CELT document T301019

Goire Conaill Chernaig i Crúachain ocus Aided Ailella ocus Conaill Chernaig


Goire Conaill Chernaig i Crúachain ocus Aided Ailella ocus Conaill Chernaig

The following tale is here edited and translated for the first time from the only two MSS in which it has come down to us, the Edinburgh codex XL, pp. 3–5 and H. 2, 17, pp. 475b–476b. As the two MSS do not agree so closely as to allow the construction of a critical text, they are both printed in extenso.

The Edinburgh version has an introduction containing what is sometimes referred to as the Gaire Conaill (LL 211b, 8 in the versified dindshenchas of Mag Luirg), or the Goire Conaill Cernaig i Crúachain 'The Cherishing of Conall Cernach in Crúachu' (Rev. Celt. 15, p. 473, line 2). It is illegible in several places.

The story here told belongs to the heroic cycle of Irish Legend. It is mentioned in the list of tales of that cycle in the Book of Leinster, p. 189c, 36. But the oldest form of the tale has not reached us; for the versions here printed were evidently rewritten from older materials at a later age (13th century?), a fact apparent both from the language and from the general tenor of the narrative. Still there is no reason to assume that the older version differed materially in its contents from these later ones.


Edited by Kuno Meyer

Whole text


The Cherishing of Conall Cernach and The Deaths of Ailill and of Conall Cernach

There was a fierce man of the men of Ulster, Conall the Victorious, the son of Amargen, the best warrior that was in Ireland. Great was his hardihood. He was a man who never from his childhood so long as there was a spear in his hand went without the head of a Connaughtman with him. 1 He was in deadly feud 2 against the men of Connaught, for they had killed his brothers. However, there was not a man of the men of Connaught, whose son or whose brother or whose father he had not slain. And he killed three sons of Ailill and Medb, and it is he also who killed Belchú of Brefne 3 and his three sons, and it is he who killed the seven sons of Magu of Connaught, even Anluan son of Magu, and Docha 4 son of Mágu, and Mac Corb son of Mágu, and Find son of Mágu, and Scandlán 5 son of Mágu, and Cet, and Ailill son of Mágu. And it is he who killed Ailill son of Mata Muresc of Connaught, for Mata Muresc was his (i. e. Ailill's) mother, and he was the son of Ross the Red of Leinster. And he (i. e. Ailill) went eastward to contest the kingship of Leinster, and he seized the kingship of Connaught in the west on behalf of his mother, and from the land of his mother the son's name 6 (i. e. mac Mata) was bestowed upon him in the west.

At last however, debility and sadness fell upon Conall the Victorious, after his foster-brothers Conchobar and Cuchulinn had been slain, so that great sorrow and misery and leprosy fell upon him, so that there was no strength in his feet to go  p.107 about. And he considered with himself to which household he should go to be cherished and to be fed.

“Ailill and Medb, truly”, says he; “they are the couple that are able 7 to provide for me. But then my enmity towards them is great. However, great as it is, I must needs go there.”

Thereupon alone he went until he reached Rath Cruachan, and went into the rath where Ailill and Medb were. And Ailill bids him welcome. “'Tis welcome to thee”, says Medb, “O Conall ..... Welcome indeed shalt thou have”, says Medb. “A house shall be made (for thee) upon the rampart of the rath.”

A house is made for him, and a pig and a bullock-calf and the leavings of Medb and Ailill and twelve cakes and a wether and the caldron of broth 8 are taken (to him), and he consumed all that at one sitting. He makes ... the rampart of the rath, and he has his fill every night from the men of Connaught, and before morning he would come home.

In that wise were they feeding him a full year, and giving him the same feast as that. This was what used to amuse the men of Connaught every day, he to relate to them how he had killed their sons and their brothers and their fathers. The men of Connaught would bring their spears to him to be set 9 and to be chipped, 10 and he would set them before any cow arose.

Now, great was the power and the honour and dignity of Medb, and great was her desire about every thing, to wit, she used to change thirty men every day, 11 or go with Fergus once. Her husband, however, was of the same age as she, even Ailill, a man without blemish, to wit, without jealousy, without fear, without niggardliness. 12 Good was the shape and the strength and the judgment of that man, viz. when a man was playing against Ailill, a servant of Medb's would come to summon him to a meeting with her. And this is what Ailill used to say: “Wait a little till the play is ended.” He also used to have meetings with other women in disregard of his wife, and she was jealous on that score, so that she took Conall Cernach into her household (as a watch) on Ailill, lest he should do such a thing against her permission.

One day early in the morning on May-day Ailill was meeting a woman at the side of the fortress. Conall however was setting spears on the rath. Medb also went out, for she knew their  p.108 keeping company. 13 There was a hazel-bush by the side of the couple moving, and Medb saw that. “Well, Conall”, says Medb, “Conall the Victorious has been thy name till to-day. Hence forth thy name shall be Conall the Wicked Wretch. 14 While thou wast Conall the Victorious, no one would have dared to violate thy guarantee. 15 To-day that outrage yonder is close to thee.” 16 Then said Conall: “Truly, here is a revenge for Fergus!” says he, and aims 17 the spear at them so that it passed into Ailill from one side to the other, or maybe he wounded him in an empty house through the thatch above. 18 Every one came to him, and they carry him with them into the house.

“Who has done it?” all say. “Conall did it”, says Ailill. “Woe! it is not true!” says Conall. “It is true”, says Medb. “If it is true then”, says he, “there is revenge for Fergus in it.” “Evil for thee what thou hast done”, says Ailill. “to do evil to me. 19 Take thyself away from my face before I die. For after my death the men of Connaught will kill thee.” “Enough for me”, says Conall, “if I reach my chariot in front of the fortress.” “I shall not die till then”, says Ailill.

He went into his chariot. Forthwith Ailill dies yonder (in the house). Then however the men of Connaught hurled their spears at him vehemently. He slays a great number of them. There was a geis on him to go into a ford without its being strained after him. There were miners washing ore in the river above him, and the troubled water reached him, so that it held him fast before every body. Then he fell by them after having wrought a slaughter of Connaughtmen. The three Red-wolves of Martine 20 of the Fir Maige (Fermoy) it was who cut off his head; they were from Erne, and they were in the household of Ailill. And in revenge for Curoi they cut off his head. And while they were slaying him, Medb arrived in the pursuit. It was then Medb said:

  1. O pale head, which after the decision (of the battle)
    The three Red-wolves of Martine carry off,
    It is the face of a hero ...,
    The head of Conall, son of Amargen.
They took the head of Conall with them in revenge for Cúrói, whose head the men of Ulster had carried with them northward.  21 And the head is still in the west. Four one-year  p.109 old calves would fit in it, or four men playing fidchell, or a couple on a litter. 22 There is a prophecy for the men of Ulster that it shall be taken south again, and the same strength shall come to them again, if they drink milk 23 out of it. And hence is the saying: '“The destruction of Ulster by the destruction of Ulster.” 24 The Deaths of Ailill and of Conall the Victorious as far as that.

Kuno Meyer

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Title (uniform): Goire Conaill Chernaig i Crúachain ocus Aided Ailella ocus Conaill Chernaig

Title (translation, English Translation): The Cherishing of Conall Cernach in Crúachu and the Death of Ailill and Conall Cernach

Author: unknown

Editor: Kuno Meyer

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translated by: Kuno Meyer

Electronic edition compiled by: Beatrix Färber

Funded by: University College, Cork, School of History

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1. First draft.

Extent: 2690 words

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Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of the Department of History, University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland—http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2015

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: T301019

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

Source description

Manuscripts of the Irish text

  1. National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh MS. XL, p. 3--5. (Edited here by Meyer.)
  2. Dublin, Trinity College Library, MS 1319, olim H. 2. 17, p. 475b. (Edited by Meyer in a footnote on p. 104ff.)


  • See below.

The edition used in the digital edition

‘Goire Conaill Chernaig i Crúachain ocus Aided Ailella ocus Conaill Chernaig’ (1897). In: Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie‍ 1. Ed. by Kuno Meyer, pp. 106–109.

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  editor 	 = {Kuno Meyer},
  title 	 = {Goire Conaill Chernaig i Crúachain ocus Aided Ailella ocus Conaill Chernaig },
  journal 	 = {Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie},
  volume 	 = {1},
  address 	 = {Halle/Saale},
  publisher 	 = {Max Niemeyer},
  date 	 = {1897},
  pages 	 = {106–109}


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Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

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The present electronic text covers Kuno Meyer's translation on pp. 106–109. The endnotes are omitted.

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Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text.

Quotation: Direct speech is marked q.

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Creation: Translation by Kuno Meyer

Date: 1897

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  • Introduction and text are in English. (en)
  • Some words are in Irish. (ga)
  • Some words are in Latin. (la)

Keywords: tale; prose; medieval; Ulster cycle; translation

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  1. 2015-07-24: File converted from Nota Bene to XML, file proofed (2), markup updated and added to. Introduction added and proofed (1). TEI header created; file parsed; new SGML and HTML versions created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2015-07-24: Text captured and proof-read (1). (ed. Beatrix Färber)

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  1. Compare the description of Conall Cernach in LL p. 107a, 18 sqq. 🢀

  2. dorala fri Connacht co mór. Compare the phrase dorala itir in the following passages: dorala eturru ic imbert fidchilli ⁊ Fergus 'he and Fergus fell out while playing fidchell', LL 103b, 39; noco-tarla etorro i Temair Lúachra immon muic Slanga 'until they fell out about the pig of Slánga in Temair Lúachra', Fotha Catha Chnuacha, 8; dorala itir Luicet ⁊ Aed mac Morna isin chath 'Luicet and Aed met in hostile encounter in the battle', Macgnim. Finn, 2. 🢀

  3. Belchú of Brefne. Cf. the following lines in Cinaed úa Hartacáin's poem, LL p. 31b, 25:
    Belchu Breifne cona chlaind
    Góita da cherddaib Conaill,

    and see Jubainville, Catalogue, p. 180. 🢀

  4. Docha. His name is written Dóche in LL. 55a, 40. 🢀

  5. Scandlán. He is called Scandal in LL55a, 40, and in the following quatrain from Egerton 1782, fo. 52a, 1:
    Conall Cernach clu tria cath
    robi secht macu Magach:
    Mug-Corb, Cett, Doch rosding,
    Scannal, En, AnnlÚan, Ailill.

  6. sluinned an maic, lit. 'the cognomen of the son' = patronymic. Cf. Rawlinson B502, fo. 73a, 2: Buchet a ainm, mac hui Inblæ a slonnud. 🢀

  7. dia ticfa mo lesugud. The phrase tic dím in older Irish has the same meaning as the modern tig liom 'I am able', 'I can'. Cf. ní thic dím a n-áirim uli 'I cannot count them all, LU 39a, 12. ní thig dún a rád, 'we cannot tell', LL.29 b, 2. ni thicfad don domun uli L Br. 145a, etc. 🢀

  8. coire anbruithi. Cf. anbruich .i. an uisci ⁊ broth Harl. 5280, fo. 11b. anbruith 'broth' is a living word. See Hyde, Beside the Fire, p. 8, 31. 🢀

  9. indsma. See Aisling Meic Conglinne Index s. v. 🢀

  10. snaide, verbal noun of snaidim 'I chip, cut', Windisch Wörterbuch🢀

  11. Cf. Medb's own words in LL 54a, 9: dáig ni raba-sa riam can fer ar scáth araile ocum 'for I have never been without having one man after another with me'. 🢀

  12. Taken from TBC, LL 53b, 35: fer cen neóit, cen ét, cen omun. 🢀

  13. cétlud. The meaning of this word, in which cét- is evidently of the same origin as in cétbuid, cétmuinter, seems to be 'keeping company, companionship', as in the Tripartite Life, p. 210, 19: cetlud do fri ríg, which Stokes renders by 'companionship with a king'. According to the Tecosca Cormaic (LL 344b), cétlud fri cách 'keeping company with everybody' is a sign of folly. The word is also used of sexual relation, or cohabitation, and that seems its sense in our passage. Cf. LL 84a, 17:
    in ingen, cid cáem a cruth,
    nochostibrea re cétluth

    Saltair na Rann, l. 5979:
    feib ba bés bith i cétlud
    dogréss dóib fo áinétgud.

  14. Clóentrúag. H 2 17 has clamtruag, referring to the claime which had fallen on Conall. But cf. in siartha (leg. siabartha? claontruad (leg. claontrúag) ucad Cennach ind Rúanado, 98. 🢀

  15. ráthaigecht evidently the same meaning as ráthaiges (Windisch Wörterbuch) and ráthachas, Revue Celtique 13, p. 123. 🢀

  16. H. has 'To-day thou hast allowed it. Yon outrage is plain to thee.' 🢀

  17. certaigim 'I bring into the right position, I poise, aim'. Cf. raboc ⁊ rabertaig hí [i.e. in sleig] rachroth ⁊ rachertaig ⁊ tarlaic rout n-urchair di 'no, LL 177b, 7. See also LL 64b, 29. 🢀

  18. H. has 'so that it reached his lungs.' 🢀

  19. Here H has: 'That was not what I intended, to do evil to thee.' 🢀

  20. As to the three Red-wolves see Revue Celtique 15, p. 473. 🢀

  21. According to LL 31 b, 6, Cúrói's grave is on Slemish, a mountain in Kerry (lecht Conrúi i Sléib Mis 🢀

  22. cossair 'litter'. See Cath Finntragha Index s. v. and add crandscíath ... forsatalla certchossair cethri n-drong n-decenbair, LU 88b, 38.
    failet trí écis cen ail
    isind firt sa i n-oenchossair,
    LU, 38 marg. sup.  🢀

  23. Perhaps the as as of the Edinburgh MS is merely dittography. 🢀

  24. H. has 'Ulstermen they shall be, Ulstermen they were'. 🢀


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