The Battle of Clontarf, 23rd April 1014

Day of the Battle

As the Vikings converged on Dublin, Brian’s army grew in strength in the winter of 1013 for the 1014 campaign. Brian had sent word to his allies, the great Irish Clans and his Viking allies. Among those who responded and marched to Clontarf were the Chieftain, Tadhg Mór O'Kelly of the O'Kelly’s of Uí Maine.  Ready for battle, Brian’s army neared Dublin in 2014, Brian was dealt a shocking blow, due to some disagreement the former High King Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill and the men of Meath withdrew from his army. But they pressed on arriving outside Dublin to set up camp near Kilmainham for the night.

In the meantime behind the Walls of Dublin Máel Mórda and Sitric were conjuring up a shrewd plan, the Vikings would sail out of view, as if to leave, only to reappear the following morning to catch Brian and his army unexpectedly. Sigtrygg’s men in battle were commanded by his son, he stayed behind in the city with a backup of a thousand men. They were situated on the left. Mael Morda’s men were near them in the middle and the Vikings were on the right.  Facing them Brian’s army, the Munster and Connacht men in the middle, Viking mercenaries on his right and his Dalcassian men on his left. Mael Sechnaill’s men, though withdrawn, watched from afar.

Two Armies collide on that morning of 1014

On Good Friday morning, at sunrise, Brian, though unwilling to take an active part in a battle, did ride before his amassed army. Before retiring to the rear, Brian gave a short rousing speech to his warriors. At this time the Vikings assembled on the shores near Clontarf having turned around before beaching their boats, they prepared for battle. The two armies met sometime in the early morning.  The battle started to unfold as a series of fights between separate armies. Brian’s Dal gCais located on his left were brave and fearless pushing back the Norse.

On the beach, Brodir's men were gaining ground until he came upon Brian's brother, Wolf the Quarrelsome. Engaging in a one-to-one battle, he struck Brodir to the ground, forcing him to run off into the woods. Throughout the afternoon, as the battle erupted, Brian's forces gained the edge. The fighting was ruthless, and with the superior numbers in the High King’s side, it resulted in near extermination of the rebel side.  Pushing Máel Mórda's men back, Brian’s army were able to cut them off from their longboats. On seeing that they were beaten, they began fleeing back towards the walls of Dublin. As they retreated towards the bridge, Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill, having a change of heart, led the Meath troops into the battle.  Arriving at the bridge first, they cut off Máel Mórda's line of escape.  With the enemy trapped, Brian's forces pushed on with their attack and killed Máel Mórda mac Murchada and the bulk of his army.

Both the Danish Vikings and the Leinster Irish were forced into swift retreat. The Chieftain Earl of Orkney, Sigurd together with many of his men perished in the sea trying to return to their long ships.  By the end of the battle which lasted all day at least 10,000 men lost their lives.

Battle Victory and Death of King Brian Boru

Although Brian Boru had won the greatest victory of his long career, he did not live long to enjoy it.  As he knelt in his tent praying for victory and for his army, Viking Brodir, who was nearby, ran into his tent killing the 73-year-old Brian. Wolf the Quarrelsome, looking for revenge for the murder of his brother, caught up with Brodir and brutally slayed him.

It was hours after the Battle that King Brian Boru’s remains, it is said, were carried by his whole army, lay in state in the Cathedral of Armagh for up to twelve days before his burial.