> Right, 34 presents new and interesting problems.
> Im rīg Brēifne ō Gulbain Guirt,
>> im clannoibh Moga Ruith rēidh,
>> ‘s um Conmaicne na ccolc gcaol
>> tēid gach laoch ar cūl a scēith.
34. Around the king of Breifne from Benbulben
around the people of brave Mogh Ruith
and around the narrow-sworded Conmaicne
every warrior retreated behind his shield.
Line 1. Breifne and Ben Bulben, Sligo area, well north of Uí Máine.
Line 2. Moga Ruith. Hogan lists no ‘Moga’ names at all, but he does have
several entries under Mag Ruaid. One is in Ossory, Osraige, the
southernmost of the areas we were looking at last verse. One is in Queen’s
County, now Laois, midlands area close to Ely that we encountered in the
last verse. A third, Mag rauid rodacaoin, is in Connacht, which would make
a good fit with line 1.
Line 3. The Conmaicne were the people west of Galway in what we now call
Connemara, which comes from Conmaicne-mara.
Line 4. Dennis, have I got this the way you see it?
Now, I don’t know anything about this Moga Ruith crowd, but the Conmaicne
and Breffny became incorporated into the Cogadh as allies of Brian at
Clontarf, and hence, of Uí Máine as well. I offer this, because the author
of this poem is clearly drawing on that story with his figures of Mac Liag
and Tadg O Ceallaigh, so he might want to have the same line-up of allies. On
the other hand, he might not care about such details: after all, he hasn’t
hesitated to drag in people who were presumably still in nappies (diapers)
at the time when Tadg died. Moreover there is the complication that not all
versions of the Cogadh mention Breffny and the Conmaicne, just the ‘D’
version, which was in a manuscript that Edward Lhuyd picked up, probably in
the Sligo/Longford/Galway region when he was collecting in 1700 (I am taking
this from Ní Mhaonaigh’s article in Ériu 1992). How many versions were
around when this poem was being written, and which ones would the true
author have been likely to know? All we have today, besides the ‘D’ one
just mentioned, is the Book of Leinster version (‘L’), which breaks off long
before the part where Breffny and the Conmaicne would come in (how or why it
breaks off has never been made clear to me, is there a chasm in the
manuscript?) and version B which the redoubtable Micheal O Clerigh wrote out
from an exemplar which he found in Multyfarnham, Co. Westmeath. He made two
copies, actually, only one of which survives, but that is neither here nor
there. So the Sligo/Longford/Galway area had this tradition incorporated in
their mid-twelfth century text long before our poem was probably written,
and the Westmeath MS that O Clerigh copied, and whose date we cannot know,
did not. Which leaves us just as much in the dark as we were before.