April 2014 - Speeches, Commemorations Ceremony to mark the Millennium of the Battle of Clontarf

“ Address of the Cathaoirleach and Leas Cathaoirleach at the Commemorations Ceremony to mark the Millennium of the Battle of Clontarf, at Christ Church Cathedral”.Christ Church, Dublin         23 April 2014
Rev Dean Dunne, Honoured Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, a cháirde
As Chairman of Clans of Ireland I am honoured to have been asked to say a few words to you on this auspicious occasion.
You will all be aware that approximately 1000 years ago Sitric Silkenbeard , who was the Viking leader in Dublin, had converted to Christianity, “gave up his auld sins” and built a cathedral on this very spot. Those of you who have had a chance to visit the crypt below the cathedral will have seen the very foundations laid by Sitric’s tradesmen. Without doubt he would have visited the works on a daily basis when the cathedral was being built and seen the ox blood being mixed with the lime mortar to give strength which would support the church above for centuries to come. Did you notice the ox blood?
Just down the hill, both north and south, were the Viking wattle houses and life went on as normal on a daily basis. Pigs and chickens  to be fed, cattle to be bought and sold and clothes to be made or repaired. No doubt weapons would have to be made and resharpened. There was still plenty of fighting to be done. Stocktaking of plundered gold and silver from the Irish monasteries would not have been a main “banking” activity as most of the monasteries would have been cleaned out of such by the year 1014.
Sitric would have stayed close to this cathedral on Good Friday 1014 and let others do the fighting out in Clontarf.  By nightfall the word would have come back that the Vikings and their allies had been defeated by Brian Boru and his clansmen. The writing was on the wall for the Viking plundering and the shipping of slaves to all parts of the known world. The large sums of money available for  slaves such as learned scribes and hard working men and women was to cease and peace seemed to settle on the land……until the arrival in 1169 of the next visitors to our shores ..the Normans. Then  St Lawrence O’Toole stood outside this cathedral and asked them not to burn the city…..but “sin sceal eile”.
Ladies and gentlemen you walk on hallowed  ground.
Thank you and enjoy the day.
Michael JS Egan
Cathaoirleach, Clans of Ireland

This afternoon, marks the millennium of a very special occasion in Ireland’s history. It should not be viewed as the celebration of a victory, where the victor in the battle lay dead with, by some accounts, 1,600 of his own men, while the numbers of the vanquished who perished may possibly have been far more. No Ladies and Gentleman, I ask you to view this as a commemoration of the many lives that were lost, fighting for a political cause which helped to shape medieval Ireland. The individual aspirations of the principals involved may be analysed for years to come by historians, but it is true to say that the result of the Battle led to a slightly more representative political system in Ireland. It is for that reason that Brian Boru is classified as a great early Irish hero.
Clans of Ireland is the umbrella body which unites contemporary Irish clans and families, whose histories are ancient, while promoting intellectual research into genealogy, history and culture. It could indeed be said that our aim to unite the clans of Ireland is similar to what Brian Boru set about doing a millennium ago. His use of military tactics is of course completely out of step in our modern Ireland, but it is possible to draw a parallel between Brian Boru’s ambitions and ours.
While it may be a jest to call us ‘the Fighting Irish’, it is now more likely to be considered an anachronistic insult. However, it is an unassailable fact that there was much internecine warfare among neighbouring kings and chiefs a thousand years ago. Yet, although we think of our contemporary national army as having peacekeeping as its sole purpose and consider our political system to be more representative of the population as a whole than in Brian’s era, we are truly fortunate to have been able to retain and celebrate our culture and traditions, much of which dates back to the early medieval period.
Thus, as we commemorate the countless lives that were lost at the battle, I would like you to listen to the names, in the ancient Irish and Norse languages, of the participating notables and compare with the names of our Clan Ceannairi and representatives, which I will read shortly. I have compiled this first list mainly from the very well researched book ‘Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf’ by Dr. Seán Duffy of Trinity College Dublin, who, in turn, mainly used;
The 12th. Century Cogadh Gáedhel re Gallaibh,
The Annals of Ulster
The Annals of Inisfallen
The Annals of Clonmacnoise
The Annals of Loch Cé
May I now recall the names of the notables who were with Brian and his Allies
The man himself,
Brian mac Cennétig, progenitor of the O’Briens of Thomond, Limerick and Tipperary and ancestor of the McMahons of Clare
His son Murchadh
His son Tairdelbach mac Murchad
Conaing mac Donncuain mac Cennétig (a nephew of Brian)
Tadhg ua Ceallaigh, son of Murchad, King of Uí Maine and Progenitor of the Ó Ceallaigh of Uí Maine
Máel Ruanaid ua hEidin, King of Uí Fiachrach Aidne in North East Connacht, a nephew of Brian’s first wife
Domhnall Mac Diarmata of the Corca Baiscind in West Clare
Mac Bethad mac Muiredaig of Corca Luachra in North Kerry
Mothla mac Domhnaill mic Fáeláin of Deisí Muman whose head was buried beside Brian in the same tomb at Armagh. Apparently the mayhem was so intense that they could not identify his decapitated torso.
Máel Sechnaill mac Domhnaill, the first King of Tara not to be considered by the writers of the annals as King of Ireland
Domnall mac Eimin mic Cainnich, whose family’s title is now Earl of Mar and Kellie in North Eastern Scotland
Cú Duilig mac Cennétig a grand nephew of Brian
Géibennach na Dubagáin King of Fer Maige
Scanlán mac Cathail King of the Eoghanacht of Loch Léin
Some historians and annals contend that Tadhg ua Conchobhair and Fergal ua Ruairc were not at the battle, but I am naming them as some sources claim that they were there.
And now the notables of Leinster & Viking Dublin
Sitriuc mac Amlaíb or Sitryg Silkenbeard Viking leader of Dublin, who is said to have remained within the safety of the walls of Dublin during the battle.
Máelmórda   King of Eastern Liffey and in 1014 King of Leinster, who is recounted as having died in hand to hand combat with Conaing, Brian’s nephew. He was ancestor of O’Byrnes
Amlaíb or Óláfr mac Lagmainn.  Brother of Sitryg and one of the five chiefs of the Dubliners killed at the Battle.
Siucraid mac Lodur or Jarl Sigrid of Orkney who was in joint command and whose mother is thought to have been Gaelic
Gilla Chiaráin mac Glún Iain, whose father had been king prior to Sitriuc and who was heir designate to his uncle. It should be noted that he bore a very Christian name after the founder of Clonmacnoise.
Bródar, Commander of the Viking fleet who came from either the Isle of Man or York, depending on which annals one believes.
Máelmórda mac Murchada King of Leinster
Dúnlaing mac Tuathail
Donnchad ua Erluib
Before asking the Ceannairí and representatives to present themselves to Mac Aodhagáin and to Ó Brian, representing the contemporary Clans of Ireland and the O’Brien Clan I would like to recite this brief translated excerpt from the Cogadh, describing the battle which may give you pause to consider the fate of the clansmen as they went into battle
“These had for the purposes of battle and combat, and for their defence, sharp, swift, bloody, crimsoned, bounding, barbed, keen, bitter, wounding terrible, piercing, fatal, murderous, poisoned arrows, which had been anointed and browned in the blood of dragons and toads, and water snakes of hell, and of scorpions and otters, and wonderful venomous snakes of all kinds, to be cast and shot at active and warlike and valiant chieftains.
Ladies and gentlemen, may I now call on the Ceannairí or the representatives of the clans of Ireland to come forward and symbolically meet with Conor, the O’Brien, the direct descendent of Brian Boru and Michael Egan, Chairman of Clans of Ireland. Those who claim a heritage from Leinster and Leth Cuinn, unless allied to the Uí Maine can you please shake the hand of Mac Aodhagáin and Ó Briain in peace, while those of you from the heritage of Leth Moga, Tuath Muman  and Ui Maine can you please shake the hand of Mac Aodhagáin and to Ó Brian in unity.
May I now request;
O’Briain Tuath Mumhan (O’Brien of Thomond)
Ó Ceallaigh  Ui Maine (O’Kelly of Ui Maine)  
Ui Chruadhlaoich Corcaigh (Crowley of Cork)
Mac Fhionnghaile Dhún Na nGall (McGinley of Donegal)
MacFhlannchaidh (Mac Clancy)
Ó Gadhra Cúil Ó bhFinn (O’Gara of Coolavin)
Ó Leathlobhaire Laoise (O’Lawlor of Leix)
Mac Mhadóc Mac Murchadha (Weadick)
Ó Mathúna Raithlind (O’Mahony of Raithlinn) 
Bréifne Ó Raghallagh (O’Reilly Breifne)
Ó Tighearnaigh (O’Tierney)
Ó hUigín Cenél Fiachrach (O’Higgins of Cenél Fiachrach)
For those of you who may have missed the name of Tadhg ua Ceallaigh, one of Brian’s allies and my progenitor, I would like the congregation to pause to remember that the army of Brian mac Connetig was not alone on the day and that there were many clansmen from many parts of southern and western Ireland who fought with them, including the household troops of Tadhg ua Ceallaigh. It was these who killed Arnaill Scot at Dubgalls bridge, who was reputed to have been the last of the men of Dublin to die. However, it was also reported that only a hundred of the Connaught army survived and Tadhg ua Ceallaigh himself lost his life. So, it is fitting that a thousand years later, we the clans from throughout Ireland have come together again to support this symbolic O’Brien initiative.
Lastly, before we proceed ceremonially out of this magnificent Christ Church Cathedral and leave Dean Dunne and his pastoral flock in peace, I would like to recall a curious and alternative account given as the reason for the epic Battle. It was said that a merchant, said to be the son of the King of Denmark had entrusted his beautiful wife to the care of Brian while he travelled away on business. Murchad, the son of Brian, we are told ‘made suit to her and won her love and lay with her’.
This ladies and gentleman is an example of why it is generally accepted that most people in this room could claim that in all likelihood they have, if not O’Brien DNA in their system, they most certainly have the blood of someone who fought at the historic battle, coursing through their veins.
Therefore, let me invite you all to follow, in procession, the Clan Ceannairí, led by the O’Brien Pipe and Drum Band as they now leave the Cathedral, after which we have been invited to the magnificent crypt for a cup of tea or something by Dean Dunne.
Gearóid Ó Ceallaigh