Second Feidlim O'Connor, Prince of Connaught

DIED A. D. 1316.

From The Irish Nation: Its History and Its Biography

By James and Freeman Wills

THIS unfortunate prince was most probably the grandson of the prince of the same name commemorated in the preceding memoir. Of his personal history we know no more than the particulars which belong to the general history of the period. But these are such as to fix his claim to a separate notice.

On the invasion of Ireland by the Scots, under the command of Edward Bruce, in 1315, Feidlim joined De Burgo with his provincial force. He was about twenty-two years of age, high spirited and distinguished for his military ardour, but rash and inexperienced. He was probably impatient of the domineering influence under which he was controlled by the power and pride of the De Burgos, and was therefore the more open to the secret seductions of Bruce. To him Bruce represented the disgrace of his dependent condition; he reminded him of the ancient power and honour of his illustrious line; and promised to reinstate him in all the possessions of his family as fully as they had been possessed by the greatest monarch of his race; for this purpose he conjured him to desert his oppressors, and the enemies of his family and nation, and to join him in driving them from the island. Feidlim, easily seduced by this romantic notion, sought a pretence to detach himself from the earl of Ulster. Such a pretence was nearer than he would have wished.

Taking advantage of his absence, Roderic, a near relation, possessed himself of his territories. He, too, entered into a communication with Bruce, and promised to assist him and put the province of Connaught under his sovereignty, if he were himself fixed securely in possession of the powers and territories of the rightful prince. His offer of service was accepted; but he was at the same time warned of the danger which would follow from division, and entreated to leave Feidlim's possessions undisturbed, until the expulsion of the common enemy should leave them at liberty to discuss their respective claims. Roderic, who was perhaps aware of the hollowness of this politic counsel, and that he had no claims suited to such a discussion, gave no heed to the advice, and proceeded with vigour and success to obtain his objects. He found no difficulty in compelling or influencing the septs to give hostages for their faithful adherence to his interest; and when Feidlim had arrived to protect his own rights, he found that he was too late. His march had been interrupted and beset by the Northern septs, who looked upon him as an ally of their enemies, and when he had reached a safe position, he was no longer at the head of an army; his remaining followers were few and discouraged, and he was without the means of supporting them.

He was soon followed by De Burgo, whose force did not enable him to meet Bruce in the field. But even with this reinforcement, Feidlim was not strong enough to bring matters to the issue of arms.

At this time Sir John Birmingham was appointed commander in Ireland; and considering Feidlim as the ally of the English, he immediately joined him with a body of English troops, and he was reinstated in his possessions by an engagement in which his rival was defeated and slain.

The first use this unfortunate prince made of his deliverance, was such as indeed to deserve the fatal consequences which he soon incurred. He was no sooner freed from the presence of his deliverers, than he threw off concealment, and openly declared for Bruce.

The penalty followed soon upon the crime. William de Burgo and Richard de Birmingham were detached into Connaught, to chastise his defection. They met near Athenry, a town within eleven miles of Galway; and an engagement ensued, in which Feidlim was slain. This battle was fatal to his race, which never again recovered its importance and authority. It was also the most sanguinary that had taken place since the arrival of the English: the slain on the part of the Irish are said to have been about 8,000, and there seems no reason to doubt the statement.

Of this family we shall have no further account to offer: in common with several others of the native royal or aristocratic families, they were, after a few generations of struggle among the violent eddies of a great revolutionary tide, swept down from their state and ceased to retain historic importance. Their hour of greatness had at no time been unclouded by adversity, vicissitude, and the perpetual interruptions of reverse. The O'Connors were in this more fortunate than most others of Irish race, that they have not wholly sunk into the lowest popular level. Many respectable families of their descendants still hold portions of their ancient wealth, and in public estimation, invested with the memories of their race, live among the most respectable of the Irish proprietary, whether of native or Norman race. Of these families we have, in the course of our necessary inquiry, obtained considerable, though somewhat casual, notice.--Of the Sligo O'Connors we have met many notices; of the Ballintubber O'Connors, who possessed large districts in the Roscommon country, we have much both of personal and traditionary information. This latter, the main branch of this ancient princely race, was itself divided, in the course of descent, into two lines--distinguished by the terms Dhuna and Ruadh, dark and red, from the hair of their immediate first ancestors. Between these two the lands of the barony were divided. After the usual custom of neighbours or kinsmen of Irish race, the two families inherited the mutual hostilities of their fathers; in the result, the Ballintubber barony fell to the descendants of Sir Hugh O'Connor, among whom, in different denominations and diminished proportions, it yet remains.

To those who have a curiosity on the interesting subject of Irish genealogy we would refer to a very able and closely reasoned inquiry respecting the latter family, by Roderic O'Conor, Esq., barrister-at-law, a direct descendant of Tirlogh, in common with the Ballintubber branch. His statement--of which we have fully traced the documentary authorities--will be found at the end of the same learned gentleman's history of Ireland,--a work from which we have derived much instruction, and can confidently recommend.