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Page 8 of 32
Melaghin's Tale

"A mighty man is Melaghlin! A mighty man is Melaghlin!" The chant of the children at play, tossing doldies, jumping straw rope, blowing dandelion puffs, and linking daisy chains, is sweet to my ears. Sweeter even than that of the monks down at Abbey Assaroe, and they singing their daily office as they have for the past sixty years and more.

Old Flaherty, son of Muldory, it was who brought them here. At first their singing was in French and Latin, those sons of Bernard direct from the Kingdom of the Franks. Now it's in Irish and Latin, and maybe some day 'twill be only in Irish. Aye, and maybe some day we'll have an Irish Pope!

There I go again. One thought tumbling over another, leading me astray. Too much thinking, I'm thinking. It wasn't thinking that got me where I am, I tell you. No way. It was action, the cutting and thrusting, the hacking and bashing, the spilling of blood and maiming of limbs, and all around the battle cry, "O'Donnell abu! Melaghlin abu!" "O'Donnell forever! Melaghlin forever!" And now here I stand, the O'Donnell, master of all I survey, from the Falls of Assaroe to the peak of Bloody Foreland, from Slieve League to Rosses, Kilmacrennan to Letterkennan, the highlands and the lowlands and all places in between.

Still, I love the voices of the children. Maybe I'm mellowing. Maybe I should be thinking of what's in store at the ending of my days when my death sod rises up to claim me. Death sod. That old piseog. Some say it's only superstition. But 'tis well known there are two certain sods in a human life, the sod of birth and the sod of death, and nobody can avoid one or the other. Where our sod of birth was we all know. But where is our death sod? There's the big question. If we only knew where it is--

"Melaghlin! Melaghlin!" That's no childish chant. It's a warning shout, or my name isn't--


It's the guard from the top of Mullaghnashee. And he's pointing straight across the river.

It looks like--it is--an army of spears. And horsemen, armed horsemen.

"Sound the alarm! Get to the ford!"

"Which ford?"

"Both of them, you complete omadhauns! Send the women and the children to the monks. Brostuig ort! Brostuig!"

No time to think now. Get the men assembled at the fords. No! Wait. Learn from the past! Patrick fooled Cairbre by crossing below Saimer. Send some men to Sheegus Hill to watch the estuary below. Who says Melaghlin can't act and think at the same time?

"Come on lads! It's the Sassanach, the Brits. Fight for your native land! Kill the foe! Brits out! And O'Donnell abu!"

"The Age of Christ, 1246. This was on the Wednesday after the festival of Saints Peter and Paul. O'Donnell assembled the Kinel-Connell and Kinel-Owen against them, so that they did not allow a single man, whether English or Irish, to cross the ford of Ath-Seanaigh (Ballyshannon) for a whole week. The English then bethought themselves of sending Cormac O'Connor with a large band of cavalry westwards across the plain (the Moy) and then eastwards along the borders of the bog, unperceived by anyone, until he should arrive at Bel-atha-Culain (another ford) on the Erne, and the Kinel-Connell knew nothing of the movement until they saw a body of cavalry advancing on their rear, on their side of the river." (The Annals of the Four Masters)

"Melaghlin! Melaghlin! They're behind us! They're all around us!"

Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn!

"Melaghlin, you fool! You fool! You had too many men watching theestuary, watching the wrong way. Wrong way, Melaghlin, wrong way!"

It was the last thing he heard before a spear lanced his lungs, and red, red blood washed over his death sod.

"The Kinnel-Connell were now in the very centre of their enemies, who had surrounded them on every side. O'Donnell (Melaghlin) was slain on the spot, as well as Cammhuinealach (Wry-necked) O'Boyle, the head Chieftain of the Three Tuathas, MacSorley, Lord of Argyle, and other chiefs of the Kinel-Connell."
     (The Annals of the Four Masters).
Hawk of Erne soared over Assaroe and the corpses of the mighty who had fallen.

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