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

Section 19


When the race of Breoghan son of Bratha had increased, they were strong and numerous in Spain; and because of the Greatness of their exploits, they resolved to extend their sway in other directions. They had another motive also. For, at that time, there was a scarcity of food in Spain for the space of twenty-six years, on account of the great drought that existed during that period, and also because of the many conflicts that took place between them and the Goths, and the other foreign races, with whom they were contending for the mastery of Spain. They accordingly took counsel together as to what country they should explore, and who should be sent to explore it. What they resolved on was, to elect Ioth son of Breoghan, son of Bratha, who was a valiant man, and also wise and learned in the sciences, for the purpose of exploring the island of Ireland. And the place where they adopted this counsel was at the tower of Breoghan in Galicia.

It was in this manner that they sent Ioth to Ireland, and not, as others assert, that he had seen it in the clouds of heaven on a winter's night from the summit of the tower of Breoghan. For there had been familiarity and intercourse before then between Ireland and Spain since the time when Eochaidh son of Earc, the last king of the Fir Bolg, took Taillte daughter of Maghmhor, king of Spain, to wife. They thus had been in the habit of trading with one another, and of exchanging their wares and valuables, so that the Spaniards were familiar with Ireland, and the Irish had a knowledge of Spain before Ioth son of Breoghan was born. Hence it was not from a view obtained in a single night from the summit of the tower of Breoghan that Ioth, or the children of Breoghan, acquired a knowledge of Ireland, but from there having been intercourse for a long time previously between Spain and Ireland.


Now, Ioth equipped a ship and manned it with thrice fifty chosen warriors, and put out to sea until they reached the northern part of Ireland, and put into port at Breantracht Mhaighe Iotha. And when Ioth landed there, he sacrificed to Neptune, the god of the sea, and the demons gave him bad omens. Thereupon, a company of the natives came and spoke with him in Scoitbhearla, that is, in Gaelic; and he replied to them in the same tongue, and said that it was from Magog he himself was descended, as they were, and that Scoitbhearla was his native language as it was theirs. Taking their cue from this passage in the Book of Invasions, the seanchas state that Scoitbhearla, which is called Gaelic, was the mother tongue of Neimhidh and his tribe, and therefore also of the Fir Bolg and the Tuatha De Danann. For this may be believed from what we have stated above, that it was Gaedheal son of Eathor, at the command of Feinius Farsaidh, king of Scythia, who regulated and set in order the Scoitbhearla; and it is from this Gaedheal that it was called Gaelic as we have said above.

Now, this Gaedheal had been teaching the public schools in Scythia before Neimhidh proceeded from Scythia on an expedition to Ireland; and since Scoitbhearla was the common tongue of Scythia when Neimhidh set out from that country,according to the seanchas, the Scoitbhearla must have been the mother tongue of Neimhidh and of his followers when they came to Ireland, and accordingly of every colony sprung from him or from his descendants who came to Ireland, not to mention the descendants of Milidh, whose native language was the Scoitbhearla from the time that Niul left Scythia to the present time. Richard Creagh, primate of Ireland, supports this view in the book he has written on the origin of Gaelic and of the race of Gaedheal. He speaks as follows: The Gaelic speech, (he says,) has been in common use in Ireland from the coming of Neimidh, six hundred and thirty years after the Deluge, to this day. {Gaelica locutio est in usu in Hibernia ab adventu Nemedii anno 630 a Diluvio in hunc usque diem.}’’

From what we have said, it is not improbable


that it was in Scoitbhearla that Ioth and the Tuatha De Danann conversed with one another.

As to Ioth, he proceeded to ask them the name of the country and who held the sovereignty of it at that time. The company he had first fallen in with explained that the name of the country was Inis Ealga, and that the three sons of Cearmad Milbheoil son of the Daghaidh held the sovereignty of it yearly, in succession, as we have said above, that they were at that time at Oileach Neid, in the north of Ulster, contending with one another about the valuables of their ancestors. Upon hearing this, Ioth set out with two-thirds of the company who had come with him in the ship, the full number manning the ship being thrice fifty warriors. And when he had come into the presence of the sons of Cearmad, they bade him welcome, and made known to him the cause of their contention. He, on his part, informed them that it was through stress of weather at sea he had landed in the country, and that he did not intend to dwell there, but to return to his own country. But as they deemed Ioth a learned man, they chose him as a judge in the dispute that was between them, and his decision was that the valuables be divided into three equal parts between them; and he thereupon proceeded to praise Ireland, and said it was wrong for them to dispute with one another, seeing that the island so abounded in honey, in fruit, in fish, and in milk, in grain and corn, and that the climate was so temperate as regards heat and cold. He further said that, if a tripartite division were made of the country between them, it would be sufficient for them all. Ioth then took his leave of them, and with his hundred warriors set out for his ship.

As to the sons of Cearmad, they observed how highly Ioth had praised Ireland; and they believed that, were he to reach his own country, he would return with a large host to conquer Ireland; and they resolved to send the son of Coll with thrice fifty warriors in pursuit of him. These overtook him, and Ioth placed himself in the


rear of his party, and conducted them to northwards Magh Iotha; and a conflict took place between them, and Ioth fell there; and his followers took him with them in their ship, and he died at sea in their midst, and was buried in Spain, his body having been previously exhibited to the sons of Milidh in order to incite them to come to Ireland to avenge him on the sons of Cearmad. Some seanchas are of opinion that it was at Druim Lighean that Ioth was slain, and that he was buried at Magh Iotha. But the above view is better established and more probable.

Of the invasion of Ireland by the sons of Milidh, and of their doings, and from what country they came to Ireland.

Hector Boetius, in the third chapter of the History of Scotland, states that Eibhear and Eireamhon were sons of Gaedheal. Now this cannot be true, since, according to Cormac son of Cuileannan in his chronicle, Gaedheal was a contemporary of Moses; and he says, moreover, according to the Book of Invasions, that it was two hundred and eighty-three years after the drowning of Pharao that the sons of Milidh came to Ireland, and therefore Gaedheal could not have been the father of Eibhear or of Eireamhon. It is plain also, according to Cormac, in the enumeration of the generations he has made from Galamh, called Milidh of Spain, who was father of Eibhear and of Eireamhon, to Noe, that it was not Gaedheal who was their father. Here is the pedigree to Noe, according to Cormac: Galamh son of Bile, son of Breoghan, son of Bratha, son of Deaghaidh, son of Earchaidh, son of Ealloit, son of Nuadha, son of Neanul, son of Eibric Glas, son of Eibhear Gluinfhionn, son of Laimhfionn, son of Aghnon, son of Tat, son of Ogaman, son of Beodhaman, son of Eibhear Scot, son of Sru, son of Easru, son of Gaedheal Glas, son of Niul, son of Feinius Farsaidh, son of Baath, son of Magog, son of Japhet, son of Noe.


Whoever reads the History of Hector Boetius would imagine that he is of opinion that the Gaels of Alba sprang from a different Gaedheal from the Gaedheal whence the Irish sprang. However, I am content with the opinion of a reputable Scotch author, Johannes Major, who asserts that it is from the Gaels of Ireland the Gaels of Alba sprang. He speaks in these terms: For this reason, I assert, (says he,) that whatever stock the Irish be from, the Albanians are from the same stock. {Dico ergo a quibuscunque Hibernici originem duxere ab iisdem Scoti exordium capiunt.}’’

Beda agrees with this view in the first chapter of the first book of the History of the Church of Sacsa, where he says: In the course of time, (says he,) Britain received, after the Britons and the Picts, a third race in the portion or division of the Picts, a race that came from Ireland together with their chief Rheada, who seized on a settlement for themselves among the Picts by friendship or with arms, which they retain to the present time. {Procedente autem tempore Britannia post Britones et Pictos tertiam Scotorum nationem in Pictorum parte recepit qui duce Rheada de Hibernia egressi vel amicitia vel ferro sibimet inter eos sedes quas hactenus habent vindicarunt.}’’

Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, libro primo, cap. primo

From this it is to be inferred, in accordance with Beda, that it was from Ireland the Scotic race, together with their chief Rheada, went to Scotland, and that their descendants are there to this day, and that it is they who are called Scots. Humphredus, a Welsh author, speaks thus: The Scots themselves, and all besides, know well that they are the descendants of the Irish; and our countrymen (that is, the Welsh) call them by the same name, that is, Gaels. {Scotos Hibernorum proles et ipsi et omnes optime norunt eodemque nomine a nostratibus scilicet Gaidhil appellantur.}’’

Moreover, Cambrensis, in the sixteenth chapter of the third distinction of the book he has written describing Ireland, points out that it was when Niall Naoighiallach held the sovereignty of Ireland that the six sons of Muiredhach, king of Ulster, went to Alba, that they acquired power and supremacy there, and that it was at this time that the name Scotia was first given to Alba, and that it is from these sons of the king of Ulster that the Albanians are called the Scotic race. Of these sons he speaks as follows:


And hence, (says he,) it is from them that the Gaels of Scotland are descended, and are specially called the Scotic race to this day. {Unde et gens ab his propagata et specificato vocabulo Scotica vocata usque in hodiernum.}’’

According to what we have said the two opinions advanced by Hector Boetius in the History of Scotland are false: the first in which he imagines that Gaedheal was the father of the children of Milidh; and the second in which he thinks that the Gaedheal from whom the Gaelic race of Alba are descended was a different person from the Gaedheal from whom sprang the sons of Milidh who conquered Ireland.

Buchanan, a Scotch author, in the History of Scotland which he has written, asserts that it was from France the sons of Milidh came to Ireland; and he advances, as he thinks, three reasons for this. The first of these reasons is that in which he says that France was so populous that the portion of it called Gallia Lugdunensis could supply three hundred thousand fighting men, and hence that it is likely that she sent out surplus forces to occupy other countries, and that accordingly she sent forth a company to occupy Ireland, namely, the tribe of Gaedheal. My reply to this reason is, that this author did not know when the sons of Milidh came to Ireland, and accordingly did not know whether France was populous or waste when the sons of Milidh came to Ireland. Moreover, granted that France was as populous as he represents it to have been when the sons of Milidh came to Ireland, it does not necessarily follow from this that it was from France the sons of Milidh came. For why should France be populous at that time rather than Spain, whence the sons of Milidh came? It thus appears how trifling is this reason that Buchanan advances to prove that it was from France that the sons of Milidh originally came.

The second silly argument he gives for supposing that it was from France the sons of Milidh came to Ireland is, that certain French and Irish words are identical, such as dris


and dun, which are identical in Irish and in French, and a few others of a similar kind. My reply to this reason is, that there are words from every language as loan-words in the fourth division of Irish which is called Bearla Teibidhe from the time of Fenius Farsaidh onwards. And thus as there are words from French in it, so there are words in it from Spanish, from Italian, from Greek, from Hebrew, from Latin, and from every other chief language. And hence it is no proof of the Gaels having come from France that a few words should be identical in Irish and in French; and, moreover, I believe that the few words that are common to them were taken from Ireland to France; and I hold this view all the more because Caesar says, in the sixth book of his History, that it was from the islands of Britain that druids went to France, where they became judges, and got termon lands and immunities and honour from the nobles of that country.