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    There was a time in Irelands history when chivalry and
    chieftainry ruled the land. When the country was occupied
    by bands of warriors who spoke only their native tongue
    and who cherished their heritage and civilisation. This
    was the time of Conor McNessa and the High Kings of
    Ireland, of the Gamanraide and the Red Branch Knights of
    the Emania. It was the time of Cuchullain.

    All of the warrior bands had their own Seanachie, a
    person responsible for recounting the deeds of times past,
    a chronicler of the ages. Cuchullain was their most famous
    subject and hundreds of tales of his heroic deeds, both
    real and imagined, have survived to this day.

    Cuchullain was the nephew and foster son of King Conor of
    Emania, and was originaly named Setanta. He arrived at the
    Court to find the youths playing Camán (hurling) and,
    having with him his red bronze hurley he so outplayed the
    other youths that his future greatness could be seen by
    all of the Court. The warriors of the Red Branch
    acknowledged him as a blood relative of the King and heard
    him proclaim before the Druids in the Hall of Heroes:

    "I care not whether I die tomorrow or next year,
    if only my deeds live after me".

    Cuchulainns greatest deed was perhaps when he alone held
    back the forces of Connaught and had to fight his friend,
    Ferdiad, who was the champion and chief of the Connaught
    Knights of the Sword. Ferdiad and Cuchullain had trained
    together in arms in their youth and it was displeasing to
    Cuchullain to have to fight his friend of old. He tried to
    dissuade Ferdiad against fighting by reminding him of their
    days in training, when they were both subjects of the great
    female champion, Scathach, in Alba.

    "We were heart companions, We were companions in the woods,
    We were fellows of the same bed, where we used to sleep the
    balmy sleep. After mortal battles abroad, In countries many
    and far distant, together we used to practice, and go
    through each forest, learning with Scathach".

    Ferdiad would not be swayed. Lest he weaken under
    Cuchullains pleas he responded only with taunts against
    his friend, now foe.

    So they fought. They fought for four days and eventually,
    after a tremendous effort, Cuchullain laid Ferdiad down and
    then fell into a trance of sorrow and weakness after the
    epic duel.

    As is the way with such heroes, Cuchulainn died on the
    battlefield. He was propped against a large rock whilst
    dead, with a spear in his hand and a buckler on his arm,
    and with such a defiant attitude was able to strike fear
    into his enemies even after death.

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