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

Section 9


Aodh, son of Ainmire, son of Seadna, son of Fearghus Ceannfhoda, son of Conall Gulban, son of Niall Naoighiallach, of the race of Eireamhon, held the sovereignty of Ireland twenty-seven years. Brighid, daughter of Cobhthach, son of Oilill, a Lagenian, was the mother of this Aodh. It was Aodh, son of Ainmire, who fought the Battle of Beal Dathi, where Colman Beag, son of Diarmaid, and five thousand with him fell through the prophecy of Columcille. It was about this time that Seanach, bishop of Cluain Ioraird, died, also Fiachaidh, son of Baodan, son of Caireall, son of Muireadhach Muindearg, who was king of Ulster twenty-five years, but who now fell at the Battle


of Beatha by Fiachaidh, son of Dearman. And Feidhlim, son of Tighearnach, king of Munster, died.

It was Aodh, son of Ainmire, who convened the great assembly of Drom Ceat, where there was a convention of the nobles and of the clergy of Ireland. And Aodh had three chief reasons for calling together that assembly. The first reason was to banish the filés from Ireland, because of their being so great a burden and because it was so difficult to rule them. For the ollamh's retinue numbered thirty, and there were fifteen in the retinue of the anroth, that is, the person who was next to the ollamh in poetic rank; and about that time nearly a third of the men of Ireland belonged to the poetic order, and they quartered themselves from Samhain to Bealltaine on the men of Ireland. Now Aodh, son of Ainmire, judging that they were a heavy burden to Ireland, decided to banish them from the entire kingdom. Another reason, too, that Aodh had for banishing the filés was that they went to demand a gold bodkin that was in his mantle. Now this was a bodkin that each king left as an heirloom to each succeeding king, and it was their inordinate demand of this bodkin that incited Aodh to drive them out, so that they were banished to Dal Riada of Ulster. The filés had been dismissed before then in the time of Conchubhar, son of Neasa, king of Ulster, on account of their unjust demands.

At that time the filés of Ireland assembled and held a meeting; and their number at that meeting was ten hundred filés who had retinues, and they were at that time deliberating on going to Alba, and when Conchubhar heard this, Cuchulainn went to meet them, and he retained them for seven years, as the poet says in this stanza which is taken from the poem beginning Dear to me is Eamhain of Ulster:

    1. The Ulstermen arise, noble the host,
      Led by Conchubhar of the red sword;
      Maintenance for seven years with renown
      We give to the filés.


After this they let the filés scatter all over Ireland, and they were not banished from that time forward until the time of Fiachna, son of Baodan, king of Ulster, nor from the time of Fiachna to the time of Maolcobha, son of Deaman, son of Caireall, king of Ulster, nor from the time of Maolcobha to the time of Aodh son of Ainmire. Thrice then did the men of Ireland cast off the filés, and the Ulstermen retained them on each of these occasions. The first time they were banished they numbered a thousand; and Conchubhar and the nobles of Ulster maintained them seven years, as we have said. On their second banishment Fiachna, son of Baodan, king of Ulster, maintained them a year, and seven hundred was their number under Eochaidh Righeigeas, as the poet says, in the above-mentioned poem:

    1. Eochaidh Righeigheas of noble laws,
      Went to Fiachna, son of Baodan;
      He gave him great welcome,
      And he retained the filés.

The third time they were banished, when Maolcobha, king of Ulster, retained them, they amounted to twelve hundred, under Dallan Forgaill and Seanchan, as the poet says in the same poem. Thus he speaks:

    1. When Maolcobha of the companies was once
      At Iobhar Cinn Trachta on the west side,
      Twelve hundred filés he found
      Behind the Yew to the north-west;
    2. Maolcobha, the chief, gave them
      Maintenance for three fair years.
      It shall live to the day of pale judgment
      For the well-shaped race of Deaman.

The second reason why the convention of Drom Ceat was held was in order that Aodh might impose a tribute on the Dal Riada of Alba, as he had no tribute from them up to that time except that they were bound to raise an army by land and sea and pay an eiric to the king of Ireland, as


Colman, son of Coimhgheallach ordained, as he says himself in this stanza:
    1. A host on land always,
      A fleet on sea as a perpetual custom—
      My skilled oral judgment without harm—
      And an eiric for kindred blood.

The third reason why the convention of Drom Ceat was held was to oust Scannlan Mor, son of Ceannfaolaidh, from the kingdom of Osruighe, because of his not having paid tribute to Aodh, and to install his son, Iollann son of Scannlan, in his place as king over the Ossorians on account of his being obedient to Aodh as regards tribute. And these are the three reasons why the convention of Drom Ceat was ordained, as Dallan Forgall says in this stanza:

    1. There were three reasons for the convention:
      In order to depose Scannlan from kingship,
      The case of the Dal Riada, kingly the battle,
      And the extermination of the bards.

The following are the provincial kings and the territorial princes who were at the convention of Drom Ceat: First Criomhthann Cearr, king of Leinster; Iollann, son of Scannlan, son of Ceannfaolaidh, king of Osruighe; Maolduin, son of Aodh Beannain, king of West Munster; Finghin, son of Aodh Dubh, son of Criomhthann, king of all Munster; Criomthann Deilgneach, king of the south of Ireland; Guaire, son of Colman, from the kingdom of clann Fiachrach, south and north; Raghallach, son of Uadaidh, who was king of Tuatha Taidhion and of Breithfne Ui Ruairc as far as Cliabhan Modhairn; Ceallach son of Cearnach, son of Dubh Dothra, king of Breithfne Ui Raghallaigh; Conghalach Chinn Maghair, king of Tir Chonaill; the kings of Oirghiall, to wit, Daimhin, son of Aonghus, from Clochar Deasa to Fionncharn on Sliabh Fuaid; Aodh, son of Duach Galach, from Fionncharn on Sliabh Fuaid to the Boinn.

When Columcille heard in Alba of the summoning of this


convention and the three reasons for which it was summoned, to wit, the deposition of Scannlan, the banishment of the filés, and the laying tribute on the Dal Riada, he proceed from I to Ireland with a company of holy clerics; and the number of clerics he had with him as he came to this convention was forty priests, twenty bishops, fifty deacons, and thirty minor clerics, as the Amhra Choluim Chille says in this stanza:
    1. Forty priests, the full number,
      Twenty priests noble strong
      To chant psalms, faultless the repute,
      Fifty deacons, thirty minor clerics.

The reader may possible disbelieve what has been here stated, to wit, that bishops should be among the following of an abbot. If, however, one reads the second chapter of the History of Sacsa which Beda has written, where he speaks of the privileges of the island of I, in Alba, it will appear that the bishops of Alba were subject to the abbot of I in olden times. It is thus, indeed, he speaks: It was ever the custom in this island, (says he,) to have as superior an abbot who was a priest, and who had jurisdiction and authority over the entire country, and even the bishops themselves were subject to him, though the custom was unusual, according to the example of the first doctor who was in the island, who was not a bishop but a priest and a monk. {Habere autem solet (inquit) ipsa Insula rectorem semper Abbatem presbiterem cuius iuri et omnis provincia et ipsi etiam episcopi ordine inusitato debeant esse subiecti iuxte exemplum primi doctoris illius qui non episcopus sed presbiter extitit et monachus.}’’

And it is plain the Columcille was the first doctor, who was first given the privilege in I as Beda says in the tenth chapter of the fifth book of the same History. Colum, (says he,) was the first doctor of the Catholic faith to the Picts of the mountains in the north, and the first to build a monastery in the island of I, which was long venerated by many congregation of the Scots and Picts. {Columba erat primus doctor fidei Catholicae Transmontanis Pictus ad aquilonem primusque fundator monasterii quod in Hii Insula multis diu Scotorum Pictorumque populis venerable mansit.}’’

From these words of Beda it is to be understood


that Columcille was the first doctor who went to plant the Faith among the Picts in the north of Alba, and that it was for this reason that not only the priests and monks undertook to be subject to Columcille and to the abbot of I after him but even the bishops themselves took this yoke on them because it was Columcille first gave them the light of the Faith. And it was for this reason that bishops came to Ireland accompanying Columcille to the convention of Drom Ceat.