The campaigns of 1168 and 1169 had ended prosperously for Dermid in the treaty of Ferns. By that treaty he had bound himself to bring no more Normans into the country, and to send those already in his service back to their homes. But in the course of the same autumn or winter, in which this agreement was solemnly entered into, he welcomed the arrival at Wexford--of Maurice Fitzgerald --son of the fair Nesta by her first husband--and immediately employed this fresh force, consisting of 10 knights, 30 esquires, and 100 footmen, upon a hosting which harried the open country about Dublin, and induced the alarmed inhabitants to send hostages into his camp, bearing proffers of allegiance and amity. As yet he did not feel in force sufficient to attack the city, for, if he had been, his long cherished vengeance against its inhabitants would not have been postponed till another season.
In the meantime he had written most urgent letters to Earl Richard to hasten his arrival, according to the terms agreed upon at Bristol. That astute and ambitious nobleman had been as impatiently biding his time as Dermid had been his coming. Knowing the jealous sovereign under whom he served, he had gone over to France to obtain Henry's sanction to the Irish enterprise, but had been answered by the monarch, in oracular phrases, which might mean anything or nothing. Determined, however, to interpret these doubtful words in his own sense, he despatched his vanguard early in the spring of the year 1170, under the command of his uncle Herve and a company of 10 knights and 70 archers, under Raymond, son of William, lord of Carew, elder brother of Maurice Fitzgerald, and grandson of Nesta. In the beginning of May, Raymond, nicknamed le gros, or the Fat, entered Waterford harbour, and landed eight miles below the city, under the rock of Dundonolf, on the east, or Wexford side. Here they rapidly threw up a camp to protect themselves against attack, and to hold the landing place for the convenience of the future expedition. A tumultuous body of natives, amounting, according to the Norman account, to 3,000 men, were soon seen swarming across the Suir to attack the foreigners. They were men of Idrone and Desies, under their chiefs, O'Ryan and O'Phelan, and citizens of Waterford, who now rushed towards the little fortress, entirely unprepared for the long and deadly range of the Welsh and Flemish crossbows. Thrown into confusion by the unexpected discharge, in which every shot from behind the ramparts of turf brought down its man, they wavered and broke; Raymond and Herve then sallied out upon the fugitives, who were fain to escape, as many as could, to the other side of the river, leaving 500 prisoners, including 70 chief citizens of Waterford behind them. These were all inhumanly massacred, according to Giraldus, the eulogist of all the Geraldines, by the order of Herve, contrary to the entreaties of Raymond. Their legs were first violently broken, and they were then hurled down the rocks into the tide. Five hundred men could not well be so captured and put to death by less than an equal number of hands, and we may, therefore, safely set down that number as holding the camp of Dundonolf during the summer months of the year.
Earl Richard had not completed his arrangements until the month of August--so that his uncle and lieutenant had to hold the post they had seized for fully three months, awaiting his arrival in the deepest anxiety. At last, leaving his castle in Pembroke, he marched with his force through North Wales, by way of St. David's to Milford Haven--"and still as he went he took up all the best chosen and picked men he could get." At Milford, just as he was about to embark, he received an order from King Henry forbidding the expedition. Wholly disregarding this missive he hastened on board with 200 knights and 1,200 infantry in his company, and on the eve of St. Bartholomew's Day (August 23rd), landed safely under the earthwork of Dundonolf, where he was joyfully received by Raymond at the head of 40 knights, and a corresponding number of men-at-arms. The next day the whole force, under the Earl, "who had all things in readiness" for such an enterprise, proceeded to lay siege to Waterford. Malachy O'Phelan, the brave lord of Desies, forgetting all ancient enmity against his Danish neighbours, had joined the townsmen to assist in the defence. Twice the besieged beat back the assailants, until Raymond perceiving at an angle of the wall the wooden props upon which a house rested, ordered them to be cut away, on which the house fell to the ground, and a breach was effected. The men-at-arms then burst in, slaughtering the inhabitants without mercy. In the tower, long known as Reginald's, or the ring tower, O'Phelan and Reginald, the Dano-Irish chief, held out until the arrival of King Dermid, whose intercession procured them such terms as led to their surrender. Then, amid the ruins of the burning city, and the muttered malediction of its surviving inhabitants, the ill-omened marriage of Eva McMurrogh with Richard de Clare was gaily celebrated, and the compact entered into at Bristol three years before was perfected.
The marriage revelry was hardly over when tidings came from Dublin that Asculph MacTorcall, its Danish lord, had, either by the refusal of the annual tribute, or in some other manner, declared his independence of Dermid, and invoked the aid of the monarch Roderick, in defence of that city. Other messengers brought news that Roderick had assumed the protection of Dublin, and was already encamped at the head of a large army at Clondalkin, with a view of intercepting the march of the invaders from the south. The whole Leinster and Norman force, with the exception of a troop of archers left to garrison Waterford, were now put in motion for the siege of the chief city of the Hibernicized descendants of the Northmen. Informed of Roderick's position, which covered Dublin on the south and west, Dermid and Richard followed boldly the mountain paths and difficult roads which led by the secluded city of Glendalough, and thence along the coast road from Bray towards the mouth of the Liffey, until they arrived unexpectedly within the lines of Roderick, to the amazement and terror of the townsmen.
The force which now, under the command-in-chief of Dermid, sat down to the siege of Dublin, was far from being contemptible. For a year past he had been recognized in Leinster as fully as any of his predecessors, and had so strengthened his military position as to propose nothing short of the conquest of the whole country. His choice of a line of march sufficiently shows how thoroughly he had overcome the former hostility of the stubborn mountaineers of Wicklow. The exact numbers which he encamped before the gates of Dublin are nowhere given, but on the march from Waterford, the vanguard, led by Milo de Cogan, consisted of 700 Normans and "an Irish battalion," which, taken literally, would mean 3,000 men, under Donald Kavanagh; Raymond the Fat followed "with 800 British;" Dermid led on "the chief part of the Irish" (number not given), in person; Richard commanded the rear-guard, "300 British and 1,000 Irish soldiers." Altogether, it is not exorbitant to conjecture that the Leinster Prince led to the siege of Dublin an army of about 10,000 native troops, 1,500 Welsh and Flemish archers, and 250 knights. Except the handful who remained with Fitzstephen to defend his fort at Carrick, on the Slaney, and the archers left in Waterford, the entire Norman force in Ireland, at this time, were united in the siege. Of the foreign knights many were eminent for courage and capacity, both in peace and war. The most distinguished among them were Maurice Fitzgerald, the common ancestor of the Geraldines of Desmond and Kildare; Raymond the Fat, ancestor of the Graces of Ossory; the two Fitz-Henries, grandsons of Henry I., and the fair Nesta; Walter de Riddlesford, first Baron of Bray; Robert de Quincy, son-in-law and standard-bearer to Earl Richard; Herve, uncle to the Earl, and Gilbert de Clare, his son; Milo de Cogan, the first who entered Dublin by assault, and its first Norman governor; the de Barries, and de Prendergast. Other founders of Norman-Irish houses, as the de Lacies, de Courcies, le Poers, de Burgos, Butlers, Berminghams, came not over until the landing of Henry II., or still later, with his son John.
The townsmen of Dublin had every reason, from their knowledge of Dermid's cruel character, to expect the worst at his hands and those of his allies. The warning of Waterford was before them, but besides this they had a special cause of apprehension, Dermid's father having been murdered in their midst, and his body ignominiously interred with the carcase of a dog. Roderick having failed to intercept him, the citizens, either to gain time or really desiring to arrive at an accommodation, entered into negotiations. Their ambassador for this purpose was Lorcan, or Lawrence O'Toole, the first Archbishop of the city, and its first prelate of Milesian origin. This illustrious man, canonized both by sanctity and patriotism, was then in the thirty-ninth year of his age, and the ninth of his episcopate. His father was lord of Imayle and chief of his clan; his sister had been wife of Dermid and mother of Eva, the prize-bride of Earl Richard. He himself had been a hostage with Dermid in his youth, and afterwards Abbot of Glendalough, the most celebrated monastic city of Leinster. He stood, therefore, to the besieged, being their chief pastor, in the relation of a father; to Dermid, and strangely enough to Strongbow also, as brother-in-law and uncle by marriage. A fitter ambassador could not be found.
Maurice Regan, the "_Latiner_," or Secretary of Dermid, had advanced to the walls, and summoned the city to surrender, and deliver up "30 pledges" to his master, their lawful Prince. Asculph, son of Torcall, was in favour of the surrender, but the citizens could not agree among themselves as to hostages. No one was willing to trust himself to the notoriously untrustworthy Dermid. The Archbishop was then sent out on the part of the citizens to arrange the terms in detail. He was received with all reverence in the camp, but while he was deliberating with the commanders without, and the townsmen were anxiously awaiting his return, Milo de Cogan and Raymond the Fat, seizing the opportunity, broke into the city at the head of their companies, and began to put the inhabitants ruthlessly to the sword. They were soon followed by the whole force eager for massacre and pillage. The Archbishop hastened back to endeavour to stay the havoc which was being made of his people. He threw himself before the infuriated Irish and Normans, he threatened, he denounced, he bared his own breast to the swords of the assassins. All to little purpose; the blood fury exhausted itself before peace settled over the city. Its Danish chief, Asculph, with many of his followers, escaped to their ships, and fled to the Isle of Man and the Hebrides in search of succour and revenge. Roderick, unprepared to besiege the enemy who had thus outmarched and outwitted him at that season of the year--it could not be earlier than October--broke up his encampment at Clondalkin, and retired to Connaught. Earl Richard having appointed de Cogan his governor of Dublin, followed on the rear of the retreating Ard-Righ, at the instigation of McMurrogh, burning and plundering the churches of Kells, Clonard and Slane, and carrying off the hostages of East-Meath.
Though Dermid seemed to have forgotten altogether the conditions of the treaty of Ferns, yet not so Roderick. When he reached Athlone he caused Conor, son of Dermid, and the son of Donald Kavanagh, and the son of Dermid's fosterer, who had been given him as hostages for the fulfilment of that treaty, so grossly violated in every particular, to be beheaded. Dermid indulged in impotent vows of vengeance against Roderick, when he heard of these executions which his own perjuries had provoked; he swore that nothing short of the conquest of Connaught in the following spring would satisfy his revenge, and he sent the Ard-Righ his defiance to that purport. Two other events of military consequence marked the close of the year 1170. The foreign garrison of Waterford was surprised and captured by Cormac McCarthy, Prince of Desmond, and Henry II. having prohibited all intercourse between his lieges and his disobedient subject, Earl Richard, the latter had despatched Raymond the Fat, with the most humble submission of himself and his new possessions to his Majesty's decision. And so with Asculph, son of Torcall, recruiting in the isles of Insi-Gall, Lawrence, the Archbishop, endeavouring to unite the proud and envious Irish lords into one united phalanx, and Roderick, preparing for the new year's campaign, the winter of 1170-'71, came, and waned, and went.
One occurrence of the succeeding spring may most appropriately be dismissed here--the death of the wretched and odious McMurrogh. This event happened, according to Giraldus, in the kalends of May. The Irish Annals surround his death-bed with all the horrors appropriate to such a scene. He became, they say, "putrid while living," through the miracles of St. Columbcille and St. Finian, whose churches he had plundered; "and he died at Fernamore, without making a will, without penance, without the body of Christ, without unction, as his evil deeds deserved." We have no desire to meditate over the memory of such a man. He, far more than his predecessor, whatever that predecessor's crimes might have been, deserved to have been buried with a dog.