Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
The History of Ireland (Author: Geoffrey Keating)

Section 24


Maoilseachlainn, son of Domhnall, son of Flann Sionna, son of Maoilseachlainn, son of Maolruanuidh, of the race of Eireamhon, held the sovereignty of Ireland twenty-three years. Dunlaith, daughter of Muircheartach, son of Niall, was the mother of this Maoilseachlainn, and Gluiniarann was the king of the Lochlonnaigh in Ireland. It was in the reign of this Maoilseachlainn that the following events took place. For it was Maoilseachlainn himself who won the Battle of Tara over the sons of Amhlaoibh and the Lochlonnaigh of Ath Cliath, wherein Raghnall, son of Amhlaoibh, heir apparent to the sovereignty of the Lochlonnaigh, with five hundred Lochlonnaigh were slain. After this Maoilseachlainn, king of Ireland, and Eochaidh,


son of Ardghal, who was thirty-five years king of Ulster, went to spoil and plunder Ath Cliath against the Lochlonnaigh, and they encamped there three days and three nights, and brought thence as many as were held as captives by the Lochlonnaigh, to wit, Domhnall Claon, king of Leinster, and the sureties of the Ui Neill in general, and they forced the Lochlonnaigh to acknowledge their independence, and to allow them have their lands from the Sionainn to the sea free of Lochlonnach tribute or impost. It was about this time that Amhlaoibh, son of Sitric, chief leader of the Lochlonnaigh in Ireland, was banished and exiled to I Columcille in Alba, the Gaels having driven him out of Ireland.

Maoilseachlainn, king of Ireland, went to plunder and spoil the Dal gCais, and he cut down the tree of Magh Adhar. But, O reader, see whether he escaped punishment from Brian, as will appear later on. And Gleann da Loch was plundered by the three sons of Cearbhall, son of Lorcan. But the three were slain in one night soon after through the power of Caoimhghin who had lived and blessed there. It was about this time that Mor, daughter of Donnchadh, son of Ceallach, queen of Ireland, and Iorard mac Coise, primate of Ard Macha, died; and Domhnach Padraig was plundered by the Lochlonnaigh of Ath Cliath and by Muircheartach O Conghalaigh. But God avenged this deed on them, for their death took place at the end of that very month. After this, Maoilseachlainn, king of Ireland, carried off by force a collar or ring of gold from a Lochlonnach leader called Tomair and a sword from another leader called Carlus.

Nevertheless, when the nobles of Leath Mogha and of the greater part of Connaught considered that it was Brian son of Cinneide who was undergoing the labour and hardship of expelling the Lochlonnaigh from Ireland, and that Maoilseachlainn, who was the king of Ireland, gave himself


up to luxury and comfort and ease, a line of action that was useless for the defence of Ireland at that juncture, Brian and the nobles who were with him resolved for these reasons to send envoys to Maoilseachlainn, king of Ireland, to inform him that it was not right that anyone should hold the sovereignty of Ireland but one who should devote his energies to banishing the foreigners from the country, and that, as it was Brian who was undergoing the labour of banishing them, it was right he should get the sovereignty of Ireland for having relieved the country from the oppression of the foreigners. They also asked of the king to meet them at Magh da Chaomhog, but he did not agree to this. After this Brian, son of Cinneide, assembled and brought together the nobles of Leath Mogha both Lochlonnaigh and Gaels, for as many of the Lochlonnaigh as were in Leath Mogha were forced to submit to him at this time, and he marched with them to Tara of the Kings.

Thereupon he sent envoys to Maoilseachlainn who was king of Ireland, asking him to send him sureties for his being obedient and submissive to him as king of Ireland, or to meet him in battle. So Brian gave Maoilseachlainn his choice of these courses. Maoilseachlainn's answer to the envoys was that if Brian gave him a month's respite to summon to him to one place the forces of Leath Cuinn he would give either hostages or battle to him, and he charged the envoys not to permit Brian to waste or plunder Meath, but that he should remain at Tara during that month, and that he himself would give him either battle or hostages as soon as he had got a reply from Leath Cuinn. The envoys returned to Brian and told him the answer they had got from Maoilseachlainn. ‘Then,’ said Brian, ‘I grant them that respite.’

Now what Maoilseachlainn resolved on was to send Giolla Comhghaill O Sleibhin, his own ollamh, to Aodh


O Neill, and Eochaidh, son of Ardghal, king of Ulster, and Cathal O Conchubhair, king of Connaught, asking them to come without delay to do battle with him against Brian and the Dal gCais, and pointing out that if all of these did not come to maintain the freedom of Tara for their own race, who possessed it such a long time, he himself would give sureties to Brian for his submission to him, as he was not strong enough to fight him. ‘And indeed,’ added Maoilseachlainn, ‘it will be no greater shame for me not to defend Tara than it will be for the clanna Neill and for the host of Leath Cuinn in general.’ The ollamh went with this message to the nobles of Leath Cuinn, and he made known to them the object of his journey and his mission. But Aodh O Neill's answer to him was, ‘When the Cineal Eoghain possessed Tara,’ said he, ‘they defended it themselves, and let him who holds it now stand out for its freedom;’ and he added that he would not set the Dal gCais at enmity with him by defending a sovereignty for another. The ollamh came back to Maoilseachlainn and repeated Aodh O Neill's answer to him. However, Maoilseachlainn went himself to Aodh and entreated him to go with him to do battle against the Dal gCais, and he said to him, ‘Hold Tara for thyself,’ said he, ‘and I will give thee hostages for the delivering up to thee of Tara, for I prefer this to Brian's having it. But if thou wilt not come with me I must submit to Brian, as I am not strong enough to fight him.’

Aodh O Neill assembled and brought together to one place to him the Cineal Eoghain, and told them of Maoilseachlainn's visit to their country and of the offers he had made himself, on condition of his going with him to fight Brian and the Dal gCais. The Cineal Eoghain made answer, and said there was nothing but deceit in Maoilseachlainn's promise to him, ‘for he is certain that himself is older and better than thou art, and hence that thou wouldst not


demand the kingdom of Ireland from him during his life. But,’ they added, ‘he would like that we and thou should go with him to fight the Dal gCais.’ Nevertheless Aodh asked them to take counsel amongst themselves on that question, and to give a favourable answer to Maoilseachlainn, ‘lest,’ he added, ‘his visit to us may not mean the loss of a kingdom to us.’ Then the Cineal Eoghain secretly took counsel and deliberated amongst themselves on this question, and it was their opinion that if they went to fight the Dal gCais it was not likely that even a small number of them would return from that conflict. For this reason they declared that it would be necessary for them to obtain property for their children after them, ‘for we should have hope neither of property nor of wealth for ourselves,’ added they, ‘ if we were to go and fight the Dal gCais, the bravest and stoutest race in fields of battle, and a race, too, that never fled from the Lochlonnaigh; it is certain that neither would they flee from us.’ Therefore they came to the resolution of demanding from Maoilseachlainn one half of Midhe and of the demesne of Tara for themselves and for their children after them in consideration of their going with him on that expedition, and they made known to Maoilseachlainn that this was what they had resolved on. When Maoilseachlainn heard this he became furious and returned home from them with indignation, and summoned to him the clann Colmain and made known to them the answer he had got from Aodh O Neill and the Cineal Eoghain.

Upon this the resolution they came to was that Maoilseachlainn should go straight to Brian's house, where his camp had been fixed for a month previously at Tara, the men of Meath supporting him there. Maoilseachlainn then proceeded to Tara accompanied by two hundred and twenty horsemen, and thus alighted on the green of Tara, and went immediately to Brian's house


without either surety or protection, relying on the generosity of Brian himself and of the Dal gCais; and he told Brian all that had befallen him from beginning to end, and said that if he himself were able to fight Brian, battle was what he would give him; but as he was not, he had come now to give him sureties and hostages. When Brian heard this he said, ‘Since thou hast come into my house without surety or protection I grant thee a year's respite, during which I shall demand neither sureties nor hostages from thee, and I will go myself to visit these northerns, to wit, Aodh O Neill and Eochaidh, son of Ardghal, king of Ulster, that I may learn what answer they will give me; and if they give me battle then do thou not go against me with them.’ Maoilseachlainn promised that he would not go against him, and said that he would not advise Brian to go northwards on that occasion, but that he had better repair to his house until another time, ‘for my doing homage to thee is enough for thee this time.’ They agreed on this point, and the Dal gCais were glad of it, for they had nearly consumed their provisions; and as Brian was returning home he bestowed twelve hundred horses on Maoilseachlainn, and gave a large amount of gold and silver to his followers as well.

A year after this, Brian son of Cinneide, assembled and brought together the general forces of all Leath Mogha both Gaels and Lochlonnaigh. There came there the Lochlonnaigh of Ath Cliath and of Port Lairge, of Loch Garman, of Ui Eachach Mumhan, Corca Luighdheach, and Ui Cinnsealaigh, and Brian proceeded with this great host to Ath Luain, and the nobles of Connaught gave hostages for their submission to him as high king.

Now Brian sent envoys to Maoilseachlainn asking him to send hostages to him to Ath Luain, and Maoilseachlainn himself came and gave him hostages and sureties. It was then that Brian brought together the main forces of


Munster, of Connaught, and of Leinster, and of Meath, and he went with them to Dun Dealgan where he received the hostages and sureties of all Ulster. And it was in this way that Brian Boraimhe obtained the kingdom of Ireland, by the strength and bravery of his feats of valour and championship, driving the foreigners and the Danair out of the country, and not by treachery as others assert. For it was not the custom in Ireland that the son should succeed the father in the sovereignty of Ireland, as is plain from the history up to this point, but the sovereignty of Ireland was given to him who was the most powerful in action and exploit. And since Brian was the most powerful in action of the Irish in his own time, the majority of the nobles of Ireland chose him to be sovereign of the country, and as many of them as did not consent that the sovereignty of Ireland should be given to him were forced to submit to him against their will, and Maoilseachlainn was obliged to abandon the sovereignty of Ireland and cede it to Brian as we have said.