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

Section 6


I. Of the first occupation that was made on Ireland here.

According to some antiquaries, there came a youth of the family of Nin son of Bél (whose name was Adhna son of Bioth) to spy Ireland about seven score years after the deluge. However, it was not long the stay he made in it. He went back to give an account of the island he, had seen, to his neighbours, and with him a part or certain bulk of the grass of Ireland, as is read in the poem (to which is) beginning, I found in the Saltair of Caiseal, &c. [Here is what the poem says.]

    1. Adhna, son of Bioth, with prophecy (?)
      A warrior of the family of Nin son of Bél,
      Came into Ireland to explore it,
      So that he plucked grass in wood island:
    2. He brought with him the full of his fist of its grass,
      He goes back to tell the news:
      That is the clear complete possession,
      Shortest in duration which occupied Ireland.


Howbeit, I do not think that the expedition of that man ought to be called a conquest, because he did not make any stay in it, and therefore that it is more right to reckon the conquest of Partholón as the first occupation of it after the deluge.

II. Of the first chief-conquest which was made on Ireland after the deluge, namely the invasion of Partholón, here.

Ireland, indeed, was desert three hundred years after the deluge, till Partholón, son of Sera, son of Sru, son of Esru, son of Fraimint, son of Fathacht, son of Magog, son of Japheth came to occupy it, according as it is found in the poem [to which is] beginning,— Adam, father, fountain of our hosts [as the poet says]:—

    1. Three hundred years after the deluge,
      It is a tale of truth, as I reckon,
      All holy Ireland was desert,
      Until Partholón came.

Accordingly, I think that it is twenty-two years before Abraham was born, Partholón came into Ireland, and that it is it which was the age of the world therefore, about this time a thousand, nine hundred and three score and eighteen years, as this verse states:—

    1. Eight and seventy—a clear gradation—
      A thousand and nine hundred years,
      From the time of Adam, virtuous, just,
      To the birth of Abraham our father.

However, the opinion of the people who say that it is at the end of two years and a thousand after the deluge that Partholón came to Ireland, is not truthful, and they, admitting that it is in the time of Abraham he came into it, and that it is Abraham, who was only the eighth generation from Sem,


son of Noe, and Sem himself to be reckoned. For it is not likely that more than a thousand years would have been spent during the time of seven generations after the deluge. Wherefore I deem the former opinion more sound than the latter opinion; and, accordingly, it is probable that it was at the end of three hundred years after the deluge Partholón came into Ireland.

From middle Greece, i.e. Migdonia, Partholón set out. It is the way which he took (was) through the Torrian Sea to Sicily, and with the right hand towards Spain till he reached Ireland. Two months and a half he was on the sea till he took harbour in Innbhear Sceine, in the western part of Munster, the fourteenth day in the month May. It is of it this verse was recited [as the poet says]:—

    1. The fourteenth, on (day of) Mars,
      They put their noble barks
      Into the port of fair lands, blue, clear,
      In Innbhear Scéine of bright shields.

Here is the company who came with Partholón to Ireland, and with his wife, Dealgnaid her name: their three sons, namely, Rudhruidhe, Slangha, and Laighlinne, with their wives, and a thousand of a host along with them, according to Nennius, as is read in the Saltair of Caiseal.

It is the place where Partholón dwelt at first in Ireland, in Inis Saimher, near to Eirne. It is why it was called Inis Saimher; a lap-dog or hound-whelp which Partholón had, which was named Saimher; and he killed it through jealousy with his wife, who committed misconduct with her own


attendant, Todhga; and when Partholón accused her, it is not an apology she made, but said it was fitter the blame of that ill-deed to be on himself than on her: and she said these words: ‘O Partholón,’ says she, ‘do you think that it is possible a woman and honey to be near one another, new milk and a child, food and a generous person, flesh meat and a cat, weapons or implements and a workman, or a man and woman in private, without their meddling with each other’: and she repeats the verse:—
    1. Honey with a woman, new milk with a child,
      Food with the generous, flesh with a cat,
      A workman in a house, and edge tools,
      One with the other, it is great risk.

After Partholón had heard that answer, his jealousy was so increased by it that he struck the dog to the ground, till it was killed: so that from it the island is named. The first jealousy of Ireland after the deluge (was) that. So for it was recited this verse:—

    1. The king strikes the hound of the woman
      With his hand—it was not sad that it was (so):— ?
      The hound was dead (...)
      That was the first jealousy of Ireland.

The seventh year after the occupation of Ireland by Partholón, the first man of his people died, namely, Feadha, son of Tortan, from whom is named Magh Feadha.

It is the cause on account of which Partholon came to Ireland, because he had slain his father and his mother, seeking the kingdom from his brother, so that he came in flight (because


of) his parricide till he reached Ireland, so that it is therefore God sent a plague on his race, by which nine thousand of them were slain during one week in Beann Eadair.

Some of our authors reckon another occupation of Ireland before Partholón, namely, the invasion of Cíocal, son of Nel, son of Garbh, son of Ughmhóir, from Sliabh Ughmhóir, and Lot Luaimhneach (was) his mother: they (were) two hundred years (living) on fish and fowl till the coming of Partholón into Ireland, till the battle of Magh Iotha took place between them, in which Cíocal fell, and in which the Fomorians were destroyed by Partholón. In Innbhear Domhnann Cíocal, with his people, took harbour in Ireland: six ships their number; fifty men and fifty women the complement of each ship [of them]. It is about them it is recited:—

    1. The seventh invasion which took
      Spoil of Ireland of the high plains
      (Was) by Ciocal the stunted, (of withered feet),
      Over the fields of Innbhear Domhnann;
    2. Three hundred men, the number of his host,
      Who came from the regions of Ughmhór
      Till they were scattered after that,
      Being cut off in a week.

Seven lakes burst forth in Ireland in the time of Partholón, namely, Loch Masc in Connacht; over Magh Leargna it sprang up: at the end of three years after giving battle to Cíocal, Loch Con burst over the land, and Magh Cró (was) the name of the plain over which it came: Loch Deichet at the end of twelve years after the coming of Partholón into Ireland. A year after that the fourth chieftain of his people


died, namely, Slangha, and it is at Sliabh Slangha he was buried. At the end of a year after that (was) the eruption of Loch Laighlinne in Ua-mac-Uais Breagh, i.e. (the lake of) Laighlinne, son of Partholón; and when his sepulchre was being built, the lake sprang forth from the earth, it is from that it is called Loch Laighlinne. At the end of a year after that (was) the eruption of Loch Eachtra, between Sliabh Mudhairn and Sliabh Fuaid, in Oirghialla. After that, the eruption of Loch Rudhruidhe, in which Rudhruidhe himself was drowned. In the same year the eruption of Loch Cuan.

Partholón did not find before him in Ireland but three lakes and nine rivers: the names of the lakes (are) Loch Luimneach in Desmond, Loch Foirdhreamhain at Tráigh-lí, by Sliabh Mis in Munster, and Fionnloch Ceara in Iorros Domhnann in Connacht. It is for them this verse was recited [as the poet says]:

    1. Three lakes—wondrous their brilliancy,
      And nine plentiful rivers;
      Loch Foirdhreamhain, Loeh Luimnigh,
      Fionn Loch beyond the bounds of Iorros.

Here are the rivers:— The Buas, between Dal n-Áruidhe and Dalriada, i.e. the Rúta; the Rurthach, i.e. Abhann Life, between the Ui Neill, and the Leinstermen; Laoi, in Munster, through Muscraidhe to Cork; the Sligeach; the Samhaoir; the Muaidh in Connacht, through Ui Fiachrach


of the north; the Moghurn in Tír Eoghain; the Fionn, between Cinéal Eoghain and Cinéal Conaill; and the Banna, between Lí and Eille; as is said in the poem to which (this) is the beginning, Ye learned of the plain of fair gentle Conn:—
    1. Muaidh, Sligeach, Samhaoir of name (?)
      Buas, a torrent of melodious sound;
      Moghurn, Fionn, with face of brightness;
      Banna, between Lí and Eille.
Or yet in the poem which has for beginning, Adam, father, fount of our hosts, &c.:—
    1. Laoi, Buas, Banna, lasting Bearbha,
      Samhaoir, Sligeach, Moghurn, Muaidh,
      And Lifé in Leinster with them,
      There they are, the old rivers.

At the end of four years after the eruption of Murthol, Partholón died in Sean-mhagh Ealta Eudair, and it is there he was buried. It is called Sean-mhagh, ‘old plain’, because a wood never grew on it; and, moreover, it is why it is called Magh n-Ealta, as it was there the birds of Ireland used to come to bask in the sun. At the end of thirty years from the coming of Partholón to Ireland, he died. Some antiquaries say that the age of the world when Partholón died was two thousand six hundred and twenty-eight years: nevertheless, what I think is, according to everything we have said before, that it is one thousand nine hundred and four score and six years from the beginning of the world to the death of Partholón.


Some others say that it is five hundred and twenty years from the death of Partholón to the plague of his people: however, the general opinion of the antiquaries is against that, since they say that Ireland was not a desert but thirty years [the time which] was from the death of Partholón's people to the coming of Neimheadh into it, as the poet says in this verse:—
    1. During thirty years of a period
      It was empty of (its) skilled warriors,
      After the destruction of its host in a week,
      In crowds upon Magh n-Ealta.

Holy Cormac son of Cuileannan agrees with the same thing in the Saltair of Caiseal, where he says that it is three hundred years (that) were from the coming of Partholón into Ireland to the plague of his people. The poet Eochaidh Ua Floinn agrees with it likewise, according to this verse:—

    1. Three hundred years, who know it?
      Over very great [or wide] excellent corn-lands, (?)
      The rank sharp-pointed stalks [or weeds] (?)
      (Were) in noble Erin grass-grown.

From all these things (it appears that) those who say that there was more than five hundred years from the death of Partholón till the destruction of his people, are not to be believed; and it is not probable that Ireland could have been settled so long, without more people in it than five thousand men and four thousand women.


III. Here is the division which the four sons of Partholón made on Ireland; and it is the first partition of Ireland.

Er, Orba, Fearón, and Feargna their names, and there were four their namesakes among the descendants of Míleadh, as we shall set down in (relating) their special conquest.

From Aileach Néid (in the) north to Áthcliath Laighean, the portion of Er.

From the same Áthcliath to Oiléan Árda Neimeadh [to] which is called Oiléan Mór an Bharraigh now, the portion of Orba.

From the Oiléan Mór to Meadhraidhe by Gaillimh, the division of Fearón.

From Áthcliath Meadhraidhe to Aileach Néid, the portion of Feargna, as Eochaidh Ua Floinn says in these verses: and he was the chief professor of poetry in Ireland in his time:—

    1. Four sons, (who) were fierce of voice,
      For noble children had Partholón:
      They took under direction among them
      The tribes of Ireland without objection:
    2. Not easy to the kings was their division,
      The island of Erin (being all) one wood,
      Treasure close (? safe) in each dwelling during their time;
      Each man got knowledge of his share.
    3. Er, their eldest, (who) was free in happiness,
      Pleasant his portion, long without change;
      From Aileach Néid, land without treachery,
      To Áthcliath Laighean full-strong.
    4. From Áthcliath of Leinster—leap of the sea—
      To the isle of Neimheadh's Height,
      Without misery—not weak his conduct—
      (Was) Orba's portion of the land of his race.

    5. p.173

    6. From the ford where Neimheadh was slain
      To Meadhraidhe of the great districts,
      A cause of good content without cease there,
      The portion of Fearón, long the tract.
    7. From Meadhraidhe, (it is) long also,
      To Aileaeh Néid of good customs,
      If we follow the boundary in every track;
      Feargna got an extensive tract.
    8. On Erin itself, not a cause of deceit (this),
      Were born the strong men (whom) I enumerate,
      A noble company, who were established in fame,
      Gentle (and) knightly were the four.

IV. Of the people of Partholón here.

Here are the names of the ploughmen he had, namely, Tothacht, Treun, Iomhas, Aicheachbhéal, Cúl, Dorcha, and Damh. The names of the four oxen they had, namely, Liag, Leagmhagh, Iomaire, and Eitrighe. Beoir (was) the name of the man who gave out free entertainment or hospitality at first in Ireland. Breagha, son of Seanbhoth (it was) who established single combat first in Ireland. Samaliliath first introduced ale-drinking in it. Fios, Eolus and Fochmorc (were) his three druids. Macha, Mearan, and Muicneachán, his three strong-men. Biobhal and Beabhal his two merchants. Partholón had ten daughters and ten sons-in-law.