The Fianna

Found by Eugene Daly while researching for his book:  “Leap and Glandore – Fact and Folklore”

In Irish mythology the Fianna (warrior-hunters) were a band of powerful warriors, led by Fionn Mac Cumhail and said to date from about 300 B.C. Their purpose was to protect the High King of Ireland, Cormac Mac Airt, and to guard Ireland against invasion. They were attended by physicians, poets and druids and their adventurers form the material of the Ossianic Cycle of Irish mythology, so called from Oisin, son of Fionn. To enter the band of warriors required almost superhuman feats of athleticism, courage and intellect.


Fionn (the fair one), leader of the Fianna, was one of the greatest warrior in Irish Mythology. He was sent for education to the druid Finéagas, who lived beside the Boyne, hoping to catch Fintan, the Salmon of Knowledge. One day he succeeded and gave the fish to Fionn to cook. The boy, burning his thumb during the cooking, sucked it to ease the pain and unwittingly stored all Fintan’s knowledge in a tooth, known in later stories as fiacal feasa Fionn (Fionn’s tooth of wisdom).

A tale in Keelinga

In the townland of Keelinga, Leap, Co. Cork there is a bog known as the Caol. An old story says that there was a blood battle fought there between Fionn Mac Caol. and some foreign invaders who landed in the country unknown to Fionn. Although he used to watch the harbour from the top of the hill in Cappanaboha near by and had seat there called Suidhe Finn. These invaders destroyed several of the Fianna and gave them a bad disease which they could not cure. Fionn put his thumb under the tooth of knowledge and the cure he got was to milk three hundred white head cows and let every man who was diseased swim in the milk and he would be as good as ever. Therefore the place where they had milked the cows is called unto this day Caol Leamnacta (the narrow stream of the fresh milk).

The white stone

On the side of a hill in the townland Keamnabricka, Rosscarbery, there is a large white stone weighing several tons called “bric from breac”. It is split in two and around it is dressed as if for an iron band. The story goes that Oscar and some other hero had a challange at casting. The latter said that if Oscar could lift the stone he would cast it from Carrifadda, where it then lay, into the sea a distance of about five miles. Oscar not only raised the boulder but he threw it three miles into its present position and then challenged his opponent to fling it into the sea. Unfortunatelly, the concussion of Oscar’s cast burst the stone. Attempts were made to put band around it but without success so that the contest was undecided.The townland where the stone lies is still called Géim na Brice (Mountain pass of the brick) from the roar which the stone gave when it fell.

Fionn and the little musician

Once when Fionn was hunting he met a little man in a lonely place among the brambles and bushes. Fionn stopped and spoke to him. He had a harp on which he was playing – the harp was higher than himself – and he hadn’t a stitch of clothes on him. Fionn spoke to him and took him home to Tara and he called him Cnó (a nut) because he was only the size of a nut.


When the Fianna came home from hunting every evening, he used to catch the harp and play for them. The tune he played made them fall into sumber and they left him to mind the house. He stayed with them.