The Beginnings: Campion to Walsh
PROBABLY the first English telling of Irish legend appeared in Edmund Campion's History of Ireland. Campion ( 1540-81), who spent some months of his troubled life in Dublin, completed his history in the short space of ten weeks in 1571.3 He gathered his material in the library of James Stanihurst, father of Richard for in the preface he mentions the kindness and generosity of the older man.4 Campion devotes but little space: in his history to legends and tales for he regards them with. contempt, yet what he does tell is of interest.
A race of giants, we learn, of the stock of Nimrod, came to Ireland about the same time as Bartolenus, one of Noah's progeny and a traditional early settler in Ireland. These giants, Campion says, set up their own government, kept the people in bondage, and were continually quarrelling with the rightful rulers of the land. Finally the rulers banded together against them, and in the succeeding great battle all the giants, save one, were destroyed. This one, Ruanus, was preserved,
who from time to time kept true record of their [the people of Ireland's] histories, else utterly done away by sundry casualties of death, warre, spoyle, fire, forraine victories, and he (forsooth) continued till the year of Christ 430. and told S. Patrick all the newes of the country requiring of him to bee baptized, and so died, when he had lived no more but two thousand and forty one yeares: which is twice the age of Methusalem.
So far Campion's form of the legend, but I cannot forbear quoting him further. "Had it been my chance in Ireland," he goes on with amusing satire, "to meete and confer with this noble Antiquarie, hee might have eased me of much travell." But____________________