AN ANCIENT CATTLE RAID

By Brendan G O Sullivan

District Director: Brendan O’Sullivan / Editor: Brendan O’Sullivan

Not far from Dromanassig Bridge near Kenmare, on the bank of the Sheen River, is a place known as Inse Gearha Rais (The place name possibly means wooded ford). At this spot, according to tradition, a bloody fight took place over a creach or bunch of stolen cattle.

The story is that nine men from Scairt, near Adrigole, travelled to Bordaneen, near Caherdaniel, where they stole a bunch of cattle. They were followed by nine men from Bordaneen, presumably the owners of the cattle, who caught up with them at Inse Gearha Rais. A vicious fight ensued in which all the participants were mortally wounded.

Sheen River

In a seemingly unrelated event, a group of people where drinking in Kenmare. A wager was offered to anyone in the group, brave enough to go to St. Fiachna’s cemetery in Bonane and bring back a skull from one of the tombs there. A woman in the company took up the challenge. Some of the group followed her secretly, determined to foil her. She went to the cemetery and approached the nearest tomb. She was about to take a skull when one of those who followed her shouted: “leave my headeen there!” Taken aback, she immediately replaced the skull. After a while, she plucked up the courage to try at another tomb. Again, the voice said: “leave my headeen there!” After a third time she realised it was a hoax and replied: “they can’t all be yours!” She took the skull and headed back to Kenmare.

Her route back to Kenmare took her past Inse Gearha Rais. She came across the scene of the fight and heard the moaning of the last man still alive. He told her she could have the creach of cattle if only she brought him a drink of water from the river. She had no vessel, so she used her shoe to bring him the water. Having sated his thirst the man died and the women got the cattle.

All those who died in the fight are said to be buried where they fell. The first time I visited the site in the 1970’s the late Paddy Egan, who was then owner of the land, showed me a mound in the field where the dead are supposedly buried. There are a couple of verses in Irish which describe the event. One suggests that there were nine combatants on either side, the other suggests that the number was eight. While both verses refer to Bordanín, the first verse to Scairt as the home of the raiders, while the second verse refers to it as Trá.

Truir is a cuig on Scairt
Duine is a seacht o Bordanín
Is é a sin a dein an cómhaireamh cearth
Ar Inse Rais la hais an t-Sín.
Ceatharar is a cuigear ó Bordanín
Beirt is a seacht on Trá
Titeadar go lear le chéile glach
In Inse Gearha Rais ar bruach an t-Sín

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