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

Section 28


Macha Mhongruadh, daughter of Aodh Ruadh son of Badharn, son of Airgedmhar, son of Siorlamh, son of Fionn, son of Bratha, son of Labhraidh, son of Cairbre, son of Ollamh Fodla, held the sovereignty of Ireland seven years, till Reachtaidh Righdhearg slew her. And it was in her time that Eamhain Mhacha was built. Now the reason why it is called Eamhain Mhacha is this: three kings out of Ulster held the sovereignty of Ireland, namely, Aodh Ruadh son of Badharn, from whom is named Eas Ruaidh, and Diothorba son of Deaman of Uisneach in Meath, and Ciombaoth son of Fionntan from Fionnabhair; and it was with this Ciombaoth that Ughaine Mor son of Eochaidh Buadhach was brought up. And each of these kings reigned seven years in succession, until each had held the sovereignty of Ireland thrice. And the first of them to die was Aodh Ruadh; and he left no issue but one daughter named Macha. Macha demanded the sovereignty in her turn after her father's death; and Diothorba and his children said that they would not cede sovereignty to a woman; and a battle was fought between themselves and Macha; and Macha triumphed over them in that battle, and held the sovereignty of Ireland seven years; and Diothorba died and left five sons, namely, Baoth, Bedach, Bras, Uallach, and Borbchas. These demanded the sovereignty of Ireland for themselves, as it was held by their ancestors before them. Macha said she would only give them battle for the sovereignty. A battle was fought between them, and Macha defeated them. The children of Diothorba fled for safety to dark and intricate woods; and Macha took Ciombaoth son of Fionntan as her husband, and made him leader of her warriors, and went herself in pursuit of the sons of Diothorba in the guise of a leper, having rubbed her body with the dough of rye, and found them in an intricate


forest in Burenn, cooking a wild boar. The sons of Diothorba asked news of her, and gave her a portion of the meat. She told them all the news she had.

And then one of the men said that the leper had a beautiful eye, and that he desired to lie with her. Thereupon he and Macha retired into the recesses of the wood, and Macha bound this man and left him there, and returned to the rest. And they questioned her, ‘Where didst thou leave the man who went with thee?’ said they. ‘I know not,’ said she; ‘but I think he feels ashamed to come into your presence after embracing a leper.’ ‘It is not a shame,’ said they, ‘since we will do the same thing.’ Thus she went into the wood with each of them in turn; and she bound them all, and so took them bound together before the men of Ulster at Eamhain; and she asked the Ulster nobles what she should do with them. They all said with one accord that they should be put to death. ‘That is not just,’ said Macha, ‘for that would be contrary to law; but let them be made slaves of and let the task be imposed on them of building a fort for me which shall be the capital of the province for ever.’ Thereupon Macha undid the gold bodkin that was in the mantle on her breast, and with it measured the site of the fort which the sons of Diothorba were obliged to build. Now, the fort is called Eamhain eo being a word for ‘a bodkin’, while muin means ‘the neck’, and hence the fort is called Eamhain, that is, eo mhuin. Or, it is called Eamhain from Eamhain Mhacha, that is, the wife of Cronn son of Adhnaman. Now this woman was forced against her will to run with the horses of Conchubhar, king of Ulster; and she, though pregnant, outran them; and at the end of the race she gave birth to a son and a daughter; and she cursed the men of Ulster, whence they were visited with the pangs of labour; and these pangs continued to afflict them during nine reigns, that is, from Conchubhar to the reign of Mal son of Rochruidhe. Eamhain accordingly


is the same as amhaon, amh denying that it was but one, it being two, Macha gave birth to on that occasion. And hence it was called Eamhain Mhacha, according to this opinion. After this, Macha Mhongruadh was slain by Reachtaidh Righdhearg.

Reachtaidh Righdhearg son of Lughaidh Laighdhe, son of Eochaidh, son of Oilill Fionn, son of Art, son of Lughaidh Laimhdhearg, son of Eochaidh Uaircheas of the race of Eibhear, held the sovereignty of Ireland twenty years. He was called Reachtaidh Righdhearg from his having a red fore-arm, that is, the end of a red fore-arm; and he was slain by Ughaine Mor to avenge his foster-mother.

Ughaine Mor son of Eochaidh Buadhach, son of Duach Laghrach, son of Fiachaidh Tolgrach, son of Muireadhach Bolgrach, son of Simeon Breac, son of Aodhan Glas, son of Nuadha Fionn Fail, son of Giallchaidh, son of Oilill Olchaoin, son of Siorna Saoghlach of the race of Eireamhon, held the sovereignty of Ireland thirty years, or according to others forty years. He was called Ughaine Mor, as his reign was great, since he held sway over the islands of western Europe; and this Ughaine had twenty-five children, namely twenty-two sons and three daughters. When these children grew up, each of them had a special retinue; and when they went on free circuit round Ireland, where one of the sons stayed at night, another son stayed on the morrow. Thus they went on in succession, so that wherever they directed their steps they exhausted all the food and provisions in the district. And when the men of Ireland observed this, they went to complain of this injury to Ughaine, the king. And it was mutually agreed on to divide Ireland into twenty-five parts, and to give each of these children his own part, and not to permit any one of them to be a burden to another's portion. Hence some poet composed this stanza:

    1. Ughaine the proud, the noble,
      Whose victorious dwelling was Banbha,
      His children divided rightly
      Erin into twenty-five portions.


And it was according to these divisions that rents and duties used to be paid to every king who reigned in Ireland for three hundred years, that is, from the time of Ughaine to the time of the provincials who lived when Eochaidh Feidlioch was king of Ireland, as the poet says in this quatrain:

    1. Three hundred years lasting the reproach,
      Until the provincials arose,
      Five without faith in their hearts,
      Shared between them Ughaine's Erin.

It was Eochaidh Feidhlioch who divided the provinces of Ireland amongst the following. He gave the province of Ulster to Fearghus son of Leide; he gave the province of Leinster to Rossa son of Fearghus Fairrge; he gave the two provinces of Munster to Tighearnach Teidbheannach son of Luchta, and to Deaghaidh son of Sin; similarly he gave the province of Connaught to three, namely, to Fidhic son of Feig, to Eochaidh Allad, and to Tinne son of Connraidh, as we shall hereafter set forth when we are treating of Eochaidh Feidhleach's own reign. Still this division of Ireland among the children of Ughaine held good until the children of Ughaine had died without issue, except two, namely, Cobhthach Caol mBreagh and Laoghaire Lorc, from whom come all that survive of the race of Eireamhon. And Ughaine Mor himself was slain by Badhbhchaidh son of Eachaidh Buadhach his own brother in Tealach an Choscair. But Badhbhchaidh held the sovereignty of Ireland only a day and a half when he was slain by Laoghaire Lorc to avenge his father.