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O'RourkeThe 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 MacMurrough.

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...

Dear Alastair,

Your researchers are misinformed re “On the banks of the River Bonnet are the ruins of Bréifne Castle”

Breifne Castle is 1 km  East of the Sligo/Leitrim County line on Route 286.  54.15.54N, 8.19.56W,

BTW, “Bonnet” is a Cromwellian bastardization of the Gaelic Buaniad”.  The Buaniad is many km to the SE 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 of the river.

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