Life

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

A kinsman of Saint Aidan, Dallán Forgaill (dah-LAHN FAWR-gil) was renowned for his scholarship. He is said to have become blind from intensive study while rising to power as chief bard of Ireland, a position he attained in 575 c.e.

Shortly after Dallán gained power, the high king of Ireland sought to pressure the assembly of Dunceat into disbanding the bardic guild. However, Saint Columba successfully argued to the assembly that bards were necessary to the preservation of Irish history. In gratitude, Dallán wrote the panegyric Ambra Choluim Kille (sixth century c.e.; English translation, 1871). Dallán thereafter reformed the order of bards, instituting practices that turned the focus of bardship toward preservation of the culture. In later life, Dallán retired to a monastery at Inniskeel and was killed there during a break-in by pirates.