CHAPTER IX. EVENTS OF THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY - THE NORMANS IN MUNSTER AND LEINSTER.
We have already told the tragic fate of the two adventurers - Fitzstephen and de Cogan - between whom the whole of Desmond was first partitioned by Henry II. But there were not wanting other claimants, either by original grant from the crown, by intermarriage with Irish, or Norman-Irish heiresses, or new-comers, favourites of John or of Henry III., or of their Ministers, enriched at the expense of the native population. Thomas, third son of Maurice Fitzgerald, claimed partly through his uncle Fitzstephen, and partly through his marriage with the daughter of another early adventurer, Sir William Morrie, whose vast estates on which his descendants were afterwards known as Earls of Desmond, the White Knight, the Knight of Glyn, and the Knight of Kerry. Robert de Carew and Patrick de Courcy claimed as heirs general to de Cogan. The de Mariscoes, de Barris, and le Poers, were not extinct; and finally Edward I., soon after his accession, granted the whole land of Thomond to Thomas de Clare, son of the Earl of Gloucester, and son-in-law of Maurice, third Baron of Offally. A contest very similar to that which was waged in Connaught between the O'Conors and de Burghs was consequently going on in Munster at the same time, between the old inhabitants and the new claimants, of all the three classes just indicated.
The principality of Desmond, containing angles of Waterford and Tipperary, with all Cork and Kerry, seemed at the beginning of the thirteenth century in greatest danger of conquest. The O'Callaghans, Lords of Cinel-Aedha, in the south of Cork, were driven into the mountains of Duhallow, where they rallied and held their ground for four centuries; the O'Sullivans, originally settled along the Suir, about Clonmel, were forced towards the mountain seacoast of Cork and Kerry, where they acquired new vigour in the less fertile soil of Beare and Bantry. The native families of the Desies, from their proximity to the port of Waterford, were harassed and overrun, and the ports of Dungarvan, Youghal, and Cork, being also taken and garrisoned by the founder of the earldom of Desmond, easy entrance and egress by sea could always be obtained for his allies, auxiliaries, and supplies. It was when these dangers were darkening and menacing on every side that the family of McCarthy, under a succession of able and vigorous chiefs, proved themselves worthy of the headship of the Eugenian race. Cormac McCarthy, who had expelled the first garrison from Waterford, ere he fell in a parley before Cork, had defeated the first enterprises of Fitzstephen and de Cogan; he left a worthy son in Donald na Curra, who, uniting his own co-relations, and acting in conjunction with O'Brien and O'Conor, retarded by his many exploits the progress of the invasion in Munster. He recovered Cork and razed King John's castle at Knockgraffon on the Suir. He left two surviving sons, of whom the eldest, Donald Gott, or the Stammerer, took the title of More, or Great, and his posterity remained princes of Desmond, until that title merged in the earldom of Glencare (A.D. 1565); the other, Cormac, after taking his brother prisoner compelled him to acknowledge him as lord of the four baronies of Carbury. From this Cormac the family of McCarthy Reagh descended, and to them the O'Driscolls, O'Donovans, O'Mahonys, and other Eugenian houses became tributary. The chief residence of McCarthy Reagh was long fixed at Dunmanway; his castles were also at Baltimore, Castlehaven, Lough-Fyne, and in Inis-Sherkin and Clear Island. The power of McCarthy More extended at its greatest reach from Tralee in Kerry to Lismore in Waterford. In the year 1229, Dermid McCarthy had peaceable possession of Cork, and founded the Franciscan Monastery there. Such was his power, that, according to Hamner and his authorities, the Geraldines "dare not for twelve years put plough into the ground in Desmond." At last, another generation rose, and fierce family feuds broke out between the branches of the family. The Lord of Carbury now was Fineen, or Florence, the most celebrated man of his name, and one whose power naturally encroached upon the possession of the elder house. John, son of Thomas Fitzgerald of Desmond, seized the occasion to make good the enormous pretension of his family. In the expedition which he undertook for this purpose, in the year 1260, he was joined by the Justiciary, William Dene, by Walter de Burgo, Earl of Ulster, by Walter de Riddlesford, Baron of Bray, by Donnel Roe, a chief of the hostile house of McCarthy. The Lord of Carbury united under his standard the chief Eugenian families, not only of the Coast, but even of McCarthy More's principality, and the battle was fought with great ferocity at Callan-Glen, near Kenmare, in Kerry. There the Anglo-Normans received the most complete defeat they had yet experienced on Irish ground. John Fitz-Thomas, his son Maurice, eight barons, fifteen knights, and "countless numbers of common soldiers were slain." The Monastery of Tralee received the dead body of its founder and his son, while Florence McCarthy, following up his blow, captured and broke down in swift succession all the English castles in his neighbourhood, including those of Macroom, Dunnamark, Dunloe, and Killorglin. In besieging one of these castles, called Ringrone, the victorious chief, in the full tide of conquest, was cut off, and his brother, called the Atheleireach (or suspended priest), succeeded to his possessions. The death of the victor arrested the panic of the defeat, but Munster saw another generation before her invaders had shaken off the depression of the battle of Callan-glen.