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

Section 21


Of the coming of the sons of Milidh to Ireland as follows:

When the sons of Milidh and all the descendants of Breoghan heard that the children of Cearmad had murdered Ioth son of Breoghan and his followers, and when they saw his body mangled and lifeless, they resolved to come to Ireland to avenge him on the children of Cearmad, and they assembled an army to come to Ireland to wrest that country from the Tuatha De Danann in retribution for the deed of treachery they had done against Ioth son of Breoghan and his followers. Some seanchas assert that it was from Biscay the sons of Milidh went to Ireland from the place which is called Mondaca beside the river-mouth of Verindo; and their reason for this opinion is that Milidh was king of Biscay after he had been banished by the violence of many foreign tribes from the very heart of Spain to Biscay, where there were many woods, hills, and fastnesses protecting Biscay from the fury of foreign races. This, however, is not the general opinion of the seanchas. What they assert is that it was from the tower of Breoghan in Galicia they came to Ireland, and this is the view I regard as the most probable. For we read in the Book of Invasions that it was at Breoghan's tower they resolved on sending Ioth son of Breoghan to explore Ireland, and that it was to it Lughaidh son of Ioth came when he returned from Ireland, and showed his father's dead body to the sons of Milidh and to the sons of Breoghan; and accordingly I believe that it was from the same place they proceeded to Ireland very soon after the death of Milidh. And it was because of the death of Milidh that Scota came to Ireland with her children, Spain being at that time a bone of contention between the tribes who inhabited Spain itself and the numerous foreign tribes who came from the north of Europe to overcome them.


As to the sons of Milidh, they got together an army to come to Ireland and avenge Ioth on the Tuatha De Danann and on the children of Cearmad, and to wrest Ireland from them; and the full number of leaders they had to rule the warriors was forty, as we read in the poem composed by Eochaidh O'Floinn, beginning, The Leaders of those oversea ships:

    1. The leaders of those over-sea ships
      In which the sons of Milidh came,
      I shall remember all my life
      Their names and their fates:
    2. Eibhle, Fuad, Breagba, excellent Bladh,
      Lughaidh, Muirtheimhne from the lake,
      Buas, Breas, Buaidhne of great vigour,
      Donn, Ir, Eibhear, Eireamhon,
    3. Aimhirgin, Colpa without annoyance,
      Eibhear, Airioch, Arannan,
      Cuala, Cuailgne, and generous Nar,
      Muimhne, Luighne, and Laighne,
    4. Fulman, Manntan, gentle Bile,
      Er, Orba, Fearon, Feirghein,
      En, Uu, Eatan Goistean bright,
      Seadgha, Sobhairce, Suirghe,
    5. Palap son of noble Eireamhon,
      And Caicher son of Manntan,
      To avenge Ioth of the steeds—
      Ten and thirty leaders.
    6. The leaders.

Their fleet was thirty ships in all, with thirty warriors in each of the ships, besides their women and camp-followers. The following are their names: Breagha son of Breoghan, from whom Magh Breagh in Meath is called; Cuala son of Breoghan, from whom Sliabh Cuala is called; Cuailgne son of Breoghan, from whom Sliabh Cuailgne is called; Fuad son of Breoghan, from whom Sliabh Fuaid is called; Muirtheimhne son of Breoghan, from whom Magh Muirtheimhne is called; Lughaidh son of Ioth, who came to Ireland to avenge his


father, from him Corca Luighe in West Munster is called; Eibhlinne son of Breoghan, from whom Sliabh Eibhlinne in Munster is called; Buas, Breas, and Buaidhne, three sons of Tighearnbhard son of Brighe; Nar from whom Ros Nair in Sliabh Bladhma is called; Seadgha, Fulman, Manntan, Caicher, and Suirghe son of Caicher; Er, Orba, Fearon, and Feargna, four sons of Eibhear; En, Un, Eatan, and Goistean; Sobhairce, we do not know who was his father; Bile son of Brighe, son of Breoghan; eight sons of Milidh of Spain, to wit, Donn and Airioch Feabhruadh, Eibhear Fionn and Aimhirgin, Ir and Colpa of the Sword, Eireamhon and Arannan the youngest, and four sons of Eireamhon, to wit Muimhne, Luighne, and Laighne, and Palap, and one son of Ir, that is Eibhear. These, then, are the forty leaders of the sons of Milidh who came to Ireland. It was in Ireland itself that Irial Faidh son of Eireamhon was born.

As regards the descendants of Milidh and their fleet there is no account of them until they put into port at Innbhear Slainghe in the lower part of Leinster, which place is called the harbour of Loch Garman to-day. The Tuatha De Danann assembled and congregated round them, and spread a magic mist above them, so that they imagined that the island in front of them was a hog's back, and hence Ireland is called Muicinis. Accordingly, the Tuatha De Danann, by means of magic, drove the sons of Milidh out from the land, and so they went round Ireland and put into port at Innbhear Sceine in West Munster; and when they had landed, they proceeded to Sliabh Mis, where they met Banbha with her women and her druids. Aimhirgin asked her her name. ‘Banbha is my name,’ said she; ‘and it is from me that this island is called Inis Banbha.’ Then they proceeded to Sliabh Eibhlinne where they met Fodla, and Aimhirgin asked her her name. ‘Fodla is my name,’ said she; ‘and it is from me that this land is


called Fodla.’ They proceeded thence to Uisneach in Meath, where they met Eire. The poet asked her her name. ‘Eire is my name,’ said she, ‘and it is from me that this island is called Eire.’ And as a record of the above events is this stanza from the poem beginning, Let us relate the origin of the Gaels:
    1. Banbha on Sliabh Mis, with hosts
      Faint and wearied;
      Fodla on Sliabh Eibhlinne, with groanings;
      Eire on Uisneach.
These three queens were the wives of the three sons of Cearmad, and some seanchas say that there was no division of Ireland into three equal parts among the sons of Cearmad, but that each of the sons held it for a year in turn; and the name the country bore each year was the name of the wife of him who held the sovereignty that year. Here is a proof of this alternation of sovereignty:
    1. Every year by turns
      The chiefs held the kingdom;
      Eire, Fodla, and Banbha,
      The three wives of the very strong warriors.

The sons of Milidh proceeded thence to Tara, where they met the three sons of Cearmad, to wit, Eathur, Ceathur, Teathur, with their magic host; and the sons of Milidh demanded battle or a right to the sovereignty of the country from the sons of Cearmad, and these replied that they would act towards them according to the judgment of Aimhirgin, their own brother, and that if he delivered an unjust judgment against them, they would kill him by magic. The judgment Aimhirgin gave regarding his brothers and their host was that they should return to Innbhear Sceine, and that they should embark with all their host and go out the distance of nine waves on the high sea, and if they succeeded in coming to land again in spite of


the Tuatha De Danann, they were to have sway over the country. And the Tuatha De Danann were satisfied with this, for they thought that their own magic would be able to prevent them from returning ever again to the country.