The Rise of the Gabhal Raghnaill
Emmett O'Byrne
Emmett O'Byrne was awarded an M.Phil. by Trinity College, Dublin, in 1996 for his dissertation on the Ui Bhroin of county Wicklow and their Lordship to 1434. The Ui Bhroin was the subject of his later studies for a PhD from Trinity College.

Throughout history famous sons have often reaped the benefits of policies created by their less well-known fathers. The spectacular successes of Alexander the Great built upon the foundations laid by his father, the much under-rated Philip, form one notable example. No account of Feagh McHugh O'Byrne's turbulent life can be complete without an examination of the powerful inheritance created for him by his father, the able Hugh Mac Shane. Feagh's reign as lord of Ranelagh (1579-47) saw the house of Ballinacor reach its zenith. It could be argued that Feagh was a victim of his own success. Continually he was viewed by the government as the centre of intrigue within Leinster. Ironically, Feagh's demise was hastened by a fatal whirlwind, not of his own making, but, rather, one made by his son. This was the rash slaughter in 1594 of Sir Piers Fitzgerald and his family by Turlough, Feagh's eldest son and heir. It was this act which convinced the government of the necessity to destroy Feagh. Their several attempts over the space of nearly two decades to do so culminated in Feagh's death at the hands of English soldiers in May 1597.

What follows is, in the first instance, an attempt to present a general history of the O'Byrnes. Secondly, it aims to illuminate the circumstances which saw the rise of the Gabhal Raghnaill against the background of the destabilisation of Irish politics in the sixteenth century, and thirdly, it offers an account of the consolidation of the Ballinacor family after the emergence in the 1540s of the youthful firebrand Hugh Mac Shane and, later, his son Feagh.

Part I

The thesis that the O'Byrnes were forced by the Normans in the last quarter of the twelfth century from their Kildare patrimony of Uí Faelain into the Wicklow mountains has been generally accepted in the past. Recent research suggests the situation was different.

The Uí Faelain sprang from the head of ancient Leinster's Uí Dunlainge dynastic confederation. They ruled a large territory, traditionally in north Kildare. Uí Faelain's rulers from the latter half of the eleventh century were not ancestors of the medieval O'Byrne dynasty. Rather, they were of the Meic Faelain family. Both the Meic Faclain and the Uí Brain, the ancestors of the O'Byrnes, belonged to the Uí Faelain tree. Maelmorda, king of Uí Faelain and Leinster, and his Norse allies were defeated at Clontarf in 1014 by Brian Borurnha. This proved a watershed for Maelmorda's dynasty. Clontarf's devastation propelled Uí Faelain into decline. Its aftermath catapulted to prominence a series of aggressive Uí Muiredaig kings of Leinster. Dunlaing mac Tuathail of this dynasty died at Glendalough as king of Leinster in 1014. A note by John O'Donovan in the Annals of the Four Masters states that Bran, Maelmorda's son and the traditional O'Byrne ancestor, succeeded him as provincial high-king. This is uncertain. According to the note he was deposed in 1015 by Flaithbertach Ua Neill and Maelsechlainn, the high-king. The text of the annals merely states that following the raid on Leinster, Maelsechlainn proceeded to appoint Donncuan, Dunlaing mac Tuathail's son, as provincial king. In the following year Donncuan with his ally, Ua Riain, were slain. Bran mac Mailmorda regained the kingship of Leinster probably during 1016. He was blinded sometime in 1017-18 by Sitric of Dublin. Reasons for this are obscure. Maybe Bran mac Mailmorda attempted to interfere within Dublin, like his father had done in the 990s. One and perhaps both of Maelmorda's sons, Cerball and Congalach, were treacherously killed in the same year.

However, the dynasty recovered sufficiently to play a full role in the incessant Leinster wars of the 1020s. As fragmentary evidence is pieced together it is clear that Donnsleibhe mac Mailmorda, Bran mac Mailmorda's brother and successor, was in continual conflict with the new Uí Muiredaig provincial king, Augaire mac Dunlainge in the early 1020s. This struggle was not only confined to Kildare, where Donnsleibhe himself was killed in 1024, by the 1030s it had extended into the Fortuatha Laigen (the eastern Wicklow mountains). This reflects a continual trend of interference by Kildare dynasties in this region. The tribes of the mountains were subject to a frequently shifting Uí Dunlainge dominance. MacShamhrain's work traces increasing Uí Muiredaig interference within the region throughout the 1030s. They exerted considerable pressure upon the Uí Mail tribes of Uí Theig and Uí Cheallaig Cualann in the north-east of the mountains. In 1030 Cathasach Ua Cathail, coarb of Glendalough, was blinded by them. Their object was control of the ecclesiastical centre at Glendalough. Uí Faelain interventions in the Fortuatha were probably for the same reasons. Between 1039 and 1044 two kings of Bran mac Mailmorda's dynasty were slain in this region. Furthermore Glendalough was sacked in 1043 by Bran mac Mailmorda's son, Cellach.

There were precedents for these Uí Faelain interventions. Prior to his demise in 1014 Maelmorda exercised hegemony within these mountains. This is evinced by the death of Domhnall Ua Fearghaile I, king of the Fortuatha, at Clontarf. His grandson, Domlinall II, slew Domlinall, king of Uí Faelain, in 1039. This king of the Fortuatha, seemingly, was a close ally and nephew of Murchad mac Dunlainge, king of Uí Muiredaig and Leinster. From this evidence it appears Bran mac Mailmorda's successors were intent upon maintaining or resurrecting Maelmorda's suzerainty over the Fortuatha.

By the late 1030s Bran mac Mailmorda's line held a firm grip upon Uí Faelain. The MacFhaelains were intent on gaining Uí Faelain's kingship. They probably had been excluded from it by the Uí Brain. This struggle can be fitted into the wider context of the Leinster wars. Cerball mac Faelain was crushed by the Uí Brain with Norse help in 1039-40, while in 1041 his kinsmen met a similar fate. This seems to be connected with probable interventions by the provincial king, Murchad mac Dunlainge, into Uí Faelain's politics. He may have fanned Meic Faelain ambitions. The Uí Muiredaig previously involved themselves in king making in Leinster. Earlier they had imposed relatives as kings of Uí Clhennselaig. These imposed candidates were killed by Donnsleibhe mac Mailmorda in 1024. In 1041 Murchad mac Dunlainge with his allies deposed the king of Loigis, replacing him with a more favourable client.

Murchad mac Dunlainge was killed by the Osraige in 1042. The Leinster kingship reverted surprisingly to the blind Bran mac Mailmorda. The fact that Diarmaid mac Mael na mbo of Uí Chennselaig was the strongest king in Leinster at this time, suggests an Uí Brain/Uí Chennselaig alliance. Bran mac Mailmorda may have merely been a titular king of Leinster. At the close of the 1040s Bran mac Mailmorda's dynasty suffered a sudden and terminal decline. Cellach mac Brain and Murchad mac Brain were mysteriously executed in 1047 by Ulaid's king. The annalist notes that:

it was through enemity to the son of Mael na mBo, that the Ulidians committed this treachery.

No new Uí Brain warleader emerges from the annals. A fresh border war erupted in 1048 between the Uí Faelain and Concobliar Ua Maelsechlainn, king of Made. The annalistic evidence from the 1040s and early 1050s conjures up a picture of chronic warfare throughout Kildare and Leinster. The disappearance of Uí Faelain's Uí Brain kings coincides with Bran mac Mailmorda's death in Germany during 1052.

By 1059 the MacFhaelains held Uí Faelain’s kingship. O’Corráin dates an Uí Dunlainge revolt against Diarmait mac Mael na mbo to 1059. Murchad, Diarmait's son, slew Gilla Coemgin, probably king of Uí Muiredaig, and Maelmorda MacFhaelain. This Maelmorda seems to have been a son of Cerball mac Faelain. O’Corráin connects this revolt with Murchad's defeat by Concobliar Ua Mailsechlainn in 1058. Seemingly this defeat compelled many Uí Dunlainge dynasts to take service with Dondchad Ua Briain, the high-king. Several of these émigrés fell in Dondchad's defeat at Eas Moingelan in 1063 by his nephew, Toirdelbach Ua Briain. Toirdelbach was Diarmait mac Mael na mbo's ally. One of the émigrés, Faelain mac Murchadha - called rigdamna Laigen, seems to be a MacFhaelain. MacSharnlirain argues that the traditional fate of fallen Kildare dynasties was flight into the Wicklow Mountains. In ancient Leinster this region was considered a political and social backwater?' It is probable that the Uí Brain were forced into the mountains, perhaps to unidentified Uí Faelain mountain lands, by the MacRaelains.

Possible locations of their refuge can be suggested through parallel studies of other Leinster dynasties. Trouble was already brewing within the Uí Chennselaig before Concobliar Ua MailsechIainn ended Diarmait mac Mael na mbo's career at Odha in 1072. Diarmait mac Mael na mbo successfully excluded the descendants of his brother, Domlinall Rearnhar, from the Uí Chennselaig kingship. His son Murchad died in 1070. Murchad was the eponym of the later MeicMhurchadha (the MacMurrough family). After Diarmait's death, Domlinall Rearnhar's son Dondchad made his move. His sept took the surname Ua Domlinaill. Between 1072 and 1114 they held the kingship of Uí Chennselaig at least twice. Concurrently, they fought bitterly with the MacMurroughs. MacShamhrain argues that a changed political climate in Leinster occurred after 1072. Toiredelbach Ua Briain moved into the void created by Diarmait mac Mael na mbo's death and established his hegemony over Leinster and Dublin. MacSharnhrain asserts that Toiredelbach and his son, Muircheartach Ua Briain, favoured Uí Dunlainge princes. This was particularly the case with the Ua Lorcain segment of the Uí Muiredaig. Moreover, they generally favoured the Ua Domlinaill sept of the Uí Chennselaig. It seems that Toirdelbach and his son sought to create a counterweight to their former allies, i.e. the line of Diarmait mac Mael na mbo. It was probably at this time that the MacFhaelains strengthened their grip on Uí Faelain.

The Ban-senchas lists several Uí Brain marriages between the late eleventh century and the middle of the twelfth century. These were predominately with the Ua Domhnaill line of Uí Chennselaig and their allies. Uí Brain unions, however, with the Ua Domhnaill family seem to be with an otherwise unrecorded Mael Ruadnaigh Ua Domlinaill's line, as distinct from the ruling family. Significantly, the Ban-shenchas shows that the MacFhaelains married into the ruling Ua Domlinaill family. Cailleach MacFhaelain was Maelmorda Ua Domlinaill II's mother". He was king of Uí Chennselaig and died in 1122. The absence of an Ua Domlinaill pedigree is a hindrance, but not insurmountable. In any case the geographical spread of these marriages suggests that the Uí Brain found refuge in central and south Wicklow. Through parallel annalistic examinations, the picture clears. Mailsechlainn mac Dungalaigh Uí Brain's mother was Gormflaith, either a daughter or a granddaughter of Mael Ruadnaigh. She was also mother to a king of the Fortuatha. In the Ban-shenchas this king is named Dunlaing. Dobbs identified him as Domhnall Dubh Ua Ferghaile who died in 1095. Nicholls agrees with this. However, since Dunlaing and Domlinall are distinctly different names, this identification may not be justified. In 1090 Muirchertach Ua Briain defeated Domlinall Ua Maelsechlainn of Mide. Among the fallen were Maelmorda Ua Domlinaill 1 and Maelsechlainn Ua Dunghalaigh. The latter's obit in the Annals of Tigernach records him as Maelsechlainn mac Dunghalaigh (sic). Scribal confusion is considerable: he is known as Maelsechlainn mac Dunlaing in the Ban-senchas. This may make him a son of Dunlaing Dublicluana Uí Brain and perhaps an unrecorded brother of Ughaire of the genealogy. All this fits in the context of an Ua Domlinaill-Ui Brain alliance, or more probably an Ua Donilmaill hegemony. It is clear that the Ua Domhnaill had superiority over the southern Wicklow dynasties of Ua Fiachrach of Uí Enecliglaiss, around Arklow, and Ua Neill of Magh da Chonn. MacSharnlirain suggests an early twelfth century date for the marriage of Ughaire Uí Brain's daughter, Dearbail, to an Ua Lorcain dynast of the Uí Muiredaig. The name Ughaire appears in the traditional genealogy. In 1114 Maelmorda Ua Domlinaill II was overthrown by his McMurrough rivals.

Three further Uí Brain marriages can be placed in the twelfth century. Two are with Mael Ruadnaigh Ua Domlinaill's line. It is known that sometime in his reign (1126-71), Diarmait McMurrough gave the kingdom of Uí Felemeda Tuaid in Carlow to a sept of the Ua Domhnaill. These later assumed the surname Mac Dalbaig. We find Dubcholbaig, daughter of Uí Brain, married to Mael Ruanig mac Dalbaig Ua Domnaill and mother of his son, Dunlaing. Another O'Brain was the mother of Gilli Chnicht mac Dalbaig. Dubeasa, another O'Brain daughter, was the mother of Eochaid O'Nuallain, king of Fothairt. Only one Eochaid appears in the list of the kings of Fothairt in the Book of Leinster. He may be the man slain with Maelsechlainn mac Murchadha, an enemy of Diarmait MacMurchadlia, by Augaire Ua Tuathail of Uí Muiredaig in 1133.

Exactly where in the Wicklow Mountains the Uí Brain found refuge following their eleventh century expulsion from Kildare is difficult to pinpoint. Price, though mistaken as to the date of their expulsion, argues that Aughrim/Ballymanus is a likely location, specifically naming Glanlurkin near Rosahane. As a placename, Glanfurkin is now obsolete. The later dispersion of the O'Byrnes southwards and eastwards to the coast points towards such a location. 1 would argue for this place for the following reasons: firstly, to the north were the Uí Muiredaig mountain lands. Glendalough and its ecclesiastical centre were under their control from 1072, despite assaults by the peoples of the Fortuatha. In the twelfth century Uí Muiredaig's Ua Tuathail line achieved dominance over their Ua Lorcain rivals. The Ua Fergaile kings of the Fortuatha to the east were mentioned in the annals in 1095 and 1170. The Ua Fiactrach of Uí Enechglaiss received annalistic mentions in 1103, 1154 and 1170. In the south, Shillelagh was ruled by the Uí Chennselaig clients of Ua Gaithin and Ua Neill of Magh da Chonn. An unnamed Ua Neill of Magh da Chonn fell in the battle of Rath-Edair in 1087. To put it simply, the Uí Brain had nowhere else to go in the eleventh century except the region around Aughrim/Ballymanus. This refuge may represent previously unidentified Uí Faelain mountain territories or lands conquered at Uí Mail expense.

That the Uí Brain seemingly settled here in the eleventh century does not preclude possibilities of their migration further eastwards in the pre-Norman period. Possibly, as numbers increased, they may have encroached upon the Ua Fergaile. The marriage of Mailsechlainn mac Dungalaigh Uí Brain's mother to an Ua Fergaile suggests growing contact. Ua Fergaile's twelfth-century kingdom of Uí Garrchon became the cradle of the later medieval Uí Brain lordship. The last mention of the Ua Fergaile kings was in 1170. Both the Uí Enecliglaiss and the Uí Garrchon kingdoms were profoundly affected by Norman interventions. Uí Thuathail control of Glendalough was shaken by the Normans in 1169 and 1176. Domlinall MacGiollamocholmoc, lord of much of Uí Briuin Cualann in northeast Wicklow, allied himself with the Normans. His family subsequently became normanised, adapted their surname to Fitzdermot and retained much of their lands. They may have gained additional lands within Uí Briuin Cualann and Uí Garrchon at the expense of the Ostman Mac Torcail dynasty and the Ua Fergaile respectively. Harrison, MacShamhrain and Simpson demonstrate relatively intense Norman settlement along Wicklow's narrow coastal strip. Thus the Ua Fergaile and Ua Fiachrach were seemingly largely dispossessed by the Normans. That is not to say they were not still living upon ancestral lands.'

Without doubt the Uí Brain must have been affected by the Norman conquest of Kildare in the 1170s. As has been shown above, the Wicklow mountain range always provided refuge for fallen dynasties. The MacFhaelain kingdom of Uí Faelain was devastated by the Normans. Signs of Norman pressure are evident. Maelmorda, a probable son of Faelain MacRaclain, was slain by the Uí T1uathail of Uí Muiredaig in 1177. Apparently the MacFhaelains were forced back upon the Uí Muiredaig by Norman pressure. They had links with the mountains. In the Ban-senchas there is recorded an undated marriage between MeicFhaelain and Iarla Ua Cathail's daughter. MacSharnhrain suggests that the Uí Cathail family, which often held the coarbship of Glendalough, belonged to the Uí Mail. Dunlaing Ua Tuathail, king of Uí Muiredaig, was slain by the Normans in 1178. His death heralded the collapse of his kingdom. Uí Faelain had already been divided by Strongbow among his followers in 1173-74. Some Ua Tuathail and MacFhaelain dynasts were later accommodated within the Norman settlement of Leinster. Faelain MacFhaelain died at Meiler Fitzhenry's newly founded abbey of Connell in 1203. Cornelius MacFhaelain was bishop of Kildare until his death in 1221. Walter Duff O'Toole is a good example of accommodation within the Norman feudal settlement. He held some ancestral lands within the Norman settlement of the old Kildare patrimony of Uí Muiredaig in 1311 and had access to the law. However, others were not so lucky. Following 1177 it appears that the lands of the bishopric of Glendalough harboured large numbers of Uí Thuathail refugees from Kildare. Probably some MacFhaelains fled into the Wicklow mountains from 1169 onwards. This influx may have pushed some Uí Brain eastwards into Uí Garrchon.

Strongbow divided Uí Faelain in 1173-74. His double grant of Uí Faelain's middle cantred of Naas, belonging to Faelain MacFhaelain, and the cantred of Wicklow belonging to Maurice Fitzgerald, suggests a pre-Norman connection between them. Long afterwards Wicklow's cantred became part of the medieval county of Kildare. The cantred roughly corresponded to the Ua Fergaile kingdom of Uí Garrchon. There is evidence to connect both Uí Faelain dynasties with this region. Flanagan argues for pre-Norman divisions within the Uí Faelain kingdom. In 1124 Domhnall MacFhaelain slew the lord of the east of Uí Faelain, Gluniarainn son of Brain. Within the MacFhaelain genealogy there is no mention of a Brain. Could this be an Uí Brain warlord? There seems to have been a Braein O'Brain alive about this time. Gormflaith, wife of mac Dalbaig Ua DomImaill, seems to have been a daughter of a Braein O'Brain. Could these be one and the same? Possibly this suggests that the east of Uí Faelain pertains to Uí Brain territories, under MacFhaelain overlordship, in the Wicklow mountains. Could Strongbow have granted Uí Brain territories bordering, or within, Uí Garrchon to Maurice Fitzgerald in 1173-74? The medieval O'Byrnes were very assertive of their Uí Faelain origins. Their poets continually harked back to when the Uí Brain ancestors dwelt at Naas. To claim descent from a defeated lineage such as the Uí Brain makes little political sense, unless they were their descendants. The O'Byrne genealogies reflect dislocation and disturbance. This may account for the missing generations within them. The fourteenth century re-adoption by O'Byrne overlords of the title of 'king of Uí Faelain' suggests the foundation of a new Uí Faelain. A second possibility is that some of their territory was originally part of the old Uí Faelain kingdom. That the Uí Brain were already living in east Wicklow in the thirteenth century is supported by settlement evidence. For example, recent studies of medieval O'Byrne settlements find them residing near Wicklow's coast in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, which is earlier than had previously been thought. By the time of the revolts in 1270-71 the Uí Brain were the dominant Gaelic family within the cantred of Wicklow. This is confirmed by George de la Roche's law case in 1308 against the O'Byrnes for withholding rents due to him from his one third share of the barony of Wicklow.

Part II

The later sixteenth century Gabhal Raghnaill lords had not always enjoyed such a powerful position within the Gaelic Irish nobility of Leinster, or even within the O'Byrnes. 1 shall endeavour to disentangle their history. By the sixteenth century Hugh mac Shane's family was long established in their principal residence, Ballinacor, located where Glenmalure's mouth disgorges into a swathe of fertile land. They had not always been resident there. Ballinacor was held by Hugh mac Shane's family through mortgage from another O'Byrne sept, the Gabhal tSiomoin This indicates that their original ancestral lands lay elsewhere. It seems rather, as Nicholls suggests that these were located much further to the northeast of Glenmalure. These lands were within the coastal barony of Newcastle. They hugged the eastern fringes of the uplands encompassing the townlands of Drumbawn, Knockraheen and both Altidore demesnes. Nicholls suggests that the lands may represent the portion allotted to Feagh's ancestors in the aftermath of the original O'Byrne conquest.

How Hugh mac Shane's family came to hold Ballinacor from the Gabhal tSiomoin is not clear, nor is it known how the Gabhal tSiomoin came into occupation of Ballinacor. Glenmalure was originally O'Toole territory. An exchange of lands between 1256 and 1271 saw Archbishop Fulk of Dublin grant the lands of Glandeluri to Moriertach O'Toole. In return Moriertach transferred his ownership of lands within the Glen of Imaal to Archbishop Fulk. Evidence points to a sustained period of O'Byrne expansion southwards (1295-1314) from their medieval eastern patrimony, the cantred of Wicklow. Glenmalure must have been swallowed into the growing O'Byrne territory and that of Gabhal tSiomoin in particular, during this period. The O'Byrnes were never averse to receiving confiscated O'Toole lands: in 1307 the O'Byrne overlord, Murchadh, happily accepted the Glenealy lands of the outlawed Richard O'Toole from Justiciar John Wogan.

The eastern Wicklow status of Hugh mac Shane's forebears is confirmed further in George de la Roche's law case of 1308. Among the accused are a Raghnaill and two of his brothers. It is known for certain that by 1356 Raghnaill’s sept was active in the territory around Glenmalure. In their attack upon Adam Dowding's concealed raiding party, an elderly patriarch of the family named Raghnaill McLorcan, along with some relatives, were slain. During the southward push of the Gabhal tSiomoin into Shillelagh and north Carlow, an arrangement may have been reached with the Gabhal Raghnaill concerning Glenmalure; hence the mortgage. The earliest attested date, as of yet, for the Gabhal Raghnaill occupation of Ballinacor is 1356. Only an archaeological survey will answer these questions.

Crioch Raghnaill fá trom ttoradh dá éis go n-uair Conchubhar; ni clos riamh roinn do Raghnaill do bhoing do fhiadh abhannmhall.

The Leabhar Branach yields further secrets concerning Feagh's ancestors. Crioch Raghnaill, Raghnaill’s territory, the poet recounts, passed intact to Conor. According to the genealogies there were eight generations (including Conor) between the birth of Conor and Feagh's birth (c.1544). Conor seemingly flourished about the middle of the fourteenth century. The slain Raghnaill of 1356 may be tentatively identified as his father. Crioch Raghnaill seems, however, not to take its name from Conor's father. Rather, it appears the eponym derives from an earlier Raghnaill. Again this presents problems. Excluding Conor's father, only one other Raghnaill turns up among the genealogies. Nicholls, however, argues that the Raghnaill of 1308 and the slain Raghnaill of 1356 are different persons. The earlier referenced Raghnaill, unlike his descendants, is much more shadowy. He is only known to historical scholarship from much later genealogies of his line. When using these Gaelic genealogies, the warnings by eminent scholars concerning their validity should be heeded. It is difficult to date this Raghnaill, but he can tentatively be placed in the decades before the middle of the thirteenth century. This fits in with the imprisonment of his grandson, Conor, the son of Philip, as a hostage by the government for the good behaviour of the O'Byrne overlord, Gerailt I, in 1279. Traditionally, this Raghnaill is described as the progenitor of the Gabhal Raghnaill. If this were the case, then the original ancestral territory of the Gabhal Raghnaill probably took its name from him. Another possibility is that Crioch Raghnaill applied originally to lands owned by the family in the lower reaches of the eastern uplands within the barony of Newcastle. Upon their arrival in Glenmalure, Raghnaill's descendants may have extended the original name of their territory to the region. Perhaps after some generations, under the lordship of the Gabhal tSiomoin O'Byrnes, their strength grew. Conor may have established a semi-autonomous lordship and become the first lord of an enlarged territory.

The O'Byrne clan, like most Gaelic Irish lordships, had a long history of internecine feuds among its septs. Most notable of the fourteenth century was the prolonged struggle between Murchadh O'Byrne and his nephew Gerailt (son of Dunlaing, Murchadh's brother) in the 1330s. In 1371 Bran Ruadh, the O'Byrne overlord, concluded an indenture with William of Windsor. The indenture reveals a dynastic war had erupted among the O'Byrne septs. From this document the identities of the septs supporting Bran Ruadh are revealed. They include the Gabhal Dunlaing, Gabhal tSiomoin, Gabhal Murchadha Ruaidh, and also the Gabhal Raghnaill (called Reanylde). Conor was probably still lord of the latter sept. The scattered territories of Bran Ruadh's supporters stretched from those of the Gabhal tSiomoin in the south, to the expanding lands of Gabhal Dunlaing in the north-east. Bran Ruadh's opposition is not named. However, there are clues. Two years before Bran Ruadh's death in 1378 another O'Byrne obit is recorded, that of a Dalavagh O'Byrne. In it he is called the son of a good prince. Maelsechlainn O'Byrne is named as his father. Bran Ruadh had a brother, recorded in the genealogies, called Maelsechlainn. Possibly these are one and the same. Maelsechlainn and his son could have been his source of opposition. If so, then Bran Ruadh was opposed by those of his own Gabhal Dunlaing, whose lands were predominantly in the north-east.

Nothing further alluding to Crioch Raghnaill's lords is recorded among government documents until 1471-72. After Conor, the sixteenth century poem indicates Crioch Raghnaill had three lords between c.1370-1470. However, Donal, Hugh, and Shane, are only known to history by their names. Nothing else can be determined about them except for Shane. He married a daughter of Henry mac an Bhearna, an equally obscure figure. In this century the senior O'Byrne lordship reached its peak. Perhaps it is proof of the strength of the O'Byrne overlords that nothing substantial is recorded of their juniors. Raghnaill's line was important enough for inclusion with other O'Byrne septs in the fifteenth century Leabhar Donn genealogies. Not until 1471-72 do the Gabhal Raghnaill re-emerge into the light of history. Saggart suffered a severe assault by O'Byrnes and O'Tooles. They are named among the raiders as the Goulranayles. Further references show their increasing strength. Interestingly, a document of about 1480 compares the large, well-equipped forces of the O'Byrne overlord, probably Tadhg Mor mac Brain of Newrath, with Redmond mac Shane's smaller following of eight horsemen and forty learns. Redmond mac Shane must have been a man of some standing. His importance earned the hand of Honora McMurrough, Murchadh Ballach's daughter, perhaps by Joan Butler of Polestown. Murchadh Ballach became the Gaelic king of Leinster following Donal Reagh Kavanagh's death in 1476. Redmond mac Shane may have been an ally of Murchadh Ballach. Their marriage, undated, may imply that Redmond mac Shane enjoyed considerable independence from the O'Byrne overlord. It also suggests a possible dependence on Murchadh Ballach. The beginning of Feagh's later inheritance can be dated to Redmond mac Shane's reign (c. 1470-1510). That Raghnaill's descendants began their rise in this period, through sword and wedding band (which was to become their trademark), is true. On the other hand there are more contributing factors to be taken into account when analysing their star's rise. Significantly, during Redmond mac Shane's time, the O'Byrne lordship was sent into decline by the ambitions of the ninth earl of Kildare, Gerald Mor Fitzgerald. He was eager to expand and exert his influence. May 1480 saw the O'Byrnes suffer a devastating raid visited upon them by Gerald Mor with the citizens of Dublin.

Part III

The year 1480 serves as a starting date for Gerald Mor's conquest of the Gaelic Wicklow lordships. Reasons become clear for his assault upon the O'Byrnes in 1480 as the evidence is sifted. Between 1380 and 1480 Gaelic Leinster expanded dramatically, both geographically and politically, at Anglo Irish expense. The classic ingredient of Gaelic Leinster's expansion was the Fitzgerald earldom of Kildare's weakness. Of all of Leinster’s Anglo Irish lordships, the Kildare earldom suffered most acutely. The emergence of Art Mor MacMurrough's dominance over his rival kinsmen in the 1370s sparked Gaelic Leinster's advance. From the south, Art Mor's influence moved up the Barrow basin into the Kildare heartland. On the earldom's western borders the O'Connor Falys threatened. They carved off much of the earldom's lands there. Kildare's eastern towns and villages suffered O'Toole and O'Byrne attacks.

Growing contact between Gaelic Leinster's families is evinced through the wide-ranging marriage alliances. The Barrow valley was swallowed whole by Art Mor's hungry ambitions. His advance created new Gaelic Irish frontiers in Leinster. Art Mor's bloated kingdom now bordered the O'Mores. These emerging Gaelic frontiers created a portal connecting Low Leinster with the wider Gaelic world. Through it flowed news and hired mercenaries eastwards. Mercenary troops, mostly from Munster, contributed immensely to Gaelic Leinster's expansion. The geographical expansion of Gaelic Leinster and Kildare's contraction saw a revival in cattle raiding from the Gaelic midlands into eastern Gaelic lands. It was not all one-way traffic. Art Mor's influence seeped westwards and northwards into Greater Leinster. Thomas fitz Maurice Fitzgerald's recognition as the seventh earl of Kildare in 1455, marked his earldom's subsequent resurgence. He began the sealing of this portal. Only after the collapse in 1535 of the Kildare earldom did it reopen.

Much elucidation is required to define the relationship between the O'Byrnes and the McMurrough Kavanaghs. Since the Leinster kingship's revival in 1327-28 successive McMurroughs sought to exercise their historical overlordship. Evidence exists before 1327 of McMurrough leaders representing the O'Byrnes and O'Tooles in the negotiations. The O'Byrne meteoric rise in the fourteenth century often prompted McMurroughs into government service to prevent further O'Byrne expansion into Carlow, which lay within their ambit. Frame suggests that the O'Byrnes did not need McMurrough aid. Art Mor's emergence in the 1370s saw his overkingship become a reality, though it needs definition. A more personal lordship may have been the key to his success. Throughout his reign he cultivated relations with the O'Byrnes. Fosterage of personal links rewarded him with continual O'Byrne goodwill and military assistance until his death in 1416-17. Submissions of Gaelic Leinster's lords in 1395 to Richard II demonstrate that Art Mor spoke for them all. Gerald mac Taidhg O'Byrne's submission displays his relationship with Art. Both pledged 20,000 marks as a surety for keeping the peace. O'Byrne regarded himself as an equal and not a subordinate.

There were other faces to Art Mor's kingship. Raids from Hy Kinsella, a lordship within Art Mor's kingdom, spurred Feilim O'Toole to write to Richard II. O'Toole accepted Art Mor's agreement with Richard. Feilim stated that he was subject to no one except Richard. To Art Mor these protests were alien and unimpressive. These examples capture the essence of Art Mor's policies. Art carefully ensured the acquiescence of stronger allies through pragmatic good relations. If, however, he had sufficient power to enforce his lordship over a weaker lord, he did so. Equally so, if it was to his advantage, he supped with the government.

Lydon argues that for a period in the fifteenth century the O'Byrnes struggled with the McMurroughs for Leinster's kingship. The O'Byrne borders were largely determined when Donnchadh mac Brain Ruaidh O'Byrne of Newrath died in 1434. This Donnehadh was arguably the most powerful fifteenth century O'Byrne lord. Under his aegis (reign c.1399-1434) his lordship's heartland was consolidated and its frontiers expanded. Much of his successes were achieved through judicious use of mercenaries. His second wife was Siobhan O'Meagher. Perhaps she was Tadhg O'Meagher's daughter. This Tadhg, a mercenary captain, fell at Donnchadh's temporary reverse at Bloody Bank in 1401. Afterwards he enjoyed considerable military success against both the government and Gaelic Irish rivals. Without doubt he was Art Mor's strongest ally. Potentially he also posed Art Mor's biggest threat.

Following Art Mor's death, his dynasty suffered a series of reverses. Diarmuird Laimhdhearg, Art Mor's son, died in 1418. Art Mor's heir, Donnchadh mac Art, was captured by Justiciar John Talbot in 1419 and sent to England. Gerald mac Art Kavanagh, another of Art Mor's sons, ruled in his place. Donnchadh mac Brain spied his opportunity. In 1425 he concluded an indenture with Justiciar John Talbot, promising to protect Talbot's tenants in Wexford. This was clear interference in Gerald mac Art's sphere. Later in this year the new lieutenant, James Butler, fourth earl of Ormond, known as the 'White Earl', negotiated a settlement with Domichadh mac Brain. The White Earl sought to retrieve his sometime ally from the Talbot camp. Pledges of his protection were extended to Donnchadh mac Brain. Earlier, in 1414-16, with William Edward, constable of Butler Arklow, Domichadh had seized Wicklow castle. Talbot's supporter, John Liverpool, was slain in this attack.

By 1427 Donnchadh mac Art and Gerald mac Art, his son-in-law, were reconciled. Donnehadh mac Art returned to Ireland in 1428. Price hints at his involvement in Justiciar Sutton's campaign against Donnchadh mac Brain in 1428. Sutton was a close ally of the White Earl. Donnchadh mac Art regained his kingdom on his brother's death in 1431. A struggle developed with Domichadh mac Brain. Testimony to the latter's estrangement from Dorinchadh mac Art comes in 1431. He did not partake in Donnchadh mac Art's defeated raid on the Dublin Pale, nor in his victory in 1432.

Domichadh mac Art's hostile emergence on Donnchadh mac Brain Ruadh's southern borders was cause for concern. Following Gerald mac Art's death, Donnchadh mac Brain lost an ally. Gerald's sons, Donnchadh's grandsons, were still too young to challenge Domichadh mac Art. Discord among the McMurrough Kavanaghs only emerged in the 1440s. Donnchadh's designs were not helped by Dorinchadh mac Art's Butler alliance. The White Earl, seemingly, supported Donnchadh mac Art throughout Gerald mac Art's rule. This alliance was sealed when Dorinchadh mac Art married Aveline Butler, the White Earl's sister. The exact date of their marriage is unknown. Throughout the fifteenth century this alliance endured. Five McMurrough kings had prominent Butler connections. There were particularly close relations with the Butlers of Polestown. Art mac Gerald Kavanagh supported Edmund mac Richard Butler's unsuccessful campaign in Tipperary during 1447. In 1452 the White Earl campaigned in Ulster against Henry O'Neill. He compelled O'Neill to take back his wife, Gormlaith McMurrough, the White Earl's niece. Donal Reagh, Donnchadh mac Art's successor, married his daughter Sadbh to Edmund mac Richard's son James. Sadbh was the mother of Sir Piers Ruadh Butler. Joan, sister of James, married Donal Reagh's successor Murchadh Ballach, Donnchadh mac Art's grandson. A third marriage surfaces between Gerald, Donal Reagh's son, a sixteenth century king of Leinster, and Katharine Butler. When in 1525 Muiris McMurrough, Gerald's brother and successor, returned Arklow to the Butlers, it was returned to his nephew Piers Ruadh.

Donnchadh mac Brain's problems were compounded when the White Earl acquired, through his wife, two-thirds of the Kildare earldom. He carefully nursed his lordship until his death in 1434, when he was succeeded by Edmund O'Byrne, seemingly his brother. Edmund married Gormflaith, Art Mor's daughter. Although never part of the Talbot camp, he had links with several anti-Butler figures. In 1397 Kildare's fifth earl, Gerald fitz: Maurice, made an entail of his lands. He attempted to assign various portions within his earldom amongst his brothers and nephews. Before his death Gerald fitz Maurice married his daughter Elizabeth to the White Earl. Alter Gerald fitz Maurice's death the 1397 entail was ignored. The White Earl's acquisition of much of the Kildare earldom annoyed many Fitzgeralds. it appears that Gerald fitz Maurice was succeeded by his brother John as sixth earl. John died quickly. The succession then fell to John's grandson, Thomas fitz Maurice Fitzgerald. John Cam, Thomas fitz Maurice's father, may have died already. Thomas fitz Maurice was not recognised as earl until 1455. O'Clery's genealogies state he was the White Earl's enemy. According to O'Clery, the White Earl banished him from Kildare. At some time in 1439-1440 Thomas fitz Maurice was implicated along with other disaffected Fitzgeralds in the kidnap of Lord Welles, the justiciar. This was affected with Gaelic Irish compliance. Lord Welles was an ally of the White Earl. Definitely by 1440 Thomas fitz Maurice was riding with the O'Byrnes. With Bran mac Donnchadh O'Byrne of Newrath, Edmund's nephew, they burnt Walsh lands in Kilgobbin.

Throughout the early 1440s Thomas fitz Maurice was allied with the O'Byrnes. In March 1442 he was pardoned by Henry VI for several burnings and murders. O'Byrne military strength was impressive at this time. A large Anglo-Irish hosting raided O'Byrnes' Country in 1442. Edmund enjoyed good relations with the O'Toole overlord, Dermot mac Hugh. With O'Toole support, the O'Byrnes annihilated the homeward-bound hosting. In 1443 another disaffected Fitzgerald, Prior Thomas of Kilmainham, sought help from O'Toole and O'Byrne. . The White Earl continually promoted Thomas's rivals at Kilmainham. The Gaelic Irish agreed to kidnap them. Along with Gaelic Irish allies, cousins of Thomas fitz Maurice raided Butler territory in 1443. Two of these were slain by Edmund mac Richard. In 1443-44 the White Earl imprisoned Prior Thomas at Dublin. His allies did not desert him. Thomas fitz Maurice with a Gaelic Irish host, probably some of the O'Byrnes and O'Tooles, helped him to escape. He later went to England and presented a series of charges against the White Earl's government. Later, in January 1447, Thomas fitz Maurice with his Gaelic allies, which included Shoane Glas O'Byrne, were impeached and accused of treason before Shrewsbury, the lord lieutenant of Ireland. Thomas fitz Maurice obtained his pardon in 1452.

During 1444, the apple of discord ripened within McMurrough territory. Gerald mac Art's sons revolted against Donnchadh mac Art, defeating his hired O'Connor Faly troops. Donnchadh mac Art's position had already been weakened. His heir, Muircheartach, was slain by Wexford's Anglo Irish in 1442. Donnchadh mac Art's ally, the White Earl, was called before Henry VI to answer the charges of Prior Thomas and Treasurer Thorndon in 1444.

Edmund did suffer some reverses. His ally, Dermot mac Hugh, fell while pursuing O'Dempsey raiders in 1445. Gerald mac Art's son, either Art or Donal Reagh, along with Connacht mercenary troops, ravaged O'Toole's Country. Dermot mac Hugh's successor, probably Theobald mac Dermot, his son, was captured. In January 1445 Archbishop Richard Talbot succeeded Lord Delvin, the White Earl's deputy. His brother John Talbot, the earl of Shrewsbury, was appointed lieutenant of Ireland in 1446. Upon his arrival in Ireland he campaigned widely in Ulster and Leinster during the winter of 1446-47. He was determined to stamp out the Talbot/Ormond feud. Submissions were secured from Donnchadh mac Art, O'Connor Faly, O'More, O'Dempsey and O'Nolan. No submission was sought from O'Byrne or O'Toole. Shoane Glas O'Byrne, Thomas fitz Maurice's ally, was outlawed in 1447 before Shrewsbury. Generally they were friendly towards the lord lieutenant. The same year, 1446, saw the O'Byrnes kill Domichadh, lord of Hy Kinsella. This may be connected to the depredations in 1445 of Gerald mac Art's son in O'Toole's Country. Hy Kinsella's lords were principal retainers of the McMurrough Kavanaghs. A poem praising Edmund makes allusions to his ships raiding castles along the Wexford coast. On the whole these activities seem related to the struggle between the O'Bymes and the McMurroughs.

When Edmund died in 1446, Dunlaing mac Gerald, his cousin, was inaugurated in his place. Early in 1447 Donal Reagh, with other Gaelic allies of the earl of Desmond, raided Butler lands in Tipperary and Kilkenny. Sometime later in the year a rapprochement was reached within the McMurrough Kavanagh dynasty. Gerald mac Art's sons embraced the McMurrough/Butler alliance. The campaign in Tipperary of Edmund mac Richard of Polestown against Walter Tobin and the Butlers of Cahir was supported by Art mac Gerald Kavanagh. Donnchadh mac Art abdicated sometime in the 1450s in favour of Donal Reagh. Donal Reagh, it appears, represented him in the submission in 1449 to York. Dorinchadh mac Art died in 1478. His reconcilement with his nephews proved diametrically opposed to O'Byrne ambitions.

Dunlaing mac Gerald's reign as O'Byrne overlord was brief. By 1449, Bran mac Domichadh, the pillager of the Walshs in 1440, was overlord. In August 1449, Richard, Duke of York, lieutenant of Ireland, invaded O'Byrnes' Country through its vulnerable northern border, reportedly ravaging the territory. Bran mac Domichadh quickly submitted to York. Elated with his success, York knighted several Palesmen at Symondeswodde, now Kiltimon. Bran mac Domichadh agreed to adopt English customs and promised to turn over the cargo of wrecks washed up on his territory's shores. This condition concerning the wrecks demonstrates his control of the coastline between Delgany and Arklow. Bran mac Donnchadh presented York with a gift of three hundred cattle. To York's wife, he gave two ponies. His gallantry was both deceptive and pragmatic. Several Gaelic Irish lords of Leinster, anxious to avoid similar attacks, travelled to Symondeswodde to submit. These included an O'Toole, probably Theobald mac Dermot, and probably also Donal Reagh.

York's intentions to curb the power of Wicklow's Gaelic Irish were developed at his parliament in 1450. To his loyal retainer Sir Edmund Mulso, seneschal of his liberty of Meath, York granted permission to found a town in O'Toole heartland, Fercullen. Mulso originally titled the town Mulsoescourt. Near Bray, Mulso leased a castle facing Fercullen's uplands. From here, it appears, he intended to embark on Fercullen's conquest. Local marcher support was gained from John Walsh. Mulso often was absent fighting in Henry VI's wars. By 1463 both Walsh and Mulso were dead. His scheme was declared defunct in the 1463 parliament. However, it seems there were failed attempts to conquer Fercullen in the 1450s. York procured the office of archbishop of Dublin for Michael Tregurry after Richard Talbot's death in 1449. Archbishop Tregurry was to have profound effects on his diocese.

Bran mac Domichadh continued to exploit any perceived McMurrough weakness. His hand can be detected in the papal appointment of Glascarraig's colourful Benedictine prior, Tadhg O'Byrne, as bishop of Ferns in 1451. Papal approval was regarded as an advantage by Gaelic Irish lords eager to steal a march on rivals. Tadgh O'Byrne's office was objected to by the diocese's 'grave and noble men', probably the McMurroughs. It transpired that Bishop Robert of Ferns was still alive and Tadgh O'Byrne had obtained his appointment through fraud. As a result, his appointment was reversed in 1453. With the White Earl's death in 1452, Bran mac Donnchadh's position improved.

Thomas fitz Maurice, Bran mac Donnchadh's old ally, following the White Earl's death, became embroiled in a war with the Butlers of Polestown and Dunboyne. It seems they were not eager to return several Kildare manors to fitz Maurice. In 1453 the dispute erupted into open warfare with Edmund mac Richard of Polestown and William Butler of Dunboyne. Some of the Butlers' Gaelic auxiliaries may have been McMurroughs. Fighting was concentrated in Meath and Kildare. Fitz Maurice emerged victorious. He may have received O'Byrne aid. It is certain that some fitz Maurice allies were from Dublin and the Pale. Two incidents point to his victory. As seventh earl of Kildare, he held a parliament in York's name in 1455. A letter of 1454 from the seneschal of Talbot's Wexford liberty states that Donal Reagh, with the earl of Desmond and McGillapatrick, had devastated Wexford. He appealed for help to fitz Maurice as York's deputy. The seneschal writes that O'Byrnes rode to his support. Shortly afterwards Donal Reagh attacked Wexford again. This time the Butlers were with him. Fitz Maurice presided over the Butler attainder, and, later, its repeal in 1458. Bran mac Donnchadh's reign ended with his murder in 1454, probably by a nephew. His successor is unknown. After 1454 Gaelic Irish pressure noticeably increased upon Dublin's marches. Ominously for the government these raids were often co-ordinated with rebellious marchers, in particular the Harolds. In 1454-55 a series of anti-Gaelic Irish legislation was introduced within the city of Dublin. Suspension of the dispatch of supplies to Wicklow castle indicates serious disturbances.

Once Thomas fitz Maurice became earl of Kildare and York's deputy, his attitude to the Gaelic Irish changed. He realised his relationships with the Gaelic Irish required redefinition. At this point he may have begun to distance himself. The weakness of the Pale and his earldom were interlinked. Fitz Maurice was determined upon their revival. A strong Kildare earldom would act as the Pale's shield. Eventually his earldom's resurgence isolated the eastern Gaelic Irish from the Gaelic midlands.

By 1455 the government had no control over Wicklow's Gaelic Irish and their allies. It embarked upon a programme of encastellation in the Dublin marchlands and in Kildare. As this programme progressed in Kildare, Gaelic Irish coordination throughout Leinster declined. Fitz Maurice's victory over Corm O'Connor Faly in 1459 was a turning point. It signalled the commencement of his recovery of Kildare's western frontier. Although Conn O'Connor Faly's lordship recouped its losses, this defeat heralded its renaissance's end. The Pale's security grew with Kildare's resurgence.

The purpose of encastellation was twofold. Firstly it was to protect the land of peace. Secondly it aimed to pre-empt any threat from the Gaelic Irish. Orders were issued for the erection of towers on the bridges of Kilmainham and Lucan. Another tower was constructed alongside the walls of St Mary's Abbey. Ostensibly this was to protect Fingal from raiders. Kildare's eastern fortifications were developed and improved. Naas was to be enclosed. A fortress was built at Kilcullen blocking the O'Connor Falys' path to the Pale. A castle at Ballymore obstructed the easy access of the O'Tooles and O'Byrnes into Kildare. Fitz Maurice took firm action to curb Dublin's rebellious marchers. His parliament held in 1456 outlawed Henry Walsh of Carrickmines and Geoffrey Harold, the Harold leader. Their followers, both marcher and Gaelic, were also outlawed. Construction of Bray's castle was begun in 1459 to counter O'Byrne attacks. At the Commons' request in 1460, Archbishop Tregurry, with Henry Walsh, erected fortifications to protect settlements in Rathdown and Newcastle Lyons.

The increasing crisis on the Dublin marches peaked in the 1460s. Since his arrival in Ireland in 1450 Archbishop Tregurry had sought revival of diocesan rights. In 1451 he complained to the Pope of his archbishopric's desolation. In 1460 he obtained a grant for recovery of archiepiscopal lands. Archbishop Tregurry, apparently, began to revive his rights in Harold's Country and O'Byrne's Country. However, his plans backfired. In 1461-62, he was kidnapped by Geoffrey Harold and Patrick O'Byrne. For an unknown period he was held captive by them, and allegedly mistreated. This may be connected to the Dublin Assembly's prohibition in 1461 of communication by the citizenry with the Harolds. Archbishop Tregurry's kidnappers were excommunicated after his release. In 1462, Holy Trinity (Christchurch Cathedral) was badly damaged during an Irish attack. The damage was so extensive, Dublin's citizens petitioned Edward IV for a grant of safe conduct for all pilgrims. This was to avail of all prospective pilgrims' alms, regardless of ethnic origin. It was duly granted. A battle was fought in 1462-63 between the O'Byrnes and the Walshs. The unknown O'Byrne overlord fell in the fighting. Nonetheless the O'Byrnes emerged victorious. William Harold and Robert fitz Robert Harold's burnings in 1463 ensured Dublin marches remained disturbed.

Tadhg Mor mac Brain O'Byrne of Newrath, Bran mac Donnchadh's son, possibly succeeded the fallen O’Byrne overlord. The epithet 'Mor' suggests Tadgh may have acquired renown for great leadership. John Bennett, a citizen of Dublin, was granted permission in 1465 by parliament to rebuild Baltire (Ballinateer). He was to erect a tower for Baltire's defence from the O'Byrnes and O'Tooles. The unfortunate Piers Cruys of Crumlin was kidnapped by the O'Byrnes. Payment of his ransom bankrupted him. The parliament of 1465 attempted to prevent foreign fleets from fishing waters under Gaelic Irish control without a license. This was requested by the people of County Dublin. Apparently, neighbouring Gaelic Irish greatly enriched themselves through exaction of tributes from these fishermen. These laws were apparently directed against the O'Byrnes. They controlled the coastline from Delgany to Arklow. Great improvements in Gaelic Irish armour and weaponry were noticed. This was attributed to receipt of these tributes. Foreign fishermen fishing off the north Wicklow coast, which was under nominal government control, were exempt from government duties. Another O'Byrne source of income was blackrents levied upon Wicklow town. Trade in timber and cereals proved equally lucrative.

Twice in 1466, Thomas, earl of Desmond, the justiciar, campaigned widely in O'Byrnes' Country and devastated O'Tooles' Country also. He was succeeded by the ear] of Worcester, John Tiptoft. In 1467 Worcester campaigned against the O'Bymes. Its result is unknown. By 1469 Bray had fallen to the Gaelic Irish. Worcester swiftly besieged Bray and retook it. Undeterred, the Gaelic Irish launched a fresh assault. Eventually Worcester repelled them.

Part IV

Information about Glendalough's authority in the late fifteenth century has proved difficult to ascertain. Union with the Dublin archdiocese in the early thirteenth century meant loss of diocesan status. Following 1271, revolts and subsequent Gaelic Irish rebellions, Dublin's archbishops exercised a fitful influence over former mountain estates. By the fifteenth century, however, Glendalough was firmly under O'Byrne control," though they gained control is uncertain. Their occupation may have originated in the fourteenth century. The appearance of the name Giolla Caoimhgin (servant of Kevin) within Wicklow's Gaelic Irish dynasties indicates devotion to Kevin, Glendalough's founder. Giolla Caoimhgin occurs among the O'Tooles. There may be a significance in the appearance in the Justiciary Rolls in 1311 of 'Gilkeynyn boy Obryn'. This shows a similar devotion to Kevin among the medieval O'Byrnes.

In 1467-68 Archbishop Tregurry complained of no control over Glendalough or its revenues because of continual war. MacShamhrain argues that the monopolisation of offices within an ecclesiastical site, by members of a dynasty, indicates its control. Five O'Byrnes held Glendalough's archdeaconry during the fifteenth century. Only one O'Toole held this office in this time frame.

The archdeaconry seems to pertain to a wider area than just the ecclesiastical centre of Glendalough. The monastic city of Glendalough may have been under the rule of the coarb In 1467 Gillapatrick O'Byrne was archdeacon. His son Geoffrey (Giolla Brigde) became archdeacon during 1487. Earlier evidence reveals similar trends. O'Bymes continually denied papal appointees the archdeaconry in favour of clerical kinsmen. For instance in 1411 Donald Mackanill was appointed by the pope. Maurice Obruyn, the resident archdeacon, with his kinsmen successfully defied the pope. Maurice was succeeded as archdeacon in 1417 by Tadhg O'Byrne.

O'Byrne overlords took their role as lay patrons of the church seriously. Their keen interest was evident in allotment of church offices within their lordship. In 1421 Donnchadh mac Brain Ruaidh, as lay patron of Wicklow town's church, presented its new priest. Studies of churches within the lordship reveal the dominant presence of O'Byrne clergy. O'Byrne territory can be marked through O'Byrne tenure of clerical offices. This shows the lordship's growing internal stability and the consolidation of sword-won land.

A decisive event in Glendalough's history occurred in 1473. Archbishop Walton declared Glendalough's corbanate (coarbship) suppressed. Why he did so is a mystery. A sixteenth century note in Alen's Register records that this action was against McMurow, probably Donal Reagh. This suggests some possibilities. First, that Donal Reagh had established his superiority over the O'Byrnes. However, this is unlikely. Secondly that there existed an O'Byrne - McMurrough alliance. Tadhg Mor's wife was Maire, probably Donal Reagh's daughter. There is also the marriage of Redmond mac Shane with the daughter of Murchadh Ballach, Donal Reagh's successor. This union may postdate 1476. Murchadh Ballach became king of Leinster after Donal Reagh's death in 1476. While the reason for Archbishop Walton's action eludes us, it is more likely that it was connected to the O'Byrnes rather than the McMurroughs. This is suggested by the O'Byrnes tenure of the archdeaconry of Glendalough.

Suppression of Glendalough's coarbship occurred during Gillapatrick O'Byrne's archdeaconry, though the coarb's identity is not revealed. Thomas fitz Maurice was the duke of Clarence's deputy at this time. Before him the parliament of 1470 had enacted legislation against Wicklow's Gaelic Irish and their allies. Fitz Maurice's priority was to neutralize the Gaelic Irish threat along Kildare's eastern border. Probably Archbishop Walton's action had fitz Maurice's approval. Archbishop Walton appointed Thaddeus Oskolly as custodian of the church and village of Glendalough. The prohibition in 1471 by the Dublin

Assembly of the trade between Dublin's citizens and the men of Glendalough may be connected. Equally, this could be related to the general turmoil.

The coarbship's suppression alienated Glendalough's secular patrons. It birthed a desire among them for the revival of Glendalough's ancient episcopal status. Lobbying in Rome was successful. Papal approval was secured in 1481, with Denis White, a Dominican friar, being appointed by the pope as bishop of Glendalough. It is mentioned that he succeeded 'Michael'. Does this refer to Archbishop Michael Tregurry or was it a passing reference to an otherwise unrecorded bishop of Glendalough? Throughout Bishop White's reign (1481 - 1497), his diocese's churches remained dominated by O'Byrnes. The evidence to hand suggests that they had refounded the bishopric of Glendalough.

Part V

At times during the 1470s, Wicklow's Gaelic Irish and their allies threatened to eradicate any influence the Dublin government had in the marches. In 1470 Fitz Maurice's parliament commanded Saggart's townsfolk to surrender their truce with Edmund mac Theobald O'Toole. He extended his protection to Saggart for a blackness. Harold's Country, between Saggart and Kilmashogue, was rebellious. Collection of parliamentary subsidies there was impossible. Many collectors feared the Harolds would deliver them to the Gaelic Irish. Saggart paid the ultimate price for its acceptance of this decree. The O'Byrnes and O'Tooles destroyed Saggart in 1471-72 and several inhabitants fled. To counter this, Saggart was enclosed with defensive ditches and a defensive dyke was dug from Tallaght to Saggart. Gaelic Irish predators continually crossed this dyke to raid. Sir Robert Dowedall's Ballinateer lands were raided by Fitzeustaces in 1474. Much of the Gaelic Irish wrath was directed at the Walsh family. Most Walsh lands lay within the modem Dublin barony of Rathdown. Maurice Walsh of Kilgobbin bitterly complained that O'Byrne, with Edmund mac Theobald, ravaged his lands and demolished his castle of Jamestown during 1476-77.

By 1480, drastic action was required to reverse this situation. Gerald Mor Fitzgerald, eighth earl of Kildare, was elected justiciar of Ireland in 1478. Thomas fitz Maurice, his father, held this office twice in the 1470s. After his father's death in March 1478, Gerald Mor was elected in his place. Edward IV reversed this decision. In July 1478, Edward dispatched Lord Henry Grey to Ireland as lord deputy. Lord Grey's appointment encountered considerable opposition from Gerald Mor's allies. It was clear that this situation was unworkable. Lord Gormanstown was appointed lord deputy in 1479. Gerald Mor, with Lord Grey and several prominent government figures, travelled to London to see Edward IV. The outcome was that Gerald Mor returned as lord deputy in the year.

Several problems faced Gerald Mor in 1480, none more pressing than Wicklow's Gaelic Irish. Thomas fitz Maurice's knowledge of the O'Byrnes must have benefited him. His military resources were beefed up considerably by a permanent military force, the Fraternity of St George, and the Pale hosting. Hired Gaelic Irish troops were quartered in Kildare. He stormed into O'Byrnes' Country in September 1480, devastating it.

Leighlin also fell to him in 1480.251 Evidence points to his widespread conquest of the Wicklow region between 1480-1510. This is confirmed by his tenure of Powerscourt, Castlekevin, Wicklow and Fassaroe by 1500.12 Gerald Mor's first marriage to Alice Fitzeustace, Sir Roland Fitzeustace's daughter, achieved a jointure of estates in east Kildare. These lands bordered on O'Toole territory. His union with Alice afforded him opportunities to expand into their territories. Through a statute of 1483 Gerald Mor's claims to lands of absentees in Kildare, Carlow and west Wicklow were formally legalised. Although he encouraged absentees to return to their lands in Carlow and Kildare under Gaelic Irish control, few came. The 1483 legislation may have ostensibly been designed to protect churchlands in the region, but it was Gerald Mor who saw this legislation through parliament and who benefited directly from it.

Gerald Mor also bought the mesne tenures of lands in the western and central Wicklow mountains, lost to the O'Tooles, from the Polestown Butlers. Their power had declined in the fifteenth century. The Polestown Butlers had held these lands from the archbishops of Dublin. Gerald Mor's purchases were in the manor of Castlekevin, the barony of Coillache and Ballymore. In 1485 he formed an alliance with them. His daughter Margaret married Piers Ruadh, the son of Sir James mac Edmund. Gerald Mor may also have bought lands from the Butlers of Dunboyne.

He also intervened within Gaelic Irish lands claimed by the archbishopric of Dublin. After Archbishop Walton's death in June 1484 Gerald Mor seized twenty-four townlands belonging to the lordships of Ballymore and Castlekevin. How effective his initial conquest had been is unclear. The continuance of Glendalough's bishopric suggests his intervention was piecemeal.

Edward IV died in 1483 and was succeeded by his son, Edward V. However, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, Edward W's brother, deposed him and assumed the crown, becoming Richard III. Edward V, with his brother Richard, Duke of York, were imprisoned. Richard III was eager to conclude an agreement with Gerald Mor. John Estrete was dispatched to Richard Ill with proposals. These included a request for the constableship of Wicklow's castle. Richard III agreed to these terms, however, requiring Gerald Mor to appear before him in August 1484. Gerald Mor kept his word to appear. Their agreement does not survive. In 1485 Richard Ill was swept from the throne by Henry Tudor's Lancastrian forces.

Gerald Mor's request for Wicklow's constableship is significant. His intention to conquer the O'Byrnes is clear. The O'Byrnes were not easily subdued. In 1486-87, Lambert Simnel, a Yorkist pretender to the English throne, landed in Ireland. Simnel declared himself to be Edward, Earl of Warwick, the deceased Duke of Clarence's son. Clarence was another of Edward IVs brothers. The real Earl Edward was a prisoner in the Tower of London. At this time Henry Tudor, now Henry VII, publicly exhibited Earl Edward in London. It was believed that Edward V and his brother, Richard of York, were dead. Earl Edward would be the heir to the throne if the Yorkist dynasty were restored. In Ireland, Simnel was accepted as Earl Edward by Gerald Mor and the Yorkists. He was crowned as Edward VI at Christchurch Cathedral by Archbishop Fitzsimons during May 1487. Gerald Mor levied support for Simnel's cause in Ireland. The city of Waterford declared loyalty to Henry VII. Lancastrian supporters among the Butlers, with some O'Byrnes, opposed Gerald Mor and Simnel. A force comprised of English Yorkists and Gaelic Irish troops sailed from Dublin on 4 June for England. Sir Thomas, Gerald Mor's brother, was slain for Simnel's cause. Gerald Mor continued as lord deputy despite Simnel's defeat at Stoke on 16 June 1487 by Henry VII.

Increasing Fitzgerald pressure may have brought about a realignment among Wicklow's Gaelic Irish. The year 1488 saw the sons of a Tadgh O'Byrne, probably Tadgh Mor, murder Edmund mac Theobald. O'Tooles' Country was exposed to Gerald Mor's expansion. Edmund mac Theobald possibly adopted a pragmatic policy of co-operation. If so, his sometime alliance with the O'Byrnes ended. Significantly, in 1491, for the first time in the fifteenth century, an O'Toole was appointed archdeacon of Glendalough. This archdeacon, Theobald O'Toole, had noble parents and plainly belonged to the O'Toole senior dynasty. Theobald O'Toole's predecessor Geoffrey was the last O'Byrne archdeacon of Glendalough. Still O'Byrnes dominated the majority of the offices and churches of the Glendalough diocese. Importantly, during the Perkin Warbeck crisis (1491-97), the O'Tooles contributed no troops to government armies while the O'Byrnes proved active contributors. These incidents may point towards a changed political climate among the Gaelic Irish of Wicklow. In 1490, the O'Byrne overlord, Gerald mac Dunlaing O'Byrne, died. He was Tadgh Mor mac Brain's probable successor. Cathaoir mac Dunlaing O'Byrne, probably Gerald's brother, succeeded him. This Cathaoir mac Dunlaing O'Byrne proved bitterly opposed to the Fitzgeralds.

The landing on the Cork coast in November 1491 of Perkin Warbeck, a second Yorkist pretender, spurred Henry VII to action. Warbeck claimed to be Richard, Duke of York, Richard III's prisoner. Henry VII, suspicious of Gerald Mor's involvement, dispatched Sir James of Ormond and Captain Thomas Garth to Ireland. Sir James was an illegitimate nephew of the earl of Ormond. Gerald Mor's power was curtailed by the removal of himself and his father-in-law, Sir Roland Fitzeustace, from their positions as lord deputy and treasurer by Garth in June 1492. Archbishop Fitzsimons became lord deputy and Sir James became treasurer. Trouble flared between the new government and Gerald Mor. Garth's campaigns disturbed his system of alliances with Gaelic lords. After Garth's successful hosting against O'Connor Faly, Gerald Mor hanged the latter's son. Archbishop Fitzsinions resigned his lord deputyship to Lord Gormanstown in September 1493. Henry VII appointed his son Henry, Duke of York, as lieutenant of Ireland. On 13 October 1495, Sir Edward Poynings, the Duke of York's deputy, landed in Ireland with an expeditionary force. He had successes against the O'Hanlons. However, Gerald Mor was accused of covert collusion with O'Hanlon, and was arrested in late February 1495, being despatched to England in March. Sir James Fitzgerald, his brother, then seized Carlow castle. and displayed Kildare's banner. Acts of attainder were passed on both Fitzgeralds in Poynings' parliament (1 December 1494 to February 1495). In November 1495 Gerald Mor was charged with encouraging O'Hanlon, and, later, his brother to rebel. Carlow was retaken during 1495. It was recaptured with Cathaoir O'Connor Faly's help, Gerald Mor's former client. Sir James Fitzgerald escaped and continued in rebellion until July 1496. In June 1495, Warbeck besieged Waterford. Poynings broke the siege in August. Warbeck, pursued by Poynings, fled into Desmond. He was captured by Henry VII in 1498 and executed the next year. Against this disturbed background the government sought friends in Gaelic Leinster. A Franciscan friar was dispatched to spy in O'Byrnes' Country. The friar's report must have been favourable. Messengers from the Council visited Cathaoir mac Dunlaing. They asked for his help in maintaining peace. A length of velvet was presented to his wife, to influence his decision. He accepted. Cathaoir mac Dunlaing may have been in government service in 1494. Theobald Walsh organised forces in Dublin's marchlands to resist the rebels. Edmund Harold, probably Geoffrey Harold's son, James Harold and Cathaoir mac Dunlaing received substantial monetary rewards. Cathaoir mac Dunlaing's son and his Captain of Horse saw active service. No O'Toole contingents appear in the rolls of payment. O’Byrne service was prompted by Gerald Mor's interventions. Poyning's Parliament declared that Wicklow castle should have an English-born constable. The effect at Wicklow is unknown.

Nothing could be proved against Gerald Mor. Henry VII realised that no other magnate could govern Ireland without substantial English financial aid. In 1496 Gerald Mor was dispatched back to Ireland as lord deputy. Such was his recovery, his new wife, Elizabeth St John, was even Henry VII's kinswoman. Sir James Fitzgerald submitted in July 1496. A new concord was sealed between Gerald Mor and Henry V11. From 1496 Henry VII granted him any crown lands he could wrest back from the Irish.

Gerald Mor landed in Ireland in mid-September 1496. Characteristically, he was quickly in the saddle. Pledges were taken from both Anglo Irish and northern Gaelic lords at Drogheda and Dundalk. Promises of loyalty sped swiftly to him from the south and west. In Leinster there was resistance. Custody of Carlow castle was entrusted by Poynings to Gerald Kavanagh and Cathaoir O'Connor Faly in September. Two attempts were required by Gerald Mor to wrest it from them. It seems Gerald Mor visited his former clients throughout Low Leinster. Oaths of allegiance to Henry VII were given before him by several Irish lords in October 1496. Among those submitting was Cathaoir mac Dunlaing who gave a hostage, Edmund O'Byrne, as proof of his loyalty to Henry VII. Archbishop Fitzsimons, Gerald Mor's former enemy, was appointed chancellor, possibly as a counter-weight. Supported by Henry VII's confidence, Gerald Mor pursued his ambitions. This is confirmed by Turlough O'Toole the elder's petition to Henry VIII in 1540 in which he spoke of Gerald Mor's conquest of ancestral lands some forty years earlier. Fitzgerald expansion was not only confined to west Wicklow. Accounts confirm that Gerald Mor and later his son, Gerald Og, expelled the O'Tooles from Fercullen and Fassaroe, and the O'Byrnes from Ferter. These actions possibly forced the senior O'Toole dynasty to retreat to their old Imaal heartland, a development which may have contributed to later O'Toole feuding.

An entry for 1497 in the Four Masters records that O'Byrne's sons killed O'Hanlon's son. Whether this is related to Gerald Mor's assault on the O'Byrnes is unknown. The post-1496 assertion of his hegemony over the O'Byrnes had many repercussions. It seems hardly a coincidence that the bishopric of Glendalough ceased to exist in 1497. In May of that year Bishop White resigned before Archbishop Fitzsimons, Gerald Mor's chancellor.

Geoffrey Fyche, a high-ranking official of the archbishopric, was appointed Glendalough's archdeacon in 1497. The bishopric of Glendalough was dependent on secular support. Gerald Mor's interventions greatly weakened the bishopric's patrons, the O'Bymes. From 1496 until his death Gerald Mor was the dominant secular power in the region. He probably saw personal advantage in the bishopric's suppression. Glendalough's bishopric could have provided a focus for resistance. Perhaps as appeasement to Archbishop Fitzsimons, he influenced Bishop White's decision. To Archbishop Fitzsimons, the presence of Glendalough's bishopric within his see was an embarrassment. The pope continued to appoint Italians as bishops of Glendalough. It is unlikely they ever arrived in Ireland. Notably, Archbishop Fitzsimons never raised any objections to Gerald Mor's occupation of church lands. After both men died, significant discord emerged between their successors concerning these lands.

Cathaoir mac Dunlaing's murder by his kinsmen in 1500 may be related to Fitzgerald expansion. His rule lasted ten years. Cathaoir mac Dunlaing's successor remains nameless. Gerald Mor's dominance is evident in 1500. At the great expense of four or five thousand marks, to himself and the inhabitants of County Dublin," he erected a great castle at Powerscourt by 1500 to consolidate his gains. An interesting early example of his dominance over the O'Byrnes comes before his death, from gunshot wounds, on 3 September 1513. Sometime before this Robert Suttrell's ship ran aground near Wicklow town. According to Suttrell's later account the un-named O'Byrne overlord and Gerald Mor's constable of Wicklow, John Dryman, looted and divided the cargo. Suttrell subsequently sought redress of his losses from Gerald Mor. He promptly blamed O'Byrne and took his son hostage in an attempt to coerce O'Byrne into disgorging his loot. Shortly afterwards O'Byrne died. Another overlord, probably Bran O'Byrne, was elected in his place and Gerald Mor released his hostage, much to Suttrell's dismay. Later, in 1520, Suttrell again sought compensation. Gerald Og, Gerald Mor's heir, was not forthcoming.

Part VI

A corollary of Kildare expansion into the Wicklow region was the development of overlord-client relationships. As Ellis notes, much of the consolidation of the Kildare conquest fell to the ninth earl, Gerald Og. He succeeded his father as lord deputy on 26 November 1513. The overlord-client relationship between Wicklow's Gaelic Irish and Kildare's earls was more precisely defined by Gerald Og. To enforce his superiority over the O'Byrnes and O'Tooles, he settled his brothers in the region. Sir James Fitzgerald was granted the manors of Hollywood and Three Castles. Oliver Fitzgerald received lands adjoining those of Sir James. Another brother, Richard of Fassaroe, was granted the manors of Fassaroe, Crevaghe and Powerscourt. He also held other lands in Fercullen. An internal family agreement stated that if Richard died without an heir, his lands would pass to Walter. Sir Thomas Fitzgerald of Leixlip held the townlands of Dunboyke and Tulfarris in the manor of Ballymore Eustace. The lands, if any, held by John, another brother, are unknown. In O'Tooles' Country, defined as Omayll and Gleancapp, Conor O'Geran and Patrick Archbold collected Gerald Og's impositions. Murgan O'Toole accepted a horse from Gerald Og as acknowledgement of his inferiority. Shane O'Toole, lord of Imaal, paid with his life for challenging Gerald Og's suzerainty in 1516. This sparked the beginnings of unrest against the Kildares in the region. Throughout 1517 O'Tooles' Country remained disturbed. Shane Og O'Toole revenged his father's death by defeating some Geraldine supporters at Hollywood, following their return from Imaal Art mac Edmund O'Toole, clan overlord and perhaps a Geraldine supporter, was slain by rival kinsmen, possibly those of Imaal An expedition led by the mayor of Dublin into O'Toole territory in 1518, or possibly 1517, was defeated in Fercullen by Turlough O'Toole. These incidents point to an O'Toole revolt, probably as a result of the relentless enforcement of Kildare superiority. Unrest among Gerald Og's Gaelic clients was not confined to the O'Tooles. Between 1513 and 1520 Gerald Og consolidated his hold on the Gaelic midlands, with O'More bearing the brunt of his might in 1514, while campaigns against O'Carroll were waged in 1514 and 1516. By 1517, aided by his brother-in-law Piers Ruadh, he had curbed Mulrony O'Carroll. These rebellions highlight a common thread of Gaelic anger towards his forceful intrusions.

Changes were afoot, however. In January 1519 Henry VIII, fuelled with reforming zeal and Cardinal Wolsey's encouragement, summoned Gerald Og to London for discussion of his administration of Ireland. As Ellis has pointed out, Henry V111's policy towards the borderlands was minimalist. After Sir William Darcy's attack on Gerald Og's government of Ireland before the King's Council in 1515, more attention was paid to the Irish question by Tudor officials. It became increasingly obvious to them that Gerald Og's quasi-independent position was not reconcilable with the advance of the centralising Tudor administration. Before he left, Gerald Og appointed Maurice Fitzgerald as his deputy?' Gerald Og arrived in England either in late 1519 or early 1520. Before the council of the Star Chamber he was accused of building his own affinity to the detriment of Henry VIII's power. Thomas Howard, earl of Surrey, was appointed lord lieutenant on 10 March 1520. In Surrey's appointment there was an attempt to reform the government of Ireland.

Surrey entered Dublin on 23 May 1520. During the summer and autumn he campaigned successfully throughout the country. At the end of October 1520 he invaded O'Byrnes' Country. He encountered little resistance and thirty O'Byrne horsemen joined his army for the winter. Turlough O'Toole the elder also served Surrey during his deputyship. By the close of 1520 Surrey fully realised the enormity of the task in extending royal jurisdiction throughout Ireland. He encountered difficulties with O'Carroll and O'Connor Faly. O'Carroll and his brethren implicated Gerald Og as being behind their opposition. Surrey was hindered by a continual shortage of money. In December 1520 he requested Gerald Og's return from London?'

It was only in March 1522 that Surrey was granted his wish to return to England. Piers Ruadh, the disputed earl of Ormond, was appointed lord deputy on 26 March 1522. Piers Ruadh had assisted Surrey during 1520-22 and earned a reputation as being a loyal subject. Fiona Fitzsimons points out that as a result of Piers Ruadh's co-operation with Surrey his good relations with Gerald Og declined?' In early 1523 Piers Ruadh requested that Gerald Og be allowed to return to Ireland. He could not govern as deputy without containing Gerald Og's affinity. After an absence of three and a half years, Gerald Og returned to Ireland in January 1523. He wasted no time in re-establishing his dominance over his Wicklow clients. Evidence of Gerald Og's lordship were the gifts of horses, bestowed upon O'Byrne lords?' In late January 1523 gifts of horses were bestowed upon his Wicklow client lords, Callogh, son of Bran, the O'Byrne overlord, and a Feagh O'Toole accepting his gifts at this time. A year later Bran and another son, Morghe McBran O'Byrne, also accepted Gerald Og's gifts. Despite many reservations Gerald Og was appointed lord deputy in 1524. In 1525 the marcher families of Walsh, Harold and Archbold also accepted his equine gifts. Acceptance of these gifts amounted to tacit acknowledgement of Gerald Og's overlordship.

The Kildare Rental reveals the extent of Gerald Og's domination. Rents levied by Gerald Og in Wicklow were spread widely throughout the region. Kildare claims to lands were not easily relinquished. Much later, for instance in 1562, Gerald, eleventh earl of Kildare and son of Gerald Og, gained control of Shillelagh following the death of Sir John Travers, the Captain of Shillelagh.

He retained control of his Shillelagh territories up to 1578, at which point Henry Harrington was granted a lease of these lands. Following Oliver Fitzgerald's death in the early 1570s, Sir Maurice Fitzgerald of Glassealy, father of the future arch-rebel Walter Reagh, managed Kildare's Shillelagh lands until 1578. Nevertheless, Gerald Og's dominance was only grudgingly accepted by O'Byrne lords, especially those of the senior lineages. In Irish this system was known as slanuigheacht. It could involve the payment of monies by the client to Gerald Og for protection. Clients were expected to maintain and feed Geraldine galloglass. Such was Gerald Og's domination of the heartland of O'Byrnes' Country that Alexander McDonnell, captain of his galloglass, possibly resided at Ballyronan near Kilcoole in 1523. Alexander McDonnell also held further lands in east Wicklow at this time. Whenever Gerald Og went on a hosting, military service was demanded of client lords. Kildare superiority is evidenced when in 1524 Callogh McBran, engaged on Gerald Og's Donegal campaign, was killed there during a nocturnal attack by O'Donnells. The terms of this relationship are best captured in the case of Donal mac Shane Glas O'Byrne of Knockrath in 1526:

Memorandum that Donyll me Shanglays of Knocragh did convenant with Geralde erle of Kyldare the fuirst day of August the 18 yere of Kyng Henry Weight [1526] in the presens of Thomas Eustace, Tyrrelagh me One Carragh and Fiagh me Tyrrelagh that he shall pay yerly for every cow on the said Knocragh other lands longing to hym or his brethern 4d.

The underlying condition of the agreement was also defined: If he [Donyll] take part aginst the said erle in army werr that then to forfet to the said Erle all his porcion of land for ever.

A speech placed by Stanihurst in Gerald Og's mouth sums up his attitude:

When you are... kneeled unto, then find 1 small grace with our Irishe borderers, except 1 cut them off by the knees.

Like the rest of the O'Byrnes, the Ballinacor family was subject to Gerald Og's rule. The Kildare Rental tells that Gerald Og's collectors garnered 4d for every cow in Gowlraynnyll. At first glance, the rental only reveals the actual territory of the Gabhal Raghnaill. However, the Ballinacor family are concealed behind a patronymic. Sometimes they were referred to simply as the McShanes. Again, the Leabhar Branach, which spans a century (c.1550-1650), provides answers. Many times the poets refer to them as the 'Sliocht Sheaain Oig, This is undoubtedly a reference to the family of Redmond mac Shane's son, Shane Og (commonly known as Shane Og mac Redmond). The description Clan McShane as the sept name of the Sliocht Sheaain Oig, however, stems from an earlier period. It would seem that the Clan McShane entry within the rental dates from the 1520s, when Shane Og mac Redmond would have been a relatively young man. He is not the Shane, the eponym of the Clan McShane. A more likely candidate is his grandfather, Shane mac Hugh, who, seemingly, was active about the middle of the fifteenth century.

Paucity of references in this period to Gabhal Raghnaill's lords does not prevent the conclusion that their rise was inextricably intertwined with the fall of the Kildares in the 1530s. All English commentators point towards a gradual increase in their power in the decades after 1535. Notably, as Gerald Og's lord deputyship became more threatened, the hostility of the O'Byrne senior families towards him increased. In particular, the O'Byrnes of Kiltimon and those of the Downes opposed him. Increasingly in the 1520s, the O'Byrne senior lineages looked to Piers Ruadh for an alliance against Gerald Og. Gerald Og succeeded ]Piers Ruadh as lord deputy on 4 August 1524. This was his second tenure of the office. After Gerald Og's return to Ireland in 1523 his feud with Piers Ruadh intensified.

Within the Wicklow theatre, the feud escalated when in December 1523 Gerald Og's brother, Sir James, murdered Robert Talbot of Belgard. Talbot was the sheriff of County Dublin, and a prominent supporter of Piers Ruadh. He had been travelling to spend Christmas with him in Kilkenny. Much later, in July 1529, Piers Ruadh wrote to Wolsey saying that shortly after Talbot's murder, he had invaded Sir James's lands. His account tells of a campaign through Sir James's mountain lands. These must be Sir James's estates in the western Wicklow mountains?' Several Gaelic Irish supporters of Sir James, probably O'Tooles, were slain during this campaign. Piers Ruadh wrote that Sir James fled to his Kildare lands. Importantly, he compelled Sir James's Gaelic Irish allies to break their allegiance. Within Sir James's abandoned castles, Piers Ruadh established his own garrisons.

During 1525 Gerald Og orchestrated a series of raids by his client Gaelic lords on Piers Ruadh's lands. Piers Ruadh returned the compliment and a spate of violence ensued. Increasingly the midlands became the battlefield between them. Gerald Og reasserted his hegemony in this region by 1525. The return of Arklow in August 1525 by Muiris McMurrough, king of Leinster, increased Piers Ruadh's strength within Wicklow. The un-named O'Byrne overlord acted as a surety for MacMurrough as part of the agreement. In 1525 Gerald Og wrote spitefully saying that Arklow was full of 'evil-disposed persons' who liked nothing better than to 'rob and spoil the king's subjects passing thereby, and ravish women, maidens and widows'. Interestingly, he cited the example of a ship's crew surrendering to some Breton pirates, rather than tempting fate in Arklow.

In summer 1525 the struggle reached a higher level when Gerald Og dispatched a compilation of accusations against Piers Ruadh to Henry VIII. Both were summoned to London in August 1526. Gerald Og appointed his brother, Sir Thomas, as his deputy during his absence. He left for England in November 1526. Piers Ruadh had been there since September. Henry VIII wished to curb the strength of Gerald Og's affinity. He also sought to resolve the Kildare-Butler rivalry, as it was affecting the peace of the Irish lordship. The succession to the Ormond earldom between Piers Ruadh and Sir Thomas Boleyn demanded resolution. "' Finally, Henry VIII wished to discuss with them how to prevent the earl of Desmond's French intrigues.

Meanwhile, Gerald Og's deputy, Sir Thomas, was replaced by Lord Delvin in the autumn of 1527. Delvin was a prominent opponent of the Kildares. Brian O'Connor Faly, a Geraldine ally, raided as far as Gormanstown in Meath in winter 1527-28. Gerald Og's councillors tried to provoke Butler clients to attack the Pale. Disturbances caused by Geraldine allies during 1526-29 were orchestrated by Gerald Og. It was hoped that the mounting disorder would force Henry VIII to send him home. His later attainder of 1536 is dated to 1528. Clearly he was judged to have committed treasonable acts in 1528. In spring 1528 Piers Ruadh returned. He, now the earl of Ossory, was leased lands in Carlow and Wexford by Norfolk in February 1528. This was an attempt by the English government to create an effective opposition to Gerald Og in the midlands. Delvin was captured by Brian O'Connor Faly during May 1528. Sir Thomas Fitzgerald was reappointed captain by the Council for the purposes of the Pale's defence. Piers Ruadh was appointed lord deputy in August 1528 by Henry VII1 - against the advice of Norfolk and Wolsey.

While Gerald Og was still in England trouble began to ferment among his own more rebellious Wicklow clients. Exactly why these discontented elements commenced raiding Kildare lands in 1529 is unknown. They may have been incited by Piers Ruadh. Certainly, his influence within the region had greatly increased following his defeat of Sir James in c. 1524. This seems to have forced a realignment of alliances by some of the O'Tooles. Sir James, it seems, bound one family of the O'Tooles closely to him. Shane Og O'Toole of Imaal married a daughter of Sir James in 1532.341 This suggests that the Kildares, or at least Sir James, may have developed Shane Og's family as a counterweight to the senior O'Toole sept. Equally these unknown raiders may have been pursuing their own agenda.

Piers Ruadh exploited the fissures between Gerald Og and his brothers. In January 1529, he successfully detached Sir Thomas from Gerald Og. The indenture specifically stated:

And also Piers, Earl of Ossory, and the said Sir Thomas shall take each other's part in all lawful matters concerning themselves during their lives, against all manner of people, whether the said Piers be deputy or not, their duty and allegiance to the King and his deputy alone excepted.

Sir Thomas confessed his role in Gerald Og's orchestration of chaos within the Pale during 1528. The alienation of Sir Thomas and the defeat of Sir James heralded the emergence of a serious threat along the Kildare earldom's eastern frontier. Within a few years, two principal Fitzgerald marcher lordships, whose function was to enforce the Kildare overlordship within the western Wicklow Mountains, were in disorder.

In June 1529 the Duke of Richmond, Henry VIII's young son, was appointed lieutenant of Ireland?"' Piers Ruadh was discharged in August and was replaced by a secret council consisting of the newly- arrived Archbishop Alen, chancellor, Patrick Bermingham, chief justice, and the treasurer, John Rawson. In November Piers Ruadh was appointed to act as a justice of the peace in Tipperary and Kilkenny. In late summer 1529 Sir William Skeffington was sent as the king's commissioner to compile a military report on Ireland. After a campaign against O'More in March-April 1530, Skeffington returned to report to Henry VIII On account of Richmond's youth, Skeffington was appointed lord deputy on 22 June 1530. Finally, Henry VIII licensed Gerald Og to return to Ireland. A pardon was granted to him. He agreed to co-operate with Skeffington. Gerald Og seems to have returned to Ireland in August with Skeffington. He was eager to re-establish his dominance in Wicklow. Soon after his return he launched a successful expedition, dated to 1530, against the O'Toole dissenters.

The arrival from England in February 1529 of Cardinal Wolsey's protégé, John Alen, as archbishop of Dublin and lord chancellor of Ireland boded ill for Gerald Og's cause. His appointment had been secured by Wolsey. Throughout 1529 Alen was closely associated with Wolsey's attempts to undermine Gerald Og's Irish dominance. Wolsey's failure to secure Henry VIII's divorce from Katharine of Aragon led to his fall in October 1529. This undermined Alen's influence in the Irish government. Subsequently Alen was removed from the secret council.

The archbishops of Dublin, after Archbishop Fitzsimons's death in 1512, took an increasing interest in the churchlands which the Kildares had conquered from Wicklow's Gaelic Irish. Fitzsimons's successors, importantly, were English. In 1514 Archbishop Rokeby inquired by what title Gerald Og held churchlands in Ballymore, Castlekevin, Ferter and the barony of Coylaghe. Archbishop Inge, in 1521, questioned the right by which Sir Thomas Fitzgerald held Coylaghe and Ballymore. On the second occasion Surrey decided in favour of Archbishop Inge. Dislodging the Kildares from these lands, however, was another matter. The reform-minded Alen entered into a legal battle with Sir Thomas Fitzgerald concerning the lordship of Dunboyke in the manor of Ballymore. Reginald fitz Robert Talbot of Belgard thwarted Alen's attempts to secure diocesan rights to his lands. Ominously for Gerald Og, Alen secured the repeal of the 1483 statute in Skeffington's parliament of 1531. This statute had legalised Kildare claims to lands of the absentees in Kildare, west Wicklow and Carlow. Alen hoped that English absentees would resettle their lands in Gerald Og's possession. In the case of those lands where the title had fallen vacant through the extinction of the line of original owners, Alen hoped to establish his lordship and rents. This piece of legislation had the potential to undermine everything the Kildares had striven to build in the previous sixty years. It contributed indirectly to Alen's murder by Silken Thomas's men in July 1534. Norfolk, the principal absentee, leased his lands within the mentioned counties to Piers Ruadh. Combined with this was Norfolk's earlier leasing of his lands in Carlow and Wexford to Piers Ruadh in February 1528. Many of Norfolk's lands had fallen under Kildare control through the statute of 1483. Now Norfolk and Alen's actions, as agents of Tudor government, combined to place Gerald Og in a perilous position by affording Piers Ruadh the chance to infiltrate southern borders of Kildare lands.

It was a triumphant Gerald Og that entered into the deputyship on 5 July 1532, succeeding Skeffington.365 Not surprisingly, upon his return to power, Gerald Og procured Alen's dismissal as lord chancellor and humiliated Skeffington. In his place he promoted Alen's rival, Archbishop Cromer of Armagh, to the chancellorship. Earlier in spring 1531 Alen was financially crippled by a huge praemunire fine. Murray suggests that Gerald Og may have played a role in Alen's misfortune. Gerald Og was connected to the Norfolk/ Wiltshire faction. This faction benefited from Wolsey's downfall. Only the rise of Thomas Cromwell prevented Alen's irreparable decline. In a desperate effort to pay the fine the debt-ridden Alen again sought the active revival of his rents from churchlands in the hands of marcher families. Doggedly he persisted in his attempts to resurrect diocesan title in the marches. The ownership by Sir John Burnell, a prominent Geraldine ally, of the advowson of Coghlanstown near Swords was threatened by Alen. Furthermore, Alen disputed Sir Christopher Eustace's tenure of the constableship of Ballymore. In return Gerald Og unleashed his Irish clients in the Wicklow mountains upon Alen's lands. Alen wrote pitifully to Cromwell begging an allowance to maintain a dozen archers to defend his devastated lands from his Irish enemies. In a note he dolefully commented that the Walshes, Archbolds, Harolds, O’Byrne and the O'Tooles had wasted everything. Interestingly, Alen equated the Kildares with 'perverse' families such as the Harolds, O'Tooles and Walshes.

Geraldine attacks continued on Butler allies. Those opposed to Gerald Og in Wicklow were active also. John Rawson. prior of Kilmainham, reported in May 1532 that the attacks of Edmund Og O'Byrne of the Downes family upon Gerald Og's tenants were encouraged by his enemies within the government. Further hostile relations between an O'Byrne and Gerald Og are evidenced when Piers Ruadh encouraged John Ruadh, alias Shane McLorkyan of Clonmore, to ravage County Kildare in 1532 as revenge for Gerald Og's hanging of his sons.

It was in the strategic middle theatre where the struggle between Piers Ruadh and Gerald Og reached a deadly climax. The Gaelic midlands were in turmoil during 1530-32 because of their rivalry. The midland struggle became centred on the lordship of Ely O'Carroll. Piers Ruadh actively encouraged and aided O'Carrolls opposed to Mulrony O'Carroll and his son Fearganainm. Upon Mulrony's death in 1532, Fearganainm succeeded as lord. He was also Gerald Og's son-in-law? To maintain Feargananim against his rivals, Gerald Og, as lord deputy, campaigned in Ely O'Carroll in 1532 and 1533. At his successful siege of Birr in 1533 he was shot by Uaithne Carrach O'Carroll's supporters? Fitzsinions argues that contemporaries viewed Gerald Og's campaign of 1532-33 as the opening round of the Kildare rebellion. Dermot MacGillapatrick, a Geraldine ally, killed Piers Ruadh's son Thomas before the end of 1532. This heralded the intensification of the struggle?' Thomas's death greatly embittered his father. Possibilities of compromise evaporated, especially on Piers Ruadh's side. It was a decisive point in the struggle.

A range war erupted countrywide between Gaelic clients of both protagonists. Divisions within the Kildares weakened them. In the Wicklow region feuds erupted between Gerald Og and his brothers. Piers Ruadh wrote to Cromwell in January 1532 that Gerald Og had seized Sir James and imprisoned him. The source of their feud seems centred upon the inheritance of their deceased brother, Sir Thomas. He left his lands to Sir James. Sir James had campaigned, to Gerald Og's dismay, with Skeffington. `Eventually Sir James was granted Sir Thomas's livery by Henry VIII in July 1533. Gerald Og, infuriated, attacked him. A letter dated 31 August 1533 from Sir James to Henry VIII demonstrates his plight:

Nevertheless, my Lord, my broder, your Deputie bereth me most extreme displesure, for soche service, as I ded to Sir William Skeffington, than your Deputie; dayly oppressing my landis on soche wise with onreasonable impositions (otherwise than was ever seen) as they been wasted and destitute of inhabitation: and so am 1 put from my rentis and flyers.

Sir James condemned Gerald Og's levying of impositions throughout Kildare and Carlow. Another brother, Richard of Fassaroe, was also disaffected. Later they were reconciled.

These Kildare feuds provided opportunities for their enemies. Piers Ruadit's supporter, Edmund Og O'Byrne, made a daring raid upon Dublin Castle in 1533. Much spoil and prisoners were apparently leisurely carried off by Edmund. He continued warring throughout the year. A letter to Cromwell in 1533 reveals that some O'Tooles defeated three of Gerald Og's brothers, including Sir James.

More clues to the identity of these O'Tooles emerge in the extents of former monastic possessions taken during 1540. It was noted that in 1532 the rectory of Donard in Imaal was destroyed by Art O'Toole. Sir James held one hundred and twenty acres at Donard M` Gerald Og was entitled to the church tithes there. This Art O'Toole was the brother of Turlough the elder O'Toole, the O'Toole overlord. Their family had suffered a significant reduction in power corresponding with the rise of the Kildares. These incidents display a growing hostility towards the Kildares among the senior O'Tooles. This may have something to do with Kildare's occupation of three carticates of land in the Kilberry parish in 1533. This included Russelstown, located in the barony of Talbotstown Lower, which was probably occupied by O'Tooles within Imaal. Importantly, Alen noted that Art O'Toole held a share of ten Imaal ploughlands.

Henry VIII summoned Piers Ruadh and Gerald Og to London in September 1533. Gerald Og delayed his departure until spring 1534. Before his departure he appointed his able son Silken Thomas, Lord Offaly, as vice-deputy. Both Gerald Og and Piers Ruadh had to accept reforms which would eventually limit their personal power considerably. By May, Gerald Og realised that his dismissal was imminent. Skeffington was provisionally re-appointed deputy. Gerald Og had to surrender his recent palatine liberty of Kildare and accept Skeffington's appointment. A royal summons was sent to Silken Thomas demanding his presence at court. Thomas Cusack and Thomas Finglas, Cromwell's clients, were sent bearing letters to Silken Thomas and the council. Silken Thomas was commanded to call a sitting of the council. At this meeting Cusack and Finglas would make known the king's intention? Through secret means Gerald Og conveyed a message to his son. On 11 June Silken Thomas threw down the Sword of State and denounced Henry VIII before the council. The ill-fated Kildare rebellion had officially begun.

During the failed rebellion Gerald Og's Wicklow Gaelic clients quickly melted away. Silken Thomas tried to pacify Piers Ruadh with terms of peace. Not surprisingly, he rejected these overtures. Silken Thomas attacked Piers Ruadh's territories in summer 1534 with a large force, scoring some notable victories over the Butlers at Tullow and Thomastown, obliging Piers Ruadb to flee to the safety of Waterford. With the assistance of Conn O'Neill from Tyrone, Silken Thomas besieged Lord James Butler in Kilkenny, and proceeded to quarter his Gaelic clients on the southern borders of the Kildare earldom to guard against Piers Ruadh's inevitable counter-attacks. These clients included the McMurroughs, O'Mores, O'Connors and some O'Byrnes. Then he turned his attention to Dublin. In August/ September the Geraldine allies among the O'Byrnes and O'Tooles raided deep into the Pale to Howth. They then unsuccessfully turned their attention to Malahide. Assisted by Sir John Burnell, they set out homewards but were overtaken at Salcocke's Wood near Kilmainham by Dublin's citizens. However, they succeeded in defeating the citizens. The identity of Silken Thomas's O'Toole allies is uncertain. Shane Og O'Toole of Imaal had close links with the Kildares, in particular Sir James. On the other hand, these O'Tooles could have been the followers of the O'Toole overlord, Turlough the elder. Silken Thomas became the tenth earl of Kildare on his father's death on 2 September 1534. By March 1535 the O'Byrnes and O'Tooles were complimented by Skeffington for their skill in persecuting Silken Thomas's followers. Significantly, Skeffington noted that the intense vigour of their service against Silken Thomas was fuelled by thoughts of their own advantage. Most of Silken Thomas's uncles, including Sir James and Richard of Fassaroe, campaigned against him. After the fall of Maynooth in March 1535 the collapse of the Kildare rebellion was only a matter of time. Siken Thomas surrendered to Lord Leonard Grey on 24 August 1535. In February 1537 he and his five uncles, along with Sir John Burnell, were executed at Tyburn.

Part VII

Nowhere was the fall of the Kildares felt more than in Gaelic Leinster. Through a variety of relationships they had held dominion over the lordships of O'Connor Faly, O'Toole, O'Byrne, O'More, McGeoghegan, and sometimes the McMurrough Kavanaghs. The Kildare family had generally successfully straddled the ethnic and political divisions in Ireland. Some of Gerald Og's daughters were married to Gaelic lords. Mary's union to Brian O'Connor Faly is one notable example. Another daughter married Feargananim O'Carroll. Gerald Og had considered marrying a daughter to Cahir mac Art Kavanagh, though nothing came of this. When the Kildare hegemony was overthrown a huge power vacuum was created. The removal of the Kildares exposed the Pale to Gaelic raids. Once they would have checked and punished these incursions. Now the task fell to the new Tudor government. Equally the Kildare demise created opportunities for government expansion into Gaelic territories.

The policies pursued by successive lord deputies in Leinster in the twenty years following 1536 were dictated by the need to secure stability and strengthen the government's position. Grey succeeded the deceased Skeffington as deputy in January 1536. He quickly moved against Wicklow's turbulent Gaelic Irish. In January 1536 the O'Byrne overlord, Tadgh O'Byrne of Kiltimon, concluded a treaty with him. This treaty was supported by the O'Byrne family of the Downes, one of whom, Edmund, participated in the negotiations. Furthermore, the head of the Downes family, Fergananym Roe, entered into his own indenture with Grey in September 1536. O'Byrne contingents served on his campaigns in Munster against the Geraldine rebels. Tadhg O'Byrne, with other Irish lords, accompanied Piers Ruadh on Grey's campaign against O'Brien and James fitz John Fitzgerald of Desmond in August 1536. Another notable contributor to these hostings was Cahir Roe O'Byrne of Newrath.

Grey realised that the fall of the Kildares meant the rise of the Butlers. Importantly, he reasoned that over-reliance by government on the Butlers would not benefit reform. Increasingly he sought support from the leaderless Geraldines in order to develop a counterweight to the Butler strength. Brady argues that this policy allowed the new government to maintain its independence. Grey and the Butlers became enemies. Relations also became estranged between the O'Bymes of Kiltimon and Downes with Grey. Good relations between them and the Butlers are evidenced in the joint tenure of Kiltimon castle by Edmund O'Byrne and the Butlers. Indeed Cahir Roe incurred Butler enmity as a result of his allegiance to Grey. On foot of a list of complaints aimed at the Butlers, compiled by Grey in 1538, attacks were threatened upon Cahir Roe's lands by Richard Butler and his allies. Presumably his allies were the O'Byrnes of Kiltimon and of the Downes.

Grey was an active governor, and in a series of military campaigns proved his ability to advance the acceptance of royal authority. To the Butlers, Grey's policy was tantamount to a rejection of their efforts. They actively sought his downfall. In June 1538 Gerald Aylmer and John Alen, former clients of Cromwell and now Butler allies, accused Grey of pillaging the territories of the O'Byrne overlord, Tadhg of Kiltimon. Grey also attacked galloglass with whom O'Byrnes had promised to aid him. In 1540 James Butler, now earl of Ormond following the death of his father Piers Ruadh in August 1539, attacked Grey because of his support for the 'Red' O’Byrne sept. This probably refers to Cahir Roe's Newrath family. Earl James's tirades against Grey, brother-in-law to Gerald Og, were directed against his advancement of former Geraldine allies. Earl James sought, through the continued development of his power base, to undermine Grey and achieve his father's dream of becoming the dominant power in Ireland.

Instability was not confined to the Gaelic families of Wicklow. In April 1537 the government removed John Harold from his captainship of Harold's Country. A fellow marcher, Peter fitz Robert Talbot of Shankill, son of the murdered Robert of Belgard, was appointed captain in his place. In the same year, Robert Cowley, another Butler client, wrote to Cromwell for permission to settle him and some Walshs in Fercullen for the purpose of keeping a check on the O'Tooles. 'They probably garrisoned the rebuilt Powerscourt. By the close of the 1530s the O'Byrnes' Country and surrounding Gaelic lordships had erupted into a warlike and turbulent state as a result.

To understand Gabhal Raghnaill's lords in this period a close examination of their near neighbour, Turlough O'Toole the elder, is demanded. Little is known of his ambitions, although he was eager to establish his dominance over all the O'Tooles and sought to create alliances with neighbouring Gaelic lords. This latter observation is significant in view of the fact that the whole period under discussion was characterised by the rise of traditionally weaker Gaelic Irish families, partially due to their interfamilial alliances such as those formed by Turlough the elder and, later, by Hugh mac Shane. The creation, success and contra-governmental potency of these allegiances, however, were conditional on the presence of a protagonist leader with the necessary charisma and initiative. In this sense, therefore, it is possible to view Turlough the elder as a precursor of sorts to the later, more powerful Gabhal Raghnaill warlords.

Turlough the elder succeeded his brother Hugh mac Art, slain by the O'Byrnes in 1523, as the O'Toole overlord. Art mac Edmund, his father, was slain in 1517 by kinsmen. During 1520-22 he served on Surrey's military campaigns. He was still a Geraldine client in 1526 through his acceptance of a horse. As the country became more destabilised in the early 1530s - a result of the Kildare Butler struggle - he became hostile towards the Kildares. It seems Sir James was more favourable towards his rivals. The Kildares were intent on exerting their overlordship more effectively over him. With his brother Art Og, he was credited with the accidental slaying in 1534 of their nephew, Donnchadh McKeogh. In the aftermath of the Kildare rebellion, their power grew significantly. The absence of a powerful restraint, such as that formerly wielded by the Kildares, was a contributory factor in their rise. Art Og was still in service in 1536 along with Edmund Og O'Byrne. In the death throes of the Kildare rebellion, Aylmer and Alen noted that the O'Tooles treacherously captured the former Kildare castle of Powerscourt. Before Powerscourt could be recaptured they destroyed it. Turlough the elder exploited the Kildare demise. He unravelled their conquest of O'Tooles' Country. Throughout his protracted negotiations with Geraldine rebels and the government he sought permanent confirmation of his gains. An example of these changed circumstances can be seen in May 1538 when the constable of Rathmore, John Kelway, and a large force of County Kildare gentlemen were defeated by him at Three Castles near Blessington. Kelway, following his surrender, perished by Turlough the elder's own hand. This was for his treachery and his earlier hanging of two O'Tooles. After Kelway's defeat a hosting - limited to supplies for fourteen days - was proclaimed against them.

In the years following Grey's appointment in 1536, several government campaigns were launched against Turlough the elder. They concluded a treaty in December 1537. Turlough agreed to peace for three years and to contribute to hostings. In return he was to enjoy the lands his father held forty years previously before the Kildare conquest. He was not to aid any Geraldine rebels, notably Peter Fitzgerald. Piers Ruadh and Lord James Butler acted as sureties to the agreement. Peace did not last, probably because of Kelway's indiscretion. Turlough the elder and Art Og were members of the Geraldine League. Brady points out that the political disposition of former Geraldine allies was by no means entirely hostile. Individual Geraldine allies adopted pragmatic attitudes and sought accommodation, when necessary, with the government. This league sought to protect Gerald, the future eleventh Kildare earl, from the English. During 1538 the English learned from reports from Manus O'Donnell's castle in Donegal (where Gerald had found refuge, his aunt being Manus's wife) that Gerald had received a gift from Art Og of a saffron shirt and an English cloak edged with silk. Art Og also sent, through his envoy, messages of support and money to the boy. Conor Mor O'Connor's confession is revealing. O'Connor, Grey's servant, disclosed that the brothers had obtained a promise of Powerscourt and Fassaroe from Gerald. Thomas Lynch, a Galway merchant, confirmed that he had seen Turlough the elder's messenger in O'Donnell's castle. They also remained on good terms with Piers Ruadh and his son, Lord James. Consequently, during May 1539 Grey led a campaign into the mountains against them.

It is significant that as a result of his new found strength Turlough the elder attracted support from within eastern Gaelic Leinster. Apparently Turlough the elder's wife was a Kavanagh. Donal mac Cahir Kavanagh, lord of the Sliocht Muircheartaigh Oig based at Garryhill in Idrone, and cousin of Shane Og mac Redmond O'Byrne, adhered to him. When Earl James devastated Idrone in July 1540, Turlough the elder hastened to Donal mac Cahir's aid. After viewing Earl James's forces Turlough the elder concluded a truce with Earl James. Earlier during Grey's 1539 campaign against the O'Tooles, fighting is recorded in Glendaloure. Glenmalure, Crioch Raghnaill’s heartland, is 'Glendaloure'. This indicates that the Gabhal Raghnaill's lords were probable O'Toole allies. Subsequently Sadbh, Art Og's daughter, became Hugh mac Shane's second wife. The 1541 extent of the lands of the Cistercian abbey of Duiske at Garrytill in Carlow records that everything was waste through the war of the Kavanaghs, O'Tooles and O'Byrnes.

In May 1540 Earl James hinted at growing co-ordination of Gaelic assaults upon his Leinster lands and the Pale. The O'Tooles and O'Connor Falys weighed prominently in his thoughts. These forebodings found expression in a letter from the Irish Council to Cromwell in April 1540. When rumours reached the O'Tooles and Kavanaghs of Grey's recall there were simultaneous raids in Dublin and Wexford. Lord Justice Brerton noted their growing co-operation:

Yestyrday Oconor burnyd certayne townes of the Kinges subjectes, and now instantly the Tolys and Kevanes be burnynge in the marches of Dublin

All these raids are linked with Grey's departure to England. Cromwell, his patron, had fallen from power. The unfortunate Grey was executed in June 1541. Turlough the elder enjoyed a strained relationship with him. Grey's enemies accused him of treacherous behaviour at a parley on the Dublin borders. Turlough the elder, accompanied by a light bodyguard, was unsuccessfully chased until dark by Grey. In the same accusatory document Grey was charged with the release of Moriartagh Boy Kavanagh's son who upon his release had gathered a force and ridden to Turlough the elder, bent upon wreaking havoc in the Pale.

During his truce parley with Earl James in late July Turlough the elder confessed his dislike of Grey. Turlough the elder's intentions had much to do with his mercurial character. Brian O'Connor Faly continued burning in Kildare throughout early May. O'Byrne foiled a huge O'Toole raid on the Pale by warning the Palesmen. A campaign was waged in O'Toole's Country during the middle of June 1540 by the government. Turlough the elder's Kavanagh allies came to his aid. Donal mac Cahir fired Athy, burning the house of the Dominicans there in June. The government army was obliged to retreat from the Wicklow uplands through want of supplies. A truce was agreed for six weeks. This pattern continued until the conclusion of a truce between Turlough the elder and Earl James in late July 1540.

The first direct mention of Shane Og mac Redmond among government papers occurs in July 1542. Significantly he was listed fifth among O'Byrne signatories to a treaty with the government. His first wife was Doireann, Hugh mac Shane's mother and daughter of Bran O'Byrne, probably the 1520s overlord. Honora, Alexander McDonnell's daughter, was his second spouse, Alexander McDonnell was a former captain of Gerald Og's galloglass. Following the Kildare demise, he became a captain of the government's galloglass. This points towards previous close relations between Shane Og mac Redmond and the Kildares.

Wicklow in the 1540s remained a violent land. Sir Anthony St Ledger succeeded Grey as lord deputy in 1540. Importantly, he recognised the major concern of the Gaelic lords was secure tenure of their respective lordships. Use of military force alone could not produce any long term stability. St Ledger determined to steer a new course through an adept combination of diplomacy and force. This new and temporarily more successful policy became known as 'Surrender and Regrant'. It involved submission of Gaelic lords and their surrender of territory to St Ledger as Henry VIII's representative, and their acknowledgement of Henry VIII as head of the Church. In return they were granted back their lands, and often a title. St Ledger hoped through accommodation to placate their fears concerning security of tenure, thus removing a major incentive to rebel. It was hoped this would increase stability. Agreements were concluded with McMurrough Kavanagh, O'Byrne, O'Connor Faly and O'Toole. Eager to foster personal relations with them, St Ledger supported primogeniture amongst the ruling families.

An example of the strengths and frailties of this policy is the case of Turlough the elder. He continually raided throughout 1539-40. In 1540 St Ledger estimated that Turlough levied black rents of four or five hundred marks yearly. Archbishop Brown of Dublin lamented that Turlough the elder, with two hundred men, continually devastated his Tallaght lands and killed his tenants. St Ledger pointed out their necessity to raid:

Your Grace knowith well, that the contre, wher the Tooles enhabitte, is all wants and ther lyving is only apon the Kinges subjectes by stelthis, bodragges, and tributes...

In September 1540 the O'Tooles' truce expired. A campaign was prepared by St Ledger. The O'Byrnes and Kavanaghs submitted in September. St Ledger was determined to subdue the O'Tooles. To that end he sought money from England to rebuild two marcher castles facing the mountains of the O'Tooles. After a four week campaign by St Ledger and Earl James against Turlough the elder and his O'Byrne allies during November 1540, Turlough, with Earl James's encouragement, came to St Ledger. He asked, for himself and his brother, that their ancestral lands be granted to them. The price of his obedience was the formal recognition of his claims by the government. At the same time the O'Byrnes renewed their submission. St Ledger, it seems, developed a grudging respect for him. This becomes apparent in St Ledger's description of him, which also captures the Homeric nature of Gaelic warrior society:

And although it shall apere to your Majestie, that this Thirrologh is but a wretched person, and a man of no grete power, neither having house to put his hedd in, nor yet money in his purse to by hym a garment, yet may he well make two or three hundred men.

St Ledger pleaded their case. Surrey, now elevated to the dukedom of Norfolk, looked favourably upon Turlough the elder's case. Wearing a fine suit of English clothes and with twenty pounds in his purse, lent to him by the deputy, a Norfolk client," the irascible Turlough the elder was dispatched to Henry VIII's court. Once there he promised, also on Art Og's behalf, to be a good subject, and duly received his lands back from Henry VIII. He received Powerscourt castle and Fercullen, while Art Og was granted Castlekevin and Ferter. Peter fitz Robert Talbot of Powerscourt was compensated with other lands in exchange for those he lost to the O'Tooles. Turlough the elder also asked for Imaal to be granted to him. This grant not only included his lands, but those of the McShane O'Tooles. Turlough mac Shane had contributed to the government expeditions against Turlough the elder. By November 1542 St Ledger's agreement suffered a deadly blow. Turlough the elder, now based in Powerscourt, tried to coerce Turlough mac Shane into acceptance of his rule. Turlough mac Shane launched a surprise early morning assault upon his encampment. Turlough the elder fell to the slaughter. A council at Limerick decreed that Turlough mac Shane should forfeit all his lands and pay a fine to Turlough the elder's family. However, St Ledger urged his pardon in the belief that Turlough the elder brought his end upon himself.

Turlough mac Shane slew Turlough the elder's son and successor, Turlough the younger, in May 1543. Turlough the younger probably tried to continue his father's ambitions. He received ten livres from the government in September 1542. After his death a dynastic struggle erupted. Another son of Turlough the elder, Brian, was faced by fresh challenges. Art Og, Brian's uncle, and Turlough mac Shane had their own ambitions. St Ledger supported Brian's attempt to assume the chieftaincy. Grievances held by Turlough mac Shane were addressed by St Ledger, who tried to pacify him. In 1547 Brian became High Sheriff of Dublin and routed the Geraldine rebels under Maurice an Fheadha Fitzgerald at Three Castles. St Ledger's aim was that such agreements would build trust between the government and Gaelic lords. He hoped the Gaelic Irish would forsake their traditional ways and adopt English customs and language. It was an innovative attempt to achieve regional stability. It failed.


To the south of O'Toole territory, a deadly struggle had begun in 1543. Around Aughrim fighting erupted between the Butlers and the Gabhal Raghnaill. This conflict coincides with two indentures made in October 1543 by Earl James, appointing Sir John Travers to defend his Arklow lordship. Earlier in the year Travers had checked the activities of the 'wylde sorte of the Cavenaghs and Tholes. Travers, master of the Ordnance and a Butler client, was commanded to 'recover such seignories, lordships, lands, etc., belonging to Arklow as are in the possession of the Irish who withhold them'.

Sir John was entrusted with Butler claims to lands extending as far west as Carnew and north to Macreddin. This led to confrontation with Shane Og mac Redmond and Hugh mac Shane. It seems that in 1543 Travers launched a campaign to retrieve these lands from them in the modem parishes of Preban and Kilcommon. An Inquisition in 1616 records that Shane Og mac Redmond conquered these territories during Henry VIII's reign (1509-1547).

There are precedents for this Butler attempt to wrench lands back from O'Byrnes. In 1528 Norfolk leased his estates in Carlow (excluding the lordship of Carlow) and Wexford to Piers Ruadh. These were mostly occupied by Irish. Tullow in Carlow, and the surrounding territory, lay under the sway of the Gabhal tSiomoin O'Byrnes. By 1531 the Butlers held it again. Piers Ruadh wrote that prior to his reconquest of Tullow the Irish had held it for two hundred years. His overlordship of some Gabhal tSiomoin lands was confirmed in Henry VIII's grant to him of Tullow and Clonmore in 1538. Ormond deeds dating from 1544 and 1546 show Earl James's superiority over the Carlow O'Byrne lords, Teig McWilliam McDavid Roth, Tirrelagh Roo McArt and Hee Roo McDonyll.

In 1545-46 further conflict broke out with the Gabhal Raghnaill's lords. Shane Og mac Redmond was considered such a threat that Lord Justice Brabazon's government enacted legislation authorising his prosecution. Brabazon's involvement in this legislation assigns this to 1546 rather than 1545. In spring 1546 St Ledger left Ireland for Henry VIII's court to answer a litany of charges brought by Earl James and Chancellor Alen against his government of Ireland.

Before his departure, St Ledger appointed Brabazon as lord justice. Brabazon was sworn in on 1 April 1546. Why exactly the government felt impelled to take action against Shane Og mac Redmond is unclear. In late 1545, Pale settlements were disturbed by unknown raiders. In February 1546 Archbishop Brown reported these disturbances in a letter to Henry VIII. Possibly the Gabhal Raghnaill's lords may have reacted to the recall of St Ledger to England. Earl James's seeming victory over St Ledger may have compelled them to strengthen their military position through punitive raids upon government outposts or Butler clients. This legislation was enacted between April and December 1546. St Ledger returned in December.

This seems to have been the case with Brian O'Connor Faly. St Ledger rehabilitated him in the eyes of the government. In 1544 he was pardoned and received a regrant of the Offaly lordship. By 1545 the English government, with St Ledger's encouragement, decided to create him a viscount. With St Ledger's recall the situation changed radically. In the light of Grey's fate of 1541, St Ledger seemed destined for the headsman's block. Brian O'Connor Faly probably viewed St Ledger's recall as the end of his policy. Late in 1546 he, with O'More, attacked County Kildare for the first time in six years. The government's reaction was ferocious. Brabazon devastated Offaly. Brian O'Connor Faly fled to Connacht.

Combined with these rebellions was a Geraldine rising in 1546. The leaders of this rebellion are named in the Annals of the Four Masters as the sons of Sir James Fitzgerald, Gerald Og's brother. These rebels burnt Rathvilly in Carlow, and Ballymore and Rathdangan in Kildare. Fr O'Toole links Turlough mac Shane to the burning of Ballymore but he incorrectly assigns this act to 1548. Close familial links existed between these rebels and Turlough mac Shane's sept. This suggests these actions were in combination. Dating this Fitzgerald/07oole rebellion within 1546 is a problem. It cannot be ascetained whether it broke before or after Earl James's death in October. Therefore its initial spark remains obscure. Whether this rebellion can be linked to the rebellion of Brian O'Connor Faly and O'More is uncertain. The proclaimed campaign against the Gabhal Raghnaill cannot be definitely linked to these disturbances. Eastern Leinster was very restless throughout 1546. St Ledger, while in trength of Wicklow's Gaelic Irish as follows:

And as to the streinght of Irisshemen, I ame suer they were never so weke; the Byrnes not half the horssernen they have byn; the Tooles of no streinght.

Brabazon's government defined Shane Og mac Redmond's territory as being Cooleranill, Kilcoman and Ballynekenny [Ballykinel]. Unlike the O'Connor Faly rebellion, the outcome of this action against Shane Og mac Redmond is unknown. Nevertheless, he proceeded to build his military strength.

Unrest and rebellion continued in the region. Earl James's demise in October 1546 created a sudden void in Irish politics. Many of his closest advisors perished with him. Henry VIII's death in January 1547 conspired to intensify the crisis. St Ledger returned as lord deputy in December of 1546. His policy remained the same, except that the reform of Gaelic lordships was to be supported with coercion. Leinster and north Munster were vulnerable to vengeful Geraldine bands. Brady points out that the resurgence of predatory activities among Geraldines within the O'Connor Faly, O'Toole, O'More and O'Byrne.

St Ledger put down the rebellion of some O'Byrnes in 1547 and their leader, 'Ductor', was killed. This is probably related to St Ledger's defeat of Turlough mac Shane and some O'Byrnes in the same year. Turlough mac Shane's attainder was dated 10 May 1547. O'Toole, however, names Reginald fitz Robert Talbot as Turlough mac Shane's conqueror. It must be connected to the continued disturbances in 1547 caused by the Geraldines. Brian O'Toole, Turlough the elder's son, also the sheriff of Dublin, cornered the Geraldine rebels at Three Castles, sometime in 1547, inflicting a heavy defeat on them. Henry and Maurice an Fheadha Fitzgerald were captured and later executed in Dublin. In October 1547 Brian O'Connor Faly rebelled again. St Ledger was instructed by the English Privy Council not to accept his submission. An increasing harshness can be detected within the government's reaction. Brian O'Connor Faly was finally permitted to submit in November 1548.

Earl James's interests in Wicklow lands is reflected in his will of 1546. Sir Edmund, his son, was bequeathed a farm at Cryhelpe near Dunlavin. Earlier, in September 1546, the government had signalled its intention to curb Earl James's increasing power. It proposed to withdraw his patent to the Gaelic lands which he had reconquered. The aim was to prevent the rise of an overmighty magnate with considerable affinity with a group of Gaelic clients. After his death nothing came of this. In summer 1548 the Gabhal Raghnaill clashed with Tibbot Walsh, now constable of Arklow Castle. Significantly, Walsh, who resided at Mucklagh lying between Aughrim and Tinahely, was supported by senior O'Byrne septs.

Seemingly in the eyes of the latter, the Gabhal Raghnaill ambitions had to be curbed. Most probably these were the O'Byrnes of Newrath and Cronroe who held extensive lands in the Aughrim area. In contrast to their obstreperous juniors the seniors were eager to maintain the status quo. Following the Kildare collapse they attempted to cultivate good relations with the government. In the 1530s the senior dynasty was divided between loyalty to Grey's government and the Butlers. After Grey's recall in 1540 relations improved with the new regime. In July 1542 the O’Byrne overlord, Tadhg O'Byrne of Kiltimon, with several O’Byrne lords including Shane Og mac Redmond, concluded a treaty with the government. Newcastle McKynegan was ceded to the government, but was not garrisoned before 1545. It seems they wished to co-operate with government and were prepared to make concessions. In return they expected that their ownership of lands be recognised under English common law. Provision was made within the agreement for the appointment of a sheriff for O'Byrnes Country. Later, in 1543, the senior O'Byrne leaders petitioned the government to shire their territory. St Ledger, three years later, praised the effectiveness of the sheriff of O'Byrnes' Country. A force under Dowlyn McCahir Roe O'Byrne and another Callogh McBran served in Scotland during Henry VIII's 1544-1545 Scottish campaign. Callogh McBran was captain of the Irish kerne. This force quickly earned a reputation among the Scots for ferocity. For his services Callogh McBran was rewarded with the sum of £13 6s 8d in September 1545, before his repatriation. Their service in Scotland had much to do with Earl James's leadership of the Irish contingent. Further signs of their goodwill towards the government were evinced in 1546. Dowlyn O'Byrne appeared among a list of lords considered fit to serve Henry VIII in a fresh Scottish campaign. This period, through government campaigns and treaties, saw a decline in the power of Gaelic overlords, which facilitated the rise of the traditionally weaker septs in east Leinster.

The Gabhal Raghnaill were not the only junior sept or weaker clan to emerge. As has been illustrated, the 1530s heralded a dramatic increase in Turlough O'Toole the elder's power. Among the Kavanaghs an internal power struggle had emerged in the early 1540s. Cahir mac Art Kavanagh, of the Sliocht Diarmaid Lainihdearg expanded his power, with government encouragement, at the expense of his overlords, Cahir mac Innycross and Muircheartach mac Art Boy. Before the Kildare rebellion these were Kildare clients. Cahir mac Innycross owed his position to Gerald Og. His power was diminished after his treaty with the government on 3 September 1541. Thus Cahir mac Art's position in the contest to succeed Cahir mac Innycross was strengthened. This struggle culminated in a battle near Hacketstown in 1545 between Cahir mac Art and his senior rival Gerald mac Cahir of Sliocht Muircheartaigh Oig of Garryhill, Cahir mac Innycross's grandnephew. Cahir mac Art emerged victorious. Among the slain were a hundred O'Byrnes and some people from Idouagh, supporters of Gerald mac Cahir. Crioch Raghnaill’s lords forged their first known McMurrough Kavanagh alliances with the Sliocht Muircheartaigh Oig. This sept's progenitor was Muircheartach Og, who was Murchadh Ballach's son. His sister Honora was given by their father in marriage to Redmond mac Shane. Honora was Shane Og mac Redmond's mother. Donal mac Cahir Kavanagh, Gerald mac Cahir's brother, had forged an alliance with Turlough the elder earlier in the 1540s, as had Shane Og mac Redmond. Donal mac Cahir seems to have died by 1545. Almost sixty years later, in 1601, Phelim mac Feagh, Shane Og mac Redmond's great grandson, could number people from Idouagh among his followers. There are difficulties concerning the parentage of Cahir mac Innycross. Dowling's Annals in 1530 record him as being the son of a Gerald Kavanagh. However, it seems he was Murchadh Ballach's son. If this is so, then Shane Og mac Redmond was his nephew. Despite these difficulties Cahir mac Innycross; was certainly of the northern Kavanaghs. In his treaty of 12 May 1536 with Grey, he agreed to give two O'Byrne hostages as pledges, Edmund, son of John Juvenis O'Bryn, and Shane Ballaugh's son. This John Juvenis O'Bryn must be Shane Og O'Byrne. This would suggest a dependence of Shane Og mac Redmond upon the northern Kavanaghs. The hostage must be Shane Og mac Redmond's son by Una McDonnell, Edmund mac Shane. Much later Hugh rnac Shane's son, Feagh married his cousin Sadbh, Donal mac Cahir's daughter. These familial connections forged the genesis of Feagh's later web of alliances in the east and southeast of Leinster. It seems plausible to suggest that some O'Byrnes slain at Hacketstown adhered to Shane Og mac Redmond, who had supported his cousins, former fellow Kildare clients and long-standing allies against Cahir mac Art.

The 1548 Butler/ O'Byrne alliance tested the Gabhal Raghnaill's increasing strength. This assault upon the Gabhal Raghnaill by the senior dynasty, with Butler aid, represents an attempt to reassert a faltering mountain overlordship and to destroy a potentially overmighty parvenu. A desperate message, begging Lord Deputy Bellingharn's protection, was given by Shane Og mac Redmond and Hugh mac Shane in July to the vicar of Rathmore. It stated that Tibbot mac Morris Walsh had quartered a large force on their lands and intended to attack them. The vicar gave it to Richard Ayimer who conveyed it to Bellingham. Walsh's pardon in 1549 may be connected to this.

By September Hugh mac Shane was still warlike. His hostile intentions were clear when he, with sixty kerne, hovered upon the borders of Boystown for three days. Peace was restored after Shane Og mac Redmond journeyed to Dublin in October. Interestingly, in 1548, Richard Butler, later Viscount Mountgarret, perhaps alarmed by Cahir mac Art's power, accused him of raiding Kilkenny. Bellingharn intervened and in September wrote soothingly to Cahir mac Art stating belief in his good faith. It seems that Butler actions in the late 1540s, through their revival of old land claims within Gaelic territories, increasingly alienated the new eastern Leinster Gaelic powers from the government. Gradually these new powers grew closer together. In October 1548 Hugh mac Shane and Cahir mac Art were raiding together, afterwards going on a spree to Kilkenny to buy silk, saffron and cloth.

Shane Og mac Redmond and Hugh mac Shane strengthened their hold on their expanding territory. Hugh mac Shane became increasingly predatory. With his brother Patrick, he was pardoned in 1549, but in the next year he returned to his old tricks. In August 1550 Shane Og mac Redmond and his followers were pardoned. This is Shane Og mac Redmond's last appearance in any contemporary source. It is probable that he died before the end of 1550 or soon afterwards.

Part IX

Spenser's remarkable analysis of Hugh mac Shane's rise holds much truth:

Shane Mac Terlagh, was a man of meanest regard amongst them, neither having wealth nor power. But his sonne Hugh Mac Shane, the father of this Feagh, first began to lift up his head, and through the strength and great fastnes of Glan-Malor, which adjoyneth unto his house of Ballinacor, drew unto him many theeves and out-lawes, which fled unto the succour of that glynne, as to a sanctuary, and brought unto him parte of the spoyle of all the countrey, through which he grew strong, and in a short space got unto himselfe a great name thereby amongst the Irish.

Much of his rapid rise among Leinster's Gaelic Irish can be attributed to fallout from midland disturbances. By 1546 St Ledger's Leinster settlements were badly frayed. The Gaelic midlands were in turmoil. This violence spiralled into a widespread border war along the Pale's western marches.

Sir Edward Bellingham devoted his deputyship to finding a solution by attempting to cow the clans. He hoped this would lead to a lasting peace. Southern and western Pale borders were fortified. Seneschalships were imposed in the lordships of the O'Byrnes, O'Tooles and the McMurrough Kavanaghs. A new ward was founded at Shillelagh. In effect these seneschals were policemen and their presence was designed to discourage any prospective raiders. Many, however, had their own agendas. Bloody encounters raged throughout 1548-49 between the O'Mores and O'Connor Faly and Bellingharn's army. A firm believer in the principles of plantation, Bellingharn hoped that these intrusions into Gaelic heartlands would stabilise the region. The opposite was the case. These prototype plantations were subject to continual assault by Gaelic lords, who bitterly resented their presence. Rough justice, meted out to the Gaelic inhabitants by government officials and the plantation's grandees, further heightened the bitterness between planter and native.

Hugh mac Shane cannot have viewed the government's activities with anything but anxiety. Amid this turbulence he also spied his opportunity. His greatest strength was his territory's inaccessibility. Crioch Raghnaill became the great refuge of Gaelic Leinster. Hugh mac Shane offered safety to the beleaguered Gaelic midland leaders. Many accepted his overtures. Glenmalure became a hotbed of Gaelic opposition to the government. As more lords gathered at his dining table, Hugh mac Shane's power grew. He became the master of Leinster's discontented, and maintained them in rebellion. Sir Nicholas Bagenal, in 1578, pursued Rory Og O'More into Hugh mac Shane's lands. In a letter Bagenal pointed an accusing finger at Hugh mac Shane as Rory Og's maintainer and his refuge:

As the traitor, Rorie Oge received continual relief of victuals and assistance at Hugh MacShane's lands, his father in law, I pursued him into his country

Hugh mac Shane ensured that his grip upon his lordship remained secure by controlling his guests. These fugitive warbands were used to expand his own sphere of influence. To the west and north of Glenmalure he filled the vacuum created by the Kildare fall. This is evinced in the black rents which he levied there. Control of dense timberlands gave him a ready source of income. This allowed him to develop his lordship, buy weapons and hire mercenaries. A combination of these factors ensured the swift ascent of his star.

His ambitions and ego are reflected in the panegyrics recorded in the Leabhar Branach. Modelling himself on Gaelic kings of old, Hugh mac Shane's offers of patronage attracted many learned men to his mountain recess of Glenmalure. In return for patronage they composed eulogies about his martial prowess, nobility and generosity. The Gabhal Raghnaill's status and fame was increased in Leinster and countrywide by these poets. He hoped through this intensive patronage to clothe his family in robes of legitimacy and disguise the recent origins of their power. The studies by Bradshaw, MacEiteagain, Nicholls and Simms of the Gaelic nobility's love of guesting, feasting and self-flattering poetry suggest that this is comparable to the lavish expenditure by contemporary continental aristocracy on art. This research has challenged the somewhat barbaric portrayal of the culture of Glenmalure's sword-wielding nobles, an example of which can be found in Spenser's comments about Feagh, whom he describes as:

being but of late growne out of the dunghill, beginneth now to overcrow so high mountaines, and make himselfe great protectour of all outlawes and rebells that will repaire unto him.

Lord Deputy Perrot compared Hugh mac Shane's sept to animals:

For they lyve lyke wolves, foxes, and beares that praye uppon all thynges, and when moste parte of Ireland hathe been brought to some quyettness, then would those people break oute to open warre.

These poems projected Hugh mac Shane's ambitions. He is portrayed as Leinster's defender. Bradshaw concluded from Hugh mac Shane's death eulogy that this victory roll through five counties resembled a Gaelic king's ancient tribute circuit. During Feagh's reign, the bards take one step further in describing their master as the new moon rising in the east who will defend the Gaelic Irish. Consciously, they transformed Ballinacor into a sixteenth century

Eamhain Macha: thus they assumed the mantle of Gaelic Leinster's protectors.

Testimony to their rise was the important marriages of the dynasty. Hugh mac Shane's ambitions determined this. Unions included both the dispossessed and the landed. These marriages cemented Hugh mac Shane's alliances throughout Leinster. Sadbh, daughter of Phelim Boy O'Byrne and sister to Hugh Geangcach O'Byrne of Clonmore, was Hugh mac Shane's first spouse. She was the mother of Feagh and his sister Elizabeth. By 1550 he had taken a new wife, Sadbh O'Toole, daughter of Art Og O'Toole of Castlekevin. Feagh, his heir, first married his cousin Sadbh, daughter of Donal mac Cahir Kavanagh of Sliocht Muircheartaigh Oig. All Feagh's recorded legitimate offspring were by her. By the 1570s they had separated. Sadbh, apparently, had an affair with Feagh's friend, Sir Edmund Butler of Idrone, possibly during his sojourn at Glenmalure in the winter of 1569-70. Ironically, Feagh and his brothers had helped Butler to escape to County Kilkenny from Dublin Castle during November 1569. Not surprisingly, subsequent relations between Feagh and Sir Edmund were sometimes strained. Despite that, Feagh and Sadbh appear to have parted amicably, though reference to her in Feagh's poem book is scant; this may suggest Feagh's private displeasure. Amicable contact is evidenced when Sir Thomas Butler, son of Edmund and Sadbh, acted as executor of the will of Phelim mac Feagh, his half-brother and Feagh's successor, who died in 1631.

Relations were close with the O'Tooles of Castlekevin during Feagh's reign. A more durable partnership, sealed many years later with a marriage contract, was formed in the early 1570s with Rose, a daughter of Feagh mac Art Og O'Toole of Castlekevin. She was probably very young at the time. Feagh further bound Ballinacor and Castlekevin together through the marriages of his younger sons, Phelim and Redmond, to Rose's sisters Una and Katharine. Turlough mac Feagh, Feagh's eldest son, married Dorothy O'Byrne. Their union is intriguing because Dorothy's father, Murchadh mac Edmund O'Byrne of Kiltimon, disliked Feagh intensely, regarding him as an upstart.

Good matches were arranged by Hugh mac Shane for his daughters. Elizabeth, his eldest, married Brian mac Cahir Kavanagh of the Sliocht Diarmaid Laimlidhearg. Brian died in 1578 and she married again, this time to Phelim O'Toole of Powerscourt. Another daughter, Margaret, married Rory Og O'More in November 1572. A third daughter, Honora, married Robert Walsh of Leopardstown. An un-named fourth daughter firstly married Cahir Duff Kavanagh of the Sliocht Airt Buidhe and in 1582 Feagh united her with his ally, Tadgh mac Gillpatrick O'Connor. The discontented Geraldine, Walter

Reagh Fitzgerald, was given the hand of Feagh's own daughter, Margaret, and lived at Croneyhorn near Carnew.

Feagh's diplomatic nexus forged by persuasion, marriage and force formed a web of discontent regularly at odds with the government. Crioch Raghnaill, nestled securely within the great protecting mountain bastions clad in dense forest, became the great centre of Gaelic power in Leinster through the exertions of its lords.

The apparent longevity of Crioch Raghnaill’s lords greatly contributed to their firm grip on their lordship. Other O'Byrne families of the Gabhal Raghnaill resided at Knockrath and Kilcommon. Hugh Duff mac Donnell O’Byrne of Knockrath was a principal follower and counsellor of Hugh mac Shane and, later, Feagh, albeit for a short period. Lordship of Crioch Raghnaill seems to have been elective. The Ballinacor O'Byrnes were first among equals. Their long-lived chiefs monopolised the seigneury by siring able and vigorous lieutenants in their sons. This allowed a concentration of power in a strong family line. Indeed the position of tanaiste was further confined within their family during Feagh's reign. Edmund mac Shane O'Byrne, Hugh mac Shane's half-brother, was Feagh's tanaiste in 1597.

Between 1435-1535 the senior dynasty had eleven known overlords and was often engaged in interfamilial feuding. In contrast Crioch Raghnaill’s had four during this period. Despite being first among equals they swiftly curbed the activities of any ambitious rivals. Feagh tolerated no threats to his power from among his followers. Hugh Duff's designs were considered a threat to Feagh's authority. Apparently Hugh Duff was intent on challenging Feagh. Earl Thomas of Ormond, eager to help, leased the manor of Arklow to him and made him constable of Arklow's castle in April 1584. By 1589 Feagh could tolerate Hugh Duff's ambitions no more. In April the feud exploded. Feagh kidnapped Hugh Duff's wife. Hugh Duff was driven from Knockrath. In October, Feagh took a prey of horses and cattle from Hugh Duff's lands. A visitor to Ballinacor, Hubert mac Fergus O'Farrell, was bestowed with a parting gift of nine of Hugh Duff's stolen horses by Feagh. In the same month Feagh marched to Arklow and before the walls of its castle demanded that Hugh Duff be handed over to him, or else he would storm the stronghold. Hugh Duff held his nerve and Feagh left disappointed.

Part X

The increasing monopoly of power in the hands of the Ballinacor O'Byrnes strengthened their rule in Crioch Raghnaill, greatly facilitating their rise. Through their ambitions and intelligent usage of their near impregnable home in Glenmalure, they outpaced their much weakened traditional overlords. In August 1557 the audacious Hugh mac Shane was pardoned again, though for the government, the signs were ominous. It was against this background that Feagh emerged in early 1563. As the decade wore on he became his father's very able lieutenant. Operating in combination, their power and influence increased. When Hugh mac Shane died in 1579, Feagh proved a worthy successor.

O'Byrne Files Copyright © 2002 N. O'Byrne Most recent revision: Thursday, 25 March 2004

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