Meave

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Meave, Queen of Connaught, an Irish princess, said to have flourished in the 1st century, and to have held her court at Cruachan, now Croghan, near Tulsk, in the County of Roscommon. The great extent of the raths and other remains there attest the ancient importance of the place. Out of a discussion between Meave and her husband, Ailill, respecting the comparative merits of their different possessions, and Meave's desire to possess a bull to equal in beauty her husband's "Finnbennach " (white-horn), arose the incidents related in the story that has been styled the Irish Iliad — the Tain Bo Chuailgne, or "Cattle Spoil of Cooley."

The effort to secure a noble bull, Donn Cuailgne, involved the whole island in war, in which Fergus MacRoigh, Cuchulaind, Conall Cearnach, Ferdia, and other heroes of Fenian romance were engaged. For ages the lay was lost, until recovered by the sage Murgen, by the grave of Fergus MacRoigh. The story is graphically told in Mrs. Ferguson's Ireland before the Conquest; while the "Tain-Quest" is among the most beautiful of the Lays of the Western Gael. Ailill was eventually slain by Conall Cearnach; and Meave passed her widowhood on Inis Clothran in Lough Ree. She survived all her contemporaries, and reigned over Connaught about eighty years. She was killed by the cast of a stone from Forbaid, as she was enjoying her favourite recreation of swimming in Lough Ree. It has been suggested that Meave is the prototype of Mab, the fairy queen.

Sources

171. Ireland, History of, from the earliest period to the English Invasion: Rev. Geoffrey Keating: Translated from the Irish, and Noted by John O'Mahony. New York, 1857.

179. Ireland before the Conquest: M. C. Ferguson. London, 1868.

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