Skip to main content

Story about Dearg, 16 January 1866

Identifier: Coll-97/CW104/8

Scope and Contents

Story about Dearg which gives rise to the origin of 'lamh dhearg nan Donllach' [the red hand of the MacDonalds] and the MacDonald's moniker as 'siol Chuinn'. The story tells how Dearg, a Fenian warrior, has two children a strong, handsome son and a beautiful girl. He encounters a young woman and asks her if she will marry his son. She reluctantly agrees but when she sees how big and strong he is and realises that he has still to grow and will become bigger and stronger she is afraid and runs away. She is taken in by Fionn and is in his care when Dearg comes and kidnaps her. Dearg and the girl are pursued and intercepted by another warrior, Goll, and Goll and Dearg fight. Dearg is getting the better of Goll and Goll begs him not to break the Fenian rules, thinking that there are others coming to support him so Dearg looks over his shoulder and Goll takes advantage and cuts off Dearg's head. Fionn takes Dearg's sword and gives it to his son, Conn, and then tells Conn to go and spend time with his own son Fergus. Conn attacks Fergus, Fionn reprimands him and sends him home. Conn grows older and stronger and becomes restless at home so much so that his mother sends him away. He goes straight to Fionn and declares war on him to avenge his father's death. Fionn realising how strong he is sends Goll to fight him, after two days and nights of fighting Goll is sent home injured and refuses to continue fighting. Fionn sends Fergus and Fergus's son Diarmad to get Conn's mother, telling her that he has killed fellow Fenians. She blames them for keeping him from women and having a family. They heard about Conn's frailty and returned to the Fianna. Women and a progeny were given to Conn and one woman bears Conn a son and she flees to Egypt with him. The son is very handsome and marries the Pharoah's daughter. They have three sons, who when Conn dies, return to Ireland, although one goes to Scotland. One of the sons, on seeing land from his birlinn [galley], chops his hand off and throws it to the shore, claiming it for himself. In this way the red hand becomes associated with the MacDonalds, who are also sometimes referred to as Sìol Choinn [The Seed of Conn].


  • 16 January 1866

Language of Materials

English Gaelic

Conditions Governing Access

This material is unrestricted.


From the Series: 91 folios ; 20 x 16.5 cm

Physical Location


Physical Location

folio 27v, line 11 to folio 31r, line 17


Campbell, John Francis, (ed.), Leabhar na Féinne, vol I (London, 1872) pp. 107fff.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379