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

Section 18


And after the death of Feidhlimidh, son of Criomhthann, Olchobhar, abbot of Imleach Iobhair, assumed the sovereignty of Cashel; and in that year Maoilseachlainn, king of Meath, won a battle over the Lochlonnaigh at Casan Brige in Meath, where seven hundred of them fell, and Tighearnach defeated them at Doire Dhisirt dha Chonna. It was about this time that Saxolbh, leader of the Lochlonnaigh, was slain by the Ciannachta of Gleann Geimhean, and great slaughter was made of the Lochlonnaigh at Carn Fearadhach and terrible slaughter also at Eas Ruadh.

After this Ath Cliath was first taken by the Lochlonnaigh. It was also about this time that Cormac son of Cuileannan, who was king of Munster seven years, and was at the same time archbishop at Cashel, was born, and the bishop of Tealach, whose name was Exnich, was slain, and the Lochlonnaigh won a battle over the Connaughtmen, in which fell Maolduin, son of Muirgheas, and many Connaughtmen with him; and Brian, son of Faolan, king of Laoighis, died. After that the Lochlonnaigh came with a large fleet on Loch nEachach, and they plundered the districts and churches of the north of Ireland and similarly they burned Fearna and Corcach.

Niall Caille, king of Ireland, went at this time with a numerous host to plunder and spoil Feara Ceall and Dealbhna Eathra; and Murchadh, son of Aodh, king of Connaught, died at this time, also Joseph, bishop of Cluain Uais. It was about this time also that the Lochlonnaigh built a camp on Linn Duachaill from which they plundered the districts of Teathbha. Similarly the Lochlonnaigh built another camp at Duibhlinn from which they plundered Leinster and Ui Neill and their districts and churches to Sliabh Bladhma. And after that they plundered Cluain


Eidhneach and Cluain Ioraird and Cluain Mic Nois; and Fearghus, son of Fothach, king of Connaught, died; and Turgesius, chief of the Lochlonnaigh, built a dun and a fortress on Loch Ribh; and they plundered Cluain Mic Nois again, and Cluain Fearta of Breanainn and Tir da Ghlas and Lothra and many other stone fortresses. And after that Gormghall, son of Din Dathaidh, bishop of Lann Leire, died. And Niall Caille, king of Ireland, gave the Lochlonnaigh battle on Magh Iotha wherein many of them fell by him. And it was soon after this that Niall Caille, king of Ireland, was drowned at Callan, as we have said.

The tyrant Turgesius of Norway with his army of Fionnlochlonnaigh held the supremacy of Ireland thirteen years, after he had been harassing the country for seventeen years; and during that time he was oppressing and coercing Ireland, a large fleet having come from Norway to help him; and they put into harbour in the north of Ireland; and they plundered that country and got hostages thence, and they sent boats manned to spoil Loch nEachach and Loch Ribh, as we have said, in accordance with what Columcille prophesied in the stanza already given.

Bearchan of the Prophecy also foretold that a tyrant of the Lochlonnaigh would be king of Ireland, and similarly that every church in Ireland would have an abbot of the Lochlonnaigh. Thus does he speak in the following stanza:

    1. The Gentiles will come over the stuttering sea,
      They will commix with the men of Ireland;
      An abbot of their race will rule each church;
      Of them will be a king of Ireland.

When the nobles of Ireland saw that Turgesius was upsetting the country, and that he had it in his power, and that he was enslaving and tyrannising over it, these nobles assumed a magnanimous courage and a valorous steadfast spirit, and they underwent great hardship and


distress in their conflict with these tyrants. Here follow some of the defeats which the Gaels inflicted on them, namely, their defeat by the Cineal Conaill at Eas Ruadh where many of them were slain; and their defeat by the Dal gCais at Ard Breacain; and when Saxolbh, an earl of the Lochlonnaigh with his party was slain by the Ui Colgan; and when Olchobhar, son of Cionaoth, king of Munster, and Lorcan, son of Ceallach, king of Leinster, won the Battle of Sciath Neachtain over them, wherein they slew Earl Tomar, tanist to the king of Lochlonn, together with twelve hundred of the nobles of the Lochlonnaigh. Moreover, the same Olchobhar and the Eoghanacht of Cashel overthrew them near Cashel, where five hundred of them fell at Dun Mhaoile Tuile. Three hundred and sixty of them fell by the Ui Fidhghinnte, and two hundred by the Ciannachta, and twelve hundred at Drom da Chon by Tighearnach, king of Loch Gabhair; and also Maoilseachlainn, son of Maolruanuidh, king of Meath, overthrew them in the Battle of Glaslinn in which seventeen hundred Lochlonnaigh were slain.

Though there were many battles and skirmishes fought between the Gaels and Turgesius with his Lochlonnaigh, still by reason of the numerous fleets and the many hosts that came to his aid from Norway and from other countries in the north of Europe, he conquered the Gaels and reduced them to subjection and to slavery to himself and to his foreigners.

Here is a short account of the slavery of the Gaels under the Lochlonnaigh, and of the rent and tribute imposed on them, to wit, a Lochlonnach king over every cantred in Ireland, and a chief over every district and an abbot over every church, a steward over every townland, and a mercenary or hired soldier over every house, while the householder had not the disposal of as much as a hen of his own property; and were there but one


stripper in the house neither the babe one night old nor the sick person would get her milk, but it was kept for the soldier, and if he were not satisfied he took the householder with him to the assembly in pledge for his maintenance. The Lochlonnaigh exacted an ounce of gold each year from every man in Ireland or else the nose from his head. And neither lord nor lady wore a mantle or dress but the cast-off clothes and mantles of the Lochlonnaigh; they were not permitted to give instruction or frequent church—but the Lochlonnaigh were in their churches and in their duns—with no professors or clergy, without books or jewels in the abbey-churches and monasteries through fear of them; without a filé, without a philosopher, without a musician according to the laws of the country; without the daughter of a king or lord or chief wearing silk or embroidery; without the son of a king or a chief learning feats of agility or casting; with no feast or banquet held among friends, but what remained after the foreigners had been sated therefrom.

The severity of the servitude to which the Lochlonnaigh had brought the Gaels was the cause of great trouble to all the men of Ireland; and the remnant of their clergy that survived, and that were wont to hide themselves in woods and in secret places leading pious lives in wretchedness, earnestly prayed God to release them from the tyranny of Turgesius. They fasted also against him, and directed each of the faithful laity who were subject to them to do the same. And God heard their prayer, and put Turgesius in the power of the Gaels as we shall here immediately relate.

While Turgesius thus held oppressive sway, and while the Gaels were submissive to him in unwilling obedience, he built a fortified residence for himself near the duinlios of Maoilseachlainn, son of Maoilruanaidh, king of Meath;


and on a certain day when he came to the house of Maoilseachlainn he cast eyes on Maoilseachlainn's daughter, a beautiful marriageable maiden; and aged and self-indulgent as he was, he requested her father to give the maiden to him as his mistress. ‘My lord,’ replied Maoilseachlainn, ‘I am certain that thou wouldst not be content with my daughter as thy wedded wife, but wouldst deem it sufficient to have her for a time. I therefore beseech thee not to ask for her publicly lest she may be baulked of a husband; and as thy fortress happens to be near this lios in which I reside, I will send my daughter privately to meet thee, together with the fifteen most beautiful and loveable maidens in all Meath; and I am certain that when thou shalt see these ladies thou wilt pay neither heed nor attention to my own daughter, so far do they excel her in beauty.’ Turgesius approved of this, and they fixed a certain night on which the maiden with her attendant ladies was to be sent to meet Turgesius to his fortress. About this time there was a gathering and assembly of all the Lochlonnach chiefs in Ireland to meet Turgesius at Ath Cliath, with the view to take counsel as to maintaining and preserving their sway in the country; and while they were there Turgesius made known to some of the chiefs the agreement he had come to with Maoilseachlainn, and promised women to those of them who would go with him; and fifteen of the most daring and lustful of these chiefs went with him, and they did not rest or tarry till they reached the fortress of Turgesius together with their lord.

As to Maoilseachlainn he sent privately for fifteen of the most daring beardless youths that were in Meath, and directed that they be dressed in women's clothes, and wear a short sword each at the waist, and that they be thus sent disguised as women to accompany his daughter. And when the night came on which she was to be sent to meet Turgesius according to promise,


the maiden set out, attended by her ladies, and went close up to the fortress, and sent a private message to Turgesius to inform him that herself and her ladies were near the house for the purpose of paying him a visit; and when he heard this, he directed the chiefs who were with him to go to their rooms, saying that he would send them women as he had promised. Thereupon they piled their arms into one heap on the table which was in the hall, and went to their rooms, each of them occupying a separate bed, waiting for these ladies to be distributed among them.

Now at this time Maoilseachlainn with a body of soldiers was with his daughter, and he directed a number of those youths who were with her disguised as women, the moment Turgesius should lay hands on his daughter for the purpose of detaining her with him, to seize him by force and take him captive, and another party to take possession of the arms that were in the house, and to spring upon the chiefs who were within; and he said that he himself with his body of soldiers would be near the house, and that he would rush into the house at the first cry to help them slay the Lochlannaigh. Thereupon the maiden with her ladies went in by a back door of the house and reached the room of Turgesius; and when they had come into his presence, he glanced at the maiden and her ladies and none of them pleased him but herself, and then he laid hands on her to detain her with him. When the youths who were with her saw this, a party of them seized Turgesius by force and made him captive; the remaining party seized the arms and held them in their possession, and then Maoilseachlainn with his party of soldiers came in, and they sprang on the party of Lochlonnaigh that were in the fortress, and slew them all, both chiefs and underlings except Turgesius alone; and when they had stripped the fortress bare they led Turgesius


to the duinlios of Maoilseachlainn where they kept him for a time in captivity.

Now when the Lochlonnaigh who were in Ireland heard that their chiefs were slain, and that Turgesius the tyrant had been captured by Maoilseachlainn, king of Meath, they grew dispirited and discouraged, so that every party of them who were in the interior of the country far from seaports used to escape secretly by night and make for their ships for the purpose of leaving Ireland; and those parties of them that were in the seaports used to fly to their ships to protect themselves from the onslaught of the Gaels who were in pursuit of them; so that the Lochlonnaigh were all banished from Ireland on that occasion except a small remnant of them who remained under the rule of the Gaels. And after they were banished Maoilseachlainn drowned Turgesius in Loch Ainninn, and this deed led to the nobles of Ireland choosing with one accord Maoilseachlainn as high king of Ireland, since the country had been freed by him from the slavery of the Lochlonnaigh.

Buchanan says that Greaghoir, king of Alba, with a numerous host came to plunder Ireland in the year of the Lord 877, and that he slew Brian and Conchubhar, two guardians of the king of Ireland, as the king of Ireland was a child. But this cannot be true; since we do not read in the seanchus that there was ever any king of Ireland, from the time of Slainghe to the Norman Invasion, but a king who obtained sovereignty of Ireland by the choice of the people, by the excellence of his exploits, and by the strength of his hand. And moreover, it was Turgesius the tyrant who was king of Ireland at that time.