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HISTORY OF LIMERICK,
ANCIENT AND MODERN.
FOUNDATION AND OCCUPATION OF THE CITY BY THE DANES ORIGIN OF THE
NAME OF LIMERICK—earliest NOTICES INTRODUCTION OF CHRISTIANITY
INTO WARS OF THE DANES, etc.
The City of Limerick, the principal part of which is built on an island on the South side of the Shannon, is situated in 52° 40' north latitude, and 8° 35' west longitude, at the interior extremity of the estuary of the river Shannon, between the counties of Limerick and Clare, and 129 miles W.S.W. from Dublin. It is a maritime county of a city, occupying an area of 60| square miles, or 88,863 acres, and contained a population of 53,448 in 1851, and of 44,476 in 1861. It is connected by Railway with Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Ennis, Nenagh, Roscrea, and all the intermediate towns, and a line of steamers, the property of the Limerick and London Steam Shipping Company, plies between it and London and Glasgow, &c. At Spring tides vessels of 600 tons burden can moor at its quays; whilst large docks, which were opened in 1858 by Lord St. Germans, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, add to the accommodation for vessels of heavy burden; and from the advantage and beauty of its situation, and the extent of navigation which it commands, it must have been regarded from the earliest times as a port of great importance, although situated so high up the river, and although its navigation is still partially obstructed. The site may have been selected as the first part of the Shannon fordable above its mouth; considering its many advantages, it is not surprising that in distant ages it attracted the attention of those adventurous strangers, who, coming from the rugged coasts and islands of the Baltic, found here what they never met in their various wanderings, a good climate, a rich soil, and peculiar facilities for carrying on their commercial enterprises.1 Though known to the annalists, as we shall presently have occasion to remark, long before the Danish invasion of Ireland, the building of the city is generally referred to the same time and cause as the foundation of Dublin and Waterford, the time being after the second coming of the Scandinavians, who on this latter occasion chose the best parts of the island, which they fortified in such a way as the exigencies of the times and the circumstances of the locali
ties required, and made them the centres and bases of their commercial and military enterprises. Whilst Dublin and Waterford could boast of superior advantages from their closer proximity to the sea, Limerick possessed an admitted superiority in other respects. It commanded a noble river, crowded with fish, which bore the ships of the strangers in safety into the interior of a wealthy country, which with many other recommendations, made a strong impression in after times on King John of England, and caused the city of Limerick long to retain its pride of place as "the fairest of all the cities in Minister."1
Limerick has been the capital of North Munster (Tuath Mhumha), which, according to Keating, extended from Lehn Choncuhulainn (Loop Head) to Bealach Mor (Ballaghmore, in Upper Ossory), and from Sheoh Echtghe (Slieve Aughty, on the frontiers of the counties of Clare and Galway) to Shebh Ebhlinne (now Sleibhte Fheidhlinmidh, in the county of Tipperary). The southern boundary of this great territory is still preserved in that of the diocese of Killaloe. The kings of Limerick, according to the Book of Rights, gave tribute to the kings of Casbel.*
The notices which occur in ancient writers of the history of Limerick, anterior to the coming of the Danes, are neither numerous nor reliable. It has been supposed to be the liegia of Ptolemy, a writer who derived his information from the discoveries made by the Romans between the age of Augustus and the Antanines,8 but the name of Rosse-de-Nailleagh, as it is designated in the Annals of Multifarnham, is of higher antiquity, and that of Luimneagh, occurring in the Psalter of Cashel, so far back as A.M. 2870, and A.M. 3973, when Ireland was divided, and Luimneach fixed as the western extremity of the southern half.
Hollinshed, who describes Limerick as being amongst the principal cities of Ireland of his own time, viz., in the middle of the sixteenth century, gives an explanation of the origin of the name of Limerick which more authentic enquiries prove to be apocryphal. Admitting the building of the city by Yvorus, he says that at an epoch previous to its foundation, the ground which it subsequently occupied was an island stored with grass, upon which in old times one of the Irish potentates, while waging war against another native king, had encamped; and of which his numerous cavalry eat up the grass in the space of twenty-four hours. From which circumstance he says the place was called "Loum-ne-augh," that is to say, made bare, or eaten up by horses. But in a very ancient legend, which is preserved in the books of Lecan and Ballynwte, and which describes the origin of the name in words translated for us from the original by the late lamented Professor (yCurry, a dialogue takes place in which, in reply to the question, "Luimneach, why so called?" the following answer is given :—There was an appointed meeting held here of the men of Munster and the men of Connaught, to which the respective kings of both parties brought their gladiators. These were the two sons of Smucaille, the son of Bacdbh, and their names were Binn and Teabhar (that is, Spear and Sword). Of these champions, one put himself under the protection of Bonhbh Dearg (Bone the Bed), the great Tuath Dedanaan Chief of Mag Femen in Tipperary; and the other had taken the protection of Dehall, chief of the Hill of Crudchain (in Boscommon). These champions having met in the assembly, exhibited specimens of their gladiatorial accomplishments, after which, they descended to the strand to compete in single combat for the championship of the two Provinces. The hosts, on both sides, were clad in gray-green " Luimins" (cloaks), and when the combat commenced, and the assembled crowds pressed down to see and enjoy it, the heat became so great, that they threw off their "Luimins," in heaps on the strand; and so intensely was their attention engaged by the combatants, that they did not perceive the flowing of the tide until it had swept them away, upon which some of the spectators cried out—" Is Luimenochola in t-inbhear anossa," i.e. " cloaky or cloakful is the river now," hence the name Luimenach. "From this legend it would appear," says Mr. O'Curry in his letter to the author, "that Luimeneach-Liathanglas, (and not Lethanglass) or Luimenach of the Gray Green, was the proper old name of Limerick." It is thus it is written in Bumann's Extempore poem on the sea, composed for the Danes of Dublin before A.D. 742, in which year Bumann died.1
» "The King of fair Casaill,"
He is entitled from the Chief of Luimneach of the Sea
To a splendid cheering banquet,
Thirty vats it is known,
With the necessary viands. Book Of Rights.
The Restrictions of the King of wide Luimneach [are]
And there he aspire to Hand book Of Rights, p. 26S.
An early record of the name of Limerick is contained in the Annals of the Four Masters,2 where in the 15th year of King Comiac (A.D. 221) a battle, we are told, was fought here. A battle, at the same time was fought at a
Elace which is supposed to be the Hill of Grian, over Pallasgrene, in the barony of Coonagh, Co. Limerick.8 In a century afterwards, viz. in the year 334, the Great Crunthaun, tine of the most remarkable of the ancient Kings of Ireland, a descendant from Oliall Ollum of the line of Heber, died in Limerick. This king succeeded Eochaidh Moighmeodhin upon the throne, reigned seventeen years, carried his name into Britain in the reign of Valentinian, where he was aided by the Picts, who were then his tributaries,—thence sailing to Armorica, now Bretagne, in France, he plundered that country, and returned with great booty and hostages to Ireland.' He is also mentioned by others of our early annalists and historians, and the occasion of his death is related as having been caused by the wickedness of his sister, who administered to him a dose of poison.8
Lovely and attractive for the charms with which even in far distant times it was surrounded, Limerick, soon after the arrival in Ireland of the Apostle St. Patrick, received the inestimable blessing of Christianity. We are told that in the year 434, the first district which St. Patrick visited, after his departure from Cashel, was the extensive flat portion of country between Cashel and Limerick called Muscrighe Breogain. The apostle founded several churches in the district, and left some of his teachers at one of them, viz. Kilfeacte. Thence he went to the territory called Arva-cliach, in the adjacent counties of Tipperary and Limerick, in part of which, Hy-Ouanach (now the Barony of Coonagh) he was at first instantly opposed by the dynast Oldid. But a miracle having been performed by the Saint, Oldid and his family were converted and baptised; while at Ara-chihach, Colgan states that Patrick foretold many occurrences, among others the foundation of a monastery at Kill-ratha, and of a church at Kill-teidhill, in the county of Limerick. We find the Saint next in the tract of country east of Limerick, where he was hospitably entertained by a chieftain named Locan, and met with young Nessan, whom at the same time he placed over the monastery of Mungret, which he had founded. The inhabitants of Thomond, hearing of the advent of St. Patrick, crossed the Shannon, for the purpose of seeing him, and when they were instructed, were baptised by him in the field of Tir Glas (Terry Glass, in Ormond). He was waited on by prince Carthen, son of Blod, who is said to have been converted and baptised at Sanigeal, now Singland, near Limerick. Colgan remarks that this family was the same as that of the O'Briens of Thomond, and that Carthen was the chieftain of North Munster.
1 Petrie's Sound Towers.
1 Annals of the Four Masters. O'Donovan's Edition, Vol. I., p. 118.
» Ibid. Note.
4 Bede and Psalter of Cashel.
• "Having won many battles and wonderful fame, notwithstanding his fine accomplishments, Criomthan could not secure himself from the large attempts of his sister, Mung Fionn, who poisoned him with a prospect to obtain the crown for her son Brian, whom she had by Eochaidh Moighmedhin. However, the better to oblige the king to take the fatal dose, she drank it herself, which also dispatched her at Innis Dongulas. The king died near Limerick,"
St. Patrick, on his way to Connaught, passed the Shannon at Limerick; and it was in the vicinity of the city, in Singland (Sois Angel) the Saint is said to have seen the vision of the angel. The holy well and stony bed and altar of St. Patrick are to this day existing in England. Tradition speaks of his having preached here. He appointed first Bishop of Limerick Saint Manchin, "a religious man, having a complete knowledge of the Scriptures, and placed him over the subjects of Amailgaid, King of Connaught, then lately converted to the Christian faith. The mountain of Knock Patrick, in the western barony of Connoloe, county of Limerick, the base of which is washed by the Shannon, whose course for sixty miles may be traced from its summit, is the place from which tradition alleges our Apostle to have blessed Connaught.1 We thus catch a glimpse, through the dimness and obscurity of distant time, of the halo which encircled the name and character of Limerick. We thus perceive the close acquaintance which its inhabitants made with Christianity, when Europe for the greater part was shrouded in the darkness of Pagan superstition. Were we in search of further evidences of the early Christian devotion of the eople of the district, it is supplied by abundant facts. In the fifth century it. Sinan founded the monastery of Canons Regulars of St. Augustine at the island of Inniscathy, on the Shannon. In the sixth century St. Ita, an illustrious native of the county, whose festival is celebrated on the 14th of January, founded at Cluain Credhail (Kileedy), a nunnery of Canonesses Regular of St. Augustine. St. Eden founded Clum Claidech in the same century, and St. Mochelloch, Kilmallock, in the seventh century—these two last mentioned were for Canons Regular of St. Augustine.3
'A beautiful sonnet from the pen of the late Sir Aubrey do Vere, Bart of Curragh Chase, embodies the tradition in language of fire and beauty.—Lamentation nf Ireland and other Poems.
* Allemande gives the order of St. Augustine the first place before all others that were in Ireland—first, because it is the most ancient of all the regular orders in general—deriving its origin from the apostles themselves, and allowing St. Augustine, afterwards Bishop of Hippo, in Africa, only to have formed a particular congregation, which was subsequently divided into many others—secondly, it is certain that the particular rules which prevailed in this country in the 6th, 6th, and 7th centuries, consisted of religious men who were regular canons, or something so like them, that at the time in which those rules were obliged to be incorporated into the rule of St. Benedict, or into that of the Regular Canons of St. Augustine, they all made choice of the latter, as being much more agreeable to them than that of St. Benedict. In short, so numerous were the monasteries of the Regular Canons of St. Augustine, not only in the early ages of the Irish Church, but at the suppression of the monastic institutions by Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, that the number of houses then are said to have had, far and away, exceeded tbe houses of the other orders.—De Burgo's Historical Collections, $c.
Doubt has existed as to the date of the foundation by St. Manchan of the Cathedral of Limerick, and as to the time the Saint lived, but this arises from the similarity of the name with that of Mancheus, whom the Annals of Ulster call Abbot of Menedrochit, and say that he died in 651 or G52. The commemoration of the death of Mancheus is pointed out under the name of Manicheus, the "Wise Irishman," in the books de Mirabilibm Scripturie, by some erroneously ascribed to St. Augustine. The name too, not only is not unlike, but the times occur exactly, the festival of St. Manchin being celebrated in January.1 St. Manchin lived two centuries at least before the period assigned to St. Mancheus by the martyrologies. The Annals of Innisfallen, A.D. 567, state there was a great battle fought here in that year. It was here that Saint Cumin Fodha, son of Fiachna, Bishop of Clamfearta Breainirn now Clonfert, died on the 12th of November, A.D. 661, and on this occasion Colman-na-Claisagh, the tutor of Cumin, composed these suggestive and touching verses which show that the Shannon then was called by the name of Lumineach:—
"The Lumineach did not hear on its bosom of the race of Leathclaiun,
Corpse in a boat so precious as he, as Cnraiue son of Fiachna;
If any one went across the sea to sojourn at the seat of Gregory, (Rome,)
If from Ireland, he rejoices in none more than the name of Cumin Fodha>
I sorrow after Cummine from the day his shrine was covered,
My eyelids have been dropping tears; I have not laughed, but mourned
Since the lamentation of his barque."2
These verses establish the fact of the constant intercourse of Ireland with Rome, the uninterrupted devotion of the Irish Bishops to "the mother and mistress of all Churches."
Becords of the barbarous and unrelenting cruelties of the Danes, of sacrilegious attacks made by them on those sacred edifices and holy men which were now becoming numerous, are found in the Annals long before Yorus surrounded the city with a wall, and erected the fortress which enabled his countrymen to hold their position for some ages after against the combined strength and opposition of the native Irish. In 843 Foranan, Primate of Armagh, was taken prisoner at Cluan-Combarda,3 (a place unidentified by the commentators) with his relics and people, and brought by the pirates to their ships at Limerick. The statement is corroborated by the Annals of Clonmacnoise, which designate Forannan Abbot of Armagh, and allege that the crime was perpetrated by the Danes at Cloneowardy, adding that his family, attendants, &c, relics and books, were led from thence to the ships in Limerick.
Our annals, during those dark and dismal ages, present but little, on which to dwell with satisfaction. The Danes, to retain their hold of maritime places, were busy and aggressive. The Irish in turn revenged the injuries and injustices of their cruel oppressors; but in the midst of every difficulty and danger, religion was speeding its bright way. The succession of bishops, in several of the Irish sees, had continued with regularity since the preaching of St Patrick.4 Up to this period " Luimenach" was the original name of the
I Ware. * Annals of the Four Matters.
'Annals of the Four Masters. • Ware.