Song Playing:
"Boru's March"

In Fermoy, Ireland



Brian BORU - Briain Borumha.

(c. 940- 23rd April, 1014)

Brian Boru was born around 940, the youngest of two sons of Cennedig, head of Dal Cais, one of the royal free tribes of Munster. Brian grew up during the worst days of tyranny when the Dalcassians had been driven in to the present county of Clare.

His eldest brother Malachi (or Mahon) succeeded to the throne of Munster. Brian’s brother, Mahon, being the eldest, succeeded Cennedig as chief of the Dalcassians. Being hemmed into Clare by the Norse Leader, Ivar of Limerick, Mahon was willing to accept terms but Brian, seeing almost all of the Dal Cais tribe including his mother brutally murdered by a Norse raid when he was only a child, refused to be any part of such a truce.

Brian Crest
He deserted Mahon with a group of soldiers. They lived in the hills of Munster attacking Norse settlements and disappearing in to the hills. His fame spread throughout the province and infuriated Ivar. Although having only a handful of men, Brian’s skill as a tactician led him to defeat vastly superior numerical forces and led to rumours of a mighty Dalcassian army.

The feud between himself and Mahon ended. Mahon renounced his truce with the Norsemen and the two brothers rejoined forces. The two men triumphed so far that Mahon took the throne of Cashel in 963 and in 968 at Sulchoid in Tipperary, the two brothers completely overtook Ivar’s forces and marched on Limerick while Ivar fled back to the Norse lands. The Norse tyranny in Munster thus collapsed and Mahon ruled peacefully for eight years.

Brian Boru crowned in 1002
However, Ivar returned to Ireland and plotted the murder of Mahon. After Mahon’s death, Brian challenged Ivar to open combat, which he won by killing Ivar. Brian succeeded his brother as head of the Dal Cais and immediately took the field against his brothers enemies. In 978, he defeated the King of Cashel in battle. Step by step he established himself in the Kingship of Munster and fortified the province. In 983 and 988, his fleets ravaged Connaught and plundered Meath.

He reigned for thirty-nine years. It was a time of unsurpassed glory, prosperity and happiness. Brian had much to do as High King to lift Ireland out of the ruins of the Norse Age. He rebuilt ruined churches and built new ones. He sent overseas to replace lost books and artefacts and all that he possibly could to heal the wounds of the past two centuries of Norse pillage. He promoted the arts and learning. He is credited with having originated surnames. His patriotism and personal sacrifice brought the clans together, under one king, for the only time in Irish history.

He was eighty-nine when his army faced the armies of the Norsemen at the Battle of Clontarf. Brian's warriors won the day, but Brian was dead, as were his son and grandson. Surrounded by his Dalcassion Knights, Brian marched into battle at Leinster at the head of about thirty thousand men in the beginning of April 1014, but it was to be the death of him. Seeing his end draw near, the brave and dauntless old king held out his vigil crucifix in one hand and waved his gold-hilted sword with the other, signifying that he was willing and ready to die for the cause of Christianity and his native Ireland.

The Viking presence in Ireland continued after Brian’s death but their military power was crushed. They remained in the country as traders and intermarried amongst the native Irish. Brian, by his title, “Ard Ri”, claimed the monarchy of the whole Gaelic race. Before Brian, and Malachy, Ireland was divided in to a number of petty kingdoms, sometimes at peace, sometimes at war with one another. But now, Ireland was never again to have a King to control the entire island and the cost to Ireland and to Brian of crushing the Viking power in this country was a great one, for Ireland was never again to have a true “Ard Ri”.

Brian Boru

An té nach bhfuil láidir ní folair dó a bheith glic.
Whoever is not strong must be clever.
©   Paudie McGrath Cork Ireland 2003 -