By Gemma Grant

Like many of Ireland’s high kings, Labhraidh Loingseach’s road to kingship was fraught with personal loss, trauma and, in his case, a closely guarded secret: Labhraidh, had the ears of a horse!

His grandfather, Lóegaire Lorc, was high king of Ireland and Lorc’s brother, Cobthach, was king of Leinster. In true Cain and Abel, fashion, Cobthach was intensely jealous of his brother and plotted to be rid of him. So overwhelming was his loathing for his brother, that he fell ill and appeared to be wasting away.

When news of Cobthach’s illness reached the high king, Lóegaire left to visit his sick brother. When the Ard Rí arrived at his brother’s fort, he accidentally stood on a small chicken, killing it. Cobthach, saw this as an insult. When the royal visit finished, Cobthach put his final plans into actions.

Faking his own death, Cobthach sent his servants to inform the high king that he had died of his illness. When the high king returned to be at the death bed of his treacherous brother, Cobthach produced a knife and stabbed Lóegaire through the heart, killing him instantly.

After the murder of his brother, Cobthach was made high king of Ireland. However, a deed so foul, Cobthach feared, would not go unpunished by his brother’s son, Ailill.

Cobthach summoned Ailill and his wife Áine to court, accompanied by their son, Labhraidh. The young family were reluctant to go, but a summons from the high king could not be ignored.

When Ailill and his family reached the court, Cobthach had Ailill murdered. Not content with that, Cobthach forced Labhraidh to eat part of his father’s and grandfather’s heart. To add further insult to injury, the boy was forced to eat a small mouse. So traumatised was the boy, that he lost his ability to speak and became known as Móen Ollom, (the mute scholar).

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own