Emerald Isle

The Naming of Inbher Oillbine

Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales from the Historical Cycle

Hell Hath No Fury

The river in Meath which we today know as the Delvin, that very same river which flows into the Irish sea in Gormanstown, was not always called so. In the time of Kings it was called Inbher Oillbine, and this is the grim story of how it got that name.

There was a prince who lived near to the mouth of the river, and his name was Ruadh Mac Righduinn, whose people were the Fir Muiridh, or the people of the plain of Meath. He had a desire to visit his foster brother in Scotland, and he assembled enough men to crew his four great currachs, which he loaded with gifts and treasure.

As straightforward an outing as it had appeared to be however, things got more complicated when they reached the middle of the Irish sea, for the boats became stuck, and would budge not an inch! Well they paddled and heaved, strained and sweated, but they were stuck as though held by an anchor.

Prince Ruadh peered over the side but could find no obstruction, so he leapt overboard and swam below to see what could be seen.

To his surprise he discovered none of rock, reef or rope, but instead nine beautiful women waving at him alluringly from where they sat in three coral currachs, the most beautiful of the Merrow race! With a kiss he was granted the gift of breathing the deep waters as though they were fresh mountain air, and he dove to their kingdom for nine nights, to the consternation of his men above.

Many wonders did he see, touch and taste in the garden of the women far below the ocean, rich and abounding with delights, and he spent one night with each of the women. Although one of them was got with child due to his attentions, he was allowed to depart from their land if he promised to stay with them on the way back.

He spent seven years with his foster brother, but he returned to Ireland by a different route, for he had no wish to spend his life beneath the sea,

Furious, the nine women of the ocean went looking for him, bringing with them his son, who had been born while he was elsewhere. They swam up the river to the very walls of his Dún, but his warriors would not grant them access.

In rage and despair the mother of the child slew the boy, her own son, with a seashell knife and threw his head on the shore to haunt Ruadh's memory forever more. Everyone who saw this was appalled and spoke as if with one mouth, saying “is oilb bine!,” which means, it is an awful crime!

And so came to be the name Inbher Oillbine, which is marked on the map below.

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