Bruiden Da Choca

The Bruiden Da Choca (or Bruidhean Dá Choga) was located in the townland of Bryanmore Upper, where the remains of a fort can still be seen. The site is of strong historical and literary significance. It was one of the six royal hostels of ancient Ireland, each of which was located at a meeting of four roads. It is mentioned several times in the Annals, for example as the scene of the murders of significant political figures in the years 604 and 920 A.D.

The literary significance of the Bruiden (pronounced Breen) is due to its association with an Irish-language poem entitled Bruiden Da Choca. The surviving versions of this poem date from the twelfth century, although elements of the tale can be traced in earlier works. It tells the story of the death of Cormac Connloinges, son of Conchobar mac Nessa, king of Ulster. Much of the poem is concerned with a battle that took place at the hostel of Da Coca between a band of Connachtmen sent by Queen Medb and a band of Ulstermen led by Cormac. In this battle, Cormac and almost all of the Ulstermen were killed.

John O’Donovan visited the area in 1837 and he reported that ‘There can be no doubt that this fort is the Bruidhean da choga of the ancients’. He described the site as ‘a fort of earth 204 paces in circumference and containing within it the ruins of a castle’. O’Donovan also noted that ‘There was originally a large circle of stones surrounding the fort, from which it might be inferred, perhaps, that it was used for religious purposes as well as for defence’.

The town lands of Bryanmore Lower and Bryanbeg Upper and Lower also derive their name from the Bruiden, while several other local placenames are mentioned in the poem.

A version of Bruiden Da Choca was edited and translated, with introduction and notes, by Gregory Toner and published by the Irish Texts Society in 2007. Whitley Stokes also published a translation in the journal Revue Celtique in 1900 (link). Further details of interest can be found in Aengus Finnegan, ‘The Topography of Bruidhean Da Choga or Bryanmore Hill, Co. Westmeath’, Ainm, 11 (2012), pp 65-89.