1. The Birth and Early Life of Mael Duin

LONG AGO, there lived among the Eoganacht clan of Ninuss, in the kingdom of Thomond, a warrior named Alill Ocar Agha (or ‘Alill of the Edge of Battle’). He was a hero and a chief among his clan and family, and he was famed as a brave fighter.

The king of Thomond once led a raid into Kildare, and Alill and his men accompanied him. There, they camped one night near a church, beside which was a convent of nuns.

During the night, while the camp was quiet, Alill went near the church. When the young prioress of the convent came out to ring the bell for nocturns, Alill seized her, threw her down to the ground, and raped her.

“But we are in an unblessed state!” the young nun cried. “And this is the time of my conceiving! What is your tribe, and what is your name?” she pleaded. “Who are you?”

“I am Alill Ocar Agha,” he boasted, “and I am a chief of the Eoganacht of Ninuss, in Thomond!”

And he left her there by the church, not caring whether she would become pregnant or not.

The king continued his raid, until he had had enough of killing and taking hostage the people of Kildare. Then he took his army back to Thomond, and Alill Ocar Agha and his clansmen went with it.


In time, the young prioress bore a son, and she named him Máel Dúin.

She knew that she could not keep the child; so as she was a friend of the Queen of the kingdom of Aran, she took her baby there.

“Take my child,” she begged the Queen. “Please, raise him as your own, for I cannot.”

Now the Queen of Aran loved her friend, and so she agreed. She took the baby, and raised Máel Dúin as her own son.

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