Gemma Grant continues her series on Irish Myths and Legends with one of the best loved stories of all


Fionn Mac Cumhaill, leader of the elite fighting force known as the Fianna, was a giant of a man in their eyes. They often sang his praises, declaring that no man alive could ever defeat him and only a fool would dare try.
Fionn’s wife Úna, a woman of sensibility, warned him about attracting too much attention. However, Fionn brushed it aside, certain no one could defeat him.

To the other side of the Irish sea lived Benandonner, a Scottish giant, also known as the Red Man. Tales of Fionn reached his ears and one day, he decided to act.

Shouting insults across the sea, he challenged Fionn to a fight. Fionn replied in equal measure, firing insults back and informing Benandonner he would knock him senseless when they met.

Not to be outdone, Benandonner lifted gigantic stones, casting them into the sea to make a bridge between the two islands. Fionn did likewise, and soon, a causeway of stepping stones began to emerge.
Fionn was delighted. Soon he would meet with Benandonner and teach him a lesson.

As the bridge was almost complete, the Scottish giant decided to rest and lay down on the beach. Exhaustion overtook him and soon he was fast asleep.

On the other side of the sea, the mighty Fionn Mac Cumhaill, eager to meet with the Scots man, leapt onto the first stone and made his way across to Scotland.

As he neared the shoreline, he heard what sounded like claps of thunder, booming across the heavens. Coming closer to shore, he observed a giant lying sleeping on the beach, snoring so loudly, that the very rocks shook.
Fionn was horrified when he realised that this was none other, than the man he exchanged insults with. Fionn, brave and a champion among men, knew that he could never defeat this powerful giant. Deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, he hurried back to Ireland.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own