Cogad Gáedel re Gallaib “The War of the Gaels with the Foreigners”20 is an account of the struggle against the Vikings, culminating with the Battle of Clontarf (1014). It was written, however, at least one hundred years later (1103×11), clearly to valorize the king Brian Ború and was used as propaganda to aid his descendants in their efforts to gain the High Kingship of Ireland.
The following text was adapted by Michael Newton from Todd, Cogadh.
§ 1. There was an overwhelming and immense oppression throughout Ireland due to the blue-bladed pagans and the fierce, hard-hearted Danishmen for a long span of time: for 170 years according to some, 200 years according to others. […]
§ 9. At that time [c.AD 839] a royal fleet came to the north of Ireland headed by Turgeis, who made himself ruler of the Gaill [“foreigners”] of Ireland. They plundered the north of Ireland and they spread throughout the north of Ireland. One of their fleets went into Loch Ethach and another entered Lowth and another entered Loch Ree. On top of this, they plundered Armagh three times in one month and Turgeis himself took over the abbacy of Armagh and drove out Farannan, the abbot of Armagh, who took Patrick’s shrine with him to Munster. Farannan was in Munster for four years while Turgeis was in Armagh and ruled over the north of Ireland. Saint Berchán, the head prophet of heaven and earth prophesied this, as the poem relates:
Pagans will come over the rolling sea
They will bewilder the men of Ireland:
They shall have an abbot over every church
They shall have a king ruling Ireland.
They will have great power: seven years
Of rule over all of Ireland.
The abbacy of every church will be filled
By the Black-haired pagans of Dublin.
One of them will be an abbot in my own church
Who will not come to morning mass;
He will not know the Pater [“Our father”] or the Christian creed
He will not speak Gaelic, but only a foreign language.
Colum Cille also prophesied this event when he said:
The fleet of Loch Ree
Which extends the power of the foreign pagans:
One of them will become the abbot of Armagh,
It will be the government of an usurper.
§ 11. Turgeis of Aramgh led a fleet into Loch Ree and from there he plundered Meath and Connacht. He plundered Clonmacnoise and […] all the churches of Loch Derg. And Turgeis’ wife Ota took over the altar of Clonmacnoise as her court. The men of Connacht, however, battled against them and Maelduin the son of Muirgissa, and heir to the throne of Connacht, was killed.
§ 12. Then 65 ships landed at Dublin and they plundered Leinster as far as the coast, as well as the plain of Brega [in Meath]. The Dál Riata [of Scotland] met them in another battle and Eoghan, the son of Oengus, king of Dál Riata, was killed.
§ 13. After this, the sea belched so many foreigners into Ireland that there was not a headland without a fleet of them. […]
§ 14. Mael-Sechlainn took Turgeis prisoner and he was later drowned in Loch Uair […] After Turgeis was killed, Farannan, the abbot of Armagh, left Munster and repaired the shrine of Patrick.
§ 20. After this [c.AD 851] the Black(-haired)-pagan Danish men came and spread themselves all over Ireland and tried to drive the Fair(-haired) pagans out of Ireland. They battled each other and 5,000 of the Fair(-haired) pagans were killed at Snamh Ergda. After that another fleet arrived in Kerry and they plundered all around as far as Limerick […]
§ 23. After that – ten years after the death of Mael-Sechlainn [c.AD 853] – Amlaíb [Olaf], the son of the king of Lochlann, came with a huge fleet and made himself ruler of the foreigners [Gaill] of Ireland. He was the one who drowned Conchobhar the son of Donnchadh, the heir to the throne of Tara. […]
§ 27. After this the immense royal fleet of Ímhar [Ivor] came to Dublin and they plundered most of Ireland, including Armagh. […] This is also the year in which Donnchadh son of Duibh-dabhorenn, the king of Cashel, and Sitric, the king of the foreigners [of Dublin], were killed. And they fought many battles against the men of Leinster this year. Four years later, the foreigners left Ireland and Sitric led them to Alba [Britain].
§ 34. […] These were the mighty deeds of the sons of Ireland and of the ships of Dublin in the north of Ireland and in Leinster. But not all of their plunders, battles, and conflicts are remembered or recorded in books.
§ 35. We will now proceed to give an account of the history of the men of Munster and the sons of Ímhar, for they alone were responsible for half of the troubles and oppressions of all of Ireland.
§ 36. […] Indeed, the evil which Ireland has previously suffered was nothing compared to the evil inflicted by these men. They plundered all of Munster, without distinction, and they built strongholds and ship-ports all over Ireland, so that there was no place that did not have numerous fleets of Danes and Vikings. They conquered lands and plundered them, throughout Ireland; and they ravaged her kingdoms and sacred churches and holy sanctuaries; and they broke her shrines, her reliquaries, and books. […] for this furious, ferocious, merciless, angry people had no fear of God or man. In summary, until the sands of the sea, or the grasses of the field, or the stars of the heavens are counted, it will not be easy to enumerate what all of the Gaels, without distinction, suffered from them: men and women, boys and girls, clerics and laypeople, freemen and peasants, old and young – indignity, outrage, injury, and oppression. […]
§ 41. There was in Ireland, however, a certain gracious, noble, high-born, beautiful kin-group who never submitted to tyranny or oppression or undeserved injury from any other people in the world: the descendants of Lughaid the son of Oenghus Tireach, who are called the Dál Cais Bóruma, one of the two pillars of the nobility, and one of the two dynasties that always supported the independence and sovereignty of Ireland. […]
Even when they were not the high-kings of Ireland, it was not lawful to force them to pay rent, tribute, pledges, hostages, or fostership fees to anyone; their only responsibility was to acknowledge the high-king, to prevent aggression, and to supply numerous troops to protect the freedom of Cashel against the north of Ireland. They had the right to lead the troops when attacking enemy territory and to take the rear when returning home. Besides these rights, they alternated in the kingship of Cashel. […]
§ 43. At this time governing this kin-group there were two stout, capable, and brave pillars, two fierce, ferocious, magnificent heroes, two gates of battle, two poles of combat, two spreading trees of shelter, two spears of victory and alertness, of hospitality and generosity, of courage and strength, of friendship and energy, the most famous in western Europe: Mathgamhain and Brian […]
§ 44. Now, when these men saw the slavery and oppression and tyranny that Munster and all of the men of Ireland were suffering, they took the advice of avoiding these problems and not submitting to them. They led their people and property west of the Shannon and hid amongst the forests of the native kin-groups there. They then proceeded to plunder and kill the foreigners. […]
§ 45. Brian, the son of Cennedigh [“Kennedy”], on the other hand, was not willing to make peace treaties with the foreigners: no matter how small the damage he could do to them, he preferred that to peace; and even though all others were silent about that matter, he would not be. […]
§ 47. Brian reprimanded Mathgamhain severely, saying that he submitted to peace with the foreigners while they occupied his territory through cowardice. […]
§ 48. After this, all of the Dál Cais assembled in a special place in front of Mathgamhain and he asked them what they preferred, whether they would make war or peace with the foreigners and Danishmen. All of them, both young and old, answered that they would prefer to meet death, destruction and annihilation in defending the freedom of their homeland and their people, than to submit to the tyranny and oppression of the Vikings, or to abandon their country to them. […]
§ 91. The fleet returned and gathered together, both the foreigners of Dublin and the men of Leinster, and they formed seven great, strong battalions. After that began a terrible conflict […]
§ 109. They continued in battle array and fought from sunrise to sunset, for the same length of time that it takes for the tide to recede and to return. For it was at the high tide that the foreigners came out to fight in battle in the morning, and the tide had to come to the same place again at the end of the day when the foreigners were defeated; and the tide carried their ships away with it from them, so that they had no where to run to but the sea itself, and all of the chain-mail-wearing foreigners were killed by the Dáil Cais. An awful rout was made on the foreigners and the men of Leinster, which caused them all to flee at once […]