The Battle of Findchorad

[Cath Fiondchoradh]
B IV 1a, R.I.A

Trans. M. E. Dobbs


Two versions of the saga of Cath Ruis na Rig were published in the fourth volume of the Todd Lectures. The earliest of these (in LL) ends with the words:

"thence originated ... the Battle of Findchorad and the Sea Voyage etc." (Todd IV, p. 59.)

The later version (in E IV 3, R. I. A.) omits this reference but alludes to the battle. (Todd IV, p. 95.) It is also mentioned in the sagas of Cath Boinde, Cath Maighe Rath etc. Beyond these allusions no details of this battle were known. Thurneysen thought it possible that the author of CRR had planned to write Cath Findchorad as a sequel and failed to do so. (Irische Heldensage, p. 364.) Whether he or another hand did the work, a Version of a tale obviously meant for Cath F. has come to light in MS. B IV 1a, R. I. A. It is only a defective copy. Pages are missing and many holes occur, but enough remains to Show the outline of the tale. B IV 1a is the fragment of a vellum MS. in bad condition. It was formerly bound in with B IV 1, a paper MS. of the 17th Century. They have now been separated. B IV 1a consists of forty three pages. The text of Cath F. begins on p. 17 and runs to p. 29. A few fragments on pp. 41-44 may be parts of the tale but this is uncertain. The MS. must have been completely in pieces when bound into B IV 1. I do not know when this may have happened but the order of them was quite lost. The surviving pages are misplaced and numbered wrongly. This probably occurred when they were bound with B IV 1. The following analysis explains this:

p. 17 begins with the Connaught and Munster camp at Findchorad awaiting an Ulster attack.

pp. 18, 19, 20 describe a contest between the two bulls, the Dond Cuailgne and the Finn-beannach, with a description of the bulls in rhetoric.

pp. 21 to 24 describe the battle itself. Both beginning and end are lost,

pp. 25, 26 describe the appearance of spirits, in trios, to the Munster army foretelling disaster.

pp. 27, 28 contain an imperfect list of Munster, Connaught and Leinster leaders, and fragments of Eochaid mac Luchta's speech about bis army.

I feel no doubt that the right order is: 17, 18, 19, 20; 27, 28; 25, 26; 21, 22, 23, 24.

There seems to be nothing missing down to the end of p. 20. Then there should come the beginning of the list of leaders so imperfect on p. 27. There may be whole episodes missing here as well. Between pp. 27 and 28 there is a gap. There can be little doubt that p. 25 carries on the description of the trio on p. 28 though a good deal of it is missing. P. 26 is quite consecutive but breaks off torn and imperfect. After this several pages must be lost. There would naturally follow the approach of the Ulster army, some skirmishes and possibly some parley between the kings. Then, as in other sagas, the formal opening of the battle would be described at length. P. 21 begins in the middle of a sentence describing a general melee and gives the impression of the end of an elaborate descriptive bit of writing. The narrative after this is consecutive but breaks off in the middle of a line at the foot of p. 24. The death of Eochaid mac Luchta and the victory of Ulster are missing though it is certain these were part of the story. The following passages supply some missing details. "Croch Mor fell at Atli Crocha by Cu Chulainn in the battle of Findchorad..." (D.2.2, 83 b.) "Fadb na Omna; others say he felll at Findchorad..." (CRR p. 94.)

These names are not in the surviving portion of the text. The following points are note-worthy:
a) The rhetorical description of the two bulls occurs also in "Cophur in da mucado" (LL 247a). But the order of precedence is reversed. In LL the Dond Cuailgne is first described ; in B IV 1a the Finn-beannach. Though LL is a much older MS., B IV 1a gives a fuller and less corrupt version. This suggests that the editor of B IV 1a had access to MSS. as old as LL and either copied them more carefully or found them in better order.
b) Though associated with CRR as a sequel this account of Findchorad is told from a different standpoint. In CRR the author writes from the Ulster side ; in Findchorad from that of the Southern kingdoms. In CRR Conall Cernach and Cu Chulainn have the beau rôle. In Findchorad they are hardly mentioned.
c) Certain phrases and names in this text occur also in : Tain B.C., Tain B. Flidais, Cophur in da M., Dearg-ruathar C.C. See Notes.
d) As to exact site of battle : it may be Corofin in Clare but this is not at all certain. If it is the same as Corofin it is interesting to note that the home of the O'Davorens, scholars and historians, was close at band. Their schools were at Cahermacnaughten in the Burren. We know that MacFirbis and other students were studying there in 1595. It is permissible to conjecture that this family had many ancient MSS. and traditions and that this text may be a relic of their literary activities. It is known from law-deeds that the O'Davorens were still in possession of Cahermacnaughten in 1675.

Before finding this present text I had collected all references to Eochaid mac Luchta in "Sidelights on the Tain Age", pp 40-52. These show that Eochaid's name was famous as a lawgiver in the 8th and 9th centuries. Traditions concerning him may therefore be as ancient as any. His name is persistently associated with Findchorad.

In preparing this edition I have marked all gaps owing to holes or torn edges by the symbol ***. In some cases I have supplied a missing syllable or letter where I thought the context justified it. All emendations and omissions thus inserted are enclosed in brackets [ ]. I have altered no accents or spelling and have expanded contractions in accordance with the text.


CRR = Cath Ruis na Rig; Todd Lectures, IV.
TBC = Tain Bo Cuailgne.
BB = Book of Ballymote, facsimile.
LL = Book of Leinster, facsimile.
Todd = Todd Lecture Series.
ZCP = Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie.

In Dei nomine. Amen.

1. When the four Fifths of Ireland were at Findchorad around Ailill and Medb and Eochaid mac Luchta, expecting to fight Conchobar and the Ulaid with him, they demanded advice as to how they should give battle. They were telling their druids to find out for them what would be the consequences of the battle and which of them would be defeated. Then the druids went *** their knowledge and their learning viz.: Crom Déroil, Adna son of Uther. Maoil Cheann Mianach, and Daire ***. Fear Ceartne. They offered sacrifices to Mars to Osiris(?), to Jove and to Apollo. These are the sacrifices they offered; the flesh of dogs, pigs and cats. Afterwards they went upon the hides of old hairless *** bulls and on hurdles of the rowan tree, and their faces(?) *** north towards Hell *** The gods to whom they sacrificed told (?) them to bring the Brown Bull of Cooley and the White-horned Bull and to start (?) a fight. If the Brown Bull was routed the Ulaid (= Ulstermen) would be defeated and, if the White-horn was routed, the Men of Ireland would be beaten.

2. Then the bulls were brought to the camp. MacRoth the Chief herald came into the tent where was Eochaid and said to him: "the two outstanding(?) bulls of Ireland came to the fortress, the Brown Bull and the White-horn, and after they went *** to inspect them", said he. "What like are these bulls?" said Eochaid. "Easily answered ", said Mac Roth;

"To begin with the White-horn:
that is a white-headed,
white-footed bull,
red, blood-red
as though ruddy with red,
as though bathed in blood,
as though mingled with crimson;
of faultless form(?)
from his nipple to his hump;
a triple soft red('?) mane.
The lad of the herd of Ai,
*** of vengeance,
the one who attacks alone;
with weighty tail,
with charger's breast,
with lapdog's bulging eye,
with salmon's snout,
with *** loins, (?)
with dull-red horns,
with lustful tricks.
Triuraphant birth victorious
pre-eminent and threatening ***,
bellowing(?) and proud,
glowering and fierce of face.
The strong ox of the herd
an arch-fiend ***
(which were as sweet as lute-strings
in the hands of players ever singing
their(?) bewitching luscious peace-music,
like as the wondrous fool
sang harmoniously to overthrow the battle
at the end.)

The first plague the sprite or gobiin undertakes.
The Chief glory of his territory or his district
the speckled monster
from the Lands of the Fair,
the white-horn etc.

3. As to the Brown Bull:
that is a dark-brown bull,
haughty, impetuous, very nimble,
active, terrifying, furious, destructive.

Scourging, victorious *** in many ways.
Thick, plump, smooth-sided,
brave and streng as the other,
deep-chested, maned,
thick-necked, well-necked,
large-eyed, large-nostrilled, snorting.

The head high, deep-lowing,
fierce-eyed, curly,
very active, wrathful, powerful,
warlike, venomous, hostile.
With a forehead of bull's bristles,
with nimble tread,
with bearlike onset,
with snakelike venom,
with bestial heat,
with lionlike fury,
with thievish thrust;
on whom thrice fifty fullgrown boys find room

from neck to ***
from the nipple to his hump.

The greatest ox of Dil,
the guardian bull of the world,
the Brown Bull of Cooley.

4. Then the king arose and with him an enormous throng of princes *** to look at the bulls. When therefore the bulls saw(?) each other they made great provocations *** roared, heard to the clouds of heaven. They shook their thick hides(?) on their foreheads as if they were foreheads of bull-seals (?). Their eyes reddened as if they were resinflames(?). They became bristling and horrific so that the mane of each was as rough as an inlet of the sea. Like an iron crest was the ridge of each bull's back. Each of them dealt a fierce simultaneous stroke head to head as mighty as the impact(?) of Cliodhna's Wave on the rocks, as if they were two rams in a field or two dogs fighting. Afterwards they ceased from the struggle and the conflict.

5. Then Eochaid went back to the fort and he left his son Lughaid and Maine Mingur (son of Ailill and Meadhb) to keep watch on the bulls as to which would win. Then the bulls felt the chilliness of the night and they encountered, skirmishing(?) with their feet *** against each other's chests *** As huge as a vast mill-pond was the spancelling place of each. They twisted their limbs like boars fighting. They bared (?) their teeth (?) like dogs hunting *** till the Brown Bull thrust his horn under the White-horn's shoulder and his bowels broke out over his left flank and he gave a bellow and fled over the Shannon.

6. *** Fraoch son of Fidach leader of the youths of Erris, and the Gamanraid of Erris Domnand with him viz.; the Red Gamain of Rae, the Gamain of the Wood of Cead, the Gamain of Cloadh Cetracha, the Gamain of Trasgrad Triochu et cetera. Eochaid said to them, "ye ought" said he "with swift heart attack the Ulaid." They came and undertook to give (?) battle to the Ulaid *** Fionn son of Ros king of Leinster, and his son, and his brother, and Ailill Gaoide *** Fergus Fairge king of Ui Cennselaig *** and three sons of Cu *** son of *** Sedna Siothbacc son of Nuada Neacht of Leinster ***

7. "*** in every district; one hundred in each troop so that my army numbers two thousand five hundred soldiers. These moreover are my heroes and Champions viz., Fiamain son of Foraoi, and Dearca son of Cu Roi, and Gabhalglinne son of Dega, Bóclus son of Dega from whom is named *** (and Colpa was his mother froni whom is named Colpa Ford) *** Cortha Ford and it's ***" said Eochaid. Everyone lauded the army. While they were there they subsequently saw a trio coming straight towards them ***

8. *** red spears in their hands and *** horses, clothing and arms(?) *** "Whence went ye?" said he *** [from] the Sith of Bodhb" said they "and to talk with thee *** have we come." "What are your names?" said Eochaid. "Easy to say" said one *** he recited the poem:

"Venom and Strife are the names
Poison which distributes slaughter
is in truth the third man.

The deep colour of blood is on us,
hairy to the feet, corrupt of head.
Transgression is lawful for us
as we are from thy blood.

Because we are from thy blood
therefore it is a red stone,
as it would be from a mine
of blood or of coal stuff.

Because we are from thy blood
therefore it is red gold;
as they would cross wheels,
as they would polish rust.

We have for you
news of the great battle.
Not as the ear decrees
shall the clamour be heard.

Since life is cut off
battle is not waged.
His speed is turned,
his course(?) is turned.

His activity, his strength, his shout, his right is turned.

His death is turned
as all will see.
His dread is turned,
his doom is turned.

His might, his wealth,
his wantonness, his harshness is turned.

9. *** Said Eochaid, "let him be vigourous, let him be furious(?) and let him approach the Ulaid ***". The Ulaid simultaneously raised a wail as of bitter accusation:

"*** edge upon shapely well-matched breasts
beauty (?) weakened ***
nobles will step on necks of grown men."

"The poem(?) the spectres make is beautiful", said the druid *** While the men of Ireland were there they saw another trio coming towards them. Their three heads were covered with wild-streaming grey hair, they had grey horses, grey spears; they were grey all over, horses and appearance alike. Eochaid asked them; "whence are ye going?" said he "and whom are ye for?" "We are three demon sisters", said they, "and Silence, Scream and Wail are our names and we have come hither from the Sith of Bodhb" said they. Then they recited the poem:

"We went from the Sith of Bodhb
till there were mysterious incitements,
the multitude of the host
and the destruction of the fort.

at our wish and evil incitement
that the host made spear-play.
We are three demon sisters
Silence is the third woman,
Scream and Wail."

10. *** and the shrill yells of the old men approaching the tremendous conflict. But what is there but the destruction of strong men, the beheading of warriors, the hacking of heroes, the disfiguring of fair features. the whitening of lips; and therebye *** eyes were blinded. After that the hand-to-hand fighting began. Then Fionn son of Eos, king of Leinster, his son Maic Nia, Feargal son of Ros his brother, Boirrach son of Antech and Colla son of Fathemon went into the fray till they met the following five leading soldiers; Little Feithean, Big Feithean, Eo son of Orne, Ogma and Tollchend and they fought together. Fionn and Eo attacked each other and a fierce deadly fight took place which ended in Eo being killed by Fionn. Ogma and Tollchend attacked Cuilleasg of Breg till they and a hundred fighting men who were with each of them fell by Cuilleasg and his men, as is said:

"By Fionn son of Ros — illustrious course —
fell Eo son of Orne.
By Cuilleasg of Breg the smiter
feil Ogma and Tollcend."

11. Big Feithean attacked Borrach and a hard and cruel struggle took place between them till Fethean flung a spear at Borrach which laid him low. Springing up he Struck a fierce *** blow with his broad-grooved sword at Fethean and beheaded him. Little Fethean attacked Colla son of Fatheman and he slew Fethean, as the verse has it:

"By Borrach — it was a tragic deed —
fell big: Fethean.
Little Fethean was cut down
by Colla son of Fatheman."

Then it was that the Leinster army uttered a shout of exultation and boasting about the contest. When Conchobar heard that he sent Aodh the poet to seek Glasne his son; and Mes Deaghad son of Amergen, and Eogan son of Durthacht and Laegaire the Victorious and the poet said:

"oh Laegaire, victorious hero, lion who overthrows the salmon, good torch-head, good defence in every victory."

12. Then these four warriors of the Ulaid came to the battle with mutual strength and sympathy and uttered their war-cry against the Leinstermen. Then Glasne and Mes Deaghad charged at the spot where was the royal crown. They made an attack on Fionn and on his son and on his brother. Then Fionn king of Leinster did indeed fall by them. Feargal son of Ros took the crown. He put it on Maic Nia's head. The struggle *** ceased. Then Rae and Clotholl the Shapely attacked *** Laogaire and four hundred warriors along with them and they all fell by Laogaire. However Eogan son of Durthacht was [not?] reviled for the sake of Ulster for the way he went into battle, for *** foot by neck and neck by foot was every path through which he strode in the fight and he slew these four chief soldiers; Connla, Coirpre, Oilill and Imit, as is said:

"Rae the shapely, Clotholl the renowned
[fell] by Laogaire full furious,
by Eoghan [fell] Connla and Coirpre,
Oilill and Imit loftily."

Then three sons of Droighen, Ramh, Aodh and Buan, made an attack on the Redheads, as is in the verse:

"Three sons of Droighen,
Ramh Aodh and Buan,
with fair clipped heads ***
We remember ***
There they killed the Red-heads."

13. Then Meadhb and Ailill urged the aforesaid Fergus son of Rogh, Mac Cecht, Fraoch son of Fiodach and the Gamanraid, Fiamain son of Foraoi and Dearca son of Cu Roi to go and enter the battle. Then those gentlemen went boldly. audaciously, swiftly to the fight by the advice of Meadhb and Oilill. When Fergus entered the battle he unsheathed the Calad-colg (= hard blade) and began to hack heroes, to slay*** to overthrow champions, to mangle brave soldiers so that he cleared an enormons breach [in his?] battle charge. It was trying to stop a tidal wave to rush against *** for every blow he struck was like the impact[?] of a wave on the shore. Then Fionncadh son of Concobhar and Fionncadh son of Conall Cernach attacked Cano Gall and assaulted him so that a perilous, rough, bitter fight took place between them. Cano Gall threw a spear at Fergus who avoided the spear whirling in mid air. Corbmac Conloingius gave a rough, powerful, hostile blow at Cano which cut off his head. Then Ferghus slew the other two as is said:

"Corpmac Conloingius slew Cano the foreigner
from over the green sea-stream.
The other two — it was bitter passion —
and impetuous is Ferghus who caused it."

Then Corpmac laid his hand on Ferghus and said to him: "what you have done is wicked, hard-hearted and a desolation of families and ***"

Sources : M. E. Dobbs, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 14