Genesis : Chaipter Yin….The Ullans Academy Version.

14 An God sayed, Lat thair be lichts in the airch o heiven, fur tae sinder the day an the licht, an lat thaim be fur taikens, an fur merkin the saisons o the yeir, an fur days an fur yeirs.

15 An lat thaim be fur lichts in the airch o heaven fur tae sheen on the yird: an sae’t wus.

16 An God made twa muckle lichts: the greater licht tae be the ruler o the day, an the smawer licht tae be the ruler o the nicht: an he made the starns.

17 An God set thaim in the airch o heaven tae sheen on the yird;

18 Tae rule ower the day an the nicht, an fur tae sinder the licht an the mirk: an God seen that it wus guid.

19 An the war forenicht an the war forenuin, the fowert day.



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Genesis: Chaipter Yin….The Ullans Academy Version

9 An God sayed, Lat the watters unner the heiven come thegither, an lat the dry laund be seen: an sae’t wus.

10 An God gien the dry laund the name o Yird; an the watters thegither wus cried Seas: an God seen that it wus guid.

11 An God sayed, Lat gress breird on the yird, an plants giein seed, an fruit-trees beirin fruit, that their seed is in, efter their kin: an sae’t wus.

12 An gress breirdit on the yird, an ilka plant giein seed o its kin, an ilka tree beirin fruit, that its seed is in, o its kin: an God seen that it wus guid.

13 An the war forenicht an the war forenuin, the thurd day.


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Genesis: Chaipter Yin….The Ullans Academy version

6 An God sayed, Lat thair be a poeurfu airch raxin ower the watters, pairtin the watters frae the watters.

7 An God made the airch for tae sinder the watters unner the airch an thaim that wus ower it: an sae’t wus.

8 An God gien the airch the name o Heiven. An the war forenicht an the war forenuin, the saicont day.

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Genesis: Chaipter Yin….The Ullans Academy Version

1 In the beginnin God made the heiven an the yird.

2 An the yird wis fouthless an wioot form; an it wus mirk on the face o the deep: an the Speerit o God flittit ower the face o the waters.

3 An God sayed, Lat thair be licht: an the war licht.

4 An God, leukin on the licht, seen that it wus guid: an God sindert the licht an the mirk,

5 Namin the licht, Day , an the mirk, Nicht. An the war forenicht an the war forenuin, the furst day.

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Cuimnheach – Remembrance

It was mid November, and the Autumn Sun was shining on the Presbyterian Island of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. There was a strange animation abroad that day. Men and women were gathering, dressed in black clothes which they usually wear on the Sabbath.

From all parts of the island the people came to converge on a little heather-clad knoll on which stands a memorial to the men and women from North Uist who gave their lives in the Great War. A Union Jack draped the memorial, which was a particularly beautiful one.

On the far-distant western horizon, faint and ethereal, the islands of St Kilda stood. Far to the South were the hills of Barra. North stood the Harris heights. East was the Isle of Skye, where once lived Cuchulainn, the Hound of Ulster and where his legend lives on.

Towards eleven o’clock the crowd had gathered round the memorial. From the neighbouring islands of Ballyshare, Grimsay and Benbecula some of them had journeyed, crossing the wide fords barefoot at ebb-tide. There were old men and women whose only speech was the homely soft Gaelic of the Isles, but also young people to whom the War was only a name.

Suddenly the slow, sad strains of a beautiful, almost magical, Gaelic Psalm were heard , carried on the breeze like the murmuring of waves on the distant shore . They sang brokenly, yet with great pride, with the absence of dear ones taken in the Great War. Then followed a Gaelic reading of scripture from the Holy Bible by the minister of the Isle and a fine oration. The names of the Fallen were read out one by one, and the pipers played the Flowers of the Forest.

On the heather, a little apart from the crowd, we stood in poignant grief. As the pipes were silent and the strains of the Last Post drifted across the moor, we witnessed the end of this wonderful ceremony. And as the people laid their poppy wreaths, our last lingering looks were directed towards the memorial , where the people were saying in the Gaelic, over and over again, the single Gaelic word Cuimhneach, which in the Burla, or English tongue, means everlasting Remembrance.

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The Ulster Kingdoms: 9 – Trian Congal (Belfast)

The Annals of the Four Masters record  that in 665 AD, the Battle of Farset (Belfast) took place between the County Down Dal Fiatach, self styled Ulaid, and the Pretani or Cruthin where Cathasach, son of Laircine, was slain. This was an attempt by the Dal Fiatach to encroach on  the Cruthin territory of Trian Congail. the “third of Congal”, which encompassed territory on both sides of the Lagan, corresponding more or less to Upper and Lower Clandeboye, including modern Belfast. Cathasach was Congal’s grandson. The battle was the first mention of Belfast in Irish history.

The story of Congal Cláen has a bearing on another aspect of Irish history — the question of the ‘high-kingship’ of Ireland. Late seventh century writers claimed that the “Uí Néill” had held the high-kingship of Ireland for many centuries. Yet in the study of that early period of Irish history little evidence is found of a centralised monarchy. Indeed, at any given time between the fifth and twelfth centuries there were probably no less than 150 tribal kings throughout the island.

Francis Byrne has commented: “In later ages this multiplication of monarchies caused some embarrassment to patriotic Irishmen who had been brought up to believe in the glories of the high-kingship centred in Tara… The title ard-rí… has no precise significance, and does not necessarily imply sovereignty of Ireland… It is now evident that Niall and his descendants for many centuries can in no real sense be described as high-kings of Ireland. The claims made for them… must be discounted as partisan: few other contemporary documents show special deference being afforded to the “Uí Néill” outside their own sphere of influence, and the laws do not even envisage the office of high-king of Ireland.”Ironically, the only reference to Tara throughout all the Old Irish legal tracts concerns, not a member of the Uí Néill dynasty, but Congal Cl¡en of the Cruthin. Bechbretha, an eighth century law tract, details, among many other matters, how blame should be apportioned for bee stings, stating the following:

“If it be an eye which it has blinded, it is then that it (the injury) requires the casting of lots on all the hives; whichever of the hives it falls upon is forfeit for its (the bee’s) offence. For this is the first judgement which was passed with regard to the offences of bees on Congal the One-eyed, whom bees blinded in one eye. And he was king of Tara until [this] put him from his kingship.” The matter of Congal losing the high-kingship refers to the prohibition on anyone with a blemish holding this position.

As Francis Byrne comments: “This is the only reference in the law-tracts to Tara (and) it runs directly contrary to the accepted doctrine that it was a monopoly of the Uí Néill… When we remember that the Ulaid and Cruthin were still powerful in County Londonderry and possibly still ruled directly in Louth as far as the Boyne in the early seventh century; that they cherished memories of their former dominance over all the North; that they considered the Uí Néill recent upstarts… it is not difficult to imagine that they could with some justice lay claim to Tara.”

However, whatever arguments the Ulstermen could have produced to support such a claim were immaterial after 637. The Battle of Moira effectively put an end to any hopes they might have harboured that they could undo the “Uí Néill” gains. For although the Ulstermen were still to retain their independence in the east of the province for another 500 years, the Uí Néill were now firmly entrenched as the dominant power in the North.

As well as their continued victories against the Ulstermen — the Ulaid suffered a severe defeat at Fochairt near Dundalk in 735 — the “Uí Néill” also continued to encroach upon the territory held by the Airgialla in the centre of the ancient province. It was probably their alarm at this continuing advance which explains why the Ulstermen fought alongside the Airgialla at the battle of Leth Cam (near Armagh) in 827, in which the “Uí Néill” emerged victorious yet again, with many kings of the Airgialla being slain. Whatever autonomy had been held by the Airgialla was now destroyed and their kings became mere vassals of the “Uí Néill”.

Despite these reverses, the Ulstermen were still determined to resist, and in 1004 another great battle was fought at Cráeb Tulcha (Crew Hill Glenavy), in which the Cruthin king, the Ulaid king, and many princes of Ulster, were killed — indeed, complete disaster was possibly only averted because the victorious “Uí Néill” king was also one of the fatalities. The Annals of Ulster thus record the event:

The battle of Craebh-telcha, between the Ulidians and Cinel-Eoghain, where the Ulidians were defeated, and Eochaid, son of Ardgar, King of Ulidia, and Dubhtuinne his brother, and his two sons, viz., Cuduiligh and Domnall, were slain, and a havoc was made of the army besides, between good and bad, viz., Gairbhith, King of Uí-Echach (Iveagh), and Gilla Patraic son of Tomaltach, and Cumuscach son of Flathroe, and Dubhslanga son of Aedh, and Cathalan son of Etroch, and Conene son of Muirchertach, and the elect of the Ulidians besides. And the fighting extended to Dun-Echdach, and to Druim-bó. There also fell there Aedh, son of Domnall Ua Neill, King of Ailech, (and others, in the 29th year of his age, and the 10th year of [his] reign). But the Cinel-Eoghain say that he was killed by themselves. Donnchad Ua Loingsigh, King of Dal nAraidi (Dalaradia), was treacherously killed by the Cinel-Eoghain.

No doubt many of the original peoples of Ulster remained in the territories now dominated by the “Uí Néill” overlords, but their former dynastic leaders from within the Cruthin and the Ulaid were confined to that area which today comprises counties Antrim, Down and north Louth. Yet, so long as these Ulster kingships endured, no matter how reduced might be the realm over which their suzerainty could lay claim, the “Uí Néill” could never call themselves kings of Ulster. Cruthin and Ulaid kings shared in the high-kingship of this reduced Ulster, though at times the strains within the alliance would lead to open warfare (it was a battle between the Cruthin and Ulaid, recorded in the Annals of Ulster as having been fought at the ‘Fearsat’ in 667 which gave Belfast its first mention in history). The independent territories became known by the names of the ruling dynasties, prefixed by the term in Gaelic for ‘a portion’ —‘Dál’ (Gaelic by now being the dominant language throughout Ireland).

Within the Ulaid the dominant dynasty were the Dál Fiatach, who ruled over the maritime areas between Dundrum Bay and Belfast Lough, with the centre of their power established at Downpatrick. Another grouping, the Dál Riata, held territory in the north-eastern part of Antrim, called Dalriada.

It was, however, the Cruthin who formed the bulk of the population, and their territories comprised the remainder of the area of Antrim and Down, although for some time after the initial “Uí Néill” advances they had managed to retain their hold on territory northwards to Lough Foyle and southwards to Dundalk Bay. There is evidence of the existence of from seven to nine petty kingdoms of the Cruthin around the sixth century. Their main dynasty was the Dál nAraidi, and the area they ruled over became known in English as Dalaradia (not to be confused with Dalriada in the north-east). The kings of Dál nAraidi resided at Ráth Mor, where a ringfort remains to this day, just east of Antrim town. Another group within the Cruthin who also provided over-kings of Ulster were the Uí Echach Cobo, who inhabited the present baronies of Upper and Lower Iveagh and Kinelarty.


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The Ulster Kingdoms: 8 -Venniconia (Donegal, Derry City and Strabane Districts)

The Ulster Kingdoms

The traditional understanding of the history of the ancient British Venniconian Kingdoms of West Ulster maintained that at some time in the late fifth century the sons of Niall of the Nine hostages, Caipre, Conaill, Enda and Eogan had launched an invasion into that territory from Tara, having defeated and conquered the indigenous people, or at least the rulers of those people. The four brothers were said to have divided out the territory of Donegal between them and each then established a kingdom which subsequently bore his name.  In one form or another these kingdoms were believed to have lasted for all of the early mediæval period.

Collectively these kingdoms were never linked but are known to us now as the “Northern Ui Neill”, who went on to conquer the rest of western and central Ulster. Two of the kingdoms, Cenel Conaill and Cenel nEogan, were said to be the most dominant and for about three centuries after their establishment, the kingship of the whole territory was shared between them.  In addition, when each of their kings was ascendant, they respectively claimed provenance of the prestigious kingship of Tara, which seems to have had some sort of overriding national influence, being an Ancient British Pretani or Cruthin ritual site. The ancient principality of Tír Eogain’s inheritance included the whole of the present counties of Tyrone and Londonderry, and the four baronies  West Inishowen, East Inishowen, Raphoe North and Raphoe South in County Donegal.

As we now know, however, that story is a later propagandistic fiction, rather than a summary of what actually happened.  Almost certainly it was given its classical form by and on behalf of the Cenel nEogan during the reign in the mid eighth century of their powerful and ambitious king, Aed Allan, who died in the year 743. Whatever his actual victories and political successes, they were underlined by a set of deliberately created fictional historical texts which reported to give him and his ancestors a more glorious past than they had actually enjoyed.  The same texts projected his dynasty back to the dawn of history and created a new political relationship with the neighbouring kingdoms.  Whatever the initial reaction to them, these political fictions were plausible enough to endure and have been ultimately accepted as history by most commentators over the past thirteen hundred years. Aed’s pseudo-historians were probably led by the Armagh Bishop Congus, who exploited the opportunity provided by the alliance with the King to advance the case for the supremacy of his own church.  Congus died in 750.

There appears to be no evidence that any of the rulers of the Venniconian Kingdoms of West Ulster were related by blood to Niall of the Nine Hostages or to the Ui Neill.  On the other hand it seems that there is evidence that Cenél Conaill were an Ancient British, Pretani or Cruthin people associated in some way with the Ui Echach Coba and other east Ulster peoples.  The Cenel nEogain, on the other hand, may well have had connections with the Dal Fiatach of maritime Down.  The remarkable fact in all this is that of the groups said to have belonged to the Northern Ui Neill, Cenel Cairpre may have been the only genuine decendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages to have invaded South Donegal in the sixth century.  And whatever evidence we have for the mid sixth century seems to show that it was the Cenel Conaill, rather than the Cenel nEogain, who were dominant among the Donegal Kingdoms at that time.

Conall Gulban , perhaps as Conall  Cernach of the Ulster Cycle, is the figure most closely related to the ancestry of the Cenél Conaill. Whether he existed or not as an actual person, his name demonstrates a powerful political reality of some sort, in that he was definitely  the ancestor of the fully historically attested Cruthin people of Ui Echach Coba of County Down, the Conaille Muirthemne of north Louth, the Sil nAedo of County Meath, and the Clann Cholmain of County Westmeath. The rise to power of what was said to have been Conall Gulban’s immediate descendants is equally something of a mystery. And among those descendants was our Colum Cille (Columba), the founder of the Monastery in Iona, where ironically in an Irish context the practice of keeping Annals and therefore  the study of history seems to have been promoted.

We know almost nothing genuinely historical about Colum Cille’s early clerical life prior to his departure for Iona.  On one occasion Adomnán writes that “this blessed boy’s foster-father a man of admirable life, the priest Cruithnechan” was apparently responsible for the child Colum Cille  In view of the identification above that the saint’s people, the Cenél Conaill, actually belonged  to the Cruthin, the priest’s  name, which is diminuative of that, may be very significant indeed. And the monastery at Derry Calgach, the Oakwood of the British prince Calgacus, was not founded by him at all.

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The Ulster Kingdoms: 7 – Erdinia or Erpeditania (Fermanagh District)

The Ulster Kingdoms

The ancient name of the inhabitants of this area were the Eridini or Erpeditani , who were a Pretani or ancient British people known to the Greeks and Romans through Ptolemy’s map of c 150 AD. But we know it today as Fermanagh because of the Menapians (Fir Mannach) who were driven there from the South by the invading Gaels.  The Manapians or Menapii were a tribe of Belgae (Fir Bolg in Gaelic) originating in northern Gaul in pre-Roman and Roman times. According to descriptions in such authors as Strabo, Caesar, Pliny  the Elder and Ptolemy their territory had stretched northwards to the mouth of the Rhine in the north, but more lastingly it stretched along the west of the Schelde. In later geographical terms this territory corresponds roughly to the modern coast of Flanders, the Belgian provinces of Oost and West Flanderen. It also extended into neighbouring France and the river deltas of the southern Netherlands. They may well have been a Germanic-speaking people with Celtic over-lords. It was the Manapians along with the Morini and other Northern tribes who maintained an independent Gaulish area following Caesar’s campaign of 57 BC, when he massacred 50,000 Belgic warriors at the earliest recorded Battle on the Somme.

In the 19th century the great Belgic leader Ambiorix became a Belgian national hero because of his resistance  against Julius Caesar, as written in Caesar’s Commentaries of the Gallic War (Commentarii de Bello Gallico). In 54 BC  Ambiorix brought together an alliance of Belgic tribes, the Eburones, Menapii, Nervii and Atuatuci allied to local German tribes. He launched an attack on 9000 Roman troops under Sabinus and Cotta, Caesars favourite generals, at Tongres and wiped them out. Caesar retaliated quickly, determined to exterminate the Belgic confederacy which was ruthlessly ravaged in all-out genocide. Ambiorix, however, was never captured and disappeared from the pages of Continental History, but the Eburones re-emerged in Britain as the Brigantes (Ui Bairrche) just as the Manapians (Managh or Mannach) came to Ireland.

In 52 BC the brilliant Belgic leader Commius of the Atrebates turned against his former ally Caesar. He led a large force to join the armies of his kinsman Vercingetorix against him in a great insurrection which was to change the course of European history. Following Vercingetorix’s defeat, Commius became over-leader of the Belgic Atrebates, Morini, Carnutes, Bituriges, Bellovaci and Eburones and many Belgae followed him to his British Kingdom in the last Celtic folk movement to Britain, rather than endure the savagery of Roman civilisation. In the twenty years following Julius Caesar’s assassination on the Ides of March, 44 BC, Commius’ British Kingdom grew in size and wealth. In the nine years from 34 BC there were three occasions under Caesar’s successor Octavian (Augustus Caesar), 34, 27, and 26 BC, when a full scale invasion of Britain was contemplated. Commius then appears to have set up a Belgic enclave around the mouth of the Shannon in Western Ireland which became known as and was recorded by Ptolemy as Gangani, the descendants of Gann, the form of his full Celtic name.

Meanwhile his sons took over from one another in surprisingly swift succession as kings of South East Britain. Each re-emerged as Kings of the expanding British Belgic settlements in Western Ireland; these were Tincommius (Gaelic Sen Gann), Epillus (Eochill) and Verica (Ferach). However a war between the tribes of Britain brought Verica (Bericus) to the Court of the Emperor Claudius to ask for support. And so in the year 43 AD a Roman army under the able command of Aulus Plautius landed in Britain. Among the distinguished soldiers of this army were Vespasian and his son Titus, both of whom were destined to become Emperors of Rome. It was therefore among the Britons that those soldiers were trained who destroyed that Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified.

By this time the Brigantes controlled the largest section which is now northern England and a significant part of the midlands, centring on what is now known as Yorkshire. The modern town of York was originally known by the name of Eboracum, founded by the Romans in 71 AD and deriving from the Eburones, whose High Goddess of Sovereignty was Brigantia. Ptolemy also places the Brigantes in South Wexford. They survived into the period of documentary history as the Ui Bairrche giving their name to the Barony of Bargy. It could be that the Brigantes invaded Ireland under pressure from later Belgic and Gaulish tribes and that prior to this they had lived in parts of Britain which were more proximal to Wexford. But they could also have migrated under pressure from the Romans in the 70’s AD.

The legendary Ninth Legion, Legio IX Hispana, the Spanish Legion, was one of the oldest and most feared units in the Roman Army. Put together in Spain by Pompey in 65 BC, it came under the command of Julius Caesar who was Governor of Further Spain in 61 BC, and served in Gaul throughout the Gallic Wars from 58 – 51 BC, the Legion was decisive in ensuring Caesar’s control of the Republic. After Caesar’s assassination it remained loyal to his successor Octavian. It fought with distinction against the Cantabrians in Spain from 25 – 13 BC but suffered terribly in the British revolt led by Boadicea ( Boudicca) in 60 AD, losing as many as 50 – 80 per cent of its men . However, several high ranking Officers who could only have served after 117 AD are well known to us, so we can safely assume that the core of the Legion was still extant in the reign of Hadrian, 117 – 138 AD.

The first great leader of the Fenians (later “Gaels”) in Ireland, Tuathal (Teuto–valos) Techtmar, was probably a Roman soldier, commanding Q-Celtic speaking auxiliaries from Spain. The earliest known source for the story of Tuathal Techtmar’s conquest of Ireland from the Aithech thuatha (Vassal Tribes) is a poem by Mael Mura of Othain AD 885. Mael Mura intimates that about 750 years had elapsed since Tuathal Techtmar had marched on the ancient British or Cruthin ritual centre of Tara to create his kingdom of Meath, which would date the invasion to the early 2nd Century AD. This is probably approximately correct. The standard pseudo-historical convention is employed, however, to make him an exiled Irishman returning with a foreign army.

The account in the Lebor Gabála Érenn, which does contain a shadow of history, is probably older and in this we see that Tuathal was born outside Ireland and had not seen the country before he invaded it. We can synchronise his invasion to early in the reign of Hadrian (122 – 138) and his death fighting the Cruthin/Pretani near Antrim in the reign of Antoninus Pius (138 – 161).This fits with Juvenal (c60 to 127 AD) who wrote “We have taken our arms beyond the shores of Ireland…” Tuathal may indeed represent the fictitious Mil Espáne (the Soldier from Spain), or even the Ninth Legion, the Legio IX Hispana, but that we will probably never know.

What we do know, however, is that the Manapians were driven north under pressure from the Southern Gaels to merge with the older British Cruthin in Ulster. We meet them again in their last strongholds of Taughmonagh (Tuath Monaigh or the Manapian Nation) in South Belfast, Fermanagh (Fir Mannach or Men of the Manapians), Monaghan (Muinachan) and the Mournes (Monaig).

Kylie Minogue

And who are the Last of the Belgae? We meet the Manapians again in the 3rd Century AD in the person of Carausius, who by immense naval talent rose to be admiral of the British fleet and ruled Britain from 287 to 292 AD. We meet them through their sea-god Manannán Mac Lir who slept with Cantigern, wife of Fiachna Lurgan, who bore him a son, Mongan. These legends were first put down in Bangor, founded by Comgall, who was sponsored by Cantigern as Queen of Dalaradia. And of course we meet them today as Kylie and Dannii Minogue. The Manapian Quest, based in the Sandy Row, close to Watson Street, Linfield Road, where I wrote the Cruthin, will trace the descendants of the Manapians back to Flanders Fields and the Battle of Messines Ridge in 1917. I explained this to senior representatives of the Belgian Community in Ieper (Ypres), West Flanderen and was well received.

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The Ulster Kingdoms: 6 – Oriel or Airgialla ( Mid-Ulster, South Tyrone and Armagh Districts)

Now we turn to Oriel, or Airgialla, centred on Clogher, the land of ultimate origin of the great Campbell clan of Argyll. The name Clochar refers to something made of stone (‘Cloch’ is the Gaelic word for ‘stone’ and can be anglicised as ‘cloch’, ‘clogh’ or ‘clough’). Archaeological remains from before the 5th century have been found in the vicinity. Clogher was an important ancient ritual site of the Ulster Cruthin/Pretani, before being conquered by the Gaels. It is said to have been the location of a gold-covered oracle stone named Cermand Cestach. The story goes that “Cloch-Ór (Golden Stone), may have been a ceremonial or oracle stone  originally covered in gold sacred to the ancient British Pretani…given to Mac Cairthinn by an old pagan noble (Cairpre, the father of St Tighernach of Clones, who had harassed him in every possible way until the “saint’s patient love won the local ruler to the faith.”

The stone is recorded as being “a curiosity in the porch of the Cathedral of Clogher” in the time of Annalist Cathal Maquire of Fermanagh in the late 15th century. Tighernach of Clones, later succeeded St. Mac Cairthinn as Bishop of Clogher, which has been a Christian religious centre since St Patrick’s time. St. Aedh Mac Cairthinn of Clogher (c. 430–505 AD), an early disciple and companion of Saint Patrick, founded a monastery at the site, which later the Synod of Rathbreasail recognised as an episcopal see. The Cathedral Church of Saint Macartan in the village is now one of two cathedrals of the Church of Ireland of Clogher; the other is at Enniskillen. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Clogher has its cathedral in Monaghan. The meetinghouse of Clogher Presbyterian church is outside the village in the townland of Carntall.
Ancient tradition has it that a few generations before the reign of Niall of the Nine Hostages, three brothers, the ‘Three Collas’, relatives of the then “king of Tara”, Muiredach Tírech, first initiated the attack on Ulster, though some scholars now feel the actual invasion was the work of Niall and his “sons”, and took place during his reign. The central battle was at Achadh lethderg, probably near Farney in County Monaghan in 331 AD.  Another site claimed for this battle is – Achadh Dearg – ‘red field’ the territory near carn “Achy-Leth-Derg”, Loughbrickland, parish of Aghaderg, county Down, where there still remains a huge cairn of loose stones.
”The Collas asked: ‘what country dost thou of thy power the most readily assign us, that we make swordland of it? (for warriors better than the Collas there were none). Muiredach said: ‘attack Ulster; they are not kindly disposed to us.’ But yonder was a warrior force too great for the Collas; so they went to the men of Connacht, and became their protégés, and they received them. Subsequently Connacht came with them, seven battalions strong all told, and they were at the cairn of Achadh lethderg in Farney, in Ulster. From that cairn they deliver seven battles against Ulster, one daily to a week’s end: being six fought by Connacht and one by the Collas. Every single day Ulster was routed; the Collas’ battle was on the last day; recreant failure in fighting was none there; the battle was maintained for a summer’s day and night, till blood reached shields; hard by the cairn is coll na nothar ‘Hazel of the Wounded.’ [In this last battle] Ulster gave way at break of the second day; the slaughter lasted as far as Glenree. A week then the others spent harrying Ulster, and they made swordland of the country”.
At the time of Niall’s attempt at conquest we do not know what type of internal political structure existed in Ulster. Previous to the attack on the North, the existence of the massive earthwork defences — the ‘Great Wall’ — hinted strongly at a definite regional demarcation, even political boundary, and in the prehistoric period the territory of Ulster may not only have embraced the whole north of the island but stretched as far south as the Boyne valley. There was probably a system of tribal alliances, and within this the dominant political grouping were the Ulaid (from whom ‘Ulster’ was to get its name) — the Voluntii mentioned on Ptolemy’s map. The Ulaid, according to Francis Byrne, “most probably represented a warrior caste of La Tène Celts from Britain, wielding an overlordship over indigenous tribes.” Among these ‘indigenous tribes’, who obviously still formed the majority of the population, the most important and the most populous were the Cruthin (Pytheas’ ‘Pretani). These pre-Celtic peoples shared in the over-kingship of Ulster, particular those Cruthin later known as the Dál nAraidi (Dalaradians).
The Cruthin more often than not bore the brunt of the wars against the Uí Néill, and at times claimed that it was they who were the fír-Ulaid, the ‘true Ulstermen’. In the far west of Ulster the Uí Neill conquest was said to have been the most complete, and most of the Ulster leaders there were driven east. Niall’s “sons”, Connall, Eogan (Owen), Enda and Cairpre, were said to have established their own kingdoms. But this was an eighth century propagandistic fiction. The territory of Connall, now Donegal, became known as Tir-Connall (the Land of Connall), and from Connall were descended the O’Donnells , but Conall was actually a Gaelicised Cruthin. The territory of Owen was Inishowen (the Island of Owen) but Owen was actually probably of the Ulaid. The Clan Owen later expanded into Tir Owen, which is now called Tyrone. From Owen descended the Northern O’Neills, the McLoughlins, O’Kanes, O’Hagans, O’Mullans, Devlins and other Gaelic-speaking people . Of all these “sons” Cairpre was probably the only genuine one, while Niall’s remaining sons stayed in control of the Midlands.

The capital of Ulster at Emain Macha seems to have either fallen to the “Uí Néill”, or been abandoned by the Ulstermen, around 450 AD. In the southern and central part of Ulster a number of vassal tribes, known to us by the collective name of the Airghialla (Oriel) either took the opportunity to declare their autonomy or managed to co-exist precariously between the “Uí Néill” and the retreating Ulstermen.

The boundary between the Federation of Airgialla and the now-reduced territory of Ulster was made permanent by yet another massive earthwork wall, running along the vale of the Newry River (Glen Rige). It extended from Lisnagade one mile north-east of Scarva in County Down, to near Meigh, not far from Killeavy, and Slieve Gullion in Armagh. Parts of this earthwork, much later erroneously named “Dane’s Cast”, can still be seen to this day. In construction it consists of a wide fosse or trench with a rampart on either side. The numerous raths and duns on the eastern side, coupled with the vast quantity of ancient arms found in the vicinity, would seem to indicate that the area was densely populated by a strong military force. The chief fortifications were at Lisnagade, Fathom, Crown Mound, Tierney and Listullyard. Next to Lisnagade, Fathom must have been the most important place since it commands Moiry Pass. This defence system was to remain politically effective for the next two hundred years.

However, excepting the permanent nature of the “Dane’s Cast” fortifications, other parts of the new boundaries of Ulster were more fluid. As Francis Byrne commented: “It seems that the collapse of the Ulaid was not total nor regarded as irreversible. They may have occupied southern Louth well into the seventh century and their Cruthin associates were similarly tenacious in county Londonderry… The Ulaid certainly were to remain for many generations a much more powerful force than later historians of the Uí Néill high-kingship cared to remember.”

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The Ulster Kingdoms: 5 – Iveagh (Newry City, Mourne, Craigavon and Banbridge Districts)

Ulster Kingdoms

Iveagh derives its name from the ancient British Pretani or Cruthin people Ui­bh Eachach, or “descendants of Echu”, and referred to an ancient Irish tuath (district). It is also known more fully as Ui­bh Eachach Cobha (Echu Cobo), and equivalent with Ui­bh Eachach Uladh (Eachach of Ulster). The Ui­bh Eachach were one of the tribes which made up the ancient kingdom of Ulaidh (Ulidia or Old Ulster) in modern eastern Ulster. They shared the kingship of Ulaidh with the Dál Fiatach and their kin the Dál nAraidi (Dalaradia). The Ui­bh Eachach were the most prominent sept of the Dál nAraidi or Dalaradia and linked to the Pretani of Cenel Conaill of Donegal, the so-called “Northern Ui Neill”.

The name Magh Cobha, meaning “plain of Cobo”, appears to have been an older name for Iveagh. The name survived as Moycove, the earliest recorded name in the civil parish of Drumballyroney, where it was the name of an Anglo-Norman castle between 1188–1261. The highest point in the parish is the hills of Knock Iveagh (Cnoc Uíbh Eachach), which may have been the centre of Uíbh Eachach power. Another form of the name appears to have been Cuib, with the title of “king” of Cuib/Cobo making its first appearance in the Annals of Tigernach under the year 685AD, and in the Annals of Ulster under 735AD. The last mention is in the Annals of Ulster under the year 882AD, after which the term is replaced with chief/lord of Uí Eachach.

Uíbh Eachach Cobo is mentioned in the Irish annals from AD 551 to AD 1136, with the last entry stating that “Echri Ua-h-Aitteidh, Lord of Ui-Eathach, was killed by the Ui-Eathach themselves”.The ancestor of the Uíbh Eachach Cobha, Eachach Cobha, descends from Fiacha Araidhe, eponymous founder of Dál nAraidi. The exact line of descent is uncertain as there are several different genealogies given:

The Annals of Ulster give:

  • 553AD, Eochu, ancestor of the “Ui Echach Ulad”, is listed as the son of the king of Ulaid, Conlaed

Rawlinson’s Genealogies gives:

  • The Genelach Dál Araide section: Echdach, son of Condlae, son of Coélbad, son of Cruind Ba Druí.
  • The Genelach Úa n-Echach and Genelach Úa n-Echach Coba sections give: the Uíbh Eachach Cobha are listed as following from Eocho/Echach Coba, son of Cruind Ba Druí.
  • The Genelach Mheg Aenghusu Indso section, which refers to the Mac Aenghusa sept of the Uíbh Eachach Cobo: Echach, son of Condlai, son of Cóelbad Coba, son of Cruind ba Drái, son of Echach Coba (of the Uibh Echach), son of Lugdhach.

The Laud Genealogies and Tribal Histories gives:

  • The Síl Fergusa section: Echach, son of Condlai, son of Cóelbad Coba, son of Cruind ba Drái, son of Echach Coba, son of Lugdhach.
  • De genelach hÚa nEchach Coba section: Echach, son of Cruind ba drui, is given as the progenitor of the “hÍ Echach“, however also mentions an Echach Coba, son of Aililla, son of Fedlimthe.

Kings of Cuib

  • Fothad mac Conaille (died 552)
  • Áedán m. Mongáin (died 616)
  • Fergus mac Áedáin (d.692) – King of Ulster from 674
  • Bressal mac Fergusa (died 685)
  • Eochaid mac Bressail (died 733)
  • Conchad mac Cúanach (died 735)
  • Fergus Glut (died 739)
  • Ailill mac Feidlimid (died 761)
  • Gormgal mac Conaille (died 776)
  • Eochu mac Aililla (died 801)
  • Máel Bressail mac Ailillo(died 825) – King of Ulster from 819
  • Cernach mac Máele Bressail (died 853)
  • Conallán mac Máele Dúin (died 882)
  • Aitith mac Laigni (died 898) – King of Ulster from 896 

At one point the territory of Iveagh was ruled by the Ua hAitidhe, a name which may have been anglicised as O’Haughey or Haughey. The Ua hAitidhe are claimed to have ruled Iveagh for two centuries. The first to be mentioned in the annals is Aodh Ua hAitidhe, king of Uíbh Eachach Cobha, who was killed by his own people in AD965. The last mention is under AD 1136 where Echri Ua hAitidhe, lord of Uíbh Eachach Cobha was killed, likewise by his own people. From then on the name and its variant spellings disappear from the records.

One of the septs under the Ui hAitidhe was the Mac Aonghusa (Magennis/MacGuiness), who ruled Clann Aodha (Clan Hugh), and were descended from Sárán, a descendant of Eachach Cobha. By the 12th-century the Magennises had become the chiefs of Iveagh, with Rathfriland their base. One early mention is in 1153 with the granting of the charter to the abbey of Newry which was witnessed by Aedh Mor Magennis, chief of Clann Aodha, of Iveagh. The Mac Aonghusa are also mentioned in letters by King Edward II, where they are titled Dux Hibernicorum de Ouehagh, meaning “chief of the Irish of Iveagh”.

During the 14th century the Mac Artáin (MacCartan) sept from Kinelarty, who were sub-ordinate to the Mac Aonghusa, became chiefs of Iveagh for a brief period, though in the annals a Muirchertach MacArtain is recorded as tainiste (heir-elect) of Iveagh in the 11th century. The MacCartan descended from Artáin, a great-grandson of Mongán Mac Aonghusa. Arthur Guinness was descended from him.

By the 15th century with the collapse of the Earldom of Ulster, the Mac Aonghusa had expanded Iveagh from what is now County Down all the way east to Dundrum Castle, where County Down meets the Irish Sea. Iveagh however was far from secure as rivalry between the four main branches of the Mac Aonghusa clan—Castlewellan, Corgary, Kilwarlin, and Rathfriland—threatened its cohesion. In 1539 a cattle raid into County Meath was intercepted by Lord Deputy Grey and the clan was defeated at the Battle of Bellahoe. In 1543 the then chief Art MacAonghusa of Rathfriland accepted the new policy of “Surrender and Regrant” and travelled to Greenwich Palace to be knighted as Sir Arthur Guinez by King Henry VIII. In 1550, Arthur Magennis was created Bishop of Dromore by the Pope and from 1539-1563 his kinsman Eugene Magennis was Bishop of Down and Connor. It is generally assumed that, whatever may have been their theological views, both bishops accepted the  Reformation Settlement under Elizabeth and conformed to its requirements.

In 1575 Hugh Magennis of Rathfriland petitioned successfully for a grant of his estates from Queen Elizabeth and was knighted in 1576. He remained consistently loyal to Elizabeth and the Iveagh Cruthin were described as her only friends in Ulster. In 1584 his tenure was improved by a grant in capite “of the entire country or territory of Iveagh”. In 1585 his cousin Ever MacRory Magennis was granted the adjacent lordship and manor of Kilwarlin. During the Nine Year’s War (1594-1603), however, the clan chief Art Roe remained neutral, while many of his clan sided with Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, one of whose wives was Catherine Magennis. O’Neill inaugurated a new chief in 1595 and the clan divided. Despite this, Charles Blount, the Lord Deputy of Ireland, ravaged Iveagh to the point that its chief Art Roe Magennis submitted to prevent the extermination of his people.

Following the Nine Years’ War and just before the process of colonising Ulster with loyal Protestant subjects, the arrangement of dividing mighty Gaelic lordships into smaller weaker lordships, such as what happened in County Monaghan with the MacMahon’s, occurred with Iveagh. In 1605 the “Commission for the Divison and Bounding of the Lords” was established to replicate the Monaghan arrangement. In February 1607, the commission decided to break up Iveagh, a process that continued until 1610, seeing the creation of fifteen freeholds. The Magennises of Iveagh where granted thirteen of these freeholds, with their chief Art Roe Magennis being granted the largest. The rest however was given to officers in the Crown forces, most of whom had served in the Nine Years’ War under Sir Henry Bagenal and Sir Arhur Chichester. 

The barony of Iveagh was created during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I out of the territory of Uíbh Eachach, and was the largest barony in County Down, reflecting the importance of the Irish district. In the early 17th century it was divided into Iveagh Lower and Iveagh Upper, with the boundary running east to west from the settlements of Dromara and Banbridge. By 1851 these two baronies where further divided into four, which, like the rest of those in Northern Ireland are now obsolete for administrative purposes.

The name Iveagh has been used as titles in the Peerage of Ireland and Peerage of the United Kingdom,  specifically in regards to the Magennis and Guinness family:

  • Viscount Magennis of Iveagh (1623–93)
  • Baron Iveagh (created 1885)
  • Viscount Iveagh (created 1905)
  • Earl of Iveagh (created 1919)
  • Lindy Guinness, Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava.
  • Kenneth Wiggins Maginnis, Baron Maginnis of Drumglass (created 2001).
  • Lord Ballyedmund (Edward Haughey)

In 1929 the Northern Ireland Parliamentary constituency of Iveagh was created, comprising the northern part of county down south-west of Belfast. Almost as if keeping with tradition, a descendant of the Mac Aonghusa, Brian Maginess, represented this constituency from 1938 until 1964. It was abolished in 1972 along with the Northern Ireland Parliament. And, of course , we have Alban  Maginness MLA, former Lord Mayor of Belfast and James Martin Pacelli McGuinness, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, whom I reminded on the floor of the Northern Ireland Assembly that he was of ancient British Royal blood. He found this ” an interesting analysis”. The Dalaradia organisation recently visited the Magennis Coronation Stone on the Bridal Loanen at Warrenpoint as part of our trail of all such sites.

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