Donald O'Brien

O'Brien, Donald, King of Munster, succeeded to the throne about 1167. On the advent of the Anglo-Normans he turned against Roderic O'Conor, and was amongst the first to pay homage to Henry II. He surrendered Limerick to King Henry, and agreed to render tribute as to his sovereign lord, but took the first occasion to turn against the Anglo-Normans. In 1174 Earl Strongbow marched south to reassert his authority, but was intercepted at Thurles by forces under Roderic O'Conor and Donald O'Brien, and defeated with great loss. According to the Annals of Inisfallen, four knights and 700 of Strongbow's troops were killed, and the Four Masters say: "He returned in sorrow to his house in Waterford, and O'Brien proceeded home in triumph."

On his return from victory, Donald blinded and put to death several of his relatives, to prevent the possibility of trouble from their designs upon the crown. He and the other chiefs were capable of sudden rallies and the accomplishment of brilliant exploits, but were quite unequal to sustained or combined efforts of any kind. Soon afterwards, Strongbow and Raymond FitzGerald besieged and took Limerick, and Roderic O'Conor making an incursion about the same time, Donald again submitted to the Anglo-Normans.

When FitzGerald hastened to Dublin in 1177, on receiving the news of Strongbow's death, O'Brien, forgetful of all his engagements, cut down the bridge over the Shannon, and fired the town, stored with supplies of all kinds, declaring that it should no longer be a nest for foreigners. Henry II. shortly afterwards granted Donald's dominions to Philip de Braosa, and in 1192 two bands of English settlers entered his territory, but were defeated near Killaloe, driven across the Shannon, and again defeated near Thurles. Donald O'Brien died in 1194.


263. O'Briens, Historical Memoir of the: John O'Donoghue. Dublin, 1860.