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Bardic poems of O'Huiginn

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Manuscripts: Annals & Poetry



Portions of The bardic poems of Tadhg Dall Ó Huiginn pertaining to the Ó Dochartaigh Clann: Texts below are used for research purposes only and are courtesy of CELT (Corpus of Electronic Texts): The online resource for Irish history, literature and politics, a project made possible by the diligent work of the researchers at University College Cork in Ireland. Visit to view and learn more about their work.

Note that the Ó Huiginn (1550–1591) refers to the ancient "Oileach" (Ailech) in association with "Elagh", the Ó Dochartaigh Castle (also known as Elaghmore), not to "An Grianan" which has only been more recently called Ailech. There has been much research done which would suggest that Elagh was the original Ailech, not An Grianan (


¶11] Those four sections yonder of the race that sprang from Conall—all the armies of Tara would not be capable of fighting against them.

¶12] Dálach's race, they of the smooth-walled fortresses, the race of Dochartach, the host of Baoigheall's seed, and Gallchobhar's bright, haughty stock, from whom the Ulstermen are without rest.

¶13] Those are the four battalions that follow the high-prince, disturbers of Conn's Banbha, valiant raiders of Conall's race.

¶14] Should the men of Ireland fail thee, the proven warriors of the four battalions, the champions of Tara's hill, will gain for thee the headship of Connacht.

¶15] Bring with thee the four-hosted seed of Conall in their full strength, that the plain of Croghan, delightful country, of fertile nooks, may be brought under rule.


¶1] Speak on, thou castle of Oileach, many a thing must one ask of thee, thou fair, long-standing dwelling, regarding the warriors of Ireland.

¶2] Let us learn from thee, tell us, thou ancient, bright-lawned castle, of those who invaded Bregian Banbha, of the forays and seizures of the Gael.

¶3] Each thing of which I have knowledge will be got from me, hearken, what time were better to reveal it? downwards from the pouring of the Flood.

¶4] I know, as a rare branch of knowledge, of six seizures in turn after the Flood on the cool, moist, white-surfaced, dewy plain.

¶5] The coming of Pártholón from the land of Greece, and of the Sons of Nemhedhto the country of Fál, the third age of the world, it is I that best remember them.

¶6] How wast thou at first, thou lovely, changeful castle, when Pártholón of Bregia's haven had come to occupy the Field of the Gael?

¶7] Upon the coming of Pártholón I was enduring my misfortune in this land, with no enclosed meadow or stone rampart, but all an oaken thicket.

¶8] How was it with thee during the sovranty of the Children of Nemhedh, when thy form had been changed? Tell us, thou castle of limewashed [...](?) walls.

¶9] I was a smooth plain, without thickets, without woods, the border slope of my bright, steed-haunted lea was a splendid mound of assembly.

¶10] Of my bending wood with its graceful fruit-trees not a root was left in the ground—small since that has been the growth of my noble forest—from the might of Nemhedh's saintly race.

¶11] How long wast thou thus, a smooth, brightly glistening slope, without house or household, thou greens-swarded castle of Oileach?

¶12] Until the coming of the Tuath Dé Danann to the spreading woods of Fódla. I was, as such were unfitting for me, empty of house or dwelling.

¶13] Dost thou remember who were the first of the comely Tuath Dé who inhabited thee, thou tower amidst supple, flowering stems?

¶14] The Children of mighty, honey-mouthed Cearmaid, keen-weaponed warriors, a glistening band from the Bregian Boyne, were the first that entered into fellowship with me.

¶15] For my smooth, fertile hills the Children of Cearmaid forsook stately Cathair Chröoinn, hereditary citadel of the race.

¶16] A while after they had come to me the Sons of Míl of Spain wrested Banbha from the Children of Cearmaid without a division as profit of battle.

¶17] From that day to this the lords of Míl's race, white-handed host, dealers of heavy blows, have been defending Ireland within me.

¶18] From that time on I have never lacked one high-king in succession to another, or a provincial chief who excelled any in Ireland's swan-necked plain.

¶19] From me five-and-twenty kings of Róch's, valiant, generous race seized the Dwelling of Dá Thí, thereby my dignity is ennobled.

¶20] And after the Faith there were crowned from me six-and-twenty kings of the blood of fair Conall, and of Niall's line, fruit from (?) each cluster were they.

¶21] Then was I held alternately by the noble kindreds of Niall's seed—a smooth [...](?) plain with lofty stems, another Tara of the men of Ireland.

¶22] Since from thee all other tidings have been obtained, from the beginning until the end of time, thou fortress amidst pleasant, brown-surfaced hills, which company hast thou found the best?

¶23] The wondrous warriors from Ulster's soil, Fiamhain's seed, the blood of Dochartach, that bright band are the best whom we have known from of yore.

¶24] O tapering tower of smooth, even walls, who is it that excels even amongst the lords of Fiamhain's race, stems from …[text corrupt]… of Frewen?

¶25] Were we considering it forever, John son of Felim, of the clear soft eye fore which the sea is shallow, would be the choicest of Fiamhain's fair stock.

¶26] O'Doherty of the castle of Oileach—why should it be asked?—rosy, bright-hued countenance, he is my one darling in his time.

¶27] Though Fiamham's seed are the best of the noble stocks of Ireland, they are as stars about the full moon, John is the one choice of them all.

¶28] It is he that has most possessions, he is the one who bestows most gifts, in the benevolence of Iomghán's, valorous scion there comes no ebb.

¶29] It is unlikely that any should attempt to surpass Felim's heir in his name for generosity; as a plain lies beneath a hill so is every other renown in comparison with his.

¶30] Considering the fruitfulness of his territory, the goodliness of his kingdom, why would he not do all that he does?—no man should marvel thereat.

¶31] 'The paradise of Ireland' is the name for that stretch of land which is his; never did eye behold a finer territory than the soil of its plains and hillocks.

¶32] From sea-locked Fanad to the bright streams of Loch Foyle, from Malin to the plain of Bearta, a lovely and most famous land.

¶33] Land where waves are gentlest, where granaries are loftiest, angelic country of shallow streams, 'Land of Promise' of the men of Ireland.

¶34] Well is it placed, between the sea and the woods, level strands beyond far-stretching plains, wondrous, fairy-like regions.

¶35] Smooth moors amidst its forests, peaked hills beyond the moors, a yellow-hazelled wood by the fair plain, a billowing sea as a hedge around it.

¶36] Good is this land …[text defective]…, better is he who has custody of it; alas, if one should see over any part of Ulster a king that did not surpass Ireland.

¶37] Were his the supremacy of Bregia's plain he would spend it and defend it; if prosperity according to benevolence be just the lord of Fahan should be prosperous.

¶38] If the contents of his house are considered, and the number of his household—it is not a superfluity which should be grudged to him—no superfluity (?) of riches is found.

¶39] Thou man who proclaimest what the high-king of Fiamhain's stock possesses, grudge it not to the princely hero of Fál, greater is his spending than his gains.

¶40] If many speak truth, did not the' house of Oileach fall to John, the thronged dwelling of O'Doherty would not be a shelter for any in Ulster.

¶41] This is the several statement of those who have journeyed the plains of Banbha—all the delight of Ireland would be found in the labyrinthine (?) four-towered court.

¶42] Since Tara received Ruadhán's interdiction against the men of Fál, the lords of Conn's land have dwelt in the pleasant, fairy-like, comely castle.

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