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Story entitled 'Eachdraidh Chlann Uisne', 1872

Identifier: Coll-97/CW154/1

Scope and Contents

Story entitled 'Eachdraidh Chlann Uisne' collected from Iain MacNeill [John MacNeil], aged 83, pauper, Buailenambodach, Barraidh [Buaile nam Bodach, Barraigh/Isle of Barra] and written down by Carmichael on Liosmore [Lios Mòr] on 16 March 1867. MacNeil is noted as 'co-aois a Choirneil Ruaraidh ic Neill uacaran Bharraidh' [a contemporary of Colonel Roderick MacNeil, MacNeil of Barra]. The story tells how a seer told an old childless couple that they would have a daughter who would cause more bloodshed in Ireland than had been seen in a long time. Shortly after the prophesy they have a daughter called Deirdire [Deirdre] and hoping that it will avert the predicted bloodshed, they send her away to live in seclusion with her nursemaid. Deirdire grows up to be a very beautiful young woman and is recommended by a hunter, to whom she insisted on giving hospitality, to the unmarried Conachar [Conchobar mac Nessa] King of Ulster as a potential wife. Conachar goes to see her, immediately falls in love with her and takes her back to Ireland to marry her. Deirdre refuses him and asks for a year to experience life out of seclusion to which Conachar agrees. One day, while outside, Deirdre sees Naoise, son of Uisne and cousin of Conachar, and chases after him. In spite of attempts by his brothers to ignore Deirdre, she catches his attention and they fall in love. Knowing that this will cause Conachar displeasure, Naoise, his brothers and Deirdre flee to Scotland where they live happily. When a year has passed, Conachar sends a messenger to Scotland to invite Deirdre and the children of Uisne [Clann Uisne] to a feast at his palace. To the messenger and Conachar's surprise, they accept the invitation and return to Ireland, where they are given a house to stay in. Also staying in the house are mercenaries who are with whom Naoise and his brothers share mutual antipathy which ultimately results in the mercenaries being killed. Conachar having heard no news from the house sends his maid to spy on Deirdre and Clann Uisne to see if Deirdre is still well. She reports that she looks strained so he sends one of his men to look, but Naoise sees Conachar's man looking through the keyhole and throws a die at him which strikes him in the eye and blinds him. He returns to Conachar injured but reporting that Deirdre is as beautiful as ever and that if he could, he would have kept looking at her with his uninjured eye. Conachar then sends an army down to retrieve Deirdre, in turn, three of Naoise's men offer to go and fight Conachar's men in Naoise's place. Two of them accept Conachar's bribes and go to his side but the third refuses and successfully defends Clann Uisne. Deirdre, Naoise and Naoise's two brothers decide to return to Scotland and Conachar enlists the help of a druid to stop them. The druid tries to stop them escaping with a forest, then an ocean and finally with rough, steep ground. Naoise's brothers die of exhaustion and eventually Naoise, grief-stricken, dies too. As the bodies are buried Deirdre asks to be buried with them and at the last moment jumps into the grave and dies. Conachar takes her body out of the grave and buries it on the other side of the loch. A pine tree is planted on each grave and as they grow the branches intertwine with one another. Conachar cuts them down every time it happens until his wife asks him to stop. The first four paragraphs of text were written by Carmichael and the rest written by Robert Urquhart, preventive office and colleague of Carmichael.


  • Creation: 1872

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

This material is unrestricted.


From the Series: 91 folios ; 31.5cm x 21.5cm

Physical Location


Physical Location

folio 2v, line 1 to folio 15r, line 9

Related Materials

GB237/ Coll-97/CW154/2


Bruford, Alan, ''Deirdire' and Alexander Carmichael's Treatment of Oral Sources', Scottish Gaelic Studies, vol. XIV, no. I (1983), pp. 1-24
Carmichael, Alexander, 'Deirdire', Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, vol. XIII (1886-1887), pp. 241-257
Carmichael, Alexander, Deirdire and the Children of Uisne (Edinburgh: Norman MacLeod, 1905).
MacBain, Alexander, 'The story of Deirdre [English translation] part I' in 'The hero tales of the Gael', The Celtic Magazine, vol. XIII, no. 146 (December, 1887), pp. 69-77
MacBain, Alexander, 'The story of Deirdre [English translation] part II' in 'The hero tales of the Gael', The Celtic Magazine, vol XIII, no 147, vol. XIII, no. 147 (January, 1888), pp. 129-138
Carmichael, Alexander, 'Deirdire, English Translation of Deirdire' Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, vol. XIV (1887-1888), pp. 370-387
Carmichael, Alexander, 'Laoidh Chlann Uisneach' Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, vol. XV (1888-1889), pp. 206-215

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

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