In spite of a Chronicler’s anguished complaint in 820, that there was no longer a creek or harbour in the country that wasn’t full of pirates, there does not appear to have been a permanent Norse presence in the Connemara area. Tey did have a profound impact on the folklore and place- names of the area however, as they did across the country. ‘Danes’ Forts’ and placenames in Irish featuring the term Lochlannaigh are common in Connemara but on closer inspection these usually turn out to be of Irish origin. Obviously ancient buildings seem to have been ascribed to the Danes in much the same way as pagan wells had the names of Christian Saints associated with them.
Some small traces of a real Viking presence do survive. Slyne
Head was known as a navigation point to the Scandinavians of Iceland and is mentioned under a version of its Irish name Léim Lara, the Mare’s Leap, in the Icelandic sagas. A bone comb bearing a dot and circle motif, popular with the Vikings of Dublin, was discovered during the excavation of a sunken house at Doonloughan. A Hiberno-Norse Ringed pin, another popular Dublin item, was found in a midden on Omey Island as well. In spite of these it does not seem that the Vikings settled in the territory of the Con-Maicne.
Just as Inishbofin had been among the first victims of raid- ers, the Aran Islands were the setting for some of the last Scandinavian raids at the beginning of the 11th century when pagan raiders from the Hebrides launched a series of slaving
attacks. However by this time the Irish Kings had acquired fleets of their own and this was not the signal for a new wave of invading Scandinavians.
Norman influence on Connemara Te next major foreign influence on Ireland were the
Normans but their presence in Connemara was indirect and mediated through the town they founded at Galway. John D’Arcy, the founder of Clifden, like many Connemara families, was of Norman French origin. Others include the Joyces, Burkes, Morrises, Guys, De Courceys, De Lapps, Barrys, Stauntons and Gibbons all of which are still local names. Tough the Normans themselves failed to capture Connemara, one of their frontier castles, Hen’s Castle, survives in Joyce Country on Lough Corrib. In medieval times Connemara was ruled by the O’Cadhlas who were later pushed out by the ferocious O’Flahertys who built a series of castles along the coast.
The O’Flaherty Lordship of Connemara
Te O’Flahertys, a powerful clan who had given several kings to the Province of Connacht in the 7th century, held the rich limestone plains east of Lough Corrib until the 13th century, when the de Burgos, the first of the Normans to move so far west, gradually forced them to retire to Connemara. Tey displaced the O’Cadlha, traditional chiefs of Connemara, one of whom fell at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. By the 16th century the O’Flahertys had built a net-
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