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Local History Series – A Brief Ancient History Of Kilmainham

Bullys Acre Graveyard Kilmainham, Dublin 8, Ireland

In 606 a.d, Saint Magnend was abbot of a monastery here, giving rise to the name Kill Magnend or ‘church of Magnend. This was later corrupted into its current name of Kilmainham. Saint Magnend’s feast day was celebrated on the 18th of December each year and Kilmainham became an important place of pilgrimage, attracting large crowds for this event. As early as 782 a.d. there is a record in the Annals of the Four Masters of the death of Leargus O’Fidhchain, philosopher of Kilmainham.

In 1013, the Danes of Dublin ravaged Meath. The king of this province sought assistance from the then High King of Ireland, Brian Boru. He responded by marching his army into Leinster and pitching camp in Kilmainham. He stayed here from August till December of that year but, on seeing no action, he returned home to Kincora, County Clare, laden with prisoners and booty.

In 1014, Brian’s army was, once again, encamped in Kilmainham, prior to the Battle of Clontarf. Brian was too old to lead his army into battle but his son, Murrough carried out this task in his stead. Murrough’s army defeated the Danes but he was killed in the battle. The Battle of Clontarf took place on Good Friday. Brian Boru remained at the camp, praying all day for success in the battle. Late that evening Brudar, one of the leaders of the Viking armies, fled from the battle and when he saw the old king, he slew him with his axe. Brian was buried in Armagh beside the present Church of Ireland Cathedral.

According to an account in “Harris’s Dublin”, Murrough was buried in Kilmainham, near an ancient stone cross. This tall, granite cross in Bully’s acre is said to cover Murrough’s grave. After the battle of Clontarf, the victorious army returned to their encampment at Kilmainham. They were joined by Donough, another son of Brian Boru, who made an expedition into Leinster and returned with immense booty, which he presented to the Archbishop of Armagh in memory of his father and his brother.

A point of interest, around 1766 the tall cross in Bully’s acre, fell from its pedestal and was re-erected. During this process, a number of Danish coins, the only minted money in 11th century Ireland, were found. An exquisite sword, fit for a prince and from that period, was also found.

IMAGE: Bullys Acre Graveyard Kilmainham, Dublin 8, Ireland – image credit: Nancy/Flickr

Fountain News DigitalThis article was originally published in:
Fountain News Digital – November 2010 (Issue 1)

We are re-publishing all articles from our past newsletter, Fountain News Digital, and you can view all completed newsletters here. There were nine issues published in total between 2010 and 2012.

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