While the term ‘Celts’ refers to several westward waves of émigrés from Scythia spanning several centuries, the emigration of the Gaelic Celts is specific to the O’Sullivan clan. The history of the travels of this sub-group of Celts is recorded by the Irish annalists in great detail. Male ancestors of the O’Sullivan clan will be numbered [X] to facilitate the tracking of the blood line of this noble Gaelic clan. Individual ancestors who were kings will be annotated with an asterisk *.
Around 1550 BC, the king of Scythia was Phoeniusa Farsaidh *, an enlightened despot whose interest in ruling his people paled in comparison to his thirst for knowledge. His dream was to study and master all of the languages of the people in that part of the world. With this objective in mind, he surrendered his throne to his oldest son, Nenuall, and moved south to the City of Aeothena, in the Valley of Senaar. (Shinar, the plain in the Tigris and Euphrates basin.) He brought with him a younger son, Niul , who remained with his father in exile for twenty years. This move was the Third Adamic Migration.
After Phoeniusa passed away, Niul was invited to the Pharaoh’s court in Egypt to enlighten his people and to teach “languages and other laudable sciences”. The Pharaoh was very generous, giving Niul and his people the land of Capacyront, on the shores of the Red Sea, to inhabit. This move was the Fourth Adamic Migration. Niul was also given one of the Pharaoh’s daughters to marry. It is from Niul and this Egyptian princess that the O’Sullivan clan descends.
While in Egypt, Niul met and employed a very learned scholar named Gaodhal, son of Ethor, to record and refine the ancient Scythian language known as Bearla Tobbai. In recognition of his great achievement, Niul renamed the tribal tongue Gaodhilg (Gaelic). The friendship between these two men grew and Niul also named his first born son, Gaodhal , after the great linguist. The origin of the name is claimed by the antiquaries to be a compound word “gaoith-dil” meaning “lover of learning”. ‘Gaoith’ is the ancient Irish word for wisdom or learning and ‘dil’ means loving or fond. From Gaodhal comes the tribal name “Gaels”.
As a child, Gaodhal  was bitten by a poisonous snake in the neck. He became very ill and Niul was certain that the child would die. At that time there was a great foreign druid living in Egypt named Moses. He was a descendant of Shem and was renowned for his knowledge of the healing arts. Niul brought his son to Moses who, by applying his staff against the wound, cured the boy. A peculiar green scar remained on his neck, however, and the child was called Gaodhal Glas, meaning Green Gaodhal, from that point on.
The magic that Moses conjured was so powerful that not only did it cure the boy but it protected all of his progeny from any future snake bites. In fact, no venomous beast could ever again survive for any length of time in proximity to the descendants of Gaodhal and for this reason no snakes are to be found in Ireland. As was the custom of the Scythians, Gaodhal adopted a heraldic device consisting of a thunderbolt entwined by a serpent to commemorate this victory of magic over evil.
Asruth , oldest son of Gaodhal, remained in Egypt and governed his colony of Scythian Diaspora in peace. His oldest son, Sruth , was not as fortunate. Soon after Asruth passed away, local politics changed and the Scythians were perceived by the Pharaoh as being subversive. A series of battles and bitter conflicts ensued during which a great number of the Scythians were killed. Outnumbered and out armed, Sruth was forced to abandon Capacyront with his small band of survivors. They escaped Egypt by boat and eventually landed on the island of Crete. Sruth died soon after their arrival. This exodus of the tribe of Gaodhal (Gael) resulted in the First Gaelic Migration.
Heber Scut *, oldest son of Sruth, stayed on Crete for about one year where he served as king of his people. He held a council and announced his intentions of returning to Scythia. Some of his people opted to stay on Crete and it is likely that a branch of Gaodhal’s bloodline still remains there since “the island breeds no venomous serpent ever since.”
Under Heber Scut’s command, the small band of seafarers returned to their native home. Unfortunately, Heber’s distant cousins, the posterity of Nenuall, refused to allow his people to settle in their land. Several heated battles resulted. Apparently, many Scythians were fed up with the governance of the established king and aristocracy because, over time, Heber Scut managed to recruit a large number of defectors. Together they defeated the line of Nenuall and Heber was crowned king of Scythia. The return of the descendants of Gaodhal to Scythia was the Second Gaelic Migration.
Internecine battles continued between the two royal houses and in one engagement Heber was slain by Noemus, the former king’s son. Beouman *, Ogaman *, and Tait *, were all, in turn, the oldest sons of the line of Heber and all served as kings of Scythia. After Tait’s death, however, Prince Agnon  was unable to retain the throne and he was forced to abandon Scythia and roam the Caspian Sea for several years as a dispossessed brigand. Agnon would never settle back on land again and he died at sea. His oldest son, Lamhfionn , became chief of this marauding band of pirates. This exile of the Gaels from Scythia was the Third Gaelic Migration.
One day, Caicher, the druid of the clan, approached his chief and shared with him a vision that he had seen. He told Lamhfionn of a distant western island that was green and fertile. It was the ‘promised land’ for their people and he predicted that they would have no peace until they arrived on its shores. After much deliberation and prayer, Lamhfionn announced that they were abandoning the pirate’s life on the Caspian Sea and they were headed west in search of Caicher’s prophesied island.
They traversed the Caucasus Mountains, the Black Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea. At last they arrived at Gothia (or Getulia) which is now known as Libya. They settled along the Gulf of Tunis where Carthage would later be built and began subjugating the natives. Lamhfionn’s oldest son, Heber Glunfionn *, was born in Gothia. After his father’s death he assumed command of the Scythians and continued winning battles over the indigenous Gothians. He was the first of his line to be crowned king of Gothia. This invasion of northern Africa by the Gaels comprised the Fourth Gaelic Migration.
Eight generations of Gothian kings were to follow. Agnan Fionn *, Febric Glas *, Nenuall *, Nuadhad *, Alladh *, Arcadh *, and Deag * all were the oldest sons and lived and died as kings of Gothia.
Brath *, the oldest son of Deag *, was visited by the spirit of Caicher during his reign. He was reminded of the divine mission to bring his people to the ‘promised land’ on the mythical distant western island. The small band of Scythian nomads had grown into a strong and populous tribe while ruling over Gothia. Though Gothia had proven to be a fortuitous stop-over, it was not the final destination for the clan. A large fleet was built and the entire tribe left Africa and sailed to the coast of Spain. Brath was successful in establishing a fortified colony in Galicia, in the northwestern corner of the Iberian Peninsula. This transplantation of the Gaels to Spain was the Fifth Gaelic Migration.
Brath’s oldest son, Breoghan *, expanded the Scythian control to include Galicia, Andalusia, Murcia, Castile, and Portugal. He founded the city of Braganza or Brigansa in Portugal. The kingdom of Castile was then known as Brigia, in honor of its Scythian king. During his very successful reign, Breoghan is also credited with having built Breoghan’s tower or Brigantia in Galicia.
Breoghan’s power eventually extended beyond the confines of the Iberian Peninsula. He sent an invasion force as far away as Britain and established a stronghold in the territory now known as the counties of Cumberland, Westmoreland, Durham, York, and Lancaster. The descendants of this force, known as the Brigantes, played the devil with the Romans when they arrived many centuries later.
Bile * succeeded his father Breoghan to the throne of Spain and Portugal. He enjoyed a long and peaceful reign. Bile’s brother, Ithe, was a great historian and he entertained the royal court with wonderful stories of the exploits and tribulations of their clan.
Bile’s oldest son, Milesius Galamh *, grew up hearing Ithe’s tales and, being the adventurous type, yearned to visit the ancestral lands of Scythia. When he was old enough to travel he assembled a small fleet and with his father’s blessings sailed off to the east. He received a warm welcome from the king of Scythia and married one of his daughters with whom he sired several sons.
His military abilities soon impressed the king and he appointed Milesius to be General of his armies. After many victories Milesius was a favorite among the Scythian people and this raised the jealousy and suspicion of the king. The king tried to have Milesius assassinated but the plan back-fired and Milesius in turn killed his father-in-law. He was forced to leave the country and with a fleet of sixty ships he sailed to Egypt.
At the time of his arrival, Egypt was under attack by the Ethiopian army. Milesius’ reputation for valor, strategy, and wisdom preceded him and the Pharaoh offered him the position of General of the Egyptian defense forces. Milesius accepted and soundly routed the Ethiopians. Milesius thus won great favor in the Pharaoh’s court and married Princess Scota, one of the Pharaoh’s daughters. Between his first Scythian wife and Princess Scota, Milesius fathered eight sons.
One day, while hunting, Milesius encountered three lions all of which he slew alone. To commemorate this feat he added three lions to his personal cognizance already emblazoned with the thunderbolt and serpent of Gaodhal . For eight years Milesius remained in Egypt, being instructed in the sciences, arts, and trades of the time. At length a messenger from Spain arrived with instructions from the king to return home. Milesius bid farewell to the Pharaoh and set sail for Galicia.
Upon arriving in Spain, Milesius found chaos descending on his kingdom. His father had died and the natives were in open revolt. Invasion forces from foreign lands had established strongholds on the peninsula and his people were disheartened. He rallied the Gaels and in fifty-four consecutive battles he quelled the revolution and expelled the alien invaders. Though he was militarily victorious, the war had taken a heavy toll on his kingdom. The fields had not been appropriately attended to and a sustained drought resulted in a great dearth and famine.
Again the spirit of the druid, Caicher, appeared and chided Milesius for not pursuing the mission of bringing his people to the ‘promised land’ of the enchanted island in the west. The next morning Milesius was shocked to hear his uncle Ithe describe a vision that he had in which he saw the fertile shores of the western island in the distance from the heights of Breoghan’s tower. It was a sign from Go Lear, their god, to abandon Spain and to pursue their destiny. (To this day there is a belief in Galicia, Spain, that one can see Ireland from the top of an old Roman lighthouse if the weather is clear.)
Ithe was instructed to assemble a fleet and to leave the kingdom at once to find Caicher’s island. Ithe, with his son, Lughaidh and one hundred and fifty hearty men, then sailed north to the Kenmare River, Kerry, Ireland.
Once they arrived, Ithe took one hundred men to explore the strange island, leaving Lughaidh and fifty men with the ship. They were directed by the natives, the Tuatha de Danan, who spoke a Celtic dialect resembling Gaelic, to the palace of MacCuill, the king. They inquired as to the name of the island and were told that it was called Eire, after the queen. They further discovered that there were three royal brothers, MacCuill, MacCeacht, and MacGreine, who took turns each year reigning as king. The island was alternately called after the names of their three queens, Eire, Fodhla, and Banbha.
Ithe and his party were given a royal welcome and treated with the utmost of respect and cordiality. While in their company, Ithe won the confidence of the three kings and they asked him for his advice on a matter of justice. They were very impressed with his wisdom and fairness and entirely satisfied with his counsel. After awhile Ithe took leave of his new friends and in parting praised the lush green fields and fair climate of the land called Eire.
Once Ithe had left, the three brothers reflected a little more on what he had said and they correctly deduced that he was a scout for a much larger invasion force. They quickly assembled their knights and pursued their unsuspecting guest. They caught up with him on what is now known as Magh Ithe or ‘the Plain of Ithe’ in the barony of Raphoe, County Donegal. A battle ensued during which Ithe was mortally wounded and many of his men were slaughtered. The survivors escaped to the waiting boats and Lughaidh returned to Spain to exhibit the mangled corpse of his father and to demand revenge for his death.
When Milesius saw his uncle’s body he was filled with anger and ordered a large attack force to be assembled. He would avenge Ithe and fulfill the will of Go Lear, his god, by conquering the fair western island and finally bringing his people ‘home’. Unfortunately, the great Milesius would never himself see Ireland, for he died while preparing for the invasion. His eight sons, by his two previous wives, assumed command of the forces and set out from Breoghan’s Tower (now Corunna) in Galicia. The legend of Milesius would live on, however, for from that time forward his people would be referred to as the ‘Milesian Celts’.
When the Milesians arrived off the coast of Wexford, the diabolical Tuatha de Danan used spells and enchantments to prevent them from landing. Wind, fog, and illusions plagued them and five of the eight sons were killed in the storms at sea. The three surviving brothers were Heber *, Heremon, and Amergin. All were children of Scota, the Egyptian princess, and Heber was the oldest. Heber Don, son of Ir, one of the sons of Milesius lost at sea during the invasion, also survived. They successfully landed with their part of the fleet, fought and defeated the Tuatha de Danan at Slieve-Mis. This was the First Milesian Migration of the O’Sullivan clan.
When they had landed (near the present site of Waterville), Amergin, the druid of the clan, recited the following incantation:
I am the wind that blows across the sea;
I am the wave of the deep;
I am the roar of the ocean;
I am the stag of seven battles;
I am the hawk on the cliff;
I am a ray of sunlight;
I am the greenest of plants;
I am a wild boar;
I am a salmon in the river;
I am a lake on the plain;
I am the word of knowledge;
I am the point of a spear;
I am the lure beyond the ends of the earth;
I can shift my shape like a god.
The three kings of the Tuatha de Danan escaped the battle of Slieve-Mis with their queens and a retinue of knights. The Milesians overtook them at Tailten and during the bloody struggle MacCuill, MacCeacht, MacGreine, Eire, Fodhla, and Banbha were all slain and their loyal knights routed.
The Celts in Ireland
The exact date of the arrival of the Gaelic Celts in Ireland is unknown; however, all credible sources maintain that it occurred before the age of Alexander the Great (356-323 BC). The dates cited in the ancient history of the clan are estimates based on the best available evidence.
The Gaelic Celts dominated Ireland from the time of their arrival until the dawning of the thirteenth century. The O’Sullivan clan remained dominant in its own domain until the end of the sixteenth century.
The Milesians were master equestrians, superior metal workers, and fierce warriors, traits that were common to all of the Magi tribes. They were also gifted military strategists. True to their Scythian roots, they were tall, muscular, fair skinned, and light haired. The Gaelic Celts were distantly related to the continental Celts that sacked Rome in 387 BC, raided Delphi in 279 BC, and established the kingdom of Galatia in Asia Minor.
They called themselves “Gaels”, the word “Celt” being coined by latter day scholars to describe the loose confederation of Magi tribes that emanated from Scythia to conquer the indigenous peoples of Europe and the Middle East.
The Gaels originally divided Ireland into four provinces, Munster, Leinster, Ulster, and Connaught. Meath was not considered a province until a much later time. Although an Ard Ri, or high king, was recognized, his powers were very limited. The freedom loving Gaels forcefully resisted the establishment of a strong central government and preferred to retain most of the civil authority within their relatively small and semi-autonomous tribes.
While each tribe was politically independent, they were all linked by a common language, a common religion, and a uniform social structure. The aristocratic class included the royals, the nobles, the brehons or judges, and the druids. The professional class included the fili and bards, the poets, historians, and scholars. The soldiers were recognized as a distinct class, with certain rights and privileges unique to their station. The peasants and laborers held no authority, but they did enjoy many rights in the fairly egalitarian Gaelic society. Political prisoners and criminals were at the bottom of this loosely defined caste system and they were allowed few rights, if any.
While the tribe was violently possessive of its land, there were no individual private property rights. The king acted as a trustee for the land, temporarily assigning plots to individuals and families according to their needs and social standing. It was a fluid system with much opportunity to change the allotments. This kept the king and his brehon judges very busy arbitrating land disputes and prompted the development of an advanced legal system. Gaelic society was governed by the rule of law. Once a legal precedent had been set, even the king was subject to its terms.
The Gaelic monarchy was a true representative government, with the king being democratically elected to his lifetime post. Though all of the candidates for the crown had to be an adult male in the royal family of the tribe, there were often many eligible brothers, sons, uncles, nephews, and cousins to choose from. To ensure a peaceful transfer of power in times of crisis, the successor to the throne was chosen at the same time as the king. This ‘viceroy’ was called the “Tanist”.
Joyce offers an excellent summary of the hierarchy of kings in A Social History of Ireland, including their election, the royal coronation rituals, and the privileges and limitations defining their station:
“The government of the whole country, as well as that of each division and subdivision, was in the hands of a king or chief, who had to carry on his government in accordance with the immemorial customs of the country or sub-kingdom: and his authority was further limited by the counsels of his chief men. The usual name for a king in the ancient as well as in the modern language is ri [ree], genitive righ [ree]. A queen was, and is, called rioghan [reean]. Over all Ireland there was one king, who, to distinguish him from others, was designated the Ard-ri, or over-king (árd, ‘high’). The over-kings lived at Tara till the sixth century A.D.; after that, elsewhere: hence the Ard-ri was often called “King of Tara,” even after its abandonment. The last over-king was Roderick O’Conor. After his death, in 1198, there were no more supreme monarchs: but the provinces and the smaller kingdoms continued to be ruled by their native kings in succession down to a much later period.
There was a king over each of the five provinces, an arrangement commonly known as the Pentarchy. The provinces, again, included many sub-kingdoms, some consisting of a single tuath and some of more, as has been said. The tuath was the smallest territory whose ruler could claim the title of ri, or king; but all the 184 tuaths had not kings.
From this it will be seen that, speaking in a general sense, there were four classes of kings:--the king of the tuath; the king of the mór-tuath; the king of a province; and the king of all Ireland: forming a regular gradation, kingdom within kingdom.
The kings of the provinces were subject to the over-king, and owed him tribute and war-service. A similar law extended to all the sub-kingdoms: in other words, the king of each territory, from the tuath upwards to the province, was, at all events nominally, subject to the king of the larger territory in which it was included. Some of the sub-kingdoms were very large, such as Tyrone, Tirconnell, Thomond, Desmond, Ossory, Hy Many, &c., each of which comprised several tuaths and several tribes.
The king or ruling chief was always elected from members of one fine or family, bearing the same surname (when surnames came into use); but the succession was not hereditary in the present sense of the word: it was elective, with the above limitation of being confined to one family. Any freeborn member of the family was eligible, provided that both his father and paternal grandfather had been flaiths or nobles, and that he was free from all personal deformities or blemishes likely to impair his efficiency or to lessen the respect of the people for him. The successor might be son, brother, nephew, cousin, &c., of the chief. That member was chosen who was considered the best able to lead in war and govern in peace; which of course implied that he should be of full age.
The proceedings at the election, which were carried on with much ceremony and deliberation, are described in the law. Every freeman of the rank of aire [arra] or chief had a vote. If there were several candidates, a court was held for the election in the house of the chief brewy or hosteller of the district, or in the palace, if it was for a high-class king, to which all the chiefs about to take part in the election proceeded, each with his full retinue; and there they remained in council for three days and three nights, at the end of which time the successful candidate was declared elected.
With the object of avoiding the evils of a disputed succession, the person to succeed a king or ruling chief was often elected by the chiefs convened in formal meeting during the lifetime of the king himself; when elected he was called the tanist, a word meaning second, i.e. second in authority. Proper provision was made for the support of the tanist by a separate establishment and an allowance of land, a custom which continued, in case of the tanists of provincial and minor kings, till the time of Elizabeth, and even later. He was subordinate to the king or chief, but was above all the other dignitaries of the state. The other persons who were eligible to succeed in case of the tanist’s failure were termed Roy-damna, that is to say ‘king-material.’
The inauguration or making of a king, after he had been elected, was a very impressive ceremony. Of the mode of inaugurating the pagan kings we know hardly anything, further than this, that the kings of Ireland had to stand on an inauguration stone at Tara called Lia Fail, which uttered a roar, as was believed, when a king of the old Milesian race stood on it.
But we possess full information of the ceremonies used in Christian times. The mode of inaugurating was much the same in its general features all over the country, and was strongly marked by a religious character. But there were differences in detail; for some tribes had traditional customs not practiced by others. There was a definite formula, every portion of which should be scrupulously carried out in order to render the ceremony legal. Some of the observances that have come within the ken of history, as described below, descended from pagan times. Each tribe, or aggregation of tribes, had a special place of inauguration, which was held in much respect, invested indeed with a half sacred character. It was on the top of a hill, or on an ancestral carn (the sepulcher of the founder of the race), or on a large lis or fort, and sometimes under a venerable tree, called in Irish a bile [billa]. Each tribe used an inauguration stone, a custom common also among the Celts of Scotland. Some of the inauguration stones had the impression of two feet, popularly believed to be the exact size of the feet of the first chief of the tribe who took possession of the territory. Sometimes there was a stone chair, on which the king sat during part of the ceremony. The inauguration chair of the O’Neills of Clannaboy (a branch of the great O’Neills) is still preserved in the Belfast Museum. On the day of the inauguration the sub-chiefs of the territory, and all the great officers of state, with the brehons, poets, and historians, were present, as also the bishops, abbots, and other leading ecclesiastics.
The hereditary historian of the tribe read for the elected chief the laws that were to regulate his conduct; after which the chief swore to observe them, to maintain the ancient customs of the tribe, and to rule his people with strict justice. Then, while he stood on the stone, an officer, whose special duty it was, handed him a straight white wand, a symbol of authority, and also an emblem of what his conduct and judicial decisions should be, straight and without stain. Having put aside his sword and other weapons, and holding the rod in his hand, he turned thrice round from left to right, and thrice from right to left, in honor of the Holy Trinity, and to view his territory in every direction. Then one of the sub-chiefs appointed for this purpose pronounced in a loud voice his surname, the surname only, without the Christian name, which was afterwards pronounced aloud by each of the clergy, one after another, according to dignity, and then by the sub-chiefs. He was then the lawful chief; and ever after, when spoken to, he was addressed “O’Neill,” “MacCarthy More,” “O’Conor,” &c.; and when spoken of in English, he was designated “The O’Neill,” &c., a custom existing to this day, as we see in “The O’Conor Don,” “The Mac Dermot,” and in Scotland “The MacCallum More.” (and the O’Sullivan Mor)
The main parts of the inauguration ceremony were performed by one or more sub-chiefs: this office was highly honorable, and was hereditary. The inaugurator had a tract of land and a residence free, which remained in the family. The O’Neills of Tyrone were inaugurated by O’Hagan and O’Cahan at Tullaghoge, near Dungannon, where, the fine old inauguration moat still remains; the O’Donnells of Tirconnell by O’Freel, at the Rock of Doon, near Kilmacrenan. Near Quin in Clare is the fort of Magh Adhair [Mah-ire], on which the Dalcassian kings were made; and Carnfree, the mound on which the O’Conors, kings of Connaught, were inaugurated, is to be seen in the townland of Carns, near Tulsk, in Roscommon. (The inauguration site of the kings of Munster was Knockgraffon, not far from Cashel, in Tipperary.)
Kings enjoyed many privileges, and were bound by many restrictions. A king’s evidence in a brehon’s court against all of a rank below him was accepted without question, as they had not the right to be heard in evidence against him: but this privilege did not hold against a bishop, a doctor of learning, or a pilgrim, all of whom were regarded as of equal rank with himself, so far as giving evidence was concerned.
When a king of any grade ascended the throne, he usually made a visitation or royal progress through his kingdom, to receive allegiance and hostages from his sub-kings. He moved very leisurely in a roundabout, sunwise, i.e. from left to right; and during the whole journey, he was to be entertained, with all his retinue, free of charge, by those sub-chiefs through whose territories he passed: so that these visitations were called “Free Circuits.”
In old times it was the belief of the Irish that when a good and just king ruled, one who faithfully observed in his government the royal customs and wise precepts followed by his ancestors, the whole country was prosperous: the seasons were mild, crops were plentiful, cattle were fruitful, the waters abounded with fish, and the fruit trees had to be propped owing to the weight of their produce. The same belief prevailed among the Greeks and Romans.
The ancient Irish had a very high ideal of what a king should be: and we meet with many statements throughout our literature of the noble qualities expected from him. He should be “free from falsehood, from the betrayal of his nobles, from unworthy conduct towards his people.” “For what is a prince selected over a country?” asks Carbery of King Cormac, who replies: “For the goodness of his form and race, and sense, and learning, and dignity, and utterance: he is selected for his goodness and for his wisdom, and strength, and forces, and valor in fighting.”
A just sovereign “exercises not falsehood, nor [unnecessary] force, nor oppressive might. He has full knowledge of his people, and is perfectly righteous to them all, both weak and strong.”
A king should, according to law, have at least three chief residences; and he lived in them by turns as suited his fancy or convenience. On state occasions he sat upon a throne, called in Irish righshuidhe [ree-hee], “royal seat,” slightly elevated so as to enable him to view the whole assembly. He wore a crown or diadem, called a minn, which will be described farther on.
Irish kings were not despotic: they were all, from the supreme monarch down to the king of the tuath, in every sense, limited monarchs; they were subject to law like their own free subjects. We have seen that at their inauguration they had to swear that they would govern their people with strict justice, and in accordance with the ancient customs of the kingdom; and their duties, restrictions, and privileges were strictly laid down in the Brehon Code. This idea pervades all our literature, from the earliest time.
There were certain things which a king was forbidden to do, as being either dangerous or unbecoming. He was neither to do any work nor concern himself about servile work of any kind. It was not permitted to a king, or even to a noble, to keep pigs: that is to have them managed for him round or near his house by any of his immediate dependents. But swineherds living in their own homes at a distance from the palace fed great herds of swine in the woods for the king.”
After the Tuatha de Danan were defeated at the Battle of Tailten, Heber and Heremon split the island between them, with the more fertile and temperate southern half going to Heber, since he was the senior surviving son of Milesius. Amergin, the druid, had no surviving wife or family and therefore was allotted a much smaller portion of land. Heber Don, son of Ir (the first Milesian brother to die in the invasion), was also given a smaller portion of land. It is interesting to note that in honor of the first Milesian brother to die, Eire was renamed Ireland by Heber. In addition to dividing the land, Heber divided the three lions of Milesius’ shield. Heber took one, Heremon was given one, and Heber Don was given one. At this point the heraldic shield of the O’Sullivan ancestors would have been a thunderbolt entwined by a serpent above one lion rampant.
Heber and Heremon ruled over Ireland jointly for only one year. After that their wives began to quarrel over a land dispute and they went to war against each other. A great battle was fought at Geashill, near Tullamore, and Heber was killed by his younger brother. Amergin was also later killed by Heremon who then became the sole monarch of all of Ireland. Heber’s family was forced to retreat to Munster. This was the Second Milesian Migration.
Several years after Heber Fionn’s death, his son Er jointly reigned with his three brothers, Orba, Feron, and Fergna. Their rule was only brief, however, since they were all slain within a year of assuming the throne by Irial Faidh, son of Heremon. They all apparently died without issue. Later still a fifth son of Heber, named Conmaol *, was crowned king of Ireland. He was the 12th Milesian Ard Ri (high king).
Conmaol *, son of Heber, maintained the sovereignty of Ireland for thirty years; and he was the first sole king of Ireland of the race of Heber. Conmaol defeated the descendants of Heremon in twenty five battles. Nine of the battles are named in the annals: the Battle of Ucha; the Battle of Cnucha, the Battle of Eile; the Battle of Sliabh Beatha; and the Battle of Geisill, where Palap son of Heremon fell; the Battle Sliabh Modhairn, where Samhra son of Ionbhoth fell; the Battle of Loch Lein, where Mughroth fell; the Battle of Beirre; and the Battle of Aonach Macha where Conmaol himself fell by Heber, son of Tighearnmhas of the race of Heremon. Conmaol was buried on the south side of Aonach Macha in the place which is called “Conmaol’s Mound” to this day.
His oldest son, Eochaidh Faobhar Glas *, became the 17th Ard Ri of Ireland. It was about the time of his reign that the Cruthneans or Picts attempted to invade Ireland but were repelled by the Milesian forces. The Picts were also Scythians who had resided in Thrace prior to their arrival on the shores of Eire. After an unsuccessful attempt to settle in Ireland, they sailed to Scotland where they gained a foothold. Centuries later they would colonize small parts of Down, Antrim, and Derry, but they remained subservient to the Milesian Celts.
It was during this time that the tradition of the clan tartan was originated. According to Brehon Law a slave was allowed to wear only one color on his wrap. A free peasant was permitted to wear two colors. A soldier could wear three colors, a wealthy landowner was allowed four colors, a brehon or provincial chief could wear five, and an Ollamh could wear six. Only a king could have seven colors in his tartan and only a royal could wear blue or purple.
Eochaidh Faobharghlas *, the son of Conmaol, defeated the Heremonians in the Battle of Dun Cearmna and became high king of Ireland for twenty years. He was called Eochaidh Faobharghlas because his two spears were bluish green and sharp edged. He defeated the race of Heremon in the following battles: the Battle of Luachair Deaghaidh in Desmond; the Battle of Fosadh Da Ghort; the Battle of Cumar na dTri nUisce; the Battle of Tuaim Dreagan in Breithfne; and the Battle of Drom Liathain. He cleared seven plains from wood in Ireland: Magh Smeathrach, in Ui Failghe; Magh Laighne and Magh Luirg in Connaught; Magh Leamhna, Magh nIonair, Magh Fubhna, and Magh Da Ghabhal, in Oirghialla. Eochaidh fell by Fiachaidh Labhruinne son of Smiorghull, son of Eanbhoth, son of Tighearnmhas, in the Battle of Carman.
Eochaidh’s oldest son, Eanna Airgthach * (also known as Nuadha), was the 21st Ard Ri of Ireland and the first ruler to commission the construction of silver shields for his nobles and knights. He was killed at the Battle of Raighne by Roitheachtaigh, son of Maon, son of Aonghus Olmucaidh. Eanna’s oldest son Glas *, was the first in the line of Heber not to serve as Ard Ri of Ireland, but he did reign as the king of Munster and lord of Knockgraffon. For the next four generations the line of Heber was denied the high crown of Ireland. This included Ros *, king of Munster; Rotheachta *, king of Munster; Fearard *, king of Munster; and Cas *, king of Munster.
The 25th Ard Ri of Ireland was Munmoin *, oldest son of Cas. He was the first to decree that the Milesian nobles should wear gold torcs around their necks to distinguish themselves from the vulgar natives, known as the Attacotti (from aithechthuatha, or tribute paying tribes). Munmoin succumbed to the plague at Magh Aidhne after being high king for five years.
His oldest son, Fauldergoid *, became the 26th Ard Ri of Ireland upon the death of his father. It was Fauldergoid that ordered the Milesian nobles to wear gold rings on their fingers to further distinguish themselves from the Attacotti peasantry. He was killed by Ollamh Fodla in the Battle of Tara after holding the sovereignty of Ireland for seven years.
Ollamh Fodla was a descendant of Ir. According to Keating, he was the first king of Ireland to hold a feis at Tara:
“Now the Feis of Tara was a great general assembly like a parliament, in which the nobles and the ollamhs of Ireland used to meet at Tara every third year at Samhain (November 1st), where they were wont to lay down and to renew rules and laws, and to approve the annals and records of Ireland. There, too, it was arranged that each of the nobles of Ireland should have a seat according to his rank and title. There, also, a seat was arranged for every leader that commanded the soldiery who were in the service of the kings and the lords of Ireland. It was also the custom at the Feis of Tara to put to death anyone who committed violence or robbery, who struck another or who assaulted another with arms; while neither the king himself nor anyone else had power to pardon him such a deed. It was also their custom to pass six days in feasting together before the sitting of the assembly, namely, three days before Samhain and three days after it, making peace and entering into friendly alliances with each other. In the following historical poem Eochaidh Eolach describes the customs that were in vogue at the Feis of Tara:
The Feis of Tara every third year,
For the fulfillment of laws and rules,
Was convened at that time mightily
By the noble kings of Erin.
Cathaoir of many alliances assembled
The beauteous Feis of Royal Tara;
There came to them, it was a pleasure,
The men of Ireland to one place.
Three days before Samhain, according to custom,
Three days thereafter, good the practice,
Did that high spirited company
Pass in constant feasting, a week.
Robbery, personal wounding,
Were forbidden them all that time
Assault at arms, cutting,
Proceedings by litigation
Whoever did any of these things
Was a wicked culprit of much venom
Redeeming gold would not be accepted from him,
But his life was at once forfeit.”
Joyce discusses the feis at Tara in greater detail in A Social History of Ancient Ireland:
“Public assemblies of different kinds, held periodically, for various purposes and with several designations, formed a marked and important feature of social life in ancient Ireland. Important affairs of various kinds, national or local, were transacted at these meetings. The laws were publicly promulgated or rehearsed to make the people familiar with them. There were councils or courts to consider divers local matters, questions affecting the rights, privileges, and customary usages of the people of the district or province, acts of tyranny or infringement of rights by powerful persons on their weaker neighbors, disputes about property, the levying of fines, the imposition of taxes for the construction or repair of roads, the means of defense to meet a threatened invasion, and so forth. These several functions were discharged by persons specially qualified. In all the fairs there were markets for the sale and purchase of commodities, whether produced at home or imported.
Most of the great meetings, by whatever name known, had their origin in Funeral Games. Tara, Tailltenn, Tlachtga, Ushnagh, Croghan, Emain Macha, and other less prominent meeting-places, are well known as ancient pagan cemeteries, in all of which many illustrious semi-historical personages were interred: and many sepulchral monuments remain in them to this day.
Some meetings were established and convened chiefly for the transaction of serious business: but even at these there were sports in abundance: in others the main object was the celebration of games: but advantage was taken of the occasions to discuss and settle important affairs, as will be described farther on. The word Fés or Féis [faish], which literally means a feast or celebration, cognate with Latin festum and English feast, was generally applied to the three great meetings of Tara, Croghan, and Emain. These were not meetings for the general mass of the people, but conventions of delegates who represented the kingdoms and sub-kingdoms, i.e. the states in general of all Ireland, who sat and deliberated under the presidency of the supreme monarch.
The Féis of Tara, according to the old tradition, was founded by Ollam Fodla [Ollav-Fóla], who was king of Ireland seven or eight centuries before the Christian era. It was originally held, or intended to be held, every third year, at Samhain, the 1st of November.
The provincial kings, the minor kings and chiefs, and the most distinguished representatives of the learned professions, the ollaves of history, law, poetry, medicine, &c., attended. According to some authorities it lasted for a week, i.e. Samhain day with three days before and three days after: but others say it lasted for a month.
Each provincial king had a separate house for himself and his retinue during the time; and there was one house for their queens, with private apartments for each, with her attendant ladies. There was still another house called Rélta na bh-filedh [Railtha-na-villa], the ‘star of the poets,’ for the accommodation of the poets and ollaves of all the professions, where also these learned men held their sittings. Every day the king of Ireland feasted the company in the great banqueting-hall, or, as it was called, the Tech Midchuarta or ‘mead-circling hall’, which was large enough for a goodly company: for even in its present ruined state it is 759 feet long by 46 feet wide. The results of the deliberations were written by properly qualified ollaves in the national record called the Saltair of Tara. The conventions of Emain and Croghan were largely concerned with industrial affairs, as already stated.
The dál [dawl] was a meeting convened for some special purpose commonly connected with the tribe or district: a folkmote. A mórdál (mór, ‘great’) was a great, or chief, or very important assembly. This last term is often applied to such assemblies as those of Tara, Tailltenn, and Ushnagh.
The aenach or fair was an assembly of the people of every grade without distinction: it was the most common kind of large public meeting; and its main object was the celebration of games, athletic exercises, sports, and pastimes of all kinds. The most important of the Aenachs were those of Tailltenn, Tlachtga, and Ushnagh. The Fair of Tailltenn, now Teltown on the Blackwater, midway between Navan and Kells, was attended by people from the whole of Ireland, as well as from Scotland, and was the most celebrated of all for its athletic games and sports: corresponding closely with the Olympic, Isthmian, and other games of Greece. It was held yearly on the 1st of August, and on the days preceding and following. Marriages formed a special feature of this fair. All this is remembered in tradition to the present day: and the people of the place point out the spot where the marriages were performed, which they call “Marriage Hollow.” The remains of several immense forts are still to be seen at Teltown, even larger than those at Tara, though not in such good preservation.
The meetings at Tlachtga and Ushnagh, which have already been mentioned, seem to have been mainly pagan religious celebrations: but games, buying and selling, and conferences on local affairs, were carried on there as at the other assemblies. One of the most noted of all the fairs was Aenach Colmain on the Curragh of Kildare, which is noted in connection with races. The memory of one important fair is preserved in the name of Nenagh in Tipperary, in which the initial N is the Irish article an, ‘the’: N-enagh, ‘the fair.’ So also Monasteranenagh in Limerick, the ‘Monastery of the fair,’ where a fair was held long before the monastery was founded.”
The following three generations in the line of Heber failed to regain the high kingship, Cas Cedchaingnigh *, king of Munster; Failbhe Iolcorach *, king of Munster; and Ronnach *, king of Munster. Though Cas was never Ard Ri, he was a very learned man. He revised the study of poetry, law, and other laudable sciences which had been much neglected and seldom practiced since the death of Amergin Glungheal, Heber’s younger brother and druid. He was what is known as a druid-king as opposed to a warrior-king.
Failbhe is credited with being the first to ordain the construction of stone walls as boundaries between neighbors’ lands. This proved to be a very successful law as evidenced by the ubiquitous stone-work found everywhere in Ireland.
Around 671 BC, Rotheachta * was born to Ronnach and he was destined to become the 35th Ard Ri of Ireland. He ruled for seven years before being killed by a bolt of lightning in Dun Sobhairce. It was probably at this time that the thunderbolt emblazoned on the family shield was replaced by a sword, the ancient accepted heraldic symbol for lightning. His oldest son, Eliomh Ollfhionach *, became the 36th Ard Ri of Ireland upon his father’s untimely death. He held the throne for barely a year before being slain by Giallchaidh, son of Oilill Olchaoin.
Art Imleach *, eventually avenged his father’s death by killing Giallchaidh in battle at Magh Muaidhe and assuming the throne as the 38th Ard Ri of Ireland. He remained on the throne for twenty-two years, a remarkably long time for those brutal days. He finally fell in battle against Nuadha Fionn Fail, a descendant of Heremon.
Breas Rioghacta * killed his father’s assassin and thus became the 40th Ard Ri of Ireland. It was during his reign that the Fomorians revolted. Breas and his knights crushed the rebels in several battles. The Fomorians were the third people known to have invaded Ireland. They were preceded by the Muintir Partholain and the Nemedians. They were followed by the Firbolgs, the Tuatha de Danan and the Milesian Celts.
Breas finally fell in the Battle of Carn Connluain by the hand of Eochaidh Apthach, an Ithian (descended from Ithe). Eochaidh was in turn killed by Fionn, who was Irian (descended from Ir). Now up to this point in Ireland, soldiers were not paid wages, but rather lived off of whatever booty and spoils they could accumulate. When Fionn was killed by Seadna Ionnarraidh * circa 520 BC, Seadna became the 43rd Ard Ri of Ireland. He was the first monarch to actually pay his soldiers and knights and is thereby the “Father of the Professional Army” in Ireland. Seadna was killed by Simeon Breac, a Heremonian (descended from Heremon), who had him drawn and quartered. This is where the arms and legs would be torn asunder by horses then the torso cut open in a cross fashion. The life of a warrior-king had very little in common with the dainty French royal courts of the eighteenth century.
It took Duach Fionn *, the oldest son of Seadna, six years to avenge his father’s grisly death. He finally caught up with Simeon and handily dispatched him. He remained on the throne as the 45th Ard Ri of Ireland for five years until being himself dispatched by Muiredhach Bolgrach, Simeon’s son.
Muiredhach lasted about four years. Eanna Dearg *, Duach’s oldest son, killed the Heremonian king in battle and thereby attained the crown as the 47th Ard Ri of Ireland. Eanna was called ‘Dearg’ because of his peculiar ‘oineach’ or very red countenance. Eanna was a progressive thinking monarch and he was the first king of Ireland to have coins minted. Around 470 BC, Ireland was decimated with a plague that claimed the life of the king himself. Eanna the Red died in great misery at Sliab Mis along with many of his people. Luckily, the crown prince was spared and Eanna’s oldest son, Lughaidh Iardhonn *, became the 48th Ard Ri of Ireland. Unlike his red-headed father, Lughaidh had long dark brown hair, hence the name ‘Iardhonn’ (dark brown).
An Irish noble named Siorlamh killed Lughaidh at Raith Clochair after nine years of rule. Legend has it that Siorlamh looked like a gorilla, with very long arms that nearly reached the ground when he walked. He must have had a distinct advantage in a sword fight. After his father was slain, Eochaidh Uaircheas *, Lughaidh’s oldest son and legitimate heir to the throne, was forced into exile. He assembled a band of loyal brigands and for two years plagued the shores of Ireland as a pirate. Like the Norsemen, he used open boats that would best be described as ‘large canoes’. It is from these boats that he acquired the appellation, ‘Uaircheas’, meaning ‘canoe’. It was not the first or last time that an individual in the direct O’Sullivan line would resort to piracy to survive.
Eventually, Eochaidh tired of the sea-faring life and he returned to land to kill the simian Irish usurper that had killed his father. With this violent act he became the 50th Ard Ri of Ireland and lord of Knockgraffon. He ruled Ireland wisely for about twelve years before he was killed in battle. It took two warriors to kill him, Eochaidh Fiadhmhuine and Conuing Beigeaglach, Heremonian brothers. The two of them then ruled Ireland jointly for five years.
The Heberians (descended from Heber) were, of course, not happy with this fraternal arrangement. Eochaidh the Pirate’s oldest son, Lughaidh Laimhdhearg * (Louis Red Hand), challenged and killed Eochaidh Fiadhmhuine. Conuing escaped and went into exile. Lughaidh remained on the throne as the 52nd Ard Ri of Ireland for seven years before being killed by Conuing.
One story explaining the name ‘Louis Red Hand’ is that he had a red birth mark on his hand. There is probably a deeper meaning to this name, however, since the red hand was an important heraldic symbol to the Celts. There was a legend among the Gaels that a messiah-like figure would be born into either the O’Sullivan or the O’Neill family. It was believed that this individual would lead his people to world supremacy. The sign of this mythical savior would be the laimhdhearg, the red hand. It is unknown whether Lughaidh was believed to be the messiah during his lifetime, but owing to the fact that he never achieved world dominance it is clear now that he was not.
As a side note, and to give the devil his due, although Conuing was forced into temporary exile, he was most definitely not a coward. His reputation as a fearless warrior was well known and without question. The old seanachies wrote of him:
Conuing of the fights of the bright spears
Who never quailed before fight,
Passed a decade ruling over each Half
Till Art son of Lughaidh slew him.
As the poem says, Art *, became the 54th Ard Ri of Ireland with his slaying of king Conuing. Conuing’s uncle and cousin teamed up to kill Art after he had ruled for six years. The uncle, Fiachaidh Tolgrach, then assumed the throne. The cousin, Duach Laghrach, was so called because he was known as ‘Duach of Swift Retribution’. He would suffer no injustice without demanding immediate satisfaction. He was the Heremonian ‘hit man’ of the time so to speak.
Oilill Fionn *, Art’s oldest son, avenged his father, thereby becoming the 56th Ard Ri of Ireland, and also thereby becoming a target for ‘Duach the Hit man’. He dodged his fate for nine years but eventually he ‘died by the sword’. Duach was not able to do the job alone, however, since it took both him and an Irian noble named Airgeadmhar to finish the job. Airgeadmhar was the son of ‘Siorlamh the Ape-man’. Despite the violent death of the king, the legitimate crown prince, Eochaidh *, kept the throne in the family and became the 57th Ard Ri of Ireland.
Eochaidh managed to keep the crown partly by cutting a deal with Duach. Once Duach retracted his support for his Irian accomplice, Airgeadmhar, he was forced to retreat back to his clan lands to brood. Unfortunately for Eochaidh, dealing with Duach was like dealing with the devil. At a meeting one evening, Duach treacherously murdered the king and escaped into the night. Airgeadmhar took advantage of the job opening and grasped the crown. There is no mention in the annals whether or not Airgeadmhar inherited his father’s distinctive carriage but it is clear that he was a successful king who ruled for about twenty years.
Believe it or not, Eochaidh’s oldest son, Lughaidh Laighdhe *, decided to forge an alliance with Duach, the ‘Heremonian Hit man’ in order to depose king Airgeadmhar. Putting his father’s murder aside, he plotted with the untrustworthy Duach and together they sent the king back to his maker. But rather than Lughaidh winning the crown, it was Duach who became the next Ard Ri. Since the annalists do not report a violent death for Duach, it can be assumed that he died in the throne peacefully of old age.
Once Duach died, Lughaidh seized the throne back for the rightful Heberian line, becoming the 60th Ard Ri of Ireland. This Lughaidhe was named after a character in an old Gaelic legend:
“Lughaidhe Laighdhe son of Eochaidh, son of Oilill Fionn, son of Art, son of Lughaidhe Laimhdhearg, son of Eochaidh Uaircheas of the race of Heber, held the sovereignty of Ireland seven years; and he fell by Aodh Ruadh, son of Badharn. The Coir Anmann states that this Lughaidhe was one of the five Lughaidhes, the children of Daire Doimhtheach. The same book relates that a certain druid revealed prophetically to Daire Doimhtheach that he would have a son who would be called Lughaidhe who would obtain the sovereignty of Ireland; and after this five sons were born to him in succession, and he called each of them Lughaidhe. When the sons grew up, Daire had recourse to the same druid, and asked him which of the five Lughaidhes would gain the sovereignty of Ireland. “ Go to-morrow to Taillte,” said the druid, “ with thy five sons, and there will come to-morrow a beautiful fawn into the fair, and everyone, and thy children with the rest, will run in pursuit of it, and whichever of thy children shall outrun the fawn and kill it will be king of Ireland.” The fawn came into the fair on the morrow; and the men of Ireland and the children of Daire pursued it till they reached Beann Eadair. A druidical mist separated the sons of Daire from the men of Ireland. The sons of Daire proceeded to hunt the fawn from thence to Dal Maschorb of Leinster, and Lughaidhe Laighdhe overtook and slew it; and it was from that fawn that he was called Lughaidhe Laighdhe, that is, Lughaidhe Laoghdha.”
Eochaidh, being familiar with this legend, named his son after the boy in the story that was destined to be king of Ireland.
Another ancient legend is associated with Lughaidh. One day while hunting in a remote area he met a hideous hag. Despite her repulsive features she lured him to her cottage and into her bed. Once there she removed the magic mask that she was wearing and she turned out to be incredibly young and beautiful. It is conjectured by the annalists that the story is an allegory in which the old hag represents Ireland, for at first the country caused Lughaidh toil and torment but afterwards afforded him with great pleasure and delight.
But alas, all delight must come to an end, and Lughaidhe’s ended in the form of a murderous Irian named Aodh Ruadh, Airgeadmhar’s grandson. Aodh eventually drowned, but his daughter, Macha Mhongruadh, inherited the throne when one of her father’s successors died in a plague at Eamhain Mhacha. This is her story as related by the ancient annalists:
“Macha Mhongruadb, daughter of Aodh Ruadh son of Badharn, son of Airgedmhar, son of Siorlamh, son of Fionn, son of Bratha, son of Labhraidb, son of Cairbre, son of Ollamh Fodla, held the sovereignty of Ireland seven years, til Reachtaidh Righdhearg slew her. And it was in her time that Eamhain Mhacha was built. Now the reason why it is called Eamhain Mhacha is this: three kings out of Ulster held the sovereignty of Ireland, namely, Aodh Ruadh son of Badharn, from whom is named Eas Ruaidb, and Diothorba, son of Deaman of Uisneach in Meath, and Ciombaoth son of Fionntan from Fionnabhair; and it was with this Ciombaoth that Ughaine Mor son of Eochaidh Buadhach was brought up. And each of these kings reigned seven years in succession, until each had held the sovereignty of Ireland thrice. And the first of them to die was Aodh Ruadh; and he left no issue but one daughter named Macha. Macha demanded the sovereignty in her turn after her father’s death; and Diothorba and his children said that they would not cede sovereignty to a woman; and a battle was fought between themselves and Macha; and Macha triumphed over them in that battle, and held the sovereignty of Ireland seven years and Dlothorba died and left five sons, namely, Baoth, Bedacb, Bras, Uallach, and Borbchas. These demanded the sole reign of Ireland for themselves, as it was held by their ancestors before them. Macha said she would only give them battle for the sovereignty. A battle was fought between them, and Macha defeated them. The children of Diothorba fled for safety to dark and intricate woods; and Macha took Ciombaoth son of Fionntan as her husband, and made him leader of her warriors, and went herself in pursuit of the sons of Diothorba in the guise of a leper, having rubbed her body with the dough of rye, and found them in an intricate forest in Burenn, cooking a wild boar. The sons of Diothorba asked news of her, and gave her a portion of the meat. She told them all the news she had. And then one of the men said that the leper had a beautiful eye, and that he desired to lie with her.
Thereupon he and Macha retired into the recesses of the wood, and Macha bound this man and left him there, and returned to the rest. And they questioned her, “Where didst thou leave the man who went with thee?” said they. “I know not,” said she; “but I think he feels ashamed to come into your presence after embracing a leper.” “It is not a shame,” said they, “since we will do the same thing.” Thus she went into the wood with each of them in turn; and she bound them all, and so took them bound together before the men of Ulster at Eambain; and she asked the Ulster nobles what she should do with them. They all said with one accord that they should be put to death. “That is not just,” said Macha, “for that would be contrary to law; but let them be made slaves of, and let the task be imposed on them of building a fort for me which shall be the capital of the province for ever.”
Thereupon Macha undid the gold bodkin that was in the mantle on her breast, and with it measured the site of the fort which the sons of Diothorba were obliged to build. Now, the fort is called Eamhain. ‘Eo’ being a word for ‘a bodkin,’ while muin means ‘the neck,’ and hence the fort is called Eamhain, that is, Eo Mhuin. Or, it is called Eamhain from Eamhain Mhacha, that is, the wife of Cronn son of Adhnaman. Now this woman was forced against her will to run with the horses of Connchubhar, king of Ulster; and she, though pregnant, outran them; and at the end of the race she gave birth to a son and a daughter; and she cursed the men of Ulster, whence they were visited with the pangs of labor; and these pangs continued to afflict them during nine reigns, that is, from Conchubhar to the reign of Mal son of Rochruidhe. Eamhain accordingly is the same as amhaon, amb denying that it was but one, it being two Macha gave birth to on that occasion. And hence it was called Eamhain Mhacha, according to this opinion. After this, Macha Mhongruadh was slain by Reachtaidh Righdhearg.”
Reacht Righ-dearg *, 65th Ard Ri of Ireland, was a true warrior-king. He was fierce, fearless, and lucky in battle. During his reign the Picts of Scotland refused to pay their historical tribute to the Irish monarch. Reacht reacted by invading Scotland and decimating the insurgents. His name, ‘righ-dearg’, means red-arm, an apparent reference to his having spilled a woman’s blood. Again, this may also be related to the Milesian tradition of a red hand symbolizing the coming of a messiah.
Reacht had a very successful reign that lasted twenty years before he was killed by Ughaine Mor, the Heremonian foster-child of Macha Mhongruadh, the only woman to ever hold the monarchy of Ireland. Reacht’s oldest son, Cobthach Caomh *, never succeeded to the throne of Ireland but had to settle with being king of Munster. Reacht’s oldest grandson, Moghcorb *, won back the throne for the Heberians by killing king Meilge of the Heremonian line. He thus became the 72nd Ard Ri of Ireland. After seven years on the throne he was killed by a Heremonian noble named Aonghus Ollamh.
Moghcorb’s oldest son, Fearcorb *, regained the throne after it had been held by several usurpers, becoming the 75th Ard Ri of Ireland. He served for eleven years. Fearcorb’s oldest son, Adhambra Foltcain *, also served as the 78th Ard Ri of Ireland.
Nia Seaghamain *, 83rd Ard Ri of Ireland, and oldest son of Adhambra was one of the more interesting ancestors of the O’Sullivan clan. He was incredibly wealthy and his name is a derivative of ‘seachmhaoineach’, meaning ‘surpassing in wealth’. His fortune was probably due to superior agricultural techniques but the legend maintains that his mother, Fliodhais, was a witch who used magic to amass their wealth. One story describes how Fliodhas enchanted the wild deer of Ireland, taming them to the point that they would submit themselves to being milked along with Nia’s cows. Nia met his end at the hand of Eanna Aighneach, a Heremonian pretender.
Years later, an Irian named Rudruighe was the high king of Ireland when he succumbed to the plague at Airgeadros. Ionadmaor *, oldest son of Nia, then assumed the throne and became the 87th Ard Ri of Ireland. He in turn was killed by an Irian named Breasal. During Breasal’s reign a devastating cow plague occurred in Ireland and for this he is known as Breasal Boidhiobhadh. Perhaps Ionadmaor’s grandmother, Fliodhais the witch, had something to do with the plague.
Breasal was summarily dispatched by Lughaidh Luaighne * after eleven years of rule and thousands of dying cows. Lughaidh thus became the 89th Ard Ri of Ireland. Lughaidh was slain by Conghal, an Irian, after only five years of rule.
Lughaidh’s oldest son, Cairbre Lusgleathan *, was not successful in recapturing the throne. He did serve as king of Munster, however. Cairbre had two sons, Duach and Deaghaidh. They both aspired to follow in their grandfather’s footsteps and win the throne of all Ireland. They were both strong, brave, and ambitious. In fact, Duach concluded that his younger brother was a little too ambitious. He invaded Deaghaidh’s home where he had him blinded, probably with a red-hot poker. Because of this evil deed he was thereafter called as Duach Dalladh Deadha *, or ‘Duach who blinded Deaghaidh’. The annalists reported the deed in verse:
Deaghaidh was seized in his house
By Duach, by his brother;
And blinded by violence was
This Deaghaidh, though sorry was the deed.
After removing any threat from his brother he pursued and killed Conghal, the Irian Ard Ri. With this series of brutish acts Duach ‘the Blinder’ became the 91st Ard Ri of Ireland and lord of Knockgraffon. It is possible that he was named after Duach “the Heremonian Hit man” who had murdered his own ancestor Eochaidh several centuries before.
For ten years Duach ruled before being eliminated by Fachtna Fathach, another Irian pretender. With Duach’s death the illustrious line of Heberian high kings came to an abrupt end. He was the last individual of the senior royal bloodline of the Milesian Celts ever to reign over all of Ireland. It is estimated by lifetime dating that Duach lived and died in the last century BC. From this point forward the most senior descendants of King Milesius of Spain and Portugal held reign only over their own kingdom of Munster, often having to pay tribute to an over-king from a junior line. In O’Sullivan tradition, the permanent loss of the high kingship of Ireland is attributed to Duach’s evil deed of blinding his own brother. This is known as ‘The Curse of Duach’, and remains a reminder to the clan to remain loyal to each other. The ancient Irish word ‘fiongal’ means the murder of a clansman or relative. It was considered to be a very heinous crime by the Gaels that resulted in a curse on the perpetrator and his race.
Duach’s oldest son, Eochaidh Garbh *, and his oldest grandson, Muireadach Muchna *, both were crowned king of Munster in their turn. Muireadach married a woman named Mofebhis, who through some mistake was included in the Irish Regal Roll. Though the mistake has since been recognized, for many years she was recorded as a king instead of a queen.
Loich Mor *, oldest son of Muireadach and Mofebhis, reigned as king of Munster after the death of his father and was a contemporary of Jesus. As stated earlier, the Gaelic Celts were of Scythian origin. They descended from Magog and were therefore one of the Magi tribes. The Magi held the secret of the crystal and could magically bring fire to the earth at will. Many of the ruling tribes of Europe, Asia Minor, and northern Africa were of Magi stock.
The Magi tradition can be found in the bible, the ancient annals of Ireland, the chronicles of Britain, and the Gallic traditions of France. The story of Adam being instructed by the serpent to feast on the fruit of the tree of knowledge is of Magi origin. It was brought to the Semites by the tribe of David, a Scythian people that invaded Assyria from the north, conquered and then united a host of local tribes, and was eventually assimilated into the Semitic nations of Judea and Israel. The claim that David descended from Abraham was a later fabrication, devised to unify the indigenous Semites under the rule of their non-Hebrew overlords. Strict laws prohibited any intermarriage between the Tribe of David and their Hebrew subjects. Jesus, a descendant of David, was a Magi. The fact that he is portrayed in classic art with blue eyes and light brown hair is not a historical mistake. The bible still recounts the visit of three fellow Magi kings to honor the birth of the true heir to the throne of Israel.
Although the Roman military never successfully invaded the lands of the Gaelic Celts, Roman influence finally reached the Gaels in the middle of the fifth century through the efforts of unarmed Christian missionaries.
When, in 431 AD, Palladius was sent to Ireland as a missionary by Pope Celestine, he found an established Celtic Christian community that believed in the resurrection of Christ, but did not recognize him as a personage of god. It took the combined efforts of Palladius and a host of other Roman Christian emissaries to convert the pagan Irish and Scots to the new religion. According to tradition, St. Patrick used the shamrock to illustrate to the Gaels the concept of the new trinity: one god with three forms.
The druids, the faithful defenders of the Magi tradition, were systematically eliminated by their Christian counterparts. Conversely, many of the Gaelic pagan beliefs of Celtic Christianity found their way into the teachings of the Roman Church, when Irish monks spread through Europe restoring the Christian tradition after the Dark Ages. Holy water, the cycle of solar holidays including the Yule (Christmas), Samhain (Halloween), and Ostara (Easter), and the Celtic cross are all examples of pagan Gaelic traditions that were subsequently adopted by the continental Christians.
Loich Mor’s oldest son, Eanna Muncain * was born circa 9 BC, a very troubled time in Ireland. The indigenous subservient tribes on the island were increasingly resentful of their Milesian over-lords. Though they were made up of the Muintir Partholain, the Nemedians, The Fomorians, the Firbolgs, and the Tuatha de Danans, they were all collectively referred to as the ‘Attacotti’ by the Milesian aristocracy. They were all viewed and treated as a servile and helot class by the Gaelic nobility.
After his father’s death, Eanna assumed his rightful place on the throne of Munster. He married Cruife, the daughter of Goirtniad, the king of Britain. The high king of Ireland at this time was Fiachaidh Fionnoladh, a Heremonian. Also at this time there lived a Firbolgian leader named Cairbre Chinn Chait, so named because his ears resembled those of a cat:
Thus was Cairbre the hardy,
Who ruled Ireland south and north;
Two cat’s ears on his fair head,
Cat’s fur upon his ears.
Cairbre Chinn Cait was successful in uniting the various tribes of the Attacotti and leading a bloody uprising. The account can be found in the old tome, the Leabhar-Gabhala:
“The Attacotti of Ireland obtained great sway over the nobility, so that the latter were all cut off, except those who escaped the slaughter in which the nobles were exterminated by the Attacotti. The Attacotti afterwards set up Cairbre Chinn Cait, one of their own race, as their king. These are the three nobles that escaped from this massacre, namely: Fearadhach Finnfeachtnach, from whom are descended the race of Conn of the Hundred Battles; Tibraide Tireach, from whom are the Dal-Araidhe; and Corb Olum *, from whom are the nobles of the race of Heber Fionn. These sons were in their mothers’ wombs when they escaped from the massacre of Magh-Cro, in Connaught; and each of the three queens went respectively over sea. Baine, the daughter of the king of Alba (Scotland), was the mother of Fearadhach; Cruife, the daughter of the king of Britain, was the mother of Corb Olum, who was otherwise called Deirgtheine; and Aine, the daughter of the king of Saxony, was the mother of Tipraide Tireach. Evil, indeed, was the condition of Ireland in the time of this Cairbre, for the earth did not yield its fruits to the Attacotti after the great massacre which they had made of the nobility of Ireland, so that the corn, fruits, and produce of Ireland were barren; for there used to be but one grain upon the stalk, one acorn upon the oak, and one nut upon the hazel. Fruitless were her harbors; milkless her cattle; so that a general famine prevailed over Ireland during the five years that Cairbre was in the sovereignty. Cairbre afterwards died, and the Attacotti offered the sovereignty of Ireland to Morann, son of Cairbre. He was truly an intelligent and learned man, and said that he would not accept of it, as it was not his hereditary right; and, moreover, he said that the scarcity and famine would not cease until they should send for the three legitimate heirs, to the foreign countries where they were, namely, Fearadhach Finnfeachtnach, Corb Olum, and Tibraide Tireach, and elect Fearadhach as king, for to him it was due, because his father, the last monarch, had been killed in the massacre we have mentioned, whence his mother, Baine, had escaped. This was done at Morann’s suggestion, and it was to invite Fearadhach to be elected king that Morann sent the celebrated Udhacht or Testament. The nobles were afterwards sent for, and the Attacotti swore by Heaven and Earth, the Sun, the Moon, and all of the elements, that they would be obedient to them and their descendants, as long as the sea should surround Ireland. They then came to Ireland, settled, each in his hereditary region, namely Tipraide Tireach, in the east of Ulster; Corb Olum in the south, over Munster; and Fearadhach Finnfeachtnach, at Teamhair of the Kings (Tara).”
So once the three young Milesian nobles were of age to bear arms they were invited back to Ireland to rule their respective kingdoms. Corb Olum, also known as Deargtheine, was not immediately accepted as the undisputed king of Munster upon his return from Scotland. There was an Ithian pretender named Darin who laid claim to the throne as well. Together they worked out a deal in which their descendants would take turns ruling Munster. From that era on the descendants of Heber were referred to as the ‘Deargtheine’ and the descendants of Ith were known as the ‘Dairine’.
Neither Corb Olum’s oldest son, Dearg , nor his oldest grandson, Magha Neid , appear to have been kings of Munster during their lifetimes in abidance with the agreement that had been made with the Ithians. While the Heberians were waiting for their turn to rule, a small but powerful Heremonian tribe, named the Earna, invaded the kingdom of Munster and wrested the throne from the Dairine.
Magha Neid, perhaps in an attempt to strengthen his own line’s claim to the throne, married Sioda, daughter of Flann, son of Fiachaidh, one of the Earna chiefs. Their oldest son, Eoghan Mor *, was sent to the kingdom of Leinster for safety, where he was raised by Daire Barrach, son of Cathor Mor. Eoghan had three different nicknames, Eoghan Fidhfheachach, Eoghan Taoidhleach, and Mogh Nuadhat. He probably acquired these various appellations due to his exploits and successes in life, but the true meaning of the names is lost forever, recorded only in the Coir Anmann, an ancient Irish manuscript missing since the seventeenth century.
By the time Eoghan Mor, commonly known as Mogh Nuadhat, was old enough to carry arms, the kingdom of Munster was jointly ruled by three Earna chiefs, Lughaidh Eallaightheach, Daire Dornmhar, and Aonghus. Mogha Nuadhat beseeched his foster father to lend him an army with which he could invade Munster and regain his birthright. His request was granted. With the Leinstermen, Mogha Nuadhat set out on a campaign that would eventually pit him against the high king of all Ireland himself, the famous Conn of the Hundred Battles.
Eoghan first attacked Aonghus, ruler of the Ui Liathain in the southern part of the kingdom. He soundly defeated him and drove him from the territory. Aonghus, smarting from his defeat, slithered off to the north where he sought the aid of his kinsman, Conn, the Ard Ri. Conn sent Aonghus back into Munster with fifteen thousand soldiers. Mogha Nuadhat met this host at Ard Neimhidh and defeated the invaders with great slaughter. He then marched on to the strongholds of Lughaidh Eallaightheach and Daire Dornmhar and expelled them and their Earna followers from his kingdom.
Needless to say, Conn was furious with the defeat of his royal army and a great war erupted between him and Mogha Nuadhat. In ten successive bloody battles Mogha Nuadhat beat the high king: the Battle of Brosnach, the Battle of Samhpait, the Battle of Sliabh Musach, the Battle of Gabhran, the Battle of Suama, the Battle of Grian, the Battle of Ath Luain, the Battle of Magh Croich, the Battle of Asal, and the Battle of Uisneach. Finally, Conn sued for peace and Mogha Nuadhat wrested the entire southern half of Ireland from the high king.
The seanachies recorded:
Eoghan Mor, great was his success,
Was as exalted as Conn Ceadchathach.
These two, noble was their fame,
Shared Ireland between them.
Conn’s half of Ireland (called Leath Chuinn) was all of that land north of an imaginary line extending from Dublin to Galway. Mogha Nuadhat’s half (called Leath Mogha) was all of the territory south of this line.
An interesting legend surrounds this Eoghan Mor. Between expelling the Earna and fighting his war with Conn, Eoghan was told by his druid that a great famine was going to strike Ireland. Eoghan believed his counsel and for several seasons instructed his people to live on venison and fish so that the corn could be saved and stored. Just as the war broke out the effects of the famine were beginning to be felt. Eoghan used his stores of corn to recruit more soldiers to fight Conn and this contributed to his victory.
After regaining the throne of Munster for the true Heberian line, Eoghan Mor married Beara, daughter of Heber Mor, son of Modhna, king of Castile, Spain. Together they had three children, a son named Oilill Olum *, and two daughters named Scoithniamh and Coinneal. Despite his many victories, the war between Eoghan Mor (Mogha Nuadhat) and Conn was not over.
Eoghan received word that Conn was invading Munster again. After bidding his cherished family good bye, the great king rode with his army to Magh Leana, where he found the enemy. He camped on its edge in anticipation of combat the next morning. Before sunrise, Conn treacherously attacked the sleeping camp and Eoghan Mor was slaughtered while he was still in his bed, by Goll. Goll was a soldier of the Clanna-Morna, a military tribe of Firbolgs from Connaught.
Conn would eventually be murdered as well, deprived of a warrior’s death on the field. Two of his three sons were also murdered by none other than Conn’s own two brothers. Conn’s daughter, Sadhbh, was first married to Maicniadh, chief of the Dairine, the Ithians that by agreement were supposed to alternate as rulers of Munster with the Heberians as agreed upon by Corb Olum (Deirgtheine). Together they had one son, Lughaidh MacConn. When Maicniadh later died, Sadhbh then married Oilill Olum *, son of Eoghan Mor. Together they had nine sons.
One day Lughaidh MacConn arrived at his step-father’s house and reminded him of the agreement that had been made between their two tribes in which they would alternate holding the sovereignty of Munster with each generation. Oilill Olum * flatly refused to abide by this agreement, after all, the Dairine had lost the crown to the Earna and it took a Heberian army to get it back. When Lughaidh MacConn pressed the issue further, he was banished from Ireland by Oilill Olum *. Lughaidh sailed to Scotland where he assembled a strong party and conspired to return to Munster to make war with his Heberian step-father.
Now at this time in the kingdom of Munster there lived a wise and powerful druid named Dil. Oilill Olum’s * oldest and favorite son, Eoghan Mor II , (Owen Mor) spent much time seeking the counsel of this sorcerer who lived at Ath Uiseal, on the banks of the River Suir, the sacred lifeline of the Heberian royal house. Dil had a very beautiful daughter named Moncha with whom Eoghan Mor fell in love.
One day Eoghan Mor arrived at Moncha’s house with the frightening news that Lughaidh MacConn had returned to Ireland with a large force of mercenaries and clansmen. He had also convinced Art Aoinfhear, Conn’s son and high king of all Ireland, to join him in his war against Eoghan’s father. The Heberians were preparing for battle and Eoghan would be leaving in the morning. That night Eoghan and Moncha slept together and the next morning Eoghan bid his love farewell. They would never see each other again.
Oilill Olum * rode at the head of his clan, along with his nine sons, the princes of Munster. On their battle banner was emblazoned a sword held in a red hand and entwined by a serpent, flanked on each side by a red lion. The first lion represented their descent from Heber on their father’s side. The second lion represented their descent from Heremon on their mother’s side. Despite this union displayed on their heraldic device, once again the families of Heber and Heremon were at war. Art Aoinfhear, the high king of Ireland, was the brother of Oilill’s wife Sadhbh, who was on the side of the Heberians. Lughaidh MacConn was Sadhbh’s first born son, as well as the nine princes’ half-brother. It seems the destiny of royal blood is to be spilled by royal hands.
The two great armies met at Magh Muchruimhe (or Muckrove) near Athenry and clashed in bloody combat. When the smoke had cleared, Art Aoinfhear and seven of Oilill Olum’s * sons were slaughtered. Eoghan Mor II was among the dead, killed by Beinne Briot, son of the king of Britain. Lughaidh MacConn was victorious and the tattered remnant of the Heberian army limped back to Munster. Since Art was dead, Lughaidh grabbed the big prize and assumed the throne of Ireland, leaving Oilill Olum * in place as king of Munster.
After the Battle of Magh Muchruimhe, Oilill Olum * felt very old and mortal. He began to make preparations for his death and summoned his two surviving sons, Cormac Cas and Cian to his court. He settled his kingdom upon Cormac, the elder son of the two, and his posterity. Some months later Dil, the druid, arrived at Oilill Olum’s * court with a baby and a very sad tale. Dil advised the king that Eoghan Mor had been with his daughter and the result of their union was a little boy.
When Moncha had gone into labor, Dil divined that if the boy were born within twenty four hours he would grow up to be a druid, but if he were born the following day the stars would be in place for him to be a king. “Then,” Moncha said, “in the hope that my son may become a king, I will not bring him forth for twenty-four hours unless he come through my side!” And then she waded into the ford of the River Suir, beside her father’s dun, and there sat on a stone, and remained seated on the stone for twenty-four hours preventing the birth of her child. After a day of agony had passed, she climbed back onto the banks and gave birth to a son. She died soon after giving birth, perhaps from a ruptured uterus.
Oilill Olum * took the child in his arms, and with tears welling in his eyes, named him Fiachaidh Muilleathan * (pronounced Feeyah Mullehan), meaning Fiachaidh the Broad Head, since the child’s head had been molded by his mother’s voluntary obstruction of the labor process. Though his head soon appeared normal, the nickname stuck with Fiachaidh throughout his entire life and beyond.
Once Oilill Olum * discovered that his oldest and favorite son, Eoghan Mor, had unknowingly left issue, he swore Cormac Cas to honor a pact in which Cas would leave the throne to Fiachaidh Muilleathan upon his death and their two families would thereafter alternate holding the sovereignty of the kingdom. From that time forward all of the descendents of Eoghan Mor would be known as the “Eoghanacht” (the O’Sullivan clan and its various cadet branches). The descendants of Cormac Cas would be known as the Dalcassians (the O’Brien clan and its various cadet branches).
Oilill Olum * remained on the throne of Munster for a total of twenty-three years. His actual name was Aonghus, but he was branded with the unattractive nickname Oilill Olum *, which means ‘blemish of a cropped ear’ after being involved in a rather sordid affair. Apparently he had gotten into an altercation with a Tuatha de Danan named Eogabhal during which he killed him. He then added insult to injury by raping the man’s daughter, named Aine. While he was ravishing the young Tuatha wench, she bit off a good part of his ear and hence he earned this peculiar appellation. Aine not only cursed Aonghus in life, but she continues to haunt his progeny long after his death, for it is she who is one of the banshees that heralds the death of an O’Sullivan, a descendant of the senior line of Oilill Olum’s * ancestors.
Upon Oilill Olum’s * death Cas became king of Munster. When Cas died the descendants of Oilill Olum * honored his death wish and Fiachaidh Muilleathan ascended to the throne of the kingdom. At this time Cormac, son of Art, was trying to regain the title of Ard Ri for his line. King Luighaidh MacConn, after twenty-nine years of rule, was told by his druids that he would not survive another year if he did not leave Tara. He returned to his native Munster to live among his relatives.
Unfortunately for him, his Heberian half-siblings and their families had never forgiven him for Eoghan Mor’s death at the Battle of Magh Muchruimhe. He then traveled to Leinster where he was assassinated by Feircheas, a Heremonian under the command of Cormac MacArt. Rather than surrendering the throne to his master, however, Feircheas chose to take the throne of Ireland for himself. Cormac enlisted the aid of the mighty Fiachaidh Muilleathan of Munster and together they defeated Fearcheas at the Battle of Crionna. Cormac in this way earned the crown of Ard Ri. He became a great king and has been credited with writing Cormac’s Creed, an abbreviated form of which follows:
I was silent in the wilderness,
I listened in the forest,
I was talkative among a crowd,
I gazed at the stars,
I revealed no secrets,
I was humble in the mead hall,
I was gentle towards allies,
I was fierce in battle,
I was weak to the weak,
I was strong to the strong,
I was a physician to the sick,
I was wise but not arrogant,
I was powerful but rarely promised,
I was adventurous but not venturesome,
I was young but respected the old,
I was a skilled warrior but never boasted,
I would not speak of anyone in his absence,
I would praise but not reproach,
I would give but not ask,
For by living in this way
The young become wise and warriors kingly.
In spite of possessing such obvious wisdom, Cormac did not always make wise decisions. One of his worst ideas was to tangle with his old ally Fiachaidh Muilleathan. A scarcity of meat developed in Ireland during Cormac’s reign and, having spent all of the rents of the provinces maintaining his court, palaces, and knights, the Ard Ri decided to levy a ‘king’s tax’ on the people of Munster. Ever since Mogha Nuadhat had defeated Conn of a Hundred Battles, the subjects of the southern half of Ireland, Leath Mogha, were exempt from any duties imposed by the high king. Cormac’s chief steward argued that not only should Fiachaidh and his people pay a tribute but, since Munster was actually two provinces in one, it should pay twice the tax the other provinces paid. Cormac sent envoys to Fiachaidh, who was king of Munster at this time, demanding from him the rent money for the ‘two’ provinces. Fiachaidh refused and sent word back to Cormac that he would not pay one penny more to him than that which was paid to his predecessors, that being nothing.
Cormac was furious with the answer and assembled a large force to invade Munster. He marched with his army to Druim Damhghaire in Munster, a place now called Cnoc Luinge, and camped. Fiachaidh soon arrived with his clan and blocked Cormac’s advance. While the two forces were locked in this standoff, Cormac had his Scottish druids conjure up some nasty spells to weaken the enemy. One of theses curses resulted in the drying up of all of the water sources available to the Munstermen.
With his men nearly dying of thirst, Fiachaidh summoned his own powerful druid, Mogh Ruith of Ciarraidhe Luachra. Mogh Ruith countered the spells of the enemy wizards and thrust a spear into the ground from which burst forth a spring of fresh water. The knights of Munster were relieved of their thirst and promptly initiated a surprise attack on Cormac’s army. They routed them quickly and chased the high king and his men out of Munster. They pursued them to Osruighe (Ossory), at which Cormac surrendered, sued for peace, and was forced to give pledges and securities that he would send hostages from Tara to Rath Naoi on Cnoc Rath Fionn (Knockgraffon), to Fiachaidh Muilleathan, to guarantee his compensating the Munstermen for the damages that his expedition had caused.
The seanachies record:
Fiachaidh Muilleathan, good the king,
From the land of Aibhle in Leitre Craoi,
Hostages from great Tara were sent him
To bright Rathfonn to Rath Naoi
Fiachaidh was also referred to by the annalists as Fiachaidh Fear-da-Liach, meaning Fiachaidh ‘of the sad events’. This name is in reference to his father’s untimely death, his mother’s fatal sacrifice for his future, and Fiachaidh’s own demise.
As was previously stated, only two of Oilill’s sons survived the horrible Battle of Magh Muchruimhe, Cas and Cian. Cas was the ancestor of the O’Briens and Cian was the ancestor of the O’Carrolls. While the O’Sullivan clan was the main tribe of the Eoghancht (descended from Eoghan), the O’Brien clan was the main tribe of the Dalcassians (descended from Cas). Cian’s grandson, Connla Clamh (and Fiachaidh’s nephew), was sent to the court of Cormac MacArt as a boy for his royal education, as was the custom for young nobles at the time. While he was a guest at the palace of Tara he contracted an unusual skin disorder that resembled leprosy or the mange. None of Cormac’s druids were able to cure him of this infliction and in desperation he approached the high king himself for any suggestions. Cormac, being both wise and angry with Fiachaidh, told Connla that there would be no cure of the malady until he bathed himself in the blood of a king.
When Connla returned to his uncle’s kingdom, Munster, he bade his time until an opportunity to be ‘cured’ arose. One day Connla visited Fiachaidh at his palace at Knockgraffon. He was welcomed without suspicion and was invited to accompany the royal family for a stroll along the River Suir. When they had reached Ath Uiseal (now Ath Aiseal), Fiachaidh decided to take a dip and he waded out into the water. While he was swimming Connla took the king’s spear and mortally wounded him with it. The king’s knights jumped forward to kill Connla but Fiachaidh spent his last dying breath protecting his young nephew from his own family’s wrath. Cormac had indirectly gotten revenge for the sound beating that Fiachaidh had given him at Druim Damhghaire.
King Fiachaidh had two sons, Oilill Flann Mor and Oilill Flann Beag *.
According to the seanachies:
The sons of great Fiachaidh Muilleathan
were Oilill Flann Mor of the mead-drinking,
And Oilill Flann Beag of the hosts;
His progeny are great in Munster.
From this it appears that Oilill Flann Mor, the oldest son, was perhaps too fond of the drink. Whether or not his consumption of mead contributed to his lack of off-spring is unknown but he left no issue. In order to keep his place in history, he adopted his younger brother and left him his personal properties and his inheritance on condition that he be recorded between Fiachaidh Muilleathan and Oilill Flann Beag on the royal genealogical roll of Munster. This was agreed to and so he is listed in the Psalter of Cashel and in other ancient books. For this reason alcoholism is referred to as the ‘Curse of Flann Mor’ in O’Sullivan clan tradition.
Oilill Flann Beag had three sons, Lughaidh, Main Mun-Chain, and Daire Cearb. Lughaidh * was the oldest and inherited the crown of Munster and the lordship of Knockgraffon. Lughaidh is best known in history for his poor taste in women. His first queen, Bolgbhain Breathnach, was not well liked among the ancient Irish annalists and she is described as a “censorious woman”. She bore him a remarkable son, however, named Corc *. Once Lughaidh had rid himself of his first wife he married Daol, the grand daughter of Niall, the king of South Eile. When Corc had grown to be a young man his step-mother, Daol, fell in love with him. She tried to seduce him but, when he rejected her advances, she ran to the king and complained to him that Corc had raped her. The king believed this lie and banished his son from Ireland.
Corc, the legitimate crown prince of Munster, escaped to Scotland where he was warmly received by Fearadhach Fionn, a.k.a. Fionn-Chormac, king of Alba. The young Irish nobleman became very popular among the Scottish royal court and some annalists claim that he had children with Moingfhionn, the king’s daughter. This is not confirmed by the Scottish records, however.
While Corc was in Scotland, the crown of Munster passed into the possession of Criomthann, a nobleman from a cadet line of Fiachaidh Muilleathan’s royal house. Remarkably, through the intrigues of the ancient Laws of Tanistry, Criomthann was appointed high king of Ireland. This was the first time in fourteen generations that a Heberian held the throne of Ard Ri. This illustrated the perpetual claim to the kingship that the descendants of the main line of Heber possessed.
Once Criomthann ascended to the throne, he had to abdicate his position of king of Munster by law. He appointed his foster-son, Conall Eachluaith, a descendant of Cas (the Dalcassians), to replace himself. This decision displeased the descendants of Eoghan (the Eoghanacht), the senior branch of Criomthann’s own family. The Eoghanacht correctly maintained that the rightful heir to the throne of Munster would be Corc, the eldest son of King Lughaidh, who was the eldest son of King Oilill Flann Beag, who was the eldest son with issue of King Fiachaidh Muilleathan of Knockgraffon.
When his claim was challenged, Conall Eachluaith gracefully submitted the question to the tribal elders and brehons for arbitration. The clan authorities concluded that Corc, who had recently returned to Ireland, was indeed the rightful heir to the throne of Munster. Corc accepted the crown and held the sovereignty with great success.
Perhaps to avoid stirring up bad memories from his youth, Corc abandoned Knockgraffon, the traditional seat of the Heberian kings of Munster, and moved his court to Cashel.
“The ancient city of Cashel is called Cashel of the Kings, because it was, for a considerable period, the principal residence of the Milesian Kings of Munster; and the title, King of Cashel, was retained in aftertimes when the principal residence was not at Cashel, but elsewhere, such as Kincora.
In Milesian Ireland a candidate for the Crown should have three principal residences, and should belong to the Righ-damhna, or blood royal. Hence it came to pass that in the province of Munster alone there were about fifty royal duns or residences. This will be better understood when it is remembered that succession to the throne in Milesian Ireland was elective; it differed only from a modern republic in the facts that election was for life, and that the candidates were chosen from a select body; it should be remembered also that the Milesian period of Irish history, before the Anglo-Norman invasion, extended considerably over one thousand years, even according to moderate estimates.”
According to the Reverend John Gleeson, P.P., in Cashel of the Kings.
Knockgraffon (or Cnoc Rath Fionn a.k.a. Cnoc Graffon and Rath Naoi) is listed in the Book of Rights as a royal seat of the kings of Munster. While it is most associated by the annalists with Fiachaidh Muilleathan, it was certainly a royal residence prior to his birth. It continued to be the primary castle for King Oilill Flann Beag and King Lughaidh, Fiachaidh’s successors.
The Legend of Knockgraffon, as related by Crofton Croker, reveals the ancient significance of this site, consisting of a very large motte (earthen mound) surrounded by a fosse. It was believed to be the entrance to the underground palace of the high king of the Sidhe (the fairy king). It is purported to be a very magical place. Knockgraffon has remained the principal seat of the O’Sullivan clan since the beginning of the first millennium. It was lost to the Normans in 1192 but it was later regained in 1998 by the author of this book. Today it is still in the possession of the O’Sullivan MacCragh family, the senior line of the O’Sullivan clan. Few families in the world can boast an officially recorded lordly association with a piece of property for nearly 2,000 years.
The Legend of Knockgraffon
By Crofton Croker
“There was once a poor man who lived in the fertile glen of Aherlow, at the foot of the gloomy Galtee mountains, and he had a great hump on his back: he looked just as if his body had been rolled up and placed upon his shoulders: and his head was pressed down with the weight so much, that his chin, when he was sitting, used to rest upon his knees for support. The country people were rather shy of meeting him in any lonesome place, for though, poor creature, he was as harmless and as inoffensive as a new-born infant, yet his deformity was so great, that he scarcely appeared to be a human being, and some ill-minded persons had set strange stories about him afloat. He was said to have a great knowledge of herbs and charms; but certain it was that he had a mighty skilful hand in plaiting straw and rushes into hats and baskets, which was the way he made his livelihood.
Lusmore, for that was the nickname put upon him by reason of his always wearing a sprig of the fairy cap, or lusmore (“the great herb” - Digitalis purpurea), in his little straw hat, would ever get a higher penny for his plaited work than any one else, and perhaps that was the reason why some one, out of envy, had circulated the strange stories about him. Be that as it may, it happened that he was returning one evening from the pretty town of Cahir towards Cappagh, and as little Lusmore walked very slowly, on account of the great hump upon his back, it was quite dark when he came to the old moat of Knockgraffon, which stood on the right hand side of his road. Tired and weary was he, and no ways comfortable in his own mind at thinking how much farther he had to travel, and that he should be walking all the night; so he sat down under the moat to rest himself; and began looking mournfully enough upon the moon, which,
“Rising in clouded majesty, at length.
Apparent Queen, unveiled her peerless light
And o’er tile dark her silver mantle threw.”
Presently there rose a wild strain of unearthly melody upon the ear of little Lusmore; he listened, and he thought that he had never heard such ravishing music before. It was like the sound of many voices, each mingling and blending with the other so strangely, that they seemed to he one, though all singing different strains, and the words of the song were these:
Dia Luain, Dia Mairt, Dia Luain, Dia Mairt, Dia Luain, Dia Mairt, when there would be a moment’s pause, and then the round of melody went on again.
Lusmore listened attentively, scarcely drawing his breath, lest he might lose the slightest note. He now plainly perceived that the singing was within the moat, and, though at first it had charmed him so much, he began to get tired of hearing the same round sung over and over so often without any change; so availing himself of the pause when the Dia Luain, Dia Mairt, had been sung three times, he took up the tune and raised it with the words “augus Dia Ceadaoineia”, and then went on singing with the voices inside of the moat, Dia Luain, Dia Mairt, finishing the melody when the pause again came, with augus Dia Ceadaoineia (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday).
The fairies within Knockgraffon, for the song was a fairy melody, when they heard this addition to their tune, were so much delighted, that with instant resolve it was determined to bring the mortal among them, whose musical skill so far exceeded theirs, and little Lusmore was conveyed into their company with the eddying speed of a whirlwind.
Glorious to behold was the sight that burst upon him as he came down through the moat, twirling round and round and round with the lightness of a straw, to the sweetest music that kept time to his motion. The greatest honor was then paid him, for he was put up above all the musicians, and he had servants ‘tending upon him, and every thing to his heart’s content, and a hearty welcome to all; and in short he was made as much of as if he had been the first man in the land.
Presently Lusmore saw a great consultation going forward among the fairies, and, notwithstanding all their civility, he felt very much frightened, until one, stepping out from the rest, came up to him, and said,
Doubt not, nor deplore,
For the hump which you bore
On your back is no more!
Look down on the floor,
And view it, Lusmore!”
When these words were said, poor little Lusmore felt himself so light, and so happy, that he thought he could have bounded at one jump over the moon, like the cow in the history of the cat and the fiddle; and he saw, with inexpressible pleasure, his hump tumble down upon the ground from his shoulders. He then tried to lift up his head, and he did so with becoming caution, fearing that he might knock it against the ceiling of the grand hall where he was; he looked round and round again with the greatest wonder and delight upon every thing, which appeared more and more beautiful; and, overpowered at beholding such a resplendent scene, his head grew dizzy, and his eyesight became dim. At last he fell into a sound sleep, and when he awoke, he found that it was broad daylight, the sun shining brightly, the birds singing sweet and that he was lying just at the foot of the moat of Knockgraffon, with the cows and sheep grazing peaceably round about him. The first thing Lusmore did, after saying his prayers, was to put his hand behind to feel for his hump, but no sign of one was there on his back, and he looked at himself with great pride, for he had now become a well-shaped dapper little fellow; and more than that, he found himself in a full suit of new clothes, which he concluded the fairies had made for him.
Towards Cappagh he went, stepping out as lightly, and springing up at every step as if he had been all his life a dancing-master. Not a creature who met Lusmore knew him without his hump, and he had great work to persuade every one that he was the same man - in truth he was not, so as outward appearance went.
Of course it was not long before the story of Lusmore’s hump got about, and a great wonder was made of it. Through the country, for miles round, it was the talk of every one, high and low. One morning as Lusmore was sitting contented enough at his cabin door, up came an old woman to him, and asked if he could direct her to Cappagh?
“I need give you no directions, my good woman,” said Lusmore, “for this is Cappagh; and who do you want here?”
“I have come,” said the woman, “out of Decie’s country, in the county of Waterford, looking after one Lusmore, who, I have heard tell, had his hump taken off by the fairies: for there is a son of a gossip of mine has got a hump on him that will be his death and may be, if he could use the same charm as Lusmore, the hump may be taken off him. And now I have told you the reason of my coming so far: ‘tis to find out about this charm, if I can.”
Lusmore, who was ever a good-natured little fellow, told the woman all the particulars, how he had raised the tune for the fairies at Knockgraffon, how his hump had been removed from his shoulders, and how he had got a new suit of clothes into the bargain. The woman thanked him very much, and then went away quite happy and easy in her own mind. When she came back to her gossip’s house, in the county Waterford, she told her every thing that Lusmore had said, and they put the little hump-backed man, who was a peevish and cunning creature from his birth, upon a car, and took him all the way across the country. It was a long journey, but they did not care for that, so long as the hump was taken from off him; and they brought him, just at nightfall, and left him under the old moat of Knockgraffon.
Jack Madden, for that was the humpy man’s name, had not been sitting there long when he heard the tune going on within the moat much sweeter than before ; for the fairies were singing it the way Lusmore had settled their music for them, and the song was going on: Dia Luain. Dia Mairt, Dia Luain, Dia Mairt, Dia Luain. Dia Mairt, augus Dia Ceadaoineia, without ever stopping. Jack Madden, who was in a great hurry to get quit of his hump, never thought of waiting until the fairies had done, or watching for a fit opportunity to raise the tune higher again than Lusmore had: so having heard them sing it over seven times without stopping, out he bawls, never minding the time, or the humor of the tune, or how he could bring his words in properly, augus Dia Ceadaoineia, augus Dia Deardaoin, (and Thursday) thinking that if one day was good, two were better; and that, if Lusmore had one new suit of clothes given to him, he should have two.
No sooner had the words passed his lips than he was taken up and whisked into the moat with prodigious force; and the fairies came crowding round about him with great anger, screeching and screaming, and roaring out, “who spoiled our tune? who spoiled our tune?” and one stepped up to him above all the rest, and said-
“Jack Madden! Jack Madden
Your words came so bad in
the tune we feel glad in;-
This castle you’re had in,
That your life we may sadden:
Here’s two humps for Jack Madden!”
And twenty of the strongest fairies brought Lusmore’s hump, and put it down upon poor Jack’s back, over his own, where it became fixed as firmly as if it was nailed on with twelve-penny nails, by the best carpenter that ever drove one. Out of their castle they then kicked him, and in the morning when Jack Madden’s mother and her gossip came to look after their little man, they found him half dead, lying at the foot of the moat, with the other hump upon his back. Well to be sure, how they did look at each other! but they were afraid to say any thing, lest a hump might be put upon their own shoulders: home they brought the unlucky Jack Madden with them, as downcast in their hearts and their looks as ever two gossips were; and what through the weight of his other hump, and the long journey, he died soon after, leaving, they say, his heavy curse to any one who would go to listen to fairy tunes again.”
Nathfraoch *, Corc’s oldest son, did not immediately succeed his father to the throne of Munster and spent much of his life at Knockgraffon. When Conall Eachluaith agreed to surrender the crown in deference to Corc, it was with the stipulation that upon Corc’s death the title would be passed over to Conall’s line, and thereafter alternated between the two noble branches. This arrangement between the Eoghanacht and the Dalcassians was originally decreed by King Oilill Olum *, their mutual ancestor. When Corc died it is recorded that Conall himself was still alive and assumed the throne. Once Conall died, Nathfraoch moved from his palace at Knockgraffon to that of Cashel.
Aonghus *, oldest son of Nathfraoch, followed his father to the throne of Munster and the lordship of Knockgraffon and Cashel after the Dalcassian successor, Blod expired. During his lifetime he became the first Roman Christian king of Cashel, having been converted by Saint Patrick himself. There is a unique legend associated with the king’s conversion. When Patrick visited Munster, King Aonghus came to meet him at Magh Feimhean in the northern Deise territory. He then invited him to the royal palace at Cashel in the Eoghanacht lands, now called Middlethird. In front of his family, royal court, and local subjects he agreed to accept the faith of Rome. Saint Patrick thrust the pointed end of his crosier into the ground and started the baptismal ceremony. When the ritual was finished Patrick looked down and realized that he had impaled the king’s foot with his crosier unintentionally. He quickly jerked the staff out of his foot, apologized profusely, and asked Aonghus why he hadn’t complained. The wincing king shrugged his shoulders and explained that he thought that it was all part of the ceremony.
Aonghus proved to be very generous to the alien church, levying a three pence tax per year on all of his subjects in the kingdom. This amounted to five hundred cows, five hundred balls of iron, five hundred mantles, five hundred inner garments, and five hundred sheep given to Patrick and his clergy every three years. In addition, Aonghus supported two bishops, ten priests, and seventy-two young clerics in his royal court for the saying of Mass. Saint Patrick remained at Cashel for seven or more years and it was there that he first used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the skeptical pagan Munstermen.
Now back in the time of Oilill Olum *, a non-Heberian tribe named the Deise ran afoul of the high king and was dispossessed of its hereditary territory. Since the Deise were relatives of Queen Sadhbh, King Oilill Olum * gave them some land in Munster where they settled and remained until the reign of Aonghus. After seven generations they were beginning to become cramped in their reservation along the Suir River. They asked king Aonghus to expand their area but he refused.
The chief of the Deise then decided to unleash his secret weapon, Princess Eithne (pronounced Enya). About seventeen years earlier, Criomhthann, the king of Leinster, sent his infant daughter to the Deise for safe-keeping in the spirit of fosterage that was so common among the Gaelic Celts. The druids of this tribe divined that the child would some day be a queen and so fed her a diet of young children ‘to enhance her beauty’. And so Princess Eithne, of the royal house of Leinster, was raised by the Deise of Munster on human flesh.
Princess Eithne did grow up to be a young woman of great beauty, albeit under gruesome circumstances. When the Deise introduced her to King Aonghus he immediately was smitten by her. After some negotiation, she was given to him in marriage in return for more territory. So among its kings and queens, witches and wizards, pirates and brigands, the O’Sullivan bloodline also includes a cannibal.
After a long and popular rule, King Aonghus and Queen Eithne were both killed at the Battle of Ceall Osnadh (Kelliston), four miles east of Leithghlinn (in the Barony of Carlow), by her own people, the Leinstermen. The year was 489 according to the Annals of the Four Masters:
“Died the branch, the spreading tree of gold,
Aonghus the laudable, son of Nathfraoch,
His prosperity was cut off by Illann,
In the battle of Ceall-Osnadh the foul.”
The “spreading tree of gold” alludes to the fact that Aonghus was the common ancestor of the O’Sullivan clan, the MacCarthy clan, The O’Keefe clan, and the O’Callaghan clan.
Due to the gothic circumstances surrounding Eithne’s childhood, she was not very popular among the subsequent Christian annalists. In fact, she may be the first recorded victim of slanderous Christian propaganda in Irish history. One story that was invented about her reported that at a feast in the home of a local chieftain she begged her host to have sex with her. He refused and raced his pious self to Saint Keirnan to tell him what had transpired. Saint Keirnan went to the queen and fed her some magic blackberries. She immediately saw the light and confessed her sin. He forgave her in the name of Christ but warned her that he could not stay her divine penance, which was to be slaughtered with her husband in battle. Fabulous Christian interpolations like this have fueled the criticism of the credibility and accuracy of the Irish annals. They also demonstrate the stark contrast between the loving druidic god, Go Lear, and the spiteful Christian god, Yahweh.
This same Eithne is believed to be one of the three banshees associated with the O’Sullivan clan. The two others are Queen Scota, the wife of King Milesius of Spain, and Aine, the Tuatha de Danan woman who Oilill Olum raped. The wail of Eithne is reported to be one of anguish and pain. The wail of Scota is one of grief and sorrow. The wail of Aine is an angry and shrill screech of revenge.
Felim *, Aonghus’s oldest son, was the second Christian king of Munster and lord of Knockgraffon and Cashel. He was one of twenty-four sons sired by the prolific and energetic Aonghus. Twelve of the sons entered the priesthood while the other twelve fathered many clans. One of the sons, Breasail, was the ancestor of Cormac Mac Culenan, the thirty-ninth Christian king of Munster and author of the ancient Irish tract, “The Psalter of Cashel”.
The Golden Age of Gaelic Culture
Felim * was born c. 455 AD, at the dawning of the Golden Age of Gaelic culture. From the time of his birth until the arrival of the barbaric Vikings at the end of the eighth century, Irish law, music, poetry, medicine, philosophy, religion, and art flourished.
This period of high culture in Ireland coincided with the gradual demise of the Roman Empire and the descent of Britain and continental Europe into the Dark Ages. Criomthann  (pronounced Creevan), Felim’s oldest son, never sat on the throne of Cashel. He spent his life at Knockgraffon, the family’s ancestral home, enjoying life as an Irish nobleman during Ireland’s golden age. Of course, Criomthann would have been the chief of his family, but it is doubtful that he would have been considered a king as such.
During the reign of Criomthann , in the years 535 and 536 the entire world experienced a bizarre aberration in climate. Procopius, a Byzantine historian recorded, “during this year a most dread portent took place. For the sun gave forth its light without brightness… and it seemed exceedingly like the sun in eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear.”
Unseasonably low temperatures were experienced, causing it to snow in the summer. The sky remained cloudy for months, resulting in night-like darkness in the middle of the day. Due to the paucity of sunlight the crops failed and the people of Ireland went hungry.
Modern day analysis of tree ring formation performed on oaks in Ireland, Sweden, and Finland all showed little or no growth for the year 536. Scientists have speculated that a volcanic eruption in Indonesia or Papua New Guinea may have been the cause for this strange weather. The Annals of the Four Masters reports an extraordinary universal plague through the world, in the year 543, which “swept away the noblest third part of the human race.”
Criomthann’s oldest son, Aodh Dubh * (pronounced Hugh Doove and meaning “Black Hugh”), needed to wait in line for his turn to be king. Aodh Caomh, the Delcassian successor, needed to give several of his relatives and principal nobles to Black Hugh as hostages to secure the Heberian bloodline of its rightful succession. Once Aodh Caomh had expired, Aodh Dubh became king and the hostages were released from Knockgraffon and returned unharmed.
Finghin * (pronounced Fineen and meaning “noble birth”), oldest son of Aodh Dubh, was the fourteenth Christian king of Munster and the last in the O’Sullivan bloodline to ever wear a crown. He was an unusually gallant and intrepid king. He was renowned to be gracious and cordial in peace, but terrible and fierce in war. His character is reminiscent of the Irish wolfhound, often described as “gentle when stroked, ferocious when provoked”. He was particularly attentive and attractive to women as is evidenced by this passage in the Psalter of Cashel:
Finghin, the fierce, the active,
Reckless, intrepid to the last
Kind and gentle towards women,
Alas! in bonds of love held fast.
The “bonds of love” are in reference to Finghin’s wife, Mor Mumhan (pronounced More Moon and meaning ‘Mor of Munster’), purported to be the most beautiful and desirable woman in all of Ireland at the time.
During Finghin’s reign, the bards of Ireland had accumulated an immense amount of power and had become known for their greed and avarice. They had grown in number and had become an intolerable financial burden on the royal courts of Ireland. They abused the natural generosity and hospitality that the nobles traditionally extended to them. Worst of all, they had begun composing sarcastic and slanderous poems for blackmail and revenge, rather than strictly promoting truth and accuracy as mandated by their own code.
The high king called for an island-wide meeting, the Convention of Drom Ceat in 573 AD, with the first order of business being to suppress the lazy and covetous bards. This was the first meeting of the various states of Ireland since the abandonment of Tara and its biannual feis (pronounced ‘fesh’). Finghin, along with the other provincial kings, participated in the session. St. Columkille of Iona attended the convention and proposed an amendment whereby each clan chieftain would be allowed to maintain one official poet to truthfully record the family history and genealogy. All other poets would be denied financial support from the noble houses. The amendment passed and the credibility and accuracy of the ancient Irish annals and genealogical tracts were once again ensured.
When Finghin passed away in 619 AD, his son, Seachnasagh , was too young to assume the throne. Finghin’s younger brother Failbhe Flann was therefore elected as king. From that point on the most senior line of the Eoghanacht nation was deprived of their rightful crown. The O’Sullivan clan descended from Finghin while the MacCarthy clan descended from Failbhe Flann.
The Eoghanacht nation was not pleased with the accession of Failbhe Flann to the throne. In the Book of Munster it was recorded:
To be without Finghin, to be without Mor
To Cashel is cause of sorrow;
It is the same to be without anything
If Failbhe Flann be the king.
Though no descendants of Finghin were ever elected as king, they were always recognized as the senior sept of the clan. Their chiefs were given a permanent place on the derbfine of the Eoghanacht tuatha, confirming their continued eligibility to wear the crown. In fact, in the beginning of the thirteenth century, nearly six hundred years after the death of Finghin, there was a grass-roots movement among the Eoghanacht to restore the tribe of Finghin, by then known as the O’Sullivan clan, to the throne of Munster. The powerful MacCarthy clan thwarted this plan by assassinating all of the eligible adult males of the O’Sullivan royal family.
Furthermore, no one could assume the throne of Munster without being first recognized by the chief of the tribe of Finghin. As late as 1598 a duly elected MacCarthy Mor was deprived the kingship by the O’Sullivan Mor who simply refused to inaugurate him by not “giving the rod” of authority.
Under Brehon Law, upon the extinction of the MacCarthy Mor line, the throne of Munster was to revert back to the O’Sullivan Mor. Unfortunately, by the time the MacCarthy Mor line ended, English law had been imposed, sparking an illegitimate internecine battle for the crown among the various cadet branches of the MacCarthy clan.
An anonymous song dedicated to Finghin is found in the annals and is here shared as translated by Dr. Sigerson and published in Cashel of the Kings by the Reverend John Gleeson, PP:
THE HEATHER GLEN
There blooms a bonnie flower
Up the heather glen,
Tho bright in sun, in shower
‘Tis just as bright again.
I never can pass by it,
I never dare go nigh it,
My heart it won’t be quiet
Up the heather glen.
Sing oh! the blooming heather,
Oh! the heather glen,
Where fairest fairies gather
To lure in mortal men.
I never can pass by it,
I never dare go nigh it,
My heart it won’t be quiet
Up the heather glen.
There sings a bonnie linnet
Up the heather glen,
The voice has magic in it,
Too sweet for mortal men,
It brings joy down before us
With winsome, mellow chorus,
But flies far, too far o’er us,
Up the heather glen.
Oh! might I pull that flower
That’s blooming in the glen.
Nae sorrows that could lower
Would make me sad again.
And might I catch that linnet,
My heart, my hopes are in it,
Oh! heaven itself I’d win it,
Up the heather glen.
Mor Mumhan died in 628, according to the Annals of the Four Masters.
Little is known of the six subsequent chiefs of the family of Finghin, who lived and reigned in the seventh and eighth centuries. Some annalists claim that Seachnasagh  eventually sat on the throne of Munster while others disagree.
606 Birth of Seachnasagh , lord of Knockgraffon.
641 Birth of Fiachra na Gaircedh , lord of Knockgraffon.
In 664 a great pestilence killed many people in Ireland and England. It was called the ‘Buidhe Connail’, or the yellow plague, in the Annals of the Four Masters. In the same year an eclipse of the sun is reported to have occurred on the third day of May. Modern astronomy reveals that the eclipse actually occurred on May 1st, attesting to the astounding accuracy of these ancient annals.
The plague returned in 666, killing many nobles and holy men.
674 Birth of Flann Noba , lord of Knockgraffon.
In 684 Ireland experienced a very severe winter, with many of its lakes and rivers freezing over. The Annals of the Four Masters claims that the sea separating Ireland from Scotland also froze. Following this many livestock died throughout Europe.
In the year 690 many of the Irish and English chronicles record that it rained blood from the sky and a wolf was heard to speak in a human voice.
714 Birth of Dubhinracht , lord of Knockgraffon.
In 739 a whale was beached on the southern shores of County Down attracting much interest among the Irish.
754 Birth of Morough , lord of Knockgraffon.
A devastating thunderstorm, named the Lamhchomhairt, or clapping hands, struck Ireland in 767, causing much damage and fear throughout the island. Lightning and tornadoes destroyed much property and killed many people. In 770, Munster was invaded by Donnchadh, son of Domhnall, king of Ireland, and many Munstermen were slaughtered.
During the Dark Ages (410 – 800), Ireland flourished under its Gaelic overlords. For the most part, the clans were at peace, the crops were plentiful, and merry music filled the halls of the many kings and chieftains. Morough , the leader of Finghin’s tribe, would have been about forty years old when news reached Knockgraffon that a strangely decorated boat had landed at Lindisfarne and a band of huge, yellow-haired, brigands had pillaged the monastery there. It was 793 and Artri mac Cathail had just been inaugurated as king of Munster. Morough was most likely summoned to Cashel by mac Cathail for a meeting of the chiefs to discuss the tales of rape, murder, and plunder that were circulating around the island.
Two years later another raid occurred on the island of Lambay, off the coast of Dublin. The Age of Viking Tyranny (793 – 1014) had begun and the Golden Age of Ireland came to a brutal end.
Savage warriors from the fjords of Norway (“Finn-gall”, the fair foreigners) and the ports of Denmark (“Dubh-gall”, the dark foreigners) had found their way to the pastoral Irish shores. The Latin name for them was “Morte Mar”, or “death from the sea”.
At first the Vikings only attacked remote, unarmed, monastic communities; ravaging the holy women, slaughtering the monks, stealing the gold, and burning the priceless historical and religious manuscripts that they deemed to be worthless. In 831 the stakes were raised when a Viking chieftain named Thorgest arrived, intent on seizing land for settlements in Ulster, Connacht, and Meath. The Vikings had evolved from looters to invaders.
794 Birth of Moghtigern , lord of Knockgraffon, the O’Sullivan Mor.
In 815 a severe winter storm paralyzed Ireland “from Christmas to Shrovetide.”
834 Birth of Maolura , lord of Knockgraffon, the O’Sullivan Mor.
874 Birth of Eochaid (An Ui Suilleabhainn) , lord of Knockgraffon.
Eochaid McMaolura , prince of Knockgraffon, was the first person in history to be associated in writing with the name O’Sullivan. He was born about 874 AD, the eldest son of Maolura, a Milesian nobleman who was seventh in descent from King Finghin of Cashel. Since Finghin’s younger brother, Failbhe Flann, had assumed the throne of Munster after his death in 619 AD, the descendants of the senior branch of the royal family surrendered Cashel and returned to their ancestral estates in Knockgraffon, now a picturesque townland of Tipperary bordered by the River Suir. Knockgraffon was the original royal seat of the kings of Munster until Corc moved the capital to the imposing rock of Cashel in 375 AD.
Unfortunately, a contemporary account of how Eochaid earned the appellation “Sullivan” does not exist. The only record of this event is comprised of various legends, theories, and conjectures that were written centuries after the fact. Consequently, the true meaning of the name has been obscured by the passing of time and the sundry mistaken proposals of amateur etymologists.