The Táin Wall is the flagship #PureBallina street art project for 2019. Painted by Friz, it depicts Flidhais of the lovely soft hair, the central character of the Tain Bo Flidhais, now immortalised on Teeling Street in Ballina with her cow Maol.
The Táin Bó Flidhais is an early medieval Irish tale, part of the Ulster cycle and one of the Táin or Cattle Raid tales. Ireland at the time is divided into territories (Tuatha), ruled by kings and queens. Brehon law is the order of the day. Men and women fight as equals in often gruesome, fiercely fought territorial wars.
Queen Meabh is ruler of Connacht. The Gamhanraidhs own much of the land west of the Shannon. Flidhais and her husband Oilill Fionn of the Gamhanraidhs rule much of what is now North Mayo.
Flidhais and Oilill have a cow, Maol, reputed to give vast quantities of milk daily – enough for 300 warriors and their families. Fildhais has a grá for Fergus Mac Róich of Ulster. While in hiding at Rathcroghan after a swathe of tribal battles in Ulster, he in turn develops a grá for Queen Meabh.
Bricne, a West of Ireland trickster wreaks havoc, setting Fergus and Oilill against each other in a mighty battle for Flidhais. Her husband Oilill wins, and Fergus is held captive. Meabh, furious to lose her lover to Flidhais, seeks revenge. Or, is she looking for Maol, the cow? She has a fondness for good livestock.
There follows a bloody battle. The Gamhanraidh are badly defeated and Oilill is killed by Fergus. Flidhais is guilt-ridden, knowing her wandering eyes caused the death of her husband. Their fort is ransacked, and Fergus sets out to bring Flidhais, her fabled cow Maol, and their herds of animals to Rathcroghan as his bounty.
The road to Rathcroghan is challenging. Large pockets of Flidhais’ Gamhanraidh attack and challenge along the way. Finally – led by Muireadheach – the Gamhanraidh liberate Flidhais and her beloved Maol from Queen Meabh’s troops and return them, jubilant, home to north Mayo.
Much thanks is due to the many historians and researchers who have documented this Táin tale over the years.