Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
The History of Ireland (Author: Geoffrey Keating)

Section 5


Of the invasions of Ireland before the deluge down here.

I. Some say that it is three daughters of the wicked Cain who inhabited it at first, so to certify that I have set down here a verse out of the poem which commences I found in the Saltair of Cashel:—

    1. Three virgin daughters of Cain,
      With Seth, son of Adam,
      They first saw Banbha,
      Banbha, I remember their adventure.


The book of Dromsneachta says that Banbha was the name of the first maiden who occupied Ireland before the deluge, and that Ireland is called Banbha from her. Thrice fifty women came there, and three men: Ladhra was the name of one of them, and it is from him Ard Ladhrann is named. Two score years they were in the island, till a plague fell on them, so that they all died in one week. Ireland after that, was desert, empty, without anyone alive in it, for two hundred years till after that came the deluge.

II. Some others say that it is three fishermen who were driven by a storm of wind from Spain unwillingly; and as the island pleased them that they returned for their wives to Spain; and having come back to Ireland again, the deluge was showered upon them at Tuaigh Innbhir, so that they were drowned: Capa, Laighne, and Luasad, their names. It is about them the verse was sung:—

    1. Capa, Laighne, and Luasad pleasant,
      They were a year before the deluge
      On the isle of Banbha of the bays;
      They were eminently brave.

III. It is said, however, that it is Ceasair, daughter of Bioth, son of Noe, who came there before the deluge, so the verse was made about it:—

    1. Ceasair, daughter of lasting Bioth,
      Foster-child of Sabhail, son of Nionuall;
      The first valiant woman who came
      To the isle of Banbha before the deluge.


If one should wish, indeed, to obtain knowledge what brought her to Ireland:—Bioth had sent a messenger to Noe, to know whether he himself and his daughter Ceasair would obtain a place in the ark to save them from the deluge; Noe says they should not get (that). Fionntain asks the same, and Noe says he should not get it. Whereupon Bioth, Fionntain and the maiden Ceasair go to consult. ‘Let my advice be followed by you’, says Ceasair. ‘It shall be done,’ say they. ‘Well then,’ says she, ‘take to ye an idol, and adore him, and forsake the God of Noe.’ After that they brought with them an idol, and the idol told them to make a ship, and put to sea: although he did not know what time the deluge would come. A ship was fitted, accordingly, by them, and they went to sea. Those who went into it were three men, namely, Bioth, Fionntain, and Ladhra: (also) Ceasair, Barrann, and Balbha, and fifty maidens along with them. Seven years and a quarter for them on the sea, until they put into port at Dún na mbarc, in the district of Corca Dhuibhne, the fifteenth day of the moon, as the antiquary says:—

    1. It is there they took harbour
      At Dún na-mbarc, the female company,
      In Cúil Ceasrach, in the district of Carn,
      The fifteenth, (being) Saturday.
And that was forty days before the deluge, as is said:—
    1. Two score days before the deluge,
      Ceasair came into Ireland,
      Fionntain, Bioth, and Ladhra fierce,
      And fifty beautiful maidens.


Another poet agrees with the same thing, where he says in this verse:—

    1. Ceasair set out from the east—
      Daughter of Bioth was the woman—
      With her fifty maidens,
      And with her three men.

A ship's company were on that expedition to Dún na mbarc: Ceasair, and her ships lading, came to land there; namely, fifty women and three men, i. e. Bioth and Fionntain, and Ladhra, as we have said. It was that Ladhra, as we have said, who was the first dead person of Ireland, according to the folk who say that no people at all occupied Ireland before the deluge, but Ceasair and those who came with her. And from him is named Ard Ladhrann. From Bioth Sliabh Beatha is named; and from Fionntain is named Feart Fionntain over Tultuinne in Duthaigh Aradh, near to Loch Deirgdheirc. From Ceasair is named Carn Ceasrach in Connacht. They proceed thence to Bun Suaimhne, i.e. Cumar na dtri-n-uisge, where is the junction of Suir and Nore and Barrow. There they share their fifty women in three parts among them. Fionntain took Ceasair with him, and seventeen women along with her. Bioth took Barrann with him, and seventeen other women in her company: and Ladhra took Balbha with sixteen women likewise with him, till he reached Ard Ladhrann, and died there. Balbha and her sixteen women return to Ceasair again. Ceasair sends tidings to Bioth. Bioth comes to acquaint Fionntain, so that they shared those sixteen women equally between them. Bioth brought his own share of them with him to Sliabh Beatha in the north of Ireland, and it was


not long afterwards until he died there. As for these women of Bioth, they come to Fionntain after that. Howbeit, Fionntain flies before them from Leinster, across Bun Suaimhne, across Sliabh gCua into Ceann Feabhrad of Sliabh Caoin, and with left hand towards the Shannon east to Tultuinne over Loch Deirgdheirc. Ceasair goes with her female company to Cúil Ceasrach in Connacht, till her heart broke through being in estrangement from her husband, and through the death of her father and of her brother: and there were not then from her to the deluge but six days. So to attest that, this verse was spoken:—
    1. It is those—after appointed time—
      Their deaths, their proceedings;
      There was not, but a week alone,
      From them to the forty (days' rain).

IV. Know, O reader, that it is not as genuine history I set down this occupation, nor any occupation of which we have treated up to this; but because I have found them written in old books. And, moreover, I do not understand how the antiquaries obtained tidings of the people whom they assert to have come into Ireland before the deluge, except it be the aerial demons gave them to them, who were their fairy lovers during the time of their being pagans; or unless it be on flags of stones they found them graven after the subsiding of the deluge, if the story be true: for it is not to be said that it is that Fionntain who was before the deluge who would live after it, because the Scripture is against it, where it says that


there did not escape of the human race, without drowning, but the eight persons of the ark alone, and it is clear he was not of those. The argument is unsound which some antiquaries have concerning Fionntain to have lived during the deluge, where they said that there lived four in the four quarters of the world during the time of the deluge, namely, Fionntain, Fearon, Fors, and Andoid. However, think not, O reader, that this is the opinion of the people who are most authoritative in history. Therefore, a certain author sets this thing before us in a poem, to show that it does not accord with the truth of the faith to say that Fionntain or any of the other three should live after the pouring forth of the deluge and before it. Here is the poem:—
    1. The names of four—in right resolved—
      Whom God left (safe) throughout the deluge,
      Fionntain, Fearon, Fors, just, gentle,
      And Andoid, son of Eathor.
    2. Fors in the eastern land, east, was allowed;
      Fearon for [northern] coldness (in need) of clothing;
      Fionntain for the west limit fairly
      And Andoid for the southern part.
    3. Though antiquaries record that,
      The just canon does not record
      But Noe who was in the ark, and his children,
      And their wives, who obtained protection of their lives.

Whence it is understood that it is not the common opinion of all the antiquaries, any of these to have lived after the deluge: however, if any antiquary should say, as a safeguard against perverting the faith, that Fionntain, a man like the rest, was drowned under the deluge, and that he was revived


by God after that, to save and to keep the proceedings of the ancients, with their stories, to the time of Patrick, and after that to the time of Finnian of Magh Bile; I do not understand how it would be possible to conceal throughout Europe so wonderful a thing as this, [seeing] the frequency, during the time of Finnian, and from that forth, [with which there] went accomplished parties of divines and philosophers, and many of other learned wise people from Ireland through the principal countries of Europe to instruct the clergy and congregations, and to teach public schools; and (yet) to say that there would not be [in their track] after them some disciple by whom would be left a poem or a letter in which there would be a mention or a narrative concerning Fionntain; and [considering also] the frequency that they wrote other things which are now to be seen, and, moreover, that I do not see any narrative about him in their chief authentic books: and, accordingly, I think that there is nothing but a poetical romance in the history which would relate Fionntain to have lived before the deluge and after it. However, I do not say that there was not a very aged and wise man before the coming of Patrick to Ireland, and that he lived many hundred years, and that he related to Patrick everything which he remembered, and moreover every tradition which he had got from the ancestors concerning the times which had elapsed before him: and I think that there was his like of an elder, who was called Tuan son of Caireall according to some antiquaries, and according to others Roanus, that is Caoilte son of Rónán, who lived more than three hundred years, and who made known to Patrick much of antiquity, as


is evident in the Dialogue of the Ancients; and it is [on] Caoilte that it is right to call Roanus or Ronanus. For it is not read in any book of the history of Ireland that Fionntain was called Roanus or Ronanus: Even though it is on him Cambrensis puts the name like every other lie of his partial history, and as he set down Roanus in his chronicle in place of Ronanus, every one of the new Galls who writes on Ireland, writes Roanus, in imitation of Cambrensis, as a name for Fionntain, because it is Cambrensis who is as the bull of the herd for them for writing the false history of Ireland, wherefore they had no choice of guide. It is the more right to think that it is to Caoilte Ronanus is given, since ancient authors set down among the works of Patrick that he wrote A History of Ireland, from Roanus or Ronanus: it is, indeed, the surname of the author which it is the custom to put over the head of every work which anyone writes, as is clear to every reader who practises reading authors.

And it is not true for Hanmer in his chronicle, where he says that the Gaels hold in great esteem the stories of Fionntain, whom he himself calls Roanus, where they say that he was hidden from the deluge, and that he lived after it more than two thousand years till he met with Patrick, and that he received baptism from him, and that he made known to him much of antiquity, and that he died at the end of a year after the coming of Patrick into Ireland, and that he was buried beside Loch Ribh in Urmhumha, where there is a church named or dedicated in his name, and, moreover, that he is named among the saints of Ireland. Nevertheless, it is clear that an antiquary never said, and also that he never left written this thing Dr. Hanmer says. For there are three persons being mentioned here in the guise of one man,


namely, Fionntain, whom Cambrensis calls Roanus, i.e. Caoilte, son of Rónán, who was baptised by Patrick, and gave much of ancient record to him; and Ruadhan, to whom Lothra in Urmhumha was dedicated (it is beside Loch Deirgdheirc and not, as Hanmer says, beside Loch Ribh): and Tuan, son of Caireall. We shall not follow any more of the lies of Hanmer, or of the authority he has. Moreover, I think that it is instead of this word Ronanus Cambrensis wrote Roanus at first, and that it was left without amendment by his followers from that forward.