The Celtic Literature Collective

The Expulsion of the Dessi
A Version: Laud 610 & Rawlinson B 502

These are the Wanderings of the Dessi (which are put here) because of their kinship with the Fothairt; and they were thirty years in Leinster.

1. Artchorp son of Messchorp had four sons, to wit, Brecc and Oengus and Eochuid and Forad. Forad, however, was the son of a bondmaid and did not get any land, and he was the eldest of them. Oengus had the strength of fifty men.

2. Now the King of Tara had a wanton son, to wit, Conn mac Cormaic, who forcibly seized the daughter of Forad—Forach was her name—and ravished her. Then Oengus set out in search of the girl and went to Tara. He did not secure the chains which were on the [valve?] of the lance; for a man was needed for each of these two chains of his always. He saw his fosterchild sitting at the right hand of the King’s son. ‘We have not heard of this new alliance,’ said Oengus. The King’s son answered: ‘Grant me the respite of a grown-up person! In any case, thou wilt have to bear it, though thou do not grant it.’ ‘To begin with, I will not bear it! said Oengus and ran the lance through him. Then one of the two chains struck the eye of the King, so that it broke in his head; and when he pulled the lance back, its butt end struck the cup-bearer and passed through him so that he died the first. [Laud 610: So that its butt-end struck the forehead of the steward and came out at the back of his head.  At the same time did the son and the steward fall and Cormac's eye was broken; and they couldn't lay hold of him, so that he reached his house.  And he killed nine of Cormac's warriors as they were pursuing him, and his fosterson was with him, to wit, Corc Duibne (from whom are the Corco Duibne), who had escaped from hostageship.]  It was from the chains that his name was Oengus of the Dread Lance.

3. Hence Achaill was built by the side of Tara, that is to say, a rath was dug by Cormac in which he would always sleep; for it was not lawful for a king with a blemish to sleep in Tara. Hence is said Achaill by Tara (or near Tara), on account of the care (faichill) taken of the eye of the King.

4. The King’s son died, and Oengus took the woman away with him.

5. Cormac sent hosts against the Dessi, who were routed in seven battles under the leadership of Oengus and his brother’s sons, to wit, Russ and Eogan. To the end of forty days Oengus was king after Brecc, and then every man murmurs, for they could not endure the combined power of the prince and the champion together. It is then he said: ‘Take possession of the kingship! My own strength is best for me.’

6. The King of Tara gathered the men of Ireland against them, and did not grant them fair fight, so that they left his land to him. Then they went into Leinster to Fiachu Bacceda, son of Cathair, who drove the Hui Bairrche for them out of their land; and there the Dessi were settled until the time of Crimthann, son of Enna Censelach, son of Labraid, son of Bressal Belach, son of Fiachu Bacceda.

7. There chanced to be a famous warrior with the Hui Bairrchi, to wit, Eochu Guinech, son of Oengus, and he it was who drove them out of their land. Then Crimthann, son of Enna, sent the wandering host of the Dessi to Ard Ladrann southward, whence the Land of the Wandering Host and the Folk of the Wandering Host have been so called ever since.

8. Meld, the daughter of Ernbrand, the wife of Crimthand, bore sons to Criinthaud and then died, whereupon Cumin, the daughter of Ernbrand, was married to him.

Cumin bore him a daughter, even Ethne the Dread. In the night when Ethne was born Bri, the druid, son of Bairchid was in the stronghold. ‘The maiden that has been born to-night,’ said Bri, ‘all the men of Ireland shall know her, and on account of this maiden her mother’s kindred will seize the land on which they shall dwell.’ When they heard the truth of that story from the druid, that it was through the power of the maiden that they would obtain inheritance, they reared her on the flesh of little boys that she might grow quickly.’ Hence Ethne the Dread was her name, for the little boys dreaded her.

9. Now, it was that druid’s grandfather, who had sung their wanderings to them as they went from the north to the battle of Truistiu ‘Tis then he said: ‘Not from Tara,’ &c.

10. Then messengers were sent from Cormac after the sons of Brecc, even Russ and Eogan, that they should come back to Cormac. When Oengus heard that, he said to them: ‘Is it true,’ said he, ‘that they have come on an errand of peace’ and treaty with you?’ ‘It is true,’ said they. ‘We are to be absolved of everything that we have done, and we are to have twice as much again as our own land, together with our own land and full peace till Doom.’ ‘Do not do it,’ said Oengus, ‘leave me not alone! You shall have two thirds of the land which we shall clear, precedence to your children over my own children till Doom, and my own children to go to battle and across the border before every one, and to be the last to come out of the enemy’s land. And they shall clear the land before you. Do not leave me!’ Then they did that, and truth was pledged for it, to wit, truth of breast and cheek, of heaven and earth, of sun and moon, of dew and drop, of sea and land.

11. Eochaid, son of Artchorp, went over sea with his descendants into the territory of Demed, and it is there that his sons and grandsons died. And from them is the race of Crimthaininn over there, of which is Teudor son of Regin, son of Catgocaun, son of Cathen, son of Cloten, son of Nougoy, son of Arthur, son of Petr, son of Ciucar, son of Guortepir, son of Aircol, son of Triphun, son of Aed Brosc, son of Corath, son of Eochaid Allmuir, son of Artchorp.

12. Cormac, the grandson of Conn, played a trick upon two soldiers of Oengus the King, to wit, Grainne and Moinne, from whom Granraige and Moinrige are so called. He caused it to be said to either of them in the absence of the other: ‘Small is thy esteem with thy king, O Grainne. Thou art not deemed worthy to be compared to Moinne the Gall.’ The same thing was said to Moinne. Then the latter said to Oengus: ‘If I am put in comparison with Grainne, I shall put this spear through thee.’ When Cormac knew the order of the watch which would come to them on the same night together... Tis they who let in a host upon him in his fortress, and one of them wounded him, and his brother’s son was slain together with him.

13. Thereupon Crimthann sent them into Ard Ladrann. And after the death of Crimnthann, his sons made war upon the Dessi; and one of them, Eochu, took the oak with its roots to them.’ And in a rout they drove them out into the land of Ossory

14. There in the east by the meeting of the Three Waters on a point of the land of Tigernach they dwelt. Early one morning, after they had built their dwellings, the King of Ossory saw them. ‘Yonder,’ he said, ‘are a thousand houses (mile tige) and a thousand smokes.’ Hence Miledach is so-called. He put fire to them, and all their dwellings are burnt. After that there was no place for them in the east to stay in. They fared forth and went along the sea westward until they settled in Irchuilenn in the (south-)west.

15. At that time the wife of Oengus son of Nadfraich, King of Cashel, died, and a messenger was sent by him to the Dessi to woo the maiden Ethne, for she had been with them in the west. Oengus promised her three wishes. These were her three wishes, to wit, that the meadow land of Cashel from Luasc to Cashel be given to her, for her mother’s kindred to dwell there, that the tribe which they would choose should clear the land before them, which should then belong to them; and that they should be as free as the three Eoganacht of Munster, to wit, the Eoganacht of Raithlenn, the Eoganacht of Loch Lein and the Eoganacht of the Hui Fidgenti together with the Hui Liathain.

16. Then the Dessi chose the people of Ossory to be cleared out before them and to fight against. There were two druids with the Dessi, to wit, Drong and Cecht; and there was also a druid with those of Ossory, Dil, the descendant of Crecca, and the druids of the Dessi had been foster-sons of his. The Dessi fought seven battles with the men of Ossory at Lethet Laidcind in Ard Catha, in all of which they were routed by the men of Ossory.

17. Then Ethne the Dread advised her mother’s kinsfolk to go to the chief counsellor of Munster, the seer-judge of Cashel, Lugaid Laigde Cosc. He by his wisdom and prudence helped them. He was judge to the Corco Laigdi. For there had been an interchange between the Corco Laigdi and the Eoganacht in Cashel (from the time of Darfine and Dercthine), to wit, whenever there was a king of the Corco Laigdi, there was a judge of the Eoganacht. Oengus, son of Nadfraich, was king at that time, and Lugaid Laigde Cosc was judge.

18. The nobles of the Dessi, and Ethne the Dread with them, went to Lugaid Cosc and said to him: ‘Help us! Thou shalt have land with us for it without rent, without seizure, without levy of host or food, nor shall we ever trespass against thy descendants.’ The truth of Oengus and of Ethne and of the princes of the Dessi is pledged for this. ‘Call your druids to me,’ said Lugaid Cosc, ‘even Droch and Cecht.’ They were called to him, and they gave them two jars full of wine, which had been brought to them from the lands of Gaul, together with food of Gaul; for he who would eat and drink it would be intoxicated and sober (at the same time). ‘Take this gift to your tutor and say to him that ye repent of fighting against him. And he will instruct his daughter after he has drunk the wine.’

19. They did so. And Dil accepted the gift, and the girl divided it and opened (?)... before them. Dil, however, was blind. Then, when lie was drunk, the maiden asked him before his two foster-sons: ‘O my venerable (father)’ said she, ‘will there be rescue for the Dessi now’? ‘Indeed, there will be,’ said Dil, ‘if the sun rise upon them in battle-order and they slay and wound no one. For he who will first slay or wound any one of the other host to-morrow morning, shall not inhabit this land till Doom.’ ‘Perhaps there will be no slaying then,’ said the girl, so that the young men should hear it. ‘If I were in the company of the Dessi, I should by magic shape a man into a red cow, so that the men of Ossory would kill that cow.’

20. Forthwith the druids repair northward to Cashel to the Dessi and take them with them in battle-order early on the next morning. They light a fire of rowan there and send its smoke eastward into Ossory. Thereupon the men of Ossory come to Inneoin, and it was proclaimed by Dil that no one of the Dessi should be slain or wounded there. But the druids of the Dessi formed an old serf, Docheth by name, into the shape of a red (hornless) cow, promising freedom to his descendants for ever. Then the cow went to encounter the men of Ossory and flings herself upon them, and... [portion is obscure; Laud 610 adds: 'What are they doing in the west now, my lads?' said Dil. 'They are kindling a fire and letting a red cow into the ford from the west.' 'That is not my work. Do not let the men kill the cow!' said he. They let her go past them. Bu the horse-boys behind their back kill her and raise a shout. 'what shout is that, my lads?' said Dil. 'The horse-boys are slaying the cow.' 'Woe is me!' said Dil. 'Bring me my chariot.'] ...and is killed at the ford westward of Inneoin whence the Ford of the Red Cow is so called. And then they saw it was the body of a man that had been slain.

21. The men of Ossory were routed eastward as far as the Andobur, and there they turn and take their wounded and their dead nobles into the front part of Rath Machuthnoe (on the bank of the Andobur) in the east. Again they were routed froni the Andobur to the Lainnen (which is the boundary between the Dessi and the men of Ossory till Doom. They ran away like deer (ossa).) As the Dessi were returning from the east they killed the wounded men whom those of Ossory had left behind in the front part of the fortress. Hence the Road of Death along the front of the fortress is so called.

22. Thereupon the Dessi divide those lands into four parts. Each family which came into this first division has its share in the land. There are fifty septs among the Dessi, of whom twenty-five got a share, while the other twenty-five did not; and the former are called Dessi, for it is they who are under rent and law and hut-tax to the princes, viz, to the Division of Fiachu Suidge, and the latter are not called Dessi. Every exiled band, however, of which Ethne the Dread knew in Ireland, she gathered to the Dessi, because the Division of Fiachu Suidge had been diminished in so many battles.

23. Of the septs of the Dessi.
She brought Semon (son of Oengus, son of Celtchar, son of Uthechar) of the men of Ulster to them (with 150 men) from whom are the Semuine.

She brought to them Nemongen (son of Nechtan) of the Uaithni, with fifty men, from whom are the Nechtarge.

She brought to them the three sons of Lugaid Cosc, judge of the Corco Laigdi, from Cashel, with fifty men.

Next, 150 men of the three sons of Oengus, son of Derbchu (Oengus Darchu), son of Cormac Ulfata, de quibus Mechain (Dál Maic Chon).

Fifty men of the sons of Fedilmid Brufer or, de quibus Brurige.

Fifty men of the sons of Odro, from Ulster, de quibus Odraige.

Nine men of the sons of Dith, of the Erainn, de quibus Corco Ditha.

A hundred warriors was the number of the descendants of Benta, (Mac Bind), time poet fronm Ulster, de quo Bentraige.

Nine men of the sons of Conali, son of Niall, de quo Condraige.

Nine men of the sons of Sord, son of Mugdorna Dub, de quo Sordraige.

Nine men of the sons of Mundechblæ son of Mugdorna Dub, (from whom Loch Muindig in the lands of time Mugdoirn is so called), do quibus Dubrige. These are the sons of Briun’s daughter.

Nine men of the sons of Cerbfer (Cony), son of Mugdorna, from whom are the Ciarraige (Cairige).

Nine men of the Sons of Latfer, son of Fer Ceoch, from whom are the Latraige.

Three times nine men of Oengus Firgabra, son of Conaire, son of Mess Buachalla, from whom are the Gabraige.

Nine men of Aurir of the Erainn, from whom are the Aurige. Nine men of Fer Menn, son of Cuscraid Menn of Macha, son of Conchobor, from whom are the Mennraige.

Nine men of the son (sons) of Glaschach, son of Mug Ruith from whom are the Rodraige.

Three times nine men of Oengus Crece, son of Conchobor Mael, son of Formael, of the men of Ulster—’tis he who sold spears in Tara—a quo Crecraige.

Binne and Eochaid Coen, from whom are the Bintrige and Coennige. They were nine.

Nine men of Nothir, son of Fer Ceoch, from whom are the Nothrige.

Nine men of Nudfer from Leinster, from whom are the Nudraige.

Nine men of the Sons of Blat, fronm whom are the Blatraige.

Nine men of Nindfer, son of Bairche, from whom are the Nindrige.

Nine men of Fer Luide fromn Sid ar Femun, from whom are the Ludraige.

Nine men of Caerfer (Celir) of the Picts, from whomn are the Caerige (Celrige).

Three times nine men of the three sons of Bonnfer (the cowherd of Ethne), from whom are the Bonnrige.

Nine men of Luthor (Liber), son of Art, from whom are the Luthraige (Luburige).

Nine men of Blotchu of the Britons, from whom are the Blotrige.

Nine men of Grutbit (Gubnith maccu Buen), son of Duban, from whom are the Grutbnige (Gubtrige).

Nine men of the son of Bodb, from whom are the Bodbrige.

Nine men of the son of Grinner (Gran) of Ulster, from whom are the Grinnnige (Granrige).

Nine Gauls of Muinrige with the son of Muinmend.

Nine men of Maine (of the Son of Ainiu, son of Cuirer) from whom are the Cuirrige.

Nine men of the son of Dimain of Darfine, from whom are the Corco Dimaine.

Nine men of the descendant of Enne Uniche of the Gauls, from whom are the Corco Uniche.

Fifty men of Glaschatt son of Ailell Aulom, from whom are the Cattraige.

Fifty men of the three Sons of Mathni,’ son of Ailill Aulomn (Fergair’s daughter was their mother), from whom are the Dál Mathrach. Fifty men of the descendants of Mac Corp, son of Ailill Aulom), from whom are the Dál Maic Chuirp.

Fifty men of Tidel, son of Ailill Aulom, from whom are the Dál Tidil Cíchich, on whom were three (a hundred) teats.

Nine men of Magneth (Maignen) the Gaul, from whom are the Dál Magned (Maignen).

Nine men of Michol (Mechon, son of Dare) from Darfine, from whom are the Dál Michoil (Mechon).

Three times nine men of the sons of Dorchu, son of Uar, from whom are the Dál Dorchon.

Three times nine men of the sons Luigne (Lethclub) of the Erainn, from whom are the Dál Luigni.

Fifty men of the three sons of Nuidne, son of Curoi (son of Dáre), from whom are the Dál Nuidni.

Nine men of the three sons of Niamda (Nimde) from whom are the Dál Niamda (Nimde).

Nine men of Loiscne (Luiscniu) son of Cuinnia (Cumenath), from whom are the Dál Loscind (Luiscni).

Three leeches of Ethne the Dread, from whom are the Dál Niathlega.

Three sons of Mug Caintech (son of Cuthech), fromn whom are the Dál Mogaide (Mugith).

Three sons of Cairinne (Arme) Cerd, from whom are the Cerdraige.

Laemman, son of Niathach, son of Briun, ‘tis he who first took hostages of the Fir Gair. He was a seer-judge.

Caechros, son of Fiach (Feice), who first pledged the battalion of Inde (?).

24. The three daughters of Ernbrand, Mell and Belc and Cinniu were all three married to Crimthann, one after another. Fromn Mell are the SíT Mella., from Belc the Hui Beilce. Cinniu bore Ethne only to him.

25. Now, when Cormac, after having been blinded by Oengus, son of Artchorp, gave up his kingship, Carpre Lifechar took the government in the place of his father. This is what he practised every day before his father: he would put two fingers around the tusk-hilted sword and one-finger around the boss of the shield. In that way he was instructed to slay the peopie of Carpre on either side of the Boyne. Hence they went into exile into the territory of Leinster. After Fiachu Sraiptine and Colla Uais and Colla Menn of the Mugdoirn had slain the king of the Dessi, Brecc, son of Artchorp, the men of Leinster drove one third of the host westward to Commur. They sent to Cashel to ask help of Oengus. Tis there he killed Fedelmid Clar, the descendant of Brigit and Anlathe, son of Eogan, in Etarbaine. Hence is the Cairn of Brigit, daughter of Dubthach, son of Dub, son of Lugaid, of Ulster.’

26. Now, the third who caine from the north, ‘tis they that reared the maiden Ethne the Dread, the daughter of Crimthann. The men of Ossory and the Corco Laigdi went into exile together, for they... They took land from the Meeting of the Three Waters as far as Birr in Leinster. When they were in the land of Ossory, as far as Eochair in the east. Hence the Ford of the Fothairt and the Oakwood of Leinster in Ossory are so called. At the same time the Dessi went to Gabruan (Gabran) and the Féni to Fid Már and the Fothairt to Gabruan (Gabran), in the east. For the Fothairt were in exile in Gabruan (Gabran), after Echu Domlen, son of Carpre Lifechar had been slain by Sarniad (Seminaith) the son of Cerb, the brother of Bronach, of the Fothairt.

27. The by-names of the Divisions of Fiachu Suiclge.

Semuinrige, Nechtraige, Bentraige, Odraige, Osraige, Bruirige from Bruru, son of Artharu, king of the Picts, Sordraige, Latraige, Carraige, Gabraige, Cairige, Mentrige, Rotrige, Rudraige, Blairige, Ranrige, Luidrige (viz. a man who went into an elf mound), Callraige (three sons), Bodraige, Lubentraige, Crobentraige, Corco Che, Corco Ainige, Corco Dithech, Dál Mechoin, Dál Mathrach, Dál Maigne, Dál Luigne, Dál Menchuirp, Dál nlnidm, Dál nUidne, Dál nDorchon (Dorchó mac Linne), Dál Luiscne. These they are who are called Dessi, for their great nobleness or for the nobleness of their gods, i.e. for the number of their idols, or for their skilfulness, or for their great justice, or for their love of the place in which they were born, or for their great celebrity, since their expedition and their wanderings and their marchings are known to every one. It was thirty-three years after the Dessi went from Tara that the men of Leinster gave them battle at Gabruan and at the Meeting of time Three Waters, after having routed the Dessi in seven battles.

Meyer, Kuno. "The Expulsion of the Deissi." Y Cymmrodor. v. XIV. 1901.