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by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Biographies: Rory McGuinness

Rory McGuinness (Irish Gaelic: Ruairi Maghunadh) was born in the village that served the great fortress of Alun Macha in Ulster in 741. His father, Ghunasadh, was an armorer who died of fever when Rory was an infant. His mother, Grainne, having no close kin, raised Rory alone. She was raped and killed in a raid when he was about five years old. Rory was sent to live with a cousin of his father's. There he met Shannon O'Neill, also a young boy, and ran away from home with him when they were about ten years old.

The two boys wandered together through Ulster taking whatever work they could find for about three years. In 754 they met Ishaq the Andalusian, the musician who had introduced the lute to the British Isles. He discovered that Shannon had a remarkable singing voice and innate h enius for music and took the boys on as his students. The three traveled together for a few years until without warning, Rory left the company and found his way to a cattle chieftain to whom he pledged his service as a soldier. It was in the clan strife of 759 that Rory met Finn O'Donnell, a mercenary fighting against his own clan for the O'Neill, whom he was to encounter nearly fatally years later.

Sometime in the mid- to late 760s Rory ran across his old friend, Shannon O'Neill, again, and accepted his invitation to accompany him to the Saxon kingdom of Críslicland on the North Sea coast. Shannon had been invited to become part of the stronghold of King Lawrence as a bard, which the Saxons called a skald. Rory met the king's wife, Josephine, and developed an intense romantic attachment to her that was to last several years.

When Josephine traveled to visit kin at keito Uxello in Affynshire, her childhood kingdom, Rory and Shannon accompanied her, intending to leave to continue their wandering ways. Shortly after leaving Josephine with her cousins on Beltane that they learned that a cabal of mercenary captains had seized control of the kingdom, trapping Josephine behind their lines. Rory went to find her and was captured by one of the mercenary lords, Elerde of Brittany, who had taken over Keito Uxello. It was in his custody that Rory met Finn O'Donell again. O'Donnell was one of the cabal that had seized power. In an inexplicable move a short time after when Elerde and O'Donnell had captured the Lady of Críslicland, O'Donnell agreed to exchange her for Rory, letting her go. O'Donnell carried Rory back to the fortress at Hucknall and condemned him to be hanged as a spy. Somehow Rory Rory escaped and made his way to an abbey across the River Trenta in Críslicaland where he stayed for several months.

When King Lawrence's cousin, Gadfrid, seized control of Críslicaland and of the king's wife and children, Rory determined to go to their aid. He arrived to find the lady and her children fled with Elerde of Brittany, Gadfrid's erstwhile ally. He followed them to the Holy Isle of Linisfarne near Bamburgh in Northumbria and reunited with Josephine. He accompanied her back to Críslicaland and a reunion with her husband after Gadfrid was killed.

Soon after Shannon O'Neill, who was back with Lawrence's court, left to return to Ireland. It is thought that there must have been a falling out between the two bards in spite of what must have been a happy reunion as Rory followed him shortly thereafter. He reached the Cumbrian coast only to learn that the vessel O'Neill had taken passage on had sunk in one of the Irish Sea's notorious storms. Rory returned to Críslicaland. He remained in King Lawrence's service until he met and married a widow of Briton origin, Cerridwen. He lived the rest of his life with her helping to farm her small croft. Shannon, who it turned out had been rescued by Dublin Danes, returned to Críslicaland with his Danish wife, Falni, and went to live with Rory and Cerridwen. Rory is believed to have had a part in training fyrd members to help protect Críslicalandian coastal billages and crofts against Viking raiders in the last decades of the 8th century. There is no record of his serving King Offa after the mercian takeover of Críslicaland in 795.

Rory and Cerridwen had three children: Grainne, Ceretic, and Nannah. Cerridwen died in 814. Rory followed her within the year.

Rory McGuinness is the subject of a ballad written by Shannon O'Neill that tells of Rory's death by hanging. Scholars suppose it must have been composed before Rory's recovery near the end of the wars in Affynshire and Críslicaland in 769-70. See "The Ballad of Rory McGuinness".

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About the author

Nan Hawthorne now writes under the name Christopher Hawthorne Moss. You can contact Christopher at .