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Ordnance Survey Letters by John O'Donovan and Eugene Curry, 1839

Parish of Disert (e)

Having premised so far I shall give a free translation of Mac Grath’s florid account of the progress and result of this expedition.

As for Conor O’Dea, his scouts having come to him (to Disert) with tidings that De Clare was approaching him, he sent immediately to Loghlin Oge O’Hehir and to Feighlimidh O’Conor (of Corcamroe), requesting that they would come with all the forces they could muster to his assistance against De Clare, so that he might be the more induced to give them all better terms of peace when he should see them all joined in one cause against him. He, in the meantime, sent Thomas, the son of Urthaille O’Griobhtha, Chief of Cineal-Cuallachta, to De Clare, offering him presents and tribute but De Clare refused the offer, and said that he should not give peace or accomodation on that occasion to him or anyone else who was hereditary enemy of himself and his friends before him. When Conor O’Dea heard these bad tidings he summoned his friends from all parts and laid De Clare’s answer before them, upon which they held a hurried Council in that emergency, and came to the determination to place the greater number of their good (best) men in ambush behind them, out of the sight of De Clare’s forces, and to defend the ford of the conflict for the protection of their prey until the arrival of Feidhlimidh and Loghlin Oge O’Hehir to their relief; and he sent messengers to them again with De Clare’s answer that they might make the more haste to this assistance.

As for De Clare, at the opening of the dawn he was surprised at the inactivity of the country round him, as if they were at peace with him, and forming his great army into three battalions to plunder the country on all sides, and to kill its women and children, he ordered one battalion to march to Tully O’Dea, and westward to Rath; another along the Fergus through Cineal Cualeachta to Moghdumnaigh and he himself at the head of the nobles of his great army marches directly westwards to Disert, where the dwelling residence (mansion) of O’Dea then was, for the purpose of plundering it; and when they had arrived there, they perceived a compact or well-ordered troop of horse and foot driving a heavy prey over the ford to the west in a hurry, whereupon De Clare’s numerous forces crowded after them, and killed a great part of the rear of the followers of the prey ere they had clearly got over the ford. Then O’Dea boldly turned to defend the ford against his enemies, so that in a very short space of time countless numbers fell on either side.

When De Clare saw the ford so well protected by that small force against him, he furiously placed himself in the front of the conflict, to urge his good forces. When O’Dea’s little band saw De Clare himself approach they began to fall back, fighting towards the ford, where the ambush was placed, near them. The English pressed forward on them, slaughtering them, until a great number of them had crossed the ford to the westward with De Clare. At that moment those in ambush started up suddenly and courageously, and one party of them flew to defend the ford against the (passing of the) remainder of the heavy forces, and the smaller party of them, together with those of the conductors of the prey who had escaped (survived) the first onset, furiously set on De Clare and his people (i.e. , those who crossed the ford with him) dealing them such furious and heroic blows as killed De Clare and those who were with him ere the main body of his forces were able to force the ford to their relief. Yet those of the Fearmacians (O’Dea’s) who survived, were forced to fly into the same wood, where their enemies formed a warlike circle around them, and at that moment the brave and heroic Feidhlemidh (O’Conor) came over the ridge of Sgúmhall-na-Ratha from the west, and on being informed of those important deeds, his own and his followers’ courage became elated; whereupon, he marched without deviation or fear into the middle of the thick of the conflict where he made a jagged, severed and broken highway and passage through the opposing army of the Fearmacians to come to him out of the wood, and having joined their forces they fell to hacking and maiming their bitter enemies, and defending themselves, while De Clare’s troops were constantly pouring in on them in furious troops, leaving their preys and spoils behind them. In the meantime these two parties, both the English and the Irish, continued to hack and slash each other, and while one party of them were closing and pressing forward to the conflict, another party were flying affrighted from the field of death, so that great numbers of their nobles and brave heroes were killed on either side, and sad indeed was the condition of the Gaels at that moment, for on the slaughter of the greater part of their chief heroes, who lay extended and lifeless in their presence, they were compelled to form themselves into a compact and invulnerable phalanx, so that their enemies could not penetrate through them, while the man of them who had the fewer to contend with, had at least to bear the assaults of four of their fierce enemies.

In the meantime, the active-minded and haughty son of De Clare becoming furious and impetuous after the death of his father, and the generous and heroic Feidhlimidh, met in the conflict, but though their blows were dealt with great impetuosity, still the fight did not long remain doubtful, for Feidhlimidh wounded, re-wounded and thrice wounded the fierce Gall, and left him a discomfited corpse on the field, despite of all his noble adherents.