Dermot MacMurrough, king of Leinster, abducted the wife of O’Rourke, king of Breifne, in 1152. He kept her for a year. O’Rourke waited until 1166 until an opportunity for revenge presented itself.
MacMurrough’s power-base in Leinster had weakened over the years and his most powerful allies were now dead. O’Rourke, now supported by various north Leinster factions moved against MacMurrough from the north and the Norsemen of Wexford prepared to attack him from the south. His situation was hopeless, his base in Ferns was taken and his palace sacked.
When O’Rourke destroyed his lands in Ferns, MacMurrough sailed with some of his loyal followers. It was 1166. He landed at Bristol, and from there he went to look for King Henry II of England, who was currently at war with the French; he finally found him at Aquitane.
This was not the first time Henry had considered an Invasion of Ireland and with MacMurrough now requesting assistance, he did not want to waste the opportunity. Henry was unable to start another war at present, but to keep MacMurrough as a friend he did a number of things: he accepted his fealty, promised help, and gave him gifts.
Journeying through Wales and Pembrokeshire, MacMurrough secured the aid of others, these included FitzHenry, Carew, FitzGerald, Barry, Prendergast, Fleming, Roche, Cheever and Synott. Having gathered this support, MacMurrough sailed for Ireland, in 1167. He did recover Ferns, but was soon attacked by his old enemy, O’Rourke, as well as O’Connor – he was forced to submit, and ended up giving O’Rourke gold for past damages.
Photo: Clough Castle, County Down