Donough O'Brien, 4th Earl of Thomond

O'Brien, Donough, 4th Earl of Thomond (the "Great Earl"), son of preceding, was brought up at the court of Elizabeth, and succeeded to the titles and estates on the death of his father in 1580. In July 1597, at the head of his clansmen, he joined the Lord-Deputy at Boyle for an attack on O'Donnell. In crossing the Erne in the face of O'Donnell's troops, the Baron of Inchiquin, the Earl's relative, was killed. The reduction of the castle of Ballyshannon was unsuccessfully attempted, and the Lord-Deputy and O'Brien were compelled to beat an ignominious retreat, abandoning some of their artillery and baggage.

In the following January the Earl was despatched by the Lords-Justices to inform the Queen of the true position of affairs in Ireland, and to be the bearer of the conditions upon which O'Neill and O'Donnell were willing to lay down their arms. After O'Neill's victory of the Yellow Ford, the flame of insurrection spread into Thomond. The Earl, in 1599, visited his domains at the head of a considerable body of the Queen's troops, and inflicted a terrible retaliation on the insurgents — hanging the garrison of the castle of Dunbeg in couples on the nearest trees, and reducing Dunmore, Derryowen, Cloon, and Lissofin. Later in the same year he attended the Earl of Essex in his progress through the south of Ireland — parting from him at Dungarvan, and returning by Youghal and Cork to Limerick.

In the summer of 1600 O'Brien joined Sir George Carew in his victorious expedition through Desmond, and was present at the reduction of Glin Castle and other strongholds. In 1601 the Earl again visited England, and returned with reinforcements for Mountjoy, then engaged at the siege of Kinsale. After the surrender of Don Juan d'Aguila, and the settlement of the country, he had leisure to look after his own affairs, and the historian of the O'Briens quotes documents to prove that he still exercised or claimed almost regal authority over the other members of the sept. In May 1619, he was made Governor of Clare and Thomond; but we do not often find his name in connexion with public affairs. The Great Earl died, 5th September 1624, and was buried in Limerick Cathedral.


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