The Crowleys and the Battle of Clontarf

The 1,000th anniversary of one of the most important battles in Irish history will take place in 2014. On April 23, 1014, which was Good Friday, forces of the High King of Ireland, Brian Boru, and forces of the King of Leinster, Máel Mórda Mac Murchada, fought at Clontarf near Dublin.

Brian Boru had been largely successful in uniting all of the provinces of Ireland. But, in 1012, Máel Mórda mac Murchada of Leinster revolted. Brian and his son Murchad marched to Dublin. Máel Mórda, with aid from the Orkneys and the Isle of Man, attempted to surprise Brian. He left a small force in Dublin, but he and his Viking allies sailed north and landed on the River Liffey at Clontarf.

Brian had aligned 1,400 warriors from Munster and Connacht on his left along the beach, with his line extending inland. On his right, were nearly 1,000 Manx Vikings and other mercenaries. Máel Mórda arranged his forces with Vikings in the center and Isle of Man troops on the right near their ships. The left was largely composed of men from Leinster and Dublin. Then, the two armies fought with Máel Mórda and his allies gaining an early advantage. On the beach, the Isle of Man troops were gaining ground until they encountered Brian's brother, Wolf the Quarrelsome. Wolf knocked their leader, Bodir, to the ground forcing them to flee.

Then, Brian's forces gained the upper hand. They pushed Máel Mórda's men back on both flanks, and cut them off from their ships. They began fleeing back towards Dublin and retreated towards a bridge, but the Meath troops arrived there first and cut off Máel Mórda's escape. With the enemy trapped, Brian's forces attacked and killed Máel Mórda and the majority of his army.

During this battle, legend says that Brian Boru was impressed with the fighting of our clan's fighting men. He called their leader over, and dubbed him "Hard Warrior" (Cruadlaoich).

During the battle, Brian withdrew to his tent to pray. He was spotted by Brodir, who, after his defeat by Wolf, had fled into the nearby woods. With a band of men, Brodir attacked Brian's tent and killed the king and his retainers. Wolf tracked down Brodir and killed him in revenge.

Brian Boru lost about 4,000 men. His army lost several important leaders. Máel Mórda paid for his defeat with his life and those of around 6,000 of his men. Though a victory for Brian's forces, his death, and the deaths of several of his family led to a power vacuum. The Vikings were defeated, but Ireland soon sank into war between the provinces.

Information for this article from:

Crowley Clan Newsletter, March 2012