Oisin (’Oo seen) mac Fionn
Oisin was an ancient warrior, hunter, son of Fionn or Finn and companion of the Fenians. He was also a bard and a poet. Many of the accounts of the exploits of Finn and the Fenians are attributed to Oisin. Many hunts turned to adventure when a fawn would run into a Sidh (Siv). Sidhswere underground dwellings of fairies that appeared to be a natural hill to the casual observer. Such manmade hills (or fairy made hills) are still found all over Ireland and Scotland as remnants of the dwellings of the original inhabitants. As the Celts displaced the original inhabitants, who lived underground, the accounts turned into battles between men and fairies who lived in magical disappearing sidhs.
The most famous hunt of the Fenians was interrupted when Niamh (Niav) of the golden hair, Mannanan’s daughter, rode up on a fairy steed and proclaimed her love for Ossian. Despite Fionn’s attempts to stop him, Ossian joined Niamh upon her horse and rode off upon the water to Tir N’a N’Og, the land of the forever young. Ossian was happy with his fairy princess for many more years than he knew had passed, but he finally yearned to see his home. Niamh allowed him to return to Ireland upon the fairy steed if he promised to stay on the horse and not touch the ground. Ossian discovered Ireland had changed. The people were smaller than the ancient champions and seemed to have forgotten Ireland’s glorious past. Ossian found several men attempting to move a boulder and he couldn’t resist a display of his strength. Ossian reached down and lifted the boulder with one hand flinging it out of the field. The men were amazed at Ossian’s size and strength, but Ossian lost his balance and fell to the Irish soil. The fairy horse disappeared and Ossian instantly changed into an ancient man, blind and unable to lift himself.
They took him to St. Patrick and told him what they had observed. St. Patrick knew instantly he was the Ossian of the legends and set about to convert him to Christianity. The saint told him of Heaven and Hell and that if he didn’t become a Christian he would end up in Hell like his ancient comrades. Ossian replied that he did not believe Heaven would be closed to the Fineans if they wished to enter it, or that God himself would not be proud to claim friendship with Finn. He would join the Fineans whether they be at feast or fire.
Ossian’s cave is a vertical slit in the mountainside east of Glencoe. A little further east are Loch Ossian and Glen Ossian. Ossian’s tales of the Fingall battling the Lochlannach (Vikings) were told among the Celtic people of Alba(Scotland). The tales of Oisin mac Fionn mostly take place in Erin (Ireland), but the Isle of Arran and pennisula of Kintyre were also known hunting grounds of the Irish Fenians. James MacPherson compiled oral and a few manuscript legends of the Highlands into what he termed “The Works of Ossian” mac Fingal. Although James MacPherson attributed these Highland legends to the ancient Irish champions it may be that he merely disguised Highland folklore as ancient Irish legends in order to publish them at a time when all things of Highland culture were outlawed.