New Releases for July 2015
The line between Irish Legend and Irish Myth has often been blurred, especially as is the rebelling of heroic men and their deeds.
Brian Boru (born Brian Mac Cennétig), was no legend although his life deeds were legendary. He is recognized as the last great High King of Ireland and perhaps the greatest military leader the country has ever known.
His brother, Mahon, had become King of Munster in 951, upon the death of their father, Cennétig. Together they fought against the invading Norsemen, who had imposed taxes in Munster. This struggle eventually led to the murder of Mahon in 975 by the Ostermen (Norse). Brian avenged his brother's death by killing the King of the Ostermen of Limerick, King Ímar.
From this point onwards Brian held Munster as his own, including the pivotal trade-centre of Limerick. He marched into Connaught and Leinster and joined forces with Mael Sechnaill II in 997. Together they divided Ireland between them.
The Norse settlers in Dublin especially ranged against Brian but were defeated at Glen Máma where the King of Leinster was captured. The King of Dublin, Sitric Silkenbeard, was soon defeated too.
In 1002 Brian demanded of his comrade Mael Sechnaill that he recognize him as King of Ireland. Mael agreed, partially because many of his own people viewed Brian as a hero who had restored Ireland to greatness after the Viking invasions. The rule of the UíNéill's was thus at an end as a non-O'Neill was proclaimed as King. The O'Neill's had been rulers for over 600 years.
The Norsemen were not done yet however, and once more waged war on Brian Boru and his followers at Clontarf in Dublin in 1014. The King of Connaught, Tadhg O'Conor refused to ally with Brian against the Ostermen although Uí Fiachrach Aidne and Uí Maine did join with him.
The battle was a bloody struggle with the men from both sides fighting themselves to near exhaustion. The tide of fortune ebbed and flowed for hours until it finally swung in favor of Irishmen. It was during the chaos of Norsemens retreat that Brodir, one of the Manx Danes, came across Brian’s encampment. The kings lax bodyguard were slain by Brodirs men and it’s said that Brodir himself killed the aging Brian as he knelt praying.
This battle was a major turning point as it finally subjugated the Norse presence in Ireland who were henceforth considered subordinate to the Kingships of Ireland. Their military threat had been ended and they retreated to the urban centres of Dublin, Waterford, Limerick, Wexford, and Cork.
Ulf (Wolf) Hreda was brother (or possibly stepson), to Brian Boru. Details are scarce on this character from Irish history but a few clues are left for us. It’s said that Ulf’s mother was murdered during a Viking raid ensuring his everlasting hatred for the Norsemen. During the Battle of Clontarf in 1014AD Ulf fought with the Viking leader Brodir, knocking him down a number of times but unable to pierce the Danes “magical armor”. Brodir fled the battle with his men, but later returned to find King Brian’s camp relatively unguarded and slew him and his attendants. Upon finding this Ulf and his men pursued Brodir and captured him. The Viking was tied to a tree and slowly disemboweled, his entrails being wrapped around him as he died an agonizing death. His followers were also killed to a man. It’s probably a good idea to never upset anyone called Quarrelsome!