Murtough O'Brien

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XIV

It is noticeable that, in the Annals of the Four Masters, obituaries of saints or good men always occupy the first place. The Annals of this year are of unusual length; but they commence with the obituary of Murchadh O'Flanaghan, Arrchinneach of Ardbo, a paragon of wisdom and instruction, who died on his pilgrimage at Ard-Macha. A priest of Kildare is also mentioned, and the Tanist-Abbot of Clonmacnois, a prosperous and affluent man.

It would appear that the Irish were sufficiently occupied with domestic wars to prevent their offering assistance elsewhere. This, however, was not the case. When Harold returned to England, his brother-in-law, Donough, lent him nine ships; and we find the Irish affording assistance in several other feuds of the Anglo-Saxons of this period. A deputation of the nobles of Man and other islands visited Dublin, and waited on Murtough O'Brien to solicit a king. He sent his nephew, Donnell; but he was soon expelled on account of his tyranny. Another Donnell O'Brien, his cousin, was, at the same time, lord of the Danes in Dublin. In 1114 Murtough O'Brien was obliged to resign the crown in consequence of ill-health; the Annals say that he became a living skeleton. His brother, Dermod, took advantage of this circumstance to declare himself King of Minister. This obliged Murtough to resume the reins of government, and put himself at the head of his army.

He succeeded in making Dermod prisoner, but eventually he was obliged to resign the kingdom to him, and retired into the Monastery of Lismore, where he died in 1119. The Annals call him the prop of the glory and magnificence of the western world. In the same year Nial Mac Lochlann, royal heir of Aileach and of Ireland, fell by the Cinel-Moain, in the twenty-eighth year of his age. He was the "paragon of Ireland, for personal form, sense, hospitality, and learning." The Chief Ollamh of Ireland, Cucollchoille ua Biagheallain, was killed by the men of Lug and Tuatha-ratha (Tooragh, co. Fermanagh), with his wife, "two very good sons," and five-and-thirty persons in one house, on the Saturday before Little Easter. The cause of this outrage is not mentioned. The Annals of the Four Masters and the Annals of Ulster record the same event, and mention that he was distinguished for charity, hospitality, and universal benevolence.