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Page 10 of 15
A Treasure Trove Re-discovered
Volume I of the Annals of Senait

While searching through old files for other material pertinent to The Bards of Ireland, it was with great pleasure I rediscovered a handwritten record made some years ago of panegyrics, eulogies, haikkus, transcribed from "The Annals of Ulster", otherwise "Annala Senait--A Chronicle of Irish Affairs from A.D. 431 to A.D. 1540", edited, with translation and notes, by William M. Hennessy, M.R.I.A., Assistant Deputy Keeper of the Records, Royal Irish Academy, vol. I, published 1887.

As one who published panegyrics at an early age as a newspaperman in Donegal, finding the good in a person's life or death, and expressing it with the right word, I was impressed with the eloquence of our early Irish annalists in their age when it came to writing obituaries. Their techniques, and their skills, could serve well as a primer for present-day aspiring, and sometimes perspiring, students of journalism, striving to say the same thing over and over in new ways, and with a sense of feeling. What follows has been culled from over a thousand years of practice in the art, and deserves a slow and studied reading.

The first death so commemotated in the "Annals of Ulster" was the killing of Ainmire of Fermen, son of Etna, of whom it was said:

575 A.D. Fermen, when there was a King,

Was not a place without valour.
Today, crimson is its aspect
By Ainmire, son of Setna.

603 A.D. "Assassination of Colman Rimidh by a man of his own kindred."

Notwithstanding kingship, notwithstanding law,
Notwithstanding power over chieftains;
Behold! Colman Rimidh, a king--
Lorcan Dithnada slew him!

In the same year there were two further assassinations:

Not wise was the counsel
For the heroes of Tuath-Tuirmhe;
Conal that slew Aedh Slane,
Aedh Slane that slew Suibhne.

617 A.D. "The killing of Fergus, son of Colman Mor, by Anfartach Ua Mescain of Muintir-Blatini".

If to me, to my house should come
Mescan's decendant, Anfartach,
Poisonous water I would give him
Because of the slaying of Fergus.

621 A.D. "Conaing, son of Aedhan, was drowned"--

Great bright sea waves,
[And] the sun, that killed him,
At his weak wicker skiff
Arrayed themselves against Conaing.

650 A.D "Two grandsons of Aedh Slane, Donough and Conell, killed by Leinster men in the mill of Oran, near Mullingar."

The stuff which the mill grinds
Is not oats but red wheat.
Of the saplings of the great tree
Is the 'feed' of Maeldorain's mill.

668 A.D. "The death of Maelfothartaigh, son of the King of Ui-Tuirtri."

Not dearer
Is either king than another to me
Since Maelfothartaigh was borne
On his bier to Derry.

670 A.D. "The assassination of Sechnusach, son of Blathmac, King of Tara, in the beginning of winter."--

Full of bridles, fill of horse-whips, was
The house where Sechnasach was wont to be.
Many were the leavings of plunder
In the house in which Blathmac's son used to be.

687. A.D. "The battle of Imleach-Pich, in Meath, and the sad aftermath for the victims."

To look at their stony graves--
To see your dogs, your greyhounds, your women,
In the possession of your foes.

If Crundmael's son had not healed
My sorrows for me, truly,
Of blood and gore my tears would be
For the dead of Imleach.

What a story is contained in these brief lines, and how revealing of values in the order given, graves, dogs, greyhounds, women! And what of the role of Crundmael's son in assuaging sorrow?

746 A.D. "Cucuimne, a wise man, died".

Just how wise was he? Listen to what Cucuimne's nurse sang:

Read knowledge half through,
The other half
He abandoned for hags.

Well for Cuciumne, as he was,
When it chanced that he was a sage
He abandoned hags,
He read again whilst he lived.

A wise man, Cucuimne!

758 A.D. Not so gently treated was Donnbo, killed in battle at Emhain-Macha, near Armagh:

Alas! for thee, thou hooded little black man;
'Tis a shame [thou should'st be] amongst worms!
Thy face towards thy hateful foes,
Thy back towards the city.

783 A.D. Precursor of Panmonjong, Sarajevo, Hillsborough and other failed negotiations. Included as an epitaph for failed peace-making attempts.

"A royal meeting between Donnchad, son of Domnall, and Fiachna, son of Aedh Roen, at Inis-na-Righ."--

Of what effect
Was the meeting at Inis-na-righ?
Donnchad would not go upon the sea,
Fiachna would not come ashore.

796 A.D. "Death of Donnchad (son of Domnall), King of Tara...."

From the world's beginning, meanings fair,
Five thousand momentous years,
Here in happy way it was,
'Til the death of Domnall's good son was heard.

809 A.D. Revenge!

Muirgis slew my son,
Which grieved me very much.
It was I that placed a sword
On Tadhg's neck therefor.

Followed by:

814 A.D. "Death of Muirgis, King of Connaught"

A fierce plundering king, without grief;
Muirgis of fruitful Cruachan.


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