By Gemma Grant

Described as a huge and fierce warrior, with a stock of red-hair and powerful limbs – essential on the battle field. The battle-hardened warrior, who spent as much time on the field of battle as he did off it, earned the moniker, Conn Céad Catha – Conn of the Hundred Battles’. His exploits inspired the bards to compose endless songs in his honour. Conn Cead Catha, was progenitor of the O’Neill dynasty, the O’Donnell, O’Kelly, O’Malley, O’Flaherty and Maguire.

On the night of his birth, the Annals of the Four Masters, records that five roads to Tara, which had never been seen before, were discovered. Tara, home to the High Kings of Ireland, was acknowledging the arrival of a new king in the making.

Soon Conn would come to consider Tara the most exalted and mystical place in all of Ireland. The large round hill on the southern bank of the Boyne, holds a commanding view of the beautiful surrounding area of Co. Meath. Tara grew in importance and attracted kings whose rule extended far and wide. Conn was among the first of the High Kings to rule over Tara.

Son of King Felimid the Lawgiver, Conn ascended the throne circa 123 A.D. True to his status as a warrior king, he soon attracted loyal followers and enemies in equal measure. His reign is said to have lasted some twenty to fifty years, according to various sources.

Much of his kingship was spent battling with his greatest enemy, the king of Munster, Eoghan-Mór (Eugene or Owen More), also known as Mogh-Nuadhat. Such was the rivalry between the two kings that Ireland saw itself divided into two halves. A border from Dublin to Galway was drawn up. The northern half of Ireland was known as Leth Chuinn (Conn’s Half) and the southern part went to Eoghan-Mór and became known as Leth Moga (Mog’s Half). The name of modern day Maynooth derives from Mogh-Nuadhat.

Conn, accompanied by his Druids and bards, strode along the battlements of his royal fort at Tara. Unbeknown to the king, he stepped upon a stone that immediately cried out. So loud was the shriek, that it was heard all over the territory occupied by Conn. The Druids informed the king that he had trod on the Lia Fáil, (the Stone of Destiny).

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own