Arthur, son of Bicoir

   Arthur son of Bicoir, apparently of or in Kintyre, called Cind Tyre in the Tigernach Annals, "Head -land" or "End-of-the-Land". He is credited with killing the Irish king Mongan mac Fiachna Lurgan in 625. There have been claims that Bicoir is a variant or minor corruption of Petuir, since B- and P- are readily substituted for each other and -c- and -t- can easily be mistaken in MS. In other words, it is possible that Artur mac Petuir and Arthur son of Bicoir, despite the slight chronological gap, are one and the same personage. Kintyre is, in this context, an error for Pembroke or Penbrog, which has exactly the same meaning, "Head-land". The court of the Dyfed kings (Arberth or Narberth) is in Pembroke. Arthur son of Bicoir is the only Arthur referred to as a Briton. The Annuls of Tigernach, an 11th century Irish compilation, gives a fragment of a poem by Bec Boirche, a 7th century Ulster bard. This entry, dated 625, was repeated by the later Annuls of Ulster and the Annuls of the Four Masters. 

Widely variant translations exist:

625 Mongan, son of Fiachna of Lurga was struck with a stone by Arthur son of Bicoir the Briton, and was crushed. About this, Bec Boirche said:

'Cold is the wind across Islay,
They shall commit a cruel deed in retribution,
They shall kill Mongan, son of Fiachna.
Where the Church of Cluan Airthir is today,
Renowned were the four there executed;
Cormac Caem, with screaming
And Illann, son of Fiachra;
And the other two, --
To whom many territories paid tribute,--
Mongan, son of Fiachna of Lurgan
and Ronan, son of Tuathal.'

   This poem documents an execution in southeast Ulster, implying that Arthur was acting as an 'aire ectha', or elected executioner, sent from the Kintyre peninsula, once part of the Irish Kingdom of Dalriada, now part of Scotland. According to Irish law, if the normal process of law was inadequate to obtain justice, because of the heinousness of the crime, or the status or power of the perpetrator, the necessity of extraordinary measures was recognized. According to Daibhe O'Croinan in Early Medieval Ireland [London, 1995, pg. 137]: "In that case, Irish law recognized a particular individual in society, the 'nobleman of slaughter' (aire echta) whose task was to lead a band of five armed men, designated by the tuath (petty kingdom), to exact vengeance in neighboring territories in circumstances which guaranteed them immunity from prosecution for any injury or damage done in the course of their activities." Binchy in Crith Gablach, Medieval and Modern Irish Series, xi, Dublin 1941, pp. 14-15 sec. 25 indicates that it is quite clear that the action envisaged might include killing one or more members of another tuath, and Irish law in fact obliged a victim's kinsmen to carry out a blood-feud against a killer who has not otherwise been brought to justice. R.J. O'Toole talks about the cold wind by stating: 'Those on a mission of retribution were often depicted as accompanied by wind or storms, as if the very elements of Nature were offended by the injustice done. Injustice was considered a violation of natural law. Indeed, the Irish often swore by the sun, wind, and elements, fully expecting to be destroyed by them if the oath were violated.'