The Fenians of the Olden Time, by Geoffrey Keating.

(About A.D. 230.)

From The Cabinet of Irish Literature, Volume 1, edited by Charles A. Read (1880)

Every soldier that was received into the militia of Ireland by Fionn was obliged, before he was enrolled, to subscribe to the following articles: the first, that, when he was disposed to marry, he would not follow the mercenary custom of insisting upon a portion with his wife, but, without regard to her fortune, he should choose a woman for her virtue, her courtesy, and good manners. The second, that he would never offer violence to a woman, or attempt to ravish her. The third, that he would be charitable and relieve the poor, who desired meat or drink, as far as his abilities would permit. The fourth, that he would not turn his back or refuse to fight with nine men of any other nation that set upon him, and offered to fight him.

It must not be supposed that every person who was willing to be enlisted in the militia of Ireland would be accepted, for Fionn was very strict in his inquiry, and observed these rules in filling up the number of his troops, which were exactly followed by his successors in command when they had occasion to recruit their forces.

He ordained, therefore, that no person should be enlisted or received into the service in the congregation or assembly of Visneach, or in the celebrated fair of Tailteau, or at Feas Teamhrach, unless his father and mother, and all the relatives of his family, would stipulate and give proper security that not one of them should attempt to revenge his death upon the person that slew him, but to leave the affair of his death wholly in the hands of his fellow-soldiers, who would take care to do him justice as the case required; and it was ordained, likewise, that the relations of a soldier of this militia should not receive any damage or reproach for any misbehaviour committed by him.

The second qualification for admittance into these standing forces was, that no one should be received unless he had a poetical genius and could compose verses, and was well acquainted with the twelve books of poetry.

The third condition was, that he should be a perfect master of his weapons, and able to defend himself against all attacks; and to prove his dexterity in the management of his arms he was placed in a plain field, encompassed with green sedge that reached above his knee; he was to have a target by him and a hazel stake in his hand of the length of a man's arm. Then nine experienced soldiers of the militia were drawn out, and appointed to stand at the distance of nine ridges of land from him, and to throw all their javelins at him at once; if he had the skill with his target and his stake to defend himself, and come off unhurt, he was admitted into the service, but if he had the misfortune to be wounded by one of these javelins, he was rejected as unqualified, and turned off with reproach.

A fourth qualification was, that he should run well, and in his flight defend himself from his enemy; and to make a trial of his activity he had his hair plaited, and was obliged to run through a wood, with all the militia pursuing him, and was allowed but the breadth of a tree before the rest at his setting out; if he was overtaken in the chase, or received a wound before he had run through the wood, he was refused as too sluggish and unskilful to fight with honour among those valiant troops.

It was required in the fifth place that whoever was a candidate for admission into the militia should have a strong arm, and hold his weapons steady; and if it was observed that his hands shook, he was rejected.

The sixth requisite was, that when he ran through a wood his hair should continue tied up during the chase; if it fell loose he could not be received.

The seventh qualification was, to be so swift and light of foot as not to break a rotten stick by standing upon it.

The eight condition was, that none should have the honour of being enrolled among the Irish militia that was not so active as to leap over a tree as high as his forehead; or could not, by the agility of his body, stoop easily under a tree that was lower than his knees.

The ninth condition required was, that he could, without stopping or lessening his speed, draw a thorn out of his foot.

The tenth and last qualification was, to take an oath of allegiance to be true and faithful to the commanding officer of the army. These were the terms required for admission among these brave troops, which, so long as they were exactly insisted upon, the militia of Ireland were an invincible defence to their country, and a terror to rebels at home and enemies abroad.