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

Section 3


Of the subdivision of Meath and of the provinces here.

I shall now make the subdivision of Meath and of the provinces also; and I shall give the beginning of this division to Meath until its lands are described, because it is the mensal land of the king of Ireland, according to the Gael, and that it used to be free, without obligation, without control, without tax from any one in Ireland, except from the king of Ireland alone. Eighteen 'triochas' the extent of its land; thirty 'bailes' in the 'triocha-céd' of them; twelve 'seisreachs' of land in the 'baile', according to the ancient record, and six score acres in the 'seisreach'. Three score and three hundred 'seisreachs' of land in the triocha-céd accordingly. Four score and four hundred and six thousand 'seisreachs' of land in all Meath, according to this computation. It is why it is called Meath, because that it is from the neck of each province Tuathal Teachtmhar cut it. Or it is why Meath is called to it from Midhe, son of Brath, son of Deaghfhath chief druid of the children of Neimheadh; and it is by him was kindled the first fire in Ireland, after the coming of the children of Neimheadh; and hard by Uisneach he kindled it. The children of Neimheadh bestowed on him the 'tuath' of land which was there, and from that druid it is called Midhe. And there was not, about that time, of land in Meath, but the one tuath aforesaid, until Tuathal Teachtmhar put a 'meidhe' or neck of every province with it, as we have said.


Of the boundary of Meath with the provinces here, as Tuathal Teachtmhar ordained; i.e. as one goes from the Shannon east to Dublin, from Dublin to the river Righe, from the river Righe west to Cluain-Connrach, from Cluain-Connrach to Ath-an-mhuilinn-Fhrancaigh, and to the confluence of Cluain-Ioraird, from that to Tóchar Cairbre, from Tóchar Cairbre to Crannach of Géisill to Druimchuilinn, to Birr, to the river which is called Abhainnchara to the Shannon northwards, to Loch Ribh, and all the islands belong to Meath: and the Shannon to Loch-Bó-dearg, from that to Maothail, thence to Athluain, thence to upper Sgairbh, to Druimleathan, till one reaches the Magh, to the confluence of Cluain-eois, to Loch-dá-eun, to Magh Cnoghbha, to Duibhir, to Linn-átha-an-daill on Sliabh Fuaid, to Magh-an-chosnamhaigh at Cillshléibhe, to Snámh Eugnachair, to Cumar, and from Cumar to Life: as the ancient writer says—

    1. From Loch-bó-dearg to Biorra,
      from the Shannon east to the sea,
      To the confluence of Ciuain-ioraird,
      and to the confluence of Cluain-airde.
Thirteen 'triochas' in the body of Meath itself and five 'triochas' in Breagh, as is said in these verses below—
    1. Thirteen ‘triochas’ in Meath,
      as every poet says;
      Five ‘triochas’ in rich Breagh's plain—
      it is a memory with the learned;
      The territory of Meath I will tell to you,
      and the territory of Breagh most pleasant,
      From Shannon of the fair gardens to the sea—
      we have known it—
      The men of Teathbha on the northern border,
      and Cairbre of bright victory;
      With abundance of bee-swarms and of oxen,(?)
      the men of Breagh (possess) as far as the Casan.


Meath was divided after this by Aodh Oirdnidhe, king of Ireland, between the two sons of Donnchadh son of Dómhnall (who was king of Ireland before Aodh Oirdnidhe); Conchubhar and Oilioll their names. He gave the western half to one of them, and the eastern half to the other man, so that that division adhered to it from that out: and it is in it is the royal seat, Tara.

Of the division of the province of Connacht here.

The province of Connacht from Limerick to Drobhaois: nine hundred 'bally-betaghs' that are in it, and that is thirty 'triochas'; and thirty 'bailes' in each 'triocha-céd' of them, and twelve 'seisreachs' of land in the 'baile'. Six score acres in the 'seisreach': eight hundred and ten thousand 'seisreachs' of land in all Connacht. It is why it is called Connacht: a contention of magic which took place between two druids of the Tuatha Dé Danann, Cithneallach and Conn their names. Conn brought a great snow round about the province through art magic, so that from it was named Connacht, i.e. Conn's snow. Or it is why it is called Connacht, i.e. Conn-iochta, namely, the children of Conn, for iocht and 'clann' are equivalent: and because that they are the children of Conn who inhabited the province, that is to say, the race of Eochaidh Moighmheadhón, they are called Connachta. Eochaidh Feidhleach divides the province of Connacht in three parts among three. He gave to Fidheach, son of Fiach, of the men of the Craobh, from Fidhic to


Limerick. He gave to Eochaidh Alath, Iorras Domhnann, from Galway to Dubh and to Drobhaois. He gave to Tinne, son of Connrach, Magh Sainbh, and the old districts of Taoidhe from Fidhic to Teamhair brogha-niadh: it is Cruachan was its royal seat.

Of the division of the province of Ulster here

The province of Ulster from Drobhaois to Innbhear Cholptha, five and thirty 'triochas'; or six and thirty that are in it. Nine score and nine hundred 'bally-betaghs' in it. Three score nine hundred and twelve thousand 'seisreachs' of land in all this province. It is why they are called Ulaidh, from this word 'oll-sháith', i.e. great plenty, signifying that Ulster is very rich with regard to fish and cattle. This verse testifies that sáith and ionnmhas (treasure) are equivalent:—

    1. Wednesday Judas transgressed his order,
      following demons vengeful-fierce;
      Wednesday he became eager for treasure;
      Wednesday he betrayed Jesus the exalted.

Or it is wherefore they are called Ulaidh, from Ollamh Fodhla, son of Fiachaidh Fionnscothach, as this verse certifies:—

    1. Ollamh Fodhla of prudent valour,
      from him were named (the) Ulaidh,
      After the real assembly of Tara of the tribes,
      it is by him it was first appointed.
And Eamhain Mácha and Aileach Néid its royal seats.

Of the division of the province of Leinster here.

The province of Leinster from the strand of Innbhear Cholptha to Cumar-na-dtrí-n-uisge, thirty-one 'triochas' in


it. Nine hundred and thirty 'ballybetaghs' that: eleven thousand one hundred and sixty 'seisreachs' in this whole province. It is why they are called Laighin, from the broad green spears which the Dubh-Ghaill brought with them into Ireland, when they came with Labhraidh Loingseach: laighean and sleagh are, indeed, equivalent. And because that these spears had flat broad heads to them, it is from them the province was named. After the slaying of Cobhthach Caoilbhreágh, king of Ireland in Dionnriogh, Leinster took its appellation. It is to show that it is from these spears Leinster was named, that this verse was made:—
    1. Two hundred and twenty hundred Galls,
      with broad spears with them hither;
      From those spears, without blemish,
      of them the Laighin were named.

Two chief seats were indeed in Leinster, in which its kings used to reside, namely Dionnríogh and Nás.

Of the division of the province of Eochaidh Abhradhruaidh here.

The province of Eochaidh Abhradhruaidh, from Cork and from Limerick east to Cumar-na-dtrí-n-uisge; thirty-five 'triochas' in it. Ten ['ballys'] seven score and nine hundred 'bally-betaghs' that are in it. Six hundred and twelve thousand 'seisreachs' of land that are in east Munster. Two royal seats of residence the kings of this province had, namely, Dún gCrot and Dún Iasgaigh.


Of the division of the province of Cúraoi son of Dáire here.

The province of Cúaoi son of Dáire from Bealach Chonglais to Limerick, and from Limerick west to the western land of Ireland. Thirty-five 'triochas' in it: one thousand and fifty 'bally-betaghs' in that. Twelve thousand six hundred 'seisreachs' of land that are in west Munster. Two royal seats of residence the kings of this province anciently had, namely, Dún gCláire and Dún Eochair Mhaighe.

There were two races who used to be in possession of these two provinces of Munster, that is to say, the race of Dáirfhine and the race of Deirgthine, up to the time of Oilioll Ólom of the race of Deirgthine who took the chieftaincy of the two provinces, having banished from Ireland Mac Con, who was of the race of Dáirfhine. And he left the chieftaincy of the two provinces with his own posterity from that out: by way of alternation to be with the race of Eoghan mór son of Oilioll Ólom, and with the race of Cormac Cas (second son of Oilioll Ólom), every generation by turns, in the sovereignty of the two provinces of Munster.

It is the four royal seats aforesaid which were the chief mansions of residence for the kings of these two provinces till the time of Corc, son of Lughaidh, being in the sovereignty of Munster. For it is during his time Cashel became known first; and Siothdhruim was the name for the place which to-day is called the Rock of Cashel. The same place used also to be called Leac na gcéad and Druim Fiodhbhuidhe, for there were many woods round about that


ridge in the time of Corc. There came, however, about that time, two swineherds to feed their hogs among the woods of this ridge, namely the swineherd of the king of Éile, Ciolarn his name, and the swineherd of the king of Musgraidhe-tíre, which is called Ur-Mhumha, Duirdre his name. They were occupying the hill during a quarter, till there was shown to them a figure which was as bright as the sun, and which was sweeter (of voice) than any music they had ever heard, and it blessing the hill and the place, and foretelling Patrick to come there. And the figure that was there was Victor, Patrick's own angel. After the swineherds had returned back to their houses, they make known this thing to their own lords. These stories having reached Corc, son of Lughaidh, he comes without delay to Síothdhruim, and he built a fortress there which was called Lios-na-laochraidhe; and on his becoming king of Munster, it is on the rock which is now called Carraig Phádraic he used to receive his royal rent. It is hence that rock is called Caiseal, for Caiseal and Cíosáil are equivalent: áil, indeed, a name for a rock; so that, therefore, that place is called Caiseal, i.e. tribute rock.

Here is an assurance on this matter, from the poem which has beginning— Cashel, city of the clans of Mogha, which Ua Dubhagáin composed:—

    1. Corc, son of Lughaidh, warrior-like the man,
      first man who sat in Cashel;
      Under a thick mist was the place,
      till the two herdsmen found it.
      The swineherd of the king of Muskerry of the gold,(?)
      Duirdre his name and it is not wrong;
      And Ciolarn through the plain of rue (?),
      swineherd of the worthy king of Éile.
      It is they who got knowledge of the place
      at first in Druim Fiodhbhuidhe.
      Druim Fiodhbhuidhe without fault with you,
      most dear to Corc of Cashel.


Of the subdivision of Munster here.

The race of Oilioll Olom having acquired the two provinces of Munster, they divide them into five parts, which are called the five Munsters. The first part which is called North Munster, its length is from Léim Chongculainn to Slighe Dála, i.e. the great road in Osraidhe, and its breadth from Sliabh Eichtge to Sliabh Eibhlinne. And notwithstanding that all that is from Sliabh Eichtge to Limerick was in the ancient division of Connacht, yet Lughaidh Meann, son of Aonghus Tíreach, son of Fear Corb, son of Mogh Corb, son of Cormac Cas, son of Oilioll Olom, made sword-land of all that is from Eichtge to Limerick, and from the Shannon west to Léim Chongculainn, so that he annexed it to Munster: and the name it was usually called was the rough land of Lughaidh, and the Dál gCais had it free without rent, without taxing, from the kings of Ireland. The second part East Munster, its length is from Gabhran to Cnámhchoill near Tipperary, and its breadth from Béarnán Éile to Oiléan O'Bric. The third part, namely, Middle Munster, its length is from Cnámhchoill to Luachair Dheaghaidh, and its breadth from Sliabh Eibhlinne to Sliabh Caoin. The fourth part South Munster, its length is from Sliabh Caoin to the sea southwards. The fifth part West Munster, its length is from Luachair Dhea-ghaidh to the sea west, and its breadth from Gleann Ua-Ruachta to the Shannon.


According to Breasal Ua Treasaigh, when Munster was divided into its five parts, there were five tribes in each part, and five companies in a tribe, and five hundred effective men in the company. And if the strength of all Ireland at that time be estimated, the opinion is unsound of the people who thought that the Roman with a legion or with two legions would be able to bring Ireland under power of spear and sword to himself, [and] the Irish always being valiant men.

It is why these two provinces of Munster are called Mumha [i.e. that it is greater], because that it is greater than any other province of Ireland. For there are thirty-five 'triochas' in each province of these two provinces of Munster, and not that much in any other province in Ireland. For, allowing that thirty-six are reckoned in the province of Ulster, there were but thirty-three in it till the time of the provincial kings. For it is Cairbre Nia Fear, king of Leinster, who yielded to the province of Ulster three triocha-céads of Leinster (that is to say from Loch an Chúigidh to the sea), in consideration of obtaining the daughter of Conchubhar son of Neasa as his wife, as we shall relate hereafter in the body of the history.

Five [triochas] and nine score triocha-céads in all Ireland: ten [ballys] and two score and five hundred and five thousand bally-betaghs there are in it: six hundred, and six thousand, and three-score thousand seisreachs of land in it, according to the old division of the Gael. Understand, O reader, that the acre of the measure of the Gael is greater, twice or thrice, than the acre of the division of the Gall now.


Of the situation of Ireland here.

It is the situation which is on Ireland; Spain to the south-west side of it, France to the south-east side of it, Great Britain to the east side of it, Scotland to the north-east side, and the ocean to the north-west side and to the west side of it. And in the form of an egg it is shaped, and its foot to Scotland, north-eastwards, its head to Spain, south-westwards; and, according to Maginus, writing on Ptolemy, it is four degrees and a half of the solar zone, which is called the Zodiac, that are in its breadth; and the same man says that it is sixteen hours and three-quarters that are in length in the longest day in the year in the side of Ireland which is farthest towards the south, and eighteen hours in the longest day at the northern side. The length of Ireland is from Carn Uí Néid to Cloch an Stocáin, and its breadth from Innbhear mór to Iorrus Domhnann.

Understand, O reader, that it is not through forgetfulness that I do not mention here the counties, nor the cities, nor the great towns of Ireland; but that Camden and these new chronicles give their description down clearly, and that this is not the place for inserting them, but at the beginning of the invasion the foreigners, by whom they were arranged.