The Iron Age and the 'Dawn' of Idough

The main archaeological evidence of Iron Age settlement in the area is the large Hill Fort of Toor More. Most of our knowledge of the Celtic and early Christian era is anecdotal and legendary. However some trends are clear.

  1. There was a large population increase in the early Christian era.
  2. A distinctive Celtic Kingdom centred on the present diocese of Ossory had emerged by this period.

The area of the plateau and surround earliest name is recorded as 'Magh Argeadh Ros' the plain of the silver wood. The rulers of this area were known as the UiBairrche as distinct from the Osraige, the tribal group that ruled the rest of Kilkenny.

This later became known as UiDuach or Idough. The name either originated from one of the Osraighe Kings or from one of the Corca Laigde Kings of Ossory. This Munster group had briefly ruled Ossory in fifth and sixth centuries. By the seventh century the UiBairrche were in control of Idough.

Idough comprised of the north-east corner of the ancient kingdom of Ossory. The name Ossory derives from the Osriaghe, a tribal group that originated in Munster known as Erainn. The kingdom they founded formed a buffer between the provinces of Munster and Leinster. Ossory comprised most of modern county Kilkenny excluding some parishes in the east on the Barrow as well as the baronies of Clandonagh, Clarmallagh and Upper Woods in County Laois.

The history of Ossory is one of constant war generally against the men of Leinster – the Laigin. By the 9th Century these wars frequently involved the Norse who had settled in Waterford and Dublin. The Osraighe increasingly bitter wars with the Ui Ceinsealaigh Kings of Leinster were to have disastrous consequences for the Irish rulers of Ossory as the 12th Century drew to a close.

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