Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
Beatha Aodha Ruaidh Uí Dhomhnaill (Author: Lughaidh Ó Cléirigh)

section 2

The First Year, 1592

¶20] As for Aodh Ruadh, after he was duly inaugurated in his father's place in a lawful way, he did not allow the small force of horse and foot which he had with him to scatter or separate until he came into the territory of Cenél Eóghain son of Niall, as he had a great grudge against them at that time, for they used to invade his territory ever since his father had grown weak and infirm and he himself had been captured by the English. There was another reason too, for the Cenél Eóghain were a wood of refuge and a bush of shelter at all times for every one of the Cenél Conaill itself who opposed and resisted their own true prince, and not only for them but for every one in other territories who was in opposition to or in enmity with the Cenél Conaill by reason of their hatred of them. Besides, the O Néill, i.e. Turloch Luineach, son of Niall Conallach, and the Earl O Néill, i.e. Aodh, son of Ferdorcha, who was always attached to Aodh and to his father, were not friendly and affectionate to each other then. Wherefore, for these reasons it was against them he wished to go first to perform his first feat of arms and to display his enmity and anger. When that small force had come to Cenél Eóghain, they harassed and preyed that part of the country near them. Every one fit to bear arms whom the army got hold of was wounded and slain. They found much spoil of cows and oxen and every sort of stock too in the neighbourhood, because warnings had not preceded them. Nor, indeed, did the people of the territory imagine that Aodh Ruadh would rise so soon from the sickbed on which he was, and they did not take to their notice nor did it occur to their minds to fly before the Cenél Conaill for a long time before.

¶21] At that time the residence of the O Néill (Turloch Luineach) was at Strabane, the place of meeting of the two


ancient rivers which the deluge left behind together, i.e. the Finn and the Mourne, and it was not the custom of O Néill to dwell or stay there, except this Turloch. The affection of Aodh Ruadh for O Néill was not increased when he learned that he had invited to him (to strengthen himself against the Cenél Conaill and Aodh, son of Ferdorcha, son of Conn Bacach who was his friend and brother-in-law), two famous captains named Captain Willis and Captain Fuller, together with two hundred soldiers who were with him at that time, and they never ceased espying and prying about the country all around. It was anguish of mind and a great heartbreak to Aodh O Domhnaill that the English of Dublin should obtain a knowledge of his patrimony or of the province either, for it was not easy to establish a friendship with any one who was reported to be in amity with the English, on account of the great information and knowledge which he had of them and of the vindictiveness with which they had inflicted cruelties on him without cause. When he had wasted the territories, as we have said, he returned to his own country.

¶22] Aodh O Domhnaill did not delay long after that, for he went back on that day week to plunder Tír Eóghain. The inhabitants of the country, a second time, with their herds and flocks, with their treasures and chattels went away, in order to fly and avoid capture, to the remotest places they could. He went with his forces in pursuit of them and on their track until he came to Cianachta Glinne Geimhin, and when he had gone far into the territory, he was told that Turloch O Néill with his force of both English and Irish and with his own troops also was in the neighbourhood and awaiting him. As soon as he heard that, he called his counsellors and his commanders to him immediately, and when they had come he told them the same tidings and the business for which he had summoned them, and said to them: ‘I have heard it for certain from persons of knowledge and experience that it is a well known saying of old that every army which does not attack will be attacked. Wherefore, it seems to me,’ said he, ‘if we abandon the territory now and


turn our backs to our enemies, they will follow on our track and on our footsteps to attack us boldly on our rear, and they will feel sure that weakness and fear is our reason for not attacking them at all. But if we first make the attack now fiercely, obstinately, fear and deadly terror will not allow them or the foreign tribe that is with them to pursue us again.’

¶23] All alike approved of that opinion. They did then in regard to it as he said, for they made a resolute attack and an angry advance on them in the middle of the day exactly. When they saw the Cenél Conaill coming towards them, they did not wait for them, but went off to avoid them to a certain castle that was on the bank of the Roe, a river in Cianachta Glinne Geimhin. The castle was strong and impregnable, for there was a rocky cliff by the side of it, so that it was not possible to leap over on the side where it was. There were numerous walls and a great trench and a strong rampart on the other side, so that no attempt could be made on it. That castle was a shelter for a host and an army, and it was not easy to besiege it. As they had reached the strong part of the castle before Aodh O Domhnaill and his army could succeed in coming there, O Domhnaill encamped on the other side of the river till the next day. As to Ruaidhri O Catháin, son of Maghnus, son of Donnchadh, son of Seán, chief of the territory, he sent a messenger to O Domhnaill and with him a letter. In it he said that O Domhnaill was his foster-son before this time, and that he had entered into friendship long before with him, and he sent him word that it would be becoming, he thought, owing to that friendship, that he should leave to him the property which had come under his care and protection at that time, and he would never again admit such if he was in pursuit of it. He promised also twelve horse-trappings to O Domhnaill if he would secure and protect all who had come for protection to him then.

¶24] O Domhnaill retreated, but yet he remained in the country which owned the cattle to which he gave protection for the space of three days and three nights, plundering and


wasting it, and then at last he came to his own territory. When he came to his castle at Donegal he remained there, and his physicians were brought to him to examine his feet; the illness remained with him for the space of two months, and he allowed his troops to rest during that time. It seemed to him long that O Néill and his English should not have been attacked during that time. He assembled his troops after the two months of which we have spoken had ended, and they went off through Bearnas Mór across the Finn, across the Mourne to Strabane, the town where the English and O Néill were, to see if they could get a chance at them. Since the English did not leave the citadel of the castle in order to attack them as they anticipated, what they did was to kindle and light up fires and conflagration in the four quarters of the town, and they did not go away until they had burned and plundered all the houses close to the walls outside, and until they drove off immediately many of a large number of horses that were wandering about confused by the thick cloud of smoke which came a long distance from the town. It was on the 18th of July this was done. As the English did not come meanwhile to guard or protect the town from them, they left it after wasting it in this way and went to their homes without any opposition.

¶25] The adventures of the Earl Aodh O Néill will be told here again: when he perceived the envy and anger of his own against Aodh O Domhnaill and the Cenél Conaill except a few, and they were urging on the English of Dublin against him, what he did was to go to the nobleman who was Deputy of the English King in the island of Erin, viz., William Fitz-william. He was Lord Deputy then; and when he went to him he told him that O Domhnaill would come to make peace and friendship if he gave him protection and complete security in reference to the escape which he had effected. The Lord Deputy promised that it should be given as it was agreed on by him. A protection was written then as Aodh O Néill directed the Secretary, and the Lord Deputy put his signature to it, and the Council put theirs also. The Lord Deputy invited


him to meet him at the city which is on the edge of the strand of Baile mic Buain, between Dundalk and the sea, that is Sráidbhaile, and he said he would not bring O Domhnaill further southwards to Dublin. Aodh O Néill took leave of the Viceroy and Council then and went home, and the stay he made then was not long, for he went immediately by the way and the road from the Dun of Genann, son of Cathbadh, north-west exactly, until he came to Donegal, where O Domhnaill was. The troop was not noticed till they dismounted on the green. Every one who met them was rejoiced hearing the news. O Domhnaill was lying on his sick-bed, and he could not rise readily to entertain the guests who had come to him; and as he could not, Aodh O Néill went to his bedside to confer with him, and told him the business on which he had come. He said it was not agreeable to him, nor was his mind satisfied to go into the presence of the English, since the one God allowed him to escape from them, on account of their vindictiveness and the extent of the cruelty which they had inflicted on him without reason, though before this it was hard to give him a refusal, but yet he would go with him if it was his wish. It was painful to him to go on this journey for his feet were wounded, and they did not heal immediately after his two great toes were cut off, as we have said. They were together that night taking counsel, and when they had taken it they set off next day with a troop of horse, and they did not stop on their road (except at night) till they came to Sráidbhaile of Dun Delgan. The Lord Deputy came to meet them there, as he had promised. The troop dismounted at the rear of the castle, and rested there that night. Since O Domhnaill was not able to move about on his feet but only rode on horseback the Lord Deputy himself came to the place where he was and bade him welcome, and forgave him the escape he effected, and every fault beside.

¶26] After he had entered into peace and friendship with the Lord Deputy, he then took leave of him and left him his blessing, and prepared then to depart. O Néill did the


like after he had completed his business to his satisfaction. They both returned by the same road they had come from their homes till they reached Dungannon. They were feasting and enjoying themselves there for a while until Aodh O Domhnaill thought it was time to go away, and as he proceeded to carry that out, he then parted from the other Aodh though it was painful to both to be separated from each other. After that O Domhnaill went his way until he came to Donegal, and he remained meanwhile in his sick-bed again, as he had no fear, having entered into peace and friendship with the Lord Deputy. When it was told to the party which was in opposition to him among the Cenél Conaill, that amity and friendship had been entered into between him and the English, they came immediately very submissive to him for peace, and they made full submission to him, because they were not able to contend with or hold out against him (though their warriors were many) for a prince is a greater power than men.

¶27] These were the principal persons of those who came for peace to him. First came Aodh, son of Aodh Dubh O Domhnaill, the senior of the race of Dálach, son of Murchertach, besides Aodh, son of Maghnus, who was thought most likely to be at the head of the territory after him. He was a comely, well-mannered man, kind, friendly, honourable and hospitable, dexterous in the use of arms, a soldier in martial exploits, a poet as regards poetic skill, and of him it was said throughout Erin commonly that he was the last generation of the Gaelic heroes, for he was likened to Lughaidh, son of Cian, or to Troilus, son of Priam, in horsemanship. He was equal to the Hound of the smith, for he never made an erring cast, and hardly ever did any one escape from him in deadly slaughter or red carnage, as was the custom with the Grecian warrior Achilles, son of Peleus. Moreover, he did not go into a fight or skirmish, into a dispute or a struggle, that he did not wound some one somehow. He was a vindictive man and keen to avenge his wrongs, like Conall Cearnach, son of Amergin, so that he was never taken unawares so long


as he lived. But yet it was not a shame or a disgrace to him that, in preference to him, the royal prophesied Aodh Ruadh son of Aodh, son of Maghnus, should be proclaimed the royal ruler, since his vigour and courage, his bravery and fortitude, had grown and increased, for he was a man hard to oppose, intrepid, eloquent, with a pleasant, cheerful countenance, with subtlety and superiority of knowledge, of intelligence and inventiveness of mind, with the firmness and ruling power of a prince, with severity and sterness in his commands, so that it was not allowed to dispute his order or his words, just as if he was the noble Caesar, to whom the poets ascribe such qualities as these. For that reason it was not a cause of shame nor was it a matter of dishonour for Aodh, son of Aodh Dubh O Domhnaill, nor for any of his stock in his time, that the prophesied child of great deeds of whom we have spoken should be placed over him, for he surpassed all the people of the island in which he was born for a long time past; and moreover he was his foster-child when he was in his infancy although he was envious of him at this time on account of his supremacy.

¶28] There came to him likewise Niall Garbh, son of Conn, son of Calbach, son of Maghnus, son of Aodh Óg, who was called Aodh Dubh. He was a violent man, hasty, unmerciful, and he was spiteful, inimical, with the venom of a serpent, with the impetuosity of a lion. He was a hero in valour and fighting. He was the head of an army and of troops in battle and war. But yet he was envious towards him like the rest, though the sister of Aodh was his wife. There was another bond of friendship between them for Aodh had been fostered in his boyhood by his parents. But yet it was through not real love for him he came, but it was wholly through fear. There came also, O Doherty, i.e. Seán Óg, son of Seán, son of Felim, son of Conor Carrach, chief of the cantred of Inis Eóghain, son of Niall. This man who came was a prop in war and a champion in fight, and the shelter of an army after defeat. But, however, it was by the point and edge of the sword that O Domhnaill brought him to his friendship, though


he was a mighty champion. It happened in this way: O Doherty invited O Domhnaill to a tryst with him under a show of peace, and he asked him to come to the meeting with only twelve horsemen and that he would come in the same way on the other side. He did not bind oaths or bonds on him, and he did not seek sureties nor securities but that. O Domhnaill came to the meeting, and brought with him only the number he was told. Meanwhile O Doherty came on the other side with the same number, so that they were face to face. It was a great trouble to O Domhnaill, and it was no honour nor glory to him that one chief of his own people should be in opposition and enmity to him; so what he did was to make an onset on them angrily, vigorously, so that O Doherty and his people were overcome, and he was himself seized, and he took him with him and put iron fetters on him, and he did not let him go until he made his submission to him, and gave him pledges and hostages for its observance always. As O Doherty and the Cenél Conaill, even to the portion that had been in opposition to him, were subjected to him, he proceeded to govern his principality as was right, preventing theft and evil deeds, banishing rogues and robbers, executing every one who was plundering and robbing, so that it was not necessary for each one to take care of his herds of cattle but only to bed them down on straw and litter, and the country was without guard or protector, without plundering one by the other, and two enemies slept in the one bed, for fear did not allow them to remember their wrongs against each other. Aodh passed the first year in the very beginning of his sovereignty having large followings, holding meetings, being generous, joyous, roaming, restless, quarrelsome, aggressive, and he was advancing every year in succession till the end of his life came.