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    ...from about A.D. 250, Munster was divided into Desmond and Thomond, and Thomond is to-day represented very fairly by the Diocese of Killaloe...
    Ecclesiastical boundaries in Ireland nearly always mark some ancient political division: and the position of Cashel as an archi-episcopal see is very significant. Cashel belonged neither to Eugenian nor Dalcassian, though Thomond stretched to its walls. It was the seat of the King of Munster, and in theory passed alternately from Eugenian to Dalcassian, and vice versa. In practice, for centuries the kingship was monopolised by the elder branch. But it was clearly admitted that when the Dalcassian line were deprived of their succession, they remained independent, exempt from all vassalage or tribute to the Eugenian King of Cashel.
    The Dalcassian kingdom itself was, after the Irish usage, divided up into a number of sub-kingdoms, or principalities, each possessed by a sept of the clan. Just as the clan had a common ancestor in Cormac Cas, so every freeman in each of the septs traced his descent to that one of Cormac's eight sons from whom his sept sprang. Eldest of these sons was Bloid, from whom the O'Briens came, and the chief of Hy mBloid was the recognised chief of all Dalcassians, though the land owned by this sept was only a district about Killaloe — still defined as the rural deanery of Omulled. Macnamaras, Macmahons, O'Carrolls, or any other of the Dalcais septs, might on occasion levy war on their tribal chiefs; but the supremacy of the O'Briens in Thomond was always admitted — long before they were known as O'Briens.

    Stephen Gwynn, 1906

    Detail from the Weiland map of Ireland, 1853.
    Above: detail from the Weiland map of Ireland, 1853.
    Map © Cartography Associates, from the Rumsey Collection.

    Left: detail from satellite photo (click for larger version).

    Charon (MIT Project) 1989, James Coleman ©