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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Irish Royalty - Part 2 - Brian Boru

When I was a kid, my Dad would always say "We're Irish."  He'd also add that he was named after a King Brian of Ireland.  At the time, I had no idea what he really meant by that.  I do recall asking one time if there was a King Brian McGuire of Ireland but he laughed and said that "McGuire's" first name was Hugh.  My Dad had just his own passing knowledge of Irish History that his own parents and grandparents had handed down to him plus he'd probably read the book "How The Irish Saved Civilization".  That's a book that I've never read at this point and might pick up just for grins.

While I'm not exactly sure how the Irish saved civilization, I do know that there were a number of kings in the way back machine in Irish history.  My Dad was truly named after King Brian of Ireland.  The king's name was Brian Boru.

Waterford, Ireland c2004 zelsersk
My first experience with "Brian Boru" was on our 2004 trip to Ireland.  On our tour, my husband and I ended up in Waterford, Ireland.  The group that we were with was assigned to a walking tour with an expert guide of the area.  We met in a hotel meeting room where the guide requested a few participants for his mock role playing of Brian Boru and his story in Waterford.  The role play included Brian, his enemy (a Viking), and the love of his life (or more likely his son's love).  I got to play that lady in this role play.  It was fun, entertaining, and a light anecdotal lead into our walking tour of Waterford that included a lot about the Viking invaders.  My favorite quote from the visit was "Waterford was a city before there was crystal!"

Sometimes it takes me a while to fully put together connections on my family tree.  I recently looked up the full story of Brian Boru and found out that his descendants are O'Brien's.  Also, Brian Boru's brother's name was Mahon (McMahon).  When I look over my family tree, I have O'Brien's on my mother's side from Limerick/Clare and McMahon's from from father's side from County Clare.

I often wonder how many thousands of people are descendant of these rather historically important people in Irish history.  Brian Boru lived from c. 941 to 23 April 1014.  Considering how long ago that was, it would be pretty difficult to trace my line back to the king himself.  I am betting that records don't exist in Ireland.

So what was Brian Boru's story anyway?  He was from what is now the southern part of County Clare, Ireland.  Brian's brother Mahon was initially a prince because he had defeated the Vikings (Norsemen).  When Mahon was murdered by the Vikings, Brian became king of Munster and took up the fight with the Vikings in Limerick and Waterford.  By 1000 C.E., Brian had defeated the Vikings in Dublin.  He let the Vikings stay but levied a hefty tribute against them.

During Brian Boru's twelve year rule of Ireland, the country prospered.  The Vikings did not exactly give up though.  Between the King of Leinster and Brian's son quarreling, Brian was back in a fight.  He was killed in 1014 by and apparent Norseman (Viking) mercenary.  Despite Brian's death, it marked the end of Viking aggression in Ireland.  

So whether an O'Brien or McMahon, there's a little bit of 11th century Irish history out there for you.  If for no other reason, likely descendants of this line can very much visit places like Waterford, Dublin, and Limerick to experience the history of their origins.

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