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The view from Ladies View, Ring of Kerry by Ian S, via Wikimedia Commons

Adam to Brian Boru. The Irish Kings

The people we now call Irish are Gaels. When they came to Ireland they were called Scots (after Scota). When some of them moved to North Britain, or Albion, they continued to be called Scots and the land became known as Scotland. Those who remained in Ireland are known as Irish.

Scroll down for video on Early Christianity in Ireland

Adam to Brian Boru. The Video


The history of the Irish kings is not quite so straightforward as the history of the Welsh and English kings. There are several sources for ancient Irish history.for example: -


  • The Annals of Clonmacnoise are an early 17th-century Early Modern English translation of a lost Irish chronicle, which covered events in Ireland from prehistory to 1408. The work is sometimes known as Mageoghagan's Book, after its translator Conall the Historian.


  • The History of Ireland by Geoffrey Keating. The Irish title for this is Foras Feasa ar Éirinn – literally 'Foundation of Knowledge on Ireland', but most often known in English as 'The History of Ireland'[. It is a narrative history of Ireland by Geoffrey Keating, written in Irish and completed c. 1634.


These sources rely on ancient source material that is now lost. However we can still get some idea of the rise of the Irish kings.

"Tuan watches Nemed", an illustration of Tuán watching the Nemedians arriving in Ireland, by J. C. Leyendecker in T. W. Rolleston's Myths & Legends of the Celtic Race, 1911


Scota and Gaedel Glas in a 15th century manuscript of Bower's Scotichronicon. Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS 171, f 14r.

A useful starting point is  Lebor Gabála Érenn (literally "The Book of the Taking of Ireland"), known in English as The Book of Invasions. It tells the story of Ireland being settled six times by six groups of people. Ireland, like Britain, was originally inhabited by giants who needed to be fought and they seem to have been there from the time of the Flood.


The Lebor Gabála Érenn gives the usual list of patriarchs from Adam to Noah. All European nations are descended from Noah’s son Japheth and it explains that the Gaels (Irish) and Scythians were descended from Japheth’s son Magog. Fénius Farsaid (Feninsa Farsaid) is said to be the forebear of the Gaels. He lived at the time of the Tower of Babel. His son Nel (or Niul) marries Scota the daughter of an Egyptian Pharaoh. They have a son named Goídel Glas (Gaidheal, Gadelas, Gaythelos). Goídel crafts the Goidelic (Gaelic) language from the original 72 languages that arose after the confusion of tongues at Babel. Goídel's offspring, the Goidels (Gaels), leave Egypt at the same time as the Israelites (the Exodus) and settle in Scythia. They eventually leave Scythia and after hundreds of years find their way to Spain.


The next chart give details of the six invasions.

The-invasions-of-Ireland (1).jpg

The Milesians were the last of the invaders/settlers and so it is only their genealogies that have been preserved. Their family tree begins with the brothers Eber and Eremon. They traced their descent from Goídel Glas the father of the Gaels. The Irish scholar nun Mary Francis Cusack, who wrote The Illustrated History of Ireland in the nineteenth century tells us that the great southern chieftains such as the MaCarthys and O’Briens claimed descent from Eber. The northern families of O’Connor, O’Donnell and O’Neil claimed descent from Eremon.


There are various alternative versions of the Irish legends. It would take a lifetime to go through them all. One interesting version is The Chronica Gentis Scotorum or Chronicles of the Scottish People.  It was written by John of Fordun, a priest who lived in Aberdeen in the 14th Century. In his Chronicle the The Scots derived their origin from Gathelus, son of Neolus, king of Greece, who, in the time of Moses, went to Egypt, where he married Scota, a daughter of the pharaoh, after which he led the Scots to Spain

THE COMING OF THE MILESIANS. Myths and legends; the Celtic race (1910). From Wikimedia Commons


The Stone of Destiny (Lia Fáil) at the Hill of Tara, once used as a coronation stone for the High Kings of Ireland. From Wikimedia Commons

From Spain, several groups travelled to Ireland, the last of these was under the leadership of Simon Breac, son of the king of Spain. He brought with him the coronation seat of the Scottish kings, which, according to Fordun, was marble. There are various different versions of this story in different chronicles. However, Simon Breac, or Brech, seems to be a central character. He was crowned King of Ireland in about 700 BC and placed the marble chair in Tara, the traditional seat of the Irish kings, where many successive kings were crowned after him. 

According to Holinshed's Chronicle, one of the successors of Simon Breac was called Rothesay. In his time the people had multiplied and he transported some of them to the Ebonides, the islands which we know as the Hebrides. This was how the Scots originally came to the land we know as Scotland. By about 600 BC the Scots had settled in a place called Argathelia, (after Gaythelos) which we know as Argyll.

It was around this time that another group of Scythian people arrived in Ireland who were known as the Picts. They were not allowed to live among the Scots in Ireland but were given wives from among the Scots and allowed to live in Albion, the area we know as northern Britain/Scotland. From this time on there was conflict between the Scots and Picts in Scotland.


The Stone of Scone at Edinburgh Castle

At some point in the 4th Century BC there was a king in Ireland called  Ferguhardus. He sent his son Fergusius to help his fellow Scots in Albion who were at war with the Picts. Fergusius came to Albion with an army and the marble chair. He was crowned upon the chair, also known as The Chair of Hope, in Argyll as the first King of the Scots in about 327 BC.


The Picts and the Scots divided up Scotland between them but there followed centuries of conflict with the Britons and also between the Picts and the Scots themselves. The Pictish nation finally came to an end during the reign of Kenneth, King of the Scots in the 9th Century AD. The Picts as a nation were entirely wiped out by the Scots with the few survivors having to flee abroad.


In some chronicles the marble chair brought to Argyll became known as the Stone of Destiny. Kenneth moved it to Scone and it became known as the Stone of Scone. King Edward I of England moved it to Westminster Abbey in London in 1296. In 1996 it was returned to Scotland and placed in Edinburgh Castle. However this stone is not the original marble chair as it is a stone made of sandstone.


In Ireland itself it is difficult to establish an authentic line of kings although many works have attempted to do so. According to medieval Irish literature, Ireland was ruled by a High King since ancient times. Many early Irish texts like the Lebor Gabála Érenn, attempted to trace the line of the dynasties. Geoffrey Keating's Foras Feasa ar Éirinn (The History of Ireland) gives long genealogies of the various chieftains going back to Adam. The kings, or chieftains, of the clans were chosen from the most able or suitable members of the clans rather than following a strict system of primogeniture such as the English followed.


However, one king stood out from the others and could probably be called the greatest high king of Ireland. In some ways he is to Ireland what Arthur was to the Britons and Alfred to the English. Brian Boru was a fearless warrior who succeeded in uniting all the provinces of Ireland under his rule. Together with his army at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, Brian Boru defeated a Viking-Irish alliance army and ended the Viking era of control in Ireland. Unfortunately, although Brian Boru had won the greatest victory of his long career, he did not live long to enjoy it.  As he knelt in his tent praying for victory and for his army, Viking Brodir, who was nearby, ran into his tent and killed the 73-year-old Brian.

Death of King Brian Boru, Good Friday, 1014. From Wikimedia Commons


The High Kingship of Ireland continued until Rory O’Connor (Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair), the Last High King. During his reign there was an Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland. In October 1171, King Henry II of England landed with a large army to assert control over both the Anglo-Normans and the Irish. From that point on the Anglo-Normans gradually conquered and acquired large swathes of land from the Irish, over which the kings of England then claimed sovereignty. 


I could end the story of the Irish kings here but actually the story doesn’t end here. There is a direct line of descent to our current British monarch, King Charles III, from Brian Boru.


The following chart gives an idea of the descent from Adam, through Magog to the Gaels and the Irish kings. It also gives a connection to King Charles III

Rory O'Conor, High King of Ireland, via Wikimedia Commons

Brian-Boru (1).jpg

You can get a more complete list of the Irish Kings in PDF for on the web page Useful Charts 1.


So, to sum up, the Irish/Scots are different from the Welsh and the English (who are descended from Japheth’s son Javan) because they are descended from another of Japheth’s sons, Magog. This may account for why the Irish and highland Scots have a different spiritual history to the English and Welsh. They did not take part in the great religious changes brought about by the Reformation (although the lowland Scots did) but remained in the Catholic fold. However the Irish kings are still a part of the British royal line through the connection with Brian Boru.

Prophetically speaking England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland are all Tarshish nations. They are the nations which parented the Tarshish cub nations which are the nations which were once part of the British Empire. Consequently the future of Ireland is not with the European Union. At some point there will be a rupture between the Republic of Ireland and the EU as Ireland re-aligns itself with the other Tarshish nations.

Ireland, early peoples and politics. Redrawn from a map of 7th–8th century Ireland found in Seán Duffy's Atlas of Irish History. Mike Christie at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Early Christianity in Ireland

St. Patrick Baptizing Irish Princesses. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Early Christianity in Ireland Video


Skellig Michael By Jerzy Strzelecki - Own work. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons .

Christianity is said to have arrived in Ireland early in the fifth century but it is probable that Christians from Britain came to Ireland much earlier. Christianity arrived in Britain much earlier than is commonly believed. If you want to know more about this, visit the web page Adam to Arthur. The British Kings and scroll down to the section titled The British Kings. The Spiritual Consequences. 

Remote Christian communities seem to have developed in Ireland on rocky islands and in other inaccessible places. Skellig Michael is an island off the west coast of Ireland. According to some sources the establishment of a hermitage on the island was ordered by Arwystli, aka Aristobulus. He was appointed and ordained Bishop of Britain by the Apostle Paul. Aristobulus of Britannia is a Christian saint named by Hippolytus of Rome (170–235) and Dorotheus of Gaza (505–565) as one of the Seventy Disciples mentioned in Luke 10:1–24 and as the first bishop in Roman Britain. Irish Christians were sufficiently numerous by 431 to justify Pope Celestine's appointment of Saint Palladius as Bishop of Ireland, a year earlier than Saint Patrick is believed to have arrived in Ireland. It seems that Christianity had taken root in Ireland before it became institutionalised by the Catholic church.


 Icon of Saint Patrick from Christ the Saviour Church, via Wikimedia Commons

However it is Saint Patrick who we mainly remember as the apostle to the Irish.The canonisation of saints is a Roman Catholic practise, not a biblical one. The bible says that every believer is called to be a saint.


[Rom 1:7 KJV] 7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called [to be] saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.


However Patrick certainly was a true believer in Christ and a saint. My eyes were opened to the life of Patrick soon after I became a Christian and read a book called “The Steadfast Man” by Paul Gallico. At the end of the book two of Patrick’s letters were reproduced. The only actual authentic documents we have written by Patrick himself. One is the Confessio or Confession of Saint Patrick. This is basically Patrick’s own testimony of his life and labours in Ireland. It is full of scripture references and sound doctrine. To me, reading it as a new C

hristian, I was amazed at how doctrinally sound it was, giving all the glory to God for what had been achieved and written from a place of humility. He was clear about the importance of the Trinity and the work of the Holy Spirit.

There was no hint of the false doctrines that later entered into the Catholic church such as praying for the dead, praying to Saints, indulgences and so on. 


The other letter was his Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus. This was a letter to a British chieftain named Coroticus. Coroticus and his men had raided Ireland from Britain and killed a number of Patrick’s newly converted Christians and sold the rest into slavery. Patrick himself had been captured as a boy when living in Britain, and taken into slavery in Ireland. The letter is a crushing indictment of this kind of barbarism.


So we see that this man was humble yet passionate and called by God to evangelise the Irish. He was the best type of Catholic Saint, driven on by dreams and visions and his personal relationship with his saviour. However Christianity in Ireland existed before and after him and developed its own unique characteristics.  

End of Roman Rule in Britain, 383–410, via Wikimedia Commons


The Christian faith continued to develop in Ireland. Finnian of Clonard and Enda of Arran were two early Irish saints who established monasteries and are considered by some to be  the fathers of Irish monasticism. It is interesting that both of them had links with the church in Britain. 


Finnian established Clonard Abbey in modern day County Meath. This monastery was a centre of learning in the sixth century and at its height it is thought there were an average of 3,000 scholars studying there at any one time. Twelve students who studied under St Finian became known as the "Twelve Apostles of Ireland". These early Irish saints helped bring Christianity to the whole of Ireland. Among them was Saint Columba who later led a mission to Scotland to bring Christianity to the Picts.


Although Ireland became a Catholic nation the roots of its Christianity were Celtic and had strong connections with the Celtic Christianity in Britain. 

Statue St Finnian of Clonard, via Wikimedia Commons

Teampall Brecan The remains of a monastic site with a church, often referred to as the Seven Churches. The church is dedicated to Saint Brecan whose origin is obscure. This site was a major destination for pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, but the present ruins date from around 1200AD. Other buildings around the church are supposed to be hostels for the pilgrims. Jonathan Wilkins / Teampall Brecan, via Wikimedia Commons

 Ireland became became known as the Insula Omnium Sanctorum or “Holy Island,” also Island of Saints and Scholars.  Monasteries and convents dotted the island, not only as sites for prayer but also for learning and scholarship. Often attached to the larger religious communities were smaller monastic cells for a single hermit monk, anchorite, or nun. Ireland became known for its holiness and abundance of “Saints”.


I believe that Christianity had been in Ireland from the days of the early church in the Book of Acts when the faith spread rapidly all over the world. This early Christianity in the British Isles is often referred to as Celtic Christianity but it is really the pure and simple form of the faith that existed before it became institutionalised by the Catholic church. In Ireland this Celtic Christianity was marked by simplicity, holiness and a desire for learning which was enshrined in monasticism.

Later on there would be a severe clash between this form of Christianity and the excesses of the institutional Catholic Church. However Irish Christianity always retained its distinctive nature.

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