The Site of the Battle of Caim Eirge

   There are two theories extant concerning the location of the Battle of
Caim Eirge in 1241, in which Domnall MacLochlinn was slain.  The first was
proposed in the 1830's by John O'Donovan, who quoted a local tradition in
the parish of Ballynascreen in Londonderry County of a battle between
the MacLochlainns and the O'Neills.   The second theory, proposed by
modern scholars, locates the site of the Battle of Caim Eirge near
Omagh in County Tyrone.

1. Ordnance Survey Letters John O'Donovan Londonderry p. 98

There is a ridge in the Townland of Altayesky in the west of the Parish of Ballynascreen, called Eiscir Mhic Lachluinn i.e. Mc Laughlin's Ridge, which tradition points out as the scene of a desperate battle between the rival chiefs O'Neill and Mac Laughlin.In this battle Mc Laughlin was defeated and slain. At this time (as I am infomred by Provost, Lord John Eldon Macnamee, Inn-Keeper, Draperstown-cross, the descendant of the Bard to be just mentioned) Mac Namee was Bard to Mc Laughlin but when he saw his body stretched lifeless on the hill he went over to the victorious O'Neill and bargained with him for five years at five pounds a year to be employed as Bard in his family, to receive from him clothes suitable to a man of his dignity, and meat and drink at O'Neill's own table. When this bargain was concluded Mac Namee called over O'Neill to where Mc Laughlin's carcass lay. "Come over" said the Bard "that I may get behind you (on horseback) off the carcass of this boor" (Mc Laughlin). Ghabh anall go rachaidh me air do chulaibh de thoin a'bhodaigh!! The Bard went home with O'Neill and praised him for three years out of the world (ad astra) but O'Neill never paid him a farthing during all this time. Mac Namee now cooled a little in his rhapsodies and demanded his wages of O'Neill. O'Neill thought himself praised enough by this time and wanted to get rid of Mac Namee, so he told him that he would pay him the fifteen pounds if he would go to his brother henry Aimhreidh (cross-tempered) and propose him three questions. "I'll do anything for my money" said Mac Namee, "but when I have asked these questions you will not believe me." "Well" said O'Neill "I'll send my son with you to bear witness." So Mac namee and O'Neill's son set out for Harry Aimhreigh's house. On their arrival Harry was told that Mc Namee wanted to talk to him, and the Bard was ushered into his Tyrantship's presence. But Harry should aks the first question. "Ar bhard (b'ard) e t-athair" said Harry. (Now this may be taken to signify "was your father a bard" or "was your father tall"). But the Bard pretended to understand it in the sense which he knew very well Harry did not intend, and asnwered:- "Cha raibh se ard, a's cha raibh se iseal, acht bhi se don med meodhanaigh." "He was not tall, nor low, but he was of the middle size." Harry became enraged, and said:- "An a bearrthoireacht orm a ta tu." "Are you punning on me." Mc Namee:-"Cha neadh acht an-deidh a dheunamh." "No! but after doing so! Harry:- "Duine uaim amach d'feuchain a bhfuil an ghealach 'na suidhe go g-crochfhaidh me mac-Na-Midhe." "Send out a man to see if the moon is up until I hang Mc Namee." Mc Namee:- "Is maith, ard na dreimire a bhias agad anuair a chrochfaidh tu as an ghealaigh me." "You must have a good long ladder if you intend to hang me out of the moon." Upon which Harry fettered the Bard and threw him into the turf corner. When his passion had cooled a little, he asked him why he came to provoke him thus, but the Bard made no reply. "I'll hang you before the moon is up" said Harry "if you don't tell me." Mc Namee then answered:- "I know you'll hang me whether or not, but I'll tell you the reason. I have been employed by your brother O'Neill these three years, and I have puzzled my brains to praise him out of the world, and still I have not been able to get one halfpenny from him. Yesterday he told me that he would pay me all he owes me if I would go and ask you three questions, and there is his son he went with me to bear witness if I would have the courage to ask you three questions. "O'Neill is a great rascal" said Harry "He knew very well that I would hang you, because I hang everyone that dares say a word, or look crooked (awry) at me, but now I'll be up to him." With this he hung his brother's son out of the next tree he met, and let Mc Namee loose to go about his business. The conduct of O'Neill, Harry and Mc Namee as described in this wild story is disgraceful to the nation. O'Neill and his brother were rude, savage and diabolical tyrants, and the sacred Bard a low, mean, cunning, and unprincipled renegade. I am convinced however that there is a great deal of truth in the story. If Ireland was ever civilized (I mean comparatively civilised) it is while the monarchy stood, for from the first dissolution of it in the time of Brian, until the final conquest of Ireland in the reign of James 1st this Kingdom was one scene of warfare, barbarity and bloodshed. The misfortune was, that Henry II did not conquer the Island and establish laws in it that would restrain the fighting chiefs. But instead of this we find Hugh de Lacy atempting to shake off the English yoke and become King of Ireland himself, and every O'Neill called the Rioghdhmhna (or expected King!) of Ireland. It is of little consequence to the bulk of the people of any Country who is or who is not King, so as there is a certain power in existence to preserve order and tranquility and distribute equal justice among them. If the Irish people had seen this truth, it would have prevented much blood-shed. Note: The Mc Namee Bard referred to in this story is probably the famous Giolla Brighde Mac Con Midhe, best known for his poem lamenting the be-heading of Brian O'Neill at the Battle of Downpatrick in 1260. For a portion of the poem, see the Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland (Four Masters) under that year. 2. Cummery The Poems of Giolla Brighde Mac Con Midhe Irish Texts Society 1980 N.J.A. Willams, editor Index of Local and Population Names "Caimeirghe, Cummery, in townland of Erganagh, north of Omagh, Co. Tyrone." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy Volume XL 1931-1932 "The Irish Law of Kingship, with special reference to Aileach and Cenel Eoghain." Professor James Hogan footnote, p. 217 Caim Eirge "Possibly the same place as Caimdeirge, Camderry, in the barony of Omagh, Co. Tyrone."