Táin Bó Cúailnge

19A. The Head-place of Ferchu

About this Edition

  • Translated By
    Publishing Date
    • Joseph Dunn

Ferchu Longsech (the Exile), a wonderful warrior from Loch Ce, outlawed from his land by Ailill and Medb, although of the Connachtmen, was engaged in battle and plunder with Ailill and Medb. From the day these came to the kingship, there never was a time that he fared to their camp or took part in their expeditions or shared in their straits or their needs or their hardships, but he was ever at their heels, pillaging and plundering their borders and land.

At that time he sojourned in the eastern part of Mag Ai. Twelve men was his muster. He learned that a single man checked and stopped four of the five grand provinces of Erin from Monday at Summer’s end till the beginning of Spring, slaying a man on the ford every one of those days and a hundred warriors every night. He weighed his plan privily with his people. “What better plan could we devise?” quoth he, “than to go and attack yonder man that checketh and stoppeth four of the five grand provinces of Erin, and bring his head and his arms with us to Ailill and Medb? However great the injuries and wrongs we have done to Ailill and Medb, we shall obtain our peace therefor, if only that man fall by our hand.” He made no doubt that if Cuchulain fell through him, the eastern territory of Connacht would be his.

Now this was the resolve they took, and they proceeded to where Cuchulain was at Ath Aladh (‘Speckled Ford’) on the Plain of Murthemne. And when they came, they espied the lone warrior and knew that it was Cuchulain. It was not fair fight nor combat with one they vouchsafed him, but at one and the same time the twelve men fell upon him so that their spears sank up to their middles into his shield. Cuchulain on his part drew his sword from the sheath of the Badb to attack them, and he fell to to cut away their weapons and to lighten his shield. Then he turned on them, front and back, to the left and the right, and straightway he smote off their twelve heads; and he engaged in a furious, bloody and violent battle with Ferchu himself, after killing his people.

And not long did it avail Ferchu thus, for he fell at last by Cuchulain, and Cuchulain cut off Ferchu’s head to the east of the ford. And he set up twelve stones in the earth for them, and he put the head of each one of them on its stone and he likewise put Ferchu Longsech’s head on its stone. Hence Cinnit Ferchon Longsig is henceforth the name of the place where Ferchu Longsech left his head and his twelve men theirs and their arms and their trophies, to wit, Cenn-aitt Ferchon (‘the Head place of Ferchu’).