Early Christian Ireland

Patrick Weston Joyce

126. Lewy the son of Laeghaire was too young at the time of his father's death to claim the throne, which was seized by Olioll Molt king of Connaught, son of Dathi, A.D. 463. But Lewy when he came of age raised a great army and defeated and slew king Olioll in the terrible battle of Ocha in Meath and took possession of the throne. This battle, which was fought in 483, was a sort of revolution. Olioll Molt did not belong to the Hy Neill. Lewy was of the Southern Hy Neill; and from this date, for 500 years without a break, the Hy Neill held the throne of Ireland.

During this king's reign (in 503) a colony was led to Scotland, the greatest colony of all, by three brothers, Fergus, Angus, and Lome, sons of an Irish chief named Erc. Fergus, commonly called Fergus Mac Erc, became king of the Scottish Gaelic colony, which before long mastered the whole country and ultimately gave it the name of Scotland (from the Scots or Irish).

127. Dermot the son of Fergus Kervall became king of Ireland in 544. In his reign Tara was deserted as a royal residence on account of a curse pronounced against it by St. Rodan of Lorrha in Tipperary. From that time forth the kings of Ireland lived elsewhere—each in his own province: and the place gradually fell into decay.

128. Aed or Hugh the son of Ainmire reigned from 572 to 598. By him was summoned in 574 the celebrated convention of Druim-cete [Drum-Ketta], now called the Mullagh or Daisy Hill, on the river Roe, near Limavady, which was attended by the chief men of Ireland both lay and clerical. St. Columba also and a number of his clergy came from Iona to take part in the proceedings, as well as the king and chiefs of the Scottish Dalriada. At this meeting two important questions were settled. The bards had become so numerous and so oppressive on the people by their insolence and exactions that king Hugh proposed that the order should be abolished and the bards banished. But at St. Columkille's intercession a middle course was adopted. Their number was greatly reduced, and strict rules were laid down for the regulation of their conduct for the future. The principal bards, or ollaves, had to employ themselves in teaching schools. The second question had reference to the colony in Scotland. Up to this it had been subject to the kings of Ireland: but at the intercession of St, Columkille it was now made independent.

King Aed, attempting to exact the Borumean tribute, was defeated and slain by Branduff king of Leinster at the battle of Dunbolg, near Dunlavin, in the county Wicklow.

129. Donall the son of king Aed Mac Ainmire ascended the throne, A.D. 627. A powerful Ulster prince named Congal Claen, who had been banished by Donall, landed on the coast of Down, after an exile of nine years, with a great army of auxiliaries—Britons, Saxons, Alban Scots, and Picts—and was immediately joined by his Ulster partisans.

Donall had been fully aware of Congal's projected invasion, and had made preparations to meet it. He marched northwards at the head of his army to Moyrath, now Moira in the county of Down, where was fought, in 637, one of the most sanguinary battles recorded in Irish history. It lasted for six successive days, and terminated in the total defeat of the invaders. Congal fell fiercely fighting at the head of his forces; and his army was almost annihilated.

130. The Irish kings had continued to exact the Boru tribute from the Leinstermen, who struggled manfully against it to the last. But at the earnest solicitation of St. Moling, Finaghta the Festive, who became king in 674, solemnly renounced the Boru for himself and his successors.

The generous action of Finaghta did not end the trouble. After the lapse of two reigns, the monarch Fergal demanded the tribute; and on refusal a battle was fought in 722 at the historic hill of Allen in Kildare, in which the royal forces were utterly defeated, and king Fergal himself and 7,000 of his men were slain.

But when Aed (or Hugh) Allen, the son of Fergal, became king, he engaged the Leinster army at Ballyshannon in Kildare, and nearly exterminated them; A.D. 738.