CHAPTER IV. KINGS OF THE TENTH CENTURY; NIAL IV.; DONOGH II.; CONGAL III.; DONALD IV.
A leader, second in fame and in services only to Brian, was now putting forth his energies against the common enemy, in Meath. This was Melaghlin, better known afterwards as Malachy II., son of Donald, son of King Donogh, and, therefore, great-grandson to his namesake, Malachy I. He had lately attained to the command of his tribe - and he resolved to earn the honours which were in store for him, as successor to the sovereignty. In the year 979, the Danes of Dublin and the Isles marched in unusual strength into Meath, under the command of Rannall, son of Olaf the Crooked, and Connail, "the Orator of Ath-Cliath," (Dublin). Malachy, with his allies, gave them battle near Tara, and achieved a complete victory. Earl Rannall and the Orator were left dead on the field, with, it is reported, 5,000 of the foreigners. On the Irish side fell the heir of Leinster, the lord of Morgallion and his son; the lords of Fertullagh and Cremorne, and a host of their followers. The engagement, in true Homeric spirit, had been suspended on three successive nights, and renewed three successive days. It was a genuine pitched battle - a trial of main strength, each party being equally confident of victory. The results were most important, and most gratifying to the national pride. Malachy, accompanied by his friend, the lord of Ulidia (Down), moved rapidly on Dublin, which, in its panic, yielded to all his demands. The King of Leinster and 2,000 other prisoners were given up to him without ransom. The Danish Earls solemnly renounced all claims to tribute or fine from any of the dwellers without their own walls. Malachy remained in the city three days, dismantled its fortresses, and carried off its hostages and treasure. The unfortunate Olaf the Crooked fled beyond seas, and died at Iona, in exile, and a Christian. In the same year, and in the midst of universal rejoicing, Donald IV. died peacefully and piously at Armagh, in the 24th year of his reign. He was succeeded by Malachy, who was his sister's son, and in whom all the promise of the lamented Murkertach seemed to revive.
The story of Malachy II. is so interwoven with the still-more illustrious career of Brian Borooa, that it will not lose in interest by being presented in detail. But before entering on the rivalry of these great men, we must again remark on the altered position which the Northmen of this age hold to the Irish from that which existed formerly. A century and a half had now elapsed since their first settlement in the seaports, especially of the eastern and southern Provinces. More than one generation of their descendants had been born on the banks of the Liffey, the Shannon, and the Suir. Many of them had married into Irish families, had learned the language of the country, and embraced its religion. When Limerick was taken by Brian, Ivar, its Danish lord, fled for sanctuary to Scattery Island, and when Dublin was taken by Malachy II., Olaf the Crooked fled to Iona. Inter-marriages with the highest Gaelic families became frequent, after their conversion to Christianity. The mother of Malachy, after his father's death, had married Olaf of Dublin, by whom she had a son, named Gluniarran (Iron-Knee, from his armour), who was thus half-brother to the King. It is natural enough to find him the ally of Malachy, a few years later, against Ivar of Waterford; and curious enough to find Ivar's son called Gilla-Patrick - servant of Patrick. Kellachan of Cashel had married a Danish, and Sitrick "of the Silken beard," an Irish lady. That all the Northmen were not, even in Ireland, converted in one generation, is evident. Those of Insi-Gall were still, perhaps, Pagans; those of the Orkneys and of Denmark, who came to the battle of Clontarf in the beginning of the next century, chose to fight on Good Friday under the advice of their heathen Oracles. The first half of the eleventh century, the age of Saint Olaf and of Canute, is the era of the establishment of Christianity among the Scandinavians, and hence the necessity for distinguishing between those who came to Ireland, direct from the Baltic, from those who, born in Ireland and bred up in the Christian faith, had as much to apprehend from such an invasion, as the Celts themselves.