Brian BoruJuly 10th, 2011 by Paul O'Brien
Brian Ború (Middle Irish: Brian Bóruma, Irish: Brian Bóroimhe) Mac Cennétig (c. 941–23 April 1014), was born at Kincora, Killaloe, a town in the region of Tuadmumu (Thomond), the son of Cennetig (Cennedi) and Babhion or Bebinn. Members of the Dál gCais (or Dalcassians) tribe, the family had an ancient royal ancestry. The youngest of twelve sons, Brian would become the 175th King of Ireland, the founder of the O’Brien dynasty and the ancestor of the Kings of Thomond. Brian was an excellent harp musician and the harp has become a symbol of peace and unity in Ireland in his memory.
In 1002, Brian was recognised as Ard Rí, High King of Ireland, thus ending the six hundred year reign of the Uí Néill’s in Leinster. Breaking from tradition, he ruled from Kincora Castle in Killaloe instead of Cashel, thus making Killaloe the “Capital of Ireland “. Brian’s name was inscribed in the Book of Armagh, in gold lettering, as “Emperor of the Irish” in 1005 during Brian’s campaign in the north of Ireland.
After forty years of incessant warfare in his early life, Brian devoted his mind to works of peace. He rebuilt the monasteries that had been destroyed by the Danes, and erected bridges and fortresses all over the country. He founded and restored schools and colleges, and took measures for the repression of crime.
Maelmordha, brother of Gormlaith, third wife of Brian, who had usurped the crown of Leinster in 999, rebelled against Brian’s rule in 1013. Conspiring with Sitric, son of Gormlaith, the two resolved themselves to overthrow Brian. They along with Dane Vikings of Northern Ireland in Leinster and Dublin, as well as native Irish rivals to Brian, gathered their forces in rebellion to Brian in 1014. Two Norwegian princes, Bróðir and Óspak at the head of a thousand troops, arrived to reinforce the Danish contingent. As the Danes prepared for battle at Clontarf, they numbered sixteen thousand, as well as troops from Leinster under their king, Maelmordha.
With a force nearing thirty thousand, including the Dalcassion Knights, Brian marched into Leinster, where Malcolm II, King of Meath, joined him four miles outside of Dublin at Clontarf. Arriving on Palm Sunday, the battle would occur five days later on Good Friday. All of the accounts state that the Battle of Clontarf lasted all day and was a bloody affair. Brian Ború’s troops would win this battle to keep a unified Ireland, but this would not to be a glorious day.
High King Brian Ború died on this day, Good Friday, 23 April 1014. There are many legends concerning how Brian was killed, from dying in a heroic man-to-man combat to being beheaded by the fleeing Viking mercenary Bróðir while praying in his tent at Clontarf.
High King Brian Ború is said to be buried in the grounds of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the city of Armagh keeping with the pagan tradition that warriors or those who die in battle must be buried in the northern sections of graveyards.
Brian Ború remains to be one of the greatest historical figures and the last that saw a unified Ireland .