Before there was the novel, there were the stories...

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

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Biographies: Shannon O'Neill

Note:  This is the official biography of Shannon O'Neill.  You will find that the stories we post here do not match the timing or events on the biography.  Enjoy them anyway.

Warning: The following biogrphy constitutes a spoiler for anyone who wants to read An Involuntary King: A Tale of Anglo Saxon England and its sequels.

Though his precise birthdate is unknown, Shannon O'Neill (Siannone ui Níall) was born in the 740a in Ulster, a kingdom of Ireland.  He was the second eldest of seven children.  When he was about fourteen years of age he left home to avoid being killed by his drunken, abusive father.  he set out into the world with his friend, Rory McGuinness, where he was found by master musician, Ishaq of Anfalusia, who took both boys in to teach them to be musicians.  Shannon in particular showed a genius unlike any other in Ishaq's experience.  Ishaq had brought a new instrument with him from his homeland, the earliest form of lute, and Shannon  took it up enthusiastically.  A few years later Rory departed from Shannon and the master's company.  The latter two continued to travel and entertain throughout Ireland, England and Wales.

When master Ishaq returned to Andalusia in the Iberian Peninsula, Shannon set out to travel as an itinerant bard.  He happened to find his way to the Saxon kingdom of Críslicland where he found favor with King lawrence and Queen Josephine.  Though he planned a return to Ireland to confront his abusive father at last, the royal couple invited him to return and become a permanent part of their court.  On his journey he was reunited with his old companion, Rory, who had spent time as a warrior fighting the O'Donell-O'Neill clan wars.  Shannon discovered that his father had killed his mother, but when he tried to take revenge, the elder O'Neill soundly beat him.  Dispirrited Shannon invited Rory to return with him to Críslicland .

When the queen journeyed to her own homeland of Affynshire, Shannon and Rory traveled with her, and therefore they were with her when a cabal of mercenaries led by Malcolm of Horsfort took over that kinfdom.  The queen and her bards were caught behind enemy lines.  While Rory remained to try to find a way to protect the queen, Shannon found the king's forces and reported the queen's whereabouts and welfare.  When the queen escaped and prepared to return to Críslicland and her children, Shannon accompanied her.  When the party was ambushed, he helped her escape by boat and on foot south to Hucknall, where the two learned that Rory had been captured by an old O'Donnell enemy who was part of the cabbal, and that he was hanged.

After their return to Críslicland, where  soon the king's cousin, Gadfrid, usurped the throne,   Shannon helped the queen arrange the rescue of her brother, the High Reeve Lorin.    Shannon chose to return to where the king was reported missing near Grantham.  He engineered the king's release from captivity and returned with him to defeat the usurper and retake the throne.  When the king and queen were reunited Shannon was also reunited with Rory, who, it turns out, had not been hanged at all.

For reasons that can only be surmised, after his reunion with his childhood friend, Shannon abruptly left Críslicland for Ireland.  Coming across a friend from his days as a traveling bard, Shannon detoured to Scotland where he met and married Heather of Ayr.  He returned with her to Críslicland  where their marriage quickly foundered.  Heather left him, causing him to despair.  he left for the European mainland, but was lost at sea in an assumed suicide.  In fact, Shannon had been picked up by a Norse fishing ship.  He was badly injured and was amnesiac.  During his stay with Falni, the woman who had rescued him, the two married.  When Shannon's memory returned, he went back to Críslicland to reassure Rory and others that he was alive.  He discovered Rory himself had married a Briton named Cerrifwen and was living with her on her farm at Brewood. 

Disabled and unwell, Shannon remained in Críslicland while Falni returned to the sea, spending whatever time she could with her husband ashore.  When one day Falni and her fishing boat did not return, Shannon went to live with Rory and Cerridwen and their children on the farm.  he remained with them in semi-retirement until his death from natural causes in 789.

Among the songs credited to Shannon O'Neill are:

"The Ballad of Rory McGuinness" which recounts one version of McGuinness's rumored hanging
"Queen of the Angles a tribute to Queen josephine of Críslicland

A monument in memory of Shannon O'Neill that stood in Armagh in Northern Ireland was destroyed by Unionist terrorists in 1974.

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About the author

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