Clan MacNamara

Decendants of Cu Mara Chief of Maghadhair

An insight into Thomond

The Kingdom of Thomond was established in 1118AD as a result of the treaty of Gleann Maidhir (Glanmire). The treaty split the ancient kingdom of Munster in two with ‘Tuadh Mumhan’ (North Munster) becoming the Kingdom of Thomond, and ‘Des Mumhan’ (South Munster) the kingdom of Desmond. Prior to the treaty the both Thomond and Desmond were regions of the Kingdom of Munster .


Rulership of Thomond was held by the Ui Briain (O’Brian clan) and inturn they ruled over the Dalcassian clans and septs of the kingdom. The O’Brian’s held Kingship up until the disestablishment of the kingdom in 1543AD, when Murrogh O’Brien formally submitted to English rule, resulting in the Thomond being re-established as an earldom under the British crown.


In 1118AD The Kingdom of Thomond comprised of most of Modern day County Clare , half of County Tipperary and part of County Offaly with Killaloe as it’s royal seat of power. By 1318AD the Kingdom had grown to encompass large parts of County Kerry , County Limerick and an even greater amount of County Tipperary . The former Viking city of Limerick had become the seat of power and the kingdom was flourishing despite efforts by the Norman ’s to encroach upon its territories. In fact some lands east of Loch Derge were given to Norman barons in order to halt the foreigner’s attempts to subdue the Kingdom.

The Kingdom was ruled over by the Clan O'Brien, with the second most pwerful Clan being that of the MacNamara's. Although there were numerous ocassions when the two Clans met each other in martial conflict they (together with the other Dalcassian Clans of Thomond managed to protect the kingdom from the Norman's and and later English until the disestablishment of the Kingdom in 1543AD.

The kingdom was ruled according to the Ancient Brehon law codes of Irleland long after the rest of the Island had been placed under the yoke of English law. The clan's and families that inhabbited the kingdom were a close nit community, living the celtic lifstyles their ancestors had lived befor them for generations. Clothing food and language remained predominately Irish while religion was the old celtic form of Catholisism as practiced since the sixth century. 


The rulling Clans such as the O'Brien's and MacNamar's slowly adopted English clothing styles, and spoke Irish, Norman English and even Spanish in some cases, as these were the languages of diplomacy and the ruling classes. The Kingdom it'sself was made up of territories (belonging to major clans) in wich common land was set aside for grazing and farming. The rulling families had responsibilities toward the clan's and septs (a family that is accepted and protected by another, though not necessarily related to the clan by blood). Land and the opportunity to farm was provided and protected by the rulling Clan's. In addition law and governance of each territory was the responsibility of the Clan. As such there was no exclusive 'ownership of a plot of land', nor were there rent's to be paid until the coming of the English. The Family belonged to a Clan and inturn the Clan provided land and as such a means to make a living. Disputes often arose between rival Clan's over territories and opportunities to seize additional territory were eagerly taken.

Society and governance

The Kingdom of thomond was governed by Brehaon Law. Thought to origated around 200 BC Brehon Law was in place throughout the lands and territiries inhabbitied by the early Celtic peoples. Brehon law set down the traditions and practices of Celtic people, their rights and responsibilities and the way in which people were treated if they were found to have broken the law. In particular the law centered around regulating the each section of Celtic society from slaves to kings often prescribing compensation as a method for settling offences.

The population of Thomond was based around the Clan system, meaning that many families (not always related by blood) would co exist in common territories, not being in direct posession of the lands but having the the right to farm it regardless. The clan was often ruled over by a Cheiftain with successive cheiftains being chosen from amoung the cheiftains own family. Cheiftain ship did not always go from father to son. Cheiftainry was a somewhat elected position in that when the existing Cheiftain died his Tanist (heir) would need to be approved by  leading memebers of the clan. The Cheiftain would act as a father and representative of the clan. Often meeting with and competiting with other local clan Cheiftains for supremeacy of the territiory. Cheiftains would in turn be subordinate to a high cheftian or inthe case of Thomon, the King.

The caln system ensured close bonds between all family memebrs, intermarriage and fostering of children between the families were common practices that ensured a healthy gene pool and a sense of loyalty to the clan as a whole rather than to an individual family. Rents and land taxes were not paid to the cheiftains or kings as all mmebers of the clan maintained rights to the use of clans common lands. These comon lands were used to graze cattle (the major symbol of wealth), farm crops and hunt for game.

The common people often lived in small villages or farm holdings often run by the local cheiftain. The priests and and other other clerics such as bards and historians often travelled between these villiages where it was the practice to feed and lodge these guests in return for news, entertainment, lawful guidance and deliberation. The higher classes such as High cheiftains (often styled Lords) and kings would keep their own Clergy and and cleric at the fortresses. The ancient druidic practices co-existed along side christian clergy in the courts of the Irish nobility up until the seventeeth century.

Many of the Clans were allotted hereditary task or roles under the King. The MacNamara Clan were Marshall (or war leaders) to the O'Briens and were the second most powerful clan in the Kingdom. Other Clans held the positions of Historian, genealogists, druids and musicians.

 For the average clanman or clanswoman life was very rural. A life of agriculture and self subsistance, close family bonds and a sense of responsibilty to the clan as a whole. The woman of Thomond and indeed Ireland as a rule were not subordinate members of their society. Brehon law gave the right to succeed their husbands in property wealth and posessions. A woman could divorce her husband and claim rights to compensation. A woman could lead her clan and enter into business enterprises. Whilst it was important to a cheiftain to have male descendants to carry on the name etc, female children were not thought to be of lesser value to the clan.


Farmimg practices in the Ireland improved with the coming of early christian monks who brought with them improved farming methods and other skills such writing (formally the domain of the learned druids). Cattle were the major source of livestock and and considered a predominant form of wealth in Celtic Irlenad. This practice continued in Thomond. For this reason there were many disputes between rival clans over land as additional grazing land would allow for the clan to invrease it's herd and in turn it's wealth. Many comansations in the rehaon Laws involve the handing over of cattle to pay a debt.

 Grain crops of whaet and barely were vital (potatoes are a much later crop in Ireland) as much of the food produced by Medieval Irish were carbhydrate based breads and stews. Ales were produced and consumed alongside vegetable, fish and poultry dishes. When the English finally prevailed in encouraging the nobility of Thomond to submit to English governance it with the offer of much greater tracts of grazing lands and the opportunity to charge their clalnsfolk rent under English law. In turn the old bonds that had supported clan system were broken and Brehon law was replaced by the more profiatble english law. The result was a community of farmers with little personal wealth, little hope of creating any and an obliterated clan system. The old Brehon law that ensured the provision ao land and protection of clan memebers was gone in favour of a system that saw land and the people that inhabbited it as a comodity. Those could pay their way were thrown off their lands, or imprisoned (or worse).

Language, Clothing and religion

The irish language reamained the pricipal language of Thomond with English, French, Latin Spanish often being spoken by the rulling classes. The Irish language (gealic) preserved the rich culture and histories of the Irish people and in turn the Dacassians of Thomond. The other languages spoken by the rulling classes were often done so in order to economically and diplomatically exist in the newer English Irieland. The common people had littel need of other languages however diplomatic and spoke the language of their ancestors.

 Clothing in turn had silmiar divisions between the classes. The ordinary men and woman wore the traditional Leinte (pronouced Lay-nuh) and cloak. Pants in the form of clos fitting wollen trousers were somtimes worn however it was the custom of most Irish to go bare legged and often without shoes. The Brehon law code regulated the number of colours a person could were in accordance with the place and position in society and though often well made and in cases accopanied by ornate fringing and decoration clothing remained for most a simple an practical affair.

The rulling classes wouold often wear a mix of traditional Irish clothing such as the Leante and Bracht (pronounced 'brat') or cloak with more english styles of tunic and leggins (close fitting wollen stockings). The Irish were an appearence consciece people and often took great care in the quality, maintenance and wearing of the clothing and their personal grooming. The popular myth of 'Tolkien like' barbarian is one of often victorian invention and a leaning toward the 'noble savage ideology' of the time.

 Whilst predominately Christian the people of Thomond retained much of the ancient pagan myth and tradition of their ancestors by way of story telling and fairy tales. The annals of the four masters record druids being kept along side preists in the courts of the irish kings up unitl the seventeenth century. many the myths and legends of Irieland and indeed some of the christian practices of Irieland have a very Pagan or more apprpriatly Druidic slant to them. Many of the rulling families retained the close links with the Christian church often building and establishing fabbeys and universities for the chuirch. An alliance and favour of the church not only bought favour in heavly matters but in much more worldly matters too.


Warfare in the Gealoc Sense was by no means restricted to the gealic charge as many have suggested. The use of tactics alongside the element of surprise (such as those used at the battle of Dysart O'Dea) are examples of the intricate nature in which the Dalcassians of Thomond waged war.

 I rish armies of the period  were made up of men from each clan assembling as a war aprty or army under a war leader. In the case of Thomond the war leader or Marshal was often a MacNamara as this was the clan's hereditary roles in Thomond society. As Lords of Ui Casin and east and West Clancuilen the MacNamara clan could call upon great number of men from the variouse clans and territory they ruled in order to contribute to the O'Brien kings war efforts. Sometimes however the Clan would use their power to raise arms against various thomond Clans such as the Ui Blois (O'Bloods) and even the O'Briens them selves.

Thomond army's consisted mainly of footsoldiers armed in padded clothing that acted as armour. The more fortunate such as princess cheiftains and kings could count on Mail and Plate armour as protection. Weapons and Helmets still had a a very Celtic/ Viking influence through ornamentation and tended to be more suited to fighting in the forests and bof lands of the Kingdom. It was not the encouraged practice to meet the enemy on the open field in an all out charge. The Dalcassians learned early in the ninth century that smaller forces could be more effective in close comabt in forestd and or boogy conditions.

Cavelry did exist and were often made up of mixed calsses of men in padded clothing (some in mail) and often sport spear and shield. The Dalcassians were involved in many warlike encounters with