clan gathers: O'Briens head for a Limerick meet
The O'Briens are coming. Clan members from all over
the world will converge on Limerick and the south Shannon
region this week for a millennium festival to mark the crowning
of Brian Boru as High King of Ireland in 1002.
It will be the first major gathering of the clan for 10
years and is the brainchild of the current head of the O'Briens,
Conor, 59, who is also Prince of Thomond, 18th Baron Inchiquin,
10th Baronet of Lamaneh and 32nd in direct descent from
One of 20 recognised clan heads, from his base in Newmarket-on-Fergus,
Lord Inchiquin is the leader of those with the
sixth most common surname in Ireland.
The O'Briens are Ireland's third largest clan
with an estimated 750,000 worldwide.
Lord Inchiquin hopes the gathering will boost a non-profit
making foundation he set up to work for the good of O'Briens
across the world and particularly to fund educational scholarships.
He sold two of his titles to help start the foundation -
the feudal barony of Corcomroe, covering parts of Clare
including Liscannor Bay, the Cliffs of Moher and Ennistymon
and the barony of the islands covering part of the River
Fergus estuary in Clare.
The Barony of Bunratty, where the famous castle will be
one of the major venues for this week's celebrations,
is leased to an American in return for a substantial donation
to the foundation. The Castle was built in the 15th century
by the Earl of Thomand, a direct descendant of Boru.
Lord Inchiquin hopes that eventually there will be a museum,
library and genealogical research centre in Clare.
There is no charge for joining any of the 62 chapters of
the clan association set up worldwide.
My view has always been that, whether you like it
or not, if you are an O'Brien, you are a member of
the clan. You shouldn't have to pay money to be given
a number to prove it.
But a donation is expected from those joining the foundation
to help fund the charity.
When he began planning the O'Brien millennium, Lord
Inchiquin hoped that up to 5,000 would be attracted to the
September 11 has really put paid to that. It is a
great shame after all the effort. We sent out 100,000 brochures
and I did 40 television and radio interviews in the States.
We are now expecting up to 500. The Americans just
aren't travelling and we had hoped to get the biggest
response from America. We have a lot coming from New Zealand,
Australia, Japan, Britain, Canada and of course, America.
Unfortunately the foundation was going to make a certain
amount on each person over a certain figure. But that won't
be so I will be making an appeal during the gathering for
people to support it.
He will also be making an appeal for the missing sword of
Brian Boru. In the 1960s it was stolen from the Vernon family
in Clontarf and hasn't been seen since.
It was a magnificent sword. I have an Australian-made
replica for the festivities which weighs five kilos and
is 1.6 metres long. It is a hefty weapon. The original was
always attributed to Brian Boru but it may have been made
after his death. I am hoping that someone knows where it
He hopes the festival will instill a sense of pride in the
accomplishments of Boru and his descendent, many of who
have high achiever in business, entertainment and sport.
As chairman of the Standing Council of Irish Chiefs, Lord
Inchiquin says there is tremendous interest in roots and
the 20 Irish clans involved.
They can play a major role in tourism. We can also
ensure that the country recognise the importance of the
link between the old gaelic culture and our modern day Republican
The festival (from 18th to 22nd August) will involve historical
lectures, conferences, exhibitions, tours and celebratory
There will be visits to significant Brian Boru sites, landmarks
and castles including the Rock of Cashel, Dromoland Castle,
Bunratty Castle, Cliffs of Moher (O'Briens Towers),
Ennis and The Burren.
Educated at Eton College, Lord Inchiquin worked in banking
in the Far East before returning to Ireland in 1982, where
he became chief of the clan after his uncle Phaedrig died.
Although the original Inchiquin estate of 1880 ran to 28,000
acres, the land that he inherited 100 years later had dwindled
over the decades to 600 acres.
He and his wife Helen, have two daughters, Slaney and Lucia.
He expects his father's first cousin, Murrough, will
eventually carry on his title.
The O'Briens claim to trace their ancestry back through
the generations to Noah and to be one of the oldest recorded
families in Europe.
Brian Boru: became High King of Ireland in 1002.
Succeeded to the kingship of the Dal Cais (Delcassians)
tribe, a powerful Munster dynasty in 976. He went on to
enforce his authority over much of the country with a combination
of military skill and political astuteness and was regarded
as the Charlemagne of Ireland. Aged 74 he led
the defeat of the Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014
but was slain by a Danish prince. Boru is reputed to have
cut the legs off the Dane with his sword before he died.
Black Murrough the Burner O'Brien: the first
Earl of Inchiquin, who changed sides four times and his
religion twice during the English Civil War. Infamous for
his burning of Cashel and blamed for the massacres of the
defenders. Went into exile and became governor of Catalonia
before returning home to his restored Munster estates. His
tomb in St Marys Cathedral is empty as his body was removed
and thrown in the Shannon on the night of his funeral.
General-Major Johann Freiherr von O'Brien:
gave outstanding service to Austria, especially at the 1809
battle against Napoleon at Vienna. The street, O'Brien
Gasse, is named after him and Vienna also honoured
him with the O'Brien Denkmal monument.
Charles O'Brien: the 5th Viscount Clare
followed James II to France after the Williamate War and
gave his name to a regiment in the French service.
Colonel O'Brien: a mercenary in Portugal
gave a phrase to his adopted county's language. On
the way to fight the Spanish, his Irish force hung around
the coastal town of Peniche eating and drinking for weeks
too long. Um amigo de Peniche means a friend
who has outstayed his welcome.
William Smith O'Brien: born into a Protestant
gentry family in 1803, he was elected MP for Ennis as a
Tory in 1828. Supported Catholic Emancipation and became
convinced that justice for Ireland could not be attained
under the Union. After the 1848 rebellion, he was captured
by a railway guard! He was convicted of high treason and
transported to Tasmania. Six years later he was pardoned
and returned to Ireland.
William O'Brien: a leading nationalist
and journalist who married a rich Frenchwoman. He founded
the All-for-Ireland League in 1898 which won eight parliamentary
seats in Co Cork in 1910. Later dismissed as Screaming
William by the Nationalist Party, he was at one stage
a leading lieutenant of Charles Parnell.
Pat O'Brien: Hollywood's Irishman-in-residence
who is best remembered for his role as a policeman, a priest,
and the Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne opposite Ronald Regan
in Knute Rockne - All American. Also seen in other films
such as The Fighting 69th, The Fighting Father Dunne, The
Fireball and Angels With Dirty Faces.
Margaret O'Brien: considered one of the
most successful child actresses after Shirly Temple. She
appeared in more than 20 films in her early years, from
Babes on Broadway with Mickey Rooney to Meet Me In St Louis
with Judy Garland.
Parry O'Brien: revolutionised the sport
of shot putt with his whirling technique. Won the gold medal
for the US in the 1952 and 1956 Olympics. He was the first
man to throw the shot more than 60 feet.
Vincent O'Brien: the retired horse trainer
who was known as the Master of Baldoyle. He
trained horses from England, Ireland, France and the US
that won many of the world's most prestigious races.
Edna O'Brien: the novelist whose debut
with Country Girls put her straight onto the
literary map. At one time six of her books were banned in
Denis O'Brien: entrepreneur and founder
of Esat which was awarded the country's second mobile
phone licence. Now one of Ireland's richest men, he
went to live in tax exile in Portugal after the company
was bought by British Telecom.
Courtesy of the Irish Post