Author Topic: Battle of Athenry 1316  (Read 3850 times)

Tim

  • Society Member
  • Posts: 1614
  • Country: england
  • Interests: Wargaming, History
Battle of Athenry 1316
« on: October 13, 2015, 08:10:24 PM »
Mr H.

Given that next year will be (or possibly won't be) the 700th anniversay of the Battle of Athenry and there is almost no useful information available in any of the sources, what are you planning to tease our interest with in the coming 12 months?

Regards
Tim
  • Timothy Myall

Mick Hession

  • Society Member
  • Posts: 718
  • Country: ie
  • Interests: Mainstream wargaming. All ancient periods/areas but especially medieval/Irish & Far East
Re: Battle of Athenry 1316
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2015, 08:46:26 PM »
hi Tim

As you say, sources on Athenry are thin so I'm not sure I can say an awful lot more than I did in my piece on the Bruce invasion a while ago. By way of alternatives I've got a couple of articles almost done, on Richard II's Irish campaigns and Manx Vikings (going foreign for once) and will be sending them to Paul shortly.

Cheers
Mick

  • Mick Hession

Paul Innes

  • Society Member
  • Posts: 475
  • Country: 00
    • Caliban's gaming blog
  • Interests: 25/28mm ancients and 15mm Napoleonics
Re: Battle of Athenry 1316
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2015, 08:49:32 PM »
Oh goody, I'm looking forward to seeing those!

Thanks, Mick
  • Paul Innes

Mick Hession

  • Society Member
  • Posts: 718
  • Country: ie
  • Interests: Mainstream wargaming. All ancient periods/areas but especially medieval/Irish & Far East
Re: Battle of Athenry 1316
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2015, 02:33:21 PM »
The battle of Athenry, August 10th 1316AD

Protagonists: Felim O’Connor, Irish king of Connacht V William De Burgh and Richard De Bermingham.     

Summary:   This battle took place in the context of Edward Bruce’s invasion of Ireland. Felim O’Connor had been a staunch ally of the Anglo-Irish, who had recently helped him defeat his usurping cousin Ruairi, but their consistent failure to beat Bruce led him to change sides. He assembled a great coalition of the Irish of Connacht as well as contingents from Meath and Munster.  According to contemporaries the army was huge - Anglo-Irish estimates put it at over 12,000 men which is undoubtedly an exaggeration but it does appear to have been significantly larger than normal so probably several thousand men.   

After devastating central Connacht Felim’s host marched on the unwalled town of Athenry, one of the few centres of English settlement in the province. It was defended by the Anglo-Irish of Connacht led by Richard De Bermingham and William De Burgh. The actual course of the battle is not described by any of our sources but it was a disaster for the Irish with a claimed 5,000 dead of whom 1,500 were beheaded, which I presume to mean decapitated after capture.

Casualties among the Irish nobility were particularly heavy and included Felim himself along with 29 other named individuals. An indication of the death toll among the Irish nobility is that so much armour was taken as loot that the sale of half of it funded the building of walls for the town; this suggests that the nobles fought in the thick of the battle and probably on foot as in the contemporary battle of Corcomroe (see http://soa.org.uk/sm/index.php?topic=229.0 ).
There were no galloglaich leaders among the dead, probably because the McRory clan (the traditional suppliers of O’Connor galloglaich) had suffered very heavy losses fighting for Ruairi against Felim and were unable or unwilling to take part. 

The Anglo-Irish army was smaller than Felim's and included an Irish contingent as the Annals of Innisfallen say “And with the English [in the battle] there were many Irish, such as Muirchertach, son of Turlough Ó Brien, and even Mathgamain, son of Donal Connachtach Ó Brien”     

The Sources
As was noted by Mark at the top of the thread, the sources for this battle are exiguous. All of the Irish Annals that mention it say pretty much the same thing. The version in the Annals of Ulster is typical – it’s at http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T100001B/index.html   (misdated to 1313 – I’ve modernised the proper nouns and tidied up the language for clarity somewhat)

“A great hosting was undertaken by Felim together with the nobles of Connacht and with Donnchadh O'Brien, king of Munster and O'Melaghlin, king of Meath and O’Rourke, king of Breifni and O'Farrell, king of Annaly and Tadhg O'Kelly, king of Ui-Maine and Magnus, son of Donall O’Connor, tanist [heir apparent] of Connacht and Art O'Hare, king of Luighni and Brian O'Dowd, king of Ui-Fiachrach. They went, all those, to Athenry. The Foreigners of the West of Connacht all assembled against them: to wit, William de Burgh and the Baron Richard Bermingham, lord of Athenry and all the Foreigners of the greater part of [Connacht and Meath]. Battle was engaged in by them and defeat inflicted on the Irish there. Felim O’Connor, king of Connacht, was slain there: the one person on whom the attention of the Men of all Ireland was most directed and who was best in generosity and prowess. Tadhg O’Kelly, king of Ui-Maine, was slain there and twenty-eight of the Kelly clan that [were eligible to be elected king] of Ui-Maine were slain there. Art O'Hare, king of Luighni was slain there. …..there was not slain in this time in Ireland the amount that was slain there of sons of kings and of chiefs and of many other persons in addition. “

The Anglo-Irish Grace’s Annals  http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T100001/index.html  say:
“On the Feast of St. Laurence four Irish kings rose against the English, who were punished by William de Burgh and Richard Birmingham, Lord of Athenry, with his men, who slew 12,000 of them at the town of Athenry, which was afterwards surrounded with walls from the spoils of the Irish, for whoever took double arms of knights laid out half the price on this work. Here fell Felim O'Conor, King of Connaught, and O'Kelly, with many other captains. John Hussee, butcher of Athenry, by the orders of his lord went from Athenry by night to look for O'Kelly among the dead, and to bring him back his head; but O'Kelly, who was safe, and with his esquire, advised him not to run the chance of a combat, but to go off with him and to receive a great estate as a reward; his servant approved of this; first then he slew his own servant, then O'Kelly and his servant; he brought back their three heads to his lord; for this deed he was knighted, and gifted with great estates by his lord.”

Friar Clyn’s Annals of Ireland has a lower death toll:
“On the feast of St.Laurence the martyr a war in Athenry in Connacht; where Richard de Bermingham and William De Burgh and some English slew many Irish kings and nobles and others to the number of 5,000 in all, of whom 1,500 were beheaded”.

Cheers
Mick
  • Mick Hession