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.

Enniskillen.

¶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.

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Blood Eagle

Detail of Stora Hammars I picture stone, Stora Hammars, Lärbro parish, Gotland, Sweden.
Detail of Stora Hammars I picture stone, Stora Hammars, Lärbro parish, Gotland, Sweden.

With a butcher’s aplomb
they spread out your lungs
and made you warm wings
for your shoulders Seamus Heaney, Viking Dublin: Trial Pieces, V.

Vita, Veritas, Victoria

Mural on Sandy Row, south Belfast, Northern Ireland, commemorating the siege of Derry and depicting the arms of that city.  (Copyright © 2013 Extramural Activity.)
Mural on Sandy Row, south Belfast, Northern Ireland, commemorating the siege of Derry and depicting the arms of that city. (Copyright © 2013 Extramural Activity.)

Religion’s Never Mentioned Here

Gates in the Peace Line at Lanark Way, between the Shankill and Springfield Roads, west Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Gates in the Peace Line at Lanark Way, between the Shankill and Springfield Roads, west Belfast, Northern Ireland.

MacFadyen’s Cave

Loch Awe and Creag an Aonaich at the Pass of Brander.
Loch Awe and Creag an Aonaich at the Pass of Brander.

MACFADYEN came from Ireland (Eirin) to Cantyre (Cinn-tìre), with a following of 1400 men, to assist King Edward in his efforts to conquer Scotland. From Cantyre he made his way to Lorne (Lathurna), where he was joined by a party of the MacDougalls. When the Knight of Lochow (Loch-odha) heard of his coming, he sent a messenger to inform Sir William Wallace of it, who was at the time in Perthshire (Siorramachd Pheairt). Sir William was not slow in marching to meet the enemy. The two hosts encountered each other in the Pass of Awe (Atha). MacFadyen and his men were defeated and routed. He, and as many of his officers as escaped with him, hid themselves in a cave in the face of a rock called Creag-an-aoinidh. Sir William sent the Knight of Lochow and a party of men in pursuit of the fugitives; and having found them in the cave, they cut off their heads, and placed them on stakes on the top of Creag-an-aoinidh. This cave is called MacFadyen’s Cave to the present day.

The battle between Wallace and MacFadyen took place in 1300.

Makfadyane fled, for all his felloun stryff
On till a cave, within a clyfft of stayne
Wnde Cragmore, with fyftene is he gayne
Dunkan off Lorn his leyff at Wallace ast;
On Makfadyane with worthi me he past
He grantyt him to put them all to ded:
Thai left nane quyk, syne brocht Wallace his hed;
Apon a sper throuch out the feild it bor.
The Lord Cambell syne hint it by the har;
Heich in Cragmore he maid it for to stand
Steild on a stayne for honour off Irland.

Henry the Menstrel, Buke Sewynd, 858-868.

— Lord Archibald Campbell’s Records of Argyll (1885).

I Do Not Compare the Disciple with the Master

Engraving of the ruins of Iona Abbey from Archaeologia Scotica, Volume I, Edinburgh (1792).
Engraving of the ruins of Iona Abbey from Archaeologia Scotica, Volume I, Edinburgh (1792).

Baithen was a man of tender soul, of whom we would fain speak at greater length, if it were not needful to circumscribe the wide and confused records of Celtic hagiography. Columba compared him to St John the Evangelist; he said that his beloved disciple resembled him who was the beloved disciple of Christ, by his exquisite purity, his penetrating simplicity, and his love of perfection. And Columba was not alone in doing justice to the man who, after having been his chief lieutenant in his work, was to become his first successor. One day, in an assembly of learned monks, probably held in Ireland, Fintan, a very learned and very wise man, and also one of the twelve companions of Columba’s exile, was questioned upon the qualities of Baithen. “Know,” he answered, “that there is no one on this side of the Alps who is equal to him in knowledge of the Scriptures, and in the greatness of his learning.” “What!” said his questioners — “not even his master, Columba?” “I do not compare the disciple with the master,” answered Fintan. “Columba is not to be compared with philosophers and learned men, but with patriarchs, prophets, and apostles. The Holy Ghost reigns in him; he has been chosen by God for the good of all. He is a sage among all sages, a king among kings, an anchorite with anchorites, a monk of monks; and in order to bring himself to the level even of laymen, he knows how to be poor of heart among the poor; thanks to the apostolic charity which inspires him, he can rejoice with the joyful, and weep with the unfortunate. And amid all the gifts which God’s generosity has lavished on him, the true humility of Christ is so royally rooted in his soul, that it seems to have been born with him.” It is added that all the learned hearers assented unanimously to this enthusiastic eulogium. Charles Forbes René, comte de Montalembert, The Conversion of England, Being a Sequel to the Monks of the West, Volume 1, Edinburgh (1872).

Souvenir of St. Columba’s Stone

Calvary group and St. Columba's Stone, St. Columba's Church, Long Tower, Derry, Northern Ireland.
Calvary group and St. Columba’s Stone, St. Columba’s Church, Long Tower, Derry, Northern Ireland.

[Long Tower Church was the first Catholic church constructed in Derry after the Protestant Reformation. The bullaun (Irish: bullán) stone known as St. Columba’s Stone was enshrined here on 9 June 1898, having been moved from its original location by St. Columba’s Well (Tobar Colm Cille) the previous year.]

St. Columba’s Stone. No matter what may have been the actual connection of this stone with St. Columba — whether it was the pillow stone of which the Trias Thaumaturgas speak or the flag stone on which, tradition says, he knelt in the Church — it has been, from time immemorial, associated with his name; and that very association has hallowed it and made it a relic of Derry’s great saint and patron. We venerate it because it bears his name, and was dear to our fathers. We enshrine it in this Calvary, to perpetuate the lessons of prayer and penance Columba taught in his day. He “willed his soul to Derry.” His spirit still hovers over our town. Were he to speak from this stone as a text, he would say, pointing to the Altar or the Calvary:

Remember that the real Memorial of Calvary is the Eucharist. Be often at Mass and Communion.

Remember the agonized cry from the Cross, “I thirst,” and be temperate.

Remember the sorrows of Mary, and spare her Son the pain of sin.

Remember the penitence of Magdalen and the purity of John. Imitate the love of both.

Remember the souls in Purgatory, and go round the Way of the Cross for them.

Remember, above all, that He who died on Calvary now lives on the Altar. Visit Him often.

— Fr. William Doherty, Derry Columbkille, Souvenir of the Centenary Celebrations, in Honour of St. Columba, in the Long Tower Church, Derry, 1897-99, Dublin (1899).

Towards Alba of the Ravens

Drawing from H. D. M. Spence-Jones' The Church of England, A History for the People, London, c. 1897.
Drawing from H. D. M. Spence-Jones’ The Church of England, A History for the People, London, c. 1897.

This is a poem of Columkille’s, or at least ascribed to him. It is in very irregular metre, or rather changes its metre several times. The literal translation of the first few verses is as follows:–

Delightful to be on Ben Edar (the Hill of Howth) before going over the sea, white, white; the dashing of the wave against its face, the bareness of its shore and its border.

Delightful to be on Ben Edar after coming over the white-bosomed sea, to be rowing one’s little coracle, ochone! on the swift-waved shore.

How rapid the speed of my coracle, and its back turned to Derry! It is misery to me, my errand over the high-sea, travelling towards Alba of the ravens.

My foot in my musical little coracle, my heart pitiable, sorrowful. Weak is the man that cannot lead. Blind totally is every ignorant one.

There is a grey eye that looks back upon Erin, but it shall not see during life the men of Erin nor her women.

My sight over the brine I stretch, from the planking of stout oak. Large is the tear of my soft grey eye, when I look back towards Erin, etc.

Part of this poem may very well be Columkille’s own, but part is as evidently not his. The end of it was probably written by one of the monks of Derry, whose monastery, in after times, almost equalled in fame that of Iona itself.

The verse about the soft grey eye is found in the Leabhar na h’Uidhre in the preface to the Amra of Columkille which shows its antiquity.

Moleesha was the Saint who imposed it as a penalty upon Columkille that he should go into exile and there convert as many souls as there were men slain in the battle of Cooldrevna [Cúl Dreimhne] fought on his account.

Columcille Sang.
(From the Irish.)

Delightful it is on Ben-Édar to rest
Before going over the white, white sea;
The dash of the wave as it launches its crest
On the wind-beaten shore is delight to me.

Delightful it is on Ben-Édar to rest
When safely come over the white sea foam;
The coracle cleaving her way to the West
Through the sport of the waves as she beats for home.

Too swiftly my coracle flies on her way,
From Derry I mournfully turned her prow;
I grieve at the errand which sends me to-day
To the land of the ravens, to Alba, now.

In my good little coracle, tuneful and light,
I have planted my foot, but my heart is sore,
For blind are the ignorant, blind as the night,
And weak is the man who shall lead no more.

How swiftly we travel, there is a grey eye
Looks back upon Erin, but it no more
Shall see, while the stars shall endure in the sky,
Her women, her men, or her stainless shore.

From the plank of the oak where in sorrow I lie
I am straining my sight through the water and wind;
And large is the tear from the soft grey eye
Looking back on the land that it leaves behind.

To Erin alone is my memory given,
To Meath and to Munster my wild thoughts flow,
To the shores of Moy-linny, the plains of Loch Levin,
And the beautiful land the Ultonians know.

In the East there is many a warrior tall,
But many a sickness and plague and care,
And many a heart that is hardened to all,
With scantness of raiment and food, to bear

But ah! in the West how the apple is fair,
How many a tanist, how many a king,
How many a sloe does the thorn-tree bear,
In the acorned oaks how the young birds sing!

Melodious her clerics, melodious her birds,
Her children are gentle, her seniors wise;
Her men are illustrious, truthful in words,
Her women have virtues for love to prize.

And Brendan the truthful is there in the West,
And Colom, descendant of Crivhan is he;
And there in the West shall be Baithin the blest,
And there in the West shall Adamnan be.

Go carry my words to the men that I name,
Unto Comgall the priest of eternal life,
And carry my thoughts upon wings of flame
To the king of Emania the bold in strife.

I give thee my blessing to carry from here,
Take this benediction over the sea,
One seven-fold half upon Erin the dear,
One half upon Alba the same to be.

To the nobles that gem the bright Isle of the Gael
Carry this benediction over the sea;
And bid them not credit Moleesha’s tale,
And bid them not credit his words of me.

Were it not for the word of Moleesha’s mouth,
At the cross of Ahamlish that sorrowful day,
I now should be warding from north and from south,
Disease and distemper from Erin away.

Oh, carry my blessing away to the West,
For my heart in my bosom is broken, I fail;
Should death of a sudden now pierce my breast,
I should die of the love that I bear the Gael.

The Gael, oh! the Gael, how the sound of that name
When I speak it can banish my ruth and my rue;
Belovèd is Cuimin of fair-haired fame,
Beloved are Cainneach and Comgall too.

And, oh! were the tributes of Alba mine,
From shore unto centre, from centre to sea,
The site of one house, to be marked by a line,
In the midst of fair Derry were dearer to me.

That spot is the dearest on Erin’s ground,
For the treasures that peace and that purity lend;
For the hosts of bright angels that circle it round,
Protecting its borders from end to end.

That spot is the dearest on Erin’s ground,
For its peace and its beauty I gave it my love;
Each leaf of the oaks around Derry is found
To be crowded with angels from heaven above.

My Derry, my Derry, my little oak grove,
My dwelling, my home, and my own little cell;
May God the Eternal, in heaven above,
Send woe to thy foes and defend thee well.

Belovèd are Durrow and Derry to me,
And Drumhome of the fruits of the rich ripe hue
Belovèd Raphoe in its purity,
And Surd and Cenannas, I love them too.

And dear to my heart in the western land,
Is the thought of Loch Foyle where the cool waves pour,
And the Bay of Drumcliff on Cúlcinné’s strand,
Delightful the form of its sloping shore.

Delightful it is, and the salt salt main,
Where the sea-birds scream o’er the water blue,
On my coming from Derry afar in pain,
How quiet it is, and delightful too.

— Douglas Hyde (ed.), The Three Sorrows of Storytelling and Ballads of St. Columkille, London, 1895.

“St. Quhalme”

St. Columba.
St. Columba.

The three names [SS. Patrick, Brigid, and Columba] have remained since that time inseparably united in the dauntless heart and fervent tenacious memory of the Irish people. It is to Columba that the oppressed and impoverished Irish seem to have appealed with the greatest confidence in the first English conquest in the twelfth century. The conquerors themselves feared him, not without reason, for they had learned to know his vengeance. John de Courcy, a warlike Anglo-Norman baron, he who was called the Conqueror (Conquestor) of Ulster, as William of Normandy of England, carried always with him the volume of Columba’s prophecies; and when the bodies of the three saints were found in his new possessions in 1180, he prayed the Holy See to celebrate their translation by the appointment of a solemn festival. Richard Strongbow, the famous Earl of Pembroke, who had been the first chief of the invasion, died of an uleer in the foot which had been inflicted upon him, according to the Irish narrative, at the prayer of St Bridget, St Columba, and other saints, whose churches he had destroyed. He himself said, when at the point of death, that he saw the sweet and noble Bridget lift her arm to pierce him to the heart. Hugh de Lacy, another Anglo-Norman chief of great lineage, perished at Durrow, “by the vengeance of Columb-cille,” says a chronicler, while he was engaged in building a castle to the injury of the abbey which Columba had founded and loved so much. A century after, this vengeance was still popularly dreaded, and some English pirates who had pillaged his church in the island of Inchcolm, having sunk like lead in sight of land, their countrymen said that he should be called not St. Columba but St. Quhalme — that is to say the saint of Sudden Death.

A nation has special need to believe in these vengeances of God, always so tardy and infrequent, and which, in Ireland, above all, have scarcely sufficed to light with a fugitive gleam the long night of the conquest, with all its iniquities and crimes. Happy are the people among whom the everlasting justice of the appeal against falsehood and evil is placed under the shadow of God and the saints; and blessed also the saints who have left to posterity the memory of their indignation against all injustice.

— Charles Forbes René, comte de Montalembert, The Conversion of England, Being a Sequel to the Monks of the West, Volume 1, Edinburgh (1872).

Three Bodies in One Grave

Frontispiece to Rev. James O'Leary's The Most Ancient Lives of Saint Patrick, New York, 1904.
Frontispiece to Rev. James O’Leary’s The Most Ancient Lives of Saint Patrick, New York, 1904.

They shall bury me first at Iona;
But, by the will of the living God,
It is at Dun that I shall rest in my grave,
With Patrick and with Bridget the immaculate.
Three bodies in one grave.

Prophecy of St. Columba.

By the Vengeance of Columb-cille

Clonard, County Meath, Ireland. Motte erected by Hugh de Lacy. A close-by informational signpost reads: This Motte was erected under the direction of Hugh De Lacy when Clonard was occupied by the Normans circa 1177. In its original form the motte was crowned with a bailey or tower and surrounded by defensive fortifications. The lime tree planted on top during the 19th century makes this motte a well known landmark in the area.
Clonard, County Meath, Ireland. Motte erected by Hugh de Lacy. A close-by informational signpost reads: This Motte was erected under the direction of Hugh De Lacy when Clonard was occupied by the Normans circa 1177. In its original form the motte was crowned with a bailey or tower and surrounded by defensive fortifications. The lime tree planted on top during the 19th century makes this motte a well known landmark in the area.

Hugo de Lacy, the profaner and destroyer of many churches; Lord of the English of Meath, Breifny, and Oriel; he to whom the tribute of Connaught was paid; he who had conquered the greater part of Ireland for the English, and of whose English castles all Meath, from the Shannon to the sea, was full; after having finished the castle of Durrow, set out, accompanied by three Englishmen, to view it. One of the men of Teffia, a youth named Gilla-gan-inathar O’Meyey, approached him, and drawing out an axe, which he had kept concealed, he, with one blow of it, severed his head from his body; and both head and trunk fell into the ditch of the castle. This was in revenge of Columbkille. Gilla-gan-inathar fled, and, by his fleetness of foot, made his escape from the English and Irish to the wood of Kilclare. He afterwards went to the Sinnagh (the Fox) and O’Breen, at whose instigation he had killed the Earl. Annals of the Four Masters, 1186.5.

Patrimonial Possessions of the Ancients

Standard of Ranald Alexander Macdonald of Clanranald, 24th Chief and Captain of Clanranald.
Standard of Ranald Alexander Macdonald of Clanranald, 24th Chief and Captain of Clanranald.

Seventeen hundred years exactly,
And fifteen years directly close,
From the birth of God to the death of Allan,
Whoever should enquire.

Our importuning of the Chief over heaven,
Grant, O Mary, O Son, our request.
That he be in heaven of the angelic orders,
If it be the will of our Lord.

To the abode of the pure angels
Is the journey for his soul;
It is not right to be sorrowful after him,
It is sufficient to remember our first redemption.

Such as have remained with us of his princely blood,
May the king of the elements well direct them,
And bring them to obtain their property by right,
And defend them against the power of the enemy.

Young Ranald, our country’s chief,
May he come with a right royal intention,
To the patrimonial possessions of the ancients
To awaken the spirit of the warriors.

The King who redeemed all people —
We implore Him to send prosperity in our time,
And to send [Ranald] to our presence over the wave,
Since the nobility of our wishes has fallen.

Excerpt of Elegy of Allan of Clanranald from the Book of Clanranald.

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