Nuada was the first king of the powerful Tuatha dé Danann. While Nuada was associated with hunting and fishing, he was better known for his role as King and warrior. He was a sensible ruler – he saw the potential in all members of his court. He was generous and fair. Nuada made just laws for his people to obey, and he followed those laws himself even when they proved disadvantageous. He lost his hand in the first battle of Moytura against the Firbolg. According to a law that Nuada himself had written, the King of An Tuatha dé Danann had to be whole and fit to defend his people, so losing his hand in battle disqualified him. ‘Bres the Beautiful’ became the new leader.
Bres was half Fomorian and half Tuatha de Danann but he allied himself with the Fomorians. He was to be an unjust King. The Fomorians were regarded as ancient enemies of the people of Ireland. Bres married Brigid of An Tuatha Dé Danann in an attempt to unite the tribes but continued to favour his own kind. He imposed harsh taxes on an Tuatha and forced them to into slavery for the Fomorians. Bres was also known for his lack of hospitality.
Dian Cécht, who was the ‘Healer’ to An Tuatha Dé Danann, fashioned Nuada a silver prosthetic arm to make him ‘whole’ again. From that time on, he became known as ‘Nuada Airgetlám’ or ‘Nuada of the Silver Arm.
Bres was overthrown and Nuada was restored as King. Bres was outraged and enlisted the help of ‘Balor of the Evil Eye’, the Fomorian leader, to take back his kingship by force. At the same time, the youthful and powerful Lugh had arrived within the ranks of An Tuatha dé Danann. Nuada admired Lugh’s strength and abilities so he stepped down as King to allow Lugh to lead them into the second battle of Moytura against the Fomorians.
Nuada was killed by Balor during the battle but Lugh avenged him by knocking Balor’s eye out, killing him and half his army. An Tuatha dé Dannan were victorious over the Fomorians.
Nuada had been a wonderful leader to the Tuatha Dé Danann. His voluntary abdication of the throne in favour of Lugh indicates the level to which Nuada regarded his people. They were far more important than his own kingship and ambition.
He also possessed one of the Four Treasures of the Tuatha dé Danann – The mighty sword of Nuada. No one ever escaped from the sword once it was drawn from its sheath. The sword was one of the four special gifts that An Tuatha brought to Ireland with them, the others being the Spear of Lugh, the Stone of Fál and the Cauldron of the Dagda.
Such was the influence of Nuada that his presence is still found in Ireland today. The town of Maynooth in County Kildare is named after him (Maynooth is ‘Maigh Nuad’ in Irish, meaning ‘the plain of Nuada’). Also, the Connaught provincial flag has an armoured arm on one side which is said to represent Nuada of the Silver arm. Perhaps it’s because Nuada died and is buried beneath Labby rock in County Sligo in the province of Connaught.