The Legacy of Brian Boru’s March

Brian Boru - The Last High King of Ireland

When ‘digging’ through the Irish history books, there’s a very high chance that you will come across the name of Brian Boru. Let’s acknowledge the facts here, one must do something right in their life to have a song (or a march in this case) written and composed in their honor. So who is Brian Boru?

High King Brian Boru, who reigned as King of Ireland from 1002 to 1014, is regarded as one of the greatest Kings and warriors/soldiers in Ireland history. At a time in which Ireland was divided into smaller kingdoms, it was said that High King Boru worked towards uniting the kingdoms and creating a centralized government. Per the historical archives, King Boru was killed in the Battle of Clontarf which took place on April 23, 1014. Boru and his soldiers took on a group of invading Vikings who had teamed up with a group of Irish rebels that were against Boru. The King himself was in battle that day. Though he lost life in battle, the High King was successful in driving away the Viking invaders. Apparently there is some disparity in exactly how the King was killed. Some sources say it was directly in battle, while some say it was a group of the defeated Irish rebels who found a way into his tent and killed him while he was praying. Regardless of how he died, he is still viewed to this day as a hero by many. 1

High King Brian Boru in the Battle of Clontarf
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According to one source, a book of Irish harp tunes, it noted that this march was written by the soldiers on their way TO the Battle of Clontaef. 2 Regardless of whether it was written before or after his death, it was no doubt written in honor of his life.

Writer’s Note I: There are many (and I cannot emphasize the word many) videos of Brian Boru’s March that can be found on YouTube and I would encourage you to spend time discovering some of the different versions. This one happens to be a particular favorite of mine and that’s why I chose it. It doesn’t have the “Irish flavor” of some of the others, but it does have a ‘battle march’ feel to it. [Other versions I’d recommend include: James Galway, The Cheiftains, and Carol Thompson.]

Clip is from a 1979 performance at the Teatro Real de Madrid in Spain.

Writer’s Note II: Note the title of this YouTube clip, Marcha Irlandesa (Siglo XI). Roughly translated, this means ‘March from Ireland (11th Century).’ While not the same title of Brian Boru’s March, this is the same song. Also note the 10 string classical guitar being played. This guitar first came out in 1964 and it was invented by the man playing it in this clip, Narciso Yepes. Narciso Yepes was a well known and respected Spanish guitarist from the 20th century (1927-1997).

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