There was many a valiant man reared in Ulster, from Cuchulainn to Shane the Proud. Far back in the old times Niall of the Nine Hostages was born there, a powerful king in Tara. The Romans in Britain often experienced the havoc wrought by him. In one of his expeditions he took with him as a prisoner of war a young boy whose name afterwards was Patrick. That slave was the saintly child whose coming the Druids foretold. His fame and his power are fresh and strong still among Gaels. But as to Niall of the Nine Hostages his name is almost forgotten. But nevertheless that King was very great once, and from his loins sprang the most powerful and the most valiant race that existed in all Ireland in their own time, or perhaps in the whole world. Search the history of other countries, seek among the tribes here and elsewhere, and you will not find men of any one race who were handsomer in appearance or more valiant in battle or more intellectual in counsel than the brave men who, during hundreds of years, sprang from that noble root of the O’Neills.
As the wind howls round about an oak-tree standing by itself in the middle of a plain, without reducing its strength, but only snatching leaves from it and breaking an odd one of its branches by a great effort, so it was with the English for four hundred years, flinging themselves against those champions descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages; and it is my opinion that the latter would never have been conquered but for the fact that they rose up against each other.
There was no man of the family more renowned than this Shane of whom we speak. He was an Irishman all over, as well in his faults as in his manly qualities. He was not so clever in counsel nor so subtle in disquisition as Hugh O’Neill, who learned statecraft in the house of Elizabeth, Queen of England. He was not so skilful in the science of warfare as Owen Roe, but neither of these surpassed him in valour, in action, nor in love for his country. There is just one stain upon his name. The English have shown us that stain clearly and gladly, for they detested Shane O’Neill. He carried off Calvach O’Donnell’s wife, sister to the Lord of the Isles on the coast of Scotland; and many authors think that she eloped with him of her own will. He was very nearly as bad as the English themselves in that way, except that he would admit his evil conduct, for he was no hypocrite, but a truthful man who would not conceal his fault.