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Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland
VII. The Érainn


known as the Dalcassians, and the heads of the family were kings of Thomond. The O’Briens derive their descent from Brian Boru, High King of Ireland, who was slain at Clontarf in 1014, at the moment of his final decisive victory over the united Viking army. His individual career is remarkable in the history of the Gael, and is so distinguished and outstanding that it cannot be mitigated by faint praise, for among other things he brought a degree of unity and common purpose to the Gael never seen before or since. He came out of virtual obscurity to bring Ireland out of its perpetual chaos just enough to guarantee its existence into the future. Such was his greatness that neither his nobility nor the quality of the seed that produced him can ever be called into question (as a tree bears fruit in kind, so a man’s parentage and ancestry were of central social and political importance to the Gael, hence the family names in "0" and "Mac" (see Chapter V). For those interested, the book Lion of Ireland by Morgan Llywelyn gives his life story with remarkable accuracy and human interest.

In any case, it was Brian who raised his clan, the Ui Toirdealbhaigh, to preeminence among the Dalcassians, although there is evidence that the Ui Toirdealbhaigh were originally from Connacht (see Chapter IX). He laid the foundation for his progeny’s future greatness, just as the guerrilla tactics of the Ui Tordealbhaigh, under Brian’s leadership, laid the foundation of Brian’s later reputation and success as a "Viking-stopper." The O’Briens became not only the ruling family in Thomond, but some of them were over-kings of Munster and some High-Kings of Ireland as well. Their own possessions included the whole of County Clare, and large parts of Tipperary, Limerick, and Waterford as well.

The O’Briens divided into several branches, the most important of which were the O’Briens of Ara, in northwest Tipperary, the chief of which was known as Mac I Bhriain Ara; those of Coonagh in the east of County Limerick; those of Pobelbrien, now the barony of that name in County Limerick (their chief stronghold was Carrigogonnell, on the Shannon); those of Aherlow, in Tipperary, and finally those of Cumaragh, in County Water-ford, who had extensive possessions along the Cummeragh Mountains, that is, the valley between Dungarvan and the Suir. Other families of the Ui Toirdealbhaigh, whose original territory was in the east of County Clare, include the MacConsidines, MacLysaghts, MacDonnells and MacMahons.

The MacConsidines (Mac Consaidin) are a branch of the O’Briens, being descended from Domhnall Mor 0 Briain, King of Munster, who died in 1194.

The MacLysaghts (Mac GiolLa Iasachta) are also descended from Domhnall Mor 0 Briain (Great Donal O’Brien), who lived from 1163 to 1194. They formed a sub-sept of the O’Briens, being originally settled around Ennistymon, County Clare, and spread afterwards throughout Clare and Limerick, with a branch also going to County Cork.


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