The Fortuatha-Laighean Ui-Fearghaile

By Walter Farrell, London.

Besides the Ui-Fearghaile of the Muinter-Anghaile there was also an Ui-Fearghaile who were lords of the Fortuatha-Laighean. Fortuatha-Laighean signifies the “stranger tribe of Leinster,” and would appear to have been an alias name for Ui-Mail or Imail.

The territory of the Fortuatha-Laighean comprised the valley of Glendalough, and the district of Imail, in the present barony of Upper Talbotstown, county Wicklow.

The tributes and stipends of the Fortuatha-Laighean are recorded in the Book of Rights; and O’Huidhrin (or O’Heerin) in his Topographical Poem notices the race thus:

“The Fortuatha of Leinster of slopes,

Over Cairbre of the red-speared hosts,

The tribe from the Boinn of Colla and Conn,

Of them right is the division.”

From this John O’Donovan surmises that the Fortuatha-Laighean were from the neighbourhood of the River Boyne, and were of the race of the Clan Colla, and Conn of the Hundred Battles.

The Annals of Ulster record that Domhnall Ua-Fearghaile, King of the Fortuatha-Laighean was slain fighting on the side of the Monarch Brien Borumha. Duald MacFirbis traces the pedigree of this Domhnall Ua-Fearghaile; and makes him twenty-seventh in descent from Mesincorb, who was son of Cucorb or Concorb, king of Leinster, son of Moghcorb, king of Leinster, son of Conchobhar Abheadh Ruadh, Monarch, b.c. 12.

While Cucorb was King of Leinster (circa a.d. 150), the men of Munster overran and plundered Leinster. Cucorb, obtaining the assistance of Eochaidh Fionn, brother of Conn of the Hundred Battles, engaged and totally routed them. Re-instated in his dominion, Cucorb, out of gratitude to his ally Eochaidh Fionn, bestowed upon him the territory of the “Seven Fothortuaths”

The Annals of the Four Masters contain several entries concerning the Fortuatha-Laighean, and five concerning these Ui-Fearghaile, the last of which is:—

a.d. 1170. “Murchadh Ua-Fearghail, lord of the Fortuatha, was slain by Ua-Fiachrach, lord of Ui-Fineachlaies.”

Walter de Riddlesford, Baron of Brey, obtained from King John a grant of the lands of Ui-Muireadhaigh, in the now county Kildare, the territory of the Ui-Tuathail or O’Tooles. These being deprived of their original territory settled in Imail, of which they became lords; and, perhaps, it is not an improbable conjecture that this O’Fearghaile family then lost their possessions and disappeared from history, for, no trace of them is to be found after the twelfth century.