The Story of an Eraic (or Eric)

(Extract from Connellan's translation of The Annals of the Four Masters)

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

[According to the laws of the ancient Irish a fine or compensation was required either in value or person as a reparation for crimes or injuries. This fine was called an eraic or eric.]

Felim, son of Cathal Crovdearg, marched with his forces eastward into Brefney against O'Reilly, to be revenged for his ward and kinsman Teige O'Conor; they remained a night encamped at Fiodhuach, of Moy Rein. The abbot was not at home on that night, and the church of Fiodhuach being unroofed, a party of the soldiers burned the tents and huts which were erected in the inside without the permission of their leaders, and the alumnus of the abbot was smothered. The abbot himself came the following day, very much incensed and enraged at the death of his alumnus, and demanded his eraic from O'Conor, who answered that he would grant him his own demand. "My demand," said the abbot, "is that the best man among you be given up as an eraic for my alumnus." "That person," said O'Conor, "is Manus, son of Murtogh Muimnagh." "I am not indeed," replied Manus, "but the chief commander is." "I shall not part with you," said the abbot, "until I obtain my eraic." The party after that marched out of town, and the abbot having followed them, they proceeded to Ath-na-Cuire, on the river Geircthign, but the flood so overflowed its banks that they could not cross it; and in order to pass over they broke up the chapel house of St. John the Baptist, which was adjacent to the ford, and placed the timber across the river. Manus, son of Murtogh Muimnagh, went into the house, accompanied by Conor, son of Cormack Mac Dermott, and while Manus was giving directions to the man that was on the top of the house stripping the roof, he pointed up his sword and said, "There is the nail which prevents the beam from falling;" and on saying so, the top rafter of the house fell on his head, which it smashed, and killed him on the spot. He was buried on the outside of the door of the church of Fiodhuach, and three times the full of the king's bell of money were given as an offering for his soul, and also thirty steeds, so it was thus that the abbot of St. Caillin obtained an eraic for his alumnus. A monument of cut stone and a handsome carved cross were raised over the body of Manus, but after some time they were broken by the people of O'Rourke.