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Ordnance Survey Letters by John O'Donovan and Eugene Curry, 1839

Parish of Killaloe (c)

On the summit of the hill opposite the Bridge of Killaloe stood Brian Boroo’s Palace of Kincora but not a trace of it is now visible. It must have extended from the verge of the hill over the Shannon to where the present R.C. Chapel stands. I fear that it will be impracticable to shew its site on the Ordnance Map as no field works are visible. Ceann Coradh means “Head of the Weir.” Of the history of this place little or nothing is known, but from the few references to it we occasionally find we may safely infer that it was first erected by Brian Imperator Scotorum and that it was not more than two centuries inhabited by his successors. I here translate all the references to it in the Annals of the Four Masters.

A.D. 1010. Brian (Boroo) marched an army to Magh Corainn and took with him the Lord of Kinel Connell, Malrony O’Muldorry, in subjection to Kincora.

A.D. 1012. Many fortresses (dangans) were erected by Brian, viz., the Caher of Ceann Coradh of Inis Gaill Duibh and Inis Loch Saighleann, etc.

A.D. 1061. Hugh O’Connor marched an army to Ceann Coradh and demolished the Dun (fortress) destroyed the wall of the well and ate its two salmons, and also burned Killaloe.

(Dr. O’Conor translates this passage entirely incorrectly either intentionally or from want of knowledge, but we have Mageoghegan’s translation of it, made in 1627, which is very correct. - J. O’D).

A.D. 1086. Torlogh O’Brien, King of Ireland, cum renitentia, died at Ceann Coradh in the 22nd year of his reign.

A.D. 1088. Donnell Mac Loughlin, King of Aileach, demolished and destroyed the walls of Ceann Coradh and took 160 hostages consisting of Danes and Irish!

A.D. 1101. Murtagh destroyed the Grianan of Aileach in revenge of Ceann Coradh, which had been destroyed and its walls demolished by Donnell Mac Loughlin sometime before, and Murtagh ordered his army to carry home from Aileach to Limerick a stone for every sack of provisions which they had with them. - Quat. Mag.

This passage was published in the Ordnance Memoir, but since that time a most curious illustration of it has been discovered by Mr. Eugene Curry in making a catalogue of the Irish MSS. of Messrs. Hodges and Smith, Dublin.

It is in a poem addressed to Donogh, the son of Mahon O’Brien by his Bard Malmurry Magrath. He exhorts the Chieftain to retort on his enemies as his great ancestor Murtagh More O’Brien had done on the northern Hy-Niall, who on one occasion had treated him and his subjects with indignity.

He then tells Donogh the whole story: On one occasion (in 1088) the descendants of Niall Glundubh, a formidable people, came to the south and treated the noble race of the Dal Cais with indignity. They commanded them to carry on their shoulders as much of the timber of the southern country as would roof a house. The numerous hosts of the heroes of Limerick were obliged to obey this insulting command; they carried as much of beautiful hazel timber as would roof a house from their own country to Aileach, and with it roofed a house within the Rath of the beautiful Aileach. Until the time of Murtogh More of Battles, this house remained as a seal (mark) of strength and superiority with the Hy-Niall; but the great Murtogh, choice of men, invaded the northern country with a strong force to revenge this insult upon the race of Niall; he arrives at Aileach, demolishes the Grianan and compels the Ultonian army to carry its stones to Limerick. This was, no doubt, a noble retaliation worthy of the King of the south; and though the heroes of the red-armed Aileach were grieved and mortified by the act, they carried the dry habitation with them to Limerick. Be it known to us of the exploits of Murtagh that he carried the lofty Grianan of Aileach and fixed it on the sunny wall of Limerick! What a glorious triumph over the northerns? The Bard then goes on to describe the splendor and magnificence of Donogh O’Brien’s fortress at Limerick, which, he says, is superior to Aileach in the days of its greatest splendor. To go with the Annals of the Palace of Kincora:

A.D. 1107. Ceann Coradh and Cashel were burned by lightning in the first week after Easter, and sixty vats of Metheglin and Brogoid (Beer. W. Bragod) were destroyed.

A.D. 1118. Torlogh O’Conor, at the head of a great army of the Connacians, marched to the Palace of Ceann Coradh and hurled it, both stones and timber, into the Shannon.

Such was the end of the famous Palace of Brian Boroo! hurled into the Shannon by Connaughtmen!

In the Townland of Ballyvally (Baile Ui Mhothla) about three-quarters of a mile to the north of Killaloe and near the western bank of the Shannon is a fort called Beal Borumha, where it is said the Emperor Brian received the Borumean tribute from the Lagenians. It is a fort of earth and presents no feature worthy of remark. This is the fort which Dutton (poor man) thought was the ruin of the Palace of Kincora. The name of Kincora will be preserved in that of Kincora Lodge, a neat little house belonging to Mr. Thos. O’Brien situated not far from the site of the Palace of his great ancestor.