Siege of Enniskillen Castle

Depiction of the siege of Enniskillen Castle, 1594, by John Thomas; Cotton Augustus I. ii. 39, British Library.
Depiction of the siege of Enniskillen Castle, 1594, by John Thomas; Cotton Augustus I. ii. 39, British Library.

Your sheriff shall be welcome but let me know his eric, that if my people should cut his head off I may levy it upon the country. Hugh Maguire, Lord of Fermanagh.


¶1] Alas for him who looks on Enniskillen, with its glistening bays and melodious falls; it is perilous for us, since one cannot forsake it, to look upon the fair castle, with its shining sward.

¶2] Long ere ever I came to the white-walled rampart amongst the blue hillocks it seemed to me if I could reach that house I should lack nothing.

¶3] I heard, alas for me that heard it, such repute of the fairy castle of surpassing treasure, and how my beguilement was in store, that it was impossible to turn me back from it.

¶4] This was the saying of each man regarding the splendid dwelling of the lion of the Erne—no man in Banbha ever saw a dwelling to equal it.

¶5] And they used to say moreover, whosoever should see the bending wood or the verdant slope, the level beach or the green field, would not take one step away from it.

¶6] After hearing its description when I had slept for a while I beheld no other vision save the splendor of the noble spacious dwelling.

¶7] I proceed on my way, I reach Enniskillen of the overhanging oaks; through the fair plain of bending, fruit-laden stems I was in no wise loth to approach it.

¶8] Ere I arrived beside the place I was startled at the tumult; the baying of their lively hounds and their hunting-dogs driving deer from the wood for them.

¶9] The strand beside the court, on the fairy-like bay of murmuring streams, was crowded with such groves of tapering ship-masts that they concealed the beach and its waves.

¶10] And hard by that enclosure I see a lovely plain of golden radiance, the moist-surfaced lawn of the bright-hued castle, the soil of Paradise, or else its very counterpart.

¶11] Thus did I find the green of the castle—upturned by the hooves of steeds; from the prancing of horses competing for triumph no herb flourishes in the soil of the outer yard.

¶12] The horses of the castle (were) running in contest, again I see them coursing one by one, until the surrounding hills were hidden, no mist upon them save an expanse (?) of steeds.

¶13] I make directly for the coupled fortress of the branch of Lie; those whom I found in the fair mansion— a wondrous content of a mansion were they.

¶14] I found the nobles of the race of Colla in the thronged court distributing treasure, and those who exposed the recondities of the genealogy of the Grecian Gaels.

¶15] I found, moreover, throughout the fortress plenty of poets and minstrels, from one bright, white-surfaced wall to the other—happy the dwelling in which they find room!

¶16] In the other division I found plenty of slender-lipped, satin-clad maidens, weaving wondrous golden fringes in the sportive (?) rampart with fair, sleek hounds.

¶17] All through the house is an abundance of soldiery, reclining by the side walls; their edged weapons hanging above the fighters, warriors of fruitful Druim Caoin.

¶18] A mighty band of elfin youth, either from the Fairy-mound of Bodhbh or from Lear’s Hostel, such that eye dared not regard them because of their splendor, were on the battlements of the bright, wooded rampart.

¶19] A company of artificers binding vessels, a company of smiths preparing weapons; a company of wrights that were not from one land at work upon her—fair pearl of babbling streams.

¶20] Dyeing of textures, polishing of blades, fitting of javelins, exercising of steeds; captives in surety, drawing up of conditions, scholars surveying the list of kings.

¶21] Taking of hostages, releasing of hostages; healing of warriors, wounding of warriors; continual bringing in and giving out of treasure at the wondrous, smooth, comely, firm, castle.

¶22] Part of that day they spent in talking of exploits, in meditating on battle; and a while would be spent by the host of Ushnagh in feasting, in listening to music.

¶23] Thus till supper-time we spent the whole of the fair day in the bright, green-swarded, fertile enclosure; as one hour in length did that day seem to us.

¶24] All began to seat themselves by the smooth walls of the white rampart; hardly in any hostel is there a number to equal the party that was therein.

¶25]  Cú Chonnacht Óg, son of Cú Chonnacht, supple form to which smoke clings, when all that were in his hostel have sat down he seats himself on his regal seat.

¶26] I sat on the right hand of the champion of Tara till the circling of goblets was over; though it had its due of nobles the king’s elbow never disdained me.

¶27] After a while, when it was time for those in the castle to take their rest, beds of down were prepared for the noblest of the alert, instructed host.

¶28] Ere day overtook the people of the hostel a band of them were fitting spears; at daybreak horse-shoes (?) were being fitted within and men were going to catch steeds.

¶29] Shortly after sleep I see around the hawk of Síoth Truim the picked ones of all in panoply of battle, in the gloomless, stone-built, firmly-standing court.

¶30] Ere the coming of morn the valiant youth of the king’s court set out from us; a great, lengthy, dense, spear-armed mass, ignorant they of making treaties of peace.

¶31] It was not long until the gold-ringletted race of Colla rejoined us, after completely subduing every territory, happy the kingdom which is their homeland.

¶32] That day around Loch Erne there is many a stranger woman whose husband is no more; many figures of wounded hostages coming in after the conflict.

¶33] Precious treasures there were in that dwelling, which had not been theirs at the beginning of day: and hard by the place there were cattle which had not been near them the night before.

¶34] Then were the poets of the castle rewarded by Eachaidh’s descendant, who never shrank from combat: small harm was the dearness of their poesy, riches had been got beyond what he allowed to them.

¶35] I went with the school to take leave of Maguire; away from the lofty, brightly appointed court, alas that he suffered me to go.

¶36] When parting from me, he said, shedding tears down his brown cheek, even though I might not be near to the warrior, that he was not parting from me for good.

¶37] I remember that the day I turned my back on the household of the king’s dwelling, such sorrow lay upon them all that the grief of any one of them was not distinct.

¶38] None the better am I that that household is no more, would I had consumed the end of my days; lest I be longlived after they have gone, it is perilous to me that I shall survive.

¶39] Never have I heard of a household so noble as that in the castle—what excellence—under any that sprang from the Collas; that is the pronouncement of every poet regarding it.

¶40] Lifford of the bright lawns, none ever quits it of his own free will; since it beguiles to the place a man from every quarter—alas for him that beholds it.

— The bardic poems of Tadhg Dall Ó Huiginn (1550-1591), UCC Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition.


  1. Mairg féagas ar Inis Ceithleann
    na gcuan n-éadrocht’ na n-eas mbinn;
    guais dúinn, ‘snách féadair a fágbháil,
    féagain an mhúir fádbháin finn.
  2. I bhfad riamh suil ráinig mise
    múr taoibhgheal na dtulach ngorm,
    dá roicheadh leam triall don teaghsoin —
    dar leam ní bhiadh easbhaidh orm.
  3. Do-chuala mé — mairg do-chualaidh —
    do chlú ar síothbhrugh na séad mbuadh,
    mo bhréagadh mar do bhí i gcinneadh,
    ní as nár féadadh m’flleadh uadh.
  4. Teaghdhais lonnrach leóghain Éirne —
    dob é riomsa rádh gach fir —
    nocha bhfaca fear san Bhanbha
    teagh a maca samhla sin.
  1. Adeirdis bhós gi bé ad-chífeadh
    an choill lúbtha nó an learg thais,
    an trácht réidh nó an t-achadh uaine
    nách rachadh céim uaidhe ar ais.
  2. Fios a theasda an tráth fa n-uaras,
    tar éis gcodail go ceann trill
    ní faca ní oile d’aisling
    acht lí an toighe fairsing finn.
  3. Gluaisim romham, ránag ainnséin
    Inis Ceithleann fa gclaon dair;
    tre chlár bhfionn na bhfeirfleasg dtaraidh
    fa neimhleasg liom aghaidh air.
  4. Suil tánag re taobh an bhaile
    do bhiodhg mé le a méad do gháir;
    nuall a gcon meardha ‘sa míolchon,
    ag cor ealbha a díothrobh dháibh.
  5. Do bhí an trácht re taobh na cúirte,
    fa chuan síthe na sruth mbalbh—
    gur foiligh a trágh ‘sa tonna —
    lán do dhoiribh corra carbh.
  6. Do-chím láimh risin lios gcéadna
    clár aoibhinn dob órtha lí,
    faithche bharrthais an dúin daithghil,
    úir Pharthais nó a haithghin í.
  7. Amhlaidh fuaras aithche an dúnaidh —
    druim ar ais ó ingnibh greagh;
    ní fás luibh a húir fan orluinn
    ó lúidh sguir ag comhruinn chean.
  8. Eich an dúin ag dol i gcoimhling,
    do-chiú arís a rioth fa seach,
    gur ceileadh leó tolcha an talaimh —
    gan cheó ortha acht aghaidh each.
  9. Do-ním romham san raon díreach
    ar dhún gcúplach craoibhe Liag;
    a rabha rem ucht san fionnbhragh
    mar lucht mbragha is iongnadh iad.
  10. Fuaras maithe mhaicne Cholla
    san chúirt daoinigh ag dáil séad,
    lucht foilgheasa sgéal do sgaoileadh
    fréamh gcoibhneasa Ghaoidheal nGréag.
  11. Fuaras fós ar feadh an longphuirt
    a lán d’éigsibh is d’aos fuinn,
    ón tslios gheal fonnbhán go ‘roile —
    mo chean orlár toighe i dtuill.
  12. Fuaras a lán san leith oile
    d’ainnribh béaltana brat sróil,
    i múr chonchair na gcon bhfionnbhláith
    ag cor chorthair iongnáith óir.
  13. A lán féinneadh feadh an tighe,
    tríd siar ar na sleasaibh taoibh,
    airm chorra ag na hamhsaibh uaisdibh —
    gasraidh Droma cnuaisdigh Caoin.
  14. Buidhean mhór do mhacraidh síthe,
    ó Síth Bhuidhbh nó ó Bhruidhin Lir;
    nár lámh súil le a n-áille d’féagain,
    ar tháille an mhúir ghéagaigh gil.
  15. Buidhean cheard ag ceangal bhleidheadh,
    buidhean ghaibhneadh ag gléas arm;
    buidhean saor nách d’éanfonn uirre —
    néamhonn chaomh na mbuinne mbalbh.
  16. Bruit dá gcorcradh, cuilg dá ngormadh,
    gaoi dá n-ionnsma, eich dá ngníomh;
    bráighde i ngioll, comha dá gcuma,
    sgola os cionn an rulla ríogh.
  17. Géill dá ngabháil, géill dá léigean;
    laoich dá leigheas, laoich dá nguin;
    seóid dá síorchur inn is uadha —
    an síothbhrugh slim cuanna cuir.
  18. Do-bheireadh siad seal don lósoin
    ar luadh n-éacht, ar iomrádh ngleóidh;
    do-beirthe seal ag slógh Uisnigh
    ar ól bhfleadh ar chluinsin gceóil.
  19. Rugsam as go haimsir gcaithmhe,
    car an chaomhlaoi do chaith sinn.
    san mhúr gheal féaruaine fásaigh,
    feadh éanuaire an lásoin linn.
  20. Gabhaid cách ‘ga gcur ‘na suidhe
    ar sleasaibh míne an mhúir ghil;
    tearc i mbruidhin a séad samhla —
    méad an mhuirir tarla astigh.
  21. Cú Chonnacht Óg mhac Con Chonnacht,
    cneas leabhar dá leanann dé —
    ar suidhe dá mbíodh ‘na bhruidhin
    ‘na suidhe ríogh suidhidh sé.
  22. Suidhimse ar deis dreagain Teamhrach,
    go dtairnig dhúin dáil na gcorn:
    gé tharla a díol uirre d’uaislibh
    uille an ríogh níor uaisligh orm.
  23. I gcionn aimsire an uair táinig>
    tráth luighe do lucht an dúin,
    roighne an tslóigh mhóirfeithmhigh mhúinte —
    cóirighthir dhóibh cúilte clúimh.
  24. Suil rug an lá ar lucht na bruidhne
    buidhean aca ag ionnsma sleagh;
    craoithe astigh dá gcur re camháir,
    fir ag dul do ghabháil ghreagh.
  25. Aimsir aithghearr tar éis gcodail
    do-chiú um seabhac Síthe Truim
    forgla cáich ‘na dtrealmhuibh tachair,
    san ráith neamhdhuibh chlachaigh cuir.
  26. Gluaisid uainn ré n-éirghe mhaidne
    macraidh chródha chúirte an ríogh;
    ‘na mbróin mhóir leabhairthigh laighnigh;
    neamhaithnidh dóibh snaidhmidh síodh.
  27. Gearr arís go rugsad oruinn
    aicme Cholla na gcuach n-óir;
    ar gcur gach tíre ar feadh fúthaibh;
    mo chean ríghe is dúthaigh dhóibh.
  28. Dob iomdha an láso um Loch nÉirne
    aoighe mná nách mair a fear;
    ‘s dob iomdha aighthe giall ngonta
    d’aithle ghliadh ag tochta asteagh.
  29. Seóid bhuadha do bhí san toighsin
    i dtús an laoi nár leó féin;
    ‘s do bhí cradh do chóir an bhaile
    i ngar dóibh nách raibhe aréir.
  30. Éigse an dúin do díoladh ainnséin
    le hua nEachach nár ob gleó,
    beag an díoth daoire na n-éigseadh,
    fríoth maoine nár léigsean leó.
  31. Ar Mhág Uidhir d’iarraidh ceada
    do-chuaidh mise ameasg na sgol;
    ó ráith aird an eagair núidhe
    mairg do cheadaigh dhúinne dol.
  32. Ag deadhail riom do ráidh seision,
    ag snighe déar re a dhreich nduinn,
    dá mbeith nár ghar mé don mhílidh,
    nár sgar sé dá ríribh ruinn.
  33. Cumhain leam an lá do chuireas
    cúl re teaghlach thighe an ríogh,
    gur luigh do cheas ortha uile
    nárbh feas orchra dhuine dhíobh.
  34. Ní fearr dhamhsa i ndiaidh an teaghlaigh
    truagh nár chaitheas ceann mo ré
    suil bhus saoghlach inn dá aithle:
    baoghlach linn go mairfe mé.
  35. Ní chuala comhmaith an teaghlaigh.
    atá san dún — dia do bhail —
    fa neach dár chin ó na Collaibh,
    ag sin breath gach ollaimh air.
  36. Baile Lithbhir na learg núidhe—
    neach uaidhe ní fill dá thail;
    fear gach aird don bhaile ó bhréagas,
    baile ‘gar mairg féagas air.

— The bardic poems of Tadhg Dall Ó Huiginn (1550-1591), UCC Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition.

Published by Christian Clay Columba Campbell

Christian Clay Columba Campbell is a Roman Catholic of the Anglican Use. As Senior Warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Orlando, FL), he organised the process by which the parish accepted the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, petitioning to join the Catholic Church. The Anglican Cathedral is now the Church of the Incarnation in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Personal queries should be directed to me at eccentricbliss dot com.

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