Dermot MacMurrough, the cause of it all? But who provoked him?
Dermot MacMurrough (or Dermod naNGhall, meaning Dermot, king of the Foreigners) was born in 1110 AD and died in 1171. At an early age he was fostered out to a minor family on the border of Leinster, in the neighboring state of Ossory and here he grew to manhood. At age 16, upon the unexpected death of his older brother (the king of Leinster), he was elected king of Ui Cinnsealaigh. What followed was the turning point in Irish history.
Upon receiving the kingship, Dermot also became king of Leinster, like his brother before him. This the High King of Ireland, Turlough O'Connor of Connaught, opposed, so he sent a neighboring chieftain to subjugate Leinster--Tiernan O'Rourke, a man who loved battle. Among the three sacred laws of Ireland, the one called Daire's Law specifically forbade the killing of cattle by an enemy for by killing cattle, you were forcing the people of that land to starve because dairy products were their sole food source. O'Rourke killed the cows of Leinster.
It took years for Dermot to regain the throne of Leinster, but finally, by 1133 he had succeeded and now began to expand his power. He raided in Ossory, then sacked Waterford, like his great-grandfather, Dermot Mac Mal namBo, before him. The following two decades were mostly peaceful for Dermot, he avoided many of the wars the other four provinces [Meath was the 5th province back in history] were waging on one another, but in 1152, he helped Turlough O'Connor raid Tiernan O'Rourke's land.
After O'Rourke's land was destroyed and his castle burned, the armies left for their respective provinces. As Dermot was traveling through Meath to return to Leinster, the King of Meath told him that Dervorgilla, O'Rourke's wife and also the King of Meath's sister, would run away with him. Dermot turned around and picked up Dervorgilla with all her furniture and cows, then returned home. [It is not clear if she went willingly or was abducted.] When O'Rourke discovered his wife had been taken, he was furious.
This 'abduction' made Dermot, Tiernan O'Rourke's most bitter enemy. After only a year, Dermot was forced to give Dervorgilla back, but O'Rourke never forgave. In 1166, when Ireland was ablaze in war and Dermot's ally, the High King Muirchertach O'Lochlainn, had fallen, O'Rourke joined together a number of other chieftains and raided Leinster...O'Rourke for revenge, the rest for plunder. Dermot barely escaped with his life and sailed for England. Dermot was not through. Dervorgilla was to end her life many years later in an Irish convent.
[Here is where Dermot MacMurrough asked Henry II of England to help him get his kingdom back from O'Rourke. Dermot had abducted O'Rourke's wife and O'Rourke had defeated him in a great battle. At Dermot's request, Henry II sends in the Earl of Penbroke known in history as Strongbow. As is true so often in history, the one you ask for help is in fact the one that you should have kept your eye on. . . No link as yet has been made from the McTernan family from Sheskin to the O'Rourke with the first name of Tiernan, the similarity of the Armorial Arms and the location of the Sheskin McTernan ancestorial grave in the Abbey of Creevelea at the foot of the high altar. That McTernan grave is the only non O'Rourke grave in the high altar area. The Abbey of Creevelea was the O'Rourke family chapel. In a long stretch, if Tiernan O'Rouke is in our ancestorial line then the McTernan / McTiernan's have played a major role in Ireland's troubles in the last 800 years by being the root cause of it all. The O'Rourke (Drumahaire line) Armoral Arms and Crest. Their family motto is: Serviendo Guberno, which translates to "To Serving the Helm"]
MacMurrough gathered a force of Norman and Welsh fighting men and returned to Ireland. In quick succession he defeated Ossory, Waterford, and then Dublin, so reclaiming the kingship of Leinster, but he was not satisfied. He marched on the High King of Ireland, Rory O'Connor (Turlough's son), and demanded the High King's submission. Dermot gambled that Rory would not hurt the Leinster hostages he had, Dermot's son and nephew. Rory hesitated, then O'Rourke forced his hand.
The bodies of Dermot's son, Conor, and nephew were delivered to him in a sack like a bullock would be delivered to market. Dermot lost the will to fight. His army disbanded and he returned to Ferns where, a few months later, he died. Shortly afterwards, Tiernan O'Rourke was killed by the Norman leader, Hugo de Lacy who decapitated him and sent his head to Dublin to be impaled on a gate.
There is much written about the cruelty and savageness of Dermot. The sources that vilify Dermot were all written years after the Norman invasion, when Ireland had learned to fear and hate the foreigners. Those written while Dermot was alive portray him as a peaceful, just king (in comparison with others of his time).
The MacMurrough Family Armoral Arms
The O"Rourke Family Armoral Arms and Crest.
The McTeirnan Family from Sheskin Armoral Arms and Crest.
Last updated October 3, 1997
Return to the beginning