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Caisteal Nan Coin Dubh

Stone Fort / Dun

Nearest Town:Lochgilphead (20km SSE)
OS Ref (GB):   NM80000762 / Sheet: 55
Latitude:56° 12' 36.45" N
Longitude:   5° 32' 52.58" W

Added by Rhiannon

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This ruined dun's name means 'Castle of the Black Dogs'.

From'Waifs and Strays of Celtic Tradition' (Argyllshire series) by Archibald Campbell (1889).
The Fight between Bran and Foir or For.
The black dog, Foir, was the brother of Bran, the far-famed hound of Fionn. Foir was taken early from his dam, and was afterwards nurtured by a band of fair women, who acted as his nurses. He grew up into a handsome hound, which had no equal, in the chase or in fight, in the distant North. His owner, Eubhan Oisein, the black-haired, red-cheeked, fair-skinned young Prince of Innis Torc (Orkney ?) was proud, as well he might be, of his unrivalled hound. Having no further victories to win in the North, his master determined to try him against the strongest dogs in the packs of the Feinne.

He left home, descended by Lochawe, and entered Craignish through Glen Doan. Before his arrival, the Fienne, after spending the day in the chase, encamped for the night in the upper end of Craignish. Next day Fionn arose before sunrise, and saw a young man, wrapped in a red mantle and leading a black dog, approaching towards him at a rapid pace. The stranger soon drew near, and at once declared his object in coming. He wanted a dog-fight, and so impatient was he to have it, and so restless by reason of his impatience, that he suffered not his shadow to dwell a moment on one spot.

Fifty of the best hounds of the Feinne were slipped at last, but the black dog killed them all one by one. A second and then a third fifty were uncoupled, but the strange dog disposed of them as easily as he did of the first.

Fionn now saw that all the dogs of the Feinne were in serious danger of being annihilated, and therefore he turned round and cast an angry look on his own great dog Bran. In a moment Bran's hair stood on end, his eyes darted fire, and he leaped the full length of his golden chain in his eagerness for the fight. But something else besides the casting of an angry look was still to be done to rouse the fierce hound's temper to its highest pitch.

He was placed nose to nose with his rival, and then his golden chain was unclasped. The two hounds, brothers by blood, but now champions on opposite sides, at once closed in deadly fight; but for an adequate description of the struggle between them the reader must consult the bards. See the "Lay of the Black Dog", in Islay's Leabhar na Feinne, the McCallum's Ancient Poetry, etc.

The contest lasted from morning to evening, and victory remained, almost to the close, uncertain; but in the end Bran vanquished Foir, and, by killing the latter, amply revenged the death of the three fifties. The Feinne buried their own dogs, and the stranger, with a sore heart, laid his black hound in the narrow clay bed.

This great dog-fight, so celebrated in Gaelic lore, is said to have been fought at Lergychony, in Craignish. It is further said that the place was called Learg-a-choinnimh, or the "Plateau of Meeting", because it was there the two hounds met in fight. There are, of course, many other places in the Highlands which claim the honour of being the scene of this legendary contest.
The bit above where the author suggests you should find the exciting bit yourself has the same effect as an ad break in the middle of a film. The song is also called "Laoidh a' Choin Duibh" but I've not spotted a translation yet.

And Foir's upbringing sounds highly irregular, does it not almost sound as though he was wet-nursed by human beings? Maybe a bit of that Celtic style supernatural fuzzying of the natural and human worlds?

I thought there might be mounds round here for the burying of the 150 poor dogs, or maybe the dun's mound is it. But there is also supposed to be a standing stone to commemorate Foir at
NM 8013 0773. The Canmore note is unimpressed, but it is very nearby and a not insubstantial 8'10" by 2'5" by 2'2" (reclining - there's a photo on the MP
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
1st July 2012ce
Edited 4th July 2012ce