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Battle of Moytura

A great battle took place between the Firbolgs and the Tuatha de Danann (ancient tribes of Ireland) on the great plain of Moytura in Cross. They played the first ever hurling match on those plains. The Firbolgs outshone that day, but the battle was won by the Tuatha de Danann. Ballymagibbon Cairn was erected to cellebrate the battle.

500 BC The second and more numerous waves of Celts to land in Ireland was the Euerni later called Erainn, who gave their name to this country. They landed in the south and first established themselves there, afterwards extending their conquest to the rest of Ireland. The Erainn were part of the Belgae, who controlled a large part of the continent and gave their name to Belgium, Bolg was their sun god who, they claim, was their ancestor, so the Irish name Fir Bolg.They divided Ireland into 5 provinces (Kingdoms), and what is now Connacht was then called Olnemacht, after the daughter of one of their chief, Geanain, one of the five chieftains who shared Ireland between them. The Fir Bolg built great stone forts, and to them must be attributed the construction of Cahermore, a very large fort made of two concentric circles of loose stones, situated west of Shrule and North of Kinlough, Its size seems to indicate a place of importance, maybe the residence of a local chieftain.
The battle of Moytura This legend is from a set of stories relating the coming of the Danaan; many historians believe it to be based on a real battle that would have happened in the area north east of Cong between the Fir-Bolg, and possibly the Laighin. According to tradition, the Fir Bolg had their main camp near Cong, and the Danaan had theirs on Knockmaa, Southwest of Shrule, in the parish of Caherlistrane. In the earliest legendary period this area is said to have been part of the kingdom of Irrusdomnonn and was inhabited by a clan Umoir.
The battle of Moytura This legend is from a set of stories relating the coming of the Danaan; many historians believe it to be based on a real battle that would have happened in the area north east of Cong between the Fir-Bolg, and possibly the Laighin.According to tradition, the Fir Bolg had their main camp near Cong, and the Danaan had theirs on Knockmaa, Southwest of Shrule, in the parish of Caherlistrane. If this was true the Danaan warriors would have to pass though Shrule, a natural ford on the Blackriver, to get to Moytura and they would have to deal with the Fir Bolg settled in the Shrule-Kinlough area before going further.In the earliest legendary period this area is said to have been part of the kingdom of Irrusdomnonn and was inhabited by a clan Umoir

Two mighty armies, ready for battle, stand facing each other on the fields that lie to the East of Cong. On one side the warriors of the Tuatha Dé Danann and on the other the soldiers of the ruling Fir Bolg. In terns of weaponry they are equal, swords, spears, javelins and shields on both sides. But in terms of physical size and knowledge of magic, the Dananna have great superiority over their opponents.
The Fir Bolgs had declined to share the country with the intruders, who are thought to have come from Scandinavia . This made a battle unavoidable, a battle that was to last four days with 100,000 men fighting for their lives.
Spurred on by the wild songs of their poet, Edna, the Dananns stormed against the enemy lines. But the Fir Bolgs put up bitter reistence. Heavy losses were inflicted upon the Dananns and their opponents drove them back into their camps, which stretched out in a northerly direction from Cong. And on the evening of the first day of the battle, every warrior of the Fir Bolg carried back to their King, Eochaid macEirc, a stone and the head of a fallen Danann. This is how the Cairn of Ballymagibbon came into being.

On the second day as well, the battle raged with the same tenacious determination. There were massive losses on both sides. As evening fell, the forces of the Fir Bolg were warning and they began to retreat, although the warriors continued to lay the heads of Dannans they had killed at their Kings’ feet.

Finally on the third day if the battle, the warriors of the Danann won a decisive victory. The greatly weakened Fir Bolgs were only able to rescue their camos with great effort, yet they still remained faithful tot heir gruesome custom and continued to chop of fthe heads of fallen enemy soldiers.
On this day, the Danann army was being commanded by Dagda: Sreng was leading the Fir Bolgs. Both armies took up their positions at daybreak; the air was still cold and fog lay over the plain. There was a deathly quiet. As if paralyzed, everyone waited foe the order of attack. Morale was still high on both sides; there was still everything to fight for and then at last, the battle leaders raised their swords up high – attack! Suddenly the thousands of men, who moments before had seemed paralyzed now appeared to burst into life. The two fronts rushed towards each other and soon the deafening battle cries were mixed with the shouts of pain and death.
In the midst of this fierce and merciless bloodbath, Dagda struck down a fear and much feared Fir Bolg hero called Kerb. This tragedy was witnessed by Sreng, who then, driven on a blind desire for vengeance, pounced on Nuada, the King of the Dananns, and hacked off his arm, but before Sreng could raise his arm to deal a second blow, Nuada was shielded by his trusty followers and brought into safety. Credne Cerd, a master of manual craftsmanship, built a silver hand for the wounded king, who since then has been known by the name “Nuada of the Silver Hand”.

Under the pressure of the tireless Dananns, the battle gradually shifted towards the north-east, into the region that is nowadays the Neale. Here the sons of the two kings clashed – Looe the Strong, son of Nuada, and Slainge the Fair, son of Eochald. In a desperate fight , both lost their lives. It is said the Looe lies buried under “The Long Stone of the Neale”, whilst the remains od Slainge are supposedly stored in the tiered pyramid that stands in the immediate vicinity of The Neale.

By the time darkness fell, and as general exhaustion took over and the order to retreat had been given, the Dananns had won a second battle. They returned to their camps proud and confident of outright victory. The Fir Bolgs, on the other hand, were finding defeat hard to bear. With their heads bowed, but not yet ready to surrender they sat at their campfires to try and gather their strength once more.

On the fourth and final day of the battle, the fate of the Fir Bolg and declined once and for all. One last time their weapons glistened in the morning sun, one last time the order to attack pierced through the strained quiet and one last time the battle for life and death, the battle for Ireland.
The Fir Bolg fought as never before. They gave their best and they gave their last, but in vain. The strength and stamina of the Dananns seemed unconquerable. Even King Eochald reached the limit of his capabilities. Overcome by exhaustion and thirst, he left the battle field to search for water. When the Dananns’ druids noticed this they applied the full power of their magic to hide al swatches of fog. As a result of this, Eochaid, on Mask. Here he was attacked by three Danann warriors. The King fought for his life, struck down his three enemies and then finally sank down to the ground himself, fatally wounded.

In the meantime, the Fir Bolg soldiers could no longer withstand the crushingly superior strength of the enemy. Sreng had no choice- he bowed down to the inevitable, ordered his men to retreat and made peace with the Dananns. He gave up to them the whole of Ireland with the exception of Connacht, which he claimed for his own people.
But before the Fir Bolg set off to their new home, they erected a massive cairn over the dead Eochaid mac Eirc, their last king- the Cairn of Eochaid.

How long ago was the Battle of Moytura fought? Was it ever really fought at all? To what extent is the preceding account supported by historical fact? Where did the Fir Bolgs and the Dananns come from and what became of them?

No one can give a definite answer to any of these questions. There is also some dispute about the possibility that there were in fact two Battles of Moytura – one on the plain to the East of Cong (Southern Moytura) and another in County Sligo (Nothern Moytura).
Courtesy of Cong, Sights , Walks and Stories by Gerry Collins and K. Roland

 
   
 
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