CELT document T302003

Orgain Néill Noígiallaig

Unknown author

English translation



[1] The Slaying of Niall of the Nine Hostages, son of Echu Mugmedon, by the hand of Echu, son of Enna Censelach, who sent an arrow at him out of a Saxon camp among the bards of the Pict-folk at Carn Fiell.


[2] Once Echu, the son of Enna, went from the house of Niall southward to his own land. Then it befel that in order to ask for food he went to the house of Niall's poet. That was Laidcenn, son of Bairchid, the chief-poet of Niall. The young man was refused hospitality by the poet.

[3] Then the same Echu came again from the south, destroyed the stronghold of the poet, and killed his only son, even Leat, son of Laidcenn. Thereupon for a whole year the poet kept satirising and lampooning the men of Leinster and cursing them, so that neither grass nor corn grew with them, nor a leaf, to the end of a year.

[4] Then Niall went to Leinster upon a hosting, and he said that he would not go from them so long as he was alive, or until Echu were given him as a pledge and hostage. And this had needs to be done. So he was taken to Ath Fadat 1 in Fothairt Fea 2 on the bank of the Slaney, and was left there before Niall, with a chain around his neck, and the end of the chain through the hole of a stone pillar. Nine champions advance towards him to slay him. “Woe!” said Echu, “this is bad indeed!” With that he gave himself a twist, so that the chain broke in two. He seized the iron bolt that was through the chain, and advanced to meet them. He plied the bolt on them so that the nine fell. The men turn before him down the hill. Those of Leinster pursued them and slaughtered them, so that they fell.

[5] Thereupon Niall came southward once more and reached Inis Fail. 3 “A guarantee shall be given from the men of Leinster,” said Laidcenn, “and let Echu come that he may be seen by us at this river for so long as a cow is being milked.” 4 “Let it be done!” said Echu. Then his arms are taken away from him. The poet begins to revile the men of Leinster and Echu, so that they melted away before him. 5 As he was reviling them, the youth let fly at  p.90 him a champion's stone which he had in his belt, so that it hit the crown of his forehead and lodged in his skull. Thus was that Laidcenn killed. Whence the quatrain was sung:

  1. A champion's handstone—'t is well known—
    was hurled into ...
    Echu son of Enna threw it
    at Laidcenn the son of Bairchid.

[6] After having raided Leinster, Niall went home, and Echu was exiled from Ireland so long as Niall reigned. He went until he came to the house of Erc, the son of Echu Munremar.

[7] Niall, however, went to obtain kingship as far as Letha 6 and Italy, and he was called “of the Nine Hostages” because he had five hostages of Ireland, and one hostage each from Scotland and from the Saxons, the Britons and the Franks. Inde dicitur:

  1. Echu's son of high dignity,
    noble Niall, fiercest shout,
    Seized the sway of kingship
    of Erin and of Alba.
  2. He had a hostage from each province
    throughout the land of Erin,
    he brought to his will without severance
    four hostages out of Alba.
  3. Hence he was called
    among the hosts of battlesome warriors,
    In the row of bountiful kings,
    combative Niall of the Nine Hostages.

[8] Now, when they came to the Alps, there was a great river before them, to wit, the Loire of the Alps. They were unable to cross it, and sat down on its banks. As they were there, they saw a single warrior coming towards them. A crimson five-folded cloak was about him. In his hands he held two five-pronged spears. A bent rimmed shield with a boss of gold was on him. On his belt hung a tusk-hilted sword. His hair was in plaits over his back. “Welcome to the hero whom we do not know!” said Niall. “It is for that we have come,” said he. “What is it for which thou hast come?” said Niall. “I have come from the Romans to have speech with thee,” said he, “and this day fortnight their hostages will come to thee. Until they come here am I as a preliminary 7 hostage for thee”.

[9] Others say that their hostages were trysted to the house of Erc, son of Echu Munremar, the King of Alba, and that it is there he was killed among the bards of the Pict-folk as he was exhibiting his shape to them. Or that it may have been the maidens of the Franks who desired him to exhibit his shape.


[10] Then Erc went towards the assembly, “I shall go with thee,” said Echu, “to see my brother in his royal seat before the men of the world.” When they had arrived, Erc said: “That is he yonder!” There was a glen between them. Without the knowledge of Erc, Echu shot 8 an arrow from the bow, so that the King fell dead from that single shot. Thereupon the Franks attacked the Gaels, and the men of Alba stood by the latter for the sake of their kinship. So they came to Ireland, carrying the body of their king with them. And seven battles were broken before the face of the dead king. 9

[11] It was Torna the poet, of the Ciarraige Luachra, who had fostered Niall. Now, when he heard the report that his foster- son had been slain, it is then his foster-brother Tuirn, son of Torna, said:

  1. When we used to go to the gathering
    with the son of Echu Mugmedon,
    As yellow as the primrose was the hair
    upon the head of Cairenn's son.
(Cairenn the curly-black, daughter of Sachell Balb, of the Saxons, was the mother of Niall.) Said his foster-mother:
  1. His white teeth, his red lips,
    ... under anger,
    His shape like a fiery blaze
    surmounting warlike Erin.
  2. The hue of his cheeks at all times,
    even and symmetrical as they were,
    Like the foxglove, like a calf's blood—a feast without a flaw!
    like the top-branches of a forest in May.
  3. Like the moon, like the sun,
    like a firebrand was the splendour of Niall,
    Like a dragon-ship froin the wave without a fault
    was Niall, the son of Echu Mugmedon.
  4. This is a yarnful music,
    the wail of every mouth in Kerry:
    It brings grief upon us in our house
    for the death of Niall, grandson of Muredach.
  5. Torna
  6. 'T was great delight, 't was great ease
    to be in the company of my dear foster-son, 10
    When with the son of Echu—'t was no small thing!—
    we used to go to the gathering.


[12] They say, however, that grief for Niall carried off Torna. By a man of Leinster, 11 then, that man was killed. Inde dicitur:

  1. Niall, Echu's son, great in fight—
    Erin and Alba are in affliction 12
    He through whom a swift Saxon arrow was put
    by Echu, the son of glorious Enna.

That is the Death of Niall, son of Echu, and of Laidcenn, son of Bairchcda, by tlie hand of Echu, son of Enna Censelach.

Finit. Amen.

Document details

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Title statement

Title (uniform): Orgain Néill Noígiallaig

Title (translation, English Translation): The Slaying of Niall of the Nine Hostages

Title (supplementary): English translation

Responsibility statement

English translation by: Kuno Meyer

Electronic edition compiled by: Beatrix Färber

Funded by: University College, Cork, School of History

Edition statement

1. First draft.

Extent: 2250 words

Publication statement

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

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

Date: 2014

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

CELT document ID: T302003

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

Source description

Manuscript Source for Irish text

  1. London, British Library, Rawlinson B 502, 47a1–47a2.
  2. Dublin, Trinity College Library, H 2.16, Yellow Book of Lecan, p. 126b. For details see MS , T. K. Abbott and E. J. Gwynn (eds.), Catalogue of the Irish manuscripts in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin (Dublin 1921). See also Robert Atkinson (ed.), The Yellow Book of Lecan: a collection of pieces (prose and verse) in the Irish language, in part compiled at the end of the fourteenth century (Collotype facsimile with introduction, analysis of contents, and index) (Dublin 1896).
  3. Book of Ballymote, Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, MS 536, 449?485 (olim 23 P 12, Book of Ballymote) 134b. For details see Kathleen Mulchrone (ed.), Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Royal Irish Academy, fasc. 13. See also Robert Atkinson (ed.), The Book of Ballymote, a collection of pieces, prose and verse, in the Irish language in part compiled in the fifteenth century, published from the original manuscript, by the Royal Irish Academy with an Introduction, Analysis of contents and Index (Dublin 1887).

Editions, translations and literature

  1. Kuno Meyer, Festschrift für Whitley Stokes zum siebzigsten Geburtstage am 28. Februar 1900 (...) (Leipzig: Harrassowitz 1900); poem edited from YBL. (Available online at CELT in file G100053).
  2. Kuno Meyer, reprint of above poem with English translation, Gaelic Journal 10 (1900) 578.
  3. Kuno Meyer, Aided Néill Nóigiallaig [from Stowe MS C. I. 2], Archiv für Celtische Lexikographie 3 (1907), A Medley of Irish texts 13, 323–324. (Available online at CELT in file G302021).

The edition used in the digital edition

‘Stories and songs from Irish manuscripts, V: Orgain Néill Noígiallaig’. In: Otia Merseiana‍ 2. Ed. by Kuno Meyer. 84–92: 88–92.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  editor 	 = {Kuno Meyer},
  title 	 = {Stories and songs from Irish manuscripts, V: Orgain Néill Noígiallaig},
  journal 	 = {Otia Merseiana},
  volume 	 = {2},
  address 	 = {London},
  publisher 	 = {Th. Wohlleben},
  date 	 = {1900–1901},
  note 	 = {84–92: 88–92}


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Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

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Correction: Text has been checked and proof-read twice.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text. Meyer's introduction and the Irish text are available in a separate file, G302003.

Quotation: Direct speech is marked q.

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Segmentation: div0=the whole text; p=the editor's paragraph; page-breaks are marked pb n="".

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Profile description

Creation: Translation by Kuno Meyer 1900–1901

Language usage

  • The translation is in English. (en)
  • Some words are in Irish. (ga)
  • A few formulaic words are in Latin. (la)
  • Two lines in Spanish appear in a footnote. (es)

Keywords: saga; prose; medieval; Kings Cycle; Slaying; Niall of the Nine Hostages; translation

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2014-09-08: Item added to bibliographic details. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2014-07-24: File proofed (2); structural markup applied; file parsed, SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2014-07-24: Text scanned in; converted to XML, proofed (1). TEI header created based on companion file. (text capture Beatrix Färber)

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G302003: Orgain Néill Noígiallaig (in Irish)

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  1. Now Ahade or Aghade, co. Carlow. 🢀

  2. The present barony of Forth, co. Carlow. 🢀

  3. Mrs. Hutton points out to me that, according to the Rev. E. Hogan (Vita S. Patricii p. 181), this is another name for Begery Island on the coast of Wexford. 🢀

  4. The text seems corrupt here; nor do the other versions help. The meaning seems to be that Echu is to come out alone and unarmed, while the men of Leinster are to abstain from hostilities for so long as a cow is being milked. 🢀

  5. i. e. from the effect of his satire. 🢀

  6. Letha is either Brittany (Letavia) or Latium. L. has “to Rome of Latium.” 🢀

  7. With this meaning of frith- in composition cp. frith-airigid and frith-pian in Aislinge Meic Conglinne, p. 179. 🢀

  8. trochlaim a derivative of trochal, “a sling”, gen. cloch throchail, “a sling-stone”, RC 12, p. 119, 6. Sic leg. Ir. Texte, 3, p. 125. 🢀

  9. A close parallel, as I have pointed out elsewhere, to the defeat of the even kings before the dead body of the Cid: “Y á siete reyes venció, / Despues de muerto, en batalla.” 🢀

  10. The last verse is supposed to be spoken by Torna himself. 🢀

  11. Literally, “by Leinstermen.” L. has “Laidcenn made this verse.” 🢀

  12. tráig, “ebb”, often used metaphorically like tule and aithber: e.g. Temair la traig, LB 260 55; fuair tráig ⁊ tromdebaid, LL 129a 24. 🢀


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