Organisation : Waterford County Museum
Article Title : Early Waterford History
Page Title : The Delgais
Page Number : 3
Publication Date : 05 October 2010
Expiry Date : Never Expires
Category : Home

Delgaid inhabited Limerick, Cork and Kerry and the Desii Waterford. From the first invasion of the Danes, on the west coast of Munster, 811 A. D., to the battle of 1014 A.D., the Delgais had to bear a large part in the defence of the Irish nation against the Danish tyrant, and in this relation the tribe name is frequently mentioned.

Turgesis the Danish tyrant, in 866 A.D., usurped the sovereignty of Ireland. He was looked upon as a scourge in the hands of Divine Providence to punish the Irish people. But we find the Irish, led by the tribe of Delgais, gave them a signal overthrow at Ardbreacan. About the year 900 A.D. this great Munster clan had acquired signal fame by the success of their arms, Foremost in battle, they invariably led on the Momonian forces to victory or death.

In the language of the old poet Cormac Cuillenan -

"The martial clan of the Dalgais appear
In front, and make the foremost ranks, exposed
To the first fury of the enemy;
And when the military instruments
Sound a retreat, they last forsake the field
And cover all the rear."

Such was the character of the Dalgais given by King Cormac, who reigned at Cashel, of a people whose territory extended all over Thomond to the very gates and walls of his own capital. Perhaps the best and brightest memoir of the potent sway of the Dalgais before the English invasion is to be seen in the record of the bloody battles by which they distinguished themselves against the Danes. In 954 Sitric, son of Turgesius, the tyrant, ruled the Danes, but finding it troublesome to fight the Munstermen, thought better of ensnaring them by a cowardly design. Accordingly we find he promised his sister in marriage to Geallachan, King of Munster, and the latter, decoyed by the proposal, proceeded to Dublin with his body guards, when the Dane thought fit to slaughter the Munster soldiers and imprison the Munster King himself. At this time Kennedy, Prince of North Munster, hearing of the Danish treachery flew to Dublin with 1000 of the Dalgais forces same time directing the Munster fleet to sail in consort with him, when historians tell us, "the most terrible fight that occurred for many ages took place" on sea and land In this battle the Danes had to fly from the Dalgais to their vessels, whereupon they were attacked by the Irish fleet and the foreigners completely routed. And King Ceallachan having returned home, paid a visit to Daniel O'Faolan King of the Desies of Waterford, whom he admitted into his alliance by bestowing upon him his sister in marriage. But we must not delude ourselves into the idea that the friendship between the Munster princes was of long duration. In a short time a king who knew not "Daniel" of Desii ascended the throne of Munster, viz.,Brian Borumha (Boru). Up to this time Munster was divided two kingdoms, but Brian succeeded in uniting them in which displeased Daniel O'Faolan, King of the Desii. Poor Dan was not a match for the famous victor of Clontarf.

Dan managed up a pact with the Danes, in fact seemed impressed with the virtue embodied in the salutation "Go to the Danes'." But Bryan was too much for himself and the Danes, and Daniel fled for his life, whereupon the invincible Dalgais chased the Danes and the vanquished Irish to the town of 'Waterford, hunted down O'Faolan who perished in the slaughter, sacked and plundered the town, and afterwards set it on fire till "it was consumed to the ground," A.D. 980.

Thus at comparatively late period Waterford was consumed by fire partly owing to the unfortunate intestine divisions the Irish themselves, but still more to the malpractice of soliciting the aid of the foreigners, the Danes, and joining issues with them for the object of revenge upon their own kith and kin. Indeed, if we believe the old chroniclers, Waterford should have been well burnt at this period, for we find it recorded that about 1050 A.D, the City of Waterford was pillaged and ruined by a personage called MacMaol Nainbo, King of Leinster, who also burned it to the ground. Finally, at the battle of Clontarf, Bryan Borumha, King of Munster, now monarch of all Ireland, and holding undisputed sway over his invincible forces confronted with the Leinstermen and the Danes, the latter having once more united with a section of the divided Irish, Surrounding him in this last great fight for the liberties of his race, and the revenge due to ages of the cruellest tyranny from the Dane, were his favourite forces the Dalgais and Desii. The issue of that famous battle, and the final expulsion of the Danes, bought by the death of the brave Bryan, needs no mention.

"Though lost to Mononia and cold in the grave,
He returns to Kinkora no more."

Still we have a last word to give the Munster forces as they return homewards. They had to pass through the territory of Ossory, carrying large numbers of their wounded with them. And here the narrow revenge displayed by the Irish against each other finds perhaps the most noted and pitiable illustration on record. Mac Gilla Phaidraig (son of Patrick, or Fitzpatrick), King of Ossory, had an old spleen for the Munstermen, the Dalgais. It was now Mac Gilla Phaidraig (brave man) seeing the Dalgais bleeding and wounded, resolved to give them battle; but the wounded Dalgais demanded from their leader, Donough, son of Brian, that they should be tied to stakes and placed between their brother soldiers to fight the Ossorians, having first had their wounds stopped with moss, and the stakes driven in the ground to support them!

"While the moss of the valley grew red with their blood,
They stirred not, but conquered and died."

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