The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne – a retelling

Everybody knows what a great warrior king Fionn MacCumhaill was and if they don’t they should find out but not from me today they won’t!

I’m going to tell you how like many a man he got a bit cantankerous and stubborn as he aged and being a King, for perhaps too long, his pride caused heartache and mayhem to all and to two young lovers in particular. No one should remain in power too long, if you remember nothing from this story, remember that. 

The story goes that old Fionn lost his wife Maigneis and the grief he had was so great that his aging band of Fianna thought they better do something about it and rather than listening to him or telling him to cry and let it all out these old men came up with the bright idea of replacing the love of his life with a young girl called Gráinne.

Of course that wasn’t going to end well he being ancient and she being young but that was their solution.  

Gráinne was the daughter of High King Cormac mac Airt and a worthy match in all the men’s eyes but not in Gráinne’s.

At their betrothal feast which went on for days and nights as was the custom Gráinne noticed the handsome warrior Diarmuid whose “lovespot” in the middle of his forehead made him irresistible to all.

Gráinne was trained in the art of magic and potions so when she got the chance she slipped a sleeping potion in the drinks of all but Diarmuid and tried to get him to run away with her.

Now Diarmaid was a loyal warrior of the Fianna and loved Fionn so he refused at first but she was oh so beautiful and a little bit scary, she threatened him with a geis (a curse) which all at that time were wary of and so he went and they hid in a forest across the River Shannon.

When the men all woke up with a pain in their heads and a grumpiness no one could endure Fionn noticed the pair were missing and he immediately made everyone get up and out and pursue the runaways all over Ireland.

We know they went all over because there are many a Dolmen on this fair land named Leaba Diarmaid agus Gráinne (the bed of Diarmaid and Gráinne).

Indeed there is one over the road in Aughnacliffe, Co. Longford, near Leebeen Lough, a mighty fine one you should visit it. Some say it’s a portal to the Otherworld

There is a rock now called “Granny’s Rock” out the Tromra Road 500 metres from Knights and Conquest Heritage Centre, Granard town, that is another Leaba Diarmaid agus Gráinne.

So, Diarmaid and Gráinne moved around Ireland with Fionn following. They were helped by many because all knew Fionn would not be kind if he found them and everyone loved Diarmaid, must be the spot in the middle of the forehead.

Even some of the Fianna helped and also Aengus Óg, who we met in an earlier tale (Midir and Etain). Aengus Óg wasn’t too Óg at this stage but a name sticks. He had been Diarmuid’s foster father, and loved the lad and being the God of Love, loved Gráinne too. 

Aengus hid Gráinne in his cloak of invisibility while Diarmuid lept over the pursuers’ heads so they say.

At first Diarmuid refused to be with Gráinne out of respect for Fionn and kept telling her he would be taking her back to marry Fionn and she teased him for that but he eventually  fell in love with her and they were together a long long time hiding on Fionn, they even crossed over to Scotland a while.

After a time Gráinne found out she was having a child and had a craving for rowan berries from the magic Rowan tree guarded by the one eyed giant Searbhán;  Searbhán was friendly at first but he got angry and refused to give up the berries so Diarmuid fought him. Searbhán’s magic protected him from Diarmuid’s weapons, but Diarmuid eventually won by turning the giant’s own iron club against him.

After many other adventures, Diarmuid’s foster father Aengus negotiated peace with Fionn and the lovers settled in Keshcorran, County Sligo where they had five children. Fionn married Gráinne’s sister and all was forgiven. I’m not sure how the sister felt as no one tells her story and what happened next makes you wonder did Fionn really ever forgive.

One day Fionn organised a boar hunt near Benbulbin and Diarmuid joined in even though when he was a little boy a geis was put on him that he would be killed by a boar. He may have been lovely but he was certainly foolish.

The boar wounded him fatally and the only one who could heal him was Fionn. Fionn had the power to heal by letting the dying man drink water from his hands, but he let the water slip through his fingers twice. Oscar, Fionn’s grandson threatened Fionn so he went to the well again but when he returned it was too late, poor Diarmuid was dead.

There are different stories about Gráinne after Diarmaid has died, we like to think Aengus took Diarmuid’s body to his home at Brú na Bóinne and while some say Gráinne grieved until she died, others say that she made her children swear revenge on Fionn and a more peaceful end says she married Fionn eventually and there was peace between the clans.

AGS 2018

I couldn’t decide on Diarmaid or Diarmuid so you must put up with both.

Celebrate the Hawthorn, make it our national flowering tree!

Longford is wild and beautiful. Have you ever noticed?


Living in the middle of it sometimes we forget. I like to admire it in the quietness when letting my dinosaurs loose in the early morning. By dinosaurs I mean chickens but that is how wild and wonderful Longford is, she takes you right back if you’ll let her.

Back to when time began and the world was young and full of hope.
If you stay still enough you might even see through the veil of this time and into all that ages that went before us in the very spot we stand. People populated Longford very early on, the county is covered in raths, dolmens and ancient burial grounds.

Sometime I think “I see dead people”, or maybe otherworldly ones. Either way they’re not frightening, they just are. 

Often it takes someone from outside the county to show us how wonderful it is. Only at the weekend two young Galway men told us they never “saw so much nature”.

Yes, I did say from Galway! Galway, the place everyone thinks is the wild west, the place we all go to to be with nature yet two of her natives think we live in the “greenest” place they’ve ever seen, full of trees and birds and teeming with life. Who knew?


Well we knew. We always knew, that’s why despite all the leaving behind of successive governments and taking the piss of us by mostly exLongford people in Dublin and other “cosmopolitan” concrete cages we like to stay here among the trees, lakes and stories. The pisstakers doth protest too much me thinks.


Truly they just miss it, they just don’t realise it.

Not to worry, Fuamnach might brew up a storm to bring them home.
The Galway visitors admired our wild garden teeming with insects and birds and I smiled to myself thinking “Why thank you, that took years of not mowing”. Neglect some might say, perhaps that’s why Longford is so lovely, neglect.

 
Neglect has left our land wild and perhaps our people with it. Maybe, after all, that has been a good thing, though those who neglected us never intended a good result. In their plan to “leave us behind” they’ve left us in a little piece of heaven.


Neglect has left Longford with one of the lowest income per capita, that neglect has left us resilient and creative.

 
Neglect has left Longford with a mixing pot of nations all struggling together, that neglect has left us open to learning from and accepting of others. 


Neglect has left us as a community.

Neglect has left us resilient, proud and wild just like our land.

Wild and wonderful Longford, has an opportunity to lead the rest of the country in how to let the wilderness live side by side with us in harmony and so protect nature and the future of our children.

 
Will we do it? or will we let the monster that is industrial farming and poisoning of our waters and land encroach more and more as it has throughout the rest of this artificially green land of Ireland?

 
Will we lead by example by continuing to protecting through neglect? That is how we protect nature, we neglect to develop her land and then she flourishes.

 
Only this week we’ve been admiring our Hawthorn whose blooms are quite spectacular this year. Longford people have been whispering to each other how wonderfully pretty she is.
Why don’t we celebrate her as a nation like Japan celebrated the cherry blossom? I asked. A local legend, Michael Masterson replied that maybe Longford could lead in that. 


Wouldn’t that be a nice little step in celebrating our wildness? Let’s start celebrating Longford by celebrating the Fairy Tree, that is the Hawthorn. It would make Midir Proud. Sign the petition here: 

https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/celebrate-the-hawthorn-make-it-our-national-flowering-tree

 

Our lone hawthorns and hedgerows are disappearing at a fierce rate along with a lot of our Heritage and Biodiversity. If we turn a light on the beauty of the Hawthorn we might help turn this around.

The Fairy Tree : https://youtu.be/4zIWizf_FOg
Centre of the Universe (Another word for Longford, in case you didn’t know!) : https://anngeretysmyth.com/2020/05/21/centre-of-the-universe/