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RAGHALLACH

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King of Connacht from 622 to 649 AD. His father’s name was Uadhu, hence he was usually known as Raghallach mac Uadhach. He belonged to the Ui Bhriuin sept, and gained the kingship of the province by slaying Colman mac Cobhthaigh, who was head of the Ui Fiachrach and father of Guaire. This was at the battle of Ceann Bugha (Cambo, near Roscom mon) in the year 622.

The genuine annalistic references to Raghallach are meagre, but a dramatic and pseudohistorical narrative concerning him was invented in mediaeval times. According to this, he had a nephew, the son of his elder brother, and he was extremely jealous of this nephew and fearful that he would take his crown. He therefore feigned sickness and, hearing that he was on the point of death, the nephew came to visit him. Not trusting Raghallach, the young man was accom panied by a strong troop. Raghallach. apparently at the point of death, bewailed the fact that the kinsman to whom he wished to bequeath the kingship did not trust him, so the nephew relen ted and went to him alone, whereupon Raghallach had his own men slay the unfor tunate prince.

After this, Raghallach’s wife, Muireann. ques tioned her druid as to the king’s future, and was told that since he had slaughtered all his relations, he would fall by one of his own children. Hearing this, Raghallach ordered the queen to have slain any baby which might be born to her. Muireann gave birth to a daughter, whom she accordingly gave to her swineherd to kill, but the swineherd pitied the infant and left it at a cross outside the church of a holy woman. The baby was reared by this woman and, hearing of her beauty, Raghallach sent his men to seize and bring her to him. Neither he nor the queen knew who the girl was, but Muireann grew jealous of her husband’s love for the young woman. In her jealousy, she swam across the river Shannon and fled to her former fosterling, the highking Diarmaid mac Aodha Slaine. Meanwhile, Raghallach was so captivated by the girl that he insisted on continually gazing upon her face, even when they were in separate chariots.

When St Feichin heard of these events, he and several other saints went to rebuke the Con nacht king for so rejecting his wife, but Raghallach ignored them and they fasted against him, praying that he would perish dishonourably before the following Bealtaine (i. e. Mayfeast see Time). When that feast was near, Raghallach was hunting a wounded stag on an island. The stag escaped him and swam away, whereupon the king followed it alone in a boat. He came upon some churls who had killed the stag and had divided it among themselves. He quarrelled with them over this, and they slew him with their spades. One account states that Muireann died from jealousy of her daughter.

This dramatic lore of Raghallach’s career is quite contrived, and it is noticeable that neither his nephew nor his daughter are named. The episode concerning his nephew is clearly borrowed from the Leinster story of Cobhthach, while that concerning the daughter is based on the wellknown plot of a child who is prophesied to kill its tyrant grandfather (see Balar and Romantic Tales. Type 934). The annals make no reference to such events concerning Raghallach, merely recording his death as having taken place on a Sunday, and at the hands of one Maolbhrighde mac Mothlachain. They describe him as sitting on a white horse when slain, and say that Muireann lamented him and that he was avenged by his son Cathal, who was in fact one of three sons of Raghallach. The narratives con cerning the reputed nephew and daughter would seem to have been invented to discredit the Ui Chonchubhair (O'Connors), who were direct des cendants of Raghallach.

[Annals] John O’Donovan (1848) 1, 25861; Whitley Stokes in Revue Celtique 17, 1889; Paul Walsh in Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society 17, 132.

[Narratives] S H O'Grady (1892) 1, 3946; P S Dinneen (1908) 3. 1305.

[General] F J Byme (1973), 2468.

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