Loughbrickland , County Down

On either side of the road from Dublin to Belfast , just North of Newry , lie the little lake know as Loughbrickland and the pictureque village of the same name. Both are a must see attraction of your Ireland tours. In the original Irish the toponymic is Loch Bricreann , meaning ‘the lake of Bricriu’.

Who this Bricriu (‘Little speckled fellow’) was in reality we do not know , but the name was sufficiently evocative for an early Irish writer to imagine him as a troublesome fellow who wrought havoc among the Ulster heroes with his malicious tricks. He is described as a satirist , probably because a type of false praise mixed with blame was referred to as ‘speckled praise’.

Bricriu is said to have been notoriously two-faced and wily , and he once boasted that ‘a whisper is more valuable to me than a roar to another person’. The principle story concerning him tells of how he invited all the Ulster nobles to a feast in his dwelling. It was customary for the greatest warrior at a feast to receive a special joint of meat called ‘the Champion’s portion’ , and Bricriu variously promised this to the three leading heroes.

To add to the confusion , he told each of their wives that the first of the women to enter the feast would be considered most noble. The women were first to fight , and three husbands could be restrained from attacking each other only by the King , Conchobhar , arranging an elaborate series of tests for them.

At these tests , Cu Chulainn proved to be the bravest and the best , and to him the Champions portion was awarded. According to the ‘Cattle-Raid of Cooley’ , Bricriu was trampled and slain by the two great bulls who fought each other at the end of that epic.

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