Origin of the Borrumean Tribute

John Healy
Tara, Pagan and Christian | start of essay


It arose in this way. Tuathal had two daughters “more beautiful than the clouds of heaven.” The King of Leinster sought the eldest in marriage, and obtained his request; but after a while he heard that the younger was the more beautiful. So he sent a false message to Tara, saying that the elder sister had died, and that he now wished to marry her younger sister. This request was also granted; but after a little the two sisters happened to meet face to face in the dun at Naas. Then the eldest, heart-broken at the deceit practised against herself and her sister, died of shame, and the younger shortly afterwards died of grief at the cruel fate of her unhappy sister.

Word of these proceedings was soon brought to Tara, and to the kings of Ulster and Connaught, who were the foster-fathers of the maidens in question. A great army was raised; Leinster was harried with fire and sword; the wicked king was slain; and its princes and people were required to pay annually a tax of 1,500 sheep, 1,500 pigs, 1,500 kine, with many other things also, amongst the rest, a brazen boiler large enough to boil twelve oxen and twelve pigs at a time for the hosts of Tara. For more than five hundred years this oppressive tax was the cause of continuous bloodshed. It was often levied, but never without a fight; it was oftener successfully resisted, but always caused hatred, strife, and slaughter between the two kingdoms until its final remission through the prayers and diplomacy of St. Moling. One enduring effect it produced was a great estrangement between the men of Leinster and Conn’s Half, which was not without its influence in inducing the Lagenians to side with the Danes at Clontarf, and at a later date in moving false Diarmaid MacMurrough to bring in the Norman, in order to be revenged on his own countrymen. Such are the far-reaching consequences of public crime and injustice.