]> Early Kings Of Connacht • R-A259 Uí Briúin Connachta

Early Kings Of Connacht

Gold Crown
Length (Years)Start (A.D.)End (A.D.)
Amalgaid mac FiachrachUF34 (32)383416
Duach GalachUB19417435
Eógan SremUB37436472
Ailill ua Briúin?UB9 (9)473481
Duach Tenga UmaUB{19}482500
Eochaid TírmchárnaUB20501520
Eógan BélUF{17}521537
Ailill InbandaUF{4}538541
Feradach mac RossaUF3542544
Mael Fothaid mac Mael UmaeUF3545547
Áed mac Echach TírmchárnaUB22548569
Uata mac Áeda meic Echach TírmchárnaUB28570597
Colmán mac CobthaigUF25 (21)598622
UB = Uí Briúin
UF = Uí Fiachrach
(n) length of reign from John O’Donovan’s The Genealogies, Tribes, And Customs Of Hy-Fiachrach
{n} interpolated length of reign from surrounding dates, lengths, and possible conflations
  1. The primary source for the preceding King List is Lebar na Núachongbála AKA Book Of Leinster.

    Book Of Leinster 01
  2. The starting date of Brión’s reign is derived from the date of Eochaid Mugmedón’s death in 362 A.D. from Daniel P. McCarthy’s The Chronology Of The Irish Annals.
  3. The ending date of Colmán mac Cobthaig’s reign in 622 A.D. is also from Daniel P. McCarthy’s The Chronology Of The Irish Annals.
  4. Ailill Molt has been deleted from the King List due to the analysis of the following records, beginning with this one in The Annals Of Clonmacnois:

    The Annals Of Clonmacnois 01

    It is a reasonable assumption that this is Nath Í AKA Dathi whom the Annals Of The Four Masters list as dying in 428 A.D.:

    Annals Of The Four Masters 01

    However, where the Annals Of The Four Masters give the pedigree of Nath Í as being the grandson of Eochaid Mugmedón, The Annals Of Clonmacnois carefully call him the son of Fiaghra of Ulster. This leads to the idea that Fiaghra of Ulster might be Fiacha mac Néill, and so Nath Í is the grandson of Niall.

    Further, when reading through the records there is a distinct impression that Dathi mac Fiachrach, who is equated to Nath Í, is purely a fabrication that was derived from or conflated with Duach Galach and Nath Í. His records have more of a mythical/legendary hero tale to them than a straightforward annalistic account. In Hy-Fiachrach, Dathi is listed separately from the other four sons of Fiachra, which lends credence to the idea he is a later add-on. Also, Dathi is supposedly the cognomen of Feradhach mac Fiachrach:

    The Genealogies, Tribes, And Customs Of Hy-Fiachrach 01
    The Genealogies, Tribes, And Customs Of Hy-Fiachrach 02

    The possible conflation with Duach Galach becomes very apparent in this excerpt from the poem by Torna Eigeas:

    The Genealogies, Tribes, And Customs Of Hy-Fiachrach 03
    The Genealogies, Tribes, And Customs Of Hy-Fiachrach 04

    It is interesting to note that a mystical revelation was required in order to find Dathi’s tomb. Then, according to different versions of the poem, Dathi is called a man of dignity, or anger, or fierceness, or valor. But from eDIL, Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language, the word galach has the following meaning:

    Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language 01

    This combines most of the qualities variously ascribed to Dathi. It seems possible that different scribes used different words than galach to avoid any connection with Duach Galach, or with Dungalach the vehement named later in the poem. Of course, the name Dungalach the vehement is suggestive in and of itself as a reference to Duach Galach.

    So, taking all of these records together, it certainly raises the question of the actual existence of “Dathi mac Fiachrach meic Echach Mugmedóin” and leaves open the possibility of Nath Í mac Fiachu meic Néill. This likely fabrication/conflation was possibly done deliberately to elevate the position of the Uí Fiachrach and deemphasize the role of the Uí Briúin in the early years of the Connachta; and it may have been done with the complicity, or at least acquiescence, of the Uí Néill. If one accepts that Nath Í was Uí Néill and not Uí Fiachrach, then it follows that Ailill Molt, as the son of Nath Í, was also Uí Néill and that it was unlikely he was both a King of Connacht and Ard-Rí na hÉireann. This also removes the anomaly of two generations of Uí Fiachrach Ard-Rí na hÉireann near the beginning of the Uí Néill dynasty.

  5. The Book of Leinster King List has a chronology problem with placing Eógan Bél and Ailill Inbanda immediately after Duach Galach. According to The Annals Of Clonmacnois:

    The Annals Of Clonmacnois 02

    This places Duach Galach as King of Connacht in 425 A.D., which fits the proposed King List presented at the beginning. But The Annals Of Clonmacnois then go on to record:

    The Annals Of Clonmacnois 03

    while the Annals Of The Four Masters record:

    Annals Of The Four Masters 02

    This places the death of Eógan Bél well over a century after the time of Duach Galach and makes it improbable that Eógan Bél and Ailill Inbanda immediately succeeded him. However, both the Book of Leinster (see above image) and The Annals Of Clonmacnois have the following order: Eógan Bél, Ailill Inbanda, Duach Tenga Uma, Eochaid Tírmchárna, and Feradach mac Rossa.

    The Annals Of Clonmacnois 04

    However, when examining the entry for Ailill Inbanda in the King List of the Book of Leinster, there are two lines that are illegible; but from the structure of the rest of the list, it appears that it is sequentially recording the death of two different Ailills. Further, it records Eógan Bél as Eógan Bél mac Duach! All of this taken together raises the likelihood that a conflation occurred wherein there were two sets of an Ailill succeeding an Eógan and that one set was deleted. However, when doing so it left a hole in the chronology and so Ailill Molt was inserted. Further, it is proposed that the lengths of reign were very similar when written in the original, non-subtractive notation Roman numeric style: 37 (xxxuii) and 17 (xuii) in the case of the Eógans and 9 (uiiii) and 4 (iiii) in the case of the Ailills. This would also make it easy to conflate the two sets of names.

    The lengths of reign selected might appear to be very arbitrary at first glance, but both King Lists in the excerpted records do show Eochaid Tírmchárna succeeding Duach Tenga Uma; which makes sense since Duach Tenga Uma was concerned enough about Eochaid Tírmchárna as a threat to have him imprisoned and was subsequently slain because of that in 500 A.D. by his own son-in-law, as all the records show. The natural progression would then be for Eochaid Tírmchárna to succeed immediately. His length of reign is recorded as 20 years, and since we previously have the earliest date of death for Eógan Bél as 537 A.D., then his length of reign would be 17 years. Further, the two kings after Ailill Inbanda are recorded as reigning for only 3 years each, so a length of reign of 4 years for Ailill Inbanda seems well within the realm of likelihood in what was obviously a period of conflict. Also, the combined length of reign of 21 years dovetails closely enough with the (herein asserted) fabricated length of reign of 20 years for Ailill Molt as King of Connacht.

    So who were the deleted Eógan and Ailill? The first one is answered by the pedigree given for Eógan Bél as mac Duach. This immediately points to the deleted Eógan as being Eógan Srem, the son of Duach Galach; and it was he who reigned for 37 years after immediately succeeding his father.

    However, who the deleted Ailill was is not so apparent and cannot be readily ascertained. While it is tempting to use the same logic and say that since the deleted Ailill in the guise of Ailill Inbanda is given the pedigree of the son of Eógan, then Ailill must be the son of Eógan Srem. However, in this case there is no ready genealogy that has a son of Eógan Srem named Ailill. Probably it was another Uí Briúin scion, which would then keep the Kingship of Connacht firmly in Uí Briúin hands from the reign of Duach Galach to Eochaid Tírmchárna without an anomalous 9 year reign by an Uí Fiachrach in the middle. So it is proposed that it was this lost Uí Briúin scion named Ailill, designated as “Ailill ua Briúin?”, that succeeded Eógan Srem, reigned for 9 years, and was conflated with Ailill Molt and Ailill Inbanda in the King List of the Book of Leinster. It is probably also his obituary that has been lost in the entry for Ailill Inbanda.

    It must certainly be pointed out that Ailill Inbanda’s pedigree is indubitably questionable. The records in Hy-Fiachrach are self-contradictory:

    The Genealogies, Tribes, And Customs Of Hy-Fiachrach 05


    The Genealogies, Tribes, And Customs Of Hy-Fiachrach 06

    So Ailill Inbanda is variously the brother, son, or grandson of Eógan Bél. This is further confused by the fact that Eógan Bél is only attributed with two sons: Ceallach and Cuchongelt; or is it Ceallach and Muireadhach? Nowhere does Cuchongelt appear to be explicitly equated to Muireadhach. This makes it highly questionable that Ailill Inbanda was either a son or grandson of Eógan Bél. That leaves him as Eógan Bél’s brother as Hy-Fiachrach does state at one point; but this is by no means a definitive statement of their exact relationship.

    Then, Ailill Inbanda is also either slain by Áed mac Echach Tírmchárna, or by Fearghus and Domhnall, two sons of Muircheartach mac Earca, as the Annals Of The Four Masters record it:

    Annals Of The Four Masters 03

    These accounts of two different deaths support the conclusion that there were two different Ailills that were conflated; so, as stated previously, a placeholder “Ailill ua Briúin?” has been inserted for the deleted Ailill.

    Lastly, both Ailill Inbanda and Eógan Bél are claimed to be descendants of Ailill Molt. But as was stated previously, that claim has been rejected. What is left is that perhaps there was a son of Feradhach mac Fiachrach named Ailill who was conflated with Ailill Molt, just as Feradhach mac Fiachrach was conflated with Duach Galach and Nath Í ua Néill. It is unlikely that this Ailill mac Feradhaig meic Fiachrach could be the deleted Ailill in the King List due to the time frame involved; which, again, is why the placeholder “Ailill ua Briúin?” has been inserted for the deleted Ailill. All of this leaves the antecedents of Ailill Inbanda very murky so that the only conclusion that can be drawn is that he was a reasonably close relative of Eógan Bél; but the exact nature of their relationship is unclear, as are their specific pedigrees, beyond being Uí Fiachrach.

  6. The Book of Leinster and The Annals Of Clonmacnois make it quite clear that Duach Galach and Duach Tenga Uma are two separate individuals. The separation in time between them provided by the proposed King List presented at the beginning certainly allows for the traditional genealogy of Duach Tenga Uma mac Fergusa meic Muiredaig Máil meic Eógain Sreim meic Duaí Galaig to be possible. It seems clear that claims of duplication between Duach Galach and Duach Tenga Uma by historians such as Francis J. Byrne in his Irish Kings And High-Kings are very much incorrect. While it may seem unlikely that they both had the same length of reign of 19 years, it is nonetheless well within the realm of possibility.

    It should be mentioned that the time frame given for Duach Galach makes it more likely he was a grandson of Brión rather than a son. However, it is certainly possible that he was a child born near or even shortly after Brión’s death in 370 A.D.; sadly, a not uncommon occurrence for the children of soldiers/warriors even today.

  7. Finally, it should be pointed out that in the proposed King List presented at the beginning, the death dates of Duach Tenga Uma (500 A.D.), Eógan Bél (537 A.D.), Feradach mac Rossa (544 A.D.), and Mael Fothaid mac Mael Umae (547 A.D.) do align with death dates of a King of Connacht in the records excerpted above, albeit not necessarily with the king named in the record. This is not an uncommon occurrence, particularly for more obscure kings, wherein the recording scribe was out of date as to the current king and used the name of the king that he last knew. It is emphatically stated that this synchronicity of dates was not artificially contrived but occurred strictly as a result of the assumption of conflation of lengths of reign as explained previously.