Una Bhán

The legend of Una Bhán

Trinity island is the final resting place of Una Bhán MacDermot and Tomás Láidir Costello. Una Bhán, daughter of Brian Óg MacDermot, died of grief having been forbidden to marry Tomás as the match was considered unsuitable. This famous love story is described in detail as part of your commentary on ‘The Trinity’ boat tour.

Dr. Douglas Hyde, first president of Ireland, writes of the legend of Una Bhán in his Love songs of Connacht, published in 1893.The verses here are his translations from stories still extant in the late 19th century.

“O fair-haired Una, ugly is the lying that is upon you, On a bed narrow and high among the thousand corpses, If you do not come and give me a token, O stately woman, who was ever without a fault, I shall not come to this place for ever, but last night and tonight” (Tomas, on visiting Una’s grave just after her burial) “…O fair Una, like a rose in a garden you, And like a candlestick of gold you were on the table of a queen, Melodious and musical you were going this road before me, And it is my sorrowful morning-spoil that you were not married to your dark love. O fair Una, it is you who have set astray my senses, O Una, it is you who went close in between me and God, O Una, fragrant branch, twisted little curl of the ringlets, Was it not better for me to be without eyes than ever to have seen you?”

‘When Tomas died he was buried, as he himself directed, in the same graveyard and island in which Una was buried, and there grew an ash-tree out of Una’s grave and another tree out of the grave of Costello, and they inclined towards one another, and they did not cease from growing until the two tops were met and bent upon one another in the middle of the graveyard.’