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

Section 35


The cause of the death of Meadhbh of Cruachain, as follows.

When Oilill had been slain by Conall Cearnach, Meadhbh went to Inis Clothrann on Lough Ribh to live; and while she resided there, she was under an obligation to bathe every morning in the well which was at the entrance to the island. And when Forbuidhe son of Conchubhar heard this, he visited the well one day alone, and with a line measured from the brink of the well to the other side of the lake, and took the measure with him to Ulster, and practised thus: he inserted two poles in the ground, and tied an end of the line to each pole, and placed an apple on one of the poles, and stood himself at the other pole, and kept constantly firing from his sling at the apple that was on the top of the pole till he struck it. This exercise he practised until he had grown so dexterous that he would miss no aim at the apple. Soon after this there was a meeting of the people of Ulster and Connaught at both sides of the Shannon at Inis Clothrann; and Forbuidhe came there from the east with the Ulster gathering. And one morning while he was there, he saw Meadhbh bathing, as was her wont, in the fore-mentioned well; and with that he fixed a stone in his sling and hurled it at her, and struck her in the forehead, so that she died on the spot, having been ninety-eight years on the throne of Connaught, as we have said above.

Thus far we have digressed into accounts of the heroes who were contemporaries of Meadhbh. We shall now return


to Eochaidh Feidhlioch. Now, Eochaidh had three sons and three daughters, namely, Breas and Nar and Lothar, the three sons, and Eithne Uathach, Clothra, and Meadhbh Cruachan, the three daughters, as the poet says in this quatrain:
    1. Three daughters had Eochaidh Feidhlioch,
      Fame on a lofty seat:
      Eithne Uathach, fair Meadhbh of Cruachain,
      And Clothra.

We shall come back again to Conchubhar, and set down here part of his story. His mother was the daughter of Eochaidh Salbhuidhe of Connaught, who was called Neasa, and he was named from her. And his father was Fachtna Fathach son of Cas, son of Rudhruighe of the race of Ir son of Milidh; and when the provincial kings were demanding to have the boundaries of each separate province fixed, Cairbre Nia Fear, king of Leinster, in consideration of getting Conchubhar's daughter in marriage, ceded to Ulster the tract of land that extends from Loch an Chuighidh in Breagh and from Tara to the sea; and this tract consists of three cantons, as the poet says:

    1. In the division of Erin into fifths,
      Between two seas, great the permission,
      Three cantons with his portion
      Took Conchubhar, no small, narrow tract.
The lady through whom he gained this increase was named Feidhlim Nuachrothach; and through force of passion she eloped with Conall Cearnach from the king of Leinster.

As to Conchubhar he had twenty-one sons; and in a fit of drunkenness he committed incest with his own mother, and she bore him Cormac Conluingeas. Now, Cormac is the same as Corbmac, an incestuous son; for it was through corbadh or incest that Cormac was the offspring of Conchubhar by his own mother, whose name was Neasa. And in punishment of this misdeed all his sons died without issue except three,


namely, Beanna, from whom Beanntraighe is named; Lanna, from whom Lannraidhe is named; and Glaisne, from whom Glasraidhe is named. But there is no one to-day in Ireland descended from these.

It was this Conchubhar son, of Fachtna Fathach and his kinsmen that fought the Battle of Aonach Macha against Dabhall Dianbhuilleach son of the monarch of Lochloinn. An innumerable host accompanied the son of the king of Lochlainn on that occasion on an expedinon to invade Ireland. It was in the province of Ulster they landed, and after that they proceeded to Magh Macha. The clan Rudhruighe rallied round Conchubhar against the foreigners, and gave them battle. Then Geanann Gruadhsholus son of Cathbhadh said to his followers: ‘Your host is small, O men of Ulster,’ he said, ‘and ye are all young and beardless. What shall we do, then?’ said they all. ‘Well,’ said Geanann, ‘bring with you a large quantity of grey wool, and bind fast the wool to your faces, so that the foreigners may hate and fear you all the more for this, as if you were chosen warriors.’ All those who were amhulchach, that is, those who had not beards, followed the advice of Geanann. The battle was afterwards fought, and the foreigners were defeated, and they were slaughtered there; and it was from this Battle of Aonach Macha that they were called Ulaidh or Ulstermen.

The death of Conlach son of Cuchulainn, as follows.

It was thus his death was brought about: Cuchulainn went to learn feats of valour to Scathach, a female champion that lived in Alba; and there was a fair lady in Scotland at that time called Aoife daughter of Airdgheim, who cherished a longing affection for Cuchulainn because of his great fame; and she came to visit him; and they had intercourse with one another, and she conceived a son. Now, when Cuchulainn proceeding to Ireland after having learned the feats of agility from Scathach, he paid a farewell


visit to Aoife, and gave her an ornasc, that is, a chain of gold, and told her to keep it till her son should be fit for service; and when he would be fit for service, to send the chain with him to himself, as a sure token by which to know him; or, according to others, it was a gold ring, and he told her to send his son to visit him to Ireland as soon as he should be so strong that his finger would fill the ring. Furthermore he imposed three restrictions on the son before his coming to Ireland. The first restriction was that he should not give way to any hero or champion in the world; the second restriction that he should not give his name through fear to any warrior in the world; the third restriction that he should not refuse single combat to any man on earth, however strong. Now, when this youth grew up and waxed strong, and when he had learned exercises of valour and championship from Scathach, the instructress of champions, he set out for Ireland to visit Cuchulainn, his father; and when the youth reached land, Conchubhar and the nobles of Ulster were before him Tracht Eise; and Conchubhar sent a champion called Cuinnire to get an account of himself from him; and when he came into the youth's presence, he asked his name. ‘I tell my name to no warrior on earth,’ said Conlaoch. Then Cuinnire went back to Conchubhar, and made known to him this answer. Thereupon Cuchulainn went to get an account from him, but received only the same answer from Conlaoch; and they engaged in a bloody encounter, and Conlaoch was overpowering Cuchulainn, great as had been his valour and strength in every battle up to that time, so that he was forced to go to the nearest ford and direct Laogh son of Rian Gabhra to get ready the ga bolg for him, which he sent through Conlaoch's body; and it was thus he died.