Chapter 31 
(28th April 2009):

The Saga of Gráinne and Diarmuid

She had her choice of suitors; she was a beautiful and knowledgeable Princess, daughter of the High King of Ireland: Cormac Mac Art. Yet each prince, hero or champion was spurned and sent on his way.

Finn MacCuhal, widowed high chieftain of her father’s generation, sent his son - poet Oisín - and the druid Duanach MacMorna to Tara to ask for Gráinne’s hand in marriage. To her father’s surprise, she did not refuse and a date was set for the betrothal banquet. So the day came when Finn travelled to Tara with his chosen chieftains and warriors, the Fian, all of whom were seated in the great hall according to rank and patrimony. During the cheerful meal Gráinne realized the purpose of Finn’s appearance, determining that she preferred to marry a man of her own age.

Scanning the hall, her eyes fell on the handsome Diarmaid O’Duivna, one of Finn’s most favoured warriors of the Fian. Gràinne had her handmaid bring the Princess’s goblet with a cunning drug. First Finn, then Cormac and his wife Eitche, followed by the other nobles of the company were given the goblet to drink from and fell into a deep slumber. Diarmaid, of course, not; Gráinne had plans for him. It took all her powers of persuasion, a challenge to his sense of honour and the support of Diarmuid’s peers to convince him to elope with her.

Waking from their drugged state, Finn, Cormac and the Fian found that Diarmuid and Gráinne had fled. For the next years they fled, followed by trackers and Finn’s hunters and warriors. The wild deer was their meat and the water of the springs was their drink. Now and again they found a safe haven, only to be warned to move on. Throughout  Ireland certain cromlechs, mounds or single large stones are called “Diarmaid and Gráinne’s bed”.

Eventually the Fian refused to battle Diarmuid and Finn was forced to give up his feud. The couple were given two districts by their parents, in which Diarmuid built a Great House: Rath Gráinne.

Time passed and one night Diarmuid, searching for a boar with his hound Mac an Cuill, was attacked and fatally injured by the boar. Only water brought to Diarmuid by the hands of Finn Mac Cuhal could have healed these injuries. Yet Finn could not bring himself to serve and save his former enemy. Though the poet, the druid and Finn’s leading men persuaded him to carry the water to Diarmuid, he had hesitated too long. Just as he stood above Diarmuid with the water held out stiffly, life parted from the hero’s body.

Understandably, there was resentment among the Fian and Diarmuid’s peers when Gráinne was wooed into marrying Finn.

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