When Raymond Le Gros arrived in Wexford, he was arriving on an island that was home to wild and dangerous Celts. But this old soldier knew what he was doing. They moored their ships to a small outcrop of land called Baginbun, surrounded by the sea and dangerous rocks on three sides, it took no time at all to build a defensive wall and create a safe fortress to wait for the arrival of the rest of the invading force. Under his command Fat Raymond had Knights, foot soldiers and a handful of other people doing various jobs.
And of course these people needed to be fed, so raiding parties bravely headed off into the Wexford countryside to find enough food to feed everyone. Cattle raiding was the quickest way to do this, large hunks of meat that would walk themselves back into the fort seemed the most sensible thing to do. The Norman Knights were brave professional solders but the Celts had a reputation for fighting too, and for being bloody good at it. The last thing Ray wanted was the battle to begin before the rest of the troops had arrived. So pretty soon their Fortress was filled with enough cattle to feed everyone but they may have been a little too good at cattle rustling as pretty soon the surrounding farmers realised their cows were gone! And so after first ascertaining that yes, their neighbour’s cows were gone too, they alerted the local Chieftains who quickly rounded everyone up and they prepared to march on the fort, kill these cowboys and retrieve their animals.
Inside the fort meanwhile, the lookout had spotted the Celts, all 2000 of them it was said, and quickly alerted Raymond. Now Ray knew they were in trouble, they were massively outnumbered and the reinforcements were still days away from reaching them. So he released the cattle from their pens and ordered the men to coral them near the gates and to start whipping, shouting and frightening the poor auld cows till they were ready to stampede. Do you see where this is going? Just as the Celts arrived at the gates, armed to the teeth and ready to fight, Raymond ordered the gates to be opened and out poured the deranged cattle stampeding in all directions, trampling the Celtic Warriors beneath their hooves as they ran. The Norman Knights followed afterwards, slicing and dicing as they went, winning the battle and even taking 70 hostages at the end of the day. Leading to the couplet “At Baginbun, Ireland was lost and won”
It’s amazing to think that had Raymond’s men decided to steal chickens instead, Ireland’s history would have been completely different and I’d probably be telling you this in Irish!