Hardiman's History of Galway

Chapter 2: From the earliest accounts to the invasion of Henry II

Rebuilt by the Conacians (12th century)

Chapter 2

From the earliest accounts to the invasion of Henry II

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Old map of Galway

Soon after the power of the Danes was completely ruined at the famous battle of Clontarf, the Irish applied themselves, with assiduity, to remedy the disorders occasioned by those invaders; and the people of Connaught, well knowing the great advantages to be derived from the place where the ancient town of Galway was situate, accordingly commenced improving, or rather reviving, the town, which was then reduced to the state of a miserable village, consisting of a few straggling huts, inhabited by fishermen and their families, some of whose names are given in a former page. In the year 1124, a strong castle was built, and the town was put into a state of defence and security.o The erection of this castle, and the consequent increase and improvement of the town, were viewed with jealousy and suspicion by the people of Munster; between whom, and those of Connaught, there long subsisted a considerable degree of provincial competition and animosity: and, with destructive policy, it was determined to destroy the place, before it should become more formidable. In pursuance of this determination, Connor, the reigning king of Munster, in the year 1132, dispatched a body of troops, by sea, under the command of Cormac Mc. carthy; who, landing, besieged and took the castle of Galway, then known by the name of Dune-bun na Gailloe, or the fortification at the mouth of Galway; and, having put the entire garrison to the sword, levelled and destroyed the castle and town, and soon after defeated and slew Connor O'Flaherty, Lord of lar Connaught.[p] In the following year the king of Munster himself marched at the head of an army into Connaught, laid waste the places called Ruadhbheitheach? and Bealatha?; slew Cathal O'Conor, the Righdamhna, or heir apparent to the throne of Connaught, and Giolla na naomh O'Floinn, a chieftain of great power: after which, he burned the fortresses of Dunmogh-dhairne and Dunmore, and all the other places of strength in the country. Turlough O'Brien, king of Munster, again, in the year 1149, invaded Connaught, and took and destroyed the town and castle of Galway. These ravages appear to have been soon afterwards repaired, for in 1154, the ships of "Galway Dune" and of Conmacnanmara, were sent upon an expedition to the northern parts of the kingdom; and immediately after the following entry occurs in the annals of the town: 1161, strange ships were seen in the harbour of Galway Dune, and the following day the town took fire. The annals of Innishfallen mention another conflagration, in 1170, q but are otherwise silent as to the town. It may, however, be concluded, that this disaster was speedily remedied; for although the combustible matter of which buildings were then almost universally composed, rendered them more liable to the dreadful catastrophe of fire than structures of a more modern date and form, they were, at the same time, much more easily put together or repaired, in consequence of the general slightness of their texture and materials. This circumstance accounts for the many melancholy narratives of destructive fires, with which our ancient chronicles, and even the annals of this town abound; and it is to be regretted, that when the authors of these works, considered such visitations, like wars and battles, as too memorable to be silently passed over; they, at the same time, omitted many things which to them appeared of less importance, but which would now be more generally useful, and interesting. Amongst these may be particularly classed descriptions of the actual state and improvement of the country, which seldom found their way into these monastic compilations; and which cause so great a scarcity of topographical knowledge, relative to the middle ages in Ireland.

But another and much more important era than any which has hitherto occurred, occasioned by the Anglo-Norman invasion of this Island, now opens to our view. With that memorable and important event originated several new sources of information both of a local and general nature. The transactions of the country, but particularly such portions of it as fell immediately under the dominion of the invaders, were recorded; and the greater part of the accumulated muniments thus produced, was preserved by means of established repositories, and carefully handed down to the present day. Peculiar facilities of investigation have enabled the author of this work to glean from those national archives, several facts illustrative of the history of this ancient town; they will be found fully detailed in the ensuing pages, and which, will, it is hoped, in some degree compensate for the deficiency of more early information.

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