Author Topic: Knockdoe - Sources  (Read 1552 times)

Mick Hession

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Knockdoe - Sources
« on: November 26, 2019, 09:54:44 AM »
As promised in another thread, here are the relevant primary sources for Knockdoe

The Book of Howth.

[Kildare holds a council of war 20 miles east of Knockdoe at which certain bishops and lord Gormanston urge caution but the Irish (the Book of Howth calls O’Donnell “O’Neill” throughout) push for action. It then confusingly merges that meeting with another on the eve of the battle itself. The willingness of St. Lawrence, lord of Howth, (whose descendants sponsored the book) to fight is contrasted with the timidity of the other Anglo-Irish lords, especially lord Gormanston]

This council was at three of the clock afternoon before the day of the battle. Then, within a few miles from the field appointed, Sir Nicholas, Lord of Howth, said  “the sayings of O’Neill and  O’Connor is not to be disallowed; let it be as they have said. And my lord of Gormanston’s opinion is good, so it had been spoken before our coming to the field; and for that, here is my opinion, seeing the time is short”. For at this time appeared upon a hill two miles from the English camp above two hundred horsemen, whereupon Gerot, the earl’s son, would have been at them and a   sked for the Council to go to them. But the lords of the council said that none should go until they had gone all, and so stayed this lusty and stalwart gentleman; of which young Gerot was very sorry, as though he should never have his fill in fighting.

“Well, said the lord of Howth to answer the lord of Gormanston, “this matter was determined before we cane hither deliberately by the council, and if it were not, the time is not now to argue the cause, our enemies being in sight. And for the displeasure of our prince, if we win this battle, as I am sure we shall, though the king frown a little with his countenance, his heart will rejoice. And admit he will be offended upon losing this field, he that shall live let him bear the blame or burthen, and for my part I am assured to win this battle or to lose my life, and then all the world is gone with me. Vayell que vaylle pourra etc. for I will be a-foot in the vanguard that day myself. But to the matter; let us send away our sons and heirs, to revenge our quarrel if need so require, and prescribe our battle in perfect order this night that every man shall know tomorrow his charge, for it is not when we shall go to fight that we should trouble us with discussing the matter.”

“Well,” said the earl, “my dear cousin, you hath well spoken; be it as you now hath said.” “No,“ said young Gerot, the earl’s son; “by God’s blood I will not go home and leave so many of my friends in battle, for I mean to live and die amongst you all.” “Well”, said the lord of Howth, “boy, thou speakest natural, for ever thy kind is such that from thy first generation and first coming into Ireland, so thou art to be borne withal,  thou worthy gentleman and lion’s heart.”

The lords of Killeen and Trimblestone thought the number of Irishmen very great, as they were credibly informed by certain spials which brought them word, and that the number of younglings were not the sixth man to a man; and said in plain terms, that a good giving back were better than an evil standing, and in further time better provision might be made to serve such a turn. “It is well spoken,” said the baron of Slane and lord of Dunsaney. “Good God!”, said the lord of Howth; by our blessed Lady, that bliste in the north church of Howth, you four might have spoken these words in some other ground than this is, and our enemies now being in sight and the night at hand.”

“Well,” said the earl, ”call me the captain of the galloglass, for he and his shall begin this game, for it is less force of their lusts then it is of our young men.” “I am glad”, said the captain, “you can do me no more honour, by God’s blood!” and took his axe in his hand and began to flourish it. “No”, said the lord of Howth “I will be the beginner of this dance, and my kinsmen and friends for we will not hazard our English good(s) upon the Irish blood; howbeit it is well spoken by the captain of the galloglass nor they shall not be mixed among us.”

Then all things according to the matter prepared; the bowmen put in two wings which the lords of Gormanston and Killeen had the charge, being good men that day; the billmen in the main battle, which the lord of Howth was leader, and in the vanguard himself; the galloglass and the Irish in another quarter; the horsemen on the left side of the battle under the guiding of the worth baron of Delvin, by reason there was a little wall of two foot height of the other side of the battle, which would somewhat have troubled the horsemen.


And so they went, and prepared themselves in good order of battle, and did appoint young Gerot, a valiant young gentleman, with a choice company for relief, fearing so great a number of enemies would inclose them about being far less in number than they. The Irish, as O’Kelly, McWilliam, O’Brien and the result, all that night was watching, drinking and playing at cards, who should have this prisoner and that prisoner, and thus they passed the night over, and t morrow they prepared to battle, in such order as their custom was. They set forward their galloglass footmen in one main battle, and all their horsemen on their left side, and so came on.   

The earl of Kildare, after his battle set, willed that they should stand within that little wall of two foot height that was made afore by those that dwelled there for safeguard of their corn; and rode upon a black horse, and made this oration, “My friends and kinsmen, I say to you that there is against us great number of people, without weapons, for a great number of them hath but one spear and a knife. Without wisdom or good order, they march to battle as drunken as swine to a trough, which makes them more rash and foolish than wise and valiant. Remember all that we have doth rest upon this day’s service, and also the honour of our prince; and remember how we are in a country unknown to the most number of us, and far from our towns and castles.”

The earl did not well finish these words, when they heard three great cries that disturbed his oration. A company of stalwart gentlemen being in the forefront of the English battle, amongst all was Holywood of Tartaine, which seldom heard the like. “What meaneth this cry?” said he; “do they think we are crows, that we will flee with crying?” and swore “by the holy St. Nicholas, that blesses Tartaine, they shall find us men ere we depart ”. With that, the Irish galloglass came on, to whom the English archers sent them such a shower of arrows that their weapons and their hands were put fast together. McSweeney, captain of the Irish galloglass, came foremost, and asked where was great Darcy? Darcy answered that he was at hand, which he should well understand. With that, McSweeney struck Darcy such a blow upon the helmet that he put Darcy upon his knees. With that, Nangle, baron of Navan, being a lusty gentleman that day, gave McSweeney such payment that he was satisfied ever after. 

They fought terrible and bold awhile. The Irish fled; amongst whom there came a horseman running among the English, and asked who had the earl of Kildare and the rest of the lords of the English Pale prisoner? With that, one Skuyvors, a soldier out of Dublin, struck him with a gun with both his hands and so let out his brains. The young Gerot this time being left for relief seeing the battle joining, could not stand still to wait his time as he was appointed by the earl his father but set on with the foremost in such sort that no man alive could do better with his own hands than he did that day, for manhood of a man; but by reason of his lustiness not tarrying in the place appointed, all the English baggage was taken by the Irish horsemen and a few of the English gentlemen taken prisoner. That was on that side of the battle.

When the battle was done, and a great number of Irish slain, as it was reported nine thousand, the lord Gormanston said to the earl, “we have done good work, and if we do the other we should do well”. Being asked what he meant said he “we hath for the most number killed our enemies, and if we do the like with all the Irishmen that he have with us it were a good deed.”
This battle was fought on the 19th day of August 1504 at Knockdoe, which is from Galway 5 miles. The hill is not high, but a great plain. The greatest of the Irish was Richard Bourke, father to Ulick Ne Keyan (?).  McWilliam Uachtar [i.e. the Mayo Burkes]  that is also of the Bourkes this time was with the earl. The O’Briens was with McWilliam [i.e. Ulick]. The baron of Delvin, a little before the joining of the battle, took his horse with the spurs and threw a small spear amongst the Irish, and slew by chance one of the Bourkes, and turned.

Irish sources:

Annals of the Four Masters

A great army was mustered by the Lord Justice, Garrett, the son of Thomas, Earl of Kildare. He was joined, first, by the chieftains of Leath-Chuinn, namely, O'Donnell, i.e. Hugh Roe, and his son; then by the principal chieftains of Kinel-Connell, and a party of the Connacians, namely, O'Conor Roe, i.e. Hugh, the son of Felim Finn; and Mac Dermot, Lord of Moylurg. There came also in the same muster all the chiefs of Ulster, except O'Neill, namely, Art, the son of Hugh O'Neill, Tanist of Kinel-Owen; Donnell, the son of Magennis; Mac Mahon, and O'Hanlon; also O'Reilly, and O'Farrell, i.e. the bishop; O'Conor Faly; the O'Kellys; the Clann-William Burke; and the forces of almost all Leath-Chuinn. These numerous forces marched, without stopping, till they arrived in Clanrickard. Mac William of Clanrickard mustered a great army to give them battle, namely, Turlough, the son of Teige O'Brien, Lord of Thomond, and his kinsmen, with their forces, the Sil-Aedha; and Mulrony O'Carroll, Lord of Ely, with all clans and chieftains, joined by the chieftains of Ormond and Ara. Mac William and O'Brien, with their forces, then came to a brave resolution not to yield submission or hostages to their enemies, but to come to a battle with them exactly at Cnoc-Tuagh. A fierce battle was fought between them, such as had not been known of in latter times. Far away from the combating troops were heard the violent onset of the martial chiefs, the vehement efforts of the champions, the charge of the royal heroes, the noise of the lords, the clamour of the troops when endangered, the shouts and exultations of the youths, the sound made by the falling of the brave men, and the triumphing of the nobles over the plebeians. The battle was at length gained against Mac William, O'Brien, and the chiefs of Leath-Mhogha; and a great slaughter was made of them; and among the slain was Murrough Mac-I-Brien-Ara, together with many others of the nobles. And of the nine battalions which were in solid battle array, there survived only one broken battalion. A countless number of the Lord Justice's forces were also slain, though they routed the others before them. It would be impossible to enumerate or specify all the slain, both horse and foot, in that battle, for the plain on which they were was impassable, from the vast and prodigious numbers of mangled bodies stretched in gory litters; of broken spears, cloven shields, shattered battle-swords, mangled and disfigured bodies stretched dead, and beardless youths lying hideous, after expiring. After having gained this victory, the Lord Justice proposed to O'Donnell that they should go immediately to Galway, and O'Donnell replied as follows: ‘A considerable number,’ said he, ‘of our forces have been slain and overpowered, and others of them are scattered away from us, wherefore it is advisable to remain in this place to-night, in token of victory, and also to pitch a camp, for our soldiers and attendants will join us on recognizing our standards and banners.’ This was accordingly done, and on the following day the Lord Justice and O'Donnell proceeded to Galway, the Lord Justice carrying with him, as prisoners, the two sons, and also a daughter, of Mac William. They remained for some time together in this town, cheerful and elated after the aforesaid victory. They afterwards went to Athenry, and obtained possession of the town; whereupon O'Donnell and the other chiefs took their leaves of the Lord Justice, and went home to their respective houses.

Annals of Ulster

A hosting by the Justiciary, that is, the Earl of Kildare, namely, Gerald, son of Earl Thomas —and very great part of the Gaidhil of Ireland went along with him, to wit: O'Domnaill and O'Raighilligh and Mag Mathgamna and O'Ferghail and O'Concobuir Faly and the Gaidhil of all the Half of Conn, except O'Neill alone—on Mac William of Clann-Ricaird. And O'Briain came in aid of Mac William. And they met each other in Clann-Ricaird, on Cnoc-tuagh, and a spirited battle is fought between them, to which was not found the like in the latter time. So that heard afar from those bands were the battling of the battle-heroes and feats of the champions and rush of the royal-heirs, and thunder of the troops and bruit of the bands in being imperilled; the courage and impetuosity of the youths and of the striplings and the enthusiasm of the brave men in their cutting down, and the prevailing of the nobles over the lowly.

Howbeit, the battle is gained on Mac William and on Ua Briain and slaughter is inflicted on them. And the place wherein were nine battalions of gallowglasses in compact array of battle, there escaped not alive of them but one thin battalion alone.
And it was impossible to put an estimate on the slain horsemen, or on the footmen there, so that the field became uneven from those heaps of slaughter, with the multitude of spears and of swords and of battle-shields and of corpses cross-thrown, confused and of slain youths stretched stark-dead and of gillies beardless, loathsome, unsightly. So that slaughter of the Momonians was inflicted in that great conflict. And there fell many multitudes of the forces of the Earl on the other side. Howbeit, the Earl returned to his house on that occasion with triumph of overthrow and 4 or the children of Mac William, namely, 2 sons and 2 daughters, with him also.

Annals of Loch Ce

The overthrow of Cnoc-tuagh was given this year; viz., Earl Garrett, Justicary of Erinn, mustered the Foreigners and Gaeidhel of the province of Laighen, and of Leth-Chuinn, and advanced into Clann-Rickard; and Mac William of Clann-Rickard, and O'Briain, assembled another great army, and came to Cnoc-tuagh to meet them; and a battle was fought there between them, in which a large number of chiefs of the Foreigners and Gaeidhel were slain; so that no battle equal to it was fought in the late time between Foreigners and Gaeidhel.

Annals of Connacht

The battle of Knockdoe was fought this year. Gerald the Earl, Justiciar of Ireland, assembled the Galls and Gaels of Leinster and Leth Chuinn and invaded Clanrickard; and Macwilliam of Clanrickard and O’Briain assembled another great army and came to meet them at Knockdoe. A battle was there fought between them, in which fell many nobles of the Gaels and of the Galls; indeed, so great a battle had not been fought among Gaels and Galls in latter times.
  • Mick Hession


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Re: Knockdoe - Sources
« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2019, 10:16:54 AM »
Thanks Mick.  As you said, we wouldn't really have much in the way of a battle to reconstruct if it wasn't for the Book of Howth.  It does tend to focus everything round the Pale contingent though, in part because of its origins and also its contemptuous attitude to the Irish component of the force.  Some of the traditional rivalries between the galloglas clans on the two sides must have made for some fierce fighting.
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Mick Hession

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Re: Knockdoe - Sources
« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2019, 10:30:56 AM »
Yes, not a lot to go on unfortunately which is why multiple interpretations are possible. But then, in our period that hardly makes it unique  :)

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