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
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
"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.
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."