The Debility of the Ulstermen

Noinden Ulad
Book of Leinster

Version I

Trans. George Henderson

Noinden Ulad," whence is it? Not difficult.

Crunniuc, son of Agnoman, was a rich farmer. He lived in solitude and on the mountains, and many sons were by him. His wife, however, died. One day, as he was in his house alone, he saw a woman coming towards him into his house. The appearance of the woman seemed to him magnificent. She began at once as soon as she had sat down, to make preparations for eating, as if she ever had been wont to be in the house. When night came on she gave directions to the household without asking any questions. She slept with Crunniuc at night. Thereupon she was a long time with him, and, thanks to her, they had no scarcity of any product, whether of food or drink or good things. Not long thereafter a fair was to be holden by the Ultonians, and they were wont to go to the fair with man, wife son (and) daughter. Crunniuc also betook himself with the others to the fair; he was well got-up and well-looking. "It behoves thee," said his wife to him," not to be [so] unguarded" (pufied-up) [as] "to say an imprudent thing." "Impossible," said he. The fair comes off, and at the day's end the King's chariot comes [first] to the terminus. His chariot and horses scored a victory. The people said, 'There is nothing to match these horses for swiftness." "My wife is swifter," said Crunniuc. He was forthwith seized by the King. This was told to Crunniuc's wife. "It is a real affliction for me that I should have to go to set him free," said site, "and me heavy." "What affliction!" exclaimed the messenger; "he will be killed if thou comest not." Thereupon she went to the race-course (fair), and the pains of child-birth got hold of her. "Help me," said she to the people; "for of a mother has each of you been born. Wait for me till I am delivered." She could not obtain that [request] of them. "Good, then," she answered; "thence will come the greatest of ills, and long will it endure for all the Ultonians." "What is thy name?" said the king. "My name," she made answer, "and the name of my progeny will for ever be associated with the fair (race-course). Macha, daughter of Sainreth, son of Imbath, is my name." Thereupon off she went with the chariot; and as the chariot arrived at the terminus, her delivery forestalled its arrival, for she gave birth to twins — a boy and a girl. From that comes Emuin Macha (lit., twins of Macha). At her delivery she gave such a cry that it set every one who heard it into a condition of debility for five days and four nights. All the men of the Ultonians who had been there, they all fell into the same condition unto the ninth generation. Five days and four nights, or five nights and four days, that was the [duration of (?)] Noinden Ulad. The strength of a woman in travail, that was the strength each man of the Ultonians had in the Noinden until the ninth generation. Three classes there were on which the Noinden Ulad did not lie, viz., the youths and the women of the Ultonians and Cuchulainn. The period during which it weighed on the Ultonians was from the time of Crunniuc, son of Agnomas, son of Curir ulad, son of Fiatach, son of Urmi, until the time of Forco, son of Dallan maic Mainich, maic Lugdach, etc. Curir Ulad, it is from him the Ultonians are named.

Thence then comes Noinden Ulad and Emuin Macha.

Sources : George Henderson, The Book of The Glens (Leabhar Nan Gleann) 1898