Mná na bhFianna
The title of this piece translates as ‘The women of the Fianna’. The Fianna were a fierce band of Irish warriors led by Fionn MacCumhaill who were the focus of numerous stories in Irish mythology. Their motto was ‘Purity of our hearts, strength of our limbs and action to match our speech.’
In ancient Celtic times, women were distinct for the freedom and rights they enjoyed compared with their counterparts in Greek and Roman cultures. Women acted as warriors, military leaders and ruling queens. Celtic women were not excluded from any occupation and could marry whoever they wanted. Marriage was seen as a partnership and women could not be married against their will.
The Fianna are mostly depicted as a band of male warriors but the practice of bearing arms was just as common for women in Celtic times. Ailbhe Gruadbrecc was a legendary female warrior-hunter in the Fianna. These warrior-hunters were called ‘banféinní’ in the Irish language.
Mná na bhFianna for solo viola was commissioned by Beth McNinch in 2022.