Wicklow mountains - stronghold of the O'Byrnes and O'Tooles

John, son of Ralph, was the last of his line to hold the lordship of Rathdown, and in 1308 he relinquished the manor to one Nigel le Brun. His reasons for disposing of the estate are unknown. Perhaps he had no heirs, or was embroiled in financial problems. Certainly in 1305, he owed Edward I a hefty fine for extortion.

Another factor may have been the threat posed by the unconquered Irish of the  Wicklow mountains. The Annals of St. Mary’s Abbey Dublin report that in 1301, seven years before John, son of Ralph, relinquished his property, the “vills” of Wicklow and Rathdown and others were burned by “the Leinstermen”. Almost certainly, this refers to the O’Byrnes who , together with the O’Tooles, rolled back most of the Norman conquest of Wicklow in the course of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

It is ironic that, having survived the settlements of both Norsemen and Normans, the Mac Gilla Mo-Cholmoc of Rathdown may have eventually succumbed to traditional Gaelic adversaries.


Smal, Chris (1993)  Ancient Rathdown and St. Crispin’s Cell, A uniquely historic landscape, Friends of Historic Rathdown, Greystones.

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