The bounds between Irish Legend and Irish Myth has often been blurred, especially as the retelling of heroic deeds has been passed on through generations. Brian Boru was no legend although his life deeds were legendary. He was very much a real man and was in fact the last great High King of Ireland and perhaps the greatest military leader the country has ever known.
Brian Boru was born Brian Mac Cennétig at Kincora, Killaloe, a town in the region of Tuadmumu (Thomond), the son of Cennetig (Cennedi) and Babhion or Bebinn. Members of the Dál gCais (or Dalcassians) tribe, the family had an ancient royal ancestry. His mother was sister to the mother of Conor, the King of Connacht. The youngest of twelve sons, Brian would become the 175th King of Ireland, the founder of the O’Brien dynasty and the ancestor of the Kings of Thomond. Brian was an excellent harp musician and the harp has become a symbol of peace and unity in Ireland in his memory.
In 1002, Brian was recognised as Ard Rí, High King of Ireland, thus ending the six hundred year reign of the Uí Néill’s in Leinster. Breaking from tradition, he ruled from Kincora Castle in Killaloe instead of Cashel, thus making Killaloe the “Capital of Ireland “. Brian’s name was inscribed in the Book of Armagh, in gold lettering, as “Emperor of the Irish” in 1005 during Brian’s campaign in the north of Ireland.