Finn MacCumhaill or Finn McCool

Finn MacCumhaill was a distinguished chief who flourished in the 3rd century. He was son-in-law to King Cormac, being married in succession to his daughters Graine and Ailbe.

Innumerable stories are related of him—in Irish legend as “Finmacool,” and in Scottish as Fingal.

He was commander of the Fenian militia, a body of several thousand warriors maintained by the Irish monarchs of that age.

In peace they are said to have numbered 9,000, in war, 21,000.

In winter they lived in small parties on the inhabitants of the country, while in summer they maintained themselves by hunting and fishing.

When Finn was on the point of being married to his first wife, Graine, she eloped with his friend Diarmaid.

The wanderings of the lovers and Finn's pursuit was one of the most fruitful themes of Fenian romance.

Diarmaid eventually met his death from the thrust of a wild boar on Benbulben, in the County of Sligo.

Finn's arrival on the scene before his rival's death, forms the subject of one of the most beautiful of Ferguson's Lays of the Western Gael.

In addition to his warlike accomplishments, Finn is reported to have possessed the gifts of poetry, second sight, and healing.

His principal residence was on Dun Almhain (the Hill of Allen, near Kildare)—an abode glowingly described in so many of his son Oisin's lays.

The surrounding rath or fortification is still traceable, even from a distance. His other abode was Moyelly in the present King's County.

Moore says in his history:

“It has been the fate of this popular Irish hero, after a long course of traditional renown in his country—where his name still lives, not only in legends and songs, but yet in the most indelible records of scenery connected with his memory—to have been all at once transferred, by adoption, to another country [Scotland], and start under a new but false shape, in a fresh career of fame.”

The Four Masters state that Finn met his death in 283, at Rath-Breagha, near the Boyne, whither he had retired in his old age to pass the remainder of his life in tranquillity. He was killed by the blow of a fishing gaff, at the hands of one Athlach, and his death was avenged by Cailte MacRonain, his faithful follower.


13. Architecture, Ancient, and Practical Geology of Ireland: George Wilkinson. London, 1845.

134. Four Masters, Annals of Ireland by the: Translated and Edited by John O'Donovan. 7 vols. Dublin, 1856.

171. Ireland, History of, from the earliest period to the English Invasion: Rev. Geoffrey Keating: Translated from the Irish, and Noted by John O'Mahony. New York, 1857.