Gofraid ua Ímair

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Gofraid (or Gothfrith) (Old Irish: Gofraid ua Ímair,[1] Old Norse: Guðrøðr) (died 934) was a Norse-Gael king of Dublin and, for a short time, king of Northumbria. Gofraid was one of the grandsons of Ímar, the dynasty is known as the Uí Ímair, and along with his kinsmen Sihtric Cáech and Ragnall, he was active in Ireland and in northern Britain.

The Ímar from whom the Uí Ímair were descended is generally presumed to be that Ímar, "king of the Northmen of all Britain and Ireland", whose death is reported by the Annals of Ulster in 873. Whether this Ímar is to be identified with the leader of the Great Heathen Army, or with Ivarr the Boneless, is less certain.[2] In the period between the death of Ímar and the expulsion of the Northmen and Norse-Gaels from Dublin in 902, it is not certain that any descendants of Ímar played a notable part in the politics of the region. Members of the kindred appear to have led armies against the Picts following their expulsion, but these were killed and the armies destroyed in 904 by Constantín son of Áed, the king of Alba.[3]

In the following decade it is supposed that the grandsons of Ímar may have been in some part of the Atlantic or Irish Sea coasts of Britain where the historical record sheds almost no light on events, the area in question extending from the Isle of Man through the Hebrides to the Northern Isles, as well as the coasts opposite. They reappear again in 914 when Ragnall and his kinsman Sihtric are recorded leading fleets in the Irish Sea. The first report of Gofraid is in 918, when he accompanied Ragnall's expedition to Northumbria and fought at the second, or perhaps only, battle of Corbridge against Constantín son of Áed and Ealdred son of Eadwulf. The battle was not decisive, but this allowed Ragnall to take power at York.[4] Sihtric had established himself as ruler of Dublin in late 917, and defeated and killed the High King of Ireland Niall Glúndub on 14 September 919. Sihtric joined Ragnall and Gofraid in Northumbria in 920, and succeeded Ragnall in 921. Gofraid then returned to Ireland to rule in Dublin.[5]

On 10 November 921, Gofraid's army seized Armagh, the home of the cult of Saint Patrick and one of the chief church centres of Ireland. The Annals of Ulster state:

the prayer-houses with their complement of culdees and sick he spared from destruction, and also the monastery, save for a few dwellings which were burned through carelessness.[6]

Ó Cróinín and Woolf contrast this with the earlier phases of the Viking Age in Ireland.[7] Gofraid's raid into the north, while initially successful, ended with defeat by an army led by Muirchertach mac Néill.[6] An expedition to Limerick in 924 may have had mixed results: the Annals of Ulster say that it ended in failure, while the Annals of Innisfallen report that Gofraid "took the hostages of the south of Ireland".[8]

Gofraid's son Alpdann (Old Norse Hálfdan) was killed in 927 at Linn Duachaill—now Annagassan, County Louth—by Muirchertach and the survivors of his army besieged until Gofraid brought an army from Dublin to rescue them. Sihtric Cáech died the same year, and the Annals of Ulster state that Gothfrith left Dublin with a fleet. He appears to have been chosen as king at York to succeed Sihtric, but within six months he was back in Dublin, having been driven out of Northumbria by King Æthelstan.[9]

Back in Ireland, Gofraid raided Osraige and Leinster in 930 and outraged the annalists by pillaging Derc Ferna in modern county Kilkenny.[10]

Gofraid died in 934, the Annals of Ulster describing him as "a most cruel king of the Norsemen".[11] He was followed as king of Dublin by a son Amlaíb, and another son, Blácaire would also rule Dublin.


  1. ^ Or perhaps Gofraid Ua Ímair, representing a surname rather than the name of Gothfrith's grandfather; Ó Cróinín, Early Medieval Ireland, p. 256, remarks of the grandsons of Ímar: "curiously, their fathers are nowhere named ... suggesting almost that the name had become a surname".
  2. ^ Ó Cróinín, Early Medieval Ireland, pp. 250–254, discusses Ímar's career and the various arguments. See also Woolf, Pictland to Alba, chapter 2. Ó Corráin, "Vikings in Scotland and Ireland", passim, sets out the case against the identification.
  3. ^ Woolf, Pictland to Alba, pp. 129–134.
  4. ^ Hart, "Ragnall"; Higham, Kingdom of Northumbria, pp. 185–187; Keynes, "Rulers of the English", p. 505, places Ragnall's accession circa 919; Woolf, Pictland to Alba, pp. 142–144.
  5. ^ Ó Cróinín, Early Medieval Ireland, p. 258; Woolf, Pictland to Alba, p. 148.
  6. ^ a b Annals of Ulster, s.a. 921.
  7. ^ Ó Cróinín, Early Medieval Ireland, p. 259; Woolf, Pictland to Alba, p. 148.
  8. ^ Annals of Ulster, s.a. 924; Annals of Innisfallen, s.a. 924.
  9. ^ Annals of Ulster, s.a. 927; Higham, Kingdom of Northumbria, pp. 189–190; Keynes, "Rulers of the English", p. 505; Woolf, Pictland to Alba, p. 151.
  10. ^ Annals of Ulster, s.a. 930. The Annals of Innisfallen, s.a. 930, say that the army came from Limerick.
  11. ^ Annals of Ulster, s.a. 934.


Gofraid ua Ímair
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Sihtric Cáech
King of Dublin
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Sihtric Cáech
King of Jórvík?
Succeeded by
Æthelstan as King of the English
Preceded by
Sihtric Cáech
King of the Foreigners
Succeeded by