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Battle of Druim Dearg
Brian horseback
Conflict: Irish Rebellion of 1259
Date: May 14, 1260
Place: Druim Dearg (Down), County Meath, Ireland
Outcome: Anglo-Norman victory

O'Neill O'Neill Clan

England Kingdom of England
Lordship of Ireland Lordship of Ireland


O'Neill High King Brian O'Neill

Meath William of Meath


2,700 troops

4,200 troops


2,240 killed
100 captured

1,770 killed

The Battle of Druim Dearg, also known as the Battle of Down, was a military engagement that took place on 12 May 1261 between the Lordship of Ireland, loyal to the Kingdom of England, and the O'Neill Clan, who rebelled against the Norman lords of the island. The battle took place when the English army, led by William, Count of Meath, counterattacked against an invading army of Irish troops led by High King Brian Ua Neill, who wanted to liberate the county of English troops. In a misty encounter, the Irish did not anticipate the quick English arrival and were dealt a decisive defeat that resulted in the recapture of Derry by Lordship forces.


Since the English invaded Ireland in 1169, the Irish people were hostile against the Anglo-Norman lords who had given the order to subjugate the Emerald Isle. Several sieges by the British resulted in the capture of most of Ireland's regions by the Anglo-Normans, who established the Lordship of Ireland as a colony, as well as a puppet state that they hoped would appease the people. However, all of the lords were English, and the people believed to be the real lords were the clan heads, who now stopped their fighting so that they could resist the English and fight for independence. In the 1240s resistance was led by the Tir Chonaill and Tir Eoghain kingdoms, but their motley crew was eliminated by Maurice Fitzgerald at the Battle of Ballyshannon in 1247, ending the Irish rebellion.

However, in the 1250s a new Irish rebellion was incited by the O'Neill Clan from the cities of Cork, Tipperary, Downpatrick, and Lifford, led by Brian Ua Neill, a powerful lord. In 1259 his armies captured the city of Derry from the Anglo-Normans, showing the English that he meant independence at all costs. Inspired by his victories, he planned to invade the rest of Ireland, marching on County Meath. To counter this threat, William of Meath, the noble lord, gathered an army of 4,200 English and Irish troops and counterattacked while the Irish marched through his lands. 


The Irishmen assembled on a hillside, while the Anglo-Normans set themselves up on a plain. King Brian hoped that his advantage in heights would help him in repelling the English advance, taking the defense. At first, his men fared well, but the Englishmen soon made their way to the archers, their swordsmen beating the Irishmen, only equipped with their bows or javelins. The English troops eventually routed the Irishmen, and Brian ordered a withdrawal. Brian, his bodyguards, and mounted knights sped off on their horses and got away unmolested; the infantrymen and archers had to fight their way out, and most were killed or captured. The captured were ransomed after the battle, and the Irish army took refuge in a castle in southern Ulster while the city of Derry was captured by the English army, nearly destroying the rebellion.