The Fenian Cycle

The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Grainne

Part 7 The King of Alba

Once Finn and his men reached Alba they made fast the ship to the mooring posts of the harbor, and Finn with five of his people went to the stronghold of the king of Alba, and Finn struck the knocker upon the door. The doorkeeper asked who was there; and it was told him that Finn mac Cumaill was there. "Let him be admitted," said the king. Finn was thereupon admitted, and he himself and his people went before he king. A kindly welcome was given to Finn by the king, and he caused Finn to sit down in his own seat. Thereafter were given to them mead mild and pleasant to drink, and strong fermented liquors, and the king set to fetch the rest of the people of Finn, and he made them welcome in the stronghold. Then Finn told the king the cause and matter for which he was a come from the beginning to end, and that it was to seek counsel and aid against Diarmuid O'Duibne that he was then come. " And truly thou oughtest to give me an army, for Diarmuid it was that slew thy father and thy two brothers and many of thy chiefs likewise."

"That is true," said the king, " and I will give thee my own two sons and a host of a thousand about each man of them." Joyful was Finn at the soldiers that the king of Alba had given him, and Finn with his people took leave and farewell of the king and of his household, and left them good wishes for life and health, and the king sent the same on with the fian. Finn and his company went their way, and no tidings are told of them until they reached the Brug upon the Boyne, and he and his people went ashore. After that Finn sent messengers to the house of Angus of the Brug to proclaim battle against Diarmuid.

"What shall I do about this, O Oscar?" said Diarmuid.

"We will both of us give them battle, and destroy them , and rend their flesh, and not suffer a servant to escape alive of them, but we will slay them all," said Oscar.

The next morning Diarmuid and Oscar rose, and harnessed their fair bodies in their suits of arms of valor and battle, and those two mighty heroes went their way to the place of that combat, and woe to those, either many or few, who might meet those two good warriors in anger. Then Diarmuid and Oscar bound the rims of their shields together that they might not separate from one another in the fight. After that they proclaimed battle against Finn, and then the soldiers of the king of Alba said that they and their people would go to strive with them first. They came ashore forthwith, and rushed to meet and to encounter them, and Diarmuid passed under them, through them , and over them, as a hawk would go through small birds, or a whale through small fish, or a fox through a large flock of sheep; and such was the dispersion and terror and scattering that those good warriors wrought upon the strangers, that not a man to tell tidings or to boast of great deeds escaped of them ,but all of them fell by Diarmuid and by Oscar before the night came, and they themselves were smooth and free from hurt, having neither cut nor wound. When Finn saw that great slaughter, he and his people returned out to sea, and no tidings are told of them until they reached Tir Tairngire (fairyland), where Finn's nurse was. Finn came to her, and she received him joyfully. Finn told the cause of his travel and of his journey to the hag from first to last, and the reason of his strife with Diarmuid, and he told her that it was to seek counsel from her that he was then come; also that no strength of a host or a multitude could conquer Diarmuid, if perchance magic alone might not conquer him. "I will go with thee," said the hag, " and I will practice magic against him." Finn was joyful threat, and he remained with the hag that night; and they resolved to depart on the morrow.

Now it is not told how they fared until they reached the Brug upon the Boyne, and the hag threw a spell of magic about Finn and the fian, so that the men of Erin knew not that they were there. It was the day before hat Oscar had parted from Dairmuid, and Diarmuid chanced to be hunting and chasing on the day that the hag concealed the fian. This was a revealed to the hag, and she caused herself to fly by magic upon the leaf of a water Lilly having a hole in the middle of it, in the fashion of the quern-stone of a mill, so that she rose with the blast of the pure cold wind and came over Diarmuid, and began to aim at and strike him through the hole with deadly darts, so that she wrought the hero great hurt in the midst of his weapons and armor, and that he was unable to escape, so greatly was he oppressed; and every evil that had ever come upon him was little compared to that evil. What he thought in his own mind was, that unless he might strike the hag through the hole that was in the leaf she would cause his death upon the spot; and Diarmuid laid him upon his back having the Gae Derg in his hand, and made a triumphant cast of exceeding courage with the javelin, so that he reached the hag through the hole, and she fell dead upon the spot. Diarmuid beheaded her there and then and took her head with him to Angus of the Brug.

Diarmuid rose early on the morrow, and Angus rose and went where Finn was, and asked him whether he would make peace with Diarmuid. Finn said that he would, in whatever way Diarmuid would make peace. Then Angus went where the king of Erin was to ask peace for Diarmuid, and Cormack said that he would grant him that. Again Angus went where Diarmuid and Grainne were, and asked Diarmuid whether he would make peace with Cormack and with Finn. Diarmuid said that he would if he obtained the conditions which he should ask of them. " What are those conditions?" said Angus.

"The district," said Diarmuid, " which my father had, that is the district of O'Duibne, Finn shall not hunt nor chase therein, and it must be free of rent or tribute to the king of Erin; also the district of Benn Damuis, that is, Dubcarn in Leinster as a gift for myself from Finn, for it is the best district in Erin; and the district of Ces Corann from the high king of Erin as dowry with his daughter; and those are the conditions upon which I would make peace with them."

"Wouldst thou make peace on those conditions if thou wert to get them?" asked Angus.

"I could better bear to make peace by getting those conditions." Said Diarmuid. Then Angus went with those tidings to where the king of Erin and Finn were, and he got those conditions from him every one, and they forgave Diarmuid all he had done as long as he had been outlawed, namely for the space of sixteen years; and Cormac gave his other daughter for wife and mate to Finn, that he might let Diarmuid be, and so they made peace with each other; and the place that Diarmuid and Grainne settled in was Rath Grainne in the district of Ces Corann, far from Finn and from Cormac. Then Grainne bore Diarmuid four sons and one daughter; namely, Donnead, Eochaid, Connla, Selbsercach, and Druime; and he gave the district of Benn Damuis, that is, Dubearn in Leinster, to the daughter, and he sent attendants to server her there. They abode a long time fulfilling the terms of the peace with each other, and people used to say that there was not living at the same time with him a man richer in gold and silver ,in kine and cattle-herds and sheep, and who made more successful raids, than Diarmuid.
To the Conclusion....To the Boar!


O' Grady,Standish,Hahyes,ed., trans.,Transactions of the Ossianic Society,(Dublin),III (1855/57),40-211.

Ni Sh`eaghda,Nessa,Ed., trans.,,T`oruigheacht Dhiarmada agus Ghr`ainne ,Irish Texts Society. XLVIII) (Dublin,1967).

Best, Richard I. Bibliography of Irish Philogy,I 102-103 (Dublin 1913).

Cross, Tom Peete, and Clark Harris Slover Ancient Irish Tales, Barnes and Noble, Inc.,1969 

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