The O'Rourke line
is descended from Briuin, a brother of Niall of the Nine Hostages, and a
possible descendant of Conn of the Hundred Battles.
In the tenth and eleventh centuries, the
kingship of Connacht was held by three members of the O Rourke family.
Their name is said to come from the Norse, Hrothrekr, which was
Gaelicized to Ruairc. Until the confiscations by Cromwell, their
chieftains were Kings of Bréifne - at that time composed of the Irish
counties Leitrim and Cavan. The Bréifne O Rourkes ruled from Kells in
County Meath to the northern tip of County Sligo.
Noted for their hospitality, their
stronghold was at Dromahair (the Ridge of the Two Air Demons) in County
Leitrim. On the banks of the River Bonnet are the ruins of Bréifne
Castle, another of the O Rourke Fortresses.
In the O Rourke pedigrees there are
nineteen chiefs, all called Tiernan. One famous Tiernan O Rourke (d.
1172), King of Bréifne, ravaged Meath in 1122 and then extended his
warfare into Connacht, which was then O Brien and O Conor territory.
Dermot MacMurrough Kavanagh, King of Leinster, who was also striving to
subdue Connacht, encountered Tiernan's wife, Devorgilla, there. After an
unusual affair between MacMurrough and Devorgilla lasting two years, O
Rourke allied himself with O Conor, King of Connacht, and deposed
Dermot, who has never been forgiven by
the Irish, sought the assistance of Henry II, King of England and
France. Henry the II sent the Cambro-Normans to Ireland, which changed
the course of history for Ireland. Tiernan was killed in 1172 by the
Norman, Hugo de Lacy, and sent his head to Dublin to be impaled on a
gate. Further reference on the Cambro-Norman Invasion of Ireland.
Devorgilla lived until 1193, at age 85,
while visiting the Abbey at Mellifont. She gave generously to the
Cistercian Order, by donating a golden chalice and 60 ounces of fine
gold to the Abbey at Mellifont, and by building the Nun's Church at the
Abbey of Clonmacnoise.
Contributor: James R Sebastian Jr (from
Ida Grehan's "Irish Family Histories").
Electric Scotland Note: Got in an email
from Steve O'Rourke saying...
Your researchers are misinformed re
“On the banks of
the River Bonnet are the ruins of Bréifne Castle”
is 1 km
East of the Sligo/Leitrim County line on Route 286.
Buaniad is many km to
of the Castle
and has no
connection whatever with the Castle, other than the Buaniad does flow into
Loch Gile and the Castle is on the NE banks of the Loch, not