Irish Sagas at UCC University College Cork



Scéla Guairi meic Colmáin ocus Meic Teléne

Background information

References in the Annals of Ulster, the Annals of Inisfallen, the Annals of Tigernach, the Annals of the Four Masters and the Fragmentary Annals

U592.2 Birth of Cuiméne Fata.

AI596.2 Birth of Cuimíne, i.e. the Tall, son of Fiachna.

T661.1 Cuimíne Fada in the 72nd year of his age died.

M661.2 St. Cummine Foda, son of Fiactna, Bishop of Cluainfearta Breanainn, died on the twelfth day of November. Colman Ua Clasaigh, the tutor of Cummine, composed these verses:

The Luimneach did not bear on its bosom,
of the race of Munster, into Leath Chuinn,
A corpse in a boat so precious as he,
as Cummine, son of Fiachna.

If any one went across the sea,
to sojourn at the seat of Gregory,
If from Ireland, he requires no more
than the mention of Cumine Foda.

I sorrow after Cumine,
from the day that his shrine was covered;
My eyelids have been dropping tears; I have not laughed,
but mourned since the lamentation at his barque.

FA 19 662 Kl. Cummíne Fota died in the seventy-second year of his age; whence Colmán úa Clúasaig, tutor of Cummíne, sang:

A dead man south of me, a dead man to the north,
they were not the darlings of a worthless army; 

relieve, O King of grey heaven,
the misery you have sent us.

The dead of this year—
nothing is to be lamented in comparison with them—
Máel Dúin, Bécc son of Fergus, 

Conaing, Cummíne Fota.

If anyone across the sea were entitled,
he would attain to the dignity of Gregory,
if he were from Ireland, there was no one for it
except Cummíne Fota.

He was not only a bishop, he was a king,
my Cummíne was son of a lord;
Ireland’s beacon-blaze for wisdom;
he was lovely, as has been told.

Noble his tribe, noble his form,
his kindred was widespread;
descendant of Cairpre and descendant of Corc,
he was a wise man; he was brilliant; he was famous.

U662.1 Cuiméne the Tall rested in the 72nd year of his age.

The deaths of this year—
Nothing is to be lamented in comparison with them—
Mael Dúin, Béc son of Fergus,
Conaing, and Cuiméne the Tall.

M662.6 Guaire (i.e. Aidhne), son of Colman, King of Connaught, died.  Guaire and Caimin, of Inis Cealtra, had the same mother.

U663.1 Death of Guaire of Aidne.

T663.1 Guaire of Aidne died, and his burial at Clonmacnois.

M1162.4 The relics of Bishop Maeinenn and of Cummaine Foda were removed from the earth by the clergy of Brenainn, and they were enclosed in a protecting shrine.

The History of Ireland (Geoffrey Keating), Volume 3

pp. 65-67 Now Guaire had a brother called Mochua, a holy virtuous man, and on a certain occasion he went to observe Lent to a well of spring water, which is a little to the south-west of Buirenn, five miles from Durlus Guaire, attended only by one young cleric, who used to serve him at Mass, and neither himself nor the young cleric took more than a meal every day-and-night, and then they took only a little barley bread and spring water. And when Easter day had come, and Mochua had said Mass a desire for meat seized the young cleric, and he said to St. Mochua that he would go to Durlus to visit Guaire in order to get enough of meat. ‘Do not go,’ said Mochua, ‘stay with me, and let me pray to God for meat for thee.’ And on this he knelt on the ground and prayed with fervour to God, asking for meat for the young cleric. At the same time while food was being served to the tables of Guaire’s house, it came to pass through Mochua’s prayer that the dishes and the meat they contained were snatched from the hands of those who were serving them and were carried out over the walls of the dwelling, and by direct route reached the desert in which Mochua was; and Guaire went with all his household on horseback in quest of the dishes; and when the dishes came into the presence of Mochua he set to praise and magnify the name of God, and told the young cleric to eat his fill of meat.
The latter thereupon looked up and saw the plain full of mounted men, and said that it was of no advantage to him to get the meat, seeing how many there were in pursuit of it. ‘Thou needest not fear,’ said Mochua, ‘these are my brother and his household, and I beseech God to permit none of them to advance beyond that point until thou hast had thy fill.’ And on this the horses’ hoofs clung to the ground so that they could not go forward till the young cleric had had his fill. Then Mochua prayed God to set his brother and his household free. On this they were set free, and they came into Mochua’s presence. Guaire knelt before St. Mochua and asked his forgiveness. ‘Thou needest not fear, brother; but eat ye your meal here.’ And when Guaire and his people had taken their meal they bade farewell to Mochua and returned to Durlus. It is a proof of the truth of this story that the Road of the Dishes is the name given to the five miles path that lies between Durlus and the well at which Mochua then was.

pp. 69-73 Guaire, son of Colman, and Cuimin Foda, son of Fiachtna, and Caimin of Inis Cealtrach, were in the principal church of the island, and three questions were proposed between them. First, Caimin said, ‘O Guaire, what wouldst thou wish to have?’ ‘Gold and wealth to bestow,’ answered Guaire. ‘And thou, O Cuimin,’ said Guaire, ‘what wouldst thou like to have?’ ‘Many books containing the word of truth,’ said Cuimin. ‘And thou, O Caimin,’ said Cuimin, ‘what is thy wish?’ ‘Many diseases in my body,’ answered Caimin. And the three got their wishes.
Mochua and Columcille were contemporaries, and when Mochua or Mac Duach was a hermit in the desert, the only cattle he had in the world were a cock and a mouse and a fly. The cock’s service to him was to keep the matin time of midnight; and the mouse would let him sleep only five hours in the day-and-night, and when he desired to sleep longer, through being tired from making many crosses and genuflexions, the mouse would come and rub his ear, and thus waken him; and the service the fly did him was to keep walking on every line of the Psalter that he read, and when he rested from reciting his psalms the fly rested on the line he left off at till he resumed the reciting of his psalms. Soon after that these three precious ones died, and Mochua, after that event, wrote a letter to Columcille, who was in I, in Alba, and he complained of the death of his flock. Columcille wrote to him, and said thus: ‘O brother,’ said he, ‘thou must not be surprised at the death of the flock that thou hast lost, for misfortune exists only where there is wealth.’

pp. 81-83 Thrice then did the men of Ireland cast off the filés, and the Ulstermen retained them on each of these occasions. The first time they were banished they numbered a thousand; and Conchubhar and the nobles of Ulster maintained them seven years. On their second banishment, Fiachna, son of Baodan, king of Ulster, maintained them a year, and seven hundred was their number under Eochaidh Righeigeas. … The third time they were banished, when Maolcobha, king of Ulster, retained them, they amounted to twelve hundred, under Dallan Forgaill and Seanchan.

p. 95 The ardollamh of Ireland at that time was Eochaidh Eigeas, son of Oilill, son of Earc, and it was he who was called Dallan Forgaill, and he sent out ollamhs and set them over the provinces of Ireland, namely, … Sanchan, son of Cuairfheartach, over the province of Connaught.

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Related saga online:
Scéla Colmáin meic Duach ocus Guairi meic Colmáin (The story of Colmán mac Duach and Guaire mac Colmáin)
Whitley Stokes (ed. & tr.), Three Legends from the Brussels Manuscript 5100-4, Revue Celtique, 26, 1905, pp. 372-377.
Digital Edition at (pp. 372-277); Irish text at TLH; English translation at TLH

J. G. O’Keeffe (ed. & tr.), Colman mac Duach and Guaire, Ériu, 1, 1904, pp. 43-48.
Digital Edition at (pp. 43-48 (57-62)); Digital edition at JSTOR; Irish text at TLH; English translation at TLH

Related poem online:
Kuno Meyer (ed. & tr.), King and Hermit:a Colloquy between King Guaire of Aidne and His Brother Marban, (London: David Nutt, 1901), pp. 10-21.
Digital Edition at (pp. 10-21); Irish text at (pp. 455-457); English translation at

Related saga online: Comrac Líadaine ocus Cuirithir (The Meeting of Liadain and Cuirithir)
Kuno Meyer (ed. & tr.), Liadain and Curithir, (London: David Nutt, 1902), pp. 12-27.
Digital Edition at (pp. 12-27 (15-30)); Digital edition at CDI (PDF); Irish text at CELT; English translation at CELT

Related saga online: A Life of Cumaine Fota
Gearóid S. Mac Eoin (ed. & tr.), Béaloideas, 39/41, 1971-1973, pp. 192-205.
Digital Edition at JSTOR

Leabhar Imuinn or Liber Hymnorum (James Henthorn Todd)
Cummain Fota compared to Pope Gregory the Great, p. 70
The Hymn of St. Cummain Fota, pp. 71-80
Translation of Scoliast’s Preface, pp. 81-84
The History and Date of Cummain Fota, pp. 84-93
Cummine Fota, Guaire Aidhne and Caimine of Inis Cealtra, p. 87
Comgan Mac da cherda was a half-brother of St Cummain Fota, pp. 88-90

Live of Saints from the Book of Lismore (Whitley Stokes)
Guare and Cummine the Tall and Cámmine, p. 304

D = The Martyrology of Donegal (O’Donovan)
G = The Martyrology of Gorman (Stokes)
O = The Martyrology of Oengus the Culdee (Stokes)

D: 12 November, Cuimmin Foda, son of Fiachna, Bishop, of Cluainferta-Brenainn (See Section 1), p. 305-307 (367-369)

G: 12 November, Cuimmín the Tall, son of Fiachna, of the Eoganacht of Loch Léin, bishop of Cluain Ferta Brénainn (See Section 1), p. 217

O: 12 November, Cummíne the Tall, son of Fiachna, a successor of Brénainn of Cluain fearta, of the Eoganacht of Cashel was he (See Section 1), p. 234, p. 243

Sanas Chormaic: Cormac’s Glossary (O’Donovan/Stokes)

pp. 7-8 (25-26) The following quatrain about Cnoc Rafann is attributed to Comgan Mac Da Cerda.  Cnoc Rafann (Knockgraffon) is a parish and townland in the barony of Middlethird, Co. Tipperary and the rath referred to is still to be seen about 2 miles North of Cahir. The quatrain is quoted to illustrate the custom of leaving silver cups (‘ána’) at wells. 

This great rath whereon I am
Wherein is a well with a bright cup,
Sweet was the voice of the wood of blackbirds,
Round the rath of Fiacha son of Moinche.

The Bodleian Amra Choluimb Chille (Stokes), Revue Celtique, 20, 1899

p. 43 Now the men of Ireland rejected the poets thrice, but the Ulaid, from their generosity, retained them. Twelve hundred was their number at the first proscription, when Conchobar (mac Nessa) and the nobles of the Ulaid kept them for seven years. The second proscription was when Eochaid the king-poet (rigeces) with his seven hundreds was refused; but Fiacha, son of Baetán, retained them. Now the third time was the great proscription of the twelve hundred poets, including Eochaid the king-poet, and Dallán and Senchán, when Mael-coba, king of Ulaid, retained them for three years.

p. 139 Thrice fifty men, severe, acute, of Erin’s poets in one retinue, including Senchán, comely Dallán and Eochaid the king-poet.

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References to fidchell (chess/draughts) in Early Irish Literature
Eóin MacWhite, Early Irish Board Games, Éigse, 5, 1948, 25-35.
Digital Edition at

Sanas Chormaic: Cormac’s Glossary (O’Donovan/Stokes)

p. 75-76 (93-94) FIDCHELL .i. féth-ciall, fáth-ciall i.e. it requires sense (ciall) & fáth (‘learning’) in playing it. Or fuath-cell, i. fuath cille ‘likeness of a church’, in the first place, the fidchell is four-cornered, its squares are right-angled, and black and white are on it, and, moreover, it is different people that in turn win the game.

Serglige Con Culainn (O’Curry), The Atlantis, 2, 1858

p. 99
Behold his chariots which sweep the valleys,
Behold the movements of his chess-warriors.

Táin Bó Fráich (Anderson), Revue Celtique, 24, 1903

p. 131 Meadb and Oilill play chess after that. Thereupon Fraech takes to playing chess with a man of his people. They were beautiful, the chess things: a board of white bronze, with four ears and elbows of gold; a candle of precious stone giving light to them; gold and silver the men that were upon the board.

The Bodleian Amra Choluimb Chille (Stokes), Revue Celtique, 20, 1899

p. 283

The draughtboard of Crimthann, Nár’s champion (nia),
a small boy carries it not in one hand.
Half its set of yellow gold,
the other half of white bronze:
one man only of its set
will purchase seven couples (of slaves).

Tochmarc Étaíne (Bergin/Best) Ériu, 12, 1938

p. 175 ‘I have here,’ said Midir, ‘a chess-board that is not inferior.’ That was true: a silver board and golden men, and each corner thereof lit up by a precious stone, and a bag for the men of plaited links of bronze.

Reicne Fothaid Canainne(Meyer)

p. 15, verses 29-36

My draught-board, no mean treasure,
is thine; take it with thee!
Noble blood drips upon its rim,
it is not far hence where it lies.

Many a body of the spear-armed hosts lies
here and there around its crimson woof:
the dense bush of the ruddy oak-wood conceals it
by the side of the grave north-west.

As thou carefully searchest for it,
thou shouldst not speak much:
earth never covered
anything so marvellous as it.

One half of its figures are yellow gold,
the others are white bronze;
its woof is of pearl;
it is the wonder of smiths how it was wrought.

Four candle-sticks, a white light,
not feebly do they illumine its board ;
grease in their fire, no false story,
. . .

The bag for its figures — ’tis a marvel of a story —
its rim is embroidered with gold;
the master-smith has left a lock upon it
which no ignorant person can open.

A four-cornered casket — it is tiny —
it has been made of coils of red gold;
one hundred ounces of white bronze
have been put into it firmly.

For it is of a coil of firm red gold,
Dínoll the gold-smith brought it over the sea;
even one of its clasps only
has been priced at seven lay-women.

Cath Maige Mucrama (Stokes), Revue Celtique, 13, 1892

p. 445, §21 When Lugaid heard that, there were men of gold and silver in his hand. He put his finger on two or three so that the front rank that was before him was hidden.

Echtra Nerai (Meyer), Revue Celtique, 10, 1889

p. 227, §18 On that Fergus glanced aside and struck with his fist at Bricriu’s head, so that the five men of the draft-board that were in his hand, went into Bricriu’s head and it was a lasting hurt to him.

Aislinge Meic Conglinne (Meyer)

p. 68, line 24-25

A butter draught-board with its men
Smooth, speckled, peaked.

Tiomna Chathaír Mhóir (O’Donovan)

p. 201 And he gave his chess-board and his fithcheallacht (chess furniture) to Oilioll Ceadach.

A Social History of Ancient Ireland (P.W. Joyce), Volume 2
pp. 477-481 Chess in Ancient Ireland.

Yellow Book of Lecan
Cycles of the Kings
Guaire Aidne mac Colmáin (d. 663); Kings of Connacht; Kings of Uí Fiachrach Aidhne; Uí Fiachrach Aidne
Saint Cumméne Fota (d. 662); Saints of Ireland
Senchán Torpéist; Chief Ollamh of Ireland
Dunguaire Castle

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