Dungarvan Norse Sea Battle

In 1174 AD a fierce sea battle raged in Dungarvan bay that was to be recorded as Munster’s
last Norse battle. The Hiberno-Norse were descendant of the Scandinavian Vikings that had
settled on the south east coast a few hundred years earlier. They had likely established a
settlement along the bay as several Viking/Norse place names still survive in the area. By the
12th century Vikings had settled into Irish society as farmers and traders but kept their
Scandinavian identity. The short lived idle was not to last long as a new wave of invaders the
Anglo-Normans, arrived on the shores of Ireland in 1169.
By 1174 the forces of Strongbow and Raymond le Gros were plundering the territories of
Waterford and Cork. Arriving at Dungarvan Le Gros seized thirteen ships to carry their heavy
plunder to Waterford. The evening brought a heavy storms and winds, and the fleet took
refuge in the safe harbour of Dungarvan. The Anglo-Normans location had reached the Danes
of Cork, who were in possession of Cork City with the permission of the Kings of Desmond. It
is not known what prompted the attack at Dungarvan, maybe fear of invasion or support of
fellow Norse communities. The Norse fleets Commander Gilbert mac Turgar set sail with
thirty-five long ships manned by his finest warriors. The elite fleet were renowned for their
strength, valour and lineage as sons and grandsons of the great Viking warriors of the past.
The long ships glided menacingly into the bay and both sides clashed in a brutal and bloody
sea battle. The might of the great Norsemen was quickly overcome by the vast number and
power of the Anglo-Norman forces. The final crushing blow came when their famed
Commander was brutally slain onboard his ship. The remaining warriors unable to flee to the
safety of the seas, made landfall but were swiftly put to the sword. The rein of Corks
Norsemen had come to a violent end.
Our landscape and local folklore often retain the hidden stories of many important historical
events. A modern-day community quest to uncover Dungarvan’s Viking past has revealed
many interesting discoveries. Including a local folktale of an ancient road along the Colligan
estuary known as Bóthar-na-Norse and said to be the site of a Norse battle. On the opposite
side of the Colligan estuary at Shandon an 11 /12 medieval settlement was unearthed
during excavation and several Hiberno-Norse artefacts of the same date have been found
there. Dungarvan is not known as a Viking or Norse settled town but the local community are
piecing together place names, folklore, and research of the bay and its rivers to learn more.