Arrival of the Normans

The invasion of Anglo-Normans in Ireland was a turning point in Irish history and is considered an important era. Although the conquest of the Normans was short lived in Ireland, approx 200 years...

Their occupation had a huge influence in Ireland some of which is still evident to this day. When the King of Leinster, Diarmait Mac Murchada, was stripped of his Kingdom by the High King of Ireland, Ruaidri Ua Conchobair, he turned to King Henry II of England for help. Mac Murchada pledged an oath of allegiance to King Henry and in return the English King gave permission for his soldiers and mercenaries to help Mac Murchada regain his Kingdom back in Ireland.

Mac Murchada found it difficult rallying enough support in Wales to build a large enough army that could overthrow the High King of Ireland. However, he did manage to create an alliance with Richard fitz Gilbert de Clar, 2nd Earl of Pembroke by offering him an Irish Kingdom at his death but also his hand in marriage to his Irish daughter, Aoife MacMurrough. On 1 May 1169 the Norman military invasion of Ireland headed by Diarmait Mac Murchada began with Wexford falling first. Mac Murchada’s new army went on to launching raids in the Kingdom of Ossory, the territories of the Uí Tuathail, the Uí Broin, and the Uí Conchobhair. The invading force made its way to Tara to remove Conchobair as High King but they underestimated his ruthlessness.

Normans to Clones

Some time in the middle of the 11th., century the Fir Fearnmhaighe, or men of Farney, left their headquarters at Loch Uaithne and went up to south Monaghan. The chief family of this group, the O'Carrolls, later became kings of Airghialla. Their going,  left a political vacuum in North West Monaghan, but by 1100 this vacuum was filled by the 0'Boylans who were kings or Lords of Dartry.

Then the Normans arrived in 1169. The O'Carroll kings were unable to withstand them and they suffered severely. In an effort to retain control O'Caroroll allied himself with the Normans and they attacked Armagh, Trough, and the North of Farney, presumably the Clones area. There was a contest between the 0'Boylans and the new rising power of Mac Mahon for the control of North West Monaghan. Mac Mahon got the Normans to assist him and it is indicative that the last reference to the O'Boylans of Dartry occurs in 1202. Once the Normans were invited they were loath to leave. In 1207 Hugh de Lacey burned Tydavnet, Kilmore and Clones. The Normans under Bishop John de Grey of Norwich, came to Clones and built a castle on the fort, but it was burned the following year.  No doubt it was a wooden structure as the Normans did not build a stone castle until they had consolidated themselves in an area.

This castle was a motte and bailey structure, the motte being still visible as is the moat at its base. The bailey would have extended in the direction of the modern Church of Ireland cemetery. The Normans never returned. The Mac Mahons superseded the O'Boylans as rulers of Dartry and gradually extended their sway over all Monaghan. By 1296 they had established an overlordship over Clankelly in modern Fermanagh. In that year Eochaidh Mac Domhnaill was chieftain of one part of Clankelly, and Mac Maoilruanaigh chieftain of the other part of Clankelly.

Mac Mahon regarded Clones as the most important ecclesiastical centres of his kingdom and it was in Clones that many of the chieftains were laid to rest. In 1443 Manus Mac Mahon one fit to be king for hospitality and for prowess and for general protection to the ( learned ) companies of Ireland and Scotland, was buried in Clones. In 1453 Aedh Rua, the Mac Mahon chieftain. although his headquarters were at Lurgan beside Carrickmacross was buried in Clones,  a courteous pious man that was best in hospitality and prowess of his country and that had the best knowledge of every science that he heard of died on Easter Eve in his own house in Lurgan. The coarb of Clones, the successor of Tiarnach, was one of the five lawful members of the council of Airghialla, what might be termed Mac Mahon's Privy Council or Cabinet.