The late Desmond Kinney’s 1974 mosaic mural off Nassau Street in Dublin also goes by the name of the Táin Wall. It is shamefully neglected. There is no on-site identification of the artist or even the name of the work. The colophon that used to be adjacent to the Wall is now missing.
The Setanta (or Táin) Wall depicts major events in the great Irish epic, Táin Bó Cuailnge, the Cattle Raid of Cooley, set 2000 years ago, and the life of its hero, Cúchulainn, who single-handedly defended Ulster against an invasion by Queen Maeve of Connacht to steal the Brown Bull of Cooley. The scenes starting on the left:
How Cúchulainn Got His Name
His birth name was Setanta. At the age of seven, he was invited to a feast at Culann’s house in the Ulster kingdom of Cooley (the Carlingford Peninsula, now part of County Louth in the Republic of Ireland). As he approached the house after dark, Culann’s guard dog attacked him and he killed the dog. He volunteered to guard the house for a year while Culann raised and trained another hound, so Setanta became the Hound of Culann, Cú Chulainn in Irish.
The Curse of Macha
Macha died when she was forced by King Conor of Ulster to run a race while she was pregnant, and she cursed the men of Ulster to be as sick and weak as a woman in childbirth at the time of their greatest danger. As Queen Maeve and her army began to march toward the Ulster border, the men of Ulster were prostrated by the Curse.
Cúchulainn and Ferdia’s Mortal Combat (Video)
Cúchulainn was killing Maeve’s warriors by the hundreds, and she sent a series of champions to fight him in single combat. Cúchulainn defeated all of them, until the only remaining Connacht champion was his best friend and foster brother, Ferdia. Maeve tricked Ferdia into fighting Cúchulainn, and the two friends met reluctantly at the ford at Ardee, County Louth. In the fourth day of battle, Cúchulainn used his unique Gae Bolga, a spring-loaded multi-barbed javelin, to kill Ferdia.
All was merely game and sport
Till Ferdia fought me at the ford.
Beloved Ferdia would survive,
I thought, long after I had died.
Who was a mountain yesterday
Today is nothing but a shade.
The Meeting of the Bulls
The two greatest bulls in Ireland were the Brown Bull of Cooley and the White-horned Bull. Maeve needed the Brown Bull, owned by King Dáire of Cooley, to be equal in wealth to her husband, who owned the White-horned. Dáire refused to give it to her, and she invaded Ulster to take it. When the two bulls, shape-changed druids who were former friends turned bitter enemies, met, they killed each other.
The Death of Cúchulainn
Ten years after the Táin, Cúchulainn was defeated by magic at the age of 27. When he received his fatal wound, he tied himself to a pillar so he would die standing and facing his enemies. Though mortally wounded, the Grey of Macha, one of his two chariot horses foaled on the night he was born, fought by his side. The Mórrígan, a battle-goddess, perched on his shoulder in the shape of a raven when he was dead. The exulting red-maned woman on horseback on the extreme right is Queen Maeve.
My photos of the Wall are used here with the artist’s permission. All rights are reserved.