The Feine, or Fenians

The Fiana Eirionn, signifying the “Fenians of Ireland,” are mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters under the name “Fené” or “Feiné;” and ancient Irish annalists state that these Feiné were descendants of Feniusa Farsaidh (No. 14, page 47, whose son Niul first planted a colony of Scythians in Egypt), who were afterwards called, after Feniusa, their ancestor, Feiné or Phenicians. Some writers say that the Phenicians were descended from Ham: this is evidently incorrect; for Feniusa Farsaidh was the grandfather, and Niul his son was the father, of Gaodhal or Gathelus (No. 16, page 49)—a quo the Clan-na-Gael. The Feiné were therefore of the same stock as the Clan-na-Gael, and not the descendants of Ham.

The Fenian warriors were a famous military force, forming the standing national militia for the protection of the monarchy; instituted in Ireland long before the Christian era; and brought to the greatest perfection in the reign of Cormac MacArt, Monarch of Ireland in the third century. Into this military organization none were admitted but select men of the greatest activity, strength, stature, perfect form, and valour; and when the force was complete, it consisted of seven catha, that is, battalions or legions, each battalion containing three thousand men: making 21,000 for each of the five provinces; or about one hundred thousand fighting men in time of war for the entire kingdom. A commander was appointed over every thousand of these troops, and the entire force was completely and admirably disciplined; and each battalion had their own bands of musicians and bards to animate them in battle, and celebrate their feats of arms.

In the reign of the monarch Cormac MacArt, the celebrated Finn, son of Coole, was the chief commander of the Fenian warriors; and his great actions, strength, and valour, are celebrated in the Ossianic Poems, and various other productions of the ancient bards. In the reign of King Cairbre Liffechar (No. 83, page 667), son of the monarch Cormac MacArt, the Fenian forces revolted from the service of Cairbre, and joined the famous Mogh Corb, King of Munster, of the race of the Dalcassians. The Munster forces, and the Fenians, marched to Meath, where they were met by the combined troops of the monarch Cairbre; and fought at Gaura (considered by some to be Skreen, in the county Meath, and by others Garristown, in the county Dublin, on the borders of Meath) one of the most furious battles recorded in Irish history. Finn MacCoole being now dead, the chief command devolved on his son Ossian; and at this battle, after performing prodigies of valour, Ossian’s son Oscar was slain in single combat by the valiant monarch Cairbre Liffechar; but Cairbre himself soon after fell by the hand of the champion Simon, the son of Ceirb, of the race of the Fotharts (the Foharta) of Leinster.

The tremendous battle of Gaura is considered to have led to the subsequent fall of the Irish monarchy; for, after the disaffection and destruction of the Fenian forces, the Irish kings never were able to muster a national army equal in valour and discipline to those heroes; either to cope with foreign foes, or to reduce to subjection rebellious provincial kings and princes: hence the Monarchy became weak and disorganized, and the ruling powers were unable to maintain their authority, or make a sufficient stand against the Danish and Anglo-Norman invaders of after times.