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Established 16/3/2000

Beal Boru, Brian Boru's Fort, Killaloe, Co. Clare

Brian Boru's fort is located in a very serene and spectacular setting - overlooking Lough Derg on the River Shannon, just one mile north of the picturesque village of Killaloe. Beal Boru, as it is more commonly known, stands on a spur of land which commands the point where the lake narrows into the River Shannon.

Grassy banks of Brian Boru's fort
There is a serene beauty and loneliness amidst the tree-surrounded ring fort which was once the fort of Brian Boru.

MYSTICAL LOCATION

Brian Boru (Bórumha, bóraimhe, meaning a cattle tribute) was either born or reared at this mystical location, according to folklorist Daithi O hOgain, and the placename, Béal Bóramha, means the 'port of the cattle tribute'. Boru was high-king of Ireland from 1002 until his death in 1014AD. His headquarters was the nearby Ceann Cora (in English Kincora) which is located one mile from here in the picturesque village of Killaloe. His death came during the battle of Clontarf against the Norsemen, a battle which was to claim Boru's life, but which he won nonetheless.

The fort can be found by taking a trek down a half-mile grassy pathway from the Killaloe-Scarrif Road, through a mostly wooded area, and the place feels detached from the modern world when the trees are in full leaf. The site is impressive in the height of the outer side of the banks, and is fairly expansive in size. Apart from a small amount of litter, the site is in good condition.

CATTLE

In ancient times cattle designated as tribute for the Dalcassian chiefs were driven across the river at this point.

Looking into the centre of the fort

Over 800 stone implements, including stone axes, hammer stones and perforated stone sinkers for lines and nets, have been found in the immediate neighbourhood. Ten stone axes were found within the fort in 1936. So it is quite possible that a Stone Age settlement occupied the site of Beal Boru because of its position on the river, which could be forded at this point or used as a safe harbour by craft. In 1961 Professor O'Kelly's excavations revealed an early ring fort which had been inhabited, abandoned and later built over. The larger structure was never completed, nor does it appear to have been occupied. The first habitation dated from the eleventh century until, possibly 1116 when Turlough O'Connor destroyed Boroma and Kincora. In 1207 the Normans tried to build a castle here, probably a motte and bailey type, but were driven off. Geoffrey de Marisco, the Lord Justice, eventually succeeded in building a castle in Killaloe in 1216.

The entrance to the enclosure
A view of Beal Boru
The grassy banks of Beal Boru

Except for some filling in of the ditch and the planting of trees at the start of the nineteenth century, the fort looks very much as it did during the thirteenth century. Two Hiberno-Norse coins, minted between 1035 and 1070, were found here as well as a decorated piece of local slate, five bronze pins, a tangled stud, 25 large nails, two small shreds of pottery, animal and bird bones and a considerable amount of musket balls.

Steep-sided bank
Stone bank revetment
The steep-sided outer bank of Beal Boru. The stone revetment at the outer base of the bank.
Replica of Brian Boru's sword

Brian Boru's sword - click hereA repilca of the sword believed to have been carried by Brian Boru has been created. There will only be 400 swords made. The blade features a round tip as with most huge swords from that time period, since they were for hacking instead of stabbing. The long wide fuller starts about 9" below the hilt and runs for some 30" ytowards the tip. A leather backstap is also included with the sword.

History of Brian Boru - Surrounded by his Dalcassion Knights, Brian marched into Leinster at the head of about thirty thousand men in the beginning of April 1014, in three divisions, and was there joined by Malachy II., King of Meath. He encamped, as he had done the year before, in the war against Maelmordha, near Kilmainham. After both armies had viewed each other it was agreed to determine the fate of Ireland by a general battle on the plain of Clontarf. Brian offered the Danes battle on Palm Sunday, which they declined; but on Good Friday, they signified, by their dispositions, that they were about to open their attack.

Brian felt much grieved that a day so sacred to the Christians should have been destined for the work of death; but with dauntless spirit and a calm and confident exterior he issued orders for arranging his troops in order for battle.

Their ranks had been formed before daylight, and as the sun rose, Brian rode through the lines of his soldiers with a crucifix in one hand, and a drawn sword in the other; he reminded them of the day selected by the pagan invader to offer battle, and exhorted them to conquer or die. Standing in the centre of his army, and raising his powerful voice, his speech was worthy of so great a king and so good a man: "Be not dismayed my soldiers, because my son Donough is avenging our wrongs in Leinster; he will return victorious, and in the glory of his conquests you shall share. On your valor rests the hopes of your country today; and what surer grounds can they rest upon? Oppression now attempts to bend you down to servility; will you burst its chains and rise to the independence of Irish freemen? Your cause is one approved by Heaven. You seek not the oppression of others; you fight for your country and sacred altars. It is a cause that claims heavenly protection. In this day's battle the interposition of that God who can give victory will be singnally manifested in your favor. Let every heart, then, be the throne of confidence and courage. You know that the Danes are strangers to religion and humanity; they are inflamed with the desire of violating the fairest daughters of this land of beauty, and enriching themselves with the spoils of sacrilege and plunder. the barbarians have impiously fixed, for their struggle, to enslave us, upon the very day on which the Redeemer of the world was crucified. Victory they shall not have! from such brave soldiers as you they can never wrest it; for you fight in defense of honor, liberty and religion-in defense of the sacred temples of the true God, and of your sisters, wives and daughters. Such a holy cause must be the cause of God, who will deliver your enemies this day into your hands. Onward, then, for your country and your sacred altars!" . . .

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Many thanks to Clare Library for granting me permission to use copyrighted material about Beal Boru from the Clare Library website. For more information, visit www.clarelibrary.ie or see more about the Killaloe area at this page.

 

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All information and photos, except where otherwise stated, copyright, © Anthony Murphy, 1999-2012
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