Metrical Dindshenchas


Ailech in the Metrical Dindshenchas

The Metrical Dindshechas is a collection of ancient legends and medieval oral traditions concerning the origins of a series of important place-names in Ireland. Dindshenchas or Dindsenchas, means, �lore of noble places�, and in its modern Irish form Dinnseachas, it is translated as topography. The poems are usually onomastic in nature and are an important class of early Irish literature. In the Metrical Dindshechas there are three poems that narrate the origin legends and traditions attached to the place-name Ailech, modern Elagh, and each recounts the events and the characters associated with it. Most of the medieval characters can be independently attested in other sources and appear to be associated with the R-M222+ Haplogroup and the kings of the Cenel Eogain. The translation below was made by Edward Gwynn from a series of sources, including the Book of Leinster, the Rennes Manuscript and the Great Book of Lecan. It was published in four volumes between 1903 and 1906, with a general introduction and indexes published in a fifth volume in 1935.


Banba's fair folk as the grave of noble Aed, son of the mighty Dagda.

The swift Dagda was deadly as a poison draught, a just-dealing lord over the feast till even; his mound remains, long may it remain! over him was it made in the Brugh.

He was king of Erin with hosts of hostages; he was a prince, noble, slender; he was a warrior: good sons were attendant at his side, Cermait the comely, Oengus, and Aed.

Aed was slain on Benn Bain Baith, by the fury of the hero swift of hand, with a keen weapon, we aver: Corrgend of Cruach was every man's foe.

Corrgend lay under blame for the crime: in wood nor fields nor sea found he never refuge under the white sun, nor riddance from the man's body on his back.

Around their king came the chiefs of Erin strong and lithe from every land to the shore; they were no marauders pursuing him from the fort of the son of Fatheman of F�l.

Corrgend was found stained with heart's blood; he was a wild-whirling mill-stone in his lifetime: he gained him honour through his jealousy, in the spot where Ailech stands to-day.

A goodly shining grave was built in the town wherein it is seen of all; it hides a sorrow for the kindly Dagda in the good meadow-land of Banba forever.

There was no peace for him nor healing of the harm to be had from the Dagda for the loss of his son, save by torture of his body strong in fight, and a grave-stone laid on the tomb.

He found a stone of the sea beside the lough; in pangs of suffering suddenly he died: his fame was broken and his rage; he uttered a cry, it was �ail� with an �ach�!

Ailech, that bright home of horses, would not be strong in fame without storm-beaten Corrgend; there was a subtle man on his track who was king over the Tuatha de Danann.

Ailech Imchell was above every place a right sharp-crested stronghold, all-envied, among the Folk of Danu wild and grim, the precinct where dwelt Nemain and Neit.

Imchell was the castle-builder of the stern Dagda, of the fair great vast and noble wall; Gablan, grandson of Garb, from a high-born kin, reared it round the tomb of faultless Aed.

Corrcend died with travail of body (height of evil is his whom his love degrades;) bearing the stone he marked out with toil and dug the young prince's grave.

Wherefore does every scholar set forth three periods in all, not falsely, from the strong ones who dwell in silence to the birth of the son of God?

Ailech Frigrenn, whence was it called? when poetry adorns it, noble its splendour. Frigriu was a wright of C� in Pictland in the time of Fubthaire from Iona.

Fubthaire then from the whole of Scotland led the pursuit from the Pictish land till he met a prince venom-handed, keen, illustrious Fiachu Sroptine, the king.

A house was built round the noble maiden by Frigriu of F�l, better than any guard; swiftly he planted it, conspicuous across two waters, in the midst of Ailech of the kings.

Mighty Eochu Doml�n carried off a pale cloud of hostages (white their cheek); Fubthaire did not overtake the fugitive across the sea: a famous flight his daughter had from him.

Ailech, daughter of fair-haired Fubthaire, crossed the water of Luchraide without ship; the long-haired mother (greatest of gifts) of the three Collas from the race of Conn.

Though that mighty pregnancy was plain to see, thro' keen fierce strength an end was made of the king's mighty host, a-rowing and thereafter a-swimming in the cold night.

That is the tale every elder tells (no passing jest) of the fair scion, the comely youth, valiant lord of horses, from whom Ailech Frigrenn gets its name.

Patrick, that theme of song men leave with every company, came long after from his home, and came, with limbs unapt for war, to meet the sons of Niall.

Eogan of their famous men whom he cleansed both soul and body, gained possession by force of sanctity; the Briton blessed the abode.

Patrick (not weary his strength), whom men shall obey in all times, blessed by the will of God the home of Eogan, above all oppression.

There is a chief of clerics with pure orders, on the brow of Ailech�high his honour! a prince honoured in poetry receives respect: my brother is without sin, without stain.

Colum Cille of the race of Niall, a surety all-sufficient, bright in beauty, is both a shelter for all Scotland and a golden diadem of fair Daire Calgach.

The seer Colum with the array of Conall and Eogan together the grandson of the king of Codal, he who keeps Iona, may he come to my help from the house of God!


Whoever attempts the telling of the story of Ailech of the herds after the noble Eochaid, it is robbing the sword from the hand of Hercules.

The more part of all that O'Maelcholuim demanded Eochaid heretofore expounded intelligibly for the men of the Doball.

Surely, when he asked, what mason built Ailech? Eochaid the arm-proof noble did not conceal that it was Garban of the horses.

Who was present at the building? His tribesman Imchell and Garban the mason, grandson of Garb, from a warlike kin, who built it.

Look, who was he by whom was wrought thereafter the shining work? The man by whom was brought its makings, as requital for the Dagda's scion.

If it be asked, what was the cause why it was made? Round his son's seemly grave he raised the tomb nobly-bright.

Let it be seen wherefore Ailech the illustrious is called so at all? From the stone lifted up by Corrgend [...] who waged battle.

Corrgend, son of Flatheman, from Cruach (hearken!) smote Aed, high-born, famous, who was son to the hard Dagda,

Because Aed came to Corrgend's wife into her bed; ill was the deed, since her partner allowed it not.

Corrgend strode forth, after murdering him in the midst of his house: so he slew Aed, though he was under oath; it was a foolish crime.

The youth of Erin were seeking him�famous that folk! but they found him not at that time after that crime.

�Let him be slain,� cried each man, �let him not be spared for what he has done.� �He shall not die,� said the Dagda, �for Tara's sake,�

�But lift ye up on his back the dead man he has destroyed; 'tis better for us to take a spell of his service than to smite him,�

�And he shall be under the shameful burden of the dead man, without mercy, till he find a stone that shall be a trophy over Aed's grave.�

He marked a stone above loch Foyle (it was a soldier's task), and raised it up with a champion's strength; noble was the hero.

This is what he said as he bore the burden over road after road, �Ach! ach! the stone! 'tis by it my heart is bursting!�

�Tis right that Ail-ach should cleave to it,� said the Dagda; so that was the name of the height, in the spot where this befell.

Neit, son of Indui, his mother's brother, possessed Ailech, with Nemain, his law-giver wife, of the wounds of war,

That it may be called by all men Ailech Neit, the bright neck of land; to him the whole island belonged.

Some one might ask then, what race held the island, when this mighty work was reared above this lough?

Well I remember, it was the Tuatha De Danann in their hosts, with their darts, with their shields, with their war-harness.

Who was king over all Erin, sweet-sounding, radiant? Who but the skilful Dagda? You hear of none other so famous.

The time when the fortress was built, a spacious abode, was the third lamentable epoch of the world, a sorrowful certainty.

There arrived at Ailech, where Imchell was, many generations, before the famous Frigriu came to the far-seen rock.

Frigriu, son of fierce valiant Rude, proud and skilful, brought with gold from arm-clad Scotland, his implements complete.

Cunning was the craftsman whose wife was Ailech the white, though she was daughter to Fubthaire of the white soles.

In flight across the sea the son of prosperous Rude bore her over the surface of a causeway: it was a temptation unknown to her father.

Fubthaire arose to seek him, though it was a hard task (cunning was this deed), and he came unto this height.

Thereupon she was carried into the keep, full of horses, clamorous; when battle was joined, Ailech was borne from him to Ailech.

Then Frigriu of the Fotharta was afraid before Fubthaire; Fiachu Sroptine protected him till he reached Ailech.

A house was built about his wife by the robber Frigriu; he was noted above the field of exercise for his great renown.

It was built of red yew tooled and arched, overlaid with pure unwrought silver, and gold, and bronze;

It was decked with bright gems, a work that held fast in it; alike were day and night in the midst of it.

Although the name Ailech Frigrenn clave to it thenceforth (behold the bright church!) Ailech N�it loses not through oblivion the name Ailech Imchill.

There is none alive that would know everything, but God only: He knoweth the ordering of times from of old, what it shall be.


Ailech Frigrenn, green-sward of the world's royal kings, fortress to which led roads horse-trodden, through five ramparts:

Hill where the Dagda slept, red are its flowers, many its houses, few its plunderings, plumb its stones.

A lofty keep is Ailech Frigrenn, the hero's rath, a fort that fosters schools, lime-white house of granite.

A lovely spot is Ailech Gabr�in, green are its boughs, on its sod the Dagda, famed in song, found a dwelling for Aed.

I tell to you the legend of Ailech's treasures: one of its houses would feed half the world.

The reason why the name was found for Ailech with its stalls, if that is what ye seek, I know one with whom ye may find it.

Eochaid Ollathair marched through all Erin: broader was his countenance than half a plain.

The hero Eochaid's three sons, who knew no hour of jealousy, were Oengus, and Aed and Cermat of the battle squadrons.

Corrgend son of Faitheman, a warrior among mankind, was Eochaid's soldier, that knit the ranks and knew no fear, A tall sprig of a lad from Mag Cruachan, with locks bright as gold, with agile grace, with a champion's temper, with the strength of nine.

When the king of Erin addressed him with inveigling words Corrgenn came from Cr�ach Aigle to T�ath Tuirbe.

Tethra, whitely fair, was wife of Corrgenn slender of shape; there was none lovelier since the Flood in all Erin.

When Tethra came to the banquet-hall at Tara, she bestowed the charm of her regard on Aed, though he was not present.

Corrgend went to visit his land�not sorry was Tethra: she gave her love in his absence, in a gust of desire, to Aed.

Aed went in to Corrgenn's wife, on an errand unblest: woe for the reproach to Tethra's mate, leader of lucky troops.

Then did Corrgenn, blood-stained chieftain, as requital, slay forthwith the boy that smirched his honour.

After the deed Corrgenn went his way to western Connacht, though he found no shelter for his guilt when Aed was slain.

Eochaid went seeking Corrgenn to Cr�ch Umaill and with relentless pressure hemmed him in a narrow corner.

Corrgenn is taken in his guilt, for all his bravery: the strong man in a fit of anguish became the Dagda's bondman.

Then all cried �Let us hang Corrgenn, chief of warriors, if his clear bright cheek has shown haughtiness or pride.�

�I will not do as ye say�, said the Dagda: �that which is not right and lawful may not be done by me.�

�Life and honour are not due as the price of a life: this shall not turn aside the Dagda's face from the divine decree.�

�Only he shall bear on his back the boy he killed till he find a stone of size to match him.�

�Let the boy be laid on the back of Corrgenn of Cnoc na Taiden to signify hereafter his punishment at the hands of the stern king of the Gaels.�

Aed was borne by Eochaid mighty in battle: no king before him bore to Tara such a load.

On Tara's hill the dead man was lifted on the warrior's back: he bore with him to the house of noble N�t the bright-faced stripling.

Corrgenn took his way through the midst of Mag Senaig, and the brave wight reached at point of dawn the bright lough of Febal,

(Febal mac Lotain, white of hand, soft of shoulder: a stone was cast up by the lough of length to cover the child.)

When Corrgenn saw the stone of Febal, which he spied before him, he bore it with him by uttermost effort, an added burden.

He declared verily to the Dagda, not gloomy of mien, �Here is the stone fetched forth, O warrior! ah stone of pride!�

Said the Dagda himself, pure of countenance: �From the stone shall be the place's name� (a saying in its homes).

�Ailech shall this place be called throughout Banba, honoured above hills like the silent hill of Tara,� said the Dagda's druid.

Corrgenn fell under the rude stone's weight, his heart broke: the quicker was he laid in grave at foot of a tree.

Hence is named Ailech, after Aed of the wind-swift horses, and after rough strong mangled Corrgenn of Cr�ach Aigle.

Thereafter were brought two men of subtle art, Garb�n and Imchell, to sorrowing fair-headed Eochaid.

He bade them build a rath round the smooth slender folk to be a rath of goodly devices, the best in Erin.

N�it son of Indui, surly of temper, told them that the world's brave host would not build the better part of Ailech.

Diligent Garb�n was busy with masonry and carving, Imchell was busy keeping guard about the house.

The building of Ailech's keep was ended, though a toilsome work; a single stone closed the apex of the house of perilous hostages.

N�it son of Indui, the stranger, he of the long weapon, came and brought with him the winsome woman who dwelt in Brega: one like Nemain was never brought to the house of Ailech.

Ailech N�it, from Neit son of Indui, was the name of the place, before another name was given to it; it was guarded by weapons.

Ailech Frigrenn was a further name that it received afterward: no stronghold save Tara may be matched with Ailech.

Frigriu came to the king of Scotland, the bright-haired: no craftsman so perfect as he poured red gold in the balance.

Ubthaire of the unruly steed was the name of the high king of Scotland, whose long arm turned in wounds the deadly spear-shaft.

The king had a daughter surpassing queens and ladies: Frigriu by sweet looks overbold won the favour of her converse.

Ailech was the name of Ubthaire's daughter�she was wife of a noble, honourable and fresh of colour, till the Gael's love bewildered her.

She went with him from the midst of Cantire to the Ulaid's land�a feat of noble women, for whom a contest of warriors was fought.

Ubthaire demanded his daughter by manly means or he would burn the house of Tara with half Banba to boot.

Eochaid Doiml�n, bright of face, replied that never till the day of doom should he carry off the girl by such means.

The craftsman claimed protection from the king, even the king of Tara: he asked of him the Dagda's fort, or Medb's rampart.

�Guard, O king�, said the princes to the king of Femen, �thine honour and thy face, and give Ailech to Ailech.�

Then was Ailech rather than any home given to Ailech, to the curled pure-bright girl, bright-cheeked, passing proud.

Hence the name Ailech Frigrenn (its origin is found) is given by every right to Ailech of the Dagda, dwelling of the Ulaid.

The kingship of Erin, we tell in books, deserted Tara after it came to Ailech of dangerous N�it.

The king of F�l found Ailech in a secret hour, and she was mother of stout-hearted Colla, of Druim in Domain.

Oldest of the labours of Erin is Ailech Frigrenn: we will give it no greater praise than it deserves.

Forty years but one, closely reckoned, the work of nimble hands belonged to the seed of the sons of M�l.

N�it son of Indui, king of the north country, lord of horse-breeding peoples, was the first heathen by whom Obach was deserted for Ailech.

Nine kings of one name, of Adam's race, sprang from Ailech, and Eochaid was the name of each, famed in dangers:

Eochaid Ollathair, first, who checked calamity; Eochaid Etgothach who met affliction�he was grim in combat;

Eochaid Opthach, Eochaid Feidlech, man of sword-blades, and the king who gained his life outright, Eochaid Airem;

Eochaid Buadach, Eochaid M�r, slayer of cattle, Eochaid Doiml�n, noble temper well-proven, rallier of battle,

Eochaid Muigmed�n, son of the high king of Inis Senaig, a sea for offspring, undefeated in battle.

Son to this man was N�all, who conquered the divided world: his fair slender loving mother was Cairenn the Pict.

Great N�all's progeny are the princes of Ailech, of martial weapons, tall youths, white-fingered lads, a line of warriors.

Eogan son of N�all, gifted from childhood with a soldier's strength, from whose countenance came increase of honour, fortunate lord of Febal:

Fair-haired Indecht, daughter of the king of Monach, was mother of Eogan�Eogan with kingly nature, with a hero's will, with a lion's spirit.

Cinel Eogain, nobler than the kindred of Tara, with fingers decked with many rings, with the beauty of their hair,

They are the noblest array in Erin, the assembly of Ailech; they are the best that a retinue surrounds in their homes in the west.

Seventeen High Kings from them, of the line of Eogan, ruled over Erin: their foreign levies would contend for their rights in the world.

By them are hostages taken from every land I traverse; through them all men are thriving in Erin.

C� Arad the learned has related to every auditor the legend difficult and dark of proud Ailech.

Dercilus�a face alert in battle, masterful in his halls�was king of the world, followed by troops of horses, when by mighty Loch Febail was found the occasion of Ailech's name,

Six hundred years and seventy, by ancient report, before the birth of Christ in a city of Juda, bright of hue, divine.

Five thousand one hundred and forty years above the plains, with six years added thereto, passed in their houses yonder, till the golden poem of Ailech was recited by the host of Monach.

Jesus Christ, Lord of every land and every sea, is the king to whom our song shall rise in his palace, an ornament of beauty.