Conchobar , son of Ness, is a fictional personality who features in the Ulster cycle as king of the Ulaid (Ulstermen). The subject of an elaborate birth-tale, he is said to have been a son of the druid Cathbad and of Ness, daughter of a fictional king named Eochaid Sálbuide. His matronymic ‘son of Ness’ may reflect the convention whereby sovereignty was personified as a woman. Ulster tradition tells of how Conchobar took the kingship from Fergus (qv) son of Roach; ‘Táin Bó Cuailnge’ glorifies his reign at Emain Macha through the high deeds of Cú-Chulainn (qv), son of his sister (or, according to an alternative version, his daughter Deichtine). Efforts by medieval pseudo-historians to synchronise Conchobar with Christ find expression in a pre-historical king-list, which makes him a provincial ruler under Etarscél Már as king of Ireland, and are even more explicit in his death-tale ‘Aided Conchobair’.
Conchobar is assigned several wives, including Mess-Buachalla daughter of Etarscél Már, and the sisters Eithne and Mumain – supposedly daughters of Eochaid Feidlech, another prehistoric ‘king of Ireland’. Through these alleged marriages, he is indirectly linked with the kingship of Tara. He is credited with a number of sons, notably Cormac Cond Longass, Furbaide, Glaisne, and Benta, as well as daughters Feibe, Dar-Ómae, and Fedelm Nochrotach. Though the historicity of Conchobar has long since been dismissed, some importance still attaches to his role in genealogical tradition, whereby he is ancestor of several population groups which, in the historical period, were located in southern Ireland. His purported son Benta is eponym of the Bentraige, a people that left its name on the barony of Bantry, Co. Cork. Glaisne is claimed as the forebear of Cenél nGlaisne, which was perhaps located in the same district. Of his daughters, Feibe is said to have married the Ulster hero Conall Cernach (qv); Fedelm Nochrotach is represented as the wife of Cairpre Nia Fer, an ancestor of the Laigin; and Dar-Ómae as the spouse of Celtchair son of Cuithechar who, though placed among the early generations of Dál nAraide of Ulster, was claimed as ancestor of several population groups of the Munster marchlands, including Uaithne and Araide. Although Conchobar is not prominent in modern folklore, he features in some oral stories of Cú-Chulainn and of Deirdre (qv), and legend tells of how his spirit remained on earth to facilitate his baptism by St Patrick (qv). The tales which surround Conchobar continue to be explored by scholars of Old and Middle Irish literature.