Murtough O'Brien

O'Brien, Murtough, King of Munster, succeeded his father Turlough in 1086. He signalized his accession by ravaging the territories of such of the surrounding chiefs as were obnoxious to him. He defeated the men of Leinster and the Danes of Dublin at Rathedair, near Howth, in 1087. This victory was counterbalanced next year by the invasion of Thomond. Roderic O'Conor marched into Munster, and took possession of an island in the Shannon, whence Murtough in vain endeavoured to dislodge him. Murtough was also assailed by Donald MacLoughlin, Prince of Aileach, who with O'Conor, entered Munster, burned Limerick, and laid waste the country as far as Emly, Lough Gur, and Bruree. They then demolished Kincora, and returned home with hundreds of prisoners both Irish and Danish. In 1089 Murtough made reprisals in Connaught, but had ultimately to waive his pretensions to the crown of Ireland, and rest satisfied with his position as a provincial king. A conference was held in 1090, and it was agreed by O'Brien and O'Conor to acknowledge O'Melaghlin as monarch; yet it had hardly separated when war was renewed.

In 1101 the supremacy of Murtough O'Brien was recognized. It was about this time that he made a grant of the royal residence of Cashel to the Church. A contest between Murtough and Magnus, King of Norway, who arrived off the Irish coast with a large fleet, was averted by Murtough giving his daughter, with a large dowry, to Sigfried, son of Magnus. In 1114 ill-health obliged Murtough to resign the sceptre to his brother Diarmaid for a time.

Murtough O'Brien died on 11th March 1119. We read that "the character of this prince ranks high, not only among the chroniclers of his own nation and time, but also among contemporary writers in England. Malmesbury says that he was held in such respect by the English monarch, Henry I., that that prince frequently availed himself of the wisdom and advice of Murtough. His reign appears, until his powers were subdued by disease, as one career of persevering energy, unnerved by defeat, and only stimulated by reverses to still greater efforts," He was buried at Killaloe.


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