Turlough O'Connor

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XIV

It will be remembered that we turned to ecclesiastical history, after mentioning the year's truce (A.D. 1128) which had been made, through the intervention of St. Celsus, between the men of Munster and Connaught. In 1129 the great Church of Clonmacnois was robbed [8] of some of its greatest treasures. Amongst these was a model of Solomon's Temple, presented by a prince of Meath, and a silver chalice burnished with gold, which had been engraved by a sister of King Turlough O'Connor—an evidence that the ladies of Ireland were by no means behind the age in taste and refinement.

After the death of Donnell O'Loughlin, Turlough had full scope for the exercise of his ambitious projects; but in 1131 he found serious opposition from Connor O'Brien, who had succeeded his father, Dermod, on the throne of Munster. Connor now carried off hostages from Leinster and Meath, and defeated the cavalry of Connaught. The following year he sent a fleet to the western coast of Ireland. Eventually Turlough O'Connor was glad to make a truce with his opponents. In 1184 the consecration of a church at Cashel was celebrated. This is still known as Cormac's Chapel, and was long supposed to have been erected by the more ancient monarch of that name. But the good king was soon after treacherously slain in his own house, by Turlough O'Connor and the two sons of the O'Connor of Kerry. Turlough was unquestionably somewhat Spartan in his severities, if not Draconian in his administration of justice.

In 1106 he put out the eyes of his own son, Hugh, and in the same year he imprisoned another son, named Roderic. The nature of their offences is not manifest; but Roderic was liberated through the interference of the clergy. Seven years after he was again imprisoned, "in violation of the most solemn pledges and guarantees." The clergy again interfered; from which we may infer that he was a favourite. They even held a public feast at Rathbrendan on his behalf; but he was not released until the following year. In the year 1136 we find the obituary of the chief keeper of the calendar of Ard-Macha, on the night of Good Friday. He is also mentioned as its chief antiquary and librarian, an evidence that the old custom was kept up to the very eve of the English invasion. The obituary of Donnell O'Duffy, Archbishop of Connaught, is also given. He died after Mass and celebration; according to the Annals of Clonmacnois, he had celebrated Mass by himself, at Clonfert, on St. Patrick's Day, and died immediately after. About the same time the Breinemen behaved "so exceedingly outrageous," that they irreverently stript O'Daly, arch-poet of Ireland, "of all his clothes."


[8] Robbed.—In MacGeoghegan's translation of the Annals of Clonmacnois he says:—"The clergy of Clone made incessant prayer to God and St. Keyran, to be a means for the revelation of the party that took away the said jewels." The "party" was a Dane. He was discovered, and hung in 1130. It is said that he entered several ships to leave the country, but they could get no wind, while other vessels sailed off freely.—Annals of the Four Masters, vol. ii. p. 1035.