Donnchadh, Earl of Carrick - Ireland


The Anglo-Norman John de Courcy, whose early life was probably spent just across the Irish Sea in Cumbria, invaded the Ulaidh (eastern Ulster) in 1177 with the aim of conquest. After defeating the region's king Ruaidhrí Mac Duinn Shléibhe, de Courcy was able to take control of a large amount of territory, though not without encountering further resistance among the native Irish . Cumbria was only a short distance too from the lands of the Gall-Gaidhil, and around 1180 John de Courcy married Donnchadh's cousin Affraic inghen Gofraidh, whose father Guðrøðr (Gofraidh), King of the Isles, was son of Donnchadh's aunt. Guðrøðr, who was thus Donnchadh's cousin, had in turn married a daughter of the Mac Lochlainn ruler of Tir Eoghain, another Ulster principality. Marriage thus connected Donnchadh and the other Gall-Gaidhil princes to several players in Ulster affairs.

The earliest information on Donnchadh's and indeed Gall-Gaidhil involvement in Ulster comes from Roger of Hoveden's entry about the death of Jordan de Courcy, John's brother. It related that in 1197, after Jordan's death, John sought vengeance and

Fought a battle with the petty-kings of Ireland, of whom he put some to flight, slew others, and subjugated their territories; of which he gave no small part to Donnchadh, son of Gille-Brighde, the son of Fergus, who, at the time that the said John was about to engage with the Irish, came to assist him with no small body of troops.

No more light is shed upon Donnchadh's involvement at this point.

Donnchadh's interests in the area were damaged when de Courcy lost his territory in eastern Ulster to his rival Hugh de Lacy in 1203. John de Courcy, with help from his wife's brother King Rǫgnvaldr Guðrøðarson (Raghnall mac Gofraidh) and perhaps from Donnchadh, tried to regain his principality, but was initially unsuccessful. De Courcy's fortunes were boosted when Hugh de Lacy (then Earl of Ulster) and his associate William III de Briouze, themselves fell foul of John; the king campaigned in Ireland against them in 1210, a campaign that forced de Briouze to return to Wales and de Lacy to flee to St Andrews in Scotland.

English records attest to Donnchadh's continued involvement in Ireland. One document, after describing how William de Briouze became the king's enemy in England and Ireland, records that after John arrived in Ireland in July 1210 :

wife fled to Scotland with William and Reinald her sons, and her private retinue, in the company of Hugh de Lacy, and when the king was at Carrickfergus castle, a certain friend and cousin of his of Galloway, namely Donnchadh of Carrick, reported to the king that he had taken her and her daughter the wife of Roger de Mortimer, and William junior, with his wife and two sons, but Hugh de Lacy and Reinald escaped.

The Histoire des Ducs de Normandie recorded that William and Matilda had voyaged to the Isle of Man, en route from Ireland to Galloway, where they were captured. Matilda was imprisoned by the king, and died of starvation.

Another document, this one preserved in an Irish memoranda roll dating to the reign of King Henry VI (reigned 1422–1461), records that after John's Irish expedition of 1210, Donnchadh controlled extensive territory in County Antrim, namely the settlements of Larne and Glenarm with 50 carucates of land in between, a territory similar to the later barony of Glenarm Upper. King John had given or recognised Donnchadh's possession of this territory, and that of Donnchadh's nephew Alaxandair (Alexander), as a reward for his help; similarly, John had given Donnchadh's cousins Ailean and Tómas, sons of Lochlann, a huge lordship equivalent to 140 knight's fees that included most of northern County Antrim and County Londonderry, the reward for use of their soldiers and galleys.

By 1219 however Donnchadh and his nephew appear to have lost all or most of his Irish land; a document of that year related that the Justiciar of Ireland, Geoffrey de Marisco, had dispossessed ("disseised") them believing they had conspired against the king in the rebellion of 1215–6. The king, John's successor Henry III, found that this was not true and ordered the Justiciar to restore Donnchadh and his nephew to their lands. By 1224, Donnchadh had still not regained these lands and de Lacy's adherents were gaining more ground in the region. King Henry III repeated his earlier but ineffective instructions: he ordered Henry de Loundres, Archbishop of Dublin and new Justiciar of Ireland, to restore to Donnchadh "the remaining part of the land given to him by King John in Ireland, unless anyone held it by his father's own precept".

Later in the same year Donnchadh wrote to King Henry. His letter was as follows:

Thanks him for the mandate which he directed by him to the Justiciar of Ireland, to restore his land there, of which he had been disseized on account of the English war; but as the land has not yet been restored, he asks the King to give by him a more effectual command to the Justiciar.

Henry's response was a writ to his Justiciar:

King John granted to Donnchadh of Carrick, land in Ulster called Balgeithelauche . He says Hugh de Lacy disseized him and gave it to another. The King commands the Earl to inquire who has it, and its tenure; and if his right is insufficient, to give Donnchadh the land during the king's pleasure. At Bedford.

It is unlikely that Donnchadh ever regained his territory; after Hugh was formally restored to the Earldom of Ulster in 1227, Donnchadh's land was probably controlled by the Bisset family. Historian Séan Duffy argues that the Bissets (later known as the "Bissets of the Glens") helped Hugh de Lacy, and probably ended up with Donnchadh's territory as a reward.

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