Kindgom of the North Part 2
Naill of the Nine hostages
The 4th century was to see the fall of a great empire and the whole of western Europe to fall into a great darkest called the dark ages. Against this background, Naill of the Nine Hostages, monarch of Ireland and he ruled from Teamhair so called because of the pledges he wrung from nine nations,1. Munster, 2. Leinster, 3. Conacht, 4. Ulster, 5. Britain, 6. the Picts, 7. the Dalriads, 8. the Saxons, and 9. the Morini - a people of France. He emerged not only as the paramount leader of the Gaelic-Irish world, but as the last great defender of the old Celtic traditions against the approaching Norse and Anglo-saxon invasions. Considering his historical importance, we know very little about the early life of Naill, and much is drawn from tradition. By the year 379 AD he had built up sufficient power in the north of Ireland to be a figure fo some reckoning. Claiming the High Kingship of Ireland, Naill of the nine hostages spent the later years of his life on military forays to Britain and present day France, most likely attacking the last remaining Roman outposts. The Annuals of the Four masters record the death of Naill in the year AD 405, while he marched with his victorious army of Irish, Scots, Picts, and Britons, further into France, in order to aid the Celtic natives in expelling the Roman Eagles, and thus to conquer that portion of the Roman Empire; and, encamping on the river Leor (now called Lianne), was, as he sat by the river side, treacherously assassinated by Eocha, son of Enna Cinsalach, king of Leinster, in revenge of a former "wrong" by him received from the said Niall. The spot on the Leor (not "Loire") where this Monarch was murdered is still called the "Ford of Niall," near Boulogne-sur-mer.
Sons of Owen
Two of Naill's sons, Eaghan (Owen) and Conall marched northwards, conquering North-West Ulster and founding there a New territory with its Capital at Ailech, a prehistoric stone build fortress on a hill, at the root of the Inishowen peninsula. These two brothers seperated out their new found territory, with the territory of Conall, ancestor of the O'Donnells taking the form of much of present day western Donegal. The territory of Owen was inishowen (island of Owen) and much of eastern Donegal. It is from Owen that the O'cathain Sept emerged several centuries later, along with the O'Neills, McLaughlins and other minor septs, also Owen was baptized by St. Patrick at the Royal Palace of Aileach; and the Annuals of Ulster state that it was his foot which was pierced by the Bacchal Iosa during the ceremony. Information regarding the apportionment of Inishowen amongst the sons of Owen is derived to a large extent from the "Tripartite Life of St. Patrick." This was written in part in the 9th century, and consequently has to be used with great caution as a source of knowledge for Saint Patrick's life. Nevertheless, the journey to Inishowen which it describes is not inherently improbable, for Patrick was a great traveller as Eugene Mullen's poem says.
"To all the seven kingdoms thou didst go
With toilsome journeyings, in sore privation.
Armagh thy see Primatial thou didst make
God's angel guiding. On the Willow Ridge
By that proud hill, which Macha, golden-haired
With aureate pin had lined to trace the site
Of Eamhain Fort and shape a home of valour
For the bold Craobh Ruadh, thy pastoral staff now marked
The place of more enduring battlement.
'Great glory this last House shall have' said the Lord
Of Hosts 'and in this place I will give thee peace'.
To kindly Cineal Eoghain thou didst grant
Wide sovereignty, wielded from fair Aileach".
Clan Owen Expansion The First Invasion
The centuries following the death of Saint Patrick certain very important clan expansions took place in Ulster. One of these concerns the territory of Dalriada in North Antrim. The Scots a Gaelic speaking people of Ulster origin settled from Ulster on the west coast of Scotland under there Prince Cairbre Riada, who is reputed to have been a son of Conar, High King of Ireland, this new frontier of the Ulster Dalriada was also to be called Dalriada.
Western Ulster was also to see the expansion of the mighty Owen clan that we are chiefly concerned with. From a focal point at the root of Inishowen the descendants of Owen fanned out in advances to the east and south. This expansion was not swift and overwhelming, but rather a gradual advance. The first outward thrust of the Owen clan was that of the Clan Binny at 563 A.D. This thrust apparently bypassed the formiable Cianachta (children of Cian), in present day Derry, whose name is preserved in the present barony of Keenaught. Swinging south-east into County Tyrone, it may have carried Clan Binny as the spearhead of the advance of the Owen clans right to the river Blackwater (Davel) on the borders of Tyrone and Armagh. Clan Binny ousted Oriella clans from the district Iying west of the river Bann, from Coleraine to beside Lough Neagh, and drove them across the river. There can be no doubt of the reality of the prophecy that the descendants of Ochy Binny would be warriors. A wealth of information about the Clan Binny is contained in Dr. James O'Kelly's "Gleanings from Ulster History".