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The History of Ireland (Author: Geoffrey Keating)

Section 7

Section VII.

Of the second conquest which was made on Ireland here, i.e. the conquest of the children of Neimheadh.

Ireland, indeed, was waste thirty years after the destruction of the race of Partholóon, till Neimheadh son of Agnoman, son of Pamp, son of Tat, son of Seara, son of Srú, son of


Easrú, son of Framant, son of Fathacht, son of Magog, son of Japheth, came to settle in it: for every invasion which occupied Ireland after the deluge is of the children of Magog. At Srú, son of Easruacute;, Partholóon and the children of Neimheadh separate from each other: and at Seara the Firbolg, the Tuatha Dé Danann, and the sons of Míleadh separate. And it is the Scotic language every tribe of these had. That is evident from (the occasion) when Ith, son of Breogan, came into Ireland; for it is through the Scotic language he himself and the Tuatha Dé Danann spoke with each other; and they said that they were of the race of Magog on both sides. Some others say, as for Neimheadh, that he was of the posterity of the son, Adhla his name, whom Partholóon had left in the east. It is the track in which Neimheadh journeyed, coming into Ireland from Scythia on the narrow sea which reaches from the ocean called Mare Euxinum,—it is it (i.e. the narrow sea) which is the boundary between the north-west side of Asia and the north-east side of Europe,— and at the north-west part of Asia are the mountains of Riffé, according to Pomponius Mela, on the boundary line of the narrow sea we have mentioned and the northern ocean. He gave his right hand to the mountains of Riffé, till he came into the ocean to the north, and his left hand towards Europe till he came to Ireland. Thirty-four ships (was) the number of his fleet, and thirty persons in every ship of them.

Starn, Iarbhoinel Fáidh, Ainninn, and Fearghus Leithdhearg (are) the names of the four sons of Neimheadh.


Four lake-eruptions in Ireland in the time of Neimheadh, namely, Loch mBreunainn on Mágh n-Asail in Ui Nialláin: Loch Muinreamhair on Mágh Sola among the Leinstermen: at the end of ten years after Neimheadh had arrived in Ireland, Loch Dairbhreach and Loch n-Ainnin sprang up in Magh Mór in Meath: for when the grave of Ainnin was dug, it is then Loch Ainnin sprang forth. It is in proof that it was in Neimheadh's time these lakes burst forth that this verse was made:—

    1. Four lakes of abundant water
      Burst forth over Fodhla truly great:—
      Loch Dairbhreach, Loch mBreunainn sweet sounding,
      Loch Muinreamhair, Loch n-Ainnin.

The wife of Neimheadh—Macha her name—died in Ireland sooner than Ainnin; and the twelfth year after their coming into Ireland this Macha died; and she was the first dead person of Ireland after the coming of Neimheadh into it. And it is from her Árd Macha is named; for it is there she was buried. Two royal forts were built by Neimheadh in Ireland, namely, Rath Chinneich in Uí Nialláin, and Rath Ciombaoth in Seimhne. The four sons of Madán Muinreamhar of the Fomorians built Rath Cinneich in one day, Bog, Robhog, Ruibhne, and Rodan their names: and Neimheadh slew them on the morrow in the morning, in Daire Lighe, for fear that they should resolve on the destruction of the fort again; and they were buried there.

Twelve plains were cleared from wood by Neimheadh in Ireland; namely, Magh Ceara, Magh Neara, Magh Cuile Toladh, Magh Luirg in Connacht, Magh Tochair in Tír


Eoghain, Leacmhagh in Munster, Magh mBreasa, Magh Lughaidh in Ui Tuirtre, Magh Seireadh in Teathbha, Magh Seimhne in Dáll n-Áruidhe, Magh Muirtheimhne in Breagh, and Magh Macha in Oirghialla.

Neimheadh won three battles on the Fomorians, namely, navigators of the race of Cham, who fared from Africa; they came fleeing to the islands of the west of Europe, and to make a settlement for themselves, and (also) fleeing the race of Sem, for fear that they might have advantage over them, in consequence of the curse which Noe had left on Cham from whom they came; inasmuch as they thought themselves to be safe from the control of the posterity of Sem by being at a distance from them: wherefore, they came to Ireland, so that the three battles aforesaid were won over them, i.e. the battle of Sliabh Bádhna; the battle of Ross Fraocháin in Connacht, in which there fell Gann and Geanann, two leaders of the Fomorians; and the battle of Murbholg in Dalriada, i.e. the Rúta, the place where Starn son of Neimheadh fell by Conaing son of Faobhar in Leithead Lachtmhaighe. Moreover, he fought the battle of Cnámhros in Leinster, where there was a slaughter (made) of the men of Ireland, including Artur, son of Neimheadh, i.e. a son born in Ireland to him; and including Iobcan son of Starn, son of Neimheadh. However, it is by Neimheadh these three battles were won over the Fomorians, as these verses below certify:—

    1. Neimheadh defeated—illustrious his strength—
      (Their sepulchre was satiated I think),
      Gann and Geanann, by his attack.
      They were slain by him, one after the other.

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    3. Geanann by Neimheadh was worn out.
      Their little grave—what tomb is greater (than it)?—
      By Starn, son of Neimheadh the mighty,
      Gann fell, and it is not deceit.
    4. The battle of Murbholg—he fought it—
      Till it was closed, it was stiff,
      It was won by Neimheadh of the arms,
      Though Starn came not back (from it).
    5. During the battle of Cnamhros, which was very great,
      It is much there was of hacking of flesh;
      Artur and Iobcan fell there,
      Although in it Gann was routed.

After that Neimheadh died of the plague in Oiléan Árda Neimheadh in Críoch Liatháin in Munster, which is called Oiléan Mór an Bharraigh; and two thousand (of) people with him, both men and women.

There was slavery and great oppression afterwards on the race of Neimheadh by the Fomorians, revenging the battles which Neimheadh had gained over them. Morc, indeed, son of Deileadh, and Conaing, son of Faobhar, from whom is named Tor Conaing on the border of Ireland north [who] had a fleet, and they residing in Tor Conaing which is called Toirinis, enforcing a tribute on the children of Neimheadh: and the extent of that tribute was two thirds of the children, and of the corn, and of the milch-kine of the men of Ireland, to be offered to them every year on the eve of Samhain at Magh gCéidne between the Drobhaois and the Eirne. It is why it is called Magh gCéidne from the frequency (with which) the tribute was brought to the same plain.

The Fomorians had still more tyranny on the children of Neimheadh, to wit, three full measures from every single


household in Ireland of the cream of milk, of the flour of wheat, and of butter, to be brought to Morc and to Conaing to Toirinis; and a female steward who was called Liagh, enforcing that tax throughout Ireland, so that of that tax this verse was recited:—
    1. That tax which was devised there,
      Three measures which were not very scant;
      A measure of the cream of rich milk,
      And a measure of the flour of wheat,
      The third obligation—we think it was hard—
      A measure of butter over it for a condiment.

Anger and rage indeed seize upon the men of Ireland by reason of the heaviness of that tribute and tax, insomuch that they went to do battle with the Fomorians. It is wherefore they used to be called Fomorians, namely, from their being committing robbery on sea: Fomhóraigh, i.e. along the seas.

There were, however, three good warriors among the children of Neimheadh at this period, namely, Beothach, son of Iarbhoineol the prophetic, son of Neimheadh; Fearghus the red-sided, son of Neimheadh; and Earglan, son of Béoan, son of Starn, son of Neimheadh, with his two brothers, namely, Manntán and Iarthacht: and their number was thirty thousand on sea, and the same number on land, as this verse shows:—

    1. Three score thousand,—bright array—
      On land and on water;
      It is the number went from their dwelling
      The race of Neimheadh to the demolition (of the tower).

The tower was demolished then, and Conaing falls with his children by the race of Neimheadh. Afterwards, Morc, son of Deileadh, brought the crew of three score ships from Africa to Toirinis, till he gave battle to the children of


Neimheadh, so that they fell side by side, and that everyone of them who was not slain was drowned, but Morc and a few of his company who took possession of the island: for they did not perceive the sea coming under them with the obstinacy of the fighting, so that there escaped not of the race of Neimheadh (as many of them as were in this warfare) but the crew of one bark, in which were thirty strong men, including three chiefs, namely, Simeon Breac, son of Starn, son of Neimheadh; Iobath, son of Beothach, son of Iarbhoineol Fáidh, son of Neimheadh; and Briotán Maol, son of Fearghus Leithdhearg, son of Neimheadh, as the verse says:—
    1. But one bark with its full company,
      There escaped not of them, the entire of their hosts:
      Simeon and Iobath good,
      And Briotán Maol, in that ship.

On their coming away from that conflict, it is the counsel on which they resolved, to fare from Ireland to fly the tyranny of the Fomorians. They were seven years making ready towards this adventure; and a fleet is prepared by each chief of them, and a party of the people who had come with Neimheadh to Ireland, and of his descendants, go with each one of the aforesaid chiefs; and some of them remain behind in Ireland, namely, ten warriors whom they left taking the headship of the remnant of the race of Neimheadh who remained under servitude of the Fomorians till the time of the Firbolg.

A chief of the three above (named), viz. Simeon Breac, son of Starn, goes to Greece, even to Thrace, and a company with him; it is there they were under bondage, and it is from him the Firbolg have come, as we shall say hereafter.


The second chief, namely, Iobáth, son of Beothach, goes into the regions of the north of Europe; and some antiquaries say that it is to 'Boetia' he went: it is from him the Tuatha Dé Danann have descended.

The third chief, i.e. Briotán Maol goes with a company with him to Dobhar and to Iardhobhar in the north of Scotland, so that he himself and his posterity after him dwelled there. It is the total of the fleet these chiefs, the children of Neimheadh, (had) on this expedition, between ship, bark, skiff, and small boat, one thousand one hundred and thirty vessels.

However, Briotán, son of Fearghus Leithdhearg, son of Neimheadh, and his posterity, were inhabiting the north of Scotland until the Crutheni, i.e. the Picts, went from Ireland to dwell in Scotland in the time of Eireamhón. Holy Cormac, son of Cuileannan, in his Saltair, says that it is from Briotán, Britannia is called to the island which is to-day called Great Britain: and the ancient record of Ireland is agreeing with him on that, as the poem says, which has for beginning Adam father, fountain of our hosts, where it says:—

    1. Briotán went beyond sea, without stain,
      Generous son of red-sided Fearghus;
      The Britons all, victory with renown,
      From him, without deception, they have descended.
Another author supports him on that where he says:—
    1. Briotán Maol,son of the prince,
      Noble the stock-branch spreading from him,
      Son of Leithdheirg from Leacmhagh,
      From whom are the Britons of the world.


It is the more right to think that to be true since it is not probable that it is from Brutus it is called (Britain); for if it were from him, it is likely that it is Brutania it would be called; and, besides, it is the more its name was obscured by the children of Brutus, according to (Geoffrey of) Monmouth, since Laegrus, son of Brutus, gave Laegria for name to the part of Britain which came to him; Camber, the second son of Brutus, gave Cambria for name to the part of it that came to himself; and Albanactus, the third son of Brutus, gave Albania for name to his own portion of the same territory.

As to the remnant of the race of Neimheadh, who remained dwelling in Ireland after those chiefs; they were oppressed by the Fomorians from time to time, till the arrival of the posterity of Simeon Breac, son of Starn, son of Neimheadh, in Ireland from Greece. Two hundred and seventeen years from the coming by Neimheadh into Ireland till the coming of the Firbolg into it, as this verse certifies:—

    1. Seventeen years and two hundred—
      During their reckoning,(there is) no exaggeration—
      Since Neimheadh came from the east,
      Over sea with his great sons,
      Till the children of Starn came
      From Greece,terrifying, very rugged.