Niall (870?-919) (DNB00)

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NIALL (870?–919), king of Ireland, known in Irish history as Glundubh or Blackknee, son of Aedh Finnliath, king of Ireland, grandson of Niall (791–845) [q. v.], and great-great-grandson of Niall (715–778) [q. v.], was born about 870. He belonged to the northern Ui Neill, and was thirteenth in descent from Eoghain, the founder of the Cinel Eoghain. In 900 he challenged his brother Domhnall, king of Ailech. The Cinel Eoghain prevented the battle, which was to have been a fight of septs, and not a mere duel. The brothers made friends, and in 903 invaded Meath and burnt Tlachta, near Athboy. In 905 he made a foray into Ui Fiachrach in northern Connaught and slew Aedh, son of Maelpatraic, its chief. Two years later he captured and drowned Cearnachan, who had violated the sanctuary of Armagh. In 909 he is called Glundubh in the chronicles for the first time; but no history of the cognomen is preserved. He made a second expedition into North Connaught, and defeated the Connaughtmen under Maelcluiche on Bin Bulbin, co. Sligo. In December 910 he led the men of Fochla, or North and West Ulster, with allies from Ulidia, or East Ulster, into Meath, but was defeated at Girley, near Crossakeel, co. Meath, by Flann Sionna, king of Ireland (879–915). His brother died in 911, and he became king of Ailech, and on 12 June led an army into Dal nAraidhe (South Antrim and Down), and fought a battle with Loingseach O'Lethlobhair, its king, on the river Ravel, a little north of the present railway station of Glarryford, co. Antrim. He then marched south, and fought a second battle at Carn Ereann, near Ballymena, co. Antrim, defeating Aedh, son of Eochagain, king of Ulidia, with whom he made peace at Tullaghoge, co. Tyrone, on 1 Nov. Early in 915 he suppressed a rising against Flann Sionna by his sons Donnchadh and Conchobhar. In May 915 he succeeded Flann as king of Ireland. He is stated to have revived the great meeting of clans known in Irish as Aonach Taillten, and often called by English writers the ‘fair of Telltown.’ The assembly was held early in August, and he left Meath soon after it, and on 22 Aug. encamped on the plain of Feimhin near Clonmell. The Danes, after a rest of forty years, were again attacking Ireland, and had also encamped on the plain, having marched out from Waterford. An indecisive battle took place, and Niall remained for three weeks in his camp. The Danes marched north, and won a battle on the Liffey at Ceannfuait, co. Kildare. Niall was then obliged to retreat to Meath. In 919 he marched on Dublin. The Danes, led by Ivar and Sitric, came out to meet him, and he was defeated and mortally wounded at Kilmashoge, near Rathfarnham, co. Dublin, on Wednesday, 15 Sept. He was shriven on the field by Celedabhaill, son of Scannaill, abbot of Bangor, and his tomb, made of great upright and transverse blocks of unhewn stone, is still to be seen on the field of battle. He had some literary taste, and a short poem attributed to him, stating the object of his march, is extant. Cormacan Eigeas, the famous northern poet [see Muircheartach, d. 943], was his friend and bard. About 910 he married Gormlaith, daughter of Flann Sionna. She had previously been the wife of Cormac MacCuilennen (836–908) [q. v.], king of Munster, and of Cearbhall, king of Leinster, who was slain in 909. Many poems are attributed to her. In one she mentions that Anlaff was the name of the Dane who slew Niall. Having been wife successively of a king of Munster, a king of Leinster, and a king of Ireland, she wandered for many years as a mendicant, and died in 946 of a wound of the chest, caused by falling upon the sharp-pointed post to which her bed was tied. An ancient lament for Niall, beginning ‘Bronach indiu Eirinn huag’ (‘Mournful to-day is noble Ireland’), and a poem on the battle beginning ‘Ba duabhais an chedain chruaidh’ (‘Gloomy was the hard Wednesday’), are extant. He left a son, Muircheartach (d. 943) [q. v.], afterwards king of Ailech.

[Annala Rioghachta Eireann, ed. O'Donovan, vol. ii.; Annals of Ulster (Rolls Ser.), ed. Hennessy, vol. i. 1887; Chronicon Scotorum (Rolls Ser.), ed. Hennessy, 1866; Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh (Rolls Ser.), ed. Todd, 1867; O'Flaherty's Ogygia, London, 1685; Annals of Ireland; Three Fragments, ed. O'Donovan, Dublin, 1860; Antiquities of Down, Connor, and Dromore, ed. Reeves, Dublin, 1847.]

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