From Hector MacLean, July 6th, 1859. Told by an old man in Bowmore, Islay, Alexander Macalister.
FIONN was going to marry Grainne, the daughter of the king of Carmag in Eirinn. The nobles and great gentles of the Feinne were gathered to the wedding. A great feast was made, and the feast lasted seven days and seven nights; and when the feast was past, their own feast was made for the hounds. Diarmaid was a truly fine man, and there was, BALL SEIRC, a love spot, on his face, and he used to keep his cap always down on the beauty spot; for any woman that might chance to see the ball seirce, she would be in love with him. The dogs fell out roughly, and the heroes of the Feinn went to drive them from each other, and when Diarmaid was driving the dogs apart, he gave a lift to the cap, and Grainne saw the ball seirc and she was in heavy love for Diarmaid.
She told it to Diarmaid, and she said to him, "Thou shalt run away with me."
"I will not do that," said Diarmaid.
"I am leaving it on thee as a wish; and as spells that thou go with me."
"I will not go with thee; I will not take thee in softness, and I will not take thee in hardness I will not take thee without, and I will not take thee within; I will not take thee on horseback, and I will not take thee on foot," said he; and he went away in displeasure, and he went to a place apart, and he put up a house there, and he took his dwelling in it.
On a morning that there was, who cried out in the door but Grainne, "Art thou within, Diarmaid?"
"Come out and go with me now."
"Did I not say to thee already that I would not take thee on thy feet, and that I would not take thee on a horse, that I would not take thee without, and that I would not take thee within, and that I would not have anything to do with thee."
She was between the two sides of the door, on a buck goat. "I am not without, I am not within, I am not on foot, and I am not on a horse; and thou must go with me," said she. 1
"There is no place to which we may go that Fionn will not find us out when he puts his hand under his tooth of knowledge, and he will kill me for going with thee!"
"We will go to Carraig (a crag, Carrick?) and there
are so many Carraigs that he will not know in which we may be."
They went to Carraig an Daimh (the stag's crag).
Fionn took great wrath when he perceived that his wife had gone away, and he went to search for her. They went over to Ceantire, and no stop went on their foot, nor stay on their step, till they reached Carraig an Daimh in Ceantire, near to Cille Charmaig, Diarmaid was a good carpenter, and he used to be at making dishes, and at fishing, and Grainne used to be going about selling the dishes, and they had beds apart.
On a day that there was there came a great sprawling old man the way, who was called Ciofach Mae a Ghoill, 1 and he sat, and he was playing at DINNSIREAN (wedges. 2) Grainne took a liking for the old earl, and they laid a scheme together that they would kill Diarmaid. Diarmaid was working at dishes. The old man laid hands on him, and he turned against the old man, and they went into each other's grips. The old man was pretty strong, but at last Diarmaid put him under. She caught hold of the, GEARRASGIAN, knife, and she put it into the thigh of Diarmaid. Diarmaid left them, and he was going from hole to hole, and he was but just alive, and he was gone under hair and under beard. He came the way of the Carraig and a fish with him, and he asked leave to roast it. He got a cogie of water in which he might dip his fingers, while he was roasting it. Now there would be the taste of honey or anything which Diarmaid might touch with his finger, and he was dipping his fingers
into the cogie. Grainne took a morsel out of the fish 1 and she perceived the taste of honey upon it. To attack Diarmaid went Ciofach, and they were in each other's grips for a turn of a while, but at last Diarmaid killed Ciofach, and away he went, and he fled, and he went over Loch a Chaisteil.
When Grainne saw that Ciofach was dead she followed Diarmaid, and about the break of day, she came to the strand, and there was a heron screaming. Diarmaid was up in the face of the mountain, and said Grainne--
"It is early the heron cries,
On the heap above Sliabh gaoil,
Oh Diarmaid O Duibhne to whom love I gave,
What is the cause of the heron's cry?
"Oh Ghrainne, daughter of Carmaig of Steeds,
That never took a step aright,
It seems that before she gave the cry.
Her foot had stuck to a frozen slab. 2
"Wouldst thou eat bread and flesh, Diarmaid
"Needful were I of it if I had it."
"Here I will give it to thee; where is a knife will cut it?"
"Search the sheath in which thou didst put it last," said Diarmaid.
The knife was in Diarmaid ever since she had put it into him, and he would not take it out. Grainne drew out the knife, and that was the greatest shame that she ever took, drawing the knife out of Diarmaid.
Fear was on Diarmaid that the Fheinn would find them out, and they went on forwards to Gleann Eilg.
They went up the side of a burn that was there, and took their dwelling there, and they had beds apart. 1
Diarmaid was making dishes, and the shavings which he was making were going down with the burn to the strand.
The Fiantan were hunting along the foot of the strand, and they were on the track of a venomous boar that was discomfiting them. Fionn took notice of the shavings at the foot of the burn.
"These," said he, "are the shaving of Diarmaid."
"They are not; he is not alive," said they.
"Indeed," said Fionn, "they are. We will shout Foghaid? a hunting cry, and in any one place in which he may be, he is sworn to it that he must answer."
Diarmaid heard the Foghaid.
"That is the Foghaid of the Fiantan; I must answer."
"Answer not the cry, oh Diarmaid,
It is but a lying cry." 2
Diarmaid answered the shout, and he went down to the strand. It was set before Diarmaid to hunt the boar. Diarmaid roused the boar from Bein Eidin to Bein Tuirc. 3
While drawing down the long mountain,
The brute was bringing Diarmaid to straits.
His tempered blades were twisted
Like withered rushy plaits.
Diarmaid gave a draw at the slasher that Lon Mac Liobhain 1 made, and he put it in under the armpit and he killed the boar.
This was no revenge for Fionn yet over Diarmaid. There was a mole on the sole of the foot of Diarmaid, and if one of the bristles should go into it, it would bring his death.
"Oh Diarmaid, measure the boar,
How many feet from his snout to his heel?
Diarmaid measured the boar.
"Sixteen feet of measure true."
Measure the boar against the hair."
He measured the boar against the hair, one of the bristles went into the mole and he fell.
Fionn took sorrow for him when he fell. "What would make thee better, Diarmaid
"If I could get a draught of water from the palms of Fionn I would be better."
Fionn went for the water, and when he thought on Grainne he would spill the water, and when he would think of Diarmid, he would take sorrow, and he would take it with him; but Diarmaid was dead before Fionn returned. 2
They walked up the side of the burn till they came to where Grainne was; they went in; they saw two beds, and they understood that Diarmaid was guiltless. The Fein were exceedingly sorrowful about what had befallen. They burned
Grainne, daughter of Carmaig of steeds
That never took a step aright,
In a faggot of grey oak.
This story then, under a very rough exterior, embodies the main incidents and some lines of the poem which follows.
The last story, No. LIX., got in Barra, started the heroine in Ireland. This, got in Islay, starts her in Ireland and brings her through Ceantire into Lorn and to Glen Elg, opposite to Skye.
The next, the Lay of Diarmaid, got from several people in Uist and Barra, seems to leave the place of the catastrophe uncertain, but Bein-Gulban is the haunt of the heroes, and Irish writers say that Bein-Gulban is Bein-Boolban in Sligo.
In the manuscript histories of the Argyll family, Diarmaid's sons are made to possess Carrick.
FROM A STONE IN THE CHURCHYARD OF ST. VIGEANS, NEAR ARBROATH.
Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Pl. lxix.
The only points in which the tale and poem published by Dr. Smith agree are those of the death of Diarmaid. It is so long since I read Dr. Smith's Sean Dana that I have but a faint recollection of the poem. The tale would seem to me to be partly a parody on the poem. These old people are sometimes confused in reciting these tales, probably much is lost, and from confusion of memory some may be altered. At times they cannot recite
at all. Shaw, from whom I got Murchadh Mac Brian, died a few days ago, and, so far as I can ascertain, there is none in Islay, Jura, or Colonsay, that can recite the same tale now.
Ballygrant, July 6th, 1859.
49:1 The name is so spelt in this MS., and it is so spelt in Irish books.
50:1 This incident may be compared with a German story Die-kluge Baueren-tochter. Grimm, No. 94. See vol. iii., p. 170, for numerous references to versions of the story in a great many languages. I have had two versions of the story in Gaelic--one from Mr. MacLauchlan, the other from an old man in Barra.
51:1 Ciofach, the son of the stranger. This personage, who plays this part in another version, is called "Cuitheach."
51:2 Or DISNEAN, dice?
52:1 There seems to be something mythical about this fish, for he appears in various shapes in the legend.
52:2 There seems to be a hidden meaning in the reply.
53:1 Glen Elg, opposite the narrows between Skye and the mainland. There are two "Pictish towers" in a glen which would answer to the description, and there are many legends of the Feinn localised about that spot.
53:2 This is a line of the poem which follows, given as a sentence in a prose tale; and other lines occur which I have written as poetry when I thought I could recogmise them.
53:3 Two well known Scotch mountains.
54:1 This sword maker is known by this name in the Isle of Man, and is there called the dark smith of Drontheim.
54:2 In Dr. Smith's Sean Dana, page 3 (1787), is this note on the Poem of Diarmaid. "A long dialogue concerning Cuach Fhinn, or the medicinal cup of Fingal, often repeated here, is rejected as the spurious interpolation of some later bard."
p. 55 The scene is often laid on the ridge between Oban and Loch Awe, and I well remember to have heard how Fionn held his palms to Diarmaid filled with water from a spring which is still shewn, and how a draught from the hollow palms would have healed the dying warrior; but Fionn thought on Graidhne and opened his hands and let the water drain away, as he held his hands to Diarmaid's mouth, and Diarmaid died. J. F. C.