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ANNAL 6
     
 
Irish gallowglass and kern
 
 
Collection of ordinary Irish warriors, known as Kern with two Gallowglass armed with larges swords in the centre. Warriors armed with heavy close quarter fighting weapons, Gallowglass wore shirts of chain mail and helmets to set themselves aside from other Irish warriors who wore little in the way of armour.
 

 

Annal 6: "For the year 1304 Matha son of Giolla Iosa O Raigillaigh, King of Brefne was killed by the Tellach Dunchada at Aghnacor. Some Gallowglass were killed there with him and the Mac Shamradain and Mac Dorchaidhe chieftains were wounded."

 

(For the year 1304 Matha son of Giolla Iosa O Reilly, King of Brefne was killed by the Tellach Dunchada at Aghnacor. Some Gallowglass were killed there with him and the Mc Govern and Mac Darcy chieftains were wounded.)

 

Explanation: Here we have the O Reilly chieftain Goilla Iosa being called King of Brefne instead of the O Rourkes. The O Reillys eventually ended up ruling the eastern half of Brefne, having taken it from the O Rourkes. We are also not told which side the Mac Darcys and Mc Governs where on. But it appears that they were on the side of the O Reillys.

We are not told how badly the Mac Darcy chieftain was wounded but we presume that he did not later die from his wounds otherwise the annal would have said so.

The Teallach Dunchadha were the Mac Tiernan.

Aghnacor appears to be a townland in Leitrim. Also once more we see the Mac Darcys and Mc Governs fighting side by side. Perhaps they had put aside their differences once and for all.

We also see that elite warriors called Gallowglass were involved in this confrontation. Gallowglass were mercenaries from the Hebrides Island of the west coast of Scotland. Their specialty was the use of Heavy hand held weapons such as the great double handed swords known as Clogai mhor (Claymore) and heavy battle axe known as Sparth (Spar). So heavy were these weapons that in some cases an unskilled user could risk dislocating his arm or damaging his back.

Gallowglass dressed in tunics of chain mail armour or padded cloth with conical shaped helmets, to set themselves apart from ordinary Irish warriors who wore little in the way of armour. These mercenaries were hired out by Irish and Scots highland chieftains and soon settled all over Ireland and mainland Scotland.

From the 13th to 17th century these warriors became an important part of the Irish war machine. We do know that in the year 1340, that the Gallowglass clan the Mac Cabes became Gallowglass to the O Rourkes. Other Gallowglass clans were the Mac Rorys, the Sweeneys and the Mac Donnalds.

 

 
 
Two gallowglass drawn on a map armed with battle axe
 
 
Close up of Gallowglass warriors on a 16th century map of Ireland. These Gallowglass are of the Mac Sweeney clan. Both the Gallowglass are armed with large battle axe known as Sparth.
 

 

 
Gallowglass armed with claymore in the foreground with piper and kern behind him
 
 
Irish Battle scene with Gallowglass and piper and an ordinary Irish warrior (known as a Kern.) From an illustration by the artist Angus Macbride.
 

 

 
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