Cairbre Drom Cliabh

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Cairbre Drom Cliabh
Cairbre na Catha/Críoch Cairbre/Cairbre Mór
Túath/ Tríocha Céad
Coubty Sligo tuath map.jpg
Sligo territories as they were in c.1585
 • Created uncertain
 • Abolished 1603
 • Succeeded by Barony of Carbury, County Sligo
Status Saor túath (Free Territory)
 • Type Mixed Democratic Monarchy
 • Type Parishes/Townlands

Cairbre Drom Cliabh (meaning "Carbery of Drumcliff"), was an Irish túath in modern County Sligo, north-western Ireland.[1] It is now represented by the barony of Carbury. Also known as Cairbre na Catha (Carbury of the Battles). It existed from at least the 6th century to the 16th century AD. As a frontier territory of Connacht it was a free túath under a branch of the O'Connor dynasty called the Clann Aindrias or O'Connor Sligo

Location and Extent[edit]

This territory is between the coast and the Dartry mountains, borders Ulster to the north and extends from the Owenmore river at Ballysadare to the Drowes (Drobhaois) River near Bundoran. It included the districts of Cálraighe Locha Gile, Magh Cetne, Bréachmhaigh,[2] Magh Eabha,[3] Cuil Iorra and part of Dartraige. Benbulben (Benn Ghulbain) is in it along with Knocknarea and Lough Gill. The extent was larger prior to the twelfth century.

Early history[edit]

The tuath takes its name from Cairbre mac Néill, third son of Niall of the Nine Hostages. Cairbre is described as an enemy of St. Patrick. Tírechán's seventh century Life of Patrick states that Cairbre was cursed by the saint, at the hill of Tara, that none of his descendants would be High King. He is most closely associated with Tailtu and Granard in the early accounts.

Cairbre was excluded from most later lists of High Kings but remains in the earliest, the Baile Chuinn Chétchathaig. Chiefs of Cenél Cairpre included O'Mulclohy (the Irish: Ó Maolchloiche) a name later translated to Stone. Cairbre's descendants at an early date controlled a larger Cairpre Mor grouping which stretched from Sligo to Westmeath, taking in Leitrim and parts of Fermanagh (such as Tuatha Ratha or Magheraboy) and Longford (North Tethbae). It was split in two by the expansion of the Kingdom of Breifne under the Uí Briúin. The southern group known as the Cairpre Gabra settled in the barony of Granard in County Longford. Another branch known as the "Uí Cairpri Laigen" which settled in barony of Carbury in County Kildare was probably a later off-shoot of this group. Cairbre supplied only one High King of Ireland, his grandson, Túathal Máelgarb Dunadhach.

This territory, under the shadow of Benbulbin (from the Irish: Binn Ghulbain), is where Conall Gulbain set out to conquer Tír Chonaill, modern Donegal. Cairbre Drom Cliabh remained closely associated politically with the Cenel Conaill but pressure from the Kingdom of Breifne continued and various kings were imposed by them:

1029 - Annals of Tigernach: "A great loss of life on Inis Lainne in Cairbre Mór, where forty persons of the nobles of Cairbre were burned alive, including Aodh Ó Ruairc, king of Cairbre, and the superior of Drumcliff."

It covered a larger area before the twelfth century when conquered by Tigernán Ua Ruairc of Breifne. It was then taken over by Brian Luighnech Ua Conchobhair of the O'Conchobar dynasty sept called the Clann Aindrias or Ó Conchobhair Sligigh in the period of instability following the Norman conquest of Ireland. He was killed in 1181 at Magh-Diughbha in Crich Coirpre with his brother Maghnus by the Cenel Conaill. As a disputed borderland it was granted to Norman adventurer Philip de Angelo (Costello, Irish: Mac Coisdealbhaigh) one of the brothers of Gilbert de Angulo. This was one of a number of grants to outlawed Norman lords at this time by Cathal Crobhdearg, King of Connacht. Gilbert and his brothers led the forward policy against Cenel Conaill on behalf of the king but Gilbert was killed at Ballyshannon in 1213.

Following the conquest of Connacht by Richard Mor de Burgh in the 1230s Maurice FitzGerald, 2nd Lord of Offaly of the FitzGerald dynasty was granted lands and established the castle, port and town of Sligo. He was to the forefront of pushing the frontier against Tir Conaill and Tir Eoghan until his defeat in the Battle of Creadran Cille at Ros Ceide in 1257. The family fell out with the de Burghs later and were divested of their Connacht lands. This weakening of the Norman colony in Carbury and Sligo allowed the Clann Aindrias the space to establish the Lordship of Iochtar Connacht (Lower Connacht) in the wake of the Burke Civil War from their base, Caislen-conor in Fassacoille, now Bradcullen in the townland of Urlar.[4]

Lines of the original Cenel Cairbre Drom Cliabh survived quasi-anglicised as 'Stone' (from O'Mulclohy) in Carbury and the O'Flanagan's of Tuatha Ratha, in the barony of Magheraboy, Fermanagh.


In 538 BC the battle of the Codnaige (Drumcliff river) fought by Tighernmas, king of Ireland.

AD 542 the Battle of Sligo, in which Eogan Bél, king of Connacht, fell by Fergus and Domnall two sons of Muircheartach son of Erc, and by Ainmire son of Setna and by Naindid son of Dua who were the victors. Whence it was said:

The battle of Uí Fiachrach is fought,

With fury of edges over the border,

Foemen's kine bellow against spears,

The battle was spread out into Crinder.

The Sligo river carried off to the great sea

Men's blood with their flesh,

They utter paeans over Eba

Round the head of Eogan Bél. (AFM)

In 561 AD the Battle of Cúl Dreimhne (also called the Battle of the Book) was fought at Cooladrumman, a townland near Drumcliff in this territory.

1051 AD- Cathal, son of Tighearnain, lord of Breifne, went upon a predatory excursion into Eabha, and demolished Dun-Feich, where fifty persons were slain, and whence seven hundred cows were carried off.

M1214.7 - The territory of Carbury Co. Sligo, the possession of Philip Mac Costello, was preyed by Ualgarg O'Rourke, who carried off a number of cows. [In Norman hands in a grant from the King of Connacht].

In 1257 AD the Battle of Creadran Cille was fought between the Normans and Irish at Ros Ceite (Rosses Point).


The O Conor Sligo (Ó Conchobhair Sligigh) were a branch of the Ó Conchobhair royal family who were Kings of Connacht.[5] They were descended from Brian Luighnech Ua Conchobhair (k.1181) and were Lords of Sligo into the middle of the 17th century.

For a list of chiefs of Cairbre Drom Cliabh see O'Conchobar Sligigh