If the characteristics of the original inhabitants of Munster were transmitted with even partial success one might expect the inhabitants of Waterford at the present day would be ornamented by noses of Grecian type. The Firbolgs, as well as Mr. Partholanus, also came from Greece., though some assert they only passed through it being semi-slaves in that country, where they were "bag men" (Fir, a man, bolg, a bag), they were anxious for the their freedom, and found it upon the shores far away from the land from which they set out, viz., at the confluence of the Suir, Nore, and Barrow. Next came from Greece the Tuatha-de-dinaans, who brought sorcery, necromancy, and spells of all kinds to aid them in battle. The tracing up of the several races who anciently landed upon our shores, and made up the Irish nation, is indeed quite foreign to the objects of a Guide to Waterford, were it not that the subsequent history of the County of Waterford has been more seriously affected by its early colonists, and the impress of their lives left here with more indelible hand than perhaps on any other county of Ireland. We should have no interest in telling the old story of how the Gadelians and the Milesians came from Scythia, in Western Asia, through GothIand, thence to Spain and Ireland, if it did not appear that they could be directly connected with the history of Waterford. It is an accepted avowal in Irish history that all those Scythian tribes who were early colonists of Ireland spoke the Irish language, and were remarkable for these attributes of character by which the Irish race is distinguished. They were brave and hospitable, delighted to cultivate and encourage poetry and music, and the linguistic end other knowledge possessed by their leaders was remarkable for the time in which they lived.
The Decies. - There are two baronies of this name in County Waterford, separated by the Drum-Fineen hills, viz., "Decies without Drum," and "Decies within Drum." We have lightly sketched the Milesians in order to show the ancient lineage of the Desii, who were descended from Heremon, son of Milesius. "The O'Faolains, who were descended from Deisig, from Heremon, came into Munster." The usual story told of the fixing of the Desii in Waterford; runs thus -The Desii held territory in Meath, and in the third century Aengus, Prince of the Desii in Meath, revolted against King Cormac, broke into the Palace of Tara, wounded Cormac, and killed his son, A.D. 278. This was a brave beginning no doubt. However, we are told Cormac quelled the rebellion and drove Aongus into Munster, where the King of that territory granted the Desii, lands from the Suir to the sea and from Lismore to Creden Head, embracing almost all the present County of Waterford. Now, it seems rather strange that the King of Munster should be so liberal as to grant all this territory, and at a period when the war for accessions of land was waged rather freely, and when upon a question of territory the Leinstermen and Munstermen were the fiercest enemies.
And afterwards we have it related that Aongus, King of Munster in the fifth century, gave lands north of the Suir, embracing the whole plain of Cashel to the Desii. Suppose we admit the story of the migration of the Desii from Leinster at some period to be true, it is not improbable that these people went southwards to the lands upon which people of the same race, under the same or somewhat different name, had been settled for ages. But when did this migration from Leinster take place, or when was it the first visit of the Decies to Waterford, as has been so often asserted, took place, let us investigate.
A different view of the case has in latter days been propounded which bears upon it the appearance of all the probability lent to it by the aid of practical and material discovery. A style of writing called ogham writing, and said to be in use two thousand years before the introduction of Christianity, has been met with upon ancient megalithic structures or monuments in the south of Ireland. These monuments are marked in the ogham characters with words akin to "Desii in some places, such as Deag, Degaid, genitive form, while on several other monuments the actual ogham word is Deceed, Now, from very early times, centuries before Christianity, a tribe called Clanna Delgaid are mentioned as possessing territory in the south, including the west of Limerick, Kerry and Cork. And where have these monuments been found starting at the south-west of Kerry, Ballintaggart, the ogham inscription there is Maqi Deceeda (son of Decei). Within half a mile the strand at Dingle Bay, at Ballycrovane, where a great monolith overlooks the Bay of Kenmare; on the borders of the sea in the counties of Cork, Kerry, and Waterford and inwards to the Rath of Dunbel, in the County Kilkenny; thence to the eastern boundary of Kildare, ogham inscribed monuments, or other memorials, testify that the Degaid, or Deesi, left marks of their fame and greatness long before the suppose migration from Tara or Leinster could have taken place, such evidences proving that they were an original, independent people, who landed upon the south coast, and thence established their power and supremacy over the entire plains of Munster.
These people whose history has a monumental record existing, and in evidence at the present day in the ogham inscribed monuments raised to their chiefs; or great men, we find mentioned in ancient annals as "Delgaid or Desii".