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MacBrody, MacBruaideadha

The MacBruaideadha or the MacBrodys, achieved certain prominence even from an early time. They are remembered as a literary family who became attached to the ruling O'Briain and composed much verse in their favour, and particularly in respect of Donnachadh, the 4th Earl of Thomond. They also assembled in a didactive form the genealogy of many other prominent clans which included the O'Deas, O'Gormans, O'Gradys and O'Quinns. Many of these family bards experienced hard times during the 15th and 16th centuries and were witness to many distressing events. They endured the loss of their patrons and a decline in the schools of poetry, often deprived of their position and the security and dignity that went with it. All these events found expression in their historical poetry and provided insights into the changes in the lives of the people following the trauma of the Plantations.

Maolin Óg MacBruiadeadha was the first member to achieve distinction. In an entry from the Annals he is described as "the best poet and historian in Ireland in this time." He was first, historian to the O'Briain, then to the MacGormain and the O'Gradaigh. In a lengthy poem entitled "Curifead Cumain ar Chlann Tail", "I will lay an obligation on Clann of Tail" the pedigree of the O'Briain is traced back from Conor, brother of Morrough, 1st Earl of Thomond to Heber of Milisian times and in it he mentions other families such as Plunkets, Powers and Eustaces, who were connected with the Dalcassian line of descent. In a poem of 276 verses beginning "Tug damh Inis na Laoidh", "Give attention to me, Ennis of the Poems", he names the Princes of the House of the O'Briain that governed Thomond from Cairbreach O'Briain in 1240 to Donnacha in 1588 the 4th Earl, who was head of the dynasty at the time the poem was written.

In another poem of some hundred verses bestowed on the Mac Gormain (O'Gormans) "Deoraidh óna sliocht Cathaoir", "Strangers here in Cathaoirs, race", he again traces their pedigree back to Cathaoir, Monarch of Ireland in A.D. 174 and also notes that the families of O'Phelan, O'Dunn, O'Dempsy and MacColgan descended from this line.

Tadhg Daire MacBruaideadha was a versatile figure who engaged in poetic exchanges and achieved much acclaim for having reawakened the local literary spirit. All this activity arose from an old argument on the relative merits of the O'Briain and the O'Neill, a debate which went on for some years during which time poets from some of the other noble families joined in to take sides, the controversy which later became known as the the Contention of the Bards. As a result much high standard verse has come down to us from the contestants with pithy remarks to be found throughout the various passages.

Taidhg Daire also compiled in 1609, with help from the O'Maolconaires, 'Seanleabhar Muimhneach', 'The Book of Munster', a rare compendium of sagas, seanchas and genealogical charts. In the realm of vision and love poems he has also won regard, for in "Mhacaoimh sheass mo Sheire", "O Maiden who rejects my Love", there is a genuine feeling of expression. An ode composed on the occasion of the Inauguration of Donnachadh O'Briain, contains much salutary advice for the Earl which reveals the elevated position held by the poets at that time:

"Run not according to thine own desire
O Prince of the Boru tribute,
Let the cause of thy people be thy anxiety
Be not therefore negligent with the concerns of each".

Conchubhar (Conor) Mac Bruaideadha was also held in esteem as a scholar and was regularly consulted by up and coming poets and writers. It is recorded that Michael Ó Clérigh once visited his home to check with him on aspects from the great maunal The Annals. The Mac Bruaideadha home was sited in the Townland of Ballybrody, a few miles from the village of Ruan, in the once extensive Toonagh Estate. No remnants are now to be seen, for this learned family lost all their lands during the 17th century while it is said that their literary possessions were scattered far and wide.

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Learned Families of Thomond