The Sack of Viking Limerick
By Lenore Fischer
Old Limerick Journal, Vol. 39 (2003)
Introduction: The origins of Limerick are obscure: an initial Viking settlement seems to have been located at Athlunkard. The more permanent settlement on King’s Island probably dates from 922 and is still visible in the street pattern of the old city today. The Vikings also controlled considerable tracts outside the city proper, possibly as much as from Cratloe and Bunratty in the west to Plassey in the east, and from Slieve Barnagh to the north to Ballyneety south of Limerick.
This city flourished mightily for a time, feeding off the rich midland monasteries, establishing bases in Ossory and Connaught, even raiding up into Lough Erne and Lough Neagh, while at the same time engaging in a vigorous East Atlantic trade. But the Vikings ultimately failed to establish lasting kingdoms in Ireland. Far from crushing the local dynasties, their base at Limerick actually proved the key to power for the nearby Dalcassian clan. The Dalcassians made great propaganda out of how they wrested success from the Vikings. Their account, the Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh, may be no more reliable than a Hollywood film, but it contains a sketch of Limerick city that is well worth studying.
The Cogadh Gaedhil re Gaillibh describes the Battle of Solohead in 967 as lasting from sunrise until midday, at which time the Vikings broke and ran, pursued by Brian Boru and his Dalcassian troops. Mopping-up operations took the rest of the day and most of the night, but the following day the Dalcassians arrived at the city: they entered and ransacked it.