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The Uí Fidgenti (Fidgeinti, Fidgente, Fidgeinte; pron. /i: 'fi:jenti/ or /'fi:jentə/) or Wood People were an early kingdom of northern Munster, situated in County Limerickmarker and with outposts in County Claremarker. Their origins are unclear, but it appears they combined elements both from the Dáirine, the proto-historical rulers of Munster, and from the Eóganachta, the kindred who succeeded them. In historical times they were considered to be kin to the latter, probably having been added to the Eóganachta genealogical scheme in the latter half of the 8th century.

Closely related to the Uí Fidgenti were the Uí Liatháin, who claimed descent from the same 4th century AD dynast, Dáire Cerbba (Maine Munchaín), and who in the earliest sources, such as the Expulsion of the Déisi (incidentally), are mentioned together with them. Also from Dáire Cerbba were the infamous Mongfind and Crimthann mac Fidaig. Mongfind herself is closely associated with sites in Uí Fidgenti territory, while her brother is discussed alongside the Uí Liatháin in a famous passage in the Sanas Cormaic.

They supposedly took their tribal name from their ancestor Fiachu Fidgenid, a son of Dáire Cerbba. Fid-genid probably means Wood Person in the mystical sense of sprite, elf or fairy. Uí Fidgenti is partly cognate with Viducasses, and the meanings are approximately the same.

The kingdom was divided into two principal dynasties or septs, the Uí Chairpri Áebda and Uí Chonaill Gabra. The latter were more often the stronger power.

Among the "officially recognized" Irish nobility the Uí Fidgenti are represented today by the O'Donovan family, of the Uí Chairpri Áebda. Famous modern descendants of the Uí Chonaill Gabra include the O'Connells of Derrynane, and Michael Collins.

Saint Patrick

Vita tripartita Sancti Patricii

Uí Fiachrach Aidhne

The Annals first note the Uí Fidgenti in 645 (649) as allies of the celebrated king of Connacht, Guaire Aidne mac Colmáin, at the Battle of Carn Conaill. His dynasty, the Uí Fiachrach Aidhne, controlled much of the territory to the immediate north of the Uí Fidgenti and the two must have had frequent relations. Byrne argues the two kingdoms were in rivalry for control over several smaller tuaths, but the available evidence clearly suggests they were allied.

Sites and finds

Dún Eochair (Maighe) was the great capital of the Uí Fidgenti, described by Geoffrey Keating as having been one of the two great seats of the Dáirine and the legendary Cú Roí mac Dáire. The earthworks remain and the fortress can be found next to the modern town of Bruree, on the River Maiguemarker. The name means "Fortress on the Brink of the Maigue", and the name of the town is anglicized from Brugh Riogh, meaning "Palace of Kings". Another common name for the site, but probably fanciful, is Lissoleem, thought to be from the name of Ailill Aulom, a legendary king of the Deirgtine who is sometimes seated there in literature.

To the south of Brugh Riogh can be found Cnoc Samhna ("Hill of Samhain"), also known as Ard na Ríoghraidhe ("Height of the Kingfolk"). Associated with Mongfind, this may have been the Uí Fidgenti inauguration site.

The Ardagh Chalice was discovered in Uí Fidgenti territory, at Reerasta Rath in 1868.

Eóganachta relationship

The Uí Fidgenti, despite the questions about their origins, had an excellent relationship, if peculiar, with the Eóganachta kings at Cashel. Theoretically unable to share in the Cashel kingship, they had the unique status of close foreign allies. Ólchobar mac Flainn may have been recognized King of Munster, but this is unlikely since he was not a descendant of Conall Corc, and he may in any case be confused with Ólchobar mac Duib-Indrecht.

However, a curious passage in the Expulsion of the Déisi names the Uí Fidgenti, including the Uí Liatháin, among the Three Eóganachta of Munster, the others being the Eóganacht Locha Léin and the Eóganacht Raithlind. All three were of sufficient military and political standing to exchange hostages with the Cashel kings instead of simply giving them as would proper subjects, and the relationship was apparently terminable.

Disintegration

The principal destruction of the Uí Fidgenti took place in 1178, when Domnall Mor O'Brien drove many into County Kerrymarker (AI). The O'Connells, later of Derrynane House, would remain there, while the O'Donovans would depart for County Corkmarker, possibly at the invitation of their friends the O'Mahonys. The O'Collins, the most powerful sept, would follow the O'Donovans some decades later, but one or two smaller septs, notably the MacEnirys, would remain in County Limerick for several centuries more as lords under the new Earls of Desmond. Important families which did not survive the war with the O'Briens, and the subsequent incursion of the FitzGeralds, were Kenneally, Flannery, Tracey, Clerkin, and Ring. These became scattered all over Munster.

This conflict with the O'Briens had its origins two centuries before, when Donndubhán mac Cathail, ancestor of the O'Donovans, formed an anti-Dalcassian alliance with two other leaders, his father-in-law Ivar of Limerick, the Danish king of Limerickmarker, and Máelmuad mac Brain, king of Eóganacht Raithlind and ancestor of the O'Mahonys. The result of this was the assassination of the elder brother of Brian Bóruma, Mathgamain mac Cennétig, and Brian's subsequent revenge by killing all three members of the alliance. Donndubhán was married to Ivar's daughter, but her name has not survived.

It can be argued that the core of the Uí Chonaill Gabra, under the O'Collins, remained a powerful force in Munster for some period of time. The Annals of Inisfallen note that in 1177 there was "An expedition by Domnall Ua Donnchada (Donnell O'Donoghue) and Cuilén Ua Cuiléin (Colin O'Collins) against Machaire, and they took away many cows. Peace was afterwards made by the son of Mac Carthaig (MacCarthy) and by the Uí Briain (O'Briens)". This suggests the Uí Chonaill Gabra commanded one of the largest forces in Munster at this time and that it was not until after sustained attacks from the FitzGeralds that they were forced to retire to Cork in the mid 13th century. The same Cuiléin Ua Cuiléin and many of the nobles of Uí Chonaill Gabra were slain in a battle with Domnall Mac Carthaig in 1189, an unfortunate event which contributed to their weak resistance against the invading Cambro-Normans.

County Clare

Because of the later dominance of County Clare by the Dál gCais, the Uí Fidgenti septs there have proven difficult to trace and identify. A powerful branch of the Uí Chonaill Gabra known as the Uí Chormaic preserved their identity, from whom descend the O'Hehirs, but it is believed that other families were later wrongly classified as Dalcassian. Notable possibilities are the O'Deas and O'Quins of Uí Fearmaic and the MacNamaras of Clann Cuilean.

Corcu Loígde

Evidence exists for long-term exchange between the Uí Fidgenti and Corcu Loígde. This appears to be a relic of the pre-Eóganachta political configuration of Munster, and supports the theory of Uí Fidgenti origins among the Dáirine as cousins of the Corcu Loígde. There are a number of historical septs who may have their origins with one or the other, evident in collections of pedigrees as early as those found in Rawlinson B 502, dating from 550 to 1130, and as late as those collected by John O'Hart in the 19th century.

Pedigree

Based primarily on Rawlinson B 502:

          Dáire Cerbba
               |
               |_______________________________________
               |                   |                   |
               |                   |                   |
          Fidach              Uí Liatháin         Uí Fidgenti
          |
          |__________________________
          |                          |
          |                          |
Crimthann mac Fidaig             Mongfind = Eochaid Mugmedón = Cairenn
                                          |                  |
                                          |                  |
                                      Connachta           Uí Néill


Notes

References



Sites of interest




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