Battle of Cúl Dreimhne

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Battle of Cúl Dreimhne
Part of the expansion of the Uí Néill dynasty
Date561 CE
Result Decisive Uí Néill victory
Laighin Uí Néill, Connachta
Commanders and leaders
Diarmait mac Cerbaill Fearghus and Domhnall sons of Muircheartach Mac Erc
unknown unknown
Casualties and losses
3,000 1
An early battle, so figures unreliable.

The battle of Cúl Dreimhne (also known as the Battle of the Book) took place in the 6th century in the túath of Cairbre Drom Cliabh (now Co. Sligo) in northwest Ireland. The exact date for the battle varies from 555 AD to 561 AD. The battle is notable for being one of the earliest conflicts over copyright in the world.[1][2]

According to tradition, sometime around 560, the Irish abbot and missionary Saint Columba became involved in a quarrel with Saint Finnian of Movilla Abbey over a psalter. Columba copied the manuscript at the scriptorium under Saint Finnian, intending to keep the copy. Saint Finnian disputed his right to keep the copy. Thus, this dispute was about the ownership of the copy (whether it belonged to Saint Columba because he copied it or whether it belonged to Saint Finnian because he owned the original). King Diarmait mac Cerbaill gave the judgement, "To every cow belongs her calf, therefore to every book belongs its copy."[3]

Columba disagreed with King Diarmait's ruling against him and reportedly instigated a successful rebellion of the Uí Néill clan against the King. The battle was claimed to have caused around 3,000 casualties. It said the whole ordeal resulted in a guilt ridden Columba leave his homeland for Scotland, where he founded the Iona Abbey in 563 AD. In order to repent his misdeed he wanted to devote the rest of his life spreading the word of Christ.


  1. ^ Story: St Columba and modern copyright; battle in 6th Century Ireland, Open source.
  2. ^ First copyright case (PDF), Funeral, Mar 2005.
  3. ^ "The Cathach/The Psalter of St. Columba". Library Cathach. Royal Irish Academy. Archived from the original on 2014-07-02.