4) The River Érne / Lough Érne: Érne

This motif is also found in the legend of the goddess Érne, related in a poem of the Metrical Dindshenchas entitled Loch Érne. It recounts that the lady Érne was the chief of a peaceful group of maidens in Ráth Cruachan, who took fright at the sight of the terrible Cruachu Olcai. They then ran into Lough Érne and were drowned under its waters:

‘Loch nÉrne, ard a oscur, ba lind garg cen glan-fostud, diar' thadbain a thescul túaid i fescur fhagmair find-lúain. […]
Andsin romemaid in loch fosin fedain, ronúar-chroth: isin chrích, ra glé-raind glúair, bi mbátar Éraind arm-rúaid.
Desin atá in gairm co ngail, ainm locha Erne adbail, cía robáided and iarsain Erne áilgen imchubaid.
Érne chaid cen chuird cnedaig ingen Buirg báin búredaig ba sárgad sáir-thrín in son bán-mac Máinchin maic Mochon.
Érne nóisech cen nemain ba tóisech for ingenaib hi Ráith Crúachan na reb réid; nirb úathad ben 'ca bith-réir.
Aicci nobítis ria mess min-sheóit Medba na mór-thress, a cír a criol cen chlód cona diol do derg-ór.
Co tánic hi Cruachain cais Olcai co n-úath-blaid amnais, cor' chroith a ulcha ar in slóg in garb-fher doith daiger-mór.
Roscaindre fo Chrúaich Cera na baindre, na hingena, taidbsin a chrotha fo chair, gairbsin a gotha glóraig.
Rotbeich Érne, ilur mban, fo loch Erne, nách inglan, cor' dáil tairsiu a thuile thúaid, corosbáid uile i n-óen-úair.
Cía bad úadaib, is breth chert fiad na slúagaib, ni sóeb-recht, is tairm dar trocha rothairg ainm locha Erne imaird. Loch.
A rí, rop fedil fír dam fáilte demin dom dídnad, for nim co mbúadaib rombé, a fhir túargaib loch nÉrne.
Loch Érne — high its leap! was a turbulent pool, without bright tranquillity, when first it showed its troubled waters in the north, on a radiant evening in harvest. […]
Then the lake burst forth under the array, till it quaked with cold, in the country, with its pure bright portion, where dwelt the red-armed Erainn.
Hence comes the valiant title, the name of vast Loch Érne; though afterwards there was drowned there the gentle comely Érne.
The chaste Érne, who knew no art of wounding, the daughter of loud-shouting Borg Bán (the warrior was an overmatch for a powerful third) the white-skinned son of Mainchín son of Mochu.
The noble Érne, devoid of martial spirit, was chief among the maidens in Rath Cruachan, home of lightsome sports: women not a few obeyed her will.
To her belonged, to judge of them, the trinkets of Medb, famed for combats, her comb, her casket unsurpassed, with her fillet of red gold.
There came to thick-wooded Cruachu Olcai with grim and dreadful fame, and he shook his beard at the host, the sullen and fiery savage.
The young women and maidens scattered throughout Cruach Cera at the apparition of his grisly shape and the roughness of his brawling voice.
Érne fled, with a troop of women, under Loch Érne, that is never dull, and over them poured its flood northward and drowned them all together.
Though it may be from them — 'tis a sure judgment in presence of the hosts, and no dubious right, — it is an imperishable title that it has achieved, even the name of noble Loch Érne. O King, may I have, safe and certain, a sure welcome to comfort me! may I find it in glorious Heaven, O thou that didst raise up Loch Érne!1781

Érne gave her name to the River Érne, an Éirne in modern Irish, which flows from Beaghy Lough (Co. Cavan), through Lough Gowna, Lough Oughter and Lough Érne (Co. Longford, Cavan, and Fermanagh) and into the Atlantic Ocean near Ballyshannon (Co. Donegal).1782


Gwynn, 1913, pp. 460-467.


Mackillop, 2004, pp. 192-193 ; Hogan, 1910, p. 395.