Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/O'Brien, Turlough

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O'BRIEN, TURLOUGH (1009–1086), king of Munster, called in Irish Toirdhealbhach Ua Briain, was nephew of Donnchadh O'Brien, son of Brian (926–1014) [q. v.], king of Ireland. His name is pronounced Trellach in his own country, that of the Dal Cais, a great part of which is the present county of Clare. His father was Tadhg, son of Brian Boroimhe. He was born in 1009, and fostered or educated by Maelruanaidh O'Bilraighe, lord of Ui Cairbre in the plain of Limerick, who died in 1105. His first recorded act was the slaying of O'Donnacain, lord of Aradhtire, near Lough Derg of the Shannon, in 1031. After this he was perhaps banished, for in 1054 he plundered Clare with an army of Connaughtmen, and in 1055 won a battle over his kinsman Murchadh an sceith ghirr (short shield), in which 400 men and fifteen chiefs were slain. His accession as chief of the Dal Cais is dated from 1055 by some writers, but his sway was at first not undisputed; and O'Flaherty's date, 1064 (Ogygia, p. 437), is certainly correct. He defeated Murchadh for the second time in 1063. In 1067 he made war on Connaught and on the Deisi, co. Waterford, and on the death of Murchadh became king of Munster. He carried off the head of Conchobhar O'Maelsechlainn and two rings of gold on the night of Good Friday 1073 from Clonmacnoise. According to an old story, a mouse emerged from the dried head and ran into Turlough's garments, and was supposed to have carried the disease which attacked him, and in which his hair and beard fell off. He returned the head, with an offering of gold. He marched to Ardee, co. Louth, to attack the Oirghialla and the people of Ulidia, in 1075, but met with no success. In 1077 he led his troops against the Ui Ceinnseallaigh of Leinster, and captured Domhnall the Fat, their chief. In 1080 he marched to Dublin and took hostages from the city. He plundered the district known as Muintir Eolais, co. Leitrim, in 1085, and captured its chief, Muireadhach MacDuibh. Turlough had long been ill, since his robbery from Clonmacnoise in 1073, say the chronicles, and died, after much suffering and intense penance for his sins, at Ceanncoradh, co. Clare, 14 July 1086. Archbishop Lanfranc wrote to him in 1074 as 'magnifico Hiberniæ regi Terdelvaco' (Usher, ep. 27); but his only claim to the title of king of Ireland was his descent from Brian, whose title was purely one of conquest, and not of hereditary right. He married Gormlaith, daughter of O'Fogartaigh, a chief of the district in Ormoud called Eile Ui Fhogartaigh, now Eliogarty, co. Tipperary, but who was a descendant of Eochaidh Balldearg, king of Thomond in the fifth century, and therefore belonged, like her husband, to the Dal Cais, the greatest tribe of North Munster. He had two sons: Murtough [q. v.], who succeeded him as king of Munster; and Tadhg, who died in July 1086, and left sons who fought with Murtogh till peace was made between them in 1091.

[Annala Rioghachta Eireann, ed. O'Donovan, vol. ii. Dublin, 1851; Annnls of Ulster, ed. MacCarthy, vol. ii; Annals of Loch Cé, ed. Hennessy (Rolls Ser.); O'Flaherty's Ogygia, London, 1685; Ussher's Epistolarum Hibernicarum Sylloge.]

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