FLANN MAC LONAIN (d. 896) (Medieval Ireland)

Flann mac Lonain was an elusive poet whose considerable fame ensured that verse ranging from an elegy of Ecnechan mac Dalaig who died five years after Flann to Early Modern Irish eulogies of the Dal Cais were attributed to him. Of the historical figure himself, however, little is known; indeed Colm O Lochlainn accorded him phantom status. Whatever his precise guise, he appears to have been primarily associated with the North Munster territory to which the Uf Briain laid claim, as indicated by passing remarks in a poem put into his mouth addressing a giant, Fidbadach mac Feda Ruscaig, allegedly Oengus, son of the Dagda, in disguise. He is also said to be the posthumous author of a dinnshenchas poem on Slfab nEchtga (the Aughty mountains, County Clare) in which he describes himself as file feig (a keen poet). Nonetheless, the prose tale preceding this poem in one manuscript terms him ollam (chief poet) of Connacht and his genealogy in the paternal line similarly links him with the famous sixth-century king of that territory, Guaire Aidne. As far as his poetic talent is concerned, however, the same genealogy attributes it in no uncertain terms to his northern mother, Laitheoc Laidhech, claiming ar duthchus a mathar do dhechaidh sidhe re heicsi (it was because of his mother’s inheritance that he took up poetry). His career was short-lived; he was murdered in the territory of the Deisi, according to the Annals of the Four Masters, which describes him as Uirghil shil Scota (the Virgil of the Irish race) on his death.

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