Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Holy Irish Celebration

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Holy Irish Celebration

Article excerpt


OCCASIONALLY I boast about my Irish roots - how we were Huguenots, beaten out of France by wicked papists and welcomed in Dublin by decent papists 350 years ago. I concede, however, that we are blow-ins compared with the O'Briens.

This month they will celebrate their Irish millennium, dating it from Brian Boru's coronation as High King of Ireland in 1002. There will be the mother and father of all hooleys for clan members from all over the world and, having been to O'Brien country in Munster for a sneak preview, I can promise even non-O'Briens a suitably shattering experience.

They will tour Brian Boru sites, absorbing his story.

Better still, they will plunge into a plethora of parties and dance jigs they never knew their feet had in them. There will even be a medieval barbecue.

I began my preview at Thomond House, Newmarketon-Fergus, County Clare, home to The O'Brien, head of the clan, and a direct descendant of Brian Boru. From Thomond House, which he runs as a fine guest house, he directed me with quiet expertise on my millennium safari, dispatching me first to Killaloe, where Brian Boru had his power base.

All that remains is a mystical mound where his fort once stood. Among ancient trees I listened to the song of a blackbird, trying to span 1,000 years.

It was not impossible, for I could still feel the power of the past. And that is how it was on my journey.

In the village of Quin an ancient sign read "To the Proclamation", and in a field I found another mound, the site where Brian Boru was proclaimed King of Thomond, an area embracing Counties Clare, Tipperary and Limerick. I closed my eyes, stood still and I swear I heard cheers for the new monarch.

Nearby I found history tinged with violence in the ruins of a Franciscan priory. In the 16th century Donough Beag O'Brien, a Boru descendant, was sentenced to death for rebellion.

The Queen pardoned him, but her Lord Deputy in the area, Sir John Perrott, had him brutally beaten and strung up to die on the priory steeple.

I moved on to County Tipperary, to the Rock of Cashel. …

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