Stories, Myths & Legends 

The Death of Fionn

The time came when Cormac Mac Art died and his son Cairpre became High King of Ireland in his place. 

Cairpre did not like the Fianna and their power and plotted daily to find ways to destroy Fionn and his men.  

Cairpre had a daughter Sgeimh Solais who was getting married and a great banquet was being held.  It was customary for the High King to give the Fianna twenty bars of gold as an extra fee for protecting Ireland and for them to send their youngest member to collect this tribute. 

This time it was a young man named Ferdia who went to collect the tribute.  Although Fionn and his men waited all day outside the walls of Tara for Ferdia to return there was no sign of him until at last he arrived as a corpse flung over the walls of Tara with the mocking words of Cairpre 'The Fianna have demanded from the Kings of Tara for too long, this will be their only answer from now on.  Fionn was thoroughly enraged and strode up to the walls of Tara shouting 'Cairpre Mac Cormac you have just sealed your fate with this action beware the next time we meet!'

Then he and all his men returned to Allmu to prepare for war.  There were those in the Fianna who preferred to remain loyal to the High King and would not join with Fionn.  In the end he only had his own clan Bascna, and those of Leinster under the Captaincy of his grandson Oscar, and the army of King Feircobh of Munster.  This was 3500 men in all.

Cairpre on the other hand had all the warriors of Tara at his side as well as the clan of Morna, for although Goll remained true to him the rest of his clan hated Fionn for ousting Goll from the chieftainship of the Fianna.  These were 2000 men led by Fear-Taigh and Fear-Ligh Mac Morna the younger brothers of Goll.  Then Cairpre also had a 1000 men each from the tribes of Ulster and Connaught.  From The men of the Snows, and the Men of the Green Swords and the Men of the Green Lion, he also had a thousand each.  Each company led by one of the sons of Urgriu.  In all it was a company of 10,000 men that Fionn had to meet with his own small force.  The meeting place was at Gabhra which lay to the west of Tara.

It was a terrible battle with many losses on either side.  There was none who fought more bravely than Oscar son of Oisín, so that men said it was his day.  He slew 100 of the men of the Green Swords and 140 of the Men of the Lion.  Until at last he came face to face with Cairpre himself.  He cast his spear at Cairpre, which passed right through his body to the other side but Cairpre struck out at Oscar with his final gasp of strength which almost killed him.  Yet when he saw that Cairpre's men had set his helmet on a pillar so that it might seem that  he was still alive, Oscar drew upon his last bit of strength to fling a small stone which struck the helm and broke it in pieces.  Unfortunately he himself fell down dead with the effort.

Then Caoilte Mac Ronan and Conan Maol lamented the death of the great Fenian, and together they lifted and carried him to where Fionn stood.  There amid the tumult of battle Fionn gave a great cry of anguish and raised the Diord Fionn the cry of the Fianna.  He said a few words over the body of his grandson before he again plunged into the thick of battle.  He was still a strong man though his hair and beard were white as flax, and in his shining war coat and helmet of gold he was an awesome figure to all his enemies.

He killed Fear-Taigh and Fear-Ligh Mac Morna and many dozens of warriors from the men of Connaught and the men of Ulster.  Then at last he had to face the five sons of Urgriu when Fionn saw them he let his shield fall which was all hacked to pieces and went to meet them with his great sword grasped in both hands.  There he perished that day at  the Battle of Gabhra and that was the end of the might of the Fianna for never again did they hunt at Cnoc Fianna, or Ben Bulben or Slieve Cua or Slieve Crot.


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