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

Section 7


The seventh year of the reign of this Diarmaid, king of Ireland, a nun named Sineach Chro came to Diarmaid to make a complaint to him against Guaire, son of Colman, for having taken her only cow from her. Diarmaid assembled a numerous host with the object of obtaining satisfaction from Guaire for the nun's cow, and he at once marched to the Sionainn. Now Guaire had assembled a host and multitude on the other side to oppose him, and he sent Cuimin Foda, son of Fiachna, to ask Diarmaid not to go westward beyond the Sionainn for the space of twenty-four hours. ‘That is not a great request to grant thee,’ said Diarmaid, ‘and a greater would be granted thee had'st thou asked it.’ Now they were on either side of the Sionainn, King Diarmaid on the east side and Guaire on the west side until the following morning. ‘I wonder,’ said Cuimin, ‘at the smallness of this host of thine seeing how great the host is which is against thee.’ ‘Understand, O cleric,’ said Diarmaid ‘that a


battle is not won by large armies, but according to God's will; and if thou contemnest my host, know that it is not fair forms but stout hearts that win battles.’

The battle was set on foot between them, the king and his host on one side and Guaire, with the Connaught and Munster forces, on the other. But Guaire and his host were defeated, and many Connaught nobles and Munstermen were slain. And it was at the intercession of Caimin, who lived and blessed in Inis Cealltrach, that the battle went against Guaire; for Caimin fasted three days against Guaire in order that he might lose the battle. This St. Caimin is of the race of Fiachaidh Aiceadha, son of Cathaoir Mor. Now Guaire went to Caimin and paid him respect and homage and bowed down before him. ‘There is no avoiding defeat in battle for thee,’ said Caimin.

Now when Guaire had lost the battle he came alone to a little monastery, in which there was a solitary pious woman, and the woman asked who he was. ‘I am one of Guaire's officers,’ said he. ‘I am very sorry,’ said she, ‘that defeat should have overtaken this king, who is the most charitable and humane and hospitable in Ireland, and that his followers should be visited with dreadful slaughter.’ The pious woman went to a stream hard by and saw a salmon therein. She came back to Guaire with this news. Guaire went out to the stream and killed the salmon, and gave God thanks for having only the salmon that night, though he had often ten beeves other nights. Guaire went the next day to meet his friends, and took counsel of them as to whether he should give battle again to the king of Ireland or swear submission to him on a javelin's point. What Guaire and his friends resolved on was that he should go to Diarmaid and make his submission to him. Now the way in which he made his submission to him was to put the point of the king's javelin or sword in his mouth, between his teeth, while on bended knees. And while Guaire was in


this position the king said secretly to some of his own people: ‘We will find out,’ said he, ‘whether it was through vain glory that Guaire practised such great generosity.’ He caused a druid from among his friends to ask him for something for the sake of science, but Guaire did not heed him. He sent a leper to ask him for an alms for God's sake; he gave the poor man the gold bodkin that held his mantle. The poor man left him; and one of king Diarmaid's people met him and took the gold bodkin from him and gave it to Diarmaid. The poor man again came back to Guaire and complained of this to him, and Guaire gave him the gold belt that was round him, and Diarmaid's people took the belt also from the poor man; and he came again to Guaire, who had the point of Diarmaid's sword between his teeth, and, as Guaire beheld the poor man troubled, a flood of tears came from him. ‘O, Guaire,’ said the king, ‘is it distress at being under my sway that makes thee thus weep?’ ‘I solemnly declare that it is not,’ said he, ‘but my distress at God's poor one being in want.’ Thereupon Diarmaid told him to arise and that he would not be thenceforth under his own authority, and that the King of all the elements was over him if he were to make a submission, and that he considered that sufficient on his part. They made a treaty of peace with one another, and Diarmaid asked him to come to the fair of Taillte, into the presence of the men of Ireland; ‘and,’ added he, ‘I will give thee my lordship to be thine from my death onwards.’

Guaire then went to the fair of Taillte, having with him a budget or bag of silver to dispense to the men of Ireland. Now Diarmaid charged the men of Ireland that none of them should ask anything of Guaire at the fair. Two days passed in this manner; on the third day, however, Guaire asked Diarmaid to send for a bishop for him that he might make his confession and be anointed. ‘How is that?’ enquired Diarmaid. ‘As I am near death,’


said Guaire. ‘How dost thou know that?’ asked Diarmaid. ‘I know it,’ said Guaire, ‘for the men of Ireland are assembled and none of them asks me for anything.’ Then Diarmaid gave Guaire leave to make gifts. Guaire proceeded to make gifts to everyone, and, if the tale be true, the hand with which he made gifts to the poor was longer than that with which he made gifts to the bards. Then Diarmaid made peace and agreement with Guaire in presence of the men of Ireland, and they were thenceforth on friendly terms with each other.

Now Guaire had a brother called Mochua, a holy virtuous man, and on a certain occasion he went to observe Lent to a well of spring water, which is a little to the south-west of Buirenn, five miles from Durlus Guaire, attended only by one young cleric, who used to serve him at Mass, and neither himself nor the young cleric took more than a meal every day-and-night, and then they took only a little barley bread and spring water. And when Easter day had come, and Mochua had said Mass a desire for meat seized the young cleric, and he said to St. Mochua that he would go to Durlus to visit Guaire in order to get enough of meat. ‘Do not go,’ said Mochua, ‘stay with me, and let me pray to God for meat for thee.’ And on this he knelt on the ground and prayed with fervour to God, asking for meat for the young cleric. At the same time while food was being served to the tables of Guaire's house, it came to pass through Mochua's prayer that the dishes and the meat they contained were snatched from the hands of those who were serving them and were carried out over the walls of the dwelling, and by direct route reached the desert in which Mochua was; and Guaire went with all his household on horseback in quest of the dishes; and when the dishes came into the presence of Mochua he set to praise and magnify the name of God, and told the young cleric to eat his fill of meat.


The latter thereupon looked up and saw the plain full of mounted men, and said that it was of no advantage to him to get the meat, seeing how many there were in pursuit of it. ‘Thou needest not fear,’ said Mochua, ‘these are my brother and his household, and I beseech God to permit none of them to advance beyond that point until thou hast had thy fill.’ And on this the horses' hoofs clung to the ground so that they could not go forward till the young cleric had had his fill. Then Mochua prayed God to set his brother and his household free. On this they were set free, and they came into Mochua's presence. Guaire knelt before St. Mochua and asked his forgiveness. ‘Thou needest not fear, brother; but eat ye your meal here.’ And when Guaire and his people had taken their meal they bade farewell to Mochua and returned to Durlus. It is a proof of the truth of this story that the Road of the Dishes is the name given to the five miles path that lies between Durlus and the well at which Mochua then was.