next proceeded to settle accounts with Molloy. Cogarán is sent to the whole tribe of Ui Eachach, to know "the reason why" they killed Mahoun, and to declare that no cumhal or fine would be received, either in the shape of hostages, gold, or cattle, but that Molloy must himself be given up. Messages were also sent to Molloy, both general and particular—the general message challenged him to battle at Belach-Lechta; the particular message, which in truth he hardly deserved, was a challenge to meet Murrough, Brian's son, in single combat. The result was the battle of Belach-Lechta,[5] where Molloy was slain, with twelve hundred of his troops, both native and foreign. Brian remained master of the field and of the kingdom, A.D. 978.


[4] Valour.—Wars of the Gaedhil, p. 101.

[5] Belach-Lechta.—The site has not been definitely ascertained. Some authorities place it near Macroom, co. Cork.