Rightly that’s the cry ringing in our ears for a good while now and hopefully for a good while to come. But who in fact were the original Deise men and women, indeed? I have often been asked that question, so here goes.
Well, The Déisi was a term used to describe a class of people in ancient Ireland. It was derived from the word “déis”, which meant “vassal”, or “subject”. One expert on the subject states that ‘”… the original meaning of Déisi, as applied to population-groups would have been vassal or rent-paying tribes. “A further description explains it as follows:
“All these septs belonged to a class for which the common designation was Déis. The original significance of this term, so used, was forgotten, and Dési was thought of merely as the proper name of certain septs and the population subject to them, and so induced a notion of consanguinity.”
Thus the various different peoples listed under the heading “déis” shared the same status in Gaelic Ireland and had little or no actual kinship. They included the Déisi Muman (the Déisi of Munster), Déisi Temro (of Tara), Déisi Becc (located in the Kingdom of Mide and the Deise Tuaiscirt (the Northern Déisi; a sept of this group would become famous as the Dal gCais – Of Brian Boru fame).
One of the most famous medieval Irish tales, first written sometime in the eighth century, is “The Expulsion of the Déisi”. It tells the story of a sept of Tara.called the Dal Fiachracg Suighe, who are expelled from Tara by their kinsman,Cormac Mac Airt. Part of the sept settle in Munster after many battles, while one section of them, led by Eochaid Allmhuir mac Art Corb, sail across the sea to Britain where he founded kingdoms among territory once held by the Demetae, also in the areas of the Ordovices and Silures.
The line of kings founded by Eochaid remained rulers of Dyfed well into the 10th century, and founded a sub-kingdom in Brecon. The term Déisi is also virtually interchangeable with another Irish term, aithechthúatha (meaning “rent-paying tribes”, “vassal communities” or “tributary peoples”). A new theory proposes that this term may lie at the origin of the mysterious people known as the Attacotti who along with the Scots, Picts andSaxons, inspired so much terror in Roman Britain the 360’s. Read on for the full story behind this summary of the origin of the Deise.
Geoffrey Keating’s Story
Geoffery was the primary scholar of the early 17th century to gather and recount this story in his famous Foras Feasa ar Eirinn – told in translation.
Conn’s brother, namely, Fiachaidh Suighdhe, he got land near Tara, namely, the Deise Teamhrach; and he did not become king of Ireland.Now he had three sons, namely, Rossa and Aonghus, called Aonghus Gaoibuaibhtheach, and Eoghan, the third son. But Aonghus Gaoibuaibhtheach surpassed his contemporaries in valour. And Cormac (Mac Airt) at that time was at enmity with a powerful personage, and no one protected him from Cormac but Aonghus Gaoibuaibhtheach; and the king gave Aonghus to him as a security.
Aonghus took this nobleman under his protection. But after this, Ceallach son of Cormac took this nobleman prisoner in violation of the security of Aonghus, and took out his eyes without the king’s permission. When Aonghus Gaoibuaibhtheach heard this, he proceeded to Tara, accompanied by a numerous host, and slew Ceallach by a cast of his spear, as he stood behind king Cormac in the court, and wounded the king himself in the eye, leaving him with only one eye. Cormac assembled a large host and banished Aonghus and his kinsmen.
These descendants of Fiachaidh Suighdhe involved Cormac in much fighting. However, Cormac drove them into Leinster, and they remained there a year; and thence they went to Osruighe, and thence they came to Oilill Olom, whose wife, Sadhbh daughter of Conn, was their kinswoman. Oilill Olom gave them the Deise in Munster, for their native territory was the Deise Teamhrach, before they were banished by Cormac. These three sons of Fiachaidh Suighdhe divided that territory between them into three parts.
Aonghus – the Deise Man
It is Corc Duibhne son of Cairbre Musc who was chief over the descendants of Fiachaidh Suighdhe who came to Munster; and it was these descendants that were called the Deise; and Aonghus son of Eochaidh Fionn son of Feidhlimidh Reachtmhar was their leader when coming to Munster, and with him were the three sons of Fiachaidh Suighdhe, namely, Rossa, Eoghan, and Aonghus. About that time Cairbre Musc had acquired great power in Munster; and in his time adversity and crop-failure had come upon Munster. When the Munster nobles observed the adversity that came with Cairbre’s reign, they asked him what had deprived the country of its produce and its prosperity. Cairbre replied that his sister Duibhfhionn, had borne him two sons, to wit Corc and Cormac; and when the Munster nobles heard this, they demanded the sons, in order to destroy them – to burn them and let their ashes go with the stream.
‘Act in that way towards Cormac,’ said Dinneach the Druid; ‘but do not kill Corc, but let him be given to me, that I may take him out of Ireland.’ This was granted to him; and he took him with him to sea, to Inis Baoi; and he found a house on the island in which was a crone called Baoi; and the druid placed Corc under her protection, and he remained with her for a year, and at the end of the year the druid took Corc and placed him under the protection of Saruit daughter of Conn, who was grandmother to the child, both on his father’s and mother’s side.
As to the Deise, they inquired of their filés whether they were fated to have rest or dwelling in Munster; and the filés told them in reply to stay in the country, and that the wife of Criomhthann son of Eanna Cinnsealach, King of Leinster, whose name was Congain, was pregnant, and that it was a daughter she would bring forth, and that they should ask the daughter in fosterage, and give a fee in order to obtain her. After this the daughter was born; and she was fostered by the Deise. The daughter’s name was Eithne Uathach, and she was fed by the Deise on the flesh of infants that she might grow up the more quickly; for a certain druid had foretold that they would get territory from the man whose wife she would be. And when she was of age to wed, she was married to Aonghus son of Natfraoch, king of Munster. And Aonghus gave them, in consideration of getting her to wife, Magh Feimhean, that is, Trian Chluana Meala, and the Trian Meadhonach after the expulsion of the Osruighigh from these territories. And a long time after this Aonghus and Eithne were slain by the Leinstermen in the Battle of Ceall Osnadh, four miles east of Leithghlinn.
From Lismore to Creadan Head
Eibhear took Deise until the race of Deise Thuaisceirt from him; and so he possessed only Deise Dheisceirt on the coming of the Foreigners to Ireland.
Understand that it was Aonghus Osruighe and his followers that obtained sway over Magh Feimhean, which is called Deise Thuaisceirt, and that it was this sept of Fiachaidh Suighdhe who expelled Aonghus Osruighe (Ossory) and his followers from Magh Feimhean; and from the defeat they inflicted on Aonghus are named Baile Orluidhe, and Mullach Inneona in Magh Feimhean at this day; Baile Orluidhe from the urlaidhe or long hair of the warriors in the battle, and Mullach Inneona from the Osruighigh having been driven from it to Leinster against their will – another boundary dispute and many an ancient battle between the Deise Men and the Ossary crowd!! What’s new then?
Well that’s the history folks, but let today’s Great Men of the Deise go out next Sunday and make their own history.
An Deise Abu – Go n-Eiri Libh!