Around the turn of the 12th century there a number of important kings of Bréifne covered in the annals. However the early genealogies are unclear who some of these individuals were. Having lost the kingship of Connacht with the death of Aedh son of Art uallach Ó Ruairc in the year 1087, there was one last Ó Ruairc who attained notoriety as a king of Connacht. His name was Domnall, a grand-nephew of the previous O'Ruairc king of Connacht Aedh Ó Ruairc. Domnall died in the year 1102 and his epitaph in the Annals of Tighernach reads, "Domnall son of Tigernain Uí Ruairc, king of Connacht and Ua Briuin and Conmaicne for a time, was killed by Muintir Eolais." Domnall's lineage is partially covered in the following chart
Domnall (1102, king of Connacht) Donnchadh
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Donnchadh Gilla Bruide (1125) Fergal (1157) Tighernán mór (1172) Aedh
The following are entries in the Irish annals during the first quarter of the 12th century, up to the beginning of the long reign of Tighernan mor. With the exception of Domnall whose death is recorded in 1102, most of the Ua Ruaircs mentioned here are not covered clearly in the early genealogies. For additional information on Domnall's descendants, see the article on Ualgharg Ó Ruairc.
- M1101.5 - Donnchadh, son of Art Ua Ruairc, lord of Conmhaicne, and royal heir of Connaught, was killed by Gillasronmhaoil Ua Ruairc.
- CS1101 - Donnchad son of Art ua Ruairc, king of Conmaicne, was killed by his own people.
- U1101.1 - Donnchadh mc. Aedha H. Ruairc do marbadh do Feraibh Manach (aka the men of Manach, in or near modern Co. Fermanagh).
- M1102.15 - Niall, son of Niall Ua Ruairc, royal heir of Breifne, was slain by the men of Lurg. (Note: perhaps the barony of Lurg in Co. Fermanagh)
- CS1102 - Domnall son of Tigernán ua Ruairc, king of Bréifne and Connacht, was killed by Muinter Eoluis (part of Conmaicne, including southern Co. Leitrim).
- U1102.3 - Domnall son of Tigernán ua Ruairc, king of Conmaicne, was killed by the Conmaicne themselves.
- U1104.4 - Mac hAidche O'Rourke was killed by his brothers.
- M1105.2 - Cathal, son of Gillabraite, son of Tighearnan, lord of Ui-Briuin-Breifne and Gailenga, was killed by the sons of his own mother, i.e. by the sons of Donnchadh, son (grandson?) of Caileach Ua Ruairc.
- M1106.9 - Niall, son of Domhnall Ua Ruairc, Tanist of Breifne, was killed by the men of Lurg, and many others of the nobility along with him.
- M1106.10 - The son of Gillamantach Ua Ruairc was killed by Domhnall, son of Domhnall Ua Ruairc.
- M1108.9 - Domhnall, son of Donnchadh Ua Ruairc, lord of Ui-Briuin-Breifne, was killed by the Cairbri-Gabhra.
- CS1111 - Aed son of Domnall ua Ruairc, i.e. 'the bald-nosed lad' (In Gilla Sronmael), inflicted a forced billetting on Cluain moccu Nóis.
- MCB1117.4 - Aodh son of Donnchadh Ó Ruairc, king of Bréifne, together with the nobles of Conmhaicne and Uí Bhriúin, submitted to Toirdhealbhach son of Ruaidhrí Ó Conchobhair.
- T1121.1 - Aedh, son of Domnall O'Rourke, king of east Connacht, was slain by the men of Meath.
- U1122.1 - Aed ua Ruairc, king of Conmaicne, fell by the men of Mide when taking a spoil from them.
- M1122.7 - Aedh Ua Ruairc, i.e. the son of Domhnall, lord of Conmhaicne, fell by the men of Meath, as he was carrying off a prey from them.
- CS1122 - Aed son of Domnall ua Ruaírc, king of East Connacht, dies.
- AI1122.4 - In Gilla Sronmael Ua Ruairc was slain by Murchad Ua Mael Shechnaill at the instigation of the saints.
- MCB1123.3 - Aodh son of Donnchadh Ó Ruairc, king of Bréifne and Conmhaicne, was killed by the men of Midhe. (most entries suggest he was a son of Domnall)
- M1124.8 - Gillabroide, son of Tighearnan Ua Ruairc, was slain by the Connaughtmen, on Loch En, and many others along with him.
- CS1124 - Giolla Braide ua Ruairc was drowned on Loch mac nÉn in Connachta.
- CS1125 - Gilla Braide, king of Bréifne, was killed by his own people.
- U1125.2 - Gilla Braiti H. Ruairc do bathudh i l-Loch Aillinne. (translate: Gilla Braite ua Ruairc was drowned in Loch Allen)
- T1125.3 - Gilla Bruide h-Úa Ruairc occisus est.
At the beginning of the 12th century there is mention of a 'Gillasronmhaoil Ua Ruairc', not obvious in the early genealogies. In 1101 Donnchadh, son of Art (or Aedh?) Ua Ruairc, lord of Conmhaicne, and royal heir of Connaught, was killed by Gillasronmhaoil Ua Ruairc. Could one or both of these individuals have been descended from Aedh Ua Ruairc, the 3rd Ó Ruairc king of Connacht who died in 1087? The early 12th century tract, Rawlinson B502, suggests the latter Aedh Ua Ruairc had a son named Domnall, and a grandson named Aedh. Referencing entries in the Irish annals for the year 1121-1122 (above) presents an interesting possibility for the 'grandson' Aedh (son of Domnall).
Could 'Gillasronmhaoil Ua Ruairc' and Aedh (son of Domnall) be the same person? They were both killed about 1122 by men of Meath. Murchad Ua Mael Shechnaill was lord of Meath (Mide) at that time. If so then Donnchadh, son of Art Ua Ruairc, who was killed by Gillasronmhaoil Ua Ruairc in 1101, would have been a close relative. Both would have been royal heirs of Connaught.
Also in the annals (above) there are various references to the name Domnall Ua Ruaircs. In 1102 there was Domnall son of Tigernán, he being identified as the last of the Ua Ruaircs to be called a king of Connacht. In 1106 Niall son of Domnall was a royal heir of Breifne. For the same year there is a Domhnall son of Domhnall who slew the son of Gillamantach Ua Ruairc. In 1108 Domhnall son of Donnchadh was lord of Ui-Briuin-Breifne, and he is often confused with Domnall son of Ualgharg (Ualgharg of 1085). And as cited above there was Aed son of Domnall king of East Connacht (Conmhaicne) in 1122, perhaps to be equated with In Gilla Sronmael Ua Ruairc. Certainly some of the 'sons of Domnall' could be connected to Domnall of 1102, or to Domnall of 1108, or even to Domnall of 1078 (see a chart of the Ó Ruairc Kings of Bréifne), however the genealogies are incomplete and at best unclear.
Who was Gillabroide (Gilla Braide, etc) of the entries for 1124-1125? The entries would appear to show two different Gilla Braites (!), one was a 'king of Bréifne' killed by his own people, the other drowned in either Loch Allen or in nearby Loch nÉn. If Gilla Braide was a Breifne king, he would have been the last prior to Tighearnan mor's over-40 year reign as king of Breifne. One of the 1124 entries indicates 'Gillabroide son of Tighearnan Ua Ruairc', suggesting a connection to either Tighernán (father of Domnall of 1102), or to Tighernán mor himself. The only mention of a Gillabroide in the early genealogies was Donnchad Gilla Bruide Ua Ruairc, son of Domnall of 1102. For additional discussion see The descendants of Ualgharg Ó Ruairc.
Soon following the events of 1124-1125, one of the more notable figures in O'Ruairc history appears. His name was Tighernán mór, an O'Ruairc with great ambitions and one would would reign as lord of Breifne for over 40 years. His exploits are well covered in the Irish Annals from his early days to his death at the hands of the Anglo-Normans in the year 1172. Tighernán mór is first referenced in the annals in 1124. The Annals of the Four Masters note, "Maelseachlainn, son of Tadhg, son of Maelruanaidh [Mac Diarmada], lord of Magh-Luirg, was slain by the men of Breifne and Tighearnan Ua Ruairc".
An entry in the year 1125 provides an early glimpse at Tighernán mórs ability to ally himself with powerful neighbors, in particular with the O'Conor (Ua Conchobhair) kings of Connacht. "An army was led by Toirdhealbhach Ua Conchobhair and Tighearnan Ua Ruairc into Meath; and they deposed Murchadh Ua Maeleachlainn, and placed three lords over Meath".
Tighernán mór also had a sinister side as evidenced in an entry in the Annals of Loch Ce for the year 1128, "An ugly, ruthless, unprecedented deed, which earned the malediction of the men of Erinn, both lay and clerical—for which no equal was found previously in Erinn—was committed by Tighernan Ua Ruairc, and by the Uí-Briuin, viz.:—the comarb of Patrick was openly profaned in his own presence, and his retinue were plundered, and a number of them slain; and a young cleric of his own people, who was under a cuilebadh, was killed there." Tighernán would pay for this insult by being defeated later that year in revenge of the violation Patrick's protection.
Tighernán proved to be a powerful warrior with his eye on expanding his influence, particularly into the midlands of Midhe and Breagh. About the year 1130 he raided east Midhe and killed in battle were a number of chiefs, including "Diarmait ua Mael Sechnaill, king of East Mide, and Óengus ua Caíndelbáin, king of Laegaire, and Cochall Fliuch grandson of Senán, king of Gailenga". In 1131 Tighernán mór "defeated the Ulaid and the Airgialla and there was killed there ua Eochadha king of Ulaid and Ó Críocháin king of Fernmagh, and ua Indrechtaigh king of Uí Méith".
Tighernán's exploits are summarized in the following entries in the Irish Annals:
- 1133- A depredation was committed by Tighearnan Ua Ruairc, lord of Breifne, upon the Ui-Fiachrach of the North
- 1136 - Domhnall Ua Caindealbhain, lord of Cinel-Laeghaire, was killed by Tighearnan Ua Ruairc and the Ui-Briuin
- 1138 - Domhnall Ua Ciardha, lord of Cairbre, was killed by Tighernan Ua Ruairc
- 1138 - Toirdhealbhach Ua Conchobhair, with the Connaughtmen, Tighernan Ua Ruairc, with the men of Breifne, and Donnchadh Ua Cearbhaill, with the Airghialla, mustered their forces to contest unjustly his own lands with Ua Maeleachlainn. On the other side Murchadh Ua Maeleachlainn, with the men of Meath, and the foreigners, and Diarmaid Mac Murchadha, with the Leinster-men, came to oppose them
- 1139 - Fearghal, son of Raghnall, son of Muireadhach, chief of Muintir-Eolais, was killed by Tighearnan Ua Ruairc
- 1140 - Tighearnan Ua Ruairc was expelled from the chieftainship of the Ui-Briuin, by the Ui-Briuin themselves; but he assumed the headship of them again.
- 1144 - Toirdhealbhach Ua Conchobhair gave West Meath to Donnchadh, son of Muircheartach Ua Maeleachlainn; and he divided East Meath equally between Tighearnan Ua Ruairc, lord of Breifne, and Diarmaid Mac Murchadha, King of Leinster, and they remained thus under the protection of the Connaughtmen.
- 1145 - An army was led by Toirdhealbhach Ua Briain, King of Munster, to Leitir-cranncha, in Sliabh-Bladhma, to come against Ua Ruairc into Meath.
- 1146 - A predatory excursion was made by Tighearnan Ua Ruairc across Magh-nAei, to Loch-Long and Dun-Imghain; he destroyed and burned four ships, and slew the son of Ua Maeleachlainn, who was defending them, and many others.
- 1148 - An army was also led by Tighearnan Ua Ruairc and Donnchadh Ua Cearbhaill into Ulidia
- 1148 - A meeting between Toirdhealbhach Ua Conchobhair and Tighearnan Ua Ruairc at Snamh-Rathainn; and the Aithcleireach, son of Cuchairne Ua Fearghail, wounded Tighearnan Ua Ruairc, as he was going to the meeting.
- 1149 - A royal journey was made by the son of Niall Ua Lochlainn, with the cavalry of Cinel-Eoghain, to Lughmhadh, where Tighearnan Ua Ruairc came into his house, and left him hostages.
- 1150 - An army was led by Toirdhealbhach Ua Briain to Loch Ua nGobhann, in Machaire-Gaileang, and he plundered Slaine. Ua Cearbhaill and Ua Ruairc overtook them, and slew some of their people
- 1152 - An army was led by Mac Lochlainn into Meath, as far as Rath-Ceannaigh, to meet the men of Ireland; and Toirdhealbhach proceeded into Meath, to meet Ua Lochlainn and Diarmaid Mac Murchadha, King of Leinster. They divided Meath into two parts on this occasion; they gave from Cluain-Iraird westwards to Murchadh Ua Maeleachlainn, and East Meath to his son, Maeleachlainn. They took Conmhaicne from Tighearnan Ua Ruairc, after having defeated him.
- 1152 - On this occasion Dearbhforgaill, daughter of Murchadh Ua Maeleachlainn, and wife of Tighearnan Ua Ruairc, was brought away by the King of Leinster, i.e. Diarmaid, with her cattle and furniture; and he took with her according to the advice of her brother, Maeleachlainn
- 1153 - An army was led by Toirdhealbhach Ua Conchobhair, to Doire-an-ghabhlain, against Mac Murchadha, King of Leinster, and took away the daughter of Ua Maeleachlainn, with her cattle, from him, so that she was in the power of the men of Meath. On this occasion Tighearnan Ua Ruairc came into his house, and left him hostages.
- 1153 - Muircheartach Ua Lochlainn proceeded with his forces to Loch Aininn, and Ua Maeleachlainn came into his house, and left him hostages; and he Ua Lochlainn gave him all Meath, from the Sinainn to the sea, and also Ui-Faelain and Ui-Failghe. He gave Ui-Briuin and Conmhaicne to Tighearnan Ua Ruairc, and carried the hostages of both with him.
- 1153 - Dearbhforgaill, daughter of Murchadh Ua Maeleachlainn, came from the King of Leinster (Diarmaid) to Tighearnan Ua Ruairc again.
- 1155 - Tighearnan Ua Ruairc took Donnchadh Ua Cearbhaill, lord of Oirghialla, prisoner
- 1156 - The battle of Cuasan at Lis-Luighdhi in Laeghaire was gained over Tighearnan Ua Ruairc, by Diarmaid Mac Murchadha, the foreigners of Ath-cliath, and Donnchadh, son of Domhnall Ua Maeleachlainn
- 1156 - Toirdhealbhach Ua Conchobhair, King of Connaught, Meath, Breifne, and Munster, and of all Ireland with opposition died after the sixty-eighth year of his age
- 1157 - The successor of Patrick (namely, the arch-bishop of Ireland) consecrated the church of the Monks [of Mellifont, near Drogheda]... three score ounces of gold [were given] by Ua Cerbaill and three score ounces more by the daughter of Ua Mael-Sechlainn, by the wife of Tigernan Ua Ruairc.
- 1159 - There was a pacific meeting between Ruaidhri Ua Conchobhair and Tighearnan; and they made peace, and took mutual oaths before sureties and relics. Tighearnan and the men of Breifne then turned against Muircheartach Ua Lochlainn, and joined the standard of Connaught.
- 1159 - An army was led by Ua Lochlainn, into Meath, to expel Ua Ruairc. He billeted the two battalions of the Cinel-Conail and Cinel-Eoghain, for the space of a month, upon the men of Meath, i.e. a battalion on West Meath and another on East Meath. He afterwards made peace with Ua Ruairc, and left his own land to him, i.e. the land of the defence
- 1162 - Maelseachlainn, son of Tighearnan Ua Ruairc, royal heir of Breifne, lamp of the chivalry and hospitality of Leath-Chuinn, was slain by Muintir-Maelmordha and the son of Annadh Ua Ruairc.
- 1162 - A predatory irruption was made by Tighearnan Ua Ruairc upon the Cairbri-Ua-Ciardha
- 1166 - An army, composed of the men of Breifne and Meath, and of the foreigners of Ath-cliath and the Leinstermen, was led by Tighearnan Ua Ruairc into Ui-Ceinnsealaigh; and Diarmaid Mac Murchadha was banished over sea, and his castle at Fearna was demolished.
- 1167 - Diarmaid Mac Murchadha returned from England with a force of Galls, and he took the kingdom of Ui-Ceinnsealaigh
- 1167 - Another army was led by Ruaidhri Ua Conchobhair and Tighearnan Ua Ruairc into Ui-Ceinnsealaigh. Diarmaid Mac Murchadha afterwards came to Ua Conchobhair, and gave him seven hostages for ten cantreds of his own native territory, and one hundred ounces of gold to Tighearnan Ua Ruairc for his eineach.
- 1168 - An army was led by Ruaidhri Ua Conchobhair and Tighearnan Ua Ruairc to Aine-Cliach Knockany; and they obtained hostages, and divided Munster into two parts between the son of Cormac Mac Carthaigh and Domhnall, son of Toirdhealbhach Ua Briain
- 1169 - An army was led by Ruaidhri Ua Conchobhair to Ath-na-riach; and he expelled Domhnall Breaghach, ...and divided Meath into two parts; and he gave the eastern half to Tighearnan and to the men of Breifne, and he kept the western half himself.
- 1169 - The fleet of the Flemings came from England in the army of Mac Murchadha, i.e. Diarmaid, to contest the kingdom of Leinster for him: they were seventy heroes, dressed in coats of mail.
- 1169 - The King of Ireland, Ruaidhri Ua Conchobhair, afterwards proceeded into Leinster; and Tighearnan Ua Ruairc, lord of Breifne, and Diarmaid Ua Maeleachlain, King of Teamhair, and the foreigners of Ath-cliath, went to meet the men of Munster, Leinster, and Osraigh; and they set nothing by the Flemings; and Diarmaid Mac Murchadha gave his son, as a hostage, to Ruaidhri Ua Conchobhair.
- 1170 - An army was led by Ruaidhri Ua Conchobhair, King of Ireland; Tighearnan Ua Ruairc, lord of Breifne; Murchadh Ua Cearbhaill, lord of Oirghialla, against Leinster and the Galls
- 1170 - An army was led by Mac Murchadha and his knights into Meath and Breifne; and they plundered Cluain-Iraird, and burned Ceanannus, Cill-Tailltean, Dubhadh, Slaine, Tuilen, Cill-Scire, and Disert-Chiarain; and they afterwards made a predatory incursion into Tir-Briuin, and carried off many prisoners and cows to their camp.
- 1170 - Domhnall Breaghach and the people of East Meath turned against O'Ruairc and O'Conchobhair, and delivered hostages to Mac Murchadha. The hostages of East Meath were put to death by Tighearnan Ua Ruairc.
- 1170 - An army was led by Mac Murchadha into Breifne, and a party of his people were defeated by the soldiers of Tighearnan Ua Ruairc.
- 1171 - Predatory incursions were made by Tighearnan Ua Ruairc into Gaileanga and Saithne and South Breagha. Domhnall Breaghach, lord of Meath, delivered hostages to Tighearnan Ua Ruairc.
- 1171 - An army was led by Ruaidhri Ua Conchobhair, Tighearnan Ua Ruairc, and Murchadh Ua Cearbhaill, to Ath-cliath, to lay siege to the Earl, i.e. Strongbow, and Milo Cogan
- 1171 - An army was led by Tighearnan Ua Ruairc and the men of Breifne and Airghialla, a second time, to Ath-cliath; and they made battle with Milo Cogan and his knights, in which the men of Breifne and the Airghialla were defeated
- 1171 - The King of England, the second Henry, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, Earl of Andegavia, and lord of many other countries, came to Ireland this year.
- 1172 - Tiernan O'Rourke, Lord of Breifny and Conmaicne, a man of great power for a long time, was treacherously slain at Tlachtgha by Hugo de Lacy and Donnell, the son of Annadh O'Rourke, one of his own tribe, who was along with them. He was beheaded by them, and they conveyed his head and body ignominiously to Dublin. The head was placed over the gate of the fortress, as a spectacle of intense pity to the Irish, and the body was gibbeted, with the feet upwards, at the northern side of Dublin.
Following the death of Tighernán mór at the hands of new arrivals to Ireland, the Anglo-Normans, the kings of Breifne appear to alternate between the descendants of Domnall and Donnchadh, grandsons of Ualgharg. This continued for over 100 years. For additional discussion see The descendants of Ualgharg Ó Ruairc, and The Turbulent 13th Century.
Ua Ruairc of Bréifne --
Genealogy Sources --
Lords and Kings of Bréifne --
Chart of O Ruarc Kings
"Early Reference in the Annals", written by Dennis Walsh, July 2006, all rights reserved.
Sources used for this article include the Irish Annals, and the 'middle' Irish genealogies (e.g. O'Clery).