“Had the Celts been inseparable they would have been insuperable.”
Publius Cornelius Tacitus (56 - 117 AD)
In 852 a fortress was built in Dublin by two powerful Viking chiefs, Ivar Beinlaus and Olaf the White. Olaf was a Norwegian prince and he declared himself to be the “King of Dublin”. From this walled city the Vikings expanded their control as far away as Waterford. They represented a common adversary to the Gaelic lords of Ireland and inspired an unusual spirit of cooperation among them. In 919 the high king of Ireland led a united force of Irishmen against the Viking fortress of Dublin but failed to capture the city. This emboldened the Vikings and they soon had established a chain of settlements across the entire southern coast of the island, from Dublin to Limerick.
Around 945, the king of Munster, Ceallachan, of the clan of Failbhe, called for a war council. The aging Eochaid  made the short trip from Knockgraffon to Cashel to represent the clan of Finghin. Cinneidi (Kennedy), representing the tribe of Cas, joined them as well. Ceallachan and his advisors carefully planned an attack on the Danish stronghold of Limerick.
According to Gleeson in Cashel of the Kings:
“One thousand Eoghanachts, hereditary troops of South Munster, a most select body of men with many other troops, headed by Ceallachan, and officered by the young Milesian lords, Duineachan, O’Sullivan (Lorcan ), O’Keefe, O’Riordan, O’Liahan, Aodh MacCuillenan, and other chiefs marched against Limerick.
Heralds were sent requiring the Danes to surrender and give hostages.
In reply the Danes marched out in four divisions; in each division there were four hundred select men in coats of mail besides light-armed troops.
The Battle was fought at Saingel, now known as Singland.
O’Sullivan (Lorcan ), the general, addressed the Eoghanachts. His speech was answered by shouts, and the clashing of swords and shields by the army. The fight commenced by the discharge of stones from the slings of the light-armed troops, by the discharge of arrows, by the casting of spears and lances, after which the heavy armed troops engaged. After severe fighting on both sides neither side had made an impression on the other; Ceallachan singled out Amhlaoibh, the leader of the Danes, and with one stroke split his helmet and his skull. O’Sullivan engaged Moran, the son of the king of Denmark, and cut off his head. O’Keefe engaged Magnus, the standard bearer, and ran him through the body, while O’Riordan slew Lochluin, called Na-Ureach, i.e., of the Spoils. The Danes gave way and the city was taken.
The Irish on this occasion followed their usual mistaken policy: they did not garrison the town; but after exacting a tribute in gold and merchandise they took hostages, and next morning they marched to Cork.
The Danes of Cork had been so powerful as to exact hostages from the Irish; it was, therefore, necessary to observe secrecy on the march to Cork, lest these hostages might be placed on board ship. On the afternoon of the next day the Irish appeared before Cork, horse and foot, and summoned the town to surrender, after which the walls were scaled, and the hostages restored to liberty.
On their way to Cashel, the Danes laid an ambuscade for the Eoghanachts, but eight hundred of the Danes were cut off, and the army returned to headquarters.
Waterford was next taken with considerable slaughter, but Sitric and the principal Danes escaped in their ships to Dublin.
Certain Irish chiefs who had assisted the Danes were next punished; large sums were demanded from them; and they were obliged to give hostages for their future good behavior.
In a few weeks, by the union of the Irish forces, Ceallachan and Cinneidi were able to free Munster from the Danes. But the fatal mistake was made by leaving the cities in the hands of the Danes, who constantly received new levies from their own country.”
Sitric, who was married to an Irish woman distantly related to Donnchadh, the high king of Ireland, sent a messenger to him warning him that Ceallachan was getting powerful enough to challenge him for his throne. Donnchadh was already perturbed with the king of Munster for refusing to pay any tribute to him as the high king. Sitric offered to neutralize Ceallachan for Donnchadh if he agreed not to interfere with a sinister scheme that he had devised. Donnchadh readily gave the wily Dane his blessing.
Sitric then sent messengers to Ceallachan and offered to form an alliance with him to overthrow Donnchadh. To seal the deal he agreed to relinquish all claims to the sea ports of the region and to give the king of Munster his beautiful and talented sister, Beibhion, to have as his bride. Ceallachan consulted his council who advised him that an alliance with Sitric may be advantageous to the entire province.
Ceallachan then assembled a retinue of nobles to accompany him to Dublin to meet his bride, including the sons of O’Sullivan, O’Keefe, O’Conor Kerry, Kennedy, and O’Felan. When this illustrious assemblage reached Cill-Maighnenn (Kilmainham), they received a secret warning from Sitric’s wife that their invitation to Dublin was a trap. Sitric planned to capture the nobles and hold them for ransom to avenge all of the Danes who had fallen in the battle for Cork. The Irish turned to retreat back to Cashel but the Danish cavalry that was escorting them to Dublin immediately attacked them. The young noblemen fought with great valor but ultimately they were all slain. The Danish guard had been instructed to spare both Ceallahan and the son of Kennedy who were taken to Dublin as prisoners.
Sitric received the two royal Munstermen in a room decorated with the severed heads of their noble comrades, including that of the young O’Sullivan. Sitric mocked them and told them that they were both being taken away to Denmark. Upon learning of the treachery, Kennedy, now acting as the de facto king of Munster, assembled an army to march to Armagh where he thought the two men would be taken. He also ordered a fleet of war ships to proceed to Dundalk where the Danish navy was berthed. The O’Sullivan clan sent every able bodied adult male to avenge their fallen brother. A fierce land and sea battle ensued in which the united forces of the Munstermen were victorious.
King Ceallachan died in 952, sixty two years before King Brian Boru, a fellow Munsterman, would finally eliminate the Viking scourge from Ireland at the Battle of Clontarf.
Lorcan , son of Eochaid, lord of Knockgraffon, was born about 914 AD and ruled as Chief of the senior Eoghanacht line. During his reign, a terrible famine struck Ireland in 963. Four years later the annalists reported a bumper crop of fruit. His son, Buadhach Atha-Cra , was born about 954 AD and also served as the lord of Knockgraffon. Aodh , born about 994 AD, Cathal , born about 1034 AD, and Buadhach , born about 1074, all reigned as Chief of the clan in their turn.
Aodh , lord of Knockgraffon, the O’Sullivan Mor, was only 19 years old when King Brian Boru defeated the Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf in Dublin. It is unknown whether or not any Eoghanacht troops participated in this victory. Great celebrations were held throughout Ireland with the news that the Vikings had been expelled. It would be nearly two centuries before another serious threat would appear on the shores of the “Island of Saints”, the Normans.
In the meantime, the violent politics of Munster kept the O’Sullivan clan quite occupied. Buadhach , which translates into Victor, was the first in the line to officially adopt the surname “O’Sullivan”. It was not a family name in this time, but rather a title identifying the chief of the clan. Buadhach would have been referred to as ‘the O’Sullivan Mor’, or “the Great O’Sullivan”. There is evidence that Buadhach married a Slavic or Macedonian woman named Veera. In 1123 Buadhach deposed Tadhg MacCarthy from the throne of Munster with the help of O’Mahony, O’Moriarty, O’Keefe, and O’Phelan.
In 1171, Dermot MacCarthy Mor, the king of Munster, officially submitted to Henry II, seriously diminishing his stature among his own people. Many Eoghanacht chiefs demanded that he abdicate in favor of the O’Sullivan Mor or some other MacCarthy chief. MacCraith , the oldest son of Buadhach, remained loyal to Dermot and refused to challenge him for the throne.
MacCraith  was the last to die as lord of Knockgraffon. He was killed in 1176 while defending the king of Munster from his own son, Cormac Liathanach MacCarthy. MacCraith’s son, Donal Mor  avenged his father’s death in the same year when he, and a group of other Eoaghanacht noblemen, killed Cormac and restored Dermot to the throne. He later lost the family estate in the fertile “Golden Vale” to the invading Normans in 1192. The entire Eoghanacht nation, including the ruling MacCarthys, was forced to abandon its ancestral lands and retreat to the remote and desolate mountains of Cork and Kerry, the Third Milesian Migration. Many tribesmen of the time surmised that this great defeat of their people was a result of the MacCarthys, a cadet line of the royal blood of Milesius, being on the throne of Munster.
In 1196, Donal Mor’s brother, Gilla Padraig, was killed by the Normans in the Battle of Ferdruim, West Cork. Another brother of Donal Mor, Anad, was killed in 1201.
In 1209 the son of Gerr Uille O’Sullivan killed Finghin MacCarthy by splitting his head with an axe at Leac Lachtain (Lislaughtin, County Kerry). Two years later, Donal Mor O’Sullivan had Cormac Ciarraigheach MacCarthy, son of Cormac Liathanach, captured and transported to Cork where he was blinded by the Norman sheriff.
Many Eoghanacht chieftains again demanded that the O’Sullivan Mor, Donal Mor , assume his birthright as the king of Munster. This greatly disturbed the MacCarthys who advised King Dermot Duna Droighneain that he should quickly eliminate the threat. The MacCarthy Mor, invited Donal and all of his adult male children to a banquet at his stronghold in Raithin na nGaraidhthe in the territory of the Barretts in 1214. He then had the entire family treacherously murdered, including Giolla Mochoda . The only two survivors of the true senior line of the royal family of Milesius were Dunlong , Donal Mor’s 14 year old grandson, and Giolla na bhFlann, Donal Mor’s youngest son, neither of whom attended the banquet.
The MacCarthy Mor was the first of the Irish kings to submit to Henry II in 1171 AD. The O’Sullivan family historians suggest that had the Eoghanacht chiefs been successful in wresting the throne away from Dermot Duna in favor of Donal Mor , the Eoghanacht nation may have been much better off. As it was, the proud race of Milesius was pushed into a spiraling descent that would end in merciless oppression and abject privation at the hands of their English overlords.
Since Dunlong was the oldest son of Giolla Mochoda , and Giolla Mochoda was Donal Mor’s oldest son, Dunlong was the rightful heir to the title “The O’Sullivan Mor”. He and his supporters moved west to what is now known as County Kerry. Giolla na bhFlann, Dunlong’s uncle, settled with his supporters in Bantry and Berehaven in what is now County Cork. From Dunlong descend the O’Sullivan Mor and from Giolla na bhFlann descend the O’Sullivan Beara. The independence that the junior O’Sullivan Beara sept enjoyed from the senior O’Sullivan Mor tribe was a result of Dunlong being a minor at the time of the Eoghanacht invasion of Kerry.
The Norman Invasion (1169-1270)
Ireland was the only society in Europe that had not been subjugated by Rome, decimated by the Dark Ages, and over run by barbarians. Throughout the first millennium AD, the Irish culture remained pure, Celtic, and distinctive. This insular immunity to the debacles of Europe came to a gradual and agonizing end with the arrival of the Normans.
In 1169 an invasion force of mercenaries under the command of Strongbow, arrived from Wales and captured Wexford and Waterford. The king of Desmond, Dermod MacCarthy, mounted a resistance that included soldiers from all of his subject clans, including the O’Sullivan. Unfortunately, the Normans were victorious and within one year had taken Dublin as well. Over the next century their sphere of control expanded until they dominated over 75% of the island.
The Normans originated from a Viking settlement in the west of France that had conquered England one hundred years before invading Ireland. Henry II was their French speaking king, whose dubious pedigree was reviewed in the beginning of this book.
The Normans were excellent soldiers and ambitious castle builders. Everywhere they settled they left stone towers and keeps as evidence. They brought the concept of towns to Ireland, an idea that was alien to the native Gaels. However, what the Normans possessed in martial skills, they lacked in any identifiable culture. For some reason, the culture of Celtic Ireland suited them perfectly and they quickly adopted the language, dress, culture, and religion of their Irish adversaries.
The Normans never completely subjugated Ireland. One English historian lamented, “…the tragedy of the Norman invasion was not the conquest of Ireland, but the half conquest.” After a century of warfare, the Old Gaelic Order absorbed the Norman invaders and a period of relatively peaceful coexistence and assimilation began that lasted for nearly 250 years. When a second wave of English invaders arrived in Ireland in the sixteenth century they found that their Norman predecessors had become “more Irish than the Irish themselves”.
The events leading up to Strongbow’s first appearance in Munster actually transpired in Leinster, revealing a bizarre tale of love, hate, betrayal, and revenge. In 1152, Dermot MacMurrough stole Tiernan O’Rourke’s wife from him. O’Rourke successfully retrieved his wife the following year but his hatred for MacMurrough understandably persisted.
When Rory O’Connor, an ally of O’Rourke, defeated Murtagh MacLochlain, an ally of MacMurrough, in the battle for the high kingship of Ireland, O’Rourke seized the opportunity to exact revenge on his old nemesis. With the backing of the high king, himself, O’Rourke forced MacMurrough to flee Ireland altogether. MacMurrough sailed to England where he sought help from Henry II, the Norman ruler of the Angevin Empire.
Armed with a papal bull from an English pope, giving him permission to “protect Ireland”, Henry accepted MacMurrough’s invitation. He sent Richard FitzGilbert de Clare, the Earl of Strigoil, (a.k.a. Strongbow) to invade.
Strongbow agreed to invade Ireland and restore MacMurrough to the throne of Leinster, but only after being promised MacMurrough’s daughter in marriage and his crown after his death. He recruited an impressive retinue of Norman and Flemish knights to join him on his foray, including Roche, Carew, Prendergast, FitzHenry, FitzGerald, Barry, Cheevers, and Synott.
The deceitful MacMurrough returned to Ireland in 1167, submitted to O’Connor, and paid O’Rourke one hundred ounces of gold as reparation for the abduction of his wife. He then bided his time waiting for the arrival of Strongbow’s troops.
In May, 1169, about 600 Norman ships landed on the Irish coast at Bannow Bay. MacMurrough, with several hundred of his clansmen, joined them and together they overtook the Viking settlement of Wexford. A smaller force of ten knights and seventy archers landed north of Waterford under the command of Raymond “Le Gros” Carew. They immediately built an earthen rampart and braced themselves for an attack from the king of Desmond, Dermod MacCarthy. Surprisingly, the Normans were victorious despite being outnumbered.
Just as the Irish were closing in on the fort, Carew released a herd of cattle and stampeded it into them. In the chaos that followed, the Normans routed MacCarthy’s men, capturing seventy of them alive. As a warning to all of Munster, Carew had the limbs of the prisoners broken, their heads cut off, and their bodies thrown over a cliff.
After Strongbow joined Carew, with an additional army of two hundred knights and one thousand foot soldiers, they attacked and captured Waterford. MacMurrough promptly sent for his daughter to be married to Strongbow to fulfill the first part of his promise.
Once the Normans had conquered the majority of Ireland, Henry II arrived with 4,000 well armed men to quell any chance of Strongbow creating his own independent kingdom. All of the Norman knights, as well as the Vikings and the Gaels, capitulated and paid homage to the Emperor of Angevin.
The Treaty of Windsor was signed in 1175 under which Henry assumed control of the lion’s share of the conquered lands, the Norman mercenaries were awarded large estates, and Rory O’Connor was recognized as the high king of the unconquered lands, but still subservient to the throne of England.
In 1189 Henry appointed his 17 year old son, John, to be “Lord Protector of Ireland”. Under his “protection” the Norman Barons stole huge tracts of land from the remaining Gaelic clans, rendering the Treaty of Windsor worthless. In the same year Henry II died, leaving the throne to his eldest son, Richard the Lionheart (r. 1189-99). Although Richard was a master soldier, he was a dismal failure as a king. Incredibly, he conceded that the English monarchy was subservient to Philip II of France and his successors. Upon Richard’s death, his younger brother John I (r. 1199-1216) assumed the throne.
By the year 1204, John had lost a war with King Philip II of France, thereby losing all of his continental possessions including Normandy, Brittany, and Anjou. His weak reign allowed for the Norman Irish and the native Gaelic clans to enjoy a reprieve of several centuries from the meddling influence of London.
By the year 1250, most of Ireland was controlled by the Normans. They clustered in towns and built fortified homes for defense. Although they usurped the Gaelic aristocracy, the common Irish continued to work the land and manage their livestock the same as they did before. Great stone churches were built by the Normans throughout Ireland and they remained great defenders of the Catholic faith, as well as their Gaelic compatriots.
The Irish system of gavelkind was replaced by the feudal system of the Normans. A stronger central government was established in Dublin, which greatly vexed the native Irish noblemen. Brehon Law was displaced by English common law, which in many ways was inferior to the Celtic system. Sheriffs were appointed to enforce the “law”, which always favored the Norman interest over that of the Irish.
There were three culturally distinct regions in Ireland at this time.
The Pale was an area about 30 miles long and twenty miles wide surrounding the city of Dublin. This area was exclusively English and the people in the Pale considered themselves to be in an English colony.
Most of the island “beyond the Pale” consisted of many semi-autonomous fiefdoms ruled by the great Norman-Irish lords. Although these “aristocrats” were descended from the original Norman mercenaries, they gradually adopted most of the customs and language of Gaelic society.
The third region was known as “Gaelic Ireland”, and it encompassed western Ulster, Cork, and Kerry. It was the land of the O’Sullivan clan, the MacCarthy clan, and the O’Donoghue clan. It had never been conquered by the Normans and it remained fully independent of the feudal English society and its rule. The Gaelic lords, called the “Wild Irish” by Philip II, continued to enjoy a thoroughly Celtic hierarchy, along with its varied privileges and restrictions.
1166 Birth of Giolla Mochoda , the O’Sullivan Mor.
Giolla Mochoda’s name illustrates how deeply Christianity had penetrated Ireland by the twelfth century. It literally means, “Servant of Mochoda”. Mochoda was a saint that had preached in Munster. The O’Sullivan McGillicuddy sept is named after and also descended from this individual.
1200 Birth of Dunlong , the O’Sullivan Mor.
1235 Birth of Murtagh Mor , the O’Sullivan Mor.
Gaelic Resurgence and Assimilation of the Normans (1270-1484)
In his lifetime, Murtagh Mor  witnessed an amazing Gaelic cultural resurgence and an associated Norman retreat. Between the mid thirteenth century and the mid fifteenth century, the native Gaelic lords reclaimed much of their lost territory and overwhelmed the Norman cultural influence on the island.
There were four basic reasons for this reversal of fortune:
The first is that the Normans never had a sufficient number of settlers to preserve their military dominance over the Gaels.
The second is that the plague of 1349 disproportionately decimated the urban Norman populace and spared the less crowded rural Gaels. This further enhanced the advantage in numbers that the Gaels had over the invaders.
The third is that the culturally challenged Normans slowly became “Irish” themselves, rejecting the feudal system and the dominance of Dublin in favor of more regional freedom.
The fourth is that the Gaels learned from their foes and began to successfully employ Norman military tactics. This neutralized the martial advantage that the Normans once had over them.
The last reason cited was evidenced in the crucial Battle of Callen in 1261, where the O’Sullivan clan and the MacCarthy clan decisively defeated their Norman adversary, FitzThomas, not far from Kenmare.
In 1259, John FitzThomas, with an illegitimate grant from the future king Edward I, then lord of Ireland, took by force the lands of the O’Sullivans and MacCarthys. By 1260, even the remote areas of Cork and Kerry were dotted with Norman castles and keeps. The Eoghanacht tribes, under the leadership of Finghin MacCarthy, continued to wage a guerilla war against the Normans. In order to finally wipe out any residual Gaelic supremacy over the area, FitzThomas assembled a large army and marched toward the Eoghanacht strongholds in the Cork and Kerry mountains. On July 24th, 1261, the Norman troops were ambushed and routed by the Irish in Callan Glen, near Kilgarvan, in the valley of the Roughty River. Many of the foreigners were slaughtered and all of the castles south of the River Maine were overtaken by the MacCarthys and O’Sullivans.
Dunlong, the O’Sullivan Mor, took control of Castles Dunloe, Dunkerron, Cappanacoss, and several other minor keeps. The O’Sullivan clan would retain control of this region for the next four hundred years. While they recognized the suzerainty of the MacCarthy Mor, the O’Sullivan clan enjoyed a large degree of independence and generally lived their lives unmolested by the king of Munster. They continued to play a large role in the politics and power brokerage of the territory. Not only did the Gaelic order survive in Ireland, the Normans gradually were assimilated into it. They eventually adopted the Irish tongue, assumed the native dress, married Irish women, and co-opted many of the native customs such as the family banshee.
A unique legend is associated with Murtagh Mor . According to the seanchas this ancestor of the O’Sullivan clan took a merrow (mermaid) as a wife. The story was immortalized in a poem by Crofton Croker:
The lord of Dunkerron, the O’Sullivan More,
Why seeks he at midnight the sea-beaten shore?
His bark lies in haven, his bounds are asleep;
No foes are abroad on the land or the deep.
Yet nightly the lord of Dunkerron is known
On the wild shore to watch and to wander alone;
For a beautiful spirit of ocean, ‘tis said,
The lord of Dunkerron would win to his bed.
When, by moonlight, the waters were hush’d to repose,
That beautiful spirit of ocean arose;
Her hair, full of lustre, just floated and fell
O’er her bosom, that heav’d with a billowy swell.
Long, long had he lov’d her- long vainly essay’d
To lure from her dwelling the coy ocean maid;
And long had he wander’d and watch’d by the tide,
To claim the fair spirit O’Sullivan’s bride!
The maiden she gazed on the creature of earth,
Whose voice in her breast to a feeling gave birth;
Then smiled; and, abashed as a maiden might be,
Looking down, gently sank to her home in the sea.
Though gentle that smile, as the moonlight above,
O’Sullivan felt t’was the dawning of love,
And hope came on hope, spreading over his mind,
Like the eddy of circles her wake left behind.
The lord of Dunkerron he plunged in the waves,
And sought through the fierce rush of waters, their caves;
The gloom of whose depth studded over with spars,
Had the glitter of midnight when lit up by stars.
Who can tell or can fancy the treasures that sleep
Entombed in the wonderful womb of the deep?
The pearls and the gems, as if valueless, thrown
To lie ‘mid the sea-wrack concealed and unknown.
Down, down went the maid, - still the chieftain pursued;
Who flies must be followed ere she can be wooed.
Untempted by treasures, unawed by alarms,
The maiden at length he has clasped in his arms!
They rose from the deep by a smooth-spreading strand,
Whence beauty and verdure stretch’d over the land.
Twas an isle of enchantment! and lightly the breeze,
With a musical murmur, just crept through the trees.
The haze-woven shroud of that newly born isle,
Softly faded away, from a magical pile,
A palace of crystal, whose bright-beaming sheen
Had the tints of the rainbow - red, yellow, and green.
And grottoes, fantastic in hue and in form,
Were there, as flung up - the wild sport of the storm;
Yet all was so cloudless, so lovely, and calm,
It seemed but a region of sunshine and balm.
“Here, here shall we dwell in a dream of delight,
Where the glories of earth and of ocean unite
Yet, loved son of earth! I must from thee away;
There are laws which e’en spirits are bound to obey!
Once more must I visit the chief of my race,
His sanction to gain ere I meet thy embrace.
In a moment I dive to the chambers beneath:
One cause can detain me - one only - ‘t is death!
They parted in sorrow, with vows true and fond;
The language of promise had nothing beyond.
His soul all on fire, with anxiety burns:
The moment is gone - but no maiden returns.
What sounds from the deep meet his terrified ear
What accents of rage and of grief does he hear?
What sees he? what change has come over the flood
What tinges its green with a jetty of blood?
Can he doubt what the gush of warm blood would explain?
That she sought the consent of her monarch in vain!
For see all around him, in white foam and froth,
The waves of the ocean boil up in their wroth!
The palace of crystal has melted in air,
And the dies of the rainbow no longer are there;
The grottoes with vapour and clouds are o’ercast,
The sunshine is darkness - the vision has past!
Loud, loud was the call of his serfs for their chief;
They sought him with accents of wailing and grief:
He heard, and he struggled - a wave to the shore,
Exhausted and faint bears O’Sullivan More!
In 1864 Henry Smart wrote a cantata based on this legend for the Birmingham Festival titled “The Bride of Dunkerron”.
The O’Sullivan clan tradition maintains that Murtagh Mor  and the merrow had children before she was murdered by her father, and that this branch of the family carries royal mer-blood in its veins.
1270 Birth of Bernard , the O’Sullivan Mor.
1340 Birth of Dunlong II , the O’Sullivan Mor.
The “Gaelicization” of the Norman settlers greatly disturbed the English Crown. In an attempt to curb it, the Statutes of Kilkenny were enacted in 1366, prohibiting the Norman Irish from speaking Gaelic, wearing Gaelic dress, riding a horse Scythian-style (bareback), or marrying a woman of Gaelic stock. Despite this, the process of Norman assimilation into the Gaelic culture continued unabated.
1375 Birth of Cragh , the O’Sullivan Mor.
Cragh was the last O’Sullivan Mor of the senior Milesian line. He died while his son, Donal, was still a minor. Cragh’s younger brother Rory assumed the title of O’Sullivan Mor. Cragh’s widow and her children were forced to abandon Castle Dunkerron and move to Castle Cappanacoss c.1420, in the parish of Templenoe.
According to Friar O’Sullivan of Muckross Abbey, the descendants of Cragh became known as the Family of Cappanacoss, or Sliocht Macrah. In his account he uses their Latin names to refer to them:
“The son of Macarius (Cragh ), Daniel (Donal ), was obliged, when his uncle, the said Roderick (Rory) of the fair hair, came in to be O’Sullivan More, to content himself with twenty ploughlands, that is, eight in the parish of Templenoe, and twelve in Ballybog. The estate generally called the estate of Capancoss (Cappanacoss), the mansion house of said family, which were very populous; there were four branches of said family that had their estates out of said house, that is, the family of Caparoe, the family of Lackeen, the family of Driminus, and the family of Grienane; but all notwithstanding call themselves the family of Capancoss, from which house they had their estates, as aforesaid.
This family for a time were of good note for generosity and education, and as the estate was but small, and the family populous, as aforesaid, many of them went abroad and to other parts of the kingdom...”
As to the Sliocht Macrah, or O’Sullivan MacCragh, O’Hart states:
“Instances of the large stature of many of the ancient Irish families are recorded. It may be mentioned that this family was particularly remarkable in that regard... they certainly were noble specimens of the ancient Irish race.”
1410 Birth of Donal , the O’Sullivan MacCragh.
Donal was about ten years old when he was brought to Castle Cappanacoss by his mother. Although his uncle was now the O’Sullivan Mor, and Chief of the Clan, Donal was still recognized as being senior in the line of the tribe. He was known as ‘the O’Sullivan MacCragh’. (Variations of the name include Macrah, MacCragh, MacCragh, Cragh, Crah, MacGrath, McGrath, MacCrath, McCrath, and MacCraith.) This branch of the family would later be dubbed the “No Surrenders” by the English during the turbulent fifteenth century.
1444 Birth of Conor , the O’Sullivan MacCragh.
1474 Birth of Eoghan , the O’Sullivan MacCragh.
Toward the end of the fifteenth century, Dermod of Dunkerron, the O’Sullivan Mor died and his younger brother Donal na Sgreadaidhe (Donal the Screamer) became the chief of the clan. Dermod’s widow and children were now also obliged to abandon Dunkerron Castle and they were moved to Cappanacoss. Conor , the O’Sullivan MacCragh, was then forced out of Castle Cappanacoss and his family was moved to a much smaller house and parcel of land in Templenoe. Junior branches of the sept were left to seek their fortunes in other parts of the kingdom. Once the O’Sullivan MacCragh sept was separated from its last Irish castle, it slipped into obscurity and remained, for the most part, below the radar of history. This loss of control of the last piece of ancestral land, and the subsequent anonymity imposed on the most senior bloodline of the Milesian Celts, is known in O’Sullivan family tradition as ‘The Curse of Cappanacoss’.
1494 Sir Edward Poynings was appointed the Lord Deputy to King Henry VII. This year “Poynings Law” was passed, subjecting the Irish Parliament to the control of the king and his council.
1504 Birth of Buodach , the O’Sullivan MacCragh.
1509 Henry VIII was crowned King of England.
1534 Birth of Donogh (Dermot) , the O’Sullivan MacCragh. In this year the Earls of Kildare rebelled against the Crown.
1541 King Henry VIII was officially recognized as the king of Ireland by the Irish Parliament, subjecting the Anglo-Irish aristocracy to a ‘surrender and regrant’ scheme.
1558 Elizabeth I was crowned as queen of England.
1562 In this year the “Elizabethan Wars” commenced in Ireland.
By this time in history, the O’Sullivan clan had become quite powerful and independent of the MacCarthy Mor. According to Butler in Gleanings from Irish History:
“The number of men of his own immediate following which the head chief could put in the field was then the chief factor of his power. In some of the northern clans this number was very considerable. Almost the whole of Tyrone was inhabited by O’Neills, and there were no important subdivisions of the name in the county. Hence O’Neill was able, as a rule, to enforce his rights over the other dependent chiefs, none of whom ruled over as large a district as did his suzerain. Again, O’Reilly of Cavan could muster four hundred horsemen of his own name, and almost the whole county of Cavan was inhabited by O’Reillys. Now it was precisely this chief who gave O’Neill the greatest amount of trouble by refusing obedience; and the dissensions between the two clans were of the greatest use to Elizabeth’s government in the wars against Shane and Hugh O’Neill. On the other hand, the territories directly ruled by MacCarthy Mor as chief of his own clan were comparatively speaking small; by far the larger amount of the territory inhabited by the MacCarthys being under the rule of separate branches, offshoots from the main stem, such as the lords of Muskerry. In fact, in the time of Elizabeth, even when several minor chiefs had died out, and their lands had reverted to the head of the house, MacCarthy of Muskerry and O’Sullivan Mor were at least equal in power to their nominal superior.”
1564 Birth of Conor , the O’Sullivan MacCragh.
The War of Roses ended on Bosworth Field in 1485, when Henry Tudor of Lancaster defeated Richard III of York. It was also the beginning of the 118 year Tudor Dynasty in England (1486 – 1603), a bleak epoch for the Gaels, who had been loyal to the House of York.
Tudor was crowned, King Henry VII, and quickly consolidated his power by executing any other potential heirs to the throne. He also married Elizabeth of York to forge a blood alliance with his former enemies. In 1494 Henry VII forced Parliament to pass Poyning’s Law which gave the English Privy Council veto power over the Irish Parliament.
In 1509, Henry VII died and his son Henry VIII assumed the throne. Henry VIII saw Ireland as a unique threat because its ports could be potentially used as launching sites for an invasion of Britain from the sea. He also disliked his chief deputy in Ireland, the independent and Gaelic speaking Earl of Kildare. He instituted a program of “surrender and re-grant” in which the Anglo-Irish lords formally transferred ownership of their lands to the king, after which he officially returned the land to them in the form of a feudal fiefdom. In doing this Henry hoped to re-anglicize the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and eliminate, once and for all, the persistent Gaelic culture.
At the same time, religious dissatisfaction was festering across Europe. The Roman Catholic Church, which for centuries had brutally suppressed the truth about Jesus, was fraught with corruption by the sixteenth century. Very secular and unholy men were in charge of the church hierarchy and entry into Christian heaven was essentially up for sale. This sordid state of affairs created the environment of dissent in which the Reformation evolved.
Taking full advantage of the world’s growing distrust of Rome, Henry VIII decided to break away from the church himself. In 1525 he began an adulterous affair with the pretty, young, Anne Boleyn and requested permission from the Pope to annul his marriage to Catherine, his brother’s widow. The Pope, who answered to Catherine’s influential nephew rather than to god, refused to free Henry from his marriage contract. In 1529, with prompting from Thomas Cromwell, the king ordered the Anglican bishops to sever their relationship with Rome, he declared himself the head of the English church, and he married Anne.
Henry’s trusted Prime Minister, Thomas More, and the saint-like bishop of Rochester, John Fisher, both refused to swear theological allegiance to the king. Henry, who learned how to run a church from the Romans, had them both beheaded. He also wanted his staunchly Catholic daughter, Mary, to be beheaded as well, but his counselors persuaded him not to.
By 1536 Anne was no longer satisfying the royal ogre so he had her beheaded too. He then married Jane Seymour. This caused some rumbling among his subjects so, to assuage their moral doubts, Henry confiscated all of the treasure stored in the Catholic monasteries and distributed it among the masses. This convinced everyone that the Reformation was truly god’s will and they stopped criticizing their homicidal king.
In this same year John Calvin, the Father of Puritanism, published his book, Institutes of the Christian Religion in Geneva. Calvin’s strict teachings inspired the Protestant movements in France, Germany, Scotland, and the Netherlands. The Boers of South Africa were Dutch Calvinists, as well as the Pilgrims of North America.
Queen Jane died in childbirth in 1538, leaving her newborn son, Edward, as an heir to the throne. In 1540, Henry married and divorced Anne of Cleves, and married again to Katherine Howard. In the same year he had Thomas Cromwell beheaded, a treacherous act that later inspired the regicidal loathing of Oliver Cromwell. Three years later Henry VIII also had Ms. Howard beheaded so that he could marry Katherine Parr. By the time Henry VIII died in 1547 he had executed 130 people for “religious” reasons.
In 1541, Henry VIII was confirmed by the Irish parliament to be the king of all Ireland. Although the parliament was largely made up of landowners of Norman descent, the proclamation had to be read in the Irish language because only one member, the Earl of Ormond, understood English. This fact was not unnoticed by Henry. The Hundred Years War and the War of the Roses had distracted all previous English kings from the issues of Ireland. The Norman noblemen of Ireland therefore enjoyed immense independence from the crown in London. In fact, many of them rebelled when Henry tried to strengthen his control over the island. Both Henry VIII and his successor, Queen Elizabeth, concluded that the only way to rein in their renegade subjects in Ireland was to largely replace the ‘Hibernicized’ Norman Catholic and Gaelic Catholic landowners with loyal Protestant Englishmen.
Edward VI was only nine years old when he was inaugurated as the king of England in 1547. He was a sickly child and died at a very young age in 1553. In the same year, Michael Servetus, a Unitarian, fled from Spain to escape the dreaded Roman Inquisition, only to be burned at the stake by Calvin in Geneva. As Christianity imploded throughout Europe, everyone became a heretic to everyone else.
Much to the chagrin of the Protestant English nobles, Mary Tudor, the militantly Catholic daughter of Henry VIII, was the oldest royal available to put on the throne. Once she became queen, she married King Philip II of Spain who was universally despised by the British. She then set about ridding the government of the “Reformers”. By the time she died on November 17, 1558, she had over 300 Protestants burned at the stake, including five bishops, one hundred priests, and sixty women. Her reign assured that Catholics would be hated in England for the next five hundred years. This would eventually have direct and dire consequences for the nearest community of loyal Catholics, the Irish, for whom she did nothing.
Mary’s Protestant sister, Elizabeth, assumed the throne upon her death. She was the last of the Tudors to reign. By 1583 most of the Anglo-Irish rebels had been defeated and only the native Gaelic leaders remained defiant to Elizabeth. Hugh O’Neill of Ulster, who grew up in the royal court of London and who was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth herself, discarded his English titles and expelled the foreigners from his territory. In the Battle of Yellow Ford in 1598, O’Neill soundly defeated the English and inspired the entire island to take up arms against the Protestant Queen. Red Hugh O’Donnell, Donogh O’Sullivan MacCragh , Conor O’Sullivan MacCragh , Owen O’Sullivan Mor, Donal O’Sullivan Mor, and Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beara all joined forces under the command of Hugh O’Neill. This unsuccessful rebellion culminated in the tragic Battle of Kinsale in December, 1601.
King Philip of Spain sent a small force to aid the insurgent Irish in their fight against his age-old English enemies. This combined Irish and Spanish force was defeated by the English, however, and the O’Sullivan septs retreated to their respective homelands. Although there are scant records available for this epoch in the clan history, it seems likely that over the following two years the O’Sullivan MacCragh and the O’Sullivan Mor eventually abandoned the cause and solicited the crown for a pardon in exchange for future loyalty.
The O’Sullivan Beara continued fighting and therefore earned himself a much more illustrious place in history than his distant cousins. On December 31, 1603, Donal Cam and 1,000 followers, including 500 unarmed men and women, retreated from Glengarriff and started the long march to the safety of the unconquered territory of O’Rourke in the north.
This is an account of this incredible military feat as reported by Philip O’Sullivan Beare in Ireland Under Elizabeth:
“Now let us see the fortunes and perils and trials which O’Sullivan suffered in his flight from the hands of his enemy. He had to accomplish a long journey of about 100 leagues; the winter weather was most unsuitable therefore. His soldiers little exceeded 400 in number, of whom thirteen were cavalry, the other infantry, pikemen, musketeers, and a few targets. He had a large crowd of women and sutlers. All the roads were beset with enemies, and a large sum of money was promised to whoever would slay him. Hence it came to pass that he endured almost incredible toils and faced tremendous risks. I will briefly relate these circumstances in their order.
On the 31st of December, in the year of our Redeemer’s birth 1602, O’Sullivan set out from Glengarriff, and at night pitched his tents twenty-six miles away in Muskerry country, at a place which the natives call Augeris.
On the next day, the 1st of January, 1603, starting off in the early morning, he reached before midday, the populous village of Ballyvourney, dedicated to saint Gobnata.
There the soldiers paid such vows as each one list, gave vent to unaccustomed prayers, and made offerings, beseeching the saint for a happy journey. Advancing thence they were pursued by the sons of Thady MacCarthy with a band of natives, harassing their rear ranks with missiles, and again and again returning to the skirmish after being driven off by O’Sullivan’s wings of marksmen. Four hours were spent in continual fighting of this kind, and some on both sides were wounded. At last O’Sullivan, by making an attack with his whole column and killing some, put the enemy to flight. Covering twenty-four miles in that day, he pitched his tents at nightfall in O’Keefe’s country. Sentinels being posted, the soldiers abandoned their way-worn limbs to rest, but the natives annoyed throughout the whole night rather by yelling tha n hurting. Hunger also greatly weakened them, because they had no food the whole day, the provisions which they had taken with them for only one day having been all consumed. On the following dawn O’Sullivan marched his men by the base of Slieve Lougher towards Limerick City. Not far from this road was an English garrison under Cuffe, who with Viscount Barry’s nephew, and a band of his dependents, occupied the ford of a river O’Sullivan had to cross. The ford was contested with red hot balls from both sides for about an hour, until Cuffe was forced to abandon the place. In this fight four of the Catholics fell; the royalists lost more, many were wounded, and perhaps more would have perished, although they were superior in numbers, were it not that the Catholics through want and weariness, were unable to pursue them.
The Catholics having buried their dead and in turns carrying the wounded in military litters, accomplished a march of thirty miles that day, and on a stormy night pitched their camp in a desert place and vast solitude, near the woods of Aherlow, the guards being scarce able to keep awake through hunger, weariness, and fatigue. On the following day they refreshed themselves with cresses and water and hastened along in a direct route before sunrise.
The inhabitants in the usual way pursued. The Gibbons, mercenaries of the White Knight, natives of Limerick City, and a few English superior in numbers, but very undisciplined, attacked, not in column, but in a mob. However, they charged boldly and fiercely in front, rear, and baggage, which was carried in the middle, attacking all at once. Both sides fought with guns. Such heavy showers of bullets rained on all sides that O’Sullivan could not, as usual, bury his dead or carry off his wounded. Such a cloud of smoke from gunpowder darkened the air that one party was often unable to see the other. After the contest continued in this way for eight hours, O’Sullivan, reached at night Kilnamangh, where fires were lit, for as soon as the fighting was over the cold of a very severe winter pitched.
The soldiers, in whom want had produced starvation, fed on plants and roots and leaves of trees. As they proceeded on the following day, their rear ranks were engaged with the enemy's musketeers until they had reached Donohill fort, which the soldiers stormed for the sake of getting food. Whatever prepared food was there, the first who entered devoured right off. The rest set themselves to feed on meal, beans, and barley grains, like cattle. Carrying their packs, they covered about twenty miles, and halted in the village of Solloghod.
At this time Dermot, second son of O'Sullivan, aged two, was left in charge in unhappy Bear, where he was secretly nursed for two years by some gentleman of rank, and afterwards sent into Spain. From thence, at break of day, they took the route to Slieve Felim, where far larger forces sent by Ormond blocked the way. On learning this the Catholics were filled with terror, but as things were come to such a pass that the enemy could force them to fight against their wills, they resolved to attack the enemy first. When the enemy saw this they were stricken with greater fear and quitted the ground.
Hunger pinching them bitterly, Thomas Burke and Daniel O'Malley, by O'Sullivan's order, made a slight detour, with sixty men to look for booty and food.
These were suddenly attacked by the enemy, Daniel and twenty men killed, Thomas captured, and the rest routed, but saved by O'Sullivan coming to the rescue, and immediately he rescued Thomas flying from the enemy after having broken his bonds, his helmet on, but stripped of his sword, pike, and dagger. He halted in the village of Latteragh, and threw his men into a rather small church and its enclosure. There was in this village a fort from which he was annoyed the whole night with firing and by sallies of the garrison. He withstood the attack from the fort and momentarily awaited with drawn sword, prepared muskets and couched pikes a larger crowd of the enemy assembled not far from the camp; the men going on sentry and to sleep in turns.
It was now the 6th of January, when at dawn, a storm of red-hot balls blazed on O'Sullivan as he advanced. This was, indeed, a daily salutation with which the enemy honored him; a farewell as they drew off at night; a greeting as they turned up in the morning.
Throughout the whole day his rear column was continually engaged in fight and some fell on both sides, nor was O'Sullivan's only disadvantage that with a few he had to meet many, but, in addition, he had to oppose, with wearied and wounded, fresh and staid enemies. The fighting was usually with missiles. Whenever O'Sullivan halted the enemy fled, when he advanced they quickly pursued. Night putting an end to the contest, O'Sullivan reached the village of Brosna.
O'Sullivan seemed to be landed here in a very tight corner, as he could not cross the broad and navigable river Shannon since the enemy had removed all boats and ships, and warned every ferryman under the severest penalties not to carry him over. Moreover, the soldiers were nerveless from want. Every heart was hereupon filled with giant despair. In this critical state of things, my father, Dermot O'Sullivan, announced that he would in a short time make a ship and put an end to the soldiers' hunger.
On the following day, which was the 7th of January, they, by Dermot's advice, concealed themselves in the thick and secure wood of Brosna, and having cut down trees, arranged them like a ditch and surrounded themselves with a small trench. In two days they built two ships of osiers and trees, covered with the skins of twelve horses, which they killed, and on whose flesh they all fed except O'Sullivan, Dermot, and Dermot O'Houlaghan. The ship planned by Dermot was made in this way:—
Two rows of osiers were planted opposite each other, the thickest end being stuck in the ground, and the other ends bent in to meet each other's vis-à-vis, to which they were fastened with cords, and so formed the frame of the ship turned upside down. To this frame the solid planks were fixed, and seats and cross beams were fitted inside. Outside it was covered with the skins of eleven horses, and oars and dowels were fitted on. The keel was flat, both on account of the material used and in order to avoid rocks and stones. It was twenty-six feet long, six feet broad, and five feet deep, but the prow was a little higher in order to stem the tide. The other ship, which was built under direction of the O'Malleys, was made of osiers without joinings, having a circular bottom like a shield, and sides much higher than the bottom suited. It was covered with the skin of one horse drawn over the bottom. These ships were carried by night on the men's shoulders to the bank of the Shannon called Portland, and O'Sullivan began stealthily to ferry his men across in them. Ten of the O'Malleys got into his ship, but it perished in the midst of the river with its men, being too small and imperfectly built to bear the weight. Dermot's ship, which carried thirty armed men at a time, brought the others across safely, drawing after them the horses swimming and tied to the poop.
At daybreak, after the soldiers had been got over, Donogh MacEgan, who held the adjoining port of Kiltaroe, surrounded the baggage with an armed band and began to destroy the packs, to sprinkle the earth with the blood of the sutlers and drive the terror-stricken women into the river. Thomas Burke, with about twenty pikes and as many marksmen, had been placed on guard and in ambush by O'Sullivan to protect the others until they were brought over the river, and now rousing his men, he unexpectedly attacked Donogh, whom, with fifteen of his comrades, he slew, and routed the rest, nearly all wounded. The natives, attracted by the report of the guns, flocked down to both banks of the river. Hereupon Thomas, with his guards, women, and sutlers in a great panic, tumultuously pouring into, sank the ship, but so near the shore that no one perished, and the ship being again floated carried over the guards. Some of the sutlers swam across the river ; others, not being able to get over on account of the natives coming up, dispersed in different directions and hid themselves. O'Sullivan ordered the ship to be broken up lest it should prove useful to the enemy.
As O'Sullivan advanced from the banks of the river he was not given one single moment's rest from the attacks of the enemy. O'Madden assembling a crowd of natives, fired on him, but O'Sullivan, no whit daunted, divided his famished troops into two parts when he had reached Magheranearla, before mid-day, and each part in turn withstood the enemies' assaults.
Entering the houses, they gathered up sacks of wheat, beans, and barley, and refreshed themselves on the grains, and by drinking malt or beer. This kind of food and drink seemed, to their parched palates and hungry stomachs, regular nectar and delicacies. Whatever other kind of food had been in the village the natives had removed. Advancing thence, O'Sullivan sent eighty armed men in front, the baggage followed immediately after, and he himself, with 200 men (for he now had no more), brought up the rear. Here he was obliged by the pursuers' fire to leave behind some worn out beasts of burthen, and to abandon some men exhausted by the march, or weakened by wounds. When he had reached a place called Aughrim, Henry Malby, an Englishman, Thomas Burke, brother of the Earl of Clanrickarde, and Richard Burke, with five companies of foot and two troops of horse, and a band of natives, came against him. The neighing of their horses, the sheen of their brilliant amour, the braying of their trumpets, the sound of their pipes, the beat of their drums, all joyously and proudly anticipating victory, unnerved the small band of Catholics and struck terror into their souls. The eighty men who were in advance to protect the baggage, abandoned it and fled at first sight of the enemy. O'Sullivan thus addressed the others :—
“Since on this day our desperate circumstances and unhappy fate have left us neither wealth, nor country, nor children, nor wives to fight for, but, as on this instant the struggle with our enemies is for the life that alone remains to us, which of you, I ask in God's eternal name, will not rather fall fighting gloriously in battle and avenging your blood, than like cattle, which have no sense of honor, perish unavenged in cowardly flight? Surely our ancestors, heroes famed for their high spirits, would never seek by a shameful flight to shun an honorable death even when they could fly. For us it will be proper to follow in their footsteps, especially as flight offers no salvation. See the plain stretching far and wide without hindrance of bog, without thick woods, without any hiding-places to which we could fly for concealment. The neighboring people are no protection for us. There is none to come to our aid. The enemy block the roads and passes, and we, wearied with our long journey, are unable to run. Whatever chance we have is only in our own courage and strength of our own arms. Up, then, and on them, whom you excel in spirit, courage, achievements past, and holy faith. Let us remember this day that enemies who have everywhere attacked us have heretofore been routed by the Divine mercy. Above all let us believe that the victory is the gift of God. Let us think that Christ our Lord will be with His servants in their utmost need, and that for His name and holy faith we join issue with heretics and their abettors. Fear not the worthless mob of enemies who are not as used to fight as we are, much less as famous. Wherefore, I do hope they will turn tail when they shall see us heartily resist, even as I expect you will show forth your faith and courage.”
O'Sullivan had scarcely concluded this speech when the royalist cavalry were down full tilt upon him, endeavoring to run the foot through with their spears, to trample them under the horses' hoofs, and throw their ranks into confusion. O'Sullivan, avoiding the shock of the enemy's cavalry, marched his column through an adjacent swampy and boggy ground to a thin low copse- wood not far off. The royalist cavalry dismounted and joined their pikemen, and both, running through the bog, tried to get before O'Sullivan, and seize the copse, whilst his column was not fully arranged and his ranks were open. The royalist musketeers sharply pressed O'Sullivan's rear. O'Sullivan sent William Burke with forty gunmen against these musketeers, but he was driven back to O'Sullivan by the enemy's numbers with the loss of fourteen marksmen. At this instant O'Sullivan suddenly turned round his division on the enemy's column, which was within a dart's throw, and was followed by the chieftains and the brave though abandoned by cowards and dastards. This sudden and unexpected volte face struck terror into the royalists, and when ordered to fall into line some fled to the rear ranks and, one following another, they wheeled round in a circle. Some fled.
The chief and bravest, however, held their ground against O'Sullivan. Shortly before he came within a spear's length of them, twenty marksmen, whom O'Sullivan had posted flanking his front ranks, shot down eleven royalists. Forthwith, the advance lines of both parties fell to with drawn swords and couched spears. First of all, Captain Maurice O'Sullivan closed with Richard Burke, but before he had got firm ground he was struck on the chest and knocked down by Richard, who was standing on firm ground. He was, however, not wounded, being protected by his coat of mail. Donogh O'Hinguerdel (?) with a blow of a sword cut off Richard's right hand as he was making a second thrust with his pike, and Maurice quickly getting up again ran him through with his spear, and Hugh O'Flynn finished him off with his sword as he fell half dead. Dermot O'Houlaghan and Cornelius O'Morogh killed Malby. Then the fight became general, each attacking his foe as he met him. The fight going against the royalists, Thomas Burke, who was heavily armored, was got on his horse by his servants and rode off. And now a heap was formed of bodies and arms and the rest not slowly, but pell-mell, made for the adjoining fort of Aughrim.
O'Connor, a peer of the bravest in the fight, shouted victory I The conquerors hung on the rear of the enemy. And now those who had not dared to charge with O'Sullivan against the opposing foe, were quick enough to fall on the routed enemy, arrogating to themselves with great blusterings the glory of the victory obtained by others, and anxious by a show of spirit to wipe out the abject disgrace of their ill-timed cowardice.
However, the routed were not pursued far. O'Sullivan ordered a recall to be sounded, having seen John Bostock with some companies coming to the rescue of the fugitives, and who, with the others, betook himself to Aughrim fort. Whilst this was taking place, Malby's musketeers and a crowd of those who, following the Catholics' division, had been annoying them all day with throwing javelins, were engaged in plundering O'Sullivan's baggage, and when the royalist column was routed they also sought safety in flight.
In the battle about 100 royalists fell, the flower of their forces, their general. Malby, Richard Burke, three standard- bearers, as many adjutants, more sergeants, and the rest were Irish, Anglo-Irish, and English gentlemen. The conquerors lost the fourteen whom I have mentioned. O'Sullivan, collecting the enemy's arms and colors, fled that evening and following night through a host of surrounding enemies through O'Kelly's country with such haste that he left some soldiers worn out on the road, and overcome with sleep.
At dawn of the following day O'Sullivan crossed Slieve Murry, and, as he came near the villages, beat the drums and displayed the standards captured from the English at Aughrim, pretending that his men were Royalists and English, so that the food might not be hidden by the inhabitants. However, this device did not avail him, for the flocks and herds were removed, food and drink hidden, or carried into the fort, and MacDavid, the lord of the village, assembling a large, though for the most part unarmed, crowd of men, attacked him from a distance with missiles, and followed annoying, throughout the whole day, and cutting him off from food. At nightfall O'Sullivan concealed himself in the thick woods of Slieve O'Flynn. There, having lit fires, the soldiers, exhausted by the continuous watchings of the previous night and their great toils, had scarcely begun to yield their wearied limbs to rest when a man came to them to announce that the natives had decided and arranged to surround and destroy them at daybreak. Thereupon they kindled larger fires, as if all were encamped there, and quickly moved off, enduring with patience tremendous sufferings of an unseasonable march and time. The rain so poured on them that they were scarcely able to bear the weight of their soaked clothes. Quite tired out, they sank into deep snow as if into pits, and, when lifting one another out, were rather dragged down by their comrades than the latter pulled out. Nor was darkness the least of their trials, for? if any stars did shine, the boughs of the trees, interwoven with one another, formed an unbroken screen and shut out their light,so that they wandered about as if blind, following only the sound of familiar voices. And, moreover, the winds rustling the branches made a louder noise than mere whistling, and made hearing difficult. However, through the skill of their guides, they got through the wood, having covered four miles. When at daybreak the natives, under MacDavid, surrounded the quarters deserted by O'Sullivan, and found nothing but fires, they followed the track of the fugitive, and having come up with him about nine o'clock, attacked with missiles until he reached the top of a high hill. There some of O'Sullivan's men, whose strength was failing from weariness and hunger, swore they would rather hazard the worst in fighting the enemy than quit this spot before they had taken food and sleep, and the rest chimed in with the same vow. O'Sullivan was not unequal to the emergency, exhorting them to put all their trust in valour. And, indeed, martial ardor and courage are not to be despised in soldiers, however few (there were in sooth not more than 60 capable of fighting) or worn with toils. Quickly drawing up, they offered fight to the enemy, thinking that those who show fight with great confidence of success, or, hating a burdensome life, seek an honorable death, are more likely to perish well avenged or return safe to their wives, than peril their safety. O'Sullivan's men killed two horses, and, after all but the three who had previously declined horseflesh had eaten their fill, they took at night about six hours' long and peaceful sleep. They made brogues of the horses' hides, for they had worn out their boots, and made tracks for the wood which is called Diamhbhrach (Bracklieve?), that is, “ Solitude.” When they had entered this wood sleep again overcame them, and, scattered about without any order, bodies were stretched here and there, heedless of danger, each one resting until daylight wherever he chanced to settle down. O'Sullivan perceiving this, and having with himself but 12 companions, ordered a fire to be kindled, thinking, as in fact happened, that the stragglers when they awoke would gather round the blaze.
When day broke, the natives, coming to investigate the strange fire in such a wilderness, spent a long time talking with O'Sullivan, and then brought him a present of food, reporting to Oliver Lambert, President of Connaught, that the fire had been lit by laborers. Here some of the Catholics grew foot-sore from the hard weather and long march. O'Connor suffered intensely. On account of this, O'Sullivan tarried in the wood the following day till night. A night march was necessary for all, but O'Connor was so bad that he could not mount his horse. The highways and horsepaths were here and there blocked by enemies, and therefore the route was through narrow passes and obstructed valleys, so that they could not have struggled through were it not for one often helping the other. And so, O'Connor, lying stretched on the ground, thus addressed his feet:—” Have you not gone through the most difficult trials these last three nights? Why do you now shrink from the toils of one night ? Are not my head and the safety of my whole body more precious to you, my most delicate feet? What doth it avail to have fled so far if through your sloth we now fall into the hands of the enemy? I will assuredly make you shake off this sluggishness.” Forthwith, with the utmost effort and weight of his armor he struck his feet against the ground, and squeezing out the matter, pus, and blood, he got up and began to march with the rest. Now, however, a guide was wanted, and him God supplied. For a man clad in a linen garment, his feet bare, his temples bound with a white wreath, carrying in his hand a long wand tipped with an iron point, and presenting an appearance well calculated to inspire awe, appeared and greeted O'Sullivan and the rest, and being saluted by them in turn, thus spoke :—
“I know that you are Catholics tried by divers misfortunes, fleeing from the tyranny of heretics, that at Aughrim hill you routed the royalist forces, and are going to O'Rourke, who is 15 miles off, but you want a guide. Therefore a desire has seized me to conduct you thither.”
O'Sullivan long pondered whether he could confide in this man, and ordered 200 gold pieces to be given to him. These he took. “ This gift,” said he, “ I accept not as a reward, but in token of my good will towards you, as I have resolved of my own good will to do you this service.” The darkness of night, the unknown country, the suspected guide, multiplied the fears of those groping along. The feet slipping over loose stones, the snow heaped up by the wind, exhaustion, swollen feet, all tried the unhappy fugitives. O'Connor suffered more than anyone, the causes of his pain increasing. The greater part of his feet and legs was inflamed. Lividness supervened, and in turn gave place to blisters, and these were succeeded by ulcers. He was terribly afflicted and only able to bear up because he suffered for Christ Jesus. In the dead of night they reached the little village called Knockvicar, where they refreshed themselves with fire and purchased food. When they decided to move on, O'Connor, whose ulcers had been crustated by the fire, was not able to stand, much less walk. Four of his comrades carried him on their shoulders until in the twilight they found a stray beast, lank and worn with age, on which they placed him without bridle or saddle, the sharp bone of the lean back pricking the rider. Some led the blind beast, others whacked him along. Having got over the Curlew hills, they reached a plain, when O'Connor began to walk. After daybreak, the guide showed O'Sullivan O'Rourke's castle in the distance, and bid the rest farewell, assuring them all danger was now past. They reached Leitrim fort about eleven o'clock, being then reduced to 35, of whom 18 were armed, 16 were sutlers, and one was a woman. The others, who were over 1,000 leaving Bear, had either perished or had deserted their leader, or lingered on the road through weariness or wounds. Some followed in twos and threes. I am astonished that Dermot O'Sullivan, my father, an old man near 70, and the woman of delicate sex, were able to go through these toils, which youths in the flower of age and height of their strength were unable to endure. O'Rourke received O'Sullivan with most honorable hospitality, giving directions to have his sick cured, and all necessaries to be supplied just as he had afforded comfort to MacWilliam and Maguire, who had been driven to him. And he would have succored O'Sullivan had he delayed longer here.”
1570 Elizabeth I was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Pius V.
1579 On July 18th of this year James Fitz Maurice Fitzgerald landed on Dingle Peninsula in O’Sullivan’s country accompanied by Nicholas Sanders, the Papal legate. They were protected by a small force of Italian and Spanish soldiers. Within a month of his arrival Fitzgerald was betrayed and murdered.
1594 Birth of Owen , the O’Sullivan MacCragh.
As the station of the O’Sullivan MacCragh sept diminished, so did the fortune of the Gaelic order in Ireland. In the early years of the seventeenth century, most of the wealthy Irish noblemen abandoned their people and escaped to Spain, Portugal, or France in what would become known as the “Flight of the Earls”. The few that remained struggled to retain at least some of their ancestral lands. The Articles of Plantation of 1609 were designed to strip the native Catholic landlords of their property and to transfer it to loyal, Protestant, English and Scottish settlers.
1624 Birth of Dermot , the O’Sullivan MacCragh.
1654 Birth of Owen , the O’Sullivan MacCragh.
1684 Birth of Dermot , the O’Sullivan MacCragh.
Dermot  is the last O’Sullivan MacCragh listed in the Book of Munster. While it is not known exactly where the three generations following Owen  lived, it is likely that they led the lives of impoverished tenant farmers and fishermen. The family refused to abandon its Roman Catholic faith and suffered the above described consequences. The children of kings were now treated as peasants by the vulgar English victors.