B is for Brian Boru, High King of Ireland

By Niall McArdle

Continuing the A to Z Challenge,I must first point you in the direction of fellow AtoZ blogger Sara Leahy

Okay, today’s post is brought to you by the letter B.

B is for …



Brian Boru was the King of Munster and High King of Ireland, most famous for his defeat of the Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014: the 1000th anniversary of the Battle is coming up in a couple of weeks.

Brian was born in Kincora, Killaloe, County Clare in 940. He and his older brother Mahon were the sons of Cennedig, head of Dal Cais, one of the royal free tribes of Munster.

brian-boru-celtic-harpBrian’s brother, Mahon succeeded Cennedig as chief of the Dalcassians (yes, I know, they sound like Star Trek villains).

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. He deserted Mahon with a group of soldiers. They lived in the hills of Munster attacking Norse settlements and disappearing in to the hills.

obrien1Speaking of Star Trek, O’Brien (Colm Meaney) is a descendant of Brian Boru. Mind you, so are the Queen, Barack Obama, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

Eventually Brian and Mahon reconciled. Brian succeeded his brother as King: his main rival then was the King of Meath, Malachy O’Neill. Malachy and Brian divided Ireland into two, but eventually Malachy let Brian take command of the entire island: Brian became “Ard Ri” (High King)

Battle of Clontarf by Hugh Frazer
Battle of Clontarf by Hugh Frazer

In 1013 the Dublin Vikings and the King of Leinster revolted against Brian. Brian Boru’s army faced off against the Vikings at Clontarf on Good Friday, 1014. Brian won the battle but was killed.


You can find out more about Brian Boru and the planned celebrations for the anniversary of the battle here.

If you’re in Dublin and would like to volunteer for one of the many events, click here.

Or you can just buy a Brian Boru tea-towel:BrianBoru







One thought on “B is for Brian Boru, High King of Ireland

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