A flight of fancy written by my son Michael Hammell, being a translation of an ancient scroll revealing the origins of the Hickey line.


 

HOW AND WHERE THE FIRST HICACH WAS BEGOTTEN

 

The first Hicach was born to people whose names time has forgotten, in a land far to the East of our home Ireland. For over five hundred years the Hicach travelled the land leaving in their wake monuments of their travels. It is at one of these monuments that this tale begins.

 

Hicach's was born in a place which legends call the twin forts, a huge fortress split by a gorge (1). Tales tell of Hicach's prowess in battle, he was a legend among his fellows and none would dare cross him. On the wedding day of Hicach it is said that the king was going to sleep with Hicach's wife as was his privilege (2) and when Hicach found out about this he came racing back to the fort. People seeing him from afar, with madness in his gaze quickly knocked down part of the walls to let him through, for fear he would destroy the city, such was his strength.

 

Hicach was a man of great popularity whose favor with the bards (3) of the land was enormous. Stories were told of his courage and strength everywhere and he his described as being overladen with the spoils of his battle, so much so that he made an awful din when he approached, the din of the clank of his armor, weapons and jewellery, all the most valuable in the land (4).

 

THE SONS OF THE FIRST HICHACH

 

Hichach, the son of Hichach experienced a different age to his father. The powers of the land had collapsed, and all that remained were the weaker chiefs whose power and standing was nothing compared to that of his father (5). So the son of Hichach left his home to seek the kind of greatness his father once possessed. He found little, but travelled for many years and after a life of travels he told a traveller this about what he had seen.... "The world has changed much, but not so much as in the style of our craftsmen. See this blade here. It belonged to my father, it is much different in its artistry to yours my young friend (6)" Then hearing a cry to arms from some different place he said "It has the same purpose though (7)" and he left fading into history.

 

The next Hicach of which we hear was a ferocious leader who was forced to continue taking over more and more land as the size of his population and army grew (8). He would move with abandon taking more and more land making sure that the oral history recorded that of course he had reason for his action. Although as he became more bold he was said to have shouted at a feast where there wasn't much food "By the Gods I'm hungry, lets go invade Gallia Cisalpina" (9).

 

It was the son of this Hicach who led his men to the heart of those who would soon come to rule the world. Hicach, with three times fifty of his bravest men waded through the hordes of Rome and burnt it to the ground (10). There he stood and commanded that Rome would never again be able to rise from where it now lay (11). The druids standing by said that such a statement was well founded and Hichach went home (12).

 

THE LAST SON OF HICHACH

 

The songs are sung of the last son of Hichach, who lived in Ireland at the time of the tyrant Caesar. The Britons were overwhelmed by Caesar's evil army. In battle they would work in tight formation, while the good men of Ireland would wade through them screaming vicious war chanties. The Romans would cower (13) before the oncoming Irishmen. With the last son of the Hicach in the fore no army could hope to best them. Hicach himself went and spoke to Caesar and told him to leave. Rather then risking his whole army it is said that Caesar complied.(14) Hicach went to his home in Tuathmhumhan (15) where he became known as Hicidhe (16) and his sons the O Hicidhe. He built himself a great fort (17) and disappeared into the veils of legend.

 

AND THERE WERE NO MORE SONS OF THE HICHACH (18)


 

NOTES

 

1. This image bears remarkable resemblance to an early settlement which has been excavated in Zavist in Czechoslovakia. It is a huge Celtic fort occupied from 450 - 200 BC which is separated by a gorge. It is a huge structure, which covers over 420 acres with a huge 9 km wall surrounding it which was six metres high and 10 metres thick. What is uncanny about this structure and its link to the story of Hicach is the evidence that the walls on the Sance side of the hill were knocked down in a hurry and the chronology of the event is also astounding, the fort itself was fortified at the turn of the Halstatt and La Tene periods.(HAWKES, 1994 : 82) If this tale is in anyway 'correct' we can assume that the Hicach was a Celt in a society just emerging into the La Tene period.

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2. The tradition of the king's privilege with Wives on the wedding night seems highly displaced here and is something which would much more likely fit into the Tain Bo Cuailnge where the King Conchobor is referred to ...."Ulster grew to worship Conchobor. So high was their regard for him that every man in Ulster that took a girl in marriage let her sleep the first night with Conchobor, so as to have him first in the family" (KINSELLA, 1969 : 4). This reference in the story seems highly misplaced, the writer possibly originating in Ireland is probably dealing with very mixed and varying accounts of the tale, adding here and there his own information. The language of the original bears surprising similarity to that of the Tain Bo Cuailnge which was actually written in the twelfth century although evidence suggests that beforehand the Tain had a strong oral history and is believed to be referring to the time of Christ. (KINSELLA, 1969 : ix-xi) So, like the Tain the Story of Hichach is at best a collection of varying accounts of legend with some uncanny linking archaeological evidence.

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3. Here is an interesting reference to the societal structure of Celts. The idea that bards were very important to winning favor among the people and ones popularity and ability to enlist the aid and support of others was a crucial element of status within the Celtic system. Caesar in his discussions on the Gauls could see a structured system...."In Gaul one finds that every tribe, every clan, every subdivision of a clan - indeed, practically every individual household is divided into rival factions. The leaders of these factions are men who enjoy a particular prestige among their followers, who are prepared to give them supreme authority in judging and deciding any question" and more importantly "For none of these leaders will allow his own followers to be oppressed or cheated; otherwise he would lose all authority over them." (WARNER, 1960 : 121- 122) Hichach would of likely been a paramount chief, chiefs who...."would have used the hillfort as a ceremonial centre and place of power" (CREMIN, 1992 : 27)

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4. A picture can probably be constructed of Hicach here. Seemingly he was well dressed so to speak and his grave would have been similar to one of the more wealthy princely burials of the La Tene period, he probably sported his own Iron sword. The princely graves of which around 200 have been found dated between 600-450 BC (CREMIN, 1992 : 17). He would have had the regular feasting materials, jewellery, perhaps a torc possibly a 'universally recognised badge of rank' (CREMIN, 1992 : 18) and even a chariot.

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5. If we follow the chronology, the story suggests that Hichach the 1st lived around 500 BC at the turn of the Halstatt - La Tene periods then his son would have lived in the early La Tene when the power centres collapsed and the less powerful chiefs took over. This is illustrated in the archaeological record. The number of burials and tombs increases but the level of wealth within them decreases. The number of followers a chief or warrior had was important for his status as well. Caesar writes about a class he sees as Knights that...."Each one is attended by his own band of fighters and armed retainers, and the more of these that he has, the more noble and rich he is esteemed to be. Indeed this the only criterion they have of a man's position and influence" (WARNER, 1960 : 124).

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6. This enigmatic statement seems to capture the idea of the change which took place in Celtic art as the LaTene period took hold. The Halstatt art of the first Hichach would have most certainly had the classical motifs such as the palmette, leaf or tendril, all of these in the early geometric decorative style. The art of the La Tene period is described enigmatically, being almost lifelike where...."a palmette becomes as ravening beasts head; men sprout from animals, and leaves from both. Even though the symbolism the art still compels, leading us into a shape-shifting world of visual allusion and illusion, where we are captivated , if sometimes a little uneasy" (PIGGOT, 1969 : 36)

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7. An point of note here..... the historical records of the Celts saw them as bold but ferocious warriors, and this statement seems to embody that ideal......

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8. This was probably the flaw which saw the Celts eventually capitulate to Rome. Although they actually sacked Rome, their exponential territorial moves saw that they could not cope with the demand for supplies that such expansion required. Although fierce and strong, as the stereotype suggests a lack of care for how they would come by spoils when they ran out left them high and dry and easy fodder for the organised roman army...."Since the Gauls lacked political unity, their military efforts were naturally weakened by a lack of organisation, by tribal rivalries, and by a desire to scatter after battle for plunder or to return home" (SCULLARD, 1982 : 127)

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9. The sons of Hicach were obviously men of bold speech as this son clearly shows. His statement raises the question as to whether the Celts moved en masse or the movement was something else, perhaps the movement of a culture. if you think about the advantages that could be gained. Similar language, currency and general communication methods would be useful to small communities who relied on contact for survival. Certainly the Celts show through history that they expanded to the point where they actually shattered Rome by taking over the capital in 390 BC and even Delphi in 279 BC (CHAPMAN, 1992 :41) It seems incredible that a small group originating from the salt mines of the Hallstatt or the swamps of the La Tene (CHAPMAN, 1992 : 42) could dominate on such a continental scale. What if what occurred was self-reidentification for certain communities. Perhaps a concept similar to the idea of Romanisation took place. It is essential to take into account the "possibility that what were moving across the map were names and fashions, not people at all." (CHAPMAN, 1992 : 44).

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10. An obvious inaccuracy as far the historical record goes. The Celts in their taking of Rome did little actual damage, not actually taking Capitol Hill, leaving when a ransom was paid. "The Gauls entered and sacked Rome but failed to storm the citadel" (BOAK et al, 1965 : 52)

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11. It has been said that the Hichach were bold speaking men.

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12. The mention of Druids here is vague and presents little or no information of value. It shares a problem with other written sources in that ..... "they were composed by, and addressed to, people who because of their separation from us in time and culture, can at best be understood only by a conscious and sometimes difficult mental adjustment, and may lie beyond the range of any such possibility". (PIGGOTT, 1985 : 27) This may be a dim view of our ability to understand ancient texts but there are things that we can glean from them. For example the Tain Bo Cuailnge shows how Ireland was to an extent able to maintain its cultural identity. Certain things about it are unusually Celtic. The chariots, the ferocious sometimes bloody deeds, the fact that they go to war over a bull. These are things that resisted Christianity and Romanisation even though they may have been penned by Christian scholars goes to show that we are not completely blind when it comes to viewing a text. Caesar had some interesting comments to make in regards to the druids, illustrating their importance although question remains as to where his information came from. Even if it is clouded by his own opinions his account can be useful since he was actually present at the time the events occurred, unlike many other ancient scholars...."The Druids are in charge of religion. They are responsible for all sacrifices, public and private, and they decide all questions of ritual" (WARNER, 1960 : 123)

Also of import here is that eventually as Rome rebuilt itself Romanisation began to spread. Largely what happened to most of the Celtic world was that it was not wiped out but was re-identified. Instead of wiping out thousands of people the Romans just installed new rulers with the troops to maintain order and within such a system it seems likely that maintaining complete cultural identity would be difficult.

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13. The reverse of the coloured accounts which appear in the historical sources is seen here. Instead of disorganised vicious Celts we now see cowering, fearful Romans whose tactics, i.e. fighting in ranks is looked down upon. It seems possible that any culture is capable having prejudices inherent within them. Little differences between cultures can seem so strange.

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14. There are obviously other reasons why Caesar did not take over Ireland but we will allow the author some political license here. What seems more likely as to Rome's inability to take over Ireland is due to the fact that....."Rome was caught in a trap. She had reached the limit of her ability to expand. She could only easily absorb societies with a good agricultural base and centralised political institutions", but what is more frightening however is the possibility that... "Had not Rome run out of political steam the Celtic languages might have become extinct" (SIMON, 1993 : 133). Perhaps the reason for such blatant inaccuracy in the storyline regarding to Caesar was due to the fact that there were these immense armies poised to conquer Ireland. The Roman Empire would have been a frightening thing and the writer may be trying to counter that fear with such obvious propaganda.

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15. Tuathmhumhan, is the ancient name for the place which today incorporates most of county Clare with adjacent parts of counties Limerick and Tipperary. (MACLYSAGHT, 1985 : xxi)

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16. The name Hicidhe or O Hicidhe is the equivalent of the current day name Hickey. It is believed to have originated in east and mid county Clare.(MACLYSAGHT, 1985 : 157)

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17. Perhaps this is reminiscent of one of the class 2 hillforts which have been discovered in Ireland. These hillforts are quite impressive and can have up to three concentric lines of defense with up to 150 metres between lines of defense. These sites can be huge some covering over 10 hectares. Perhaps such a structure would fit well into the epic style of the story. There is actually an example of such a fort at Mooghaun in county Clare whose walls were actually made from well laid masonry now crumbled but once totalling 2225 metres in length. These hillforts represent a huge communal effort, a suitable resting place for the Hichach.(RAFTERY, 1994 : 41-44)

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18. Strangely enough this may not be true. There are a large number of Hickeys present in Ireland and Australia today. The name having originated in Clare which was in ancient times Tuathmhumhan which is where the story tells that the line of the Hichach's ended. Perhaps this like much else in the tale is untrue......

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Boak A.E.R, Sinnigen W.G A History of Rome to A.D. 565 Fifth Edition (1965) : 52

 

Chapman M The Celts (1992) : 41-42, 44

 

Cremin A The Celts in Europe (1992) : 17-18, 27

 

Hawkes J Atlas of Ancient Archaeology (1994) : 82

 

Kinsella The Tain (1969) : ix-xi, 4

 

MacLysaght E The Surnames of Ireland (1985) : xxi, 157

 

Piggott S The Druids (1985) : 27

 

Piggott S ‘Celtic Art’ History of the English speaking peoples (1969) : 36

 

Raftery B Pagan Celtic Ireland (1994) : 41-44

 

Scullard H.H From the Gracchi to Nero (1982) : 127

 

Warner R War commentaries of Caesar (1960) : 121-124


 

Copyright Michael Hammell 5 July 1997: last updated 14 November 2001
Comments to shammell@tpg.com.au

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