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P. W. JOYCE, LL.D., T.C.D., M.R.I.A. 

One of the Commissioners for the Publication of the Ancient Laws of Ireland 

Late Principal of the Government Training College, 

Marlbcrough Street, Dublin 
Late President of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, Ireland 




Printed by PONSONBY & GIBBS, University Press, Dublin 

l 7 1949 


This little Book needs no Preface. 






4. ST. COLMAN'S DUCKS, . ... 23 

5. O'DANGAL',S VISION, ...... 27 

6. A SHU' AND CREW IN THE AIR, .... 30 




13. A SHOWER OF BLOOD, ..... 36 


15. THE MAN-WOLVES OF OSSORY, . . . .38 

16. A PRECOCIOUS INFANT, ..... 44 

17. THE SWAN -WOMAN, ...... 45 















28. ST. MOLUA'S LEPROUS POND, . . . . 55 

29. THE PIOUS MILL, . . . . .56 

30. THK BLEEDING STONE, . ... .57 


32. A PERJURER'S PUNISHMENT, . . . . 57 



35. THE GRAVE OF THE DWARF, . . . . 63 


SPENSER'S IRISH RIVERS, .. . -.. . . 72 




,, ,, PART II. ST. BRIGIT, . 153 



SIR JOHN DE COURCY, . . . . . . 178 



LOCAL NAMES, . . . . . .. . 194 

GARRET MAC ENIRY, ... ... .204 



IN treatises on Geography it was customary in days 
of old to devote a chapter to the curious and remark- 
able things or " Wonders " as they were commonly 
called whether artificial or natural or supernatural, 
of each particular country ; and in those credulous 
and superstitious old times the fabulous and the 
supernatural were sure to loom largely. We too 
here at home had our Wonders, the fame of which 
travelled far beyond our shores ; and when the reader 
has perused the relation of them given here, he will 
perhaps come to the conclusion I have arrived at, 
namely, that for Wonders or Mirabilia as they are 
called in Latin no other country in Europe was fit 
to hold a candle to Ireland. 

There are two detailed accounts of the Wonders of 
Ireland in two Irish documents : one is in the " Book 
of Bally mote," a large manuscript volume containing 
a great number of miscellaneous pieces in the Irish 
language, copied into that book towards the end of 
the fourteenth century. The Book of Ballymote 
is now preserved in the Royal Irish Academy in 
Dublin. The transcriber of the tract on Irish 
Wonders states that he copied it from an older volume 
called the " Book of Glendalough " ; but this book 
is not now known to exist probably lost, like many 


others of our valuable old manuscript books, in 
times of wars and troubles. The other relation is 
in an ancient manuscript (H. 3. 17) in the Library 
of Trinity College, Dublin. These two differ con- 
siderably,' both in the number and in the order of 
the wonders they describe ; and each contains some 
wonders not given in the other. 

In the edition of the Irish version of Nennius 
issued by the Irish Archaeological Society in the year 
1848, Dr. James Henthorn Todd has published the 
text and translation of the tract in the Book of 
Ballymote ; and he has also given in footnotes the 
most important portions of the Trinity College tract. 
Besides the above two main accounts there are 
several shorter notices of our Wonders given by other 
writers. The most important of these are the 
following : 

Roderick O'Flaherty translated into Latin verse in 
the third part of his " Ogygia," a short account of 
the Wonders of Ireland : but I do not know from what 
Irish original he took his version. 

Giraldus Cambrensis, who visited Ireland with 
Prince John in the year 1185, and who some time 
afterwards wrote in Latin his " Topography of 
Ireland " from materials collected during his visit, has 
a long chapter headed " Of the Wonders and Miracles 
of Ireland." He drew his information from native 
sources ; partly from oral tradition, and partly from 
Irish writings translated for him by native scholars. 
Some of our modern Irish writers strongly condemn 
Giraldus for recording these "nonsensical stories " ; 
but here they do him some injustice ; for he merely, 
and very properly, records the legends as he found 


them, though he occasionally somewhat alters or adds 
to them in the supposed interest of the Anglo-Norman 

Sir James Ware, in his " Antiquities of Ireland," 
has a short chapter (xxxiv.) on the same subject, the 
greater part of which is devoted to a description of 
the Giant's Causeway, which he regards, justly 
enough, as among the Irish wonders, though I have 
not found it included as a wonder in the ancient Irish 

As there was constant intercourse during the ninth, 
tenth, and early eleventh centuries, between Ireland 
and the Scandinavian countries, Denmark, Sweden, 
and Norway, the fame of our Wonders as might be 
expected reached the far north. There is still 
extant a book called " Kongs Skuggio," Speculum 
Regale "The Royal Mirror," written about A.D. 
1250, in the Norse language, by some Scandinavian 
author, in which among many other pieces is an 
account of the Wonders of Ireland. This section 
relating to Ireland has been translated and edited by 
Dr. Kuno Meyer in "Folklore" (vol. v.) and in 
" Eriu " (vol. iv.) with valuable annotations. He has 
shown that the Norseman did not derive his informa- 
tion from any of the books mentioned above, but took 
it down from a narrative given orally by an Irish- 
man. Most of his Wonders are found, with some 
differences in details, in the Irish authorities, but he 
has some not recorded in our books. 

Our Wonders are noticed by some other writers ; 

* The extracts from Giraldus given in the following pages are 
taken from Bohn's translation. 



but as the information they give us adds nothing to 
what is given here, they need not be mentioned 

The following account is founded on the tract in 
the Book of Ballyinote ; but I have interwoven with 
it the narrative of the Trinity College manuscript. 

I have also made use of the information given in 
the other documents mentioned above as well as of 
the annotations by the several learned editors, so far 
as I thought it necessary to illustrate my subject : but 
I have always done so with acknowledgment. And 
I have utilised information obtained from several 
other sources, which will be found mentioned in the 
proper places. 

It is hardly necessary to remind the reader that 
my presentation of the Wonders of Ireland is popular, 
as distinguished from what is commonly understood 
as scientific. The original written accounts, which 
to the general run of people are all but unreadable 
and meaningless, I have set forth in a simple plain 
narrative easy to read and easy to understand. My 
function has been something like that of a person 
who is preparing .supper for a number of people from 
highly condensed meat pemmican which is itself 
hard and heavy and indigestible : namely, turning it 
into a palatable food by a judicious mixture of other 
ingredients, and by proper treatment. But as the 
whole of the pemmican remains in the dish, though 
now diffused and savoury, so here the Wonders are 
fully to the fore, but in a more pleasing form. I 
have added nothing that is not warranted by the 
originals, whether written or oral : and I have not 
altered the meaning or intention of the old narrators. 



It is very well known that Ireland has no toads, 
and no venomous reptiles of any kind. There are 
some small lizards indeed, but they are quite harm- 
less ; and though we have now plenty of frogs, it is 
only within the last few hundred years they have been 
introduced. Perhaps this is the best known and most 
widely spread of all the legends of Ireland ; and it 
may be interesting to bring together all the available 
information regarding it, whether from written or oral, 
ancient or modern, tradition. Besides the testimonies 
on this point given below there is a note in a very 
ancient Irish manuscript now in the Bodleian 
Library at Oxford, in which Ireland is compared to 
Paradise. For each is situated at the extremity of 
the world ; Paradise at " the extreme east," and 
Ireland at " the extreme west " : and as ''Paradise has 
no savage beasts, no serpents, nor lions, nor dragons, 
nor scorpions, nor mice [nor rats] , nor frogs " ; so it 
is also with Ireland as regards all these animals.* 

As to frogs, Giraldus Cambrensis tells the story 
indeed he devotes an entire chapter to it with the 
heading "Of a Frog lately seen in Ireland" 
that soon after the Anglo-Norman invasion, while 
Robert le Poer was governor of Waterford, a live 
frog was brought one day to his court, which had 
been found in one of the meadows round the city. 
It was viewed with great astonishment, especially by 
the Irish ; and when Donall Mac Gilla Patrick, the 
native Prince of Ossory, saw it, he beat his head with 

* Stokes : Trip. Life, xxix., where the original Irish text is given. 


grief, saying that the reptile was an omen of woe to 
Ireland, and that it plainly foreboded the conquest of 
the Irish nation by the English. Probably this story 
has a foundation in fact ; but it is pretty certain that 
Giraldus gave it a twist of his own in favour of the 
Anglo-Norman invaders as he did in many others 
of his stories to make the natives believe that the 
conquest was inevitable. 

It seems however that our present day Irish 
naturalists have discovered a species of native frog 
in Kerry, which they say must have been there from 
the beginning. If this be so we must conclude that 
these cute Kerry frogs, getting early intelligence of 
St. Patrick's intentions (see below), betook them to 
remote hiding places, where they lay low till the 
storm blew over, and thus evaded the saint's sen- 
tence of banishment. 

The reader will find Ireland's exemption from all 
these noxious and venomous creatures fully explained 
in the following legend of 


In every part of the country the people have a 
tradition tha^ all poisonous reptiles were expelled 
from Ireland by St. Patrick ; and the tradition is 
not of recent growth, but is, on the contrary, many 
hundred years old. Jocelin, a monk of Furnes in 
Belgium, who wrote a biography of St. Patrick in 
the twelfth century, relates this great Wonder in 

* Reprinted with modifications from the " New Ireland 
Review " (Dublin), for which journal I wrote this narrative 
many years ago. 


much detail. He tells us that before the. time of 
St. Patrick Ireland was troubled with a three-fold 
plague of reptiles, demons, and magicians. As for the 
reptiles, " these venomous and monstrous creatures 
used to rise out of the earth and sea, and so prevailed 
over the whole island, that they wounded both men 
and animals with their deadly stings, often slew them 
with their cruel bitings, and not seldom rent and 
devoured their members." " The demons used to show 
themselves unto their worshippers in visible forms : 
they often attacked the people, inflicting much hurt ; 
and only ceased from their baleful doings when 
they were appeased by foul heathenish prayers and 
offerings. After this they were seen flying in the 
air and walking on the earth, loathsome and horrible 
to behold, in such multitudes that it seemed as if the 
whole island were too small to give them standing 
and flying room. Whence Ireland was deemed the 
special home of demons. And lastly, magicians 
evil-doers and soothsayers abounded beyond what 
history records of any other country on the face of 
the earth." 

So in those days Ireland must have been rather an 
unpleasant place to live in ; and it was high time for 
St. Patrick to come. 

Our biographer then goes on to relate how 
the saint cleared the island of the three plagues, 
expelling first the reptiles and then the demons from 
the top of Crochan Acla,* and converting the 

* Cruachan Aide, "Eagle Hill," which since the time of 
the Saint has borne the name of Croagh Patrick, a beautiful 
conical mountain rising over the southern margin of Clew Bay 
in Mayo, celebrated in legend all over Ireland. 


magicians from the worship of the evil one to the 
worship of God. 

This narrative has been seriously discussed by not 
a few of our learned men. David Rothe Bishop of 
Ossory in the early part of the seventeenth century, 
maintains its truth ; while Colgan, a far greater man, 
writing a little later, quite rejects it and remarks 
that Ireland must have been always free from 
venomous creatures ; as in the most ancient Irish 
writings many of them reaching back to a period 
long before the time of St. Patrick there is no 
mention whatsoever of reptiles, though the other 
native animals are mentioned often enough. And 
Lanigan, in the last century, observes that if such 
a wonderful occurrence had taken place, it would 
have been recorded in our annals and in the early 
Lives of the Saint ; which it is not. 

Jocelin was the first, so far as I know, to commit 
to writing a detailed account of the expulsion 
of the reptiles .and demons by Saint Patrick. 
It is highly probable that he combined, in the 
account he has left us, the written tradition and the 
popular legends prevalent in his day, throwing the 
whole into such shape as befitted a literary compo- 

It is quite certain that this story, with all its 
varying versions, from Jocelin's Latin narrative to 
the popular traditions of the present day, took its 
rise from the following beautiful and tender and very 
ancient legend of Patrick's contest with demons on 
Crochan Acla, which we find in the Tripartite Life 
of the Saint, written in the Irish language in the 
tenth century or earlier. 


The Saint, after having visited Ulster, Leinster, and 
Munster, was now journeying through Connaught, 
preaching and baptising multitudes ; and on the 
approach of Lent he retired to the wilderness of 
Crochan Acla. On this mountain he spent the whole 
forty days of Lent, after the manner of Moses on 
Mount Sinai ; and his bed was a flat stone with four 
flags placed round him for shelter. 

When now it was coming nigh to Easter Sunday, 
vast numbers of demons in the shape of great black 
birds, loathsome and fierce-looking, came to the 
mountain from the four quarters of the sky to assail 
him ; and they flew round him in clouds so as to hide 
both the heavens and the earth from his view. He 
prayed fervently and sang hymns to curse and banish 
them ; but they heeded neither prayer nor curse, 
and for many days and nights they kept flapping 
their hateful sooty wings around him nearer and 
nearer, giving him no rest. Then at last becoming 
alarmed and exasperated, he rang his bell so that 
it was heard throughout all Erin ; and in the end 
flung it among them with such violence that he 
broke a gap in its side, on which the whole hellish 
brood flew away and left the mountain clear. And 
now that he was freed from their attacks the Saint 
sank down, overcome in mind and body after his 
long and fearful struggle ; and he wept, wept so 
much that his outer vestment* was wet with his 
tears. But presently an angel came to comfort him, 
bringing a number of beautiful white birds. And 
when he had spoken words of consolation and dried 

* Irish cassula, i.e., the chasuble. 


the vestment, the birds sang music so sweet and 
joyous that Patrick quite forgot all the agony he had 
suffered from the demons, and became again cheerful 
and happy. And after that day no demon came into 
Erin for seven years, seven months, seven days, and 
seven nights. (See below, Memoir of St. Patrick.) 

On this simple and ancient legend, as I have said, 
the tradition recorded by Jocelin is evidently 
founded ; and on it too the people have built up in 
the course of ages a version of their own, very vivid 
and very circumstantial, which you may hear even at 
the present day among the peasantry of Connaught. 

Now for this popular version : It appears that 
St. Patrick first collected all the snakes and other 
reptiles of Ireland into one place in the west of 
Connaught. And here it must be remarked that the 
mere natural reptiles were in very bad company 
indeed ; for we can gather that among them were 
many real demons who' had taken on themselves the 
shapes of serpents. Indeed according to some 
versions of the popular legend they were all more 
or less demoniacal. 

The Saint having brought them together, drove 
them before him towards Crochan Ada, and com- 
manded them to go forward to the summit. Now the 
reptiles did not at all relish this. They knew very 
well that at the other side the mountain hangs right 
over the sea ; and they naturally enough suspected 
that the next move would be into the Atlantic Ocean. 
So they went forward very unwillingly. Sometimes 
they got tired and had to rest ; sometimes they 
turned and twisted and pretended to lose their way. 
They made a hundred excuses for delay ; and 


altogether they looked as if they were about to rise 
in open mutiny against the Saint. 

But Patrick was armed with something far more 
powerful against evil spirits than mere commands. 
He had his melodious sounding bell, which had been 
given him by angels, and which since his time has 
been known by the name of Finn-Foya, " Sweet- 
voice." Now of all sounds in the world, it seems 
the tinkling of a consecrated bell is the most in- 
tolerable to a demon ; and the silvery tones of this 
particular bell the Finn-Foya had more terror for 
our Irish reptiles than all the other bells of the 
country set ringing together. So when the Saint 
saw that the reptile brood were plainly disregarding 
all his commands and threats, he uncovered the bell, 
which brought them at once to their senses ; and at 
the first tinkle they rushed forward in a body up the 
side of the hill, merely to get beyond range of the 
hated sound. 

They soon reached the summit, and had not long 
to wait before the Saint came up. He made a sign 
that they should come close to him ; and the be- 
wildered reptiles crowded round him to hear their 
doom. No escape. Pointing to the sea far beneath 
the brow where they stood, he ordered them forward ; 
and to prevent any further dallying he began to 
uncover the Finn-Foya. This was enough : down 
the steep incline they rushed and tumbled helter- 
skelter ; and before the bell was freed from its case, 
they had got half way to the waves. 

About midway down this face of the mountain 
there is a deep hollow opening out towards the sea 
but walled in on the mountain side by tremendous 


precipices. Here they made their last stand: they 
hid themselves in the innermost recesses of the 
chasm, and thought they were quite safe under the 
shadow of the fearful cliff overhead. The Saint 
followed as far as he dared advance, and looking 
down over the brow of the rocky wall, commanded 
them to go forward, and rang his bell as loudly as 
he was able. But whether it was that the sounds 
were softened and lost by floating down the immense 
descent, or that the roaring surf beneath frightened 
the unfortunate reptiles more than the denunciations 
from above at any rate neither voice nor bell could 
dislodge them ; and they obstinately refused to move 
an inch from their shelter. 

Seeing that things had come to a serious pass, the 
Saint at last took a decided step : he swung the bell 
round his head and flung it forward with all his 
might over the brow of the cliff. Down it came, 
clinking clattering and ringing, bound after bound, 
down it came on their very backs. This was more 
than the most hardened and desperate demon could 
stand ; there was an instant rush towards the sea, 
and in a few moments the whole crew disappeared 
among the waves. From this event the chasm has 
ever since borne the name of Lugnademon,* or the 
Demons' Hollow ; and the peasantry say that the bell 
still remains hidden under the earth where it fell.f 

The Saint was in great joy, having as he thought 

* This is the form of the name given on the Ordnance Maps, 
but the people call it Lugnanoun, as nearly as their pronuncia- 
tion can be given in English letters, which represents the 
correct Gaelic name Lug-na-ndeamhnn, the chasm of the demons. 

fHere however the peasantry are mistaken. The very bell 


rid the country of the demons, seed breed and 
generation ; but some of them were too cute for 
him. The great body to be sure were never heard of 
more, unless indeed some of them be the sea- 
serpents that are now often seen by American 
mariners ; but a few of the biggest and most know- 
ing made their way across the bay and took up their 
abode in the remote wilds of Glencolumkille in 
Donegal, where two hundred years afterwards, they 
gave much trouble to St. Columkille before he was 
able to dislodge them. 

Thus far as regards Ireland's freedom from 
venomous reptiles. But the marvel did not end here. 
If it did indeed there would not be much to wonder 
at according to Giraldus ; for as he remarks, it is 
only natural to expect some countries to be free 
from certain sorts of animals that are produced 
abundantly in others. Moreover Giraldus does not 
believe the story told of St. Patrick, and accounts for 
the absence of reptiles by the nature of the soil. 

But another thing there was which, as he remarks, 
was really wonderful namely, that no venomous 
creature could live in Ireland ; and those that were 
brought from other countries died as soon as they 
touched the Irish shores. He relates that serpents 
which certain merchants brought over with them 
from England in their ships, for the sake of trial, 

that St. Patrick used in his ministrations the sweet-toned 
Finn-Foya is now preserved in the Science and Art Museum, 
Kildare Street, Dublin, where it may be seen by any visitor, 
with the beautiful shrine or case made for it long after St. 
Patrick's time. See my " Smaller Social History of Ancient 
Ireland," pp. 165-6-7, for an account of this bell and its shrine, 
with drawings of both. 


did not wait for their arrival on our coast, but died 
off as soon as they had got the first sniff of the breeze 
from the Fair Hills of Holy Ireland, half way across 
^he Irish Sea. Even poison, which was deadly 
enough so long as it was kept abroad, quite lost its 
venom as soon as it had got into the pure air of 
Ireland. And if any one in a foreign country had a 
garden infested with noxious creatures, he had only to 
send over for a few handf uls of Irish earth and sprinkle 
it thinly over the surface, when the reptiles at once 
retreated with speed and left his garden free for ever 
after betaking themselves of course to his neigh- 
bour's premises. 

Giraldus quotes the Venerable Bede on the same 
subject; and when we turn to Bede, there sure 
enough we find very decided testimony to the same 
effect, with additional circumstances of a still more 
marvellous kind showing how widely, even among 
wise and learned men, the belief prevailed at that 
early age, and how firmly it had taken hold of people's 
minds. The following are Bede's words : " No 
reptiles are found there [in Ireland] and no snake 
can live there ; for though often carried thither out 
of Britain, as soon as the ship comes near the shore 
and the scent of the air reaches them they die. On 
the other hand almost all things in the island are 
good against poison. Indeed it has come to our 
knowledge that when certain persons had been 
bitten by serpents, the scrapings of the leaves of 
books brought out of Ireland were put into water and 
given them to drink, which immediately expelled the 
spreading poison and cured the swelling."* 

*Eccl. Hist., Book i., chap. i. (Bohn). 


Several other instances are given by Giraldus, 
some of which are so amusing that I will quote 
them : A thong of leather made from the hide o 
an Irish animal was on one occasion placed on soft 
ground in the form of a complete circle, and a toad 
was put in the middle. " I and several other persons 
(says Giraldus) saw with our eyes that when he 
touched the thong trying to get out he fell back as if 
he were stunned. Next he tried the other side, but 
did not so much as touch it this time, but drew 
back his nose when he came near the thong as if 
it were poison, At last he dug a hole in the mud 
with his feet in the centre of the circle, and buried 
himself safely in it." 

" Certain merchants" affirm that when they had 
unladen their ships in Ireland they found by hap 
some toads under their balast ; and they had no 
sooner cast them on the shore than they (the toads) 
would puff and swell immeasurably, and shortly 
after, turning up their bellies, they would burst in 

Giraldus tells us that there was at one time a 
dispute whether the Isle of Man belonged to Great 
Britain or to Ireland. But the matter was settled by 
the fact that reptiles brought from Great Britain to 
the Isle of Man did not die but lived on in good health 
and spirits, which showed beyond doubt that this 
island belonged to Great Britain, not to Ireland. 

"It happened in my time," saith Giraldus 
Cambrensis (following up his account of Ireland's 

* In this and the next story I Use Richard Stany hurst's rich 
and racy translation of Giraldus's words in preference to any 


fatal influence on reptiles still in Stanyhurst's 
translation), " that in the north of England a knot of 
youngkers toke a nap in the fields. As one of them 
laie snoring, with his mouth gaping as though he 
would have caught flies, it happened that a snake or 
adder slipt into his mouth, and glided down into his 
bellie, where harboring it selfe it began to roame up 
and downe and to feede on the young man his entrals. 
The patient being sore distracted and above measure 
tormented with the biting pangs of this greedy ghest, 
incessantlie praied to God that if it stood with His 
gratious will, either wholie to bereave him of his life 
or else of His unspeakable mercie to ease him of his 
paine. The worme would never ceasse from gnawing 
the patient his carcasse ; but when he had taken his 
repast and his meat was no sooner digested then it 
would give a fresh onset in boring his guts. 

" Diverse remedies were sought, and medicins and 
pilgrimages to saints, but all would not prevaile. 
Being at length schooled by the grave advice of some 
sage and expert father, that willed him to make his 
speedie repaire to Ireland, would tract no time, but 
busked himselfe over sea and arrived in Ireland. He 
did no sooner drinke of the water of that island and 
take of the vittels of Ireland, but forthwith he laid 
the snake, and so being lustie and livelie he returned 
into England." 

This legend of the reptiles with its main features 
is given in the Norse " Kongs Skuggio." 

In conjunction with this wonder of exemption from 
reptiles, some of the old books add that St. Patrick 
obtained for Ireland this blessing : namely, seven 
years before the Day of Judgment the sea shall flow 


over the whole island. By this means the Irish people 
who are then alive will be saved from the persecutions 
and traps and perils of Antichrist. See the Most 
Rev. Dr. Healy's Life of St. Patrick, p. 232. 


Those who have read the Life of St. Patrick will 
remember that he spent about six years of his youth 
in slavery, herding sheep and swine on the slopes of 
Slemish mountain in Antrim, under a hard master. 
After he had escaped and returned to his own country, 
he was ceaselessly haunted with the remembrance of 
the land of his captivity, and his mind brooded on 
the dark cloud of paganism and superstition that 
overshadowed the people ; so that their conversion 
became the absorbing desire of his life. 

It was during this time that a circumstance 
occurred which is related in the ancient Lives of the 
Saint, as well as in his own "Confession," and which 
is numbered among the Wonders of Ireland in the 
Book of Ballyrnote. 

On a certain night when he was about thirty years 
of age living then in the islands of the Tyrrhene Sea 
off.Italy on the west side he had a vision ; and he 
saw a man from Ireland named Victor coming up to 
him, having in his hand a great number of letters, 
one of which he gave to him. Patrick took it and 
began to read ; and the first words were '* The voice 
of the Irish people." Before he had time to read 
farther, he heard voices crying to him from the forest 
of Fochluth or Fochloth or Fochlath in Ireland near 


the western sea. They spoke on behalf of the children 
of Ireland ; and their words were " Come, holy 
youth, and walk among us ! " And hearing this, he 
was greatly afflicted insomuch that he was not able 
to read any more ; and immediately he awoke. 

These were the voices of two unborn babes, who 
spoke from their mother's womb ; and some of the 
old narratives say that the words were heard all over 
Ireland, and even by Pope Celestine in Home. The 
children were the twin daughters of a chief named 
Glerain, who lived at Fochluth, a woody district in 
the present county Mayo. 

Long years afterwards, when Patrick had returned 
to Ireland and was in Connaught preaching and con- 
verting the people in thousands, he remembered his 
vision, and turned his steps towards the wood from 
which he had heard the infant voices in days gone by. 
Among other most interesting incidents of this 
journey, we are told that he met the two children, 
now young women, who were named Crebrea and 
Lassera, in their father's house, baptised them, and 
consecrated them to a religious life. They sub- 
sequently became saints and were greatly venerated for 
the holiness of their lives ; and after their death their 
remains were interred in the churchyard of Kill- 
Forclan, in their native place at the wood of Fochlut. 
Dr. John O'Donovan was the first to locate 
Fochluth (Tribes and Customs of " Hy Fiachrach " : 
p. 463). It extended along the western bank of the 
river Moy in the County Mayo, from Ballina to 
Killala and on north to the seashore at Kilcummin. 
It is deeply interesting to find that the very name 
Fochluth is still extant, as the Most Rev. Dr. Healy, 


archbishop of Tuam, has pointed out and pointed 
out for the first time in his Life of St. Patrick 
(p. 258). He traversed the whole district, and in the 
course of his reverential and successful search came 
upon the name " Foghill," now that of a townland 
and little hamlet near the seashore " near the 
western sea " just as the " Confession " gives it in 
the parish of Kilcummin, four miles almost directly 
north from Killala. Foghill is a correct anglicised 
form of Fochluth or Fochlath. For in the first place 
Fochlath would be sounded in three syllables, by the 
insertion of a short vowel between ch and I, according 
to a well known grammatical law (see my "English 
as we speak it in Ireland," p. 96 : and Irish Grammar, 
p. 7, par. 8) ; and in the second place the final th is 
aspirated and drops out altogether in pronunciation. 
This reduces the old name to " Foghilla " (where gh 
represents the original ch, both having the same 
guttural sound) : and during lapse of time the final 
short vowel sound got omitted, as we see in many other 
names " Columkill " for Columkilta, " Lougji Gill " 
for Lough Gilla, " Ballinakill " for Ballinakilla, &c., 
&c. So at last we arrive at Foghiil, as the name 
stands at the present day, a venerable name, bringing 
a faint echo of St. Patrick's preaching, and with an 
antiquity of fifteen centuries. 


About two miles from Roscrea in Tipperary stands 
the beautiful little church ruin of Inishnameo, or as 
it is now generally called, Monahinsha (the " Bog of 


the island," properly the name of the bog surround- 
ing the island and church) which appears from the 
style of its architecture to have been built in the 
eleventh century. This church is the only remnant 
of a great and well known monastery founded in the 
eighth century by St. Hilary the " Scribe and 
Anchorite." After Hilary's death the establishment 
continued to flourish for eight hundred years, till it 
was suppressed in the reign of Elizabeth ; and for a 
portion of this long lapse of time, it was governed by 

The spot on which the church stands was formerly 
an island two acres in extent in a lake ; and it was 
chosen by the founder, in accordance with that very 
general desire of solitude among the early hermit 
monks of Ireland, which led them to fix their 
dwellings and build their little churches in remote 
and lonely situations (Joyce's Smaller Social Hist, of 
Anc. Ireland, pp. 152, 153). The spot fixed on by 
Hilary, surrounded as it was by water and morass, 
proved too un healthful for his successors ; and after 
a time they removed to Corbally, half way towards 
Roscrea, where they built themselves a new church 
and a dwelling. 

But the removal of the monks did not at all lessen 
the people's veneration for the island, which continued 
for generations to be a great resort for pilgrims ; and 
though this has long ceased, several of the prayer- 
stations are still pointed out. About two centuries 
ago, the owner drained the lake, forbade all pil- 

* Culdees, the term applied to a class of ancient Irish monks. 
The original Gaelic form of the word is Cele-De [pron. Caila-Day] 
that is to say " Servant of God." 


grimages and burials, destroyed the tombs, and had 
a circular fence built round the church. 

According to the tradition preserved in our old 
manuscript records, no woman, and no female of any 
animal, could enter on this island. Moreover, no one 
who was guilty of any great sin could die in it : how- 
soever long he was kept there in his mortal illness 
he still lived on : but as soon as he was removed he 
died off at once. And lastly, if by chance an 
unrepentant sinner who had died elsewhere was 
brought there to be buried, it always turned out a 
failure ; for owing to one difficulty or another the 
people were never able to bury him in any part of the 
sacred island, and had at last to bring the body to be 
buried elsewhere. 

Giraldus Cambrensis notices this Wonder, but his 
account is somewhat different : for he records two 
islands, and has a Wonder for each. Wherever he 
may have got his information and it was very likely 
from the oral traditions of his time his description 
is much more circumstantial than the native written 
record. The following are his words : " In the 
north of Munster there are two islands, one larger 
than the other. On the larger one is a church which 
has been held in great veneration from very remote 
times ; and on the smaller stands a chapel which is 
devoutly served by a few unmarried men called 
Culdees. As to the larger island, no woman can 
land on it without dropping down dead as soon as 
she touches the shore ; and the same thing happens 
to the female of any of the lower animals. This has 
often been proved : for the females of dogs, cats, and 
other animals have been brought over to make trial : 


and they have always died the moment they reached 
the island. 

" It is very extraordinary" continues Giraldus 
" to see male birds of every kind in great numbers 
on the bushes all over the island, and not a female 
among them. For the instinct of the females teaches 
them to avoid it ; and when they come near the shore 
with their mates they fly suddenly back, as if the 
place were infested with a plague. 

" In the smaller island, no one dies, or can die, 
a natural death ; wherefore it is called ' Insula 
Fiventium,' the ' Island of the living.' Its inhabitants 
are not indeed more free from sickness than other 
people ; they are often afflicted with deadly diseases 
like the rest of the world ; and the sick linger on in 
misery till their life is nearly worn out : but they will 
not die. So when all hope of recovery is gone, and 
when their sickness and suffering have come to such 
a pass that they would rather die than live, their 
friends ferry them over to the larger island, where, as 
soon as they are placed on the shore, they quietly 
give up the ghost." So far Cambrensis. 

Lynch in his " Cambrensis E versus," Lanigan in 
his Ecclesiastical History, and other native Irish 
writers are very wicked on Cambrensis for recording 
this " nonsensical story," as Lanigan calls it; and 
indeed some go so far as to hint that he invented it 
himself. But here they are wronging Cambrensis. 
There is no doubt that he found the tradition current 
among the Irish people. For the Gaelic name of the 
island, as we find it in native writings, and as it exists 
among the people even at the present day, is Inis- 
nam-beo [pron. Inish-nam-yo], meaning " the island 


of the living people," of which the " Insula 
Viventium " of Cambrensis is an exact translation. 
It may be added that the people of the neighbourhood 
have at the present day a distinct tradition that 
before the lake was drained there were two islands 
with a church on each : one called Monks' Island to 
which women were not admitted, and the other called 
the Women's Island where women were allowed to 
visit and pray : which confirms Giraldus's account. 

It seems obvious that the legend about the larger 
island took its rise from the strict rules of the monks ; 
for as they never employed women in their establish- 
ment or allowed them to come near the place at all 
(like St. Senan of Scattery Island) the story grew up 
in course of time that no female could live on the 
island. This wonder is noticed in the Kongs Skuggio, 
which however places the island in Lough Kee : but 
this is a mistake. 


The old church of Templeshanbo in Wexford, from 
which the surrounding parish has its name, lies about 
three miles from the eastern base of Mount Leinster. 
It was anciently called Shanbo-Colman (Colman's old 
tent or booth) from St. Colman O'Ficra, the founder 
and patron, who lived in the seventh century, and 
who was held in great veneration there during the 
long lapse of years that the monastery continued to 
flourish after his death. 

There is now a large graveyard attached to St. 
Colman's old church, and another about two hundred 
yards off, Between the two is St, Colman's holy 


well which was formerly much frequented by pilgrims 
in honour of the patron on his festival day, the 27th 
of October. But no pilgrim ever makes his " rounds " 
or prays there now : the well has lost its reputation : 
even St. Colman's festival day is quite forgotten. 

At this spot there was in former days a large pond 
supplied from the well, where for ages after St. 
Colman's death a number of ducks were kept, which 
were believed to be under the saint's special protection, 
and on this account were regarded with affection and 
treated with great tenderness. They were quite tame 
and took food from the hand, never flying away at 
the approach of pilgrims, and never avoiding the 
gentle familiarities of the people. 

Nothing could harm them : and the legend tells us 
in particular that it was impossible to cook them. 
Not that any of the good people of Templeshanbo 
would dare to molest or even frighten them ; and the 
insane thought never entered into any one's head to 
kill and cook them for food. But as they were so 
tame, persons fetching water from the pond on a 
dark night so the legend goes on to say sometimes 
by an unlucky chance brought one of them away in 
the vessel without knowing it, and threw the con- 
tents, bird and all, in l to a pot over a fire to be boiled. 
Whenever this happened no matter how the people 
heaped on wood, or how long the fire was kept up, the 
water still remained as cold as when it was taken 
from the pond ; and in the end the little duck was 
found not in the least harmed, swimming about un- 
concernedly on the top. It was of course brought 
back to the pond : and after this the water in the 
pot got heated and boiled without further trouble. 


This is indeed a marvellous relation : but the 
version given by Giraldus is more marvellous still : 
and the birds, as he states, were not the common 
domestic ducks but the small species of wild duck 
commonly called teal. He tells us that if any one 
offered injury or disrespect to the Church, to the 
clergy, or to the ducks themselves, the whole flock 
flew away and betook themselves to some other lake 
at a distance. Soon after their flight the clear water 
of the pond grew muddy and putrid, emitted a foul 
smell, and altogether became quite unfit for either 
man or beast to use. They never returned till the 
offender was punished according to his deserts ; and 
the moment they alighted on their old place, the 
water became clear and wholesome as before. 

A kite once carried off one of these ducks and 
perched with it on a neighbouring tree. But the 
moment he set about killing his prey, his limbs 
grew stiff, and he fell to the ground dead before the 
eyes of several persons who happened to be looking 
on ; while the duck flew back unharmed to its 

On another occasion a hungry fox seized one of 
them on a cold frosty evening, near a little cell 
dedicated to the saint that stood on the shore of the 
pond ; and he ran into the cell with it to have a 
comfortable warm meal. But in the morning the 
brute was found lying on the floor choked, while the 
little duck was alive and well, with its head out of 
the fox's mouth and its body in his throat. 

\Ve find according to certain old authorities, that 
in the remote little island of Inishmurray in Sligo 
Bay, where this same Colman was also venerated, 


there were tame ducks under his protection as in 
Templeshanbo, about which the very same story 
was told that it was impossible to cook or harm 
them. From these facts and legends we may gather 
that St. Colman O'Ficra had an amiable love for 
birds, and that he kept a number of them as pets, 
ducks being his special favourites. And in memory 
of the good old man, the custom was affectionately 
kept up in both places by his successors. If we are 
allowed so much of a foundation to rest on, it is not 
hard to account for the growth of the marvellous 
part of the legend. The legend of St. Colman's 
ducks is now altogether forgotten in the neighbour- 
hood ; which is to be regretted ; for the people would 
be all the better for a memory of it. 

Many of the Irish saints were fond of animal pets ; 
and this amiable trait has supplied numerous legends 
to our literature. St. Patrick himself, according to 
Muirchu's seventh-century narrative, showed them a 
good example of tenderness for animals. When the 
chief Dare gave the saint a piece of ground at 
Armagh, they both went to look at it : and on their 
arrival they found there a doe with its little fawn. 
Some of St. Patrick's people made towards it to kill 
it : but he prevented them ; and taking up the little 
animal gently on his shoulder, he brought it and 
laid it down in another field some distance to the 
north of Armagh, the mother following him the 
whole way like a pet sheep. 

Giraldus records that when on one occasion St. 
Kevin of Glendalough had his hands stretched out in 
prayer, palms up, through the little window of his 
cell, a blackbird laid her eggs in one palm and sat on 


them ; and when the saint at last observed the bird, 
after his prayer, be remained motionless in pity ; and 
in gentleness and patience he held on till the young 
ones were hatched and flew away. St. Columkille 
had a pet crane which followed him about like a dog 
while he was in lona ; and St. Brendan of Clonfert 
had a pet prechaun or crow. But I suppose the 
oddest pet of all was the one kept by Marvan, a holy 
hermit, the brother of Guary the Hospitable, king of 
Connaught in the seventh century namely a white 
boar, Of this Marvan and his white boar many 
strange stories are told. 


The great St. Martin of Tours (in France) was 
much venerated in Ireland, mainly on account of his 
connection with St. Patrick : for he was Patrick's 
tutor for four years, and according to some authorities 
he was his uncle and had a good hand in sending him 
to Ireland. Among other marks of reverence, churches 
and crosses were dedicated to him in various parts of 
this country, his principal church being at Desert- 
martin in Derry : special devotions were instituted in 
honour of him : and it was quite usual for Irish 
pilgrims to visit his tomb at Tours, or as it was 
called by the old Irish writers " Torinis of Martin." 

On a certain occasion a pilgrim from Ireland named 
O'Dangal, returning from Rome, stopped at Tours on 
his way to make his devotions at the tomb of the 
saint. One morning as he was walking through the 
town he observed a little crowd of people a short way 


off busying themselves about something. Stepping 
up to know what was the matter, he there saw quite 
plainly, in the open day, his own mother Kentigern 
standing in the midst of .the crowd distributing flesh- 
meat and new milk among the poor people. All were 
busy very busy and were talking at a great rate ; 
but yet there was dead silence not a word or sound 
did he hear, though he was beside them. He looked 
on for a while, amazed ; for he was quite well aware 
that at that very time his mother was at home in 

He suspected that it was some baseless self- 
illusion, and in order to put the matter to the test 
to find out for a certainty whether he saw a real 
vision, or if his eyes might not be playing false with 
him, he watched his opportunity and secretly snatched 
the cover of the milk vessel. He now watched his 
mother very attentively while he stood back among 
the crowd that she might not catch sight of him ; 
and he saw that when she missed the cover she 
searched about for it, looking perplexed. But he 
retained it ; and after some time the whole vision 
vanished from his view. 

When he had performed his devotions at the tomb 
of the saint he resumed his journey homeward, 
bringing the cover with him ; and after a year's 
absence he reached his mother's house at Boss- 
Allither.* He soon made inquiry about his vision, 
and found, what indeed he expected, that his mother 

* Ross-Allither [pron. Ross-Allilier] or the " wood of the 
pilgrims," now Ross Carbery in Cork, where there was formerly 
a great religious establishment. It appears from the context 
that there was a cell there dedicated to St. Martin. 


had never been at Tours, or out of Ireland at all. 
But one thing she remembered quite well, that on the 
very morning in question she had sent for her poor 
neighbours and distributed meat and drink to them at 
her own house, in honour of St. Martin ; and that 
while doing so she had lost in some way she could 
never tell how the cover of her milk vessel. He 
then showed her the cover, which she at once 
recognised as her own, and bringing it to the vessel, 
it appeared quite plain, even to O'Dangal himself 
as his mother had already testified that it was the 
proper cover, for it fitted exactly. 

The old chronicler who relates the story concludes 
from this that a person who wished to pay honour to 
St. Martin need not put himself to the trouble and 
danger of a long pilgrimage ; for the vision of 
O'Dangal clearly showed that alms-giving or any 
other charitable work performed in the saint's honour 
at his cell in Boss-Allither was as meritorious and 
acceptable as if it were done at " Torinis of Martin." 
As to this last belief, we find a statement of much 
the same kind in an old Irish religious piece edited 
in " 6riu " (vol. v., p. 25) from the Yellow Book of 
Lecan, by Mr. J. G.,0'Keeffe : That to be hospitable 
to the houseless stranger to give him fire, bed [and 
food] is as meritorious as to go all the way to Rome 
on a pilgrimage which was at that remote time a 
long and dangerous and very expensive journey 
to the tombs of the apostles Saint Peter and Saint 



On a certain day when Congalach, king of Ireland,* 
was at the fair at Tailltennf with a great assembly of 
the men of Erin around him, he looked upwards and 
saw a ship floating about in the air high over his 
head. While the king and his people were gazing 
at this strange sight and following it with their eyes 
in silent wonder, they saw one of the crew come forth 
and cast a dart at a salmon, which appeared also 
suspended in the air near the ship. He missed his 
mark, and the dart fell to the ground in the presence 
of all : so the man walked out over the side of the 
ship, and floating gently down towards the spot where 
his spear was lying, he stretched forth his hand to 
pick it up. 

The people were so bent on watching the ship and 
the man that they neither spoke nor stirred till the 
stranger was near the ground ; when one of the king's 
attendants, bolder than the rest, ran forward as the 
man was about to ascend with the spear, and catching 
him by the head, held him down. The voyager 
struggled to get free, shouting out at the same time 
in the hearing of all "I am drowning 1 I am 
drowning 1 " 

* Congalach reigned A.D. 944 to 956 when he was slain in 
battle by the Danes. This is the same king who figures in the 
Wonder of the Buried Giant farther on. 

t Tailltenn, now Teltown on the Blackwater, about midway 
between Navan and Sells in Meath ; where in old times great 
fairs were held yearly, and games celebrated like the Olympic 
Games of Greece. (For this fair and others like it, see my 
" Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland," chap, xxv.) 


The king on hearing this, came forward and 
commanded the man to let the stranger go. As 
soon as he was set free he floated upwards, much in 
the same way as he had come down, moving his 
hands and feet gently all the time, like a person 
swimming, and when he had got to the ship he went 
in over the side and the people saw no more of him. 
The ship itself then moved slowly away, and they 
soon lost sight of it among the clouds. 

The Norse Kongs Skuggio's account differs some- 
what. Here it is related that on a Sunday, while 
the people were at Mass in Clonmacnoise, there 
dropped from the air, hanging from a rope, an anchor, 
the fluke of which caught in an arch at the church 
door. The astonished people looked upwards along 
the rope and saw a ship floating on top. One of the 
crew leaped overboard and dived and swam down to 
loosen the anchor, when some of the congregation 
seized and held him while he struggled to free 
himself ; till the bishop, who happened to be just then 
present, directed them to let him go ; for, as he said, 
if held down he would die as if held under water. 
They let him go and np he floated, when the crew 
cut the rope at top and the ship sailed away out of 
sight. The old Norseman gravely adds, of course as 
he heard the story : " And the anchor has since 
lain in Clonmacnoise church as a witness that the 
event really occurred." 

One can hardly help thinking that the original 
narrator of this extraordinary occurrence had in his 
mind an idea something like this : that the crew of 
the ship were the inhabitants of the upper air, the 
region beyond the clouds, who had ventured for once 


on an unusual voyage of discovery down towards the 
earth. The air of these elevated regions is extremely 
thin and ethereal, and the bodies of the people must 
be correspondingly pure and light ; so that the air at 
the surface of the earth appeared to them as gross 
and liquid and as unfit to live in as water does to 


In the year of our Lord 1055, on Sunday the feast 
day of St. George, the people of Bosdalla, near 
Kilbeggan in the present county of Westmeath, saw 
standing high up in the air, a great steeple of fire, in 
the exact shape of a circular belfry, or what we now 
call a round tower. For nine hours it remained there 
in sight of all : and during the whole time, flocks of 
large dark-coloured birds without number kept flying 
in and out through the door and windows. There 
was among -them one great jet-black bird of vast size ; 
and while he remained outside the others flew round 
him in flocks ; but whenever he entered the tower 
they nestled in thousands under his wings, remaining 
there till he returned to the open air, when they again 
came forth and flew round him as before. 

Sometimes a number of them would swoop sud- 
denly down, and snatch up in their talons dogs, cats, 
or any other small animals that happened to lie in 
their way ; and when they had risenagain to a great 
height they would drop them dead to the ground. 

At last they flew away towards a neighbouring 
wood ; and the moment they left the tower it faded 
gradually from the people's view. The birds perched 


on the trees, the great bird choosing a large oak for 
himself ; and so great were their numbers that the 
branches bent to the ground under their weight. 
There they remained for some time as if to rest ; 
when suddenly they all rose into the air ; and when 
the great bird was rising he tore the oak tree by the 
roots from the earth, arid carried it off in his talons. 
The birds then all flew away, no one could tell 
whither, for they were never seen or heard of after- 


A very strange circumstance happened one time 
at Slane, a village in Meath near the north shore of 
the Boyne, where there was formerly a very celebrated 
religious establishment. A large heavy stone cross 
that stood on the green of the village was all on a 
sudden lifted up bodily into the air, and when it had 
risen to a great height, it was shattered into frag- 
ments with such violence that some of the pieces fell 
at Fennor on the other side of the river, some flew 
westwards as far as Teltown, ten or twelve miles off, 
while others fell at Tara lying as far towards the 

It is a bit provoking that the old chronicler gives 
no further particulars. He does not tell the date, or 
whether the thing happened during a storm, or in a 
whirlwind : he has left nothing that would warrant 
us in hazarding a conjecture as to what gave rise to 
this strange story. 



On the 16th of March, the eve of the festival of 
St. Patrick, in the year 804, there happened a great 
storm of thunder, lightning, and wind, which exceeded 
so much in violence all the storms ever before 
witnessed, and so terrified the people, that it was 
recorded among Ireland's Wonders. It raged chiefly 
in the county Clare ; one thousand and ten persons 
perished in the old territory of Corcobaskin alone, in 
the west of the county ; and when the people of the 
coast looked out on the morning of St. Patrick's Day, 
they found, as part of the fearful work of the night, 
the island of Inis-fithi divided into three parts. 

Inis-fithi is the well-known island now called 
Inish-Keeragh (" Sheep Island") or Mutton Island, 
near Miltown-Malbay ; and the portions severed 
from the main body are the two masses of rock which 
rise out of the waves immediately north of the island. 

It will be observed that this wonder is a natural 
occurrence. Moreover it is historical, as it is re- 
corded in all the principal annals, such as those of 
Ulster, of Clonmacnoise, and the Four Masters ; and 
although it is eleven centuries since it happened, a 
vivid tradition of the catastrophe is current to this 
day among the people of the west of Clare. 


Among the wonders of this country, the old writers 
include the sudden disappearance of two lakes. One 


of these, called Lough Lee (the lake of the calf), was 
situated in Burrishoole near the shore of Clew Bay 
in Mayo. The following are the words in which the 
event is recorded in the Book of Ballymote : 
" Lough Lee in the territory of Umallia (i.e. Burris- 
hoole) ran off into the sea, so that nothing remained 
of it but its place." According to the Four Masters, 
who notice the same event, it occurred in the year 
of our Lord 848. 

Another lake, called the lake of Seeoran, in the 
mountains of Slieve Gorey in the County Cavan, 
flowed away suddenly, its water running into a river 
called Fa vail. This event happened, according to the 
Four Masters, towards the end of the night of the 
festival of St. Michael, A.D. 1054. The next morning 
when the people looked out the lake was gone, and the 
Four Masters add, what we may well believe, that 
the occurrence caused great amazement throughout 
the whole neighbourhood. 

Seeoran is the name of a townland about four 
miles north- west from Bailieboro' in Cavan, but there 
is now no lake, and the people have quite lost the 
tradition of its former existence and disappearance. 
The little river that flows southward through 
Virginia into Lough Bamor is probably the stream 
anciently known by the name of Favall ; but this 
name is also forgotten.* 

* Occurrences like those recorded here, though very rare and 
very extraordinary, are not wonders as we commonly understand 
the word ; for they are due to natural causes. We know that 
lakes sometimes disappear very suddenly, especially after earth- 
quakes, owing to the formation of underground clefts or passages 
which carry off the water. 




In the year of our Lord 864 a fearful thing hap- 
pened to Lough Leane, a small lake near the village 
of Fore in the County Westmeath. Without any 
known cause it was turned into blood for the space of 
nine days ; and the astonished people, when they came 
to examine it, saw all round the edge great masses 
of clotted gore floating about on the surface. 


Eleven years the occurrence last recorded 
viz., in the year 875, there was a great storm of wind 
and thunder all over Ireland, which ended in a 
shower of blood. After the shower had ceased, 
splashes and clots of blood were seen on the ground 
in various districts, especially at a place called Duma 
Dessa near Duleek in the County Meath, where all 
the houses and fields were thickly covered over.* 

* These two last wonders (12 and 13) were merely natural 
occurrences, like the ninth, tenth, and eleventh, magnified hy 
the excited imagination of the people. Showers quite as 
wonderful as those recorded ahove have fallen in recent times. 
Some years ago a shower of little fishes fell near Merthyr 
Tydvil in Wales, and sprinkled the ground with sticklehacks for 
several square miles all round ; and in India there have heen 
showers of fishes as large as herrings which have generally 
reached the ground dead, hut occasionally alive. These fishes 
must have been raised from the surface of the neighbouring seas 
or lakes by violent whirlwinds or waterspouts, carried to con- 
siderable distances through the air, and deposited on the ground 
when the force of the wind was spent. After the great storm of 



The great Lougli Neagh in Ulster had a property 
as curious as any to be found in the records of natural 
history. If a stake of holly were driven down into 
the bottom and left standing there, at the end of 
seven years the part that was sunk in the ground was 
found to be iron, the part that was in the water was 
turned to stone, while the part that was over water 
was still nothing but holly. The Kongs Skuggio 
notices this wonder, and adds that no other wood but 
holly will suffer change. 

This wonder is mentioned without the least question 
as to its truth, by several foreign writers ; as by 
Nennius, and by Boethius in his "History of Stones 
and Gems " ; and at the present day, in every part of 

6th Jan. 1839 the " Big Wind," as it was and is still called, 
herrings were found six miles inland on the western coast of 

Red coloured snow is quite common in the Arctic regions ; 
and it falls annually in parts of the Alps. Showers of ''blood " 
have also fallen in recent times ; but what appears to be blood to 
the simple people, is really nothing but water coloured deep red 
with millions of little scarlet fungi, which, like the water con- 
taining fishes, is raised by whirlwinds and deposited in distant 
places. And snow becomes coloured from the same cause. 

It is very well known that fungi of various kinds grow and 
disappear under favourable circumstances with extraordinary 
rapidity ; and it sometimes happens that a green field, which in. 
the evening has nothing remarkable in its appearance, is white 
all over with mushrooms in the morning. It needed only a 
sudden growth of minute scarlet fungi in Lough Leane to make 
the people believe that the lake was turned into blood, and that 
it remained so, till the fungi disappeared as suddenly as they 
came and left the water clear. 


Ireland, the people believe that the water of Lough 
Neagh will turn holly into stone. A very, intelligent 
Limerick man once told me that the best razor hones 
in the world are procured in the following way : cut 
a piece of holly into the shape of a hone and secure 
it at the bottom of the lake : at the end of seven 
years you will have, not a piece of holly, but a real 
hone, so excellent that it will make a razor sharp 
enough, as he expressed it, to shave a mouse asleep. 
Geologists tell us, however, that the water of Lough 
Neagh has no petrifying quality. Yet the rise of this 
legend was natural enough, as we shall see when we 
know all the circumstances. Curious stones are 
found on the shore and in the neighbourhood of 
Lough Neagh, many of them retaining both the 
shape and the grain of pieces of wood. They are in 
fact petrified wood ; but the petrifactions took place 
in old geological ages, millions of years ago, long 
before the lake was formed. 


In the dim days of yore, the people of the kingdom 
of Ossory*had the power of changing themselves into 
wolves whenever they pleased. During the whole 
time that an Ossorian lived as a wolf, his own proper 
body remained at home as if he were dead : and when 
about to make a wolf of himself he gave strict orders 
to his friends not to disturb the body ; for if it were 
removed he was never able to regain his own shape, 

* Ossory an ancient sub-kingdom comprising the present 
county Kilkenny and Queen's County. 


but was doomed to remain a wolf for the rest of his 
natural life. 

While he was in his wolf-shape he ravaged sheep- 
folds and devoured cattle, and was in every respect as 
fierce and bloodthirsty as any natural-born wolf. 
And if you came on him suddenly and attacked him 
in the act of eating a sheep, he commonly ran straight 
home and resumed his own shape. But although he 
was now, when you confronted him, a man, and 
looked as innocent as a lamb, yet if you insisted on 
examining him closely, you found on him all the 
marks and tokens of his savage feast : splashes of 
blood here and there, and bits of raw flesh in his 
teeth ; and the wounds you inflicted on the wolf, you 
found them fresh and bleeding on the corresponding 
parts of the man's body. 

This extraordinary superstition prevailed in Ireland 
from very remote times ; for we find it alluded to in 
the " Book of the Dun Cow," a volume transcribed 
about the year 1100, but whose contents belong to a 
much earlier age. In this old book there is a sermon 
on the Resurrection, in which the writer mentions 
several kinds of supernatural changes, for the purpose 
of pointing out that the Resurrection shall be different 
from them all ; and among them he mentions the 
transformation of a man into a wolf. 

The superstition held its ground for many 
centuries ; and how very generally it was received as 
an undoubted fact is shown by its frequent mention 
in old writings, as well indeed as by the language of 
those who argue against it. Fynes Moryson, writing 
in or about the year 1600, speaks of it in these 
words: "It is ridiculous which some Irish (who 


will be believed as men of credit) report of men 
in these parts [Upper Ossory and Ormond] turned 
into wolves, except the abundance of melancholy 
humour transports them to imagine that they are so 

A circumstance so wonderful could not escape the 
notice of Giraldus Cambrensis ; and he firmly believed 
it, as he was ready to believe every other marvellous 
story. He devotes a whole chapter to it, which he 
heads " Of the prodigies of our times, and first of a 
wolf that conversed with a priest," at the end of which 
he has a learned argument to prove that it was not 
unusual for men to be transformed into other animals ; 
and to remove all doubt he gives examples of several 
supernatural transformations witnessed in his time. 

He says that he himself saw persons who by magic 
arts could change, and often did change, an ordinary 
object, such as a stone or a clod of earth, into a fat 
pig. It was a common practice with these rogues to 
raise money by driving a pig extemporised in this way, 
to the nearest market ; and of course they generally 
disposed of them without delay, for they could well 
afford to undersell the owners of real honest pigs. 
These counterfeit pigs were always of a red colour ; 
if they crossed a stream of water they returned at 
once to their own shape stick or stone as it might 
be under the very eyes of the unfortunate purchaser ; 
and in any case they never retained their pig-shape 
longer than three days. 

Giraldus also reminds us that in his own day there 
were many old women in Scotland and Wales, as well 
as in Ireland, who were in the habit of turning them- 
selves into hares and running about the country at 


night sucking the teats of cows. And here we are 
forced to acknowledge that he is corroborated by 
several Irish story-tellers of much later times, down 
even to the present day, who relate many curious 
stories of old women turning themselves into hares, 
and of some who were pursued by huntsmen and 
hounds and were caught almost in the very act of 
returning to their own shape. And after regaining 
the old- woman shape the wounds inflicted by the 
hounds were still on the corresponding parts of their 
bodies, raw and bleeding, as in the case of the 
man-wolves above mentioned. 

The account given by Giraldus of the Ossorian 
wolf -transformation is somewhat different from that 
which we find in our own ancient writings. According 
to him there were always two of the Ossory people 
a man and a woman passing their lives in the shape 
of wolves : each couple remained so for seven years, 
at the end of which time, if they lived so long, they 
were permitted to return to their home and another 
pair took their place. It appears moreover according 
to Giraldus that it was a curse pronounced against 
the people of Ossory by St. Natalia* that brought 
this dreadful visitation on them ; but Giraldus does 
not inform us what it was that moved the anger of 
the saint. 

Giraldus is never wanting in a good story when it 
goes to confirm his statements ; and he has here a 

*Xutalis, called in Irish Naile [Nawly], is the patron saint of 
Kilmanagh, west of Kilkenny, and of Killenaule in Tipperary, 
which last took its name from him (Nawle's Church : Joyce's 
Irish Names of Places, i. 146). He was the son of Aengus 
mac Natfree king of Munster, and died A.D. 564. 


very circumstantial one about a wolf who conversed 
with a priest three years before earl John's visit to 
Ireland. This priest, who was on his way southwards 
from Ulster, was benighted in a wood on the borders 
of Meath. He and a young lad who was his companion 
lighted a fire under a large tree where they intended 
to pass the night; and as they were sitting and 
watching by their fire, a wolf came up and spoke to 
them in very good Gaelic, telling them not to be in 
the least afraid, and that they need not run away, for 
there was no danger. 

The travellers were of course astonished and 
frightened beyond measure ; but after some further 
conversation, they became convinced that the visitor 
was really a man in the shape of a wolf. Giraldus 
then goes on to recount particulars of the interview, 
among them a relation about the administration of 
sacraments which is too revolting to be transferred to 
these pages. The wolf remained at the fire with them 
during the night, conducting himself with propriety 
and good sense, and in all respects except shape 
like a man. In the morning he led them to the 
verge of the wood and pointed out the straight road 
for a long distance. 

Before resuming his journey the priest (who it 
must be remembered was an Irishman) inquired 
from the wolf whether the hostile people (the Anglo- 
Normans) who had lately landed in Ireland would 
hold the country for any length of time. To which 
the wolf (who was also of course an Irishman) replied, 
in a tone of great piety : " The anger of the Lord 
has fallen on an evil generation ; and on account of 
the sins of our (i.e. the Irish) nation and the monstrous 


vices of the people, He has given them into the hands 
of their enemies. This foreign race shall be quite 
secure and invincible so long as they shall walk in 
the ways of the Lord and keep His commandments. 
But we know that the path leading to sinful pleasures 
is easy, and human nature is prone to follow evil 
example ; so if this strange people shall hereafter 
learn our wicked habits from living amongst us, they 
will no doubt, like us, draw down upon themselves 
the vengeance of Divine Providence." So having 
finished his sanctimonious speech, he left them to 
pursue their journey. 

It is much to be feared that this last part of the 
narrative, as well as other particulars which I have 
omitted, was invented by Giraldus himself for the 
double pious purpose of favouring his Anglo-Norman 
friends and having a good hearty slap at the Irish 

The Kongs Skuggio has this man-wolf story also, 
not very different from what is related above ; but 
the writer attributes the transformation to St. Patrick, 
who pronounced the curse against the Ossorians, 
because when he attempted to preach to them they 
howled at him like a pack of wolves by a preconcerted 

* The Kougs Skuggio has among its wonders an account of the 
Gelts or Madmen who in lapse of time got covered with a growth 
of feathers and flitted about on the tops of the trees like so many 
squirrels. Our Irish writings have full records of these Gelts 
though they do not class them with the wonders. An account of 
them will be found in my " Smaller Soc. Hist, of Anc. Ireland" 
(pp. 96, 97), or in my Irish Names of Places under Glannagalt 
(i. 172). 


The belief in the transformation of human beings 
into wolves prevailed very widely almost all over 
the known world in fact in ancient times ; and it 
still holds its ground in some countries of northern 
Europe. Although however the superstition is now 
confined within comparatively narrow limits, it is 
still remembered in the popular legends of nearly 
every country of Europe ; and here most readers will 
call to mind the horrible German legends of the " were- 
wolf." The German were-wolf was a much more 
atrocious and fiendish animal than our Ossorian man- 
wolf ; for his favourite repast was human flesh torn 
up from graveyards ; whereas Giraldus Cambrensis, 
who would be only too glad to find a flaw in the 
behaviour of an Irish wolf, does not record that the 
Ossorian man- wolves ever did anything worse than 
devouring a cow or a sheep. 


A wonderful male child was born in the year of tfur 
Lord 822, at a place called Creeve Lassera near 
Clonmacnoise, wonderful at least in one respect : for 
he spoke quite plainly when he was only two months 
old. This phenomenal infant is recorded by several 
of the native annalists, including the Four Masters. 
The Annals of Clonmacnoise state that the words he 
spoke were, " Good God ! " (in Gaelic of course). 
But our Book of Ballymote, in noticing this infant 
among the Wonders of Ireland, goes much farther ; 
for the writer asserts that it spoke like an adult, and 
revealed many strange things to the people. 



On one occasion, as the poet ErardMac Cossi* was 
standing on the shore of the river Boyne, he saw a 
flock of wild swans flying past very near him. Taking 
up a round stone, he flung it into the midst of them 
and struck one on the wing, so that it fell to the 
ground helpless and fluttering, while the others flew 
off. The poet ran immediately to catch it, but when 
he came up he found it was not a swan but a woman 
dressed in white. As soon as he had recovered from 
his astonishment he spoke to her and asked how it 
happened that she had been flying about in the shape 
of a swan. She replied that some short time before, 
she had a sudden heavy fit of illness, and that she 
grew rapidly worse, till one day, when she was lying 
at the point of death, a number of demons came into 
the house and carried her off silently, while it appeared 
to her friends that she had died. She and the demons 
took the shape of swans, and from that out she 
remained flying about with them from place to place, 
till the poet set her free by a lucky accident. 

Mac Cossi then brought her to his house and 
treated her kindly, and after a little while restored 
her to her friends. 


Kear the coast of Erris in the county Mayo, out 
among the Atlantic billows, lies the little island of 

* Erard Mac Cossi, a historical personage, well known in Irish 
literature, was chief poet to Fergal O'Ruarc, king of Connaught 
in the tenth century. 


Inishkea, the name of which commemorates a virgin 
saint Kea or Gedia. Of this saint we know hardly 
anything, except that she founded a little nunnery on 
Inishkea in the early ages of the Irish Church, that 
she took her part in the work of Christianising and 
softening the rude natives of the west, and that the 
island perpetuates her name. 

It is not however with the saint and her nuns that 
we are now concerned, but with an inhabitant of a 
totally different kind. On this island there lives a 
crane, one lonely bird and no more. From the 
beginning of the world he has been there, for ever 
looking down on the waves from his solitary perch, 
holding no communion with the sea birds around him, 
and never visited by one of his own kind. The virgin 
saint's humble little nunnery with its busy community 
rose and flourished and passed away before him like a 
shadow : and still he was ever the same. There he 
stands now ; and there he will remain in the same 
unbroken solitude till the end of the world. 

This striking legend is as prevalent to-day as it 
was hundreds of years ago. The people have no story 
to account for it; but all along that part of the 
western coast, they firmly believe that the lonely 
crane still lives and will live for ever on the island of 


There is a little island about half a mile in length 
called Inishglora,* lying one mile from the coast of 

* Inishglora figures prominently in the story of " The Fate of 
the Children of Lir," for which see my " Old Celtic Romances." 


Erris, and five miles west of Belmullet in Mayo, 
which in old times was very much celebrated ; for 
its air and soil had the virtue of preserving the 
bodies of the dead from decay. Instead of being 
buried therefore, the corpses were brought to the 
island, where they were left lying overground in the 
open air. They retained their ordinary looks un- 
changed, and their nails and hair grew quite natur- 
ally ; so that a person was able to recognise not only 
his father and grandfather, but even his ancestors to 
a remote generation. This property is mentioned in 
several of the old manuscript books ; and also by 
Nennius, as well as by Giraldus, who however con- 
founds Inishglora with the island of Aran. The 
Norse Kongs Skuggio gives much the same account. 

But in later ages the island lost its virtue ; for 
Roderick O'Flaherty, who wrote a good description 
of West Connaught more than two centuries ago, 
states that in his time there was no foundation for 
any such belief, and that bodies were no more pre- 
served there than in any other place. 

Nevertheless the tradition lives to this day ; the 
dead indeed are no longer brought to the island; 
but the peasantry believe as did their forefathers a 
thousand years ago that human bodies will not 
decay on the island ; though it has never occurred 
to any one to make the trial. 

It is probable that this little island owed its virtue 
and its reputation to the great Saint Brendan. For 
he visited it when setting out on his famous voyage 
of seven years on the Atlantic Ocean ; and in 
memory of his visit, a little colony of monks settled 
on it in the sixth century. No one lives there now ; 


but the ruins of the old buildings, including several 
curious little beehive- shaped dwelling-houses built 
without cement, are still to be seen ; and the garden 
herbs introduced and cultivated by the community 
are found after so many hundred years growing wild 
on several parts of the little island. 


According to our legendary annals, the Dedannans 
came to Ireland in the year of the world 3303, and 
proceeded at once to wrest the country from the 
colony that preceded them, the Firbolgs. A great 
battle, lasting four days, was fought between them on 
the plain of Moytura* near Cong in Mayo, in which 
the Firbolgs were defeated. Their king, Ochy the 
son of Ere, fled northwards ; but was overtaken and 
slain on the great strand of Trawohelly near Bally- 
sadare in the County JSligo, by the three sons of the 
Dedannan chief. 

He was buried where he fell, and a earn was 
raised over him on the strand. This earn stood till 
the year 1858 ; and though it did not rise high over 
the level of the strand, the tide never covered it, 
and never could as the old records had it, and as the 
peasantry firmly believed to the last day of its 

There are perhaps many who will fail to see any 
thing marvellous in this, but we record it among the 
Wonders of Ireland, as we find it in the old books. 

* For the Battle of Moytura see Joyce's " A Child's History of 
Ireland," or " A^Concise History of Ireland." 



St. Kevin Brec, abbot of the monastery of Russagh 
near the village of Street in Westmeath, had a 
brother named Mac Rustang, of whom we know 
very little, except that he lived in the .eighth 
century and was accounted a very learned man. 

He was buried at Russagh ; and for centuries 
after his death his tomb had a strange influence 
over women of every age and degree. No sooner 
did a woman catch sight of it than she began to 
laugh and seream hysterically ; and nothing could 
stop her till she was removed out of sight of the 

The old monastery of Russagh is still standing, 
and women may now safely venture into the grave- 
yard, for the fame of the wonder has long since died 
out ; and the people of the neighbourhood know 
nothing of Mac Rustang or his tomb. 

In the Kongs Skuggio an Irish wonder is related 
somewhat resembling this, about a certain druh or 
clessan (a jester). The Irish tales are loud in their 
praises of the overpowering fun of the best gleemen 
or jesters : " There was no care, fatigue or sorrow 
however great, that a man would not forget for a 
time while looking at this droll fellow and listening 
to his pleasantries ; so that no man could refrain 
from laughing, even though the dead body of his 
father or mother lay stretched out before him" 
(" Smaller Social Hist, of Ancient Ireland," p. 516). 
But the Kongs Skuggio's clessan beat all other 
jesters hollow, for his laugh-provoking influence did 


not cease with his life. Many years after his death 
the people went to bury a man in the grave where 
this clessan lay, and they took the poor jester's skull 
and placed it on a high tombstone in the churchyard 
(and " there it has stood ever since"). And whoever 
comes into that graveyard and looks on the skull at 
the place where the mouth and tongue were 
whether he is disposed to sadness or cheerfulness 
bursts into immoderate laughter on the spot, and 
cannot control himself but goes on splitting his sides 
without stopping till he takes away his gaze. " And 
that clessan' s bones now make almost as many people 
laugh as he himself did while he was alive." 

It would be for the good of the community if that 
skull lay there still; for a good hearty laugh is 
wholesome, as it helps to brighten life as well as to 
ward off disease and other ills that flesh is heir to. 
(How a good laugh will sometimes frighten away the 
devil : for this see my " English as we speak it in 
Ireland," p. 56.) But the skull is gone ; the poor 
clessan that owned it is forgotten ; and the place is 
now as gloomy as any other graveyard. 


The old writer in the Book of Ballymote describes 
this wonder in the following words:" A well of 
sweet water in the side of Corann : the property of 
the well is that it fills and ebbs like the sea, though 
it is far from the sea too." 

The Corann here spoken of is a plain in the 
County Bligo, from which rises Slieve Gamph, now 


called the Ox Mountains, west of Ballysadare. The 
well is still known, though it has lost much of its 
ancient celebrity. It is situated on the eastern slope 
of the Ox Mountains, near the summit of the re- 
markable rock of Tullaghan, one mile north-east of 
the village of Coolaney. That this well ebbed and 
flowed, keeping time with the sea, is of course the 
creation of the people's imagination ; but it is a fact 
known beyond doubt that it sometimes rises and 
falls in a remarkable and unaccountable way. 

There is no regularity in these movements ; but 
such as they are, it is not hard to see how they gave 
rise to the belief. 

The people have another legend about this well 
that it was miraculously produced by St. Patrick. 
When the saint drove the demon-reptiles into the 
sea from the summit of Croagh Patrick (see p. 11 
above) one of them named Kerhanagh, or the " Fire- 
spitter," instead of going towards the sea with the 
general body, slily slipped aside and made his escape. 
The moment the saint had dealt with the others, 
he followed Kerhanagh ; but the demon still kept 
ahead, and as he went along he poisoned all the wells 
with his foul fiery breath. When Patrick arrived 
at the hill of Tullaghan he was quite overcome with 
thirst ; and striking the solid rock, a well of sweet 
water burst forth. Having quenched his thirst and 
renewed his strength, he pursued and overtook the 
demon, and banished him for ever from Ireland. 
This well was afterwards held in great veneration ; 
and for many hundreds of years it was a favourite 
resort of pilgrims desirous of paying honour tc 
Saint Patrick. 

E 2 



In the parish of Galloon, County Monaghan, 
there was formerly a well whose water had a very 
strange virtue ; for if you poured some of it over a 
person's head, the hair at once turned grey. 

Giraldus Cambrensis gives an account of another 
well of this kind, which he states was situated in 
Munster. He tells moreover in his usual chatty 
style a story in point that he once saw a man who 
had washed one side of his head in the water of this 
well ; and that the half that had been washed was 
white, while the other half remained quite dark. 

Giraldus mentions another well in some part of 
Ulster, which was gifted with the very opposite 
virtue ; for it prevented greyness altogether, or 
restored grey hair to its original colour. He tells us 
also, what indeed we might expect, that this well 
was in great favour, and that it was frequented by 
numbers of men and women from all parts of 
Ireland, who were no less anxious to escape grey 
hairs than people of the present day. 

The writer of the Kongs Skuggio notices these 
two last, placing them both in the Slieve Bloom 
Mountains in Queen's County ; and he is still more 
explicit. Of the first he writes : " If a man washes 
himself therein, whatever colour [of hair] he has 
whether red or white or black, then he becomes 
snow-white of hair as if he were an old man." Of 
the second : " If you take either a white sheep or a 
neat or a horse or a man with white hair, and you 
bathe any one of these in that water, they become 
forthwith coal-black." 



The well in which the river Barrow rises is situated 
high up on the side of Barna, one of the Slieve Bloom 
mountains, about five miles north of Mountrath in 
Queen's County. This fountain had in former days 
a very cross-grained temper ; for if anyone only 
touched its water, or even looked into it, it imme- 
diately overflowed, and a heavy rain began to pour 
down till all the low-lying lands near it were inun- 
dated ; and neither the rain nor the overflow ceased 
till Mass was offered up near the margin of the 
fountain. This well is no longer prone to take 
offence, age having probably toned down its temper ; 
but to this day the stream that flows from it 
the head-water of the Barrow retains the vicious 
habit of inundating the lowlands for miles in 
rainy weather; which no doubt gave origin to the 


In some part of the baronies of Orior in the east 
of Armagh, there were formerly two wells situated 
near each other and they are still there no doubt if 
we could only find them which were much more 
deadly vengeful than the well of Slieve Bloom. 
Whoever tasted the water of one fell dead on the 
spot ; and the other was quite as bad in its own way ; 
for if a person looked into it three times, the water 
rose up furiously till it drowned him. 


According to another old book however, the qua- 
lities possessed by these two wells were much less 
fatal, though equally surprising. Whoever took a 
drink of the water of one was sure to become rich ; 
but if he drank from the other, nothing could save 
him from becoming as poor as a church mouse. The 
puzzle of the thing was however that no one knew 
which was which ; and every man who drank made a 
hazardous venture, as he knew not whether he was 
drinking affluence or poverty. 


At Raphoe in Donegal there was once a well 
which told people truly whether they were to be long 
or short lived. A person had only to stand on its 
brink and look into it ; and if his life was to be a 
long one the water bubbled and rose up with a loud 
murmuring noise and overflowed ; but if on the 
contrary he was fated to die soon, the water retreated 
and sank into the well. 

This is something like the legend of St. Patrick's 
Well beside the old church on the top of the hill of 
Ardpatrick in Limerick. The water is down at the 
bottom of an open perpendicular stone-built shaft a 
yard wide and 12 feet deep : 

Within it gaze the peasants to see what may befall : 

Who see their shadows down below, they will have merry 

cheer : 
Who see not any shadows shall die within the year. 

See this ballad ( The Well of the Omen ") in 
Dr. Robert Dwyer Joyce's " Ballads of Irish 
Chivalry," p. 6. 



The well of Mailgoban in Leinster, situated near 
the bank of the river Liffey, was quite as remarkable 
as any of those we have mentioned. It was called 
Dech-flescach, or the " wand- transformer " ; for if a 
rod of hazel were put into it, it was changed at once 
into a rod of ash ; and on the other hand a rod of 
ash immersed in it for a few moments came out a 
rod of hazel. But no one now knows where this 
marvellous well is. 


There is a place at the foot of Slieve Bloom in 
Queen's County, now called Clonfert-Mulloe, or more 
generally Kyle ; and here flourished in old times a 
noted monastery dedicated to St. Molua, from whom 
it derived its name. The wonder of this place was 
the mill-pond of the monastery ; for any person, not 
a monk, who bathed in it, became immediately covered 
over with leprosy. It was however wholly free from 
danger for the monks ; for they bathed in it without 
suffering the least injury ; and what was equally 
curious, there was one little corner about four yards 
off from the body of the pond, where any ordinary 
person might bathe, and come out as clean as he 
went in, if not cleaner. 

The venomous quality of the water, though a 
lamentable circumstance for the neighbours, was 
very convenient for the good brotherhood, as it left 


them the sole use of the pond ; for it was very 
unlikely that any one would venture a bath even in 
the safe corner, seeing that a single splash from 
another part of the pond might send him away a leper 
for life. 

29. THE Pious MILL. 

In the old monastery of Kilkeasy in Kilkenny, from 
which a modern village and parish have their name, 
the monks had a little mill for the use of themselves 
arid their neighbours. This mill had some extra- 
ordinary virtues. It would never grind on a Sunday 
except the meal or flour was wanted for the guests of 
the monastery ; and when this happened, the moment 
it had turned out enough for the purpose it stopped 
of its own accord. But if there were no guests it 
would not grind at all on Sunday. Under no cir- 
cumstances whatever would it grind corn that had 
been stolen. And lastly, it was in one respect like 
the island of Lough Ore (p. 21) ; for no woman 
could go into it. 

Giraldus notices this wonder, but calls the mill by 
a different name the Mill of St. Lucherinus. He 
tells a story of another mill the Mill of St. Fechin 
at Fore in Westmeath where also there was a 
prohibition against women entering. This was a 
very sacred mill and resented liberties. Two of 
Hugh de Lacy's soldiers one time plundered some 
corn out of its stores ; but the two horses that ate 
some of it died at once ; and as to the men themselves, 
one of them knocked out his own brains that night, 
and the other fell dead in sight of all, 



There was a large stone in a certain church in 
Ulster, which, whenever the church was about to be 
plundered, always shed blood three days before, in 
order to give the clergy notice of the intended 
robbery. Where the church was situated, or what 
was its name, or when the stone lost its virtue of 
all this the old writer gives us no particulars. 


Most people who have travelled through the County 
Wicklow, will know a small lake at the head of 
Glendasan near Glendalongh, now called by the name 
of Lough Nahanagan, a corrupt form of the old name 
Loch na n-Onchon, the lake of the otters. There was 
formerly a stone standing in this lake, near the 
margin, which was in its way quite as easily irritated 
as the Well of Slieve Bloom (p. 53) but more easily 
appeased. If any person assaulted it by striking it 
with a stick or even the smallest cane, it resented 
the affront by bringing down a heavy shower of rain. 
But it seems to have resembled certain quick- 
tempered people who are repentant and good-natured 
after the flash of temper has passed off ; for the rain 
always ceased in a short time and was followed by 
clear skies and bright sunshine. 


W 7 hen people were put on their oath in Ireland long 
ago, it was the custom to swear them on some relic 


of one of the great national saints, such as a crozier, 
a bell, a shrine, or a copy of the Gospels ; or under 
the very hand of the saint himself if the affair 
happened during his lifetime. And it was universally 
believed that if a man swearing in this manner per- 
jured himself, he was sure to be punished sooner or 
later by some sort of bodily disfigurement, or perhaps 
by madness, or illness, or death. The people retained 
this custom from a very early age down to our own 
day ; and indeed it is doubtful if it has yet quite 

One day in the year of our Lord 539, when the 
people were assembled at the great fair of Tailltenn 
inMeath (p. 30 above) a certain man named Abacuc 
had occasion to swear an oath ; and St. Kieran the 
illustrious founder of Clonmacnoise, who happened 
to be at the meeting, was asked to be present. So 
he came and placed his open hand on the man's neck 
while he was swearing a usual form of administering 
an oath in presence of a saint. 

Eegarding in no degree either his oath or the 
presence of the saint, the man swore to what he 
knew was false ; but scarce had he finished the words 
when a gangrene broke out on his neck all over the 
place where Kieran's hand had touched it. It spread 
rapidly and ate its way into his neck; till at last 
towards the close of the same day his head fell clean 
off in presence of all the people. 

* See Caileton's story of "The Donagh." This custom 
prevailed in other countries as well as in Ireland. The reader 
will here be reminded of the oath on the relics extorted by 
William of Normandy from Harold of England, by a trick. 


He did not die on the spot however, as one would 
naturally expect ; but the loss of his head brought 
him to his senses. He repented of his crime and 
craved the forgiveness of Kieran, who gave him in 
charge to some of his monks to be brought to Clon- 
macnoise. There he lived for seven years among the 
community, walking about openly without his head, 
signalling regularly for food, and swallowing it 
through his trunk. 

This extraordinary story was at one time generally 
believed ; and it is hard to conjecture how it could 
have obtained currency. Dr. Todd thinks it may 
have arisen from some figurative description of loss 
of memory or reason, or some ecclesiastical or spiritual 
defect. He quotes as a case in point the following 
story told in a note at the 4th of August in the 
Feilire of Aengus, about St. Molua and St. Comgall, 
both of whom lived in the sixth century, Molua the 
patron of Clonfortmulloe or Kyle in Queen's County 
(see p. 55 above) and Comgall the founder and 
patron of Bangor in the county Down. 

As the two saints went together one day into a 
church, they were greatly astonished to see that they 
themselves and all the others in the church appeared 
without their heads. But Comgall after a time 
addressed the congregation and said : " The reason 
of this is that my spiritual director (i.e. confessor, or 
soul-friend> as Irish writers say) is dead ; so that I 
am without a head, and you are also without heads ; 
for a man without a spiritual director is a man 
without a head." Comgall then appointed Molua 
his confessor ; and immediately the two saints and 
all the others recovered their heads, 


The Four Masters record the story of Abacuc in 
the following words: "The beheading of Abacuc 
at the fair of Tailltenn, through the miracles of 
St. Kieran : that is, he took a false oath upon the 
hand of Kieran while the hand was on his neck, so 
that a gangrene took him in the neck and cut off 
his head." Here there is no mention of a man 
walking about without his head ; and perhaps we 
may take the account as something near the truth. 
It was probably nothing more than a case of 
unusually virulent disease, which was gradually 
magnified by story-tellers among a simple credulous 
people into the present wonderful legend. 


A blind man once lived at Clonmacnoise, who was 
the most expert fisher ever read of in history ; only 
with this drawback, that he appears to have never 
fished for or caught anything but eels. He used no 
artificial aids of any kind no fork or bait or basket : 
he merely plunged into the Shannon where it flows 
by the monastery : and after remaining a few 
moments at the bottom, he came up with an eel 
" in each of the forks of his fingers and toes " 
sixteen eels, all wriggling and twisting about his 
hands and feet ! And this he did without fail every 
time he dived. 


In the reign of Congalach king of Ireland 
(A.D. 944 to 956) there lived a poet named Erard 
Mac Cossi (for whom see p. 45 above) who at the 


time of the present occurrence was on a visit with 
the king beside Lough Leane in Westmeath (near 
the village of Fore). Early one morning in- summer 
this poet happened to be walking on the shore of 
the lake : and he saw at a little distance a very 
large woman far beyond the usual size of women 
sitting alone. She was dressed all in green, and as 
the poet came towards her he observed that she was 
extremely beautiful, and that she was weeping 
bitterly. He spoke to her and asked why she was 
weeping so. She replied that her husband had been 
killed that morning at the fairy -hill of Shee Codail ; 
and buried in the great cemetery at Clonmacnoise. 
After some further conversation the woman rose up 
and went away : and Mac Cossi immediately sought 
the king and told him of his strange adventure. 
The king was much surprised and interested ; and 
lie felt so curious about the matter, and so anxious 
to test the truth of the story, that he set out at once 
with the poet for Clonmacnoise, where he arrived in 
the evening of the same day. 

After the brotherhood had welcomed the visitors 
the poet told his story. But the monks knew nothing 
of such a person as he spoke of ; and they were 
quite sure that no one had been buried in the 
cemetery that day. So the king concluded that 
either the story told by the large green-dressed lady 
was an invention, or that Mac Cossi himself was 
under some strange delusion : and they thought no 
more of the matter. 

It was too late to return that night ; so the king 
and the poet slept at the monastery. Early next 
morning they were awakened by the tolling of 


the death bell ; and on inquiry they were informed 
that one of the monks had died the evening before 
and was to be buried that day. The monastery was 
ah 1 astir in preparation for the funeral ; and as the 
cemetery was close by, the king and the poet 
remained to see the interment. 

When the monks went to dig the grave, they were 
surprised to find that the spot they had chosen had 
all the appearance of being quite recently disturbed 
the red clay fresh and soft as if a grave had been 
opened and closed again. But how this could have 
come to pass was more than any one could tell, 
seeing that the burial ground was within full view 
of the monastery windows ; and that not even a 
single stranger, much less a funeral, could enter it 
without being observed. And what was more 
startling still, they found marks of blood on the 
clay, and fresh green leaves scattered about. Seeing 
this, they set about examining the place thoroughly 
while the king and Mac Cossi looked on ; and they 
resolved to open the grave. Deeper and deeper they 
dug, tempted on by the blood-marks and leaves ; 
till at length, at a depth far beneath the ordinary 
graves, they came upon the body of a great bearded 
man fifteen feet high, lying full length with the face 
downwards. It was surrounded with a thick 
covering of green birch-branches, carefully placed 
between it and the clay;* and when they came to 

* At interments in pagan times in Ireland it was usual to wrap 
up the body and bury it in a tbick covering of birch-branches, 
called strophaiss, which preserved it from the clay, like our 
coffins. See my Smaller Soc. Hist, of Anc. Irel., p. 534. 


examine the body, they found it all bloody, with 
many great wounds and other marks and tokens of 
a violent death. 

After some time they replaced the body in the 
same position as before, after carefully adjusting the 
covering of birch-branches ; and having filled in the 
grave, proceeded to bury the monk elsewhere. 
Meantime the story got wind ; and next day the 
people of the neighbourhood came in crowds to look 
at the grave. But the sight of the place only raised 
their curiosity all the more : they brought spades 
and shovels and began to open the grave anew, 
determined to see and examine for themselves the 
body of the bearded giant. 

The same marks were in the clay ; and as the 
wondering people dug on and on, the blood and 
green leaves continued to increase. But when they 
came to the place where the body had been left the 
evening before, there they found indeed the branches 
of green birch lying the whole length of the grave, 
but no body. There was blood on the branches and 
blood on the clay beneath ; but although the people 
dug and searched carefully downwards and sideways 
and all round, they found nothing more. So they 
closed up the grave and left the place ; and from 
that day to this no one has ever been able to find 
out anything more about the buried giant of 


Tara had three wonders ; but as the first was in 
no degree important I will omit it. The second was 


the grave of the Dwarf. If you went to measure it 
you found its length exactly three lengths of your 
foot ; if another person with a different sized foot did 
the same, he found it to answer the length of his 
foot in like manner. In short whoever measured 
this marvellous little grave, whether man or boy or 
child, found that it was exactly three times the 
length of his foot, neither more nor less. 


The third of Tara's wonders was the Lia Fail or 
Coronation Stone, on which the ancient kings were 
crowned ; and the wonder of this was that it uttered 
a shout whenever a king of the true Scotic or Irish 
race stood or sat on it.* And it was from this stone 
that Ireland received the old poetical name of 
Inisfail, that is, the Island of the (Lia) Fail. 

According to the old legend, the Dedannans 
brought the Lia Fail, along with certain other 
precious and marvellous objects, from Lochlann or 
Scandinavia, where they had sojourned for some 
time before they came to Ireland. And they placed 
it in Tara where it was used as a coronation stone, 
not only by the Dedannans, but also by the Milesian 
colony who conquered them. 

* Stones that uttered various sounds even speech are some- 
times mentioned in old Irish tales, just as we read about the 
Vocal Memnon, the colossal statue in Egypt, which uttered 
musical sounds when it received the rays of the rising sun. See 
" Cloghlowrish," the " Speaking Stone " in my " Irish Names 
of Places," vol. ii., and " The Voyage of Bran," by Dr. Kuno 
Meyer, vol. i.,p. 10, verses 17, 18, and p. 39, note 17. 


If we are to believe the testimony of certain 
Scottish writers, this famous stone, after having been 
removed from Ireland, made a great figure in later 
ages in Scotland and England. But the story of its 
removal has been examined by Dr. Petrie, who 
shows that it is flatly contradicted by native Irish 
authorities ; that it is nothing better than a fabrica- 
tion ; and that the Lia Fail was never removed from 
Tara at all. 

It is a historical fact accepted on all hands that in 
the year of our Lord 503 and the following years the 
western part of Scotland was conquered by a colony 
of Irishmen, or Scots as they were then called, 
from the territory of Dalriada in the north of 
Antrim, led by Fergus, Angus, and Lome, the sons 
of a chief named Ere. So far we have true 
history. But the Scottish narrative tells us that 
Fergus caused the Lia Fail to be brought over to 
Alban (Scotland), with the consent of the king of 
Ireland, and had himself crowned on it. For there 
was the story goes on to say an ancient prophecy, 
that into whatsoever land the Lia Fail was brought, 
there a prince of the Scotic or Irish race should reign. 
This prophecy is given by the Scottish writer, Hecto r 
Boece, in a Latin couplet : 

Ni fall at fatum, Scoti quotcunque locatum 
Invenient lapidem regnare tenenter ibidem ; 

the sense of which is conveyed well enough in the 
following translation : 

If fate tells truth, where'er this stona is found, 
A prince of Scotic race shall there be crowned. 

And on account of this prophecy it is said to have 


received the name of " Lia Fail," which, according 
to these authorities, means the " Stone of Destiny" ; 
but the word Fal, when examined critically, will bear 
no such interpretation. 

Fergus's reason, then, for having himself crowned 
on the stone, was, in order that the prophecy might 
be fulfilled, and that his claim to the new kingdom 
might be acknowledged without dispute. For the 
Scottish people were merely a branch of the Irish, 
and had the same superstitions and legends. It 
remained in Alban and was kept at Scone till the 
thirteenth century, when Edward I. took it by force 
and brought it away to England, where it now 
lies under the seat of the coronation chair in 

That the stone now in Westminster was brought 
by Edward from Scone, the ancient capital of the 
kingdom of Alban, where it had been used as a 
coronation stone by the Alban Scots of all this 
there can be no question ; and so far, Mr. Skene, the 
latest and best and most clear-headed writer on 
Scottish history, traces it, but no farther. But that 
the coronation stone of Scone is not the Lia Fail 
will appear quite plain from a short examination of 

The story of the removal of the Lia Fail to 
Scotland rests entirely on the authority of the 
Scottish historians. The oldest Scottish document 
to which it can be traced is the Ehythmical 
Chronicle, written it is believed at the close of the 
thirteenth century, from which it was borrowed later 
on by the two Scottish writers, John of Fordun and 
Hector Boece, and incorporated by both in their 


chronicles those chronicles which are now univer- 
sally rejected as fable. Our own countryman 
Geoffrey Keating, writing his history of Ireland in 
the seventeenth century, adopted the story after 
Boece (whom he gives as his authority for the 
prophecy) ; and it has been repeated by most other 
writers of Irish history since his time. But in no 
Irish authority before the time of Keating is there 
any mention either of the removal of the stone, or of 
the prophecy concerning it. If Keating had found 
either or both in any old Irish authority he would 
have been only too glad to mention so. 

Why it was that this fable was invented, and why 
Keating adopted it, though he found it in none of 
his own native authorities the motive of all this 
is plain enough. It was about the time when the 
Ehythmical Chronicle was put together that the 
dispute began touching the respective claims of the 
Scottish and English kings to the throne of Scotland, 
in which figure the great names of Wallace and 
Bruce ; and the old Scottish writers invented the 
story about the removal of the Lia Fail and the 
prophecy concerning it, in order to strengthen the 
claim of the Scottish kings, all of whom had been 
crowned on the Scone stone, which according to this 
invented account was the Lia Fail itself. 

For a like reason, Keating and other Irish writers 
eagerly caught up the same story, since according to 
their ideas it proved the right of their favourite 
monarchs, the Stuarts, to the throne the Stuarts 
being descended from the Irish kings. Indeed 
Keating says what amounts to this when he affirms 
that " the prophecy of the stone has been fulfilled 



in our present King Charles and in bis father James 
who both descend from the race of the Scots, since 
they were crowned kings of England [at Westminster] 
on the aforesaid stone." 

But we have decisive evidence that the Lia Fail 
was in Tara four centuries after the time of its 
alleged removal by Fergus. Tara was abandoned 
as a royal residence in the sixth century ; and after 
some time fell gradually into decay. In the tenth 
century and early in the eleventh, certain Irish 
antiquaries visited the place in its ruin, and having 
examined it very minutely as antiquaries of the 
present day are wont to examine historic sites 
wrote detailed descriptions of its several ancient 
monuments as they found them, which descriptions 
are preserved in some of our very old manuscripts 
to this day. Not a word have they about the removal 
of the Lia Fail ; but on the contrary they distinctly 
affirm that it was then in Tara, and that they them- 
selves saw it, among many other ancient monuments. 

The distinguished poet and scholar, Kineth O'Har- 
tigan, who died in the year 975, visited Tara with the 
object of describing it. After mentioning in detail 
the several monuments, he states that he was actually 
standing on the Lia Fail : 

The stone which is under my two feet, 
From it is called Inis Fail ;* 
Between two strands of strong tide, 
The Plain of Fal (as a name) for all Erin. 

* Fa I was the proper name of the stone of which the genitive 
form is Fail as it appears in " Lia Fail." The word lut means a 
stone, and Lia Fail is literally the " stone of Fal." 


Cuan O'Lochan, another writer equally distin- 
guished, who was Arch-Poet of Erin and died in 
1024, has left a poem in which he describes with 
great minuteness the positions of the various objects 
of interest at Tara. It is worth mentioning here 
that O'Lochan's description is so detailed and correct, 
that Petrie and 0' Donovan when they examined Tara 
sixty or seventy years ago, with the poem in their 
hands (aided by O'Hartigan's previous description) 
were readily able to recognise nearly all the monu- 
ments pointed out by the Arch-Poet. 

In one passage he correctly states that the Bath 
of the Synods (one of the forts at Tara) lay to the 
north of the Lia Fail : 

The Rath of the Synods of great powers, 
[Lies] to the north of the Fal of Tara. 

And a prose account which follows the poem is 
even more circumstantial: "Fal lies by the side 
of the Mound of Hostages* to the north, i.e. the stone 
that roared under the feet of each king that took 
possession of the throne of Ireland." 

So far we have mainly followed Dr. Petrie 's 
reasoning and deductions (in his Essay on Tara) 
which are incontrovertible. But he goes farther. 
There is now a tall pillar-stone, 6 feet over ground, 
standing on the mound called the Forradh [forra] 
where it was placed by the people about 1821, to 
mark the grave of some rebels killed there in 1798 : 

* The features mentioned here as well as all the others that 
have been identified may be seen on the map of Tara in my 
Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland. 


and Petrie asserts that this was brought from the 
Mound of Hostages (where the old writers place the 
Lia Fail) and that it is the Lia Fail itself. Here we 
cannot go with him. 

For in the first place the identification of the real 
old Lia Fail with the present pillar-stone is quite 
unsatisfactory and unconvincing. Fifty years ago I 
had a talk with one of the men who helped in the 
removal, and I have good reason to believe that the 
pillar-stone now on the Forradh was brought by the 
people in 1821, not (as Petrie states, writing many 
years after 1821) from the Mound of Hostages which 
lies about 50 yards off, but from the bottom of the 
trench surrounding the Forradh itself, where it had 
been lying prostrate for generations. 

In the second place the coronation stones used so 
generally by the Gaelic tribes all over Ireland and 
Scotland, were comparatively small and portable, 
like that now under the Coronation chair at West- 
minster which is a flag 25 inches by 15 inches by 
9 inches thick. But the present pillar-stone at 
Tara is 12 feet long by nearly 2 feet in diameter. 
It would be very unsuitable for standing on during 
the ceremonies of installation and coronation ; and 
seeing that the stone weighs considerably more than 
a ton, it would be impracticable to bring it about, 
as the legends say the Dedannans carried their 
Lia Fail in their overland journeys in Scandinavia, 
Scotland, and Ireland, and in their over-sea voyages 
in their hide-covered wicker boats. For even legends 
are consist^ when dealing with ordinary everyday 
common sense. No legend could be wild 
tell us that the Dedannans brought with 


them in their wanderings, lasting for generations, 
the massive stone now standing on the Forradh. 

The following conclusions drawn from the preced- 
ing statement are I think indisputable : 

1. The stone now under the Coronation chair at 
Westminster is the very one brought from Scone in 
the thirteenth century, but it is not the Lia Fail. 

2. The present massive pillar-stone on the Forradh 
in Tara is not the Lia Fail. 

3. The Lia Fail was never brought away from 
Ireland, but remains still in Tara, buried and 
hidden somewhere in the soil ; probably in the 
position where the old writers place it, on the north 
side of the Mound of Hostages. 

Giraldus Cambrensis and the Kongs Skuggio 
relate some other Irish wonders ; but I will pass 
them over as they are of no great consequence ; 
and the reader - will probably think with me that 
we have had enough of wonders for the present. 



IN the year 1580, when Edmund Spenser was in 
the twenty-seventh year of his age, he came to 
Ireland as secretary to Baron Grey of Wilton, the 
newly- appointed Lord Deputy. On the recall of the 
Lord Deputy in 1582, Spenser returned with him to 
England, and soon afterwards he received a grant of 
three thousand acres of land in the County of Cork, 
a portion of the confiscated estates of the Earl of 
Desmond. He proceeded again to Ireland in 1586 
to live on his estate, and selected for his residence 
the Castle of Kilcolman, one of Desmond's strong- 
holds, whose ruins are still to be seen two miles from 
Buttevant and the same distance from Doneraile. 

It was about the time of his first visit to Ireland 
that Spenser began his Faerie Queene ; and several 
bo.oks of the poem were composed during his resi- 
dence at Kilcolman. That he studied the topography 
and social history of his adopted country, is suffi- 
ciently proved by his essay, A View of the State 
of Ireland : while his poetry equally shows that his 
imagination had become deeply impressed with the 
quiet beauty of its scenery, and with its quaint and 
graceful local legends. Its sparkling rivers seem to 
have been his special delight ; he recurs to them 
again and again with a pleasure as fresh and bright 

* Keprinted from " Eraser's Magazine" of many years ago, 
by permission of Messrs. Longmans, Green, & Co., London. 


as the streams themselves, and they form the bases 
of some of his most beautiful similes and allegories. 

There are in his poems three passages of special 
interest, in which Irish rivers are prominently men- 
tioned. The first is ' The Marriage of the Thames 
and Medway,' in the eleventh canto of the fourth book 
of the Faerie Queene ; the second occurs in the first 
of Two Cantos of Mntabilitie ; and the third in Colin 
Clouts come home againe. 

The spousals of the Thames and Medway took 
place in the house of Proteus ; and the poet relates 
that all the sea and river gods were invited to the 
bridal feast. First came the continental rivers of the 
whole world, famous- either for size or for historical 
associations ; next the English rivers ; and lastly 
those of Ireland. The following is the passage in 
which the Irish rivers are recounted : 

Ne thence the Irishe Rivers absent were ; 
Sith no lesse famous then the rest they bee, 
And ioyne in neighbourhood of kingdome nere, 
Why should they not likewise in love agree, 
And ioy likewise this solemne day to see ? 
They saw it all, and present were in place ; 
Though I them all, according their degree, 
Cannot recount, nor tell their hidden race, 
Nor read the salvage countries thorough which they pace. 

There was the Liffy rolling downe the lea ; 
The sandy Slane ; the stony Aubrian ; 
The spacious Shenan spreading like a sea ; 
The pleasant Boyne; the fishy fruitfull Ban ; 
Swift Awniduff which of the English man 
Is cal'de Blacke- water ; and the Liffar deep ; 
Sad Trowis that once his people over-ran ; 
Strong Allo tombling from Slewlogher steep : 
And Mulla mine whose waves I whilom taught to weep. 


And there the three renowmed Brethren were 
"Which that great gyant Blomius begot 
Of the faire nimph Rheiisa wandring there : 
One day, as she to shunne the season whot 
Under Slewbloome in shady grove was got, 
This gyant found her . . . : she in time forth brought 
Tbese three faire sons which being thenceforth powrd, 
In three great rivers ran, and many countries scowrd. 

The first the gentle Shure that, making way 
By sweet Clonmell, adornes rich Watevford ; 
The next the stubborne Newre whose waters gray 
By faire Kilkenny and Rosseponte boord ; 
The third the goodly Barow which doth hoord 
Great heaps of salmons in his deepe bosome ; 
All which, long sundred, doe at last accord 
To ioyne in one ere to the sea they come ; 
So flawing all from one, all one at last become. 

There also was the wide embayed Mayre ; 
The pleasant Bandon crownd with many a wood ; 
The spreading Lee that like an island fayre 
Encloseth Corke Math his divided flood; 
And balefull Oure late staind with English blood ; 
With many more whose names no tongue can tell. 
All which that day in order seemly good 
Did on the Thames attend and waited well 
To doe their dueful service, as to them befell.* 

Of several of the rivers in this enumeration it is 
unnecessary to speak at any length, for there could 
be no mistake about their identification, and they 
are too well known to need description. Only it 
ought to be remarked how agreeably the poet 
relieves the dryness of a mere catalogue by his happy 
selection of short descriptive epithets, which exhibit 
such a variety that no two of them are alike, and 

* Faerie Queene, b. iv. c. xi. 


which describe the several streams with great force 
and truthfulness. 

But as regards others of them, editors and readers 
who have considered the subject have been in un- 
certainty or error from Spenser's day to our own ; 
and there are a few which none of the editors of 
Spenser's works have even attempted to identify. 

The manner in which the Liffey is characterised 
" rolling downe the lea " is extremely just and 
natural ; for this river, after bursting from the high 
lands of Wicklow through the haunted gorge of 
Pollaphuca, flows for more than half its course 
through the loveliest lea land in all Ireland, the 
plains of Kildare, where its banks are a continued 
succession of verdant meadows and smiling pasture- 
lands. This was the old plain of Moy-Life, cele- 
brated in ancient Irish writings, whose name is now 
remembered only in connection with the river the 
Aven-Liffey or Anna-Liffey as it used to be called in 
times not very long past that is, " the river (aven) 
of the plain of Life." 

In " The sandy Slane" the poet touches off the 
most obvious feature of the river Slaney. Geologists 
tell us that the bed of the river was once a fiord, 
when the sea was higher than it is now long before 
the Milesian Celt contended with Anglo-Norman, 
Dane, or magic-skilled Dedannan ; and during this 
primeval period the tide deposited at the bottom of 
the long valley great beds of sand and gravel, 
through which, when the sea retired to its present 
level, the stream cut its channel. The river is 
characteristically sandy in its whole length ; from 
Stratford-on-Slaney to Wexford town there is scarce 


a rock sufficient to raise a ripple ; its fords are all 
along formed of sand and gravel ; and it flows into 
the sea below Wexford through a wide waste of sand. 
Passing by for the present u the stony Aubrian " 
farther on I shall have a word to say about it we 
may just glance at the Shannon, the Boyne, and the 
Bann. Spenser's way of designating the first 

The spacious Shenan spreading like a sea 

pictures this great river very vividly to the mind of 
the reader ; for during its passage from Lugnashinna, 
its source near Quilca Mountain in Cavan, to Limerick 
city, it expands into three great lakes, or inland 
seas as they may be called, besides several smaller 
ones ; and below Limerick it opens out into a noble 
estuary fifty miles long, and so broad that the farther 
shores often become lost on the horizon. 

The banks of " The pleasant Boyne," from its 
source in Trinity Well at the ruined Castle of 
Carbury in Kildare, to Maiden Tower below Drogheda, 
present a succession of lovely quiet pastoral land- 
scapes, not surpassed by any other river in Ireland. 

He is equally correct in " The fishy fruitfull Ban," 
for this river has always been noted for the abun- 
dance and excellence of its trout and salmon. Toome 
where it issues from Lough Neagh, and Portna near 
the village of Kilrea, are to this day the delight of 
trout anglers ; and the great salmon fishery at the 
old waterfall of Eas-Creeva at Coleraine is one of 
the most productive anywhere to be found. 

I shall defer for the present the consideration of 
two important rivers, the Awniduff and the Allo, 
and take up both together a little farther on (p. 80). 


The "Liffar deep" is the Poyle at Lifford in 
Donegal. It is often called Liffar or Liffer by early 
Anglo-Irish writers, as by Gough and Camden, 
and by Spenser himself in his View of the State of 
Ireland : "Another (garrison) would I put at 
Castle-Liffer or thereabouts, so as they should have 
all the passages upon the river to Logh Foyle " 
(p. 158, ed. 1809). The town of Lifford took its 
name from the river, a circumstance very usual in 
Ireland ; for in this manner Dublin, Limerick, 
Galway, Sligo, and many other towns received their 
names. It may be remarked that this old Anglo- 
Irish name Liffer represents very correctly the pro- 
nunciation of the native name Leithbhearr ; and that 
the insertion of the d at the end belongs to a class of 
verbal corruptions very common in anglicised Irish 

" Sad Trowis that once his people over-ran " is 
the short river Drowes flowing from Lough Melvin 
between the counties of Donegal and Leitrim into 
Donegal Bay, which was commonly called Trowis in 
Spenser's time. This stream is very often mentioned 
in old Irish records ; for from the earliest period of 
history and legend to the present day, it has con- 
tinued to be the boundary line between the two 
provinces of Ulster and Connaught ; and it is no 
doubt its historical and legendary notoriety that 
procured for it a place in Spenser's catalogue; for 
otherwise it is an unimportant stream. 

* Viz. the addition of d after words ending in I, n, and r. See 
this fully explained and illustrated in the author's Origin and 
History of Irish Names of Places, vol. i, chap. iii. 


In the words " that once his people over-ran " the 
poet alludes to an ancient legend accounting for the 
origin of Lough Melvin, that at a very remote period 
the river overflowed the land and turned the valley 
into a lake. This legend is recorded by several of 
our old Irish writers, among others by the Four 
Masters, who relate that a certain king of Ireland 
named Melga who reigned many centuries before the 
Christian era, was slain in battle ; that when his 
soldiers were digging his grave the waters burst forth 
from it and overwhelmed both the land and the 
people ; and that the lake formed by this fatal inun- 
dation was called by the name Lough Melga, in 
memory of the king.* 

Legends like this are told in connexion with most 
of the large lakes of Ireland, and some of them have 
held their ground for a very long time indeed ; they 
are mixed up with the earliest traditions of the 
country, and not a few of them are current among 
the peasantry to this day. Giraldus Cambrensis, 
writing in the twelfth century, records a legend of 
this kind regarding Lough Neagh ; and this story is 
also found in some of the oldest of the native Irish 
writings, from which indeed Giraldus borrowed it, 
though he added a few characteristic touches of his 
own. He mentions, moreover, what the people will 
tell you to this day, that the fishermen sometimes see 
the lofty and slender ecclesiastics turresov "Christian 
round towers," remains of the ancient submerged city 

* The old Irish form of the name is Loch-Meilghe, which has 
been corrupted to Lough Melvin by the English-speaking people. 
Lough Melvin lies four miles south of Ballyshannon in Donegal. 


beneath its waters, a belief which Moore has embalmed 
in the well-known lines : 

On Lough Neagh's banks as the fisherman strays, 

When the clear cold eve's declining, 
He sees the round towers of other days 

In the wave heneath him shining. 

Before parting with this little stream I wish to 
make an observation on the word " sad," by which it 
is designated in the present passage. The reader 
cannot help observing that the poet's fancy is ever 
ready to seize on any correspondence whether real 
or imaginary between the names and the charac- 
teristic features of the several streams in his catalogue ; 
and this conceit he often- embodies in some happy 
descriptive epithet. I shall have occasion to notice 
this peculiarity farther on. But with respect to the 
name Trowis, it is clear that the poet thought it was 
an anglicised form of an Irish word of similar sound, 
which signifies sorrow or sadness;* and once his fancy 

* Irish truaghas (pronounced trooas), sadness, wretchedness, 
from truagh (troo) sad. The poet's fancy is not correct, for 
the ancient name of the river is not Truaghas but Drobhaois 
(pronounced drowish) a very different word. Spenser was 
accustomed to get Irish words and phrases translated for him by 
those of his Irish acquaintances who could speak English. There 
is abundant evidence of this in various parts of his View of the 
State of Ireland in which he gives the equivalent of many Irish 
terms; and in one place he expressly says: "I have caused 
divers of them (Irish poems) to be translated unto me that I 
might understand them . . . ." It must have been some of his 
Irish friends that attempted to explain Trowis for the poet by 
identifying it with truaghas, sadness ; for the peasantry, even to 
this day, as I know well, are very fond of this kind of speculative 


had caught up this interpretation he connected the 
name with the event ; so that supposing him right in 
his conjecture, his "s^dTrowis," in the present pass- 
age would be quite as appropriate as "false Bregoge " 
in Colin Clouts come home againe (see below). 

As for " Mulla mine whose waves I whilom taught 
to weep," it is enough for the present to point out 
that it is the little river properly called the Awbeg, 
flowing near Spenser's own residence of Kilcolman 
and falling into the Blackwater ; but I shall have 
more to say of it in connexion with others of Spenser's 

I will now consider the two rivers, " Swift Awniduff 
which of the English man is cal'de Blacke- water," 
and " Strong Allo tombling from Slewlogher steep." 
The former (" Swift Awniduff ") has been wrongly set 
down as the Munster Blackwater, whereas it is really 
the northern Blackwater, flowing between the counties 
of Armagh and Derry, and falling into the south- 
west corner of Lough Neagh ; and the latter (" Strong 
Allo ") has been taken to mean the little stream now 
called the Allo or Allow, flowing into the Blackwater 
near Kanturk in the county of Cork, though Spenser 
really intended it for the great Blackwater itself. 
Dr. Smith, a very careful writer, who published his 
History of Cork about the year 1750, was the first, 
so far as I know, to discuss those rivers mentioned 
by Spenser; and he identifies " Strong Allo" with 
the present river Allo, and the Awniduff with the 
Munster Blackwater. He is followed by Crofton 
Croker in his Researches in the South of Ireland. In 
Todd's edition of Spenser the error is repeated ; but 
Todd received his information from Joseph Cooper 


Walker author of The History of Irish Bards, who 
merely copied Smith without adding anything of his 
own. And all other writers who have written on the 
subject from Smith's time to the present have 
followed him in his error, with the single exception 
of the Rev. C. B. Gibson, who at page 300, vol. i. of 
his History of Cork, places the Awniduff correctly, 
though without giving any proof of the correctness 
of his identification. 

The Munster Blackwater was never called by the 
name of Awniduff or Avonduff, or Avondhu as some 
of our present-day writers put it (all meaning " black- 
river"). Its Irish name is Avonmore (great river) 
as we find it in all native authorities ancient and 
modern ; and this is the name in universal use in the 
spoken Irish language of the present day. The 
modern English name Blackwater therefore is not a 
translation, but a new name given by English-speaking 
people ; and it is an appropriate one, for the river is 
very dark in the early part of its course, partly from the 
peat bogs of Slieve Lougher, and partly on account 
of the Duhallow coal district through which it 

But it will be of consequence to remark that the 
English name in general use in Spenser's time was 
Broad water, which is a sufficiently correct trans- 
lation of " Avonmore." For example Gerard Boate 
who wrote his Natural History of Ireland about the 
middle of the 17th century, has: " The two chief 
rivers of Munster are Sure and Broadwater, the 
city of Waterford being situated on the first . . . 
the other (Broadwater) passeth by Lismore and 


falleth into the sea by Youghal."* It is also called 
Broad-water in Norden's map of Ireland, compiled 
about 1610 ; and in a charter of James I. the two 
English names are used " the river Blackwater 
called otherwise Broad water." 

The poet tells us that " strong Allo " flows from 
Slewlogher, or Slieve Lougher, a wild moorland 
district lying east of Castle Island in Kerry, which 
was very much celebrated in ancient Irish writings. 
This circumstance alone is sufficient to prove that he 
is speaking of the Blackwater under the name of 
Allo ; for the Blackwater flows directly from Slieve 
Lougher, rising about five miles above King Wiliiams- 
town, and running first southward and then east- 
ward towards Mallow. On the other hand the little 
river now known by the name of Allo is not more 
than seventeen miles in its whole length ; and to say 
nothing of the inappropriateness of the term " strong " 
for such an insignificant stream, it does not flow from 
or near Slieve Lougher, but on the contrary it is in 
every part of its course more than twelve miles 
distant from the nearest part of that mountain. 

Dr. Smith was so puzzled at Spenser's "strong 
Allo tombling from Slewlogher steep " that he was 
forced to conclude that the poet confounded the 
rivers Allo and Blackwater. It would be strange 
indeed if Spenser who knew so well and designated 
with such precision the features of the other chief 
streams of Ireland, should confound two rivers in the 
immediate neighbourhood of his own residence ; one 

* Page 37, etL 1726. 


of them moreover being a mere rivulet, and the o-tlier 
a stream of the first magnitude for Ireland, 

Spenser did not however as he has done elsewhere, 
borrow or invent this name for the river ; for it will 
appear that the Blackwater, or at least a part of it, 
was at one time known by the name of Allo ; and 
Dr. -John O'Donovan came to this conclusion on 
testimony altogether independent of Spenser ; for he 
does not appear to have been aware of Spenser's 
designation, or indeed to have considered the subject 
of Spenser's rivers at all. What led O'Donovan to 
this opinion was his examination of the name of 
Mallow, now a well-known town on the Blackwater, 
which is called in Irish Moy-Allo that is, the plain 
or field of the (river) Allo. Now this place could not 
possibly have got its name from the present river 
Allo, for it is situated at a point which is fully eleven 
miles below the junction of this river with the Black- 
water. Accordingly O'Donovan writes : " From this 
name (Moy-Allo or Mallow) it is evident that the 
name Allo was anciently applied to that part of the 
Blackwater lying between Kanturk, where the modern 
Allo ends, and the town of Mallow."* Had this 
passage of Spenser come under his observation, he 
would no doubt have quoted it in further proof of his 
opinion. Whether the name Allo was anciently 
applied to that part only of the Blackwater lying 
between Kanturk and Mallow (or rather Bridgetown, 
where the Mulla joins), or to a longer portion, or to 
the whole, I have met with no evidence to show. 

But to put the matter beyond all dispute, we shall 

* Annals of the Four Masters, vol. vi., p. 2080. 


bring up Spenser himself as a witness to tell us what 
he means. In Colin Clouts come home againe he 
relates how old Father Mole* did not wish his 
daughter (the river) Mulla to wed (the river) Bregog, 

Meaning her much better to preferre, 
Did think to match her with the neighbour flood 
Which Allo hight, Broadwater called farre ; 

by which the poet means that the river which was 
locally known by the name Allo was that called 
Broadwater by people living at a distance ; which 
decides without any manner of doubt that by " strong 
Allo " he meant the Broadwater or Blackwater. 

If anyone should inquire how it came to pass that 
the little river Allo, and the Blackwater into which 
it falls, were called by the same name, I will observe 
that a river sometimes gives its name to a tributary, 
the principal river often losing the name, which 
becomes perpetuated in the minor stream. For 
instance, the river Foyle, flowing by the city of Derry, 
was in old times called the Mourne, a name which 
is now applied to one of its branches, viz. that flowing 
by Lifford ; while the present name Foyle was bor- 
rowed from Lough Foyle, the arm of the sea into 
which the river flows. 

There is another example near Dublin which has 
hitherto escaped notice. The Dodder is a small 
mountain river flowing through the valley of Glen- 
nasmole south of Dublin and falling into the Liffey 
at Bingsend. Its usual Irish name was DotharJ 

* See p. 95 farther on. 

t The most ancient form was Dothra ; but in later Irish, and 
among the people, the river was always called Dothar* 


which is pronounced Doher ; for the t is aspirated, as 
Irish grammarians say, the aspiration being indicated 
by the letter h ; and an aspirated t (i.e. th) sounds in 
Irish like h alone, so that if the name had been 
correctly anglicised according to pronunciation, the 
river would now be called Doher. But in the neigh- 
bourhood of Dublin the people had a curious fashion 
when anglicising Irish names, of restoring the 
primitive sounds of aspirated letters,* and in this 
manner the river came to be called Dodder instead 
of Doher. Yet for all that the old name is still 
preserved ; but it is now applied to a small stream 
coming down from the adjacent hills, which, after 
turning a number of mills in a pretty valley, joins 
the Dodder at Bathfarnham, and is well known by 
the name of Doher or Owen-Doher. Other instances 
of this sort of transfer might be cited if it were 
necessary, and I might point to some examples 
among English rivers also. 

After what has been said it will not be necessary 
to dwell farther on Spenser's " Awniduff," for the 
reader will only have to attend to the order in which 
the rivers are named to be convinced that the 
Awniduff is intended for the Ulster Blackwater. 
Beginning at the Liffey, the poet proceeds south and 
west till he reaches the Shannon ; starting next 
from the Boyne, he goes north and west, naming the 
rivers in the exact order of position Boyne, Ban, 

* So botliar (pronounced boher) a road, came to be called 
hotter, booter, or batter, as in Stonybatter in Dublin (stony 
road) ; and in Booterstown near Kingstown, i.e. road-town. See 
the author's Origin and History of Irish Names of Places, 
vol. i., p. 46. 


Awniduff (or Blackwater), Liffar (or Foyle), and 
Trowis, curiously enough omitting the Erne : he 
then returns southwards, and finishes off the stanza 
with his own two rivers 

Strong Allo tombling from Slewlogher steep, 

And Mulla mine whose waves I whilom taught to weep. 

" The three renowmed brethren " are the Suir, 
the Nore, and the Barrow, which the poet describes 
with more detail in next stanza. It is curious that 
he personifies them as three brethren, and calls them 
farther on " three faire sons " ; whereas by other 
early English writers, as by Cambrensis, Camden, 
&c., they are called " the Three Sisters." 

The poet makes them all rise in the Slieve Bloom 
Mountains, which is not correct. The Barrow flows 
from Slieve Bloom, but the Nore and the Suir take 
their rise among the Devil's Bit range south-west of 
Koscrea, their sources being within two miles of each 
other, and about twenty-four miles south-west from 
the source of the Barrow. This error was committed 
by Giraldus Cambrensis long before him, and is very 
excusable ; for the Devil's Bit mountains may be 
considered as a continuation southward of the Slieve 
Bloom range, and were very probably so considered 
by both Giraldus and Spenser. 

The three rivers, after being " long sundred, do at 
last accord to ioyne in one," in the long valley 
extending from New Ross to Waterford harbour, 
which was in old times called Gumar-na-dtri-nuisce 
(pronounced Cummer-na-dree-nish-ka), the valley of 
the three waters. 

The Barrow is, as he truly states, one of the great 


salmon rivers of Ireland. The Nore boards or flows 
" by faire Kilkenny and Rosseponte," this last place 
being New Ross in Wexford, which is situated not 
exactly on the Nore but at a point nearly two miles 
below the junction of the Nore with the Barrow. 
This town was of much more account in old times 
than it is now ; and to distinguish it from Old 
Ross four miles east of it, and from Ross Ibercan or 
Rosbercon at the Kilkenny side of the river, it was 
called Rosseponte or Ross of the Bridge, from a 
wooden bridge across the Barrow, which in those 
times was considered a very remarkable structure. 
All this will be made plain by the following words 
from Richard Stanihurst : 

This towne was no more famoused for these wals than fora 
notable wooden bridge that stretched from the towne unto the 
other side of the water. Diverse of the poales, logs, and stakes, 
with which the bridge was underpropt, sticke to this day in the 
water. . . . This Rosse is called Rosse Nova (New Ross), or 
Rosse Ponti, by reason of their bridge.* 

Spenser makes these three rivers the offspring of 
the great giant Blomius and the nymph Rheiisa ; the 
former being the impersonation of Slieve Bloom, and 
the latter of the rain falling on the mountains ; for 
Rheiisa means " flowing water," being nothing more 
than rheousa, the feminine participle of the Greek 
verb rheo, to flow. 

In Ireland the historical or legendary personages 
connected with hills or other features are often 
magnified through the mists of centuries into giants 
or supernatural beings; and in this manner it has 

* Description of Ireland, chap. iii. 


come to pass that a great many of the hills in 
every part of the country have special guardian 
fairies. Most of these were the chiefs of the half- 
mythical magic- skilled Dedannans ; but several were 
the deified heroes or heroines of the Milesian and 
other early Irish races, and they lived in splendid 
palaces in the interior of green mounds, great cairns, 
or isolated rocks, which often crown the tops of 

Legends of this kind are found in the most ancient 
Irish literary remains; they are mentioned or 
alluded to in manuscripts written more than a 
thousand years ago, and they are still current among 
the peasantry. Several of those presiding spirits are 
as celebrated now as they were when the oldest 
manuscripts were written, and popular stories about 
them are as prevalent as ever ; among whom may be 
mentioned Finvarra of Knockma near Tuam in 
Galway ; Donn of Knockfierna near Groom in 
Limerick; Macananty of Scrabo Hill near New- 
townards ; and the two banshees of Munster, Cleena 
of Carrig-Cleena near Mallow in Cork, and Eevinn 
or Eevill of Craglea near Killaloe in Clare. 

The old legend assigned Slieve Bloom to a Milesian 
chief named Bladh (pronounced Blaw) who reigned 
there as the guardian genius. Bladh, we are told, 
was slain during the Milesian invasion in a skirmish 
with the Dedannans near these mountains, which 
ever after retained his name ; for the Irish name of 
the range, as we find it written in the oldest manu- 
scripts, is Slieve Bladhma, the mountain of Bladh, 
(Bladh making Bladhma in the genitive). As 
Bladhma is pronounced Blawma or Bloma, the 


present name Slieve Bloom is not a great departure 
from the original pronunciation ; and Spenser re- 
tained both the sound of the name and the spirit of 
the popular legend when he designated the deified 
Milesian chief as " that great gyant Blomius." 

" The wide embayed Mayre " is the Kenmare 
river and bay in the south-west of Kerry, which 
were often called Maire by English writers of that 
period ; as for example by Norden, who writes in his 
map "Flu. Maire," and by Boate, who describes it 
in his Natural History of Ireland as "a huge bay 
called Maire." The name was applied to the bay by 
English writers only ; and they borrowed it from 
Kenmare by a kind of reverse process, as if " Ken- 
mare" meant the ken or head of the estuary of 
Maire, exactly as Spenser himself formed Mulla 
from Kilnaniulla (see page 108). The river flowing 
by Kenmare into the bay is the Roughty ; and the 
original name of the extreme head of the bay, on 
which the town stands, was Ceann-Mara, which was 
in the first instance applied to the highest point to 
which the tide ascended in the river, and which 
signifies " head of the sea."* 

11 The pleasant Bandon crownd with many a wood" 
flows altogether through the county of Cork by the 
towns of Dunmanway and Bandon into the sea at 
Kinsale. It has not quite lost the character given of 
it by the poet; for though the magnificent woods 
that clothed all that country in Spenser's time have 
disappeared, yet along nearly the whole course of the 

* Ceann, a head; mitir, genitive mara, the sea, corresponding 
with Latin mare. 


river there are numerous castles, mansions, and villas, 
all surrounded with pleasant plantations which crown 
the banks on either side. 

In " The spreading Lee," the poet alludes to the 
great expansion of the river Lee below Cork, which 
forms the noble harbour on which Queenstown is 
situated. At Cork the river divides into two branches 
a little above the city, near the Mardyke, which join 
again near the modern City Park at the east, forming 
an oval- shaped island two miles long. In Spenser's 
time the city was confined chiefly to the island ; but 
in later years it has extended across the river at both 
sides far beyond the original boundaries. 

"Balefull Oure late staind with English blood" is 
the Avonbeg in the county Wicklow, which flows 
through Glenmalure and joins the Avonmore at " The 
Meeting of the Waters." As this river has never 
before been identified, and as it is an excellent example 
of how the poet himself, even when he is using 
fictitious names, generally supplies, in his short 
descriptions, the means of discovering the exact 
places he is writing about, it will be worth while to 
unfold, one by one, the steps that have led to its 

The words " late staind with English blood " must 
refer to a battle of some consequence in which the 
English were defeated and suffered loss, and which 
was still fresh in recollection when this passage was 
written. Looking back from the year 1590, which we 
may assume was the year, or very near it, when the 
Fourth Book of the Faerie Queene was written, we find 
two battles, and only two, in which the English were 
defeated, that might then be called "late." The first 


was fought in 1579 at a place called Gortnatubrid in 
the south of the county Limerick, where three hundred 
English soldiers and three officers were killed. 
Another was fought at Glenmalure in 1580 the very 
year of Lord Grey's arrival which was far more 
serious in its consequences. It will not be necessary 
to examine the details of the first ; for the second is 
the only action that answers Spenser's words ; and it 
answers them in every particular. The Lord Deputy 
Grey, marching in that year against the Wicklow clans, 
including the great chief Fiach Mac Hugh O'Byrne 
and his men, pitched his camp on one of the hills 
over Glenmalure. On August 25 a strong force 
prepared for action and advanced incautiously into 
the recesses of this dangerous glen, while the Lord 
Deputy remained in his camp. They were allowed 
to proceed without interruption till they reached a 
narrow part of the defile, when they were suddenly 
attacked by the Irish on the banks of the little stream 
the Avonbeg and after a short and sharp struggle 
they were routed in great disorder, leaving behind 
them dead eight hundred men including four English 
officers, Sir Peter Carew and Colonels Moor, Cosby, 
and Audley. 

So far the river bears out the description, "late 
stained with English blood " ; and it is important to 
remark that this defeat was all the more disastrous 
in Spenser's eyes, and he would be the more likely to 
retain a vivid memory of it, as it was his own master 
Lord Grey that was concerned in it. 

Let us now consider the name " balefull Oure." I 
have elsewhere observed that the poet often bestows 
fictitious names, generally borrowed from some 


neighbouring features, of which several examples are 
given in the course of this paper : Arlo Hill from the 
Glen of Arlo ; Mulla from Kilnemulla ; and from 
this again Mole, Molanna, and Armulla. So here 
also : " Oure " is merely the last syllable of Glenma- 
lure, or Glenmalour as he himself calls it in his View 
of the State of Ireland. : 

And as to the word "balefull," the origin of this is 
very clear. Spenser generally endeavoured to find 
meanings in his names, being always ready to imagine 
one when the appearance of the word was in his 
favour ; and he often bestows an epithet that reflects 
this real or fancied signification. Here are some 
examples all names of rivers taken from Canto xi. 
of the Fourth Book : 

Wylibourne with passage slye 
That of his wylinesse his name doth take. 

Mole that like a nousling mole doth make 
His way still under ground till Thames he overtake. 

Bounteous Trent, that in himself enseames 
Both thirty [Fr. trente, thirty] sorts of fish and thirty sundry 

And there came Stoure with terrible aspect [''stour," battle, 


(False) Bregog hight [see p. Ill, below], 
So hight because of this deceitful traine. 

So also "sad Trowis " (supra: p. 79), " Tigris fierce," 
and several others. He does the same in the case 
before us, using "balefull" as if it were an equivalent 
for "mal"; for the river " Mal-oure " was baleful, 
not only in the disastrous memory connected with it, 
but even in its very name.* The reader will observe 

* The poet is of course not correct, and very likely he knew it. 
But the syllable "mal" was very tempting under thecircum- 


that here the same sort of fancy passed through the 
poet's mind as in the case of Mulla (p. 108 infra) ; in 
other words, he thought, or assumed, that the name 
of the river was Oure or Maloure, and that it gave 
name to Glenmalure. 

The Glenmalure river or Avonbeg comes also into 
its natural place in the catalogue ; for starting from 
the Maire, and proceeding along the coast, east and 
north, the very next important river, not already 
named, after the Maire the Bandon and the Lee, is 
the one in question the Avonbeg or Ovoca. 

Although I have made a very diligent search in 
every available direction, I have failed to discover 
the river Spenser meant by " The stony Aubrian," 
the only one in his whole catalogue that remains 
unidentified. The first syllable is probably the 
common Irish word abh (pronounced aw or ow), 
signifying river, as we find it in Awbeg, Ownageeragh, 
Finnow, and many other river names. From the 
place it occupies in the catalogue, joined with three 
well-known large rivers the order in the text being 
Liffey, Slaney, Aubrian, Shannon it may be inferred 
that it is somewhere in South Munster, and that it is 
itself a considerable river. But after eliminating 
from the inquiry all the Munster rivers named here by 
the poet, I cannot find that any one of those remaining 
will answer both name and description. The Feale 
in Kerry, flowing by Abbeyfeale into the Shannon, is 

stances, for as an ordinary Latin-English prefix it was then, as 
it is now, well understood to mean something evil or baleful. 
The true original form of the name Glenmalure is Gleann- 
Maoilughra which means the glen of the trihe called Mailura. 


a large river and stony enough in its bed ; but I have 
never heard that it has been called by any name like 
Aubrian. "The stony Aubrian " is a mystery, and 
so far as I am concerned will I fear remain so. 

In the first of Two Cantos of Mutabilitie the poet 
relates, in a fine stream of poetry, how the goddess or 
" Titanesse " Mutabilitie laid claim to universal 
sovereignty ; that when Jove gave judgment against 
her, she appealed to the highest authority of all 
" Father of gods by equal right, to weet, the god of 
nature" ; and that Jove, very much against his will, 
agreed to the appeal, bidding " Dan Phoebus, scribe, 
her appellation seale." 

Eftsoones the time and place appointed were, 
"Where all, both heavenly powers and earthly wights, 
Before great Natures presence should appeare 
For triall of their titles and best rights : 
That was, to weet, upon the highest hights 
Of Arlo-hill (who knows not Arlo-hill ?) 
That is the highest head in all mens sights, 
Of my old father Mole, whom shepheards quill 
Renowmed hath with hymnes fit for a rurall skill. 

If there be any reader "who knows not Arlo-hill," 
the scene of this solemn trial, the following examina- 
tion will enable him to find it out. 

In the neighbourhood of Buttevant and Charleville 
in the county of Cork, begins a range of mountains 
which runs in a direction nearly eastwards till it 
terminates near Caher in Tipperary, a distance of about 
thirty miles. The middle part is low, and interrupted 
by high plains, but the extremities rise boldly in two 
well-defined mountain groups ; the western portion 
being called the Ballyhoura Mountains, and the eastern 
the Galtys. This eastern portion is also the highest, 


abounding in peaks precipices and gorges ; and one 
particular summit, Galtyrnore, the most elevated of 
the whole range, attains a height of 3,015 feet. This 
last peak rises immediately over the vale of Aherlow, 
or Arlo as it was commonly called by Anglo-Irish 
writers of Spenser's time, including Spenser himself ; 
a fine valley eight or ten miles long walled in by the 
dark steep slopes of the Galtys on the south-east side, 
with Galtymore towering over all, and by the long 
ridge of Slievenamuck on the north-west. The whole 
range from Buttevaut to Caher is what Spenser calls 
" Mole "or "old father Mole," as will appear very 
plainly a little farther on. 

The mountain mass that culminates in Galtymore 
is Arlo-hill, on which the meeting of the gods was 
held ; but the name Arlo was applied to the hill only 
by Spenser himself, who borrowed it from the adjacent 
valley, and who, after his usual fashion, selected it 
on account of its musical sound. That Arlo-hill is 
Galtymore and no other is shown by several expres- 
sions scattered through this part of the poem. Arlo, 
we are told, overlooks the plain through which the 
river Suir flows : 

[Diana] quite forsooke 
All those faire forrests about Arlo hid ; 
And all that mouutaine which doth ovurlooke 
The richest champain that may else be rid ; 
And the faire Shure in which are thousand salmons bred ; 

which indicates that it is among the Galtys. For, 
standing on the summit of these mountains, you 
have the magnificent plain of Tipperary at your feet, 
a part of the "Golden Vale," truly designated by 
the poet as " the richest champain that may else be 


rid " ; while on the other hand this plain cannot be 
seen at all from the western part of the range. The 
name Arlo connects it with the vale of Aherlow ; 
and that it is the same as Galtymore is placed 
beyond all doubt by the statement that Arlo-hill 

Is the highest head, in all raens sights, 
Of my old father Mole. 

Spenser tells us, at the beginning of Colin Clouts 
come home ayaine, that he lived at the foot of Mole : 

One day (quoth he) I sat (as was my trade) 
Under the foote of Mole, that mountain hore, 
Keeping my sheepe amongst the cooly shade 
Of the greene alders by the Mullaes shore. 

This, we know, was where Kilcolman Castle ruin 
now stands, under the Ballyhoura hills, at the 
western extremity of the range ; and as Arlo-hill in 
the Galtys " is the highest head in all mens sights 
of my old father Mole," it is quite plain that by 
"old father Mole " the poet meant the whole range, 
including the Galtys and the Ballyhouras. 
Moreover, he tells us in the same poem : 

Mole hight that mountain gray 
That walls the north side of Annulla dale ; 

from which it appears that he gave the name of 
Armulla to that wide valley through which the 
Blackwater flows, walled on the north by Father 
Mole, and on the south by the Boggera hills and 
the Nagles Mountains near Fermoy. But these 
names, Mole, Mulla, Armulla, are all fictitious ; and 
I shall presently have a word to say about their 

Before describing the meeting of the gods and the 


trial of the claims of the Titanesse, the poet intro- 
duces a pretty episode about Arlo-hill. He relates that 

Whylome when Ireland florished in fame 
Of wealth and goodnesse far above the rest 
Of all that beare the British Islands name, 
The gods then us'd, for pleasure and for rest, 
Oft to resort thereto when seem'd them best : 
But none of all therein more pleasure found 
Then Cynthia that is soveraine Queene profest 
Of woods and forrest which therein abound, 
Sprinkled with wholsom waters more then most on ground. 

But mongst them all, as fittest for her game, 

She chose this Arlo ; where shee did resort 
With all her nymphes enranged on a rowe, 

Amongst the which there was a nymph that hight 
Molanna ; daughter of old Father Mole, 
And sister unto Mulla faire and bright ; 
Unto whose bed false Bregog whylome stole, 
That Shepheard Colin dearely did condole, 
And made her lucklesse loves well knowne to be ;* 
But this Molanna, were she not so shole [shallow], 
Were no lesse faire and beautifull tlren shee : 
Yet as she is a fairer flood may no man see. 

For first she springs out of two marble rocks 
On which a grove of oakes high mounted growes, 
That as a girlond seemes to deck the locks 
Of some faire bride brought forth with pompous showes 
Out of her bowre, that many flowers strowes : 
So through the flowry dales she tumbling downe 
Through many \voods and shady coverts flowes, 
That on each side her silver channell crowne, 
Till to the plaine she come whose valleyes she doth drowne. 

* The story of the loves of the Bregoge and Mulla, alluded to 
here, will be found at pp. 107 to 112 farther on. 


In her sweet streames Diana used oft, 
After her sweatie chaee and toilsome play, 
To bathe herselfe ; and after on the soft 
And downy grasse her dainty limbes to lay 
In covert shade, where none behold her may.* 

The poet goes on to tell how the foolish wood-god 
Faunus had long wished to catch a sight of the god- 
dess but found no way to compass his design till at 
last he persuaded the nymph Molanna, by tempting 
her with bribes, " To tell what time he might her 
lady see." 

Thereto hee promist, if she would him pleasure 
"With this small boone, to quit her with a better ; 
To weet, that whereas shee had out of measure 
Long lov'd the Fancbin who by nought did set her, 
That he would undertake for this to get her 
To be his love, and of him liked well.* 

Faunus succeeded, by the help of the nymph, but 
was caught in the very act by the goddess and her 
attendants ; and being closely questioned as to who 
had led him there, he confessed in his fright that it 
was Molanna. Whereupon they punished him by 
dressing him in the skin of a deer and chasing him 
with their hounds ; but he managed to escape them all. 

So they him follow'd till they weary were ; 
When, back returning to Molann' againe, 
They, by commaund'ment of Diana, there 
Her whelm' d with stones : yet Faunus, for her paine, 
Of her beloved Fanchin did obtaine, 
That her he would receive unto his bed. 
So now her waves passe through a pleasant plaiiie, 
Till with the Fanchin she herselfe do wed, 
And, both combin'd, themselves in one faire river spred. 

*Chap. vi. 


Nath'lesse Diana, full of indignation, 
Thenceforth abandoned her delicious brooke ; 
In whose sweet streame, before that bad occasion, 
So much delight to bathe her limbes she tooke : 
Ne onely her, but also quite forsooke 
All those fuire forrests about Arlo hid ; 
And all that mountaine which doth overlooke 
The richest champain that may else be rid ; 
And the faire Shure in which are thousand salmons bred. 

The Farichin, or as it is now called, the Funsheon, 
is a small river, rising in the Galty mountains, 
and flowing by Mitchelstown and Glanworth into 
the Blackwater two miles below Fermoy, after a 
course of about thirty miles. 

But no one has yet pointed out the stream that 
Spenser designated by the name Molanna. Smith 
indeed in his History of Cork attempts to do so ; but 
this careful writer must have been misled in the pre- 
sent instance by some incorrect old map, or by some 
other erroneous evidence ; for in his description of the 
source of the Funsheon and in his identification of 
the Molanna, he is quite wrong, as I shall I think be 
able to show very plainly. After the time of Smith, 
the editors of Spenser and other writers who interested 
themselves in this matter followed his (Smith's) 
authority without question or examination. 

Smith states that the Funsheon " rises in the 
county of Tipperary, in a bog a mile south of the 
mountains called Galtys. Not far from its source 
(he says) it receives a brook called the Brackbawn, 
which divides the county of Limerick from Tipperary 
and rises in the Galty mountains."* And in a note 

* Hist, of Cork, ii. 266. 


at the foot of the page he states that the Brackbawn 
is Spenser's Molanna. 

To anyone who has not examined the place all 
this appears satisfactory, and to fall in exactly with 
Spenser's description. But a walk of three or four miles 
along the river will at once dispel the illusion. The 
river that Smith describes as meeting the Brackbawn 
from a bog in Tipperary, and which he says is the 
Funsheon, has no existence at all. The Brackbawn, 
for the whole of its short course of four miles, forms 
the boundary line between the counties of Tipperary 
and Limerick ; and it so happens that there is no 
stream joining it from the Tipperary side. On that 
side, the fall of ground lies the other way, and all 
the rivulets flow eastward towards the basin of the 
Suir. The Brackbawn is in fact the source or head- 
water of the Funsheon : it is the main stream the 
Funsheon itself though it is called the Brackbawn 
(and sometimes the Attycraan) for the first four miles 
of its course, and the Funsheon from that down. 
I have said that the Brackbawn is the main stream : 
I should have said, rather, that it is the only stream; 
for from the point high up in the mountains where 
the Brackbawn is formed by the junction of two 
streams, down to where it begins to be called the 
Funsheon, it receives no tributary at all, either from 
the Tipperary or from the Limerick side. 

As the Brackbawn is the Funsheon it cannot be 
th Molanna, as Smith and his followers assert; 
for the context of the poem shows clearly that 
the Molanna and the Funsheon are two different 
streams, and that the Molanna is a tributary of the 


It is evident that Spenser was well acquainted 
with all this neighbourhood. It forms part of 
" Armulla Dale," the valley he himself lived in; 
it is only about sixteen miles from Kilcolman 
within view in fact of the castle windows ; and he 
describes the rivers with such exactness and detail, 
and his descriptions are so correct, that it is 
impossible to avoid believing that he explored 
the place himself and wrote from personal know- 

Although I knew this locality many years ago 
very intimately, I visited it from Dublin on a 
pleasant day of last June (1877), to examine the 
rivers and to judge for myself. I walked along the 
streams up into the heart of the Galty mountains ; 
and anyone who performs the same pleasant 
pilgrimage, with the poet's description in his mind, 
and who looks about him with ordinary attention, 
will identify the Molanna without the least difficulty. 
There is in fact no choice. The whole context of 
the poem indicates that the Molanna flows from the 
slopes of Arlo-hill. There are only two streams of 
any consequence flowing into the Funsheon valley 
from the Galtys. One of these is the Funsheon 
itself, or the Brackbawn, which, as I have already 
observed, forms for some distance the boundary 
between Limerick and Tipperary. Its source is high 
up among the mountains, about a quarter of a mile 
east of the summit of Galtymore ; and it flows from 
several springs along the glen, one on the boundary 
line of the counties, others on the Limerick side, but 
none, as far as I could see, on the east or Tipperary 


The other stream is the Behanna,* which rises 
in * Arlo-hill,' a little to the west of the summit of 
Galtymore, and after a course of about four miles, 
joins the Funsheon at the hamlet of Kilbeheny. 
This is the Molanna. We have, as I have said, no 
choice in the matter ; there is no stream but the 
Behanna flowing from the Galtys into the Funsheon, 
except mere tiny brooklets that could not claim a 
moment's consideration ; and in every respect it 
answers the poet's description of the Molanna. It is 
formed by the junction of two streams far up in the 
mountains, each flowing through a deep glen, with a 
high hill (Knocknadarriff or the hill of the bulls) 
jutting out boldly between them. The eastern 
branch is named Carrigeen (little rock) from a rock 
extending along the side of the glen through which 
it flows, which is also often' called Doocarrig or 
black rock. The other or western branch is called 
Coolatinny (the recess of the fox), or more commonly 
the Pigeon Rock stream. Rising over the side 
of the western glen is a great precipice called 
Carrignagloor, or the rock of the pigeons, which 
gives the name of Pigeon Rock to the stream. 

Each stream has its own rock towering up on the 
side of its glen ; and this is obviously what the poet 
had in his mind when he described the Molanna as 
" springing from two marble rocks." The " grove of 
oakes high mounted " over the double source is 
gone indeed ; but so are the dense woods that once 

* It is now called Beheena by the natives ; but a generation 
ago it was called Behanna, and this is the name perpetuated on 
the Ordnance maps. 


clothed the Galtys " all those faire forrests about 
Arlo hid " for which these mountains were noted 
in times not very remote. When you look from a 
point on the Behanna, a little below the junction of 
the two head streams, upwards into the two rocky 
glens winding into the heart of the mountains, you 
can hardly help believing that in Spenser's time the 
grove of oaks that so struck his fancy crowned the 
summit of Knocknadarriff, which rises abrupt and 
bare between the two streams to a height of 2,000 
feet straight before you. 

The " many woods and shady coverts " that 
crowned the silver channel of the Molanna three 
hundred years ago are also gone ; but down to a very 
recent period a wood extended along both sides of 
the river for about a mile below the junction of the 
two tributary streams. This was called Coolattin 
wood, and was a modern plantation ; but it was 
doubtless the successor of a forest of ancient growth. 
Coolattin wood was cut down seven or eight years 
ago, but abundant vestiges of it still remain roots 
and stumps of trees, and an occasional undergrowth 
of oak, ash, hazel, and birch. 

After tumbling down from its mountain channel, 
the Behanna emerges sharply on the plain, through 
which it winds gently for the last mile of its 
course, among level meadows and cornfields, till it 
joins the Funsheon near the bridge of Kilbeheny; 
thus corresponding exactly with the words of the poet : 

So now her waves passe through a pleasant plaine, 
Till with the Fanchin she herselfe do wed, 
And, both eombin'd, themselves in one faire river spred. 

The stream is very steep *in the first part of its 


course ; and the winter torrents have in the course 
of ages rolled down vast quantities of large stones 
and gravel and deposited them in the level part of 
its bed. The people indeed often conie specially 
to the river during heavy floods to listen to the 
great noise made by the stones as they are rolled 
down by the torrent, tearing crashing and grind- 
ing against each other. The poet has figured this 
feature of the river bed under a thin veil, in the 
passage where he tells us that the nymphs at the 
command of Diana overwhelmed Molanna with 
stones. So that here as elsewhere his accurate 
delineation of local features helps us to identify the 
stream ; and when we have succeeded in this, our 
knowledge of the place heightens our appreciation 
of his beautiful allegory. He is no less truthful when 
he writes : 

But this Molanna, were she not so shole [shallow], 
"Were no lesse faire and beautif nil then shee [i.e. than the 

Mulla] : 
Yet ai she is a fairer flood may no man see. 

For the Behanna never becomes deep and slow in its 
movement like the Mulla, but flows brightly and 
quickly along, winding and dashing among the 
stones that everywhere strew its bed, and showing 
all along the clean gravel at the bottom. And as 
to beauty, I question whether the poet was not 
prejudiced in favour of his own beloved Mulla, when 
he pronounced it superior to Molanna ; for even 
though "so shole," the Molanna is a very lovely 

In the early part of its course, the river forms 


many crystal pools, each under a little rocky cascade ; 
and it was in these that 

Diana used oft, 

After her sweatie chace and toilsome play, 
To bathe herselfe. 

When I was walking along the stream on a sultry 
evening in June, I could not help thinking how 
delicious it would be to imitate the goddess. 

As "Molanna'' is a fictitious name, it may 
naturally be asked what was the circumstance that 
suggested it to the poet's mind ; for the reader will 
have observed that all Spenser's fictitious names 
were adopted from some local features; and the 
origin of this name appears quite clear. The poet 
tells us that Molanna was " sister unto Mulla faire 
and bright;" for both were daughters of "old 
Father Mole," and according to the poet's fancy 
took their names from him. But the latter part of 
the name Molanna, I think it very obvious, was 
suggested to Spenser partly by the native name 
Behanna, and partly also perhaps by the fact that on 
the eastern bank of the stream there is a small lake 
giving name to a townland, called to this day 
L ough - an - anna . 

I am persuaded that the idea of making Arlo-hill 
the scene of these gatherings of the gods was sug- 
gested to Spenser by the native legends. For in 
times of old, in the shadowy days of Irish romance, 
this hill was very famous ; it was the resort of fairies 
and enchanters, of gods and goddesses, though these 
last were not the same as those recorded by 
Spenser ; and many stories of their strange doings 


are still preserved in our old manuscript books, 
especially in one called " The Book of Ballymote." 

It was here, near the summit of the hill, that 
Cliach the youthful harper of Connaught sat for a 
whole year, pleading his love for the Princess Baina 
the daughter of the Dedannan fairy king Bove Derg. 
But although he played on two harps at the same 
time, he was not able by the spells of his fairy music 
to open the gates of the palace, for the magical 
power of the king was an overmatch for him : 
neither did he succeed in winning the love of the 
princess, whose heart remained hardened against 
him to the last. So that the earth at length taking 
pity on his sorrows, opened up under his feet and 
received him into her bosom. And the hollow was 
immediately filled up by a lake, which remains to this 
day near the top of the hill. The legend* adds that 
"Crotta Cliach," the old name of the Galty 
mountains, was derived from this love tragedy ; for 
" Crotta Cliach " signifies, according to this account, 
the crotta or harps of Cliach, in allusion to the two 
emits or harps on which he played. 

It was here too that another fairy princess, the 
beautiful Keraber, and her train of seven score and 
ten damsels, who were bright-coloured birds one year 
and had their own shapes the next here it was in 
this very lake, that they spent their time, swimming 
about year after year while they were birds, linked 
together in couples with chains of silver. 

It is highly probable that Spenser was acquainted 
with these and other legends about Arlo-hill why 

* Which, as well as the next, is found in the Book of Ballymote. 


should he not know them as well as he knew the 
legend of Lough Melvin at the other side of Ireland ? 
they were then quite common among the peasantry, 
as indeed some of them are at the present day ; and 
we may very well suppose that he took from them the 
hint of the meeting of the gods, and of his beautiful 
episode of Diana and her nymphs. 

The story of the loves of the two rivers Bregog and 
Mulla is related in Colin Clouts come home againe ; 
and the poet introduces this little pastoral narrative 
with a particular account of his own melodious 
Mulla : 

Old father Mole (Mole hight that mountain gray 
That walls the north side of Armulla dale ;) 
He had a daughter fresh as floure of May 
"Which gave that name unto that pleasant vale ; 
Mulla the daughter of old Mole, so hight 
The nimph, which of that water course has charge, 
That, springing out of Mole, doth run downe right 
To Buttevant, where spreading forth at large, 
It giveth name unto that auncient Cittie, 
Which Kilnemullah cleped [named] is of old. 

The little river Mulla, which he elsewhere speaks of 
as " Mulla mine whose waves I whilom taught to 
weep," flows by Buttevant and Doneraile, passing 
through the district once held by Spenser, within a 
short distance of Kilcolman Castle, and after a gentle 
winding course of about twenty-five miles it joins the 
Blackwater half-way between Mallow and Fermoy. 
The name Mulla, which Spenser took such delight in, 
is not, and never was, the name of the river ; but 
the poet used it, as elsewhere he used Arlo, in pre- 
ference to the true name, on account of its musical 


sound. Its proper name is Awbeg, little river ; and 
it was so called to distinguish it from the Avonmore 
(great river) or Blackwater. 

The poet got the name Mulla much in the same 
way as he got " balefull Oure " ;* he borrowed it 
from Kilnemullah, which as he truly states was the 
old name of Buttevant. The river grows very wide, 
" spreading forth at large," at Buttevant, forming 
a kind of elongated lake ; and he assumed that its 
own proper name was Mulla, and that it gave name to 
Kilnemullah " it giveth name unto that auncient 
Cittie"f it was enough for him that it looked 
plausible ; and having got the .name Mulla, he used 
it ever after for the river, and loved it and multiplied 
it in every direction. Its first reproduction is in " Old 
Father Mole, "the fanciful name of the range of hills 
already noticed, father of the nymph Mulla, who, 
following up, or rather reversing, the fiction, took her 
name from her grey old sire, as did also her sister 
nymph Molanna ; and lastly, the name Armulla had 
a like origin, for Mulla "[gave that name unto that 
pleasant vale." 

[Mulla] lov'd and was beloved full faine 
Of her owne brother river, Bregog hight, 
So hight because of this deceitfull traine 
Which he with Mulla wrought to win delight. 

* See p. 91. 

t As if it were the kill or church of Mulla. But this is not 
correct, for the old name is Cill-na-mullach, ecclesia tumulorwn, 
as 0' Sullivan Beare translates it, " the church of the summits or 
hillocks." The present name Buttevant is believed to be 
derived from Boutez-en-avant, a French phrase, meaning " push 
forward," the motto of the Barry more family. 


But her old sire more carefull of her good, 
And meaning her much better to preferre, 
Did thinke to match her with the neighbour flood, 
Which Allo hight, Broad water [the Blackwater] 
called farre. 

And in fact the day was fixed for the marriage ; but 
Bregog was determined to have Mulla for himself, 
and the nymph secretly favoured his advances. The 
old father, " sitting still on hie," kept a close watch 
on the lovers ; but Bregog was too clever for him and 
circumvented him in the end. For the rest we must 
let Colin Clout tell the story in his own delightful 

Her father, sitting still on hie, 
Did warily still watch which way she went, 
And eke from far observ'd with iealous eie 
Which way his course the wanton Bregog bent ; 
Him to deceive, for all his watchfull ward, 
Thy wily lover did devise this slight : 
First into many parts his stream he shar'd 
That, whilest the one was watcht the other might 
Passe unespide to meete her by the way ; 
And then besides those little streames so broken 
He under ground so closely did convay, 
That of their passage doth appeare no token 
Till they into the Mullaes water slide. 
So secretly did he his love enioy : 
Yet not so secret but it was descride, 
And told her father by a shepheard's boy, 
Who, wondrous wroth for that so foule despight, 
In great revenge did roll down from his hill 
Huge mighty stones the which encombcr might 
His passage, and his water courses spill. 
So of a River which he was of old, 
He none was made, but scattred all to nought ; 
And lost emong those rocks into him rold, 
Did lose his name : so deare his love he bought. 


The little river Bregoge is still well known by the 
same name. It rises in two deep glens on Corrin- 
more Hill, one of the Ballyhoura range, and flowing 
near Kilcolman Castle, it joins the Awbeg or Mulla 
at the town of Doneraile after a course of about five 
miles. This river is described by the poet in his 
fanciful sketch with great truthfulness. After leaving 
the hills it traverses the plain before its junction 
with the Awbeg ; and for some distance after 
emerging from its mountain home its channel is 
often very wide, and filled with heaps of gravel and 
stones brought down by the floods, so that the stream, 
which is generally very small and often nearly dry, 
is much scattered and interrupted; and we may 
assume that it was still more so in Spenser's time, 
before the bed was shut in by cultivation. These are 
the stones rolled down by Old Father Mole in his 
" great revenge." 

In the lower part of its course, the river traverses 
a limestone plain, winding along a lovely little glen 
among rich meadows interspersed with groves and 
shrubberies and grey limestone rocks, sometimes 
rising high up on either bank and sometimes just 
peeping out from among the foliage. Two or three 
times, from " Streamhill," where the two principal 
feeders meet, down to " Old Court "a distance of 
about two miles the river sinks out of sight and flows 
underground for a considerable distance through the 
caverns of the limestone rock under its bed, leaving its 
channel completely dry. It presents this appearance 
always except in wet weather or during a flood, when 
the underground caverns are not able to swallow all 
the water, and the stream then flows continuously. 


With this peculiarity Spenser was thoroughly well 
acquainted, as he describes it with great correctness : 

Those little streames so broken 
He [Bregog] under ground so closely did convay, 
That of their passage doth appeare no token 
Till they into the Mullaes water slide. 

The poet called this little river by its true name, 
which is not very musical, instead of inventing or 
borrowing one as he did in so many other cases ; for 
it so happened that he was able to turn its significa- 
tion to account if indeed, as is probable, the name 
did not suggest the treatment in working out his 
pretty pastoral, " Bregog," meaning, as he rightly 
interprets it, a false one or a deceiver. 

So hight because of this deceitf ull traine, 
Which he with Mulla wrought to win delight. 

It may not be amiss to say a word here regarding 
this name and its signification, though in doing so 
we shall have to descend from the airy world of fancy 
to the solid level ground of sober reality. Breg is an 
Irish word meaning a falsehood, and in various forms 
it is applied to rivers that are subject to sudden and 
dangerous floods or which flow through deep quag- 
mires ; signifying, in this application, deceitful or 
treacherous. There is for instance a stream called 
Breagagh near the city of Kilkenny, and another near 
Thurles in Tipperary. And Trawbreaga Bay at 
Malin in the north of Donegal is so called (Traw- 
breaga meaning the strand of falsehood or treachery) 
because the tide rises there so suddenly that it has 
often swept away people walking incautiously on the 


Spenser's Bregog is formed by the junction of four 
mountain rivulets all of about the same length, and 
meeting nearly at the same point, whence the united 
stream flows on to the Awbeg. These rivulets carry 
little water in dry weather, but whenever a heavy 
and continuous shower falls on the hills, four moun- 
tain floods rush down simultaneously and meet 
together nearly at the same instant, swelling the 
little river in a few moments to a furious and dan- 
gerous torrent. All this is quite well understood 
in the neighbourhood. An intelligent man living near 
the river told me that it was the most " roguish " 
river in the world ; for when you least expected it, 
and when the stream looked perfectly quiet and gentle, 
the flood would rise in a quarter of an hour to a 
height of seven or eight feet, rushing down " all 
abreast," as he expressed it. I may add that the 
word " roguish " gives exactly the sense of the Irish 
name " Bregoge." 

The following are the identifications established in 
the preceding paper. Many of them are of course 
obvious : but many others are not so, and have been 
brought forward and proved here for the first time : 

"Liffy"; the River Liffey in Wicklow, Kildare, 

and Dublin (p. 75). 
" Sandy Slane " ; the Slaney, flowing into the sea a 

Wexford (p. 75). 
[" Stony Aubrian " ; the only one of all Spenser's 

Irish rivers not identified (p. 93).] 


" Spacious Shenan " ; the Shannon (p. 76). 

" Pleasant Boyne " ; the Boyne flowing into the sea 

at Drogheda (p. 76). 

"Fishy fruitful! Ban " ; the Bann in Ulster (p. 76). 
" Swift Awniduff which of the English man is cal'de 

Blacke-water " ; the Ulster Blackwater flowing 

into Lough Neagh : not the Munster Blackwater 

(pp. 80 to 86). 
" Liffar deep " ; the Foyle at Lifford in Donegal 

(P. 77). 
" Sad Trowis " ; the little river Drowes between the 

counties of Donegal and Leitrini (pp. 77 to 80). 
" Strong Allo " ; the great Munster Blackwater : not 

the present little river Allo (pp, 80 to 85). 
" Mulla mine " ; the Awbeg flowing by Buttevant 

and Doneraile in Cork (pp. 80 to 108). 
" That great Gyant Blomius " ; the Slieve Bloom 

Mountains (pp. 74, 86, 87 to 89). 
" Gentle Shure " ; the Snir in Munster (pp. 86, 87). 
" Stubborne Newre"; the Nore, joining the Suir 

(pp. 86, 87). 

11 Rosseponte " ; New Ross in Wexford (p. 87). 
" Goodly Barow " ; the Barrow, joining the Suir 

(pp. 86, 87). 
" Wide embayed May re " ; Kenmare river and bay in 

Kerry (p. 89). 
" Pleasant Bandon " ; the river flowing by Bandon 

in Cork (p. 89). 
*' Spreading Lee"; the Lee flowing through Cork 

(p. 90). 
" Balefull Oure " ; the Avonbeg in the county 

Wicklow (pp. 90 to 93). 


"Arlo Hill"; Galtymore, the highest peak of the 

Galty Mountains (pp. 94 to 96). 
" Mole " -" My old father Mole"; the whole 

range of mountains beginning at Charleville and 

Buttevant in Cork, and ending at Caher in 

Tipperary, including the Ballyhoura and the 

Galty Mountains (pp. 94 to 96). 
" Armulla dale " ; the valley through which the 

Munster Blackwater flows (p. 96}. 
" Fanchin " ; the river Funsheon flowing by 

Mitchelstown into the Blackwater near Fermoy 

(p. 99). 
" Molanna " ; the little river Behanna or Beheena, 

a stream rising high up on Galtymore and 

joining the Funsheon at the hamlet of Kilbe- 

henny, 8 miles from Mitchelstown (pp. 98 to 105). 
Kilnemullah or Kilnamullagh ; Buttevant in Cork 

(pp. 107, 108). 
Bregog ; a little stream (the Bregoge) rising on 

Corrinmore hill and flowing near Kilcolman . 

joins the Awbeg or Mulla at Doneraile (pp. 108 

to 112). 




IN early youth I was a diligent student of English 
style ; and in order to select or form a style for 
myself I read the best authors : Addison, Steele, 
Swift, Johnson, Goldsmith, &c. I wrote the follow- 
ing little story at intervals while reading Rasselas ; 
and now after a lapse of more than sixty years, I am 
greatly amused to observe in it a palpable reflection of 
Johnson's symmetrical style and balanced sentences. 
Johnson dazzled me for a time especially in Rasselas ; 
but I soon found out that he is not a desirable model 
to follow so far as style is concerned and I gave up 
imitating him. In the end indeed though after much 
time and labour which I think were not wasted I 
ceased to imitate anyone, and struck out for myself. 

For fifty years I have worked on this plan. My 
constant endeavour has been to write pure English 
simple and direct and easy to understand ; so that a 
person reading with ordinary attention picks up the 
sense with ease as he goes along. 

When reading any book, if you have to turn back 
often in order to catch up the drift, be sure there is 
something faulty in the style. Let the young writer 
avoid big, or learned, or unusual words, and long 
sentences. Above all let him avoid so far as 


possible these two hateful words former and latter, 
which are always irritating to a reader, as he has to 
cast his eyes back sometimes even four or five 
lines or more to see which is which. And even 
this often leaves him in doubt on account of the 
clumsy construction of the sentence : which is the 
breaking point of patience. 

[We have in our old manuscript books a very ancient 
legend that King Tiernmas, who reigned many 
centuries before the Christian era, and a multitude 
of his people along with him, were destroyed in some 
mysterious way while worshipping the great pillar- 
stone idol Cromm Cru on the eve of Samain (Samain 
being the 1st November). This idol god stood on the 
plain of Magh iSlecht in the present County Cavan ; 
and of him and his worship an account will be found 
in my Smaller Social Hist, of Anc. Irel., p. 118. 
The following short story is merely an expansion of 
the legend. I wrote it at a period of my life when 
I had more enthusiasm than knowledge ; so that 
I will not answer for the accuracy of all the details 
given here of the pagan observances. That may 
be easily remedied however by a glance through 
the chapter on Paganism in the book mentioned 

A HUNDRED years had elapsed since the two sons of 
Milesius Heber and Heremon reigned over that 
green island which they had wrested from the magic- 
skilled De Dannans, when the monarch Tiernraas 


ascended the throne. His ancestors had migrated 
from Scythia, their original home, and for several 
ages, under the guidance of many celebrated chieftains, 
they wandered restlessly from land to land. Egypt 
was their home for a hundred years ; and during 
their residence there they received and adopted the 
Jewish faith from Moses and other patriarchs. In 
their subsequent wanderings in search of that green 
Island of Destiny lying far west, as their final 
resting place, to which they were directed by the 
prophetic visions of a seer, the purity of their adopted 
faith became in some degree sullied by the mixture 
of Pagan superstitions ; and though they still pre- 
served the most important parts of the Jewish belief, 
they frequently bestowed their intense and excessive 
admiration on those created things that best mirrored 
their conceptions of the Deity. Their reverence for 
the glorious sun and silent moon approached by 
imperceptible degrees dangerously near adoration, 
and the sublime though material form of Druidism 
was gradually developed. The form of the Jewish 
worship was still adhered to, and the main principles 
of the religion inculcated, for they had removed only 
a single step towards the adoption of those dark tenets 
of paganism promulgated by the Druids of later ages ; 
yet many superstitious and cruel customs had begun 
to prevail among them. Their reverence for the 
great ruling Spirit was undiminished, and they 
worshipped in their sacred groves, with heaven for 
their canopy, conceiving it derogatory to Divine 
immensity to be confined to the walls of a temple ; 
but their cromlechs of unhewn stone, erected after 
the model of the Jewish altars, occasionally smoked 


with the blood of human sacrifices.* This was the 
aspect of their religious creed when under Heber and 
Heremon they conquered the De Dannans and took 
possession of Inisfail. 

The venerable Connla the Sage held the honourable 
office of high priest for many years before the acces- 
sion of Tiernmas. He was a man deeply versed in 
the historic and speculative learning of those primi- 
tive times ; he not only zealously promulgated the 
precepts of religion, but exhibited the best example 
of their observance by a blameless life ; and the 
influence which his stainless character and profound 
learning gave him he employed in checking with a 
fearless hand the growing corruption and idolatrous 
tendencies of the priests. Under his vigilant super- 
intendence, a reformation was effected in the national 
faith, and it once more approached in purity and 
simplicity the doctrines delivered to his ancestors by 
the Hebrew legislator. 

The nation had steadily advanced in prosperity 
since the establishment of the Milesian monarchy, 
and Tiernmas ascended the throne of his fathers, the 
most potent monarch that ever yet was acknowledged 
by the mysterious sounds of the stone of destiny. 
(See p. 64 above.) His power as a warrior was equal 
to his wisdom as a legislator : the one was not more 
zealously employed in repressing his enemies than 
the other in framing laws and advancing the social 
condition of his subjects. He was of the line of 

*Now (1911) I do not believe that human beings were ever 
offered up to idols in Ireland : and as for cromlechs they are 
tombs, not altars. See this question examined in the Smaller 
Social History, pp. 119, 543. 


Heremon, and the Heberians of the South struggled 
long and valiantly to wrest the sceptre from him ; but 
his prudence anticipated their designs, and his valour 
crushed their efforts. Yet it was not until he proved 
victorious in twenty-seven sanguinary engagements 
that he sat on the stone of destiny, the undisputed 
monarch of Inisfail. His attention was next directed 
to the internal regulation of his kingdom, and he 
repaired the damages of civil war by the wisdom and 
equity of his administration. He distributed the 
people into classes, distinguishing them by the 
number of colours in their garments ; and to each class 
he assigned peculiar laws and privileges. Learning 
was patronised and encouraged, and its professors 
were ranked with the royal family and wore the same 
number of colours. The advancement of the arts 
kept pace with the general progress of society, and 
the discovery of a gold mine the first ever worked 
in the country added still more to the wealth of the 
monarch. Many of those antique golden ornaments, 
on which we gaze with wonder and admiration, and 
whose origin is lost in the twilight of distant ages, 
were made by the cunning hand of Ucadan, the dis- 
coverer of the mine and the chief worker in metal : 
their number and purity attest the wealth of the 
country ; and the beauty of their workmanship bears 
witness to the skill of the artificer. 

But Tiernmas with all his worldly wisdom and 
glory was a slave to the grossest superstition. During 
the early and more turbulent part of his reign, he 
seldom had either leisure or inclination to attend to 
the religious affairs of his kingdom ; but he openly 
expressed his contempt for the established religion, 


and his determination to modify it to suit his own 
conceptions, or replace it by a totally new species of 
worship. Connla the Sage beheld this with silent 
sorrow and apprehension, and his prayers continually 
ascended that the curse of idolatry might be averted 
from the nation. But his prayers avail not for the 
king has issued a proclamation ; and all his subjects 
must henceforth bend the knee to the great idol 
Cromm Cru. Many of his courtiers were willing to 
abandon a religion that repressed too severely the 
licentiousness of their lives ; others more scrupulous 
were yet afraid to avow their convictions ; and every 
vestige of the old worship was soon banished from 
the precincts of the royal residence. 

The priests were forbidden to approach the palace 
unless they consented to sacrifice to the idol : those 
whose attachment to their faith was sincere secretly 
retired with their beloved master to seek shelter and 
sympathy from those who were too virtuous to yield 
to the debasing influence of idolatry. The greater 
number however, tempted by the prospect of reward, 
threw themselves under the royal patronage, and 
consented to officiate at the altars of the idol. Many 
of them were impatient of the restraint which the 
watchful eye of Connla imposed on their conduct, 
and remembered with renewed irritation his unsparing 
censures of their vices ; some envied his virtue and 
profound learning; and all, with the exception of 
those faithful few who followed him into exile, seized 
the opportunity of secretly indulging their malice 
against him, and openly testifying their loyalty to 
the sovereign. 

At length the great festival of Samain approached 


and a royal proclamation went forth commanding 
the people to assemble on the eve of the day, and 
celebrate the festival in honour of the idol. It was to 
be a day of universal rejoicing, and the preparations 
were vast and magnificent. Nothing was neglected 
by the king that could gratify the pride of his 
courtiers, stimulate the zeal and avarice of the 
priests, or fascinate the gaze of the multitude. The 
expectations of all were raised to the highest degree, 
and every one looked forward with impatience for the 
auspicious morning. 

On the evening preceding the festival, the sounds 
of revelry rang loud and joyous through the palace ; 
for the king was surrounded by his courtiers, and 
they abandoned themselves to unrestrained festivity. 
At the upper end of the hall sat the monarch on a 
magnificent throne, and extending far down on either 
side were placed the nobles according to the order 
of rank. Beside the throne sat the royal bard, who 
proceeded by the king's command to recount the 
actions of his great ancestor Milesius. And now 
every voice was hushed, and every ear fixed in eager 
attention. The fire of enthusiasm lighted the eye of 
the son of song ; his countenance glowed with a wild 
unearthly expression ; and in that language whose 
tones are music he poured forth a flood of eloquence 
that intoxicated his listeners like the spell of a 
wizard. He sang of the hero's travels to the land 
of his fathers, Scythia, and how his courtly manners 
and gallant actions won for him tbe favour of the 
great king ; he dwelt on his arrival in Egypt, where 
the might of his arms enabled the proud Pharaoh 
to subdue the Ethiopic nations from the South, and 


how the monarch's beautiful daughter Scota became 
his wife the guerdon of his valour. He glanced from 
scene to scene of the hero's life, and enumerated and 
applauded his wanderings, his conquests, and his 
virtues ; and when he ceased, the breathless silence 
continued for a space unbroken, and his entranced 
audience yet listened as though his voice still sounded 
in their ears. A faint murmur now broke through 
the stillness, the listeners started as if from a dream, 
the murmur rapidly rose, and the first wild burst of 
uncontrolled admiration had partially rung through 
the hall, when it was suddenly hushed ; for every eye 
was fixed on a tall venerable figure that advanced 
towards the throne with slow and stately tread. 
The name of Connla the Sage involuntarily burst 
from the monarch's lips as the stranger confronted 
him. He bestowed not a single glance at the rich 
panoply that surrounded him ; the magnificently 
attired courtiers were unnoticed ; he stood unmoved 
and fearless before the king, and bent on him an 
indignant glance, before which the royal culprit for a 
moment quailed, as if those eyes pierced to the inmost 
depths of his soul. The stranger's voice at length 
broke the death-like silence. " Thou hast heard, 
king, a tale that well suits thy royal ear. Nobly 
hast thou emulated the valour of thy great ancestor ; 
why not also imitate his virtue ? The mind of the 
noble Milesius spurned the debasing trammels of 
idolatry : a deformed idol is the object of thy sense- 
less adoration. Thy wickedness has ascended to the 
throne of the Eternal, and prosperity hardens thee 
yet more in thy iniquity. But provoke not too far 
the wrath of the Almighty One. It is not yet too 


late. Kevoke, Tiernmas, thy impious purpose, and 
fill not the measure of thy iniquity by persevering in 
to-morrow's sacrifice." 

Then the king spoke ; and as he half raised him- 
self from his throne, a flush of anger lighted his 
countenance. " Foolish and presumptuous old man, 
how canst thou dare to oppose the will or dictate to 
the authority of thy king ? Thou art old and despised, 
and the consciousness of this has given thee boldness. 
But the presumption of even thine imbecile old age 
may provoke the resentment and meet with the 
punishment it deserves. Seek again thy retirement, 
and there lament, as long as it gratifies thy spleen, 
the downfall of a despised creed, and call with all 
thy might on thy imaginary God to interpose ; but 
risk not again thy safety by intruding thy reveries 
on our festivity." 

The priest still calm and unmoved replied : " 
king, thy threats fall idly on one who is weary of 
life, and would gladly seek an asylum from his toils. 
But thy wickedness thy blasphemy of the name of 
the living God shall not pass unpunished. Already 
I see the dark cloud of His wrath gathering over 
thee. Again I warn thee to desist from thy purpose ; 
but if thou persevere, beware, Tiernmas, beware 
of to-morrow ! " 

He spoke with slow and impressive solemnity and 
his eyes kindled with a lustre more than human as 
he uttered the shadowy denunciation. He turned 
round, and with the same stately tread left the hall. 

The voice of revelry was resumed, but the uncon- 
trolled gaiety of the revellers had vanished. The 
prophetic tones of the priest as he denounced divine 


vengeance seemed still to echo in their hearts, and 
a vague, shadowy presentiment of coming evil flung 
a gloom over their festivity. The king too was 
occasionally silent and thoughtful, and the spirit- 
less efforts of all to dispel the lurking sadness but 
rendered it more apparent. 

The morning of Samain Eve rose bright and 
glorious ; all nature smiled and all hearts were glad 
that the day of sacrifice came forth with such auspi- 
cious loveliness. On a low eminence situated in the 
midst of a plain (Magh Slecht) stood the future deity 
the great idol Cromm Cru a huge pillar-stone 
rudely fashioned into a hideous resemblance of the 
human form. Its head was covered with gold, and 
it exhibited a countenance of frightful deformity. 
Surrounding it in a circle stood twelve lesser atten- 
dant idols, all facing the gigantic Cromm, and each 
bearing on its own visage a distinct and peculiar 
ugliness. Within this circle and in front of the great 
idol stood the altar of sacrifice, a vast cromlech," 
inclined, so as to allow the blood of the victim a 
human victim on all important occasions to flow in 
slender streams down its face, from which the sacri- 
ficing priests augured the future destiny of the nation. 
Into this sacred enclosure it was ordained that none 
should ever pass without undergoing the bloody 
ordeal of " sanctification." The worshipper, having 
arrived within a certain distance of the circle, 
prostrated himself on his bared hands and knees, 
and in this humiliating position crawled towards the 
idol ; as he moved over the rough stones, the red 

* No : cromlechs were tombs, not altars. See note, page 1 18. 


traces of his blood should mark his pathway, and 
after this terrible trial he was permitted to enter. 
This dreadful form of worship the sufferings of 
the worshippers and the horrid custom of offering 
human sacrifices, were commemorated in the name 
which the place retained for ages after the Plain of 
Shrieking.* The whole system of worship wore the 
character of gloom, terror, and cruelty. 

Never had the Plain of Shrieking been encumbered 
with such a mass of human beings as on this festival 
of Samain Eve. Thousands poured in from every 
side, all eager to exhibit their obedience to the royal 
commands. Innumerable votaries were seen on their 
knees, struggling to reach the inner circle, at. the 
entrance of which stood two priests to admit such as 
had properly qualified themselves. Many, who from 
want of sufficient firmness or devotion failed in 
inflicting the requisite amount of self-torture, were 
rejected by the priests, and obliged to retrace their 
way and approach a second time with more decided 
marks of devotion. Scores sank exhausted under the 
trial ; the whole plain was reddened with their blood ; 
but the agonising groans and shrieks of the wretches 
were drowned in the shouts of the multitude as they 
encouraged those who wavered or congratulated those 
who succeeded. 

A low murmur now ran through the crowd all 
eyes were turned expectant in a particular direc- 
tion, and at length the chariot of the king burst on 
their view, followed by a long train of white-robed 
priests slowly wending their way towards the idol. 

* No : Magh Skcht means the "Plain of Prostrations." 


The king was seated high above the rest ; the magni- 
ficence of his attire and the majestic gravity of his 
countenance dazzled the gaze and awed the imagi- 
nations of the multitude. In front of the priests was 
borne the victim, a beautiful infant, forced according 
to the savage law instituted by the king from the 
arms of its mother, because it was the first-born of 
those children whom it was imagined her prayers 
had obtained from the god. The children thus dedi- 
cated were generally bred as priests or priestesses ; 
but the importance of this day's ceremony required an 
offering more than usually acceptable; and accord- 
ingly the condemned criminals from among whom 
the victim was on ordinary occasions chosen were 
spared, and the little innocent was doomed to pro- 
pitiate the favour of the god. The priests were 
clad in long flowing robes, and their white beards 
descended on their breasts. 

The procession advanced towards the circle amidst 
the acclamations of the multitude ; the priests en- 
tered ; and the king, descending from his chariot, 
placed himself with the high priest in front of the 
idol. The victim was placed on the altar, and on 
each side stood the two officiating priests, each hold- 
ing a knife; and ready at a given signal to complete 
the dreadful ceremony. The child, too young to be 
conscious of its situation, played with the vestments 
of the priests, or gazed laughingly at the splendour 
that surrounded her. 

And now the high priest advanced to the front of 
the altar, and placing himself on an elevated posi- 
tion, prepared to proclaim to the people the universal 
adoption of Cromm Cru as the god of the Milesian 


nation. After this proclamation, all both priests 
and people were to prostrate themselves in adora- 
tion before the idol, and the ceremony was to con- 
clude with the immolation of the victim, and the 
divination of the soothsayers. 

With a loud voice the priest repeated the procla- 
mation, and then in the name of the king commanded 
all to adore the great god Cromm Cru. The king, 
followed by the priests, knelt in adoration, and the 
vast multitude swayed to and fro in the act of 
prostrating themselves, when all was suddenly and 
fearfully interrupted. A bright flash burst from the 
bosom of a dark cloud that overhung the plain, and 
leaped among the prostrate group that surrounded 
the idol. A long intense cry of agony now rose wild 
and fearful on the ear, but was instantly lost in a 
crash that seemed to rend the firmament. Heaven 
was up and in arms, and a fearful retribution followed 
the dark deed of idolatry. Flash after flash darted 
down, and sprang fiercely, as eager for prey, among 
the multitude, but their wild shrieks of terror, and 
the groans of the dying, were only heard in the 
intervals of the thunder's roar. Hundreds, urged 
by the impulse of self-preservation, and maddened 
with the energy of despair, rushed blindly in all 
directions, overturning those that lay in their path 
and trampling on the bodies of their dead and dying 
friends. Still the lightning continued to rage with 
unabated fury, and numbers fell withered and blasted 
to the earth at each merciless explosion. The mad 
struggles of the crowd became at last more faint, 
and the despairing cries more scattered and broken ; 
the roar of the thunder gradually subsided ; and at 
length all was hushed in silence. The work of ven- 


geance was accomplished, and the plain of shrieking, 
on which an hour before so many thousands had 
exulted in the pride of their strength, now lay one 
wide extent of unbroken stillness. 

Within the circle not one escaped the arm of 
vengeance ; the body of the king lay at the foot of 
the image, his hands still clasped as if in supplica- 
tion; around him were strewn promiscuously the 
priests, many of them retaining the wild despairing 
gestures in which they died ; and the hideous idol 
reared its gigantic form over the plain, and looked 
like a malignant demon glaring with horrid satis- 
faction at the carnage by which he was surrounded. 
Those among the people who had escaped the rage of 
the lightning fled in terror, and now no symptom of 
life disturbed the reign of silence. 

A grove of trees stood at a short distance from the 
idol. From amongst these a woman suddenly emerged, 
and rushed with eager haste towards the circle. Her 
hair streamed wildly behind her as she fled ; her 
countenance was haggard with anxious breathless 
expectation ; and her straining gaze was riveted on 
the altar. Regardless of the scene of horror that 
surrounded her, she flew with frantic speed towards 
the idol ; she entered the circle with trembling 
anxiety; and the next moment uttered a wild cry 
of delight as she clasped her living babe in her arms. 

The Plain of Shrieking* is still shown, where for 
many ages the idol Cromm Cru was worshipped ; and 
the fate of Tiernmas, the first idolater king of Inisfail, 
is still remembered in the shadowy traditions of the 

* The " Plain of Prostrations." 



OF all the different kinds of goblins that haunted the 
lonely places of Ireland in days of old, air-demons 
were most dreaded by the people. They lived among 
clouds and mists and rocks, and they hated the human 
race with the utmost malignity. In those times 
lived in the north of Desmond (the present county 
of Cork) a man. named Fergus O'Mara. His farm 
lay on the southern slope of the Ballyhoura Mountains, 
along which ran the open road that led to his house. 
This road was not shut in by walls or fences ; but on 
both sides there were scattered trees and bushes that 
sheltered it in winter, and made it dark and gloomy 
when you approached the house at night. Beside the 
road, a little way off from the house, there was a spot 
that had an evil name all over the country, a little hill 
covered closely with copsewood, with a great craggy 
rock on top, from which, on stormy nights, strange 
and fearful sounds had often been heard shrill voices 
and screams mingled with loud fiendish laughter ; 
and the people believed that it was the haunt of air- 
demons. In some way it had become known that 
these demons had an eye on Fergus, and watched for 
every opportunity to get him into their power. He 
had himself been warned of this many years before, 
by an old monk from the neighbouring monastery of 

'Reprinted from " Good and Pleasant Reading": Dublin, 
M. H. Gill & Son : 1886. This is an expansion by me of a very 
pretty legend current in Limerick seventy or eighty years ago. 


Buttevant, who told him moreover that so long as he 
led a blameless upright life he need have no fear of 
the demons ; but that if ever he yielded to temptation 
or fell into any great sin, then would come the oppor- 
tunity for which they were watching day and night. 
He never forgot this warning, and he was very careful 
to keep himself straight, both because be was naturally 
a good man, and for fear of the air-demons. 

Some time before the occurrence about to be 
related, one of Fergus's children, a sweet little girl 
about seven years of age, fell ill and died. The little 
thing gradually wasted away, but suffered no pain ; 
and as she grew weaker she became more loving and 
gentle than ever, and talked in* a wonderful way, quite 
beyond her years, of the bright land she was going 
to. One thing she was particularly anxious about, 
that when she was dying they should let her hold a 
blessed candle in her hand.* They thought it very 
strange that she should be so continually thinking 
and talking of this ; and over and over again she made 
her father and mother promise that it should be done. 
And with the blessed candle in her hand she died so 
calmly and sweetly that those round her bed could 
not tell the exact moment. 

About a year after this, on a bright Sunday morning 
in October, Fergus set out for Mass. The place was 
about three miles away, and it was not a chapel, but 
a lonely old fort, called to this day Lissanaffrin, the 

* It was a usual practice to place a candle that had been 
blessed by the priest in the right hand of a dying person, and to 
help the poor hand to hold it when the grasp was relaxing in 
death. When I was a boy I saw a near relation of mine dying 
in this manner, which awed and frightened me beyond measure. 


fort of the Mass. A rude stone altar stood at one 
side near the mound of the fort, under a little shed 
that sheltered the priest also ; and the congregation 
worshipped in the open air on the green plot in the 
centre. For in those days there were many places 
that had no chapels, as the Penal Laws prohibited the 
celebration of Mass ; and the people flocked to those 
open-air Masses as faithfully as we do now to our 
comfortable stately chapels. The family had gone 
on before, the men walking and ijie women and 
children riding ; and Fergus set out to walk alone. 

Just as he approached the Demons' Rock, he was 
greatly surprised to hear the eager yelping of dogs ; 
and in a moment a great deer bounded from the 
covert beside the rock, with three hounds after her in 
full chase. No man in the whole country round 
loved a good chase better than Fergus, or had a 
swifter foot to follow, and without a moment's hesita- 
tion he started in pursuit. But in a few minutes he 
stopped up short ; for he bethought him of the Mass, 
and he knew there was little time for delay. While 
he stood wavering, the deer seemed to slacken her 
pace, and the hounds gained on her, and in a moment 
Fergus dashed off at full speed, forgetting Mass and 
everything else in his eagerness for the sport. But it 
turned out a long and weary chase. Sometimes they 
slackened, and he was almost at the hounds' tails, 
but the next moment both deer and hounds started 
forward and left him far behind. Sometimes they 
were full in view, and again they were out of sight 
in thickets and deep glens, so that he couid guide 
himself only by the cry of the hounds. In this way 
he was decoyed across hills and glens, but instead 



of gaining ground he found himself rather falling 

Mass was all over and the people dispersed to their 
homes, and all wondered that they did not see Fergus ; 
for no one could remember that he was ever absent 
before. His wife returned, expecting to find him at 
home ; but when she arrived there was trouble in her 
heart, for there were no tidings of him, and no one 
had seen him since he had set out for Mass in the 

Meantime Fergus followed up the chase till he was 
wearied out ; and at last, just on the edge of a wild 
moor, both deer and hounds disappeared behind a 
shoulder of rock, and he lost them altogether. At 
the same moment the cry of the hounds became 
changed to frightful shrieks and laughter, such as he 
had heard more than once from the Demons' Bock. 
And now, sitting down on a bank to rest, he had full 
time to reflect on what he had done, and he was 
overwhelmed with remorse and shame. Moreover, 
his heart sank within him, thinking of the last sounds 
he had heard ; for he believed that he had been allured 
from Mass by the cunning wiles of the demons, and 
he feared that the dangerous time had come, foretold 
by the monk. He started up and set out for his 
home, hoping to reach it before night. But before 
he had got half-way, night fell, and a storm came on, 
great wind and rain, and bursts of thunder and 
lightning. Fergus was strong and active however 
and knew every turn of the mountain, and he made 
his way through the storm till he approached the 
Demons' Rock. 

Suddenly there burst on his ears the very same 


sounds that he had heard on losing sight of the 
chase shouts and shrieks and laughter. A great 
black ragged cloud, whirling round and round with 
furious gusts of wind, burst from the rock and came 
sweeping and tearing towards him. Crossing himself 
in terror and uttering a short prayer, he rushed for 
home. But the whirlwind swept nearer and nearer, 
till at last, in a sort of faint shadowy light, he saw 
the black cloud full of dimly defined frightful faces, 
all glaring straight at him, and coming closer and 

At this moment a small bright light dropped down 
from the sky and rested in front of the cloud ; and 
when he looked closely he saw his little child floating 
in the air between him and the demons, holding a 
lighted candle in her hand. And although the storm 
was raging and roaring all round, she was quite 
calm not a breath of air stirred her long yellow 
hair and the candle burned quietly. Even in the 
midst of all his terror he could observe her pale gentle 
face and blue eyes just as when she was alive, not 
showing traces of sickness or sadness now, but lighted 
up with joy. The demons seemed to start back from 
the light, and with great uproar rushed round to the 
other side of Fergus, the black cloud still moving 
with them and wrapping them up in its ragged folds ; 
but the little angel floated softly round with the light 
in her hand, still keeping between them and her 
father. Fergus ran on for home, and the cloud of 
demons still kept furiously whirling round and round 
him, bringing with them a whirlwind that roared 
among the trees and bushes and tore them from the 
roots ; but still the child, always holding the candle 


towards them, kept floating calmly round and shielded 

At length he arrived at his house ; the door lay 
half-open, for the family were inside expecting him 
home, listening with wonder and affright to the 
approaching noises ; and he bounded in through the 
doorway and fell flat on his face. That instant the 
door though no one was near was shut violently, 
and the bolts were shot home. They hurried anxiously 
round him to lift him up, but found him in a death- 
like swoon. Meantime the uproar outside became 
greater than ever; round and round the house it 
tore, a roaring whirlwind with shouts and yells of 
rage, and great trampling, as if there was a whole 
company of horsemen. At length however the 
noises seemed to move away farther and farther off 
from the house, and gradually died out in the 
distance. At the same time the storm ceased, and 
the night became calm and beautiful. 

The daylight was shining in through the windows 
when Fergus recovered from his swoon, and then he 
told his fearful story ; but many days passed over 
before he had quite recovered from the horrors of 
that night. When the family came forth in the 
morning there was fearful waste all round and near 
the house, trees and bushes torn from the roots, and 
the ground all trampled and torn up. After this the 
revelry of the demons was never again heard from 
the rock ; and it was believed that they had left it 
and betaken themselves to some other haunt. 

But if Fergus no longer feared the demons of the 
rock he thought to himself that there were other 
demons, noiseless indeed, but quite as dangerous, 


who were quietly watching their opportunity to 
tempt him from his duty and get him into their 
power. And from that time forth he was more 
watchful than ever to keep himself on the straight 
path. Above all, he was so fearful of losing Mass 
that he never could be persuaded to wait for his 
family, but was always seen striding vigorously along 
the mountain path that led to Lissanaffrin, even 
before the rest of the congregation had started from 
their homes. 



IT is commonly understood that the religion of the 
pagan Irish was druidism. But we are very much 
in the dark as to the doctrines and ceremonials of 
this druidic religion ; for as it was practised in 
Ireland it differed very much from the druidism of 
Gaul and Britain, which has been described in detail 
by Caesar and other Latin writers. Indeed so far as 
our knowledge of Irish druidism goes it could hardly 
be called a connected religion at all. It was taught by 
druids, who figure conspicuously in the oldest Irish 
traditions. They were the learned men of the time 
and were commonly employed to teach the children of 
kings and chiefs. 

Many worshipped idols of some kind. Some 
worshipped water ; and we read of one druid, of the 
time of St. Patrick, who considered water as a god of 
goodness and fire an evil genius, so that he got 
himself buried deep under his favourite well called 
slaun to keep his bones cool from the fire that he 
dreaded. Slaun means healing] and we are told that 
the people offered gifts to this well as to a god. Both 
druids and people also worshipped the shee or fairies 
who were believed to live in bright palaces under 

* We Irish people commonly speak in one breath of our 
Three Patron Saints ; and in accordance with this custom I 
hring together here the following three short Memoirs to form 
one little company hy themselves. They are reprinted with 
some additions and alterations from others of my books ; for I 
wish to spread as widely as possible the knowledge of Patrick, 
Brigit, and Columkille. 


elf -mounds or fairy hills (see my " Smaller Soc. Hist, 
of Anc. Ireland," p. 105). 

The druids could scarcely be called priests: but 
they were skilled in magic indeed they figure more 
conspicuously as magicians than in any other capacity ; 
so that by some writers the Irish word drui (druid) 
is translated " wizard "; and they were believed to be 
possessed of tremendous preternatural powers. They 
wore a white magic tunic, and when working their 
spells they chanted an incantation. In some of the 
old historical romances we find the issues of battles 
sometimes determined not so much by the valour of 
the combatants as by the magical power of the druids 
attached to the armies. They could as the legends 
tell raise druidical clouds and mists and bring down 
showers of snow, of fire, of blood ; they could drive 
a man insane or into idiocy by flinging in his face 
a wisp of straw into which some hellish incantations 
had been breathed ; and many other instances of this 
necromantic power could be cited. In the hymn that 
St. Patrick chanted on his way to Tara on Easter 
Sunday morning (see p. 147, below) he asks God to 
protect him against the spells of smiths, of druids, 
and of druidesses. They were skilful in divination 
and foretold future events from dreams and visions, 
from sneezing and casting lots, from the croaking of 
ravens and the chirping of wrens. King Dathi's 
druids forecasted the issue of his military expeditions 
by observations of the stars and clouds from the 
summit of a hill. In their divination they used a 
rod of yew with Ogham* words cut on it. The druids 

* For Ogham writing see my " Smaller Soc. Hist, of Anc. 
Ireland," p. 169. 


were a powerful and influential class, and were 
bitterly opposed to Christianity; so that they gave 
great trouble to St. Patrick and to his successors for 
more than a century, till they finally died out, and 
with them their paganism.* 

Readers of our early history know that there were 
Christians in Ireland before the time of St. Patrick ; 
and they must have grown to be pretty numerous by 
the beginning of the fifth century : for in the year 
481, as we are told by a writer St. Prosper of 
Aquitaine, who lived at the time Pope Celestine 
sent Palladius " to the Scots believing in Christ to 
be their first bishop." They probably got their 
Christianity from intercourse with the people of 
Britain. Nevertheless the great body of the Irish 
were at this time pagans ; but Palladius was not the 
man destined for their conversion. He landed on 
the coast of Wicklow; but after a short sojourn, 
during which he visited some Christians scattered 
through that district, and founded three little 
churches, he was expelled by Nathi the chief of the 
place, and died soon afterwards in Scotland. 

The next mission had a very different result. No 
nation in the world was converted to Christianity in 
so short a time as the Irish ; and no missionary, 
after the age of the Apostles, preached the Gospel 
with more success than St. Patrick. He was a man 

* For a detailed description of Irish paganism and of the 
druids the reader may consult my two Social Histories of Anc. 


of strong will, and wherever he went the people he 
addressed were all the more willing to hearken to his 
preaching on account of the noble simplicity and 
purity of his life. He cared nothing for riches and 
honours and accepted no rewards or presents : but 
he loved the people of Ireland, and his whole anxiety 
was to make them good Christians. We do not know 
for certain his' birthplace ; but the best authorities 
believe he was born near Dumbarton in Alban or 
Scotland, though others think in the west of Gaul. 
At that time both Gaul and Britain were under the 
Eomans, and there is evidence that his family, 
whichever of the two places they belonged to, were 
Christians, and that they were in a respectable 
station of life : for his father Calpurn was a 
magistrate in the Roman service. 

When Patrick was a boy of sixteen, he was, as we 
are told by himself in his " Confession," taken 
captive with thousands of others and brought to 
Ireland. This was about the year 403 ; and it 
occurred probably in one of those formidable preda- 
tory excursions, led by king Niall of the Nine 
Hostages, of which Irish historians make mention. 
He was sold as a slave to a certain rich man named 
Milcho, who employed him to herd sheep and swine 
on the slopes of Slemish mountain in the present 
county Antrim. Here he spent six years of his life. 
If he felt at first heartbroken and miserably lonely, 
as no doubt he did, he soon recovered himself and 
made nothing of the hardships he endured on the 
bleak hillside ; for in his solitude his mind was 
turned to God, and every spare moment was given 
up to devotions. He tells us in his own earnest 


and beautiful words (in the "Confession")"! 
was daily employed tending flocks ; and I prayed 
frequently during the day, and the love of God was 
more and more enkindled in my heart, my fear and 
faith were increased, and my spirit was stirred ; so 
much so that in a single day I poured out my prayers 
a hundred times, and nearly as often in the night. 
Nay even in the woods and mountains I remained, 
and rose before the dawn to my prayer, in frost and 
snow and rain ; neither did I suffer any injury from 
it, nor did I yield to any slothfulness, such as I now 
experience ; for the spirit of the Lord was fervent 
within me."* But he stood alone in his own little 
world of light and holiness ; for his master was a 
pagan ; and though the people he mixed with were 
bright and lovable, they too were all pagans, grossly 
superstitious; but beyond that, with little idea of 
religion of any kind. 

At the end of six years of slavery Patrick escaped 
and made his way through many hardships and 
dangers to his native home and family. During his 
residence in Ireland he had become familiar with the 
language of the people ; and the memory of the pagan 
darkness in which they lived haunted him night and 
day, so that he formed the resolution to devote his 
life to their conversion. His steadfast will was 
shown even at this early period by the manner in 
which he set about preparing himself for his noble 
work. He first studied with great diligence for 

* This "Confession" a sort of review of his life and work 
was written by him when he was an old man, worn out with 
his labours. 


about four years in the great monastic school of 
St. Martin of Tours; and subsequently under 
St. Germain of Auxerre for about the same length 
of time ; after which he continued his preparation in 
an island near the Italian coast on the west side, 
and elsewhere, till he was ready to begin his mission. 
During all this time his thoughts were ever turned 
lovingly to Ireland ; and he had dreams and visions 
about it. Once he dreamed, as he tells us, that a man 
from Ireland, named Victor, came to him and gave 
him a letter which began with the words " The Voice 
of the Irish." " While I was reading the letter" 
he goes on to say " I imagined at the moment that 
I heard the voices of many who were near the wood 
of Fochluth, which is [in Ireland] beside the Western 
Ocean : crying out as if with one voice ' we entreat 
thee holy youth to come and still walk amongst 
us.' And I was exceedingly afflicted in my heart and 
could read no more, but quickly awoke." (See p. 17 

Having received authority and benediction from 
Pope Celestine,* he set out for Ireland. On his way 
through Gaul news came of the death of Palladius ; 
and as this left Ireland without a bishop, Patrick 
was consecrated bishop in Gaul by a certain holy 

* So we find it stated by several ancient authorities, one of 
whom is an Irish saint who lived a century and a half after the 
time of St. Patrick. Celestine was the same pope who had com- 
missioned Palladius about a year before Patrick's arrival. But 
although there is unquestionable contemporary evidence (page 138 
above) that this pope sent Palladius to Ireland, some writers 
dispute the statement that Patrick received his commission from 


prelate named Amator. Embarking for Ireland, he 
landed in the year 432 on the Wicklow coast at the 
mouth of the Vartry river, the spot where the town 
of Wicklow now stands. He was then in the full 
vigour of manhood about forty-five years of age. 
The good Pope Celestine did not live to see the 
glorious result of the mission : he was dead before 
the arrival of his missionary in Ireland. Soon after 
landing, Patrick, like his predecessor, was expelled 
from Wicklow ; and coasting northwards, and resting 
for a little time at the island of Holmpatrick on the 
Dublin coast near Skerries, he finally disembarked 
with his companions at Lecale in the present county 

Dicho, the chief of the district, thinking, from what 
one of his shepherds told him, that they were pirates, 
hastily armed his followers and sallied forth to expel 
them ; but when they appeared in view, he was so 
struck by their calm and dignified demeanour, that 
instead of attacking, he saluted them respectfully 
and invited them to his house. Here Patrick 
announced his mission and explained his doctrine ; 
and Dicho and his whole family became Christians 
and were baptised : the first of the Irish converted 
by St. Patrick. As there was no church the chief 
presented him with a sabhall [saul] or barn for divine 
service, in which he celebrated Mass, and on the 
site of which a monastery was subsequently erected 
in honour of the saint, which for many ages was held 
in great veneration. And the memory of the happy 
event is preserved to this day in the name of the 
little village of Saul near Downpatrick. He remained 
in this neighbourhood for some time ; and the people, 


following the example of their chief, listened to his 
preaching and were baptised in great numbers. While 
here he set out to visit the district where he had spent 
so many solitary years of his youth, for he was 
anxious to convert his old master Milcho ; but that 
chief now an old man refused to see him and died 
as he lived, a pagan. 

Saint Patrick was a man of great resolution and 
undaunted courage, with much tact and good sense. 
No danger could turn him aside from his purpose : 
and there was plenty of danger to face during his 
long career in Ireland. He had great strength of 
character ; so that with God lending a helping 
hand he bore down opposition by his own over- 
powering personality. From the time of his captivity 
down to his latest breath he had an intense love for 
the people of Ireland. There are many old narratives 
of his life, some historical, some mixed up with 
legend ; and in all, whether historical or legendary, 
these features of his character constantly come to 
the front.* 

* The beautiful legendary account of Patrick's interview with 
the angel on Groagh Patrick (the "Keek"), given in the 
Tripartite Life of the saint, brings out in strong relief his 
strength of will and his love for the Irish people : and it may be 
added his belief in the efficacy of persistent prayer. 

After his sufferings from the demons on the mountain (p. 9 
above), when the angel came and comforted him, Patrick 
reminded him of all he had endured, and said that as 
compensation he had a number of blessings to ask for all to 
benefit the Irish people and he told the angel plainly : ' Unless 
all these are granted to me, I will never leave the Reek, but will 
remain here till I die." 

The angel told him that in consideration of his great 


St. Patrick adopted, from the very beginning, 
a bold and courageous plan of preaching the Gospel 
in Ireland : He always made straight for the palaces 
and other great houses, and began by attempting to 
convert the kings and chiefs. He was well aware 
of the veneration of the clansmen for their ruling 
families ; and he knew that once the king had 
become a Christian the people would soon follow. 
He had experienced the success of this plan in Saul ; 
and now he came to the bold resolution to go 
to Tara and present himself before the supreme 
king of Ireland Laeghaire [Laery] and his court. 
This was a very dangerous undertaking, as he well 
knew ; for Tara was the chief seat, not only of the 
monarchy, but also of the paganism and druidism of 

sufferings, God was disposed to grant his requests, so far as they 
were within reason. Then followed request after request, 
blessing after blessing, for the Irish people : and on each 
occasion when Patrick had put forward his claim, the angel's 
answer came: "That request is granted: now get thee away 
from the mountain," on which followed the saint's reply : " No, 
I will not go from the mountain yet : I want another blessing for 
my people." 

And so the angel went on yielding point after point, till at 
last he gave him a plain reminder that he was excessive and 
altogether too obstinate. But the saint did not mind that a bit : 
he went on pressing his demands ; each as usual followed by : 
<{ That is granted thee; now get thee gone from the mountain." 
" No, I will not go yet, I want another thing." 

Once the angel proposed to grant him a certain blessing for 
his people. " No, I will not take it "replied the saint : " it is 
no great compliment : any of our saints could get that or as 
good for the asking ; I want more." 

His last request was, that on the day of judgment ; " Let 
myself be the judge over the people of Ireland on that day." 

This appeared to the angel such an astounding demand that he 


all Ireland; and Laegliaire bad the reputation of 
being a fierce and obdurate king, who would tolerate 
no interference with his authority. Yet Patrick 
never hesitated. Bidding farewell to his friend 
Dicho, he sailed southward to the mouth of the 
Boyne ; whence he set out on foot for Tara with his 
companions. Soon after leaving the boat, night fell 
on them ; and they were hospitably entertained at 
the house of a chief, whom the saint converted, with 
his whole family. One of the children, a youth to 
whom Patrick gave the name of Benen or Benignus 
from his gentle disposition, became so attached to 
him that he insisted on going along with him 
next morning. Thenceforward Benen was Patrick's 
constant companion and beloved disciple ; and 

refused point blank to grant it without authority. ' He flew up 
to heaven to consult; and during his absence Patrick went and 
celebrated Mass, to strengthen his case, no doubt, for he felt that 
he had gone pretty far. 

"When the angel returned he told Patrick that it was with the 
greatest difficulty, and only after the Twelve Apostles and nanny 
other saints had interceded, that the request was grunted. 

" And now at last strike thy bell and get thee gone from the 


"Blessed be the All bountiful King" cried Patrick in his 
joy " Praise be to my Lord who has given me all these great 
blessings for my people. Now 1 am satisfied, and I will depart 
from the mountain." (Tripartite Life of St. Patrick, pp. 113- 
121. See also the Most Rev. Dr. Healy's Life of St. Patrick, 
pp. 229-233). 

Although this is all popular legend, nothing could present a 
truer or a more vivid picture of the character of our great 
Apostle. "With stories like this, and with much f the true 
history of the saint, told among our people for centuries, can we 
wonder at the intense love and veneration they have for 
St. Patrick? 



after the death of his master he succeeded him as 
Archbishop of Armagh. 

The saint and his little company arrived at the 
hill of Slane on the north bank of the Boyne on 
Easter Eve, A.D. 433. Here he prepared to celebrate 
the festival ; and towards nightfall, as was then the 
custom, he lighted the Paschal fire on the top of the 
hill. It so happened that at this very time the king 
and his nobles were celebrating a festival of some 
kind at Tara ; and the attendants were about to 
light a great fire on the hill, which was part of the 
ceremonial. Now there was a law that while this 
fire was burning no other should be kindled in the 
country all round on pain of death ; and accordingly 
when the king and his courtiers saw the fire ablaze 
on the hill of Slane, nine miles off, they were much 
astonished at such an open violation of the law. 

The monarch instantly called his druids and 
questioned them about it ; and they said : " If that 
fire which we now see be not extinguished to-night, 
it will never be extinguished, but will over-top all 
our fires : and he that has kindled it will overturn 
thy kingdom."* Whereupon the king, in great wrath, 
instantly set out in his chariot with a small retinue, 
nine chariots in all ; and having arrived near Slane, 
he summoned the strangers to his presence. He had 
commanded that none should rise up to show them 
respect ; but when they presented themselves, one of 
the courtiers, Ere the son of Dego, struck with the 

* This prophecy came to pass in a spiritual sense ; for Patrick 
overturned the kingdom of paganism. But Laeghaire understood 
it in a temporal sense. 


saint's commanding appearance, rose from bis seat 
and saluted him. This Ere was converted and 
became afterwards bishop of Slane ; and to this day 
there is, on the bank of the Boyne near Slane, a 
little ruined oratory called from him St. Erc's 
Hermitage. The result of this interview was what 
St. Patrick most earnestly desired : he was directed 
to appear next day at Tara and give an account of 
his proceedings before the assembled court. On the 
summit of the hill of Slane, at the spot where 
Patrick lighted his Paschal fire, there are still the 
ruins of a monastery erected in commemoration of 
the event. 

The next day was Easter Sunday. Early in the 
morning Patrick and his companions set out for the 
palace, and on their way they chanted a hymn in the 
native tongue an invocation for protection against 
the dangers and treachery by which they were beset ; 
for they had heard that persons were lying in wait to 
slay them. This noble and beautiful hymn which is 
called in Irish Faed Fiada or the " Deer's Cry," from 
the legend that Patrick and his companions appeared 
in the shape of deer to the intended assassins, was 
long held in great veneration by the people of this 
country ; and we still possess copies of it in a very 
old dialect of the Irish language. There are also 
many translations of it. In the history of the 
spread of Christianity, it would be difficult to find 
a more singular and impressive scene than was 
presented at the court of king Laeghaire on that 
memorable Easter morning. Patrick was robed in 
white, as were also his companions ; he woie his 
mitre and carried his crosier called BacJiall Isa or 



the Staff of Jesus in his hand ; and when he 
presented himself before the assembly, Dubthach 
[Duffa] , Laeghaire 's chief poet, rose to welcome him, 
contrary to the express commands of the king. The 
saint, all aflame 'with zeal and unawed by the 
presence of the king and court, explained to the 
assembly the leading points of the Christian doctrine, 
and silenced the king's druids in argument. Dubthach 
became a convert and thenceforward devoted his 
poetical talents to the service of God ; and Laeghaire 
gave permission to the strange missionaries to preach 
their doctrines throughout his dominions. The king 
himself however was not converted ; and for the 
remaining thirty years of his life he remained an 
unbeliever, while the paganism of the whole country 
was rapidly going down before the fiery energy of the 
great missionary. 

Patrick next proceeded to Tailltenn* where, during 
the celebration of the national games, he preached 
for a week to the assembled multitudes, making 
many converts, among whom was Conall Gulban 
(brother to king Laeghaire) the ancestor of the 
O'Donnells of 'lirconnell. 

We find him soon after, with that intrepidity and 
decision of character for which he was so remarkably 
distinguished, making straight for Moy Slecht where 
stood the great national idol Cromm Cruach sur- 
rounded by twelve lesser idols (p. 124 above). These 
he destroyed, and thus terminated for ever the abomi- 
nations enacted for so many ages at that ancient 
haunt of gloomy superstition. 

* For Tailltenn and its great fairs and athletic games see 
my Smaller Soc. Hist, of Anc. Ireland, p. 499 ; and p. 30 above. 


About the year 438, with the concurrence of King 
Laeghaire, he undertook the task of revising theBrehon 
Law. He was aided by eight others, among them 
King Laeghaire himself Patrick working at it when- 
ever he could withdraw himself from his missionary 
duties and at the end of three years, this Committee 
of Nine produced a new code free from all pagan 
customs and ordinances, which was ever after known 
as " Cain Patrick " or Patrick's Law. This Law 
Book, which is also called the Senchus M6r 
[Shan'ahus More], has been lately translated and 

In his journey through Connaught he met the two 
daughters of King Laeghaire Ethnea the fair and 
Fedelma the ruddy near the palace of Croghan, 
where they lived at that time in fosterage with their 
two druid tutors. They had come out one morning 
at sunrise to wash their hands in a certain spring 
well named Clebach, as was their custom, and were 
greatly astonished to find Patrick and his companions 
at the well with books in their hands, chanting a 
hymn. Having never seen persons in that garb 
before, the princesses thought at first that they were 
beings from the shee or fairy hills (page 136 above) ; 
but when the first surprise was over they fell into 
conversation with them and inquired whence they had 
come. And Patrick gently replied : " It were better 
for you to confess to our true God than to inquire 
concerning our race." They eagerly asked many 
questions about God, His dwelling-place whether in 
the sea, in rivers, in mountainous places, or in 
valleys how knowledge of Him was to be obtained, 
how He was to be found, seen, and loved ; vluh other 


inquiries of a like nature. The saint answered all 
their questions and explained the leading points of 
the faith ; and the virgins were immediately baptised 
and consecrated to the service of religion. 

On the approach of Lent he retired to the mountain 
which has ever since borne his name Croagh Patrick 
or Patrick's bill where he spent some time in fasting 
and prayer (page 9 above). About this time, 
A.D. 449, the seven sons of Amalgaidh [Awley] king 
of Connaught were holding a meeting in Tirawley to 
which Patrick repaired. He expounded his doctrines 
to the wondering assembly ; and the seven princes 
with twelve thousand persons were baptised. After 
spending seven years in Connaught, he visited suc- 
cessively Ulster, Leinster, and Munster, in each of 
which he preached for several years. Soon after 
entering Leinster, he converted, at the palace beside 
Naas where the Leinster kings then resided, the two 
princes Illann and Olioll, sons of King Dunlang, who 
both afterwards succeeded to the throne of their father : 
and at Cashel, the seat of the kings of Munster, he 
was met by the king, Aengus the son of Natfree, who 
conducted him into the palace on the rock with the 
greatest reverence and was at once baptised. 

Wherever St. Patrick went he founded churches, 
and left them in charge of his disciples. In his 
various journeys, he encountered many dangers and 
met with numerous temporary repulses; but his 
courage and resolution never wavered, and success 
attended his efforts in almost every part of his 
wonderful career. He founded the see of Armagh 
about the year 455 and made it the head see of all 
Ireland, The greater part of the country was now 


filled with Christians and with churches ; and the 
mission of the venerable apostle was drawing to a 
close. He was seized with his death illness in Saul, 
the scene of his first triumph ; and he breathed his 
last on the seventeenth of March, in or about the 
year 465, in the seventy-eighth year of his age.* 

The news of his death was the signal for universal 
mourning. From the remotest districts of the island, 
clergy and laity turned their steps towards the little 
village of Saul, to pay the last tribute of love and 
respect to their great master. They celebrated the 
obsequies for twelve days and nights without inter- 
ruption, joining in the ceremonies as they arrived in 
succession; and in the language of one of his 
biographers, the blaze of myriads of torches made the 
whole time appear like one continuous day. 

A contention arose between the chiefs of Oriel, the 
district in which Armagh was situated, and those of 
Ulidia or the eastern part of Ulster, concerning the 
place where he should be interred ; but it happily 
terminated without bloodshed. He was buried with 
great solemnity at Dun-da-leth-glas, the old residence 
of the princes of Ulidia ; and the name in the altered 
form of Downpatrick commemorates to all time the 
saint's place of interment. 

It must not be supposed that Ireland was com- 
pletely Christianised by St. Patrick. There still 
remained large districts never visited by him or his 
companions : and in many others the Christianity of 

* There is mu % ch uncertainty both as to St. Patrick's age and 
as to the year of his death. I have given the age and the 
year that seem to me most probable. 


the people was merely on the surface. Much pagan 
superstition remained, even among the professing 
Christians, and the druids still and for long after 
retained great influence ; so that there was ample 
room for the missionary labours of St. Patrick's 



OF all the Irish saints, JBrigit and Columkille are, 
next after St. Patrick, the most loved and revered 
by the people of Ireland. 

Like many others of our early saints, Brigit came 
of a noble family. Her father Dubthach [Duffa] 
was a distinguished Leinster chief descended from 
the kings of Ireland. For some reason which we 
do not know he and his wife lived for a time at 
Faughart near Dundalk, which was then a part of 
Ulster : and at Faughart Brigit was born about the 
year 455. The family must have soon returned 
however to their own district, for we know that 
Brigit passed her childhood with her parents in the 
neighbourhood of Kildare. She was baptised and 
carefully instructed and trained both in general edu- 
cation and in religion : for her father and mother 
were Christians. As she grew up, her quiet gentle 
modest ways pleased all that knew her. At the time 
of her birth, St. Patrick was in the midst of his 
glorious career ; and some say that while she was 
still a child she met him, and that when he died she 
made with her own hands a winding sheet in which 
his body was laid in the grave; which may have 
happened, as she was ten or twelve years of age at 
the time of his death. 

* This and the four pieces that follow are reprinted from 
another book of mine written many years ago. 


When Brigit came of an age to choose her way of 
life, she resolved to be a nun, to which her parents 
made no objection. After due preparation she went 
to a holy bishop of the neighbourhood, who at her 
request received her and placed a white robe on her 
shoulders and a white veil over her head. Here she 
remained for some time in companionship with eight 
other maidens who had been received with her, and 
who placed themselves under her guidance. As time 
went on she became so beloved for her piety and 
sweetness of disposition that many young women 
asked to be admitted ; so that though she by no 
means desired that people should be speaking in her 
praise, the fame of her community began to spread 
through the country. 

This first establishment was conducted strictly 
under a set of Rules drawn up by Brigit herself: 
and now, bishops in various parts of Ireland began 
to apply to her to establish convents in their several 
districts under the same rules. She was glad of this, 
and she did what she could to meet their wishes. 
She visited Longford, Tipperary, Limerick, South 
Leinster, and Roscommon, one after another; and 
in all these places she founded convents. 

At last the people of her own province of Leinster, 
considering that they had the best right to her 
services, sent a number of leading persons to request 
that she would fix her permanent residence among 
them. She was probably pleased to go back to live 
in the place where she had spent her childhood; and 
she returned to Leinster where she was welcomed 
with great joy. The Leinster people gave her a 
piece of land chosen by herself on the edge of a 


beautiful level grassy plain well known as the 
Curragb of Kildare. Here, on a low ridge over- 
looking the plain, she built a little church under the 
shade of a wide-spreading oak tree, whence it got the 
name of Kill-dara, the Church of the Oak, or as we 
now call it, Kildare. This tree continued to flourish 
long after Brigit's death, and it was regarded with 
great veneration by the people of the place. A writer 
of the tenth century four hundred years after the 
foundation of the church tells us that in his time 
it was a mere branchless withered trunk ; but the 
people had such reverence for it that no one dared 
to cut or chip it. 

We are not quite sure of the exact year of Brigit's 
settlement here ; but it probably occurred about 485, 
when she was thirty years of age. Hard by the 
church she also built a dwelling for herself and 
her community. We are told in the Irish Life of 
St. Brigit that this first house was built of wood like 
the houses of the people in general : and the little 
church under the oak was probably of wood also, 
like most churches of the time. As the number of 
applicants for admission continued to increase, both 
church and dwelling had to be enlarged from time 
to time ; and the wood was replaced by stone and 
mortar. Such was the respect in which the good 
abbess was held, that visitors came from all parts 
of the country to see her and ask her advice and 
blessing : and many of them settled down in the 
place, so that a town gradually grew up near the 
convent, which was the beginning of the town of 


Brigit, although now at the head of a great com- 
munity, and very strict in carrying out her Rules, 
still retained all her humility and gentleness of 
disposition. With such a large family there was 
plenty of work to do ; and it was all done by the 
nuns, as they kept no servants and called in no 
outsiders. The abbess herself, so far as she was 
able to withdraw from the cares of governing the 
establishment, took her part like the rest in most of 
the domestic occupations. In some of the old 
accounts of her Life we are told that she often, 
with some companions, herded and tended her flocks 
of sheep that grazed on the level sward round the 
convent. And sometimes she was caught by the 
heavy rain-squalls that occasionally sweep across 
that shelterless plain, so that her clothes were wet 
through by the time she returned to the convent : 
showing that she took her own share of the rough 

Not far from the convent, another establishment 
was founded later on for men, which afterwards 
became one of the great Colleges of Ireland. As 
the two communities and the population of the town 
continued to grow, it was Brigit's earnest desire that 
a bishop should be there to take spiritual charge of 
the whole place. A holy man named Conleth, who had 
hitherto spent his life as a hermit in the neighbour- 
hood, was appointed bishop by the heads of the 
Church. He was the first bishop of Kildare and he 
took up his residence in the monastery. The name 
of that good bishop is to this day held in affectionate 
remembrance, with that of St. Brigit, by the people 
of Kildare and of the country all round, 


While the parent convent at Eildare continued to 
grow, branch houses under Brigit's Rule and subject 
to her authority were established all over Ireland ; 
and many establishments for monks were also 
founded in honour of her. 

Brigit had such a reputation for wisdom and 
prudence, that the most eminent of the saints and 
many kings and chiefs of her day visited Kildare 
or corresponded with her, to obtain her advice in 
doubtful or difficult matters. Visitors were constantly 
coming and going, all of whom she received kindly 
and treated hospitably. All this, with daily alms to 
the needy, and the support of a large community, 
kept her poor : for the produce of her land was not 
nearly sufficient to supply her wants. For a long 
time in the beginning she and her community 
suffered from downright poverty, so that she had 
often to call on the charity of her friends and 
neighbours to assist her. But as time went on, and 
as the reputation of the place spread abroad, she 
received many presents from rich people, which 
generally came in the right time and enabled her to 
carry on her establishment without any danger of 

Among Brigit's virtues none is more marked than 
her charity and kindness of heart towards poor, 
needy, and helpless people. She never could look on 
distress of any kind without trying to relieve it at 
whatever cost. Even when a mere girl living with 
her parents, her father was often displeased with her 
for giving away necessary things belonging to the 
house to poor people who came in their misery to 
beg from her. It happened on one occasion that her 


father drove her in his chariot to Naas (in Kildare) 
where then lived Dunlang king of Leinster ; and 
dismounting, he entered the palace, leaving his sword 
behind a beautiful and valuable one while Brigit 
remained in charge of horse and chariot. A wretched 
looking poor man with sickness and want in his face 
came up and begged for some relief. Overcome with 
pity she looked about for something to give him, and 
finding nothing but the sword, she handed it to 
him. On her father's return he fell into a passion 
at the loss of his sword : and when King Dunlang 
questioned her reproachfully she replied: "If I 
had all thy wealth I would give it to the poor ; for 
giving to the poor is giving to the Lord of the 
universe." And the king turning to the father 
said : "It is not meet that either you or I should 
chide this maiden, for her merit is greater before 
God than before men " : on which the matter ended : 
and Brigit returned home with her father. 

Her overflowing kindness of heart was not confined 
to human beings : it extended even to the lower 
animals. Once while she lived in her father's house, 
a party of guests were invited, and she was given 
some pieces of meat to cook for dinner. And a poor 
miserable half-starved hound limped into the house 
and looked longingly at the meat: whereupon the 
girl, quite unable to overcome her feeling of pity, 
threw him one of the pieces. And when the poor 
animal, in his hungry greediness, had devoured that 
in a moment, she gave him another, which satisfied 
him. And to the last day of her life she retained 
her tenderness of heart and her kindness and charity 
towards the poor. 


Late in life Brigit's influence over young people 
was unbounded : for her very gentleness gave tenfold 
power to her words. Once, seeing a young man, a 
student of the neighbouring college, running very 
violently and in an unbecoming manner in presence 
of some of her nuns, she sent for him on the spot 
and asked him why he was running in such haste. 
He replied thoughtlessly and half in jest that he was 
running to heaven : on which she said quietly : " I 
wish to God, my dear son, that I was worthy to run 
with you to-day to the same place : I beg you will 
pray for me to help me to arrive there." And when 
he heard these words, and looked on her grave kind 
face, he was greatly moved ; and telling her with 
tears in his eyes that he would surely pray for her 
and for many others besides, he besought her to offer 
up her prayers for him that he might continue his 
journey steadily towards heaven and arrive there in 
the end. That young man, whose name was Ninnius, 
became in after-life one of the most revered of the 
Irish saints. 

But with all her gentle unassuming ways, St. 
Brigit was a woman of strong mind and great 
talents. She not only governed her various establish- 
ments in strict accordance with her own Rules and 
forms of discipline, but she was a powerful aid in 
forwarding the mighty religious movement that had 
been commenced by St. Patrick half a century before. 
She set an illustrious example to those Irish women 
who, during and after her time, entered on a 
religious life ; and though many of them became 
distinguished saints she stands far above them all. 
No writer has left us a detailed account of her last 


hours, as Adamnan has done for St. Columkille. (See 
farther on.) We only know that she died at Kildare 
on the first of February, in or about the year 523, 
and that she received the last consolations of religion 
from the grateful hand of that same Ninnius whom 
she had turned to a religious life many years before. 

She was buried in Kildare where her body was 
entombed in a magnificent shrine ornamented with 
gold, silver, and precious stones. We may be sure 
it was a very beautiful work of art, for we know that 
there was a noted school of metal workers in Kildare 
under the direction of St. Conleth, who was himself 
a most skilful artist ; but this tomb was plundered by 
the Danes three hundred years afterwards, and not a 
trace of it now remains. 

According to some accounts the bones of St. Brigit 
and St. Columkille were brought to Downpatrick 
many centuries after the death of both, and buried 
in the same tomb with the remains of St. Patrick. 
Whether this was so or not, the matter has been 
commemorated in a Latin verse of which the following 
is a translation : 

Interred beneath one tomb in Down, a single vault doth hold 
Patrick and Brigit and Columkille, three holy saints of old. 

A well known Welshman, Gerald Barry (Giraldus 
Cambrensis), who was in Ireland in 1185, and who 
wrote an account of it, says that he found " at 
Kildare in Leinster, celebrated for the glorious Brigit, 
the ' Fire of St. Brigit ' which is reported never to 
go out." This fire was kept up day and night by the 
nuns in his time, and for centuries before how long 
no one can tell probably from the time of the saint 


herself and was continued for centuries after : but 
it was finally extinguished when the monasteries 
were closed by Henry VIII. in the year 1536. 
Thomas Moore, in one of his songs, refers to it in 
the following words : 

Like the bright lamp that shone in Kildare's holy fane, 
And burned through long ages of darkness and storm. 

St. Brigit is venerated in England and Scotland 
as well as in Ireland : for in both these countries 
churches were built in her honour, and many convents 
were established under her name and rule. She was 
also well known and honoured on the Continent. 
We need not wonder that her life has been written 
by many Irishmen : but English, Scotch, French, 
Italian, and German writers have also written about 
her and have commemorated her as one of the most 
eminent saints of the West. 

Convents and monasteries were maintained in 
Kildare for hundreds of years after the time of St. 
Brigit ; and " Kildare's holy fane " is still venerated 
as much as ever. On the very ridge where the 
humble little church was erected fourteen hundred 
years ago, there is a group of fine old church buildings, 
with a tall round tower that overlooks the splendid 
plain of Kildare. 



SAINT COLUMKILLE f was born in the year 521 in 
Gartan a wild district in the county Donegal not far 
from Letterkenny. He was a near relation of the 
kings of Ireland of his time ; for his father was great- 
grandson of the mighty King Niall of the Nine 
Hostages : and his mother was related to the kings 
of Leinster. He spent his boyhood in a little village 
near Gartan ; and when he was old enough he was 
sent away from his home to a school kept by a dis- 
tinguished bishop and teacher, St. Finnen, at Movilla 
near the present Newtownards in Down. Though 

# An exhaustive account of St. Columkille will be found in 
the Rev. William Reeves's edition of "Adamnan's Life of 
Saint Columba." 

t In books he is often called Columba ; but in Ireland he is 
best known by the name Columkille. This is derived from colum 
[pron. collum~] a dove, and cill or kill, a church : the " Dove of 
the church." This name was given him when a boy from his 
gentle affectionate disposition, and because he was so fond of 
praying in the little church of Tullydouglas near where he \vas 
bom : so that the little boys who were accustomed to play with 
him used often to ask : " Has our little Colum yet come from the 

The sketch given here is taken chiefly, but not altogether, from 
" Adamnan's Life of St. Columba." Adamnan was a native of 
Tirconnell or Donegal, like Columba himself. He died in the 
year 703. He was the ninth abbot of lona of which Columba 
was the first. His " Life of St. Columba " is a very beautiful 
piece of Latin composition. 


he belonged to a princely family and might easily 
have become rich and great, he gave up these worldly 
advantages for religion, and resolved to become a 

Having spent some time at Movilla, the youthful 
Columkille went to several other Irish Colleges, 
including that of St. Movi at Glasnevin near Dublin ; 
and as he was a diligent student he made great 
progress in all. The most celebrated of these was 
at Clonard in Meath, in which there were many 
hundreds of students under the instruction of another 
St. Finnen, a great and holy man who is styled in 
old Irish writings " a doctor of wisdom and the tutor 
of the saints of Ireland in his time." Here Columkille 
met many young Irishmen who afterwards became 
distinguished saints and missionaries. 

As soon as he was ordained priest he set about the 
work of his life spreading the Gospel. At that 
time the high ridge over the river Foyle where now 
stands the old city of Derry, was an uninhabited spot 
clothed with a splendid wood of oaks from which it 
got the name of Derry, meaning an oak grove : this 
spot was presented to Columkille by his cousin 
prince Aed, afterwards king of Ireland. Here when 
he was twenty-five years of age (in 546) he built his 
first church round which grew up a monastery that 
continued to flourish for many hundred years, so 
that in memory of the saint the place was long after- 
wards known by the name of Derry-Columkille. At 
this period of his life he was a man of noble presence, 
a worthy member of a kingly race, as one of the old 
Irish writers describes him : tall broad-shouldered 
and powerful, with long curling hair, luminous grey 



eyes, and a countenance bright and pleasing : and he 
was always lively and agreeable in conversation. 

For fifteen years after the establishment of Derry, 
Columkille continued to found churches all over the 
country, among many others those of Kells in Meath, 
Tory Island, Swords near Dublin, Drumcliff in Sligo, 
and Durrow in King's County, the last of which 
was his chief establishment in Ireland. It is 
recorded that during these fifteen years he founded 
altogether three hundred churches and monasteries. 
These establishments, like all the other Irish monas- 
teries, were the means of spreading not only religion 
but general enlightenment : for in most of them 
there were schools ; and the priests and monks con- 
verted and taught and civilised, to the best of their 
power, the people in their neighbourhood. 

Many years before this, St. Patrick and the 
missionaries who worked under his guidance had 
converted the greatest part of the Irish people to 
Christianity. But the time was too short and the 
missionaries too few to instruct the newly-converted 
people fully in their faith : so that although they 
were Christians, many of them had only a poor 
knowledge of the Christian doctrine. In those 
times there were certain persons in Ireland called 
druids (for whom see pp. 136-138 above). They hated 
the Christian faith, and gave St. Patrick and his com- 
panions great trouble by trying to persuade the pagan 
Irish not to become Christians. They continued in 
the country till the time of St. Columkille, as active 
as ever though much fewer ; and St. Columkille 
and the other missionaries of his time had often 
hard work to win over the people from the false 


teaching of these druids, and make good Cliristians 
of them. 

A great part of the north of Scotland was then 
inhabited by a people called the Picts. Those of 
them who lived south of the Grampian mountains 
had been converted some time before by St. Ninian 
of Glastonbury :* but the northern Picts were still 
pagans ; and Columkille made up his mind to leave 
Ireland and devote the rest of his life to their con- 
version. In 5G3, in the forty-second year of his age, 
he bade a sorrowful farewell to his native country, 
and crossing the sea with twelve companions, he 
settled in the island of lona in the Hebrides, which 
had been presented to him by his relative the king 
of that part of Scotland. Here he built his little 
church and monastery, all of wood, and began to 
prepare for his glorious work. This little island 
afterwards became the greatest religious centre in 
Scotland : and grand churches and other buildings 
were erected on and around the site of Columkille's 
humble structures. For many centuries lona was 
held in such honour that most of the kings and 
chiefs and other great people of Scotland were 
buried in it ; and to this day it is full of venerable 
and beautiful ruins, which are every year visited by 
people from all parts of the British Islands. 

The most laborious part of St. Columkille's active 
life began after his settlement in lona. He traversed 
the Highlands of Scotland and the Islands of the 

* Glastonbury, a town in Somersetshire in England^ where in 
old times there was a celebrated monastery much resorted to by 
Irish students. 


Hebrides, sometimes in a rude chariot, sometimes on 
foot, visiting the kings and chiefs of the Picts, and 
preaching to them in their homes ; and he founded 
churches and monasteries all over that part of 
Scotland, just as he had done in Ireland. After 
many years of incessant labour he succeeded in 
converting the whole of the northern Picts. 

When Columkille was at home in his monastery 
resting from his missionary labours, his favourite 
occupation was copying the Holy Scriptures. We are 
told that he wrote with his own hand, in the course 
of years, three hundred copies of the sacred books, 
which he presented to the various churches he had 
founded ; and this good work he continued to the 
very last day of his life. Besides mere copying, he 
composed many hymns and other poems, both in 
Latin and Irish. He was always employed at some- 
thing. Adamnan says that not an hour of the day 
passed by without some work for himself and his 
monks praying, reading, writing, arranging the 
affairs of the monastery, or manual work : for he 
took his own share in cooking, grinding corn, over- 
seeing the men who were working in the fields, and 
so forth ; like many others of the eminent saints of 
the early Irish Church. 

During St. Columkille's residence in lona he visited 
Ireland more than once on important business : and 
we may be sure that he was delighted when the 
opportunity came to see again the land he loved so 
well. The most important of these occasions was 
when he came over to take part in a great meeting 
a sort of Parliament for all Ireland which was 
held at a place called Drum-Ketta in Derry. The 


proceedings at this meeting will be found described in 
the " Child's History of Ireland," or in the " Concise 
History of Ireland." 

Amidst all the earnest and laborious efforts of 
St. Columkille in the cause of religion, he never 
forgot his native country. He looked upon himself 
as an exile, though a voluntary exile in a great and 
glorious cause ; and a tender regret was always 
mingled with his recollections of Ireland. We have 
in our old books a very ancient poem in the Irish 
language, believed to have been composed by him, in 
which he expresses himself in this manner : 

"How delightful to be on Ben-Kdar* before embarking 
on the foam- white sea: how pleasant to row one's little 
curraglif all round it, to look upward at its bare steep 
border, and to hear the waves dashing against its rocky 

" A grey eye looks back towards Erin : a grey eye full 
of tears. 

" While I traverse Albant of the ravens, I think on my 
little oak grove in Derry. If the tributes and the riches 
of Alban were mine from the centre to the utmost borders, 
I would prefer to them all one little house in Derry. The 
reason I love Derry is for its quietness, for its purity, for 
its crowds of white angels. 

" How sweet it is to think of Durrow: how delightful 
would it be to hear the music of the breeze rustling through 
its groves. 

" Plentiful is the fruit in the Western Island beloved 
Erin of many waterfalls : plentiful her noble groves of oak'. 

* Ben-Edar, the rocky headland now called Howth near 

f Curragh, a hide-covered wicker boat. 
J Alban, Scotland. 


Many are her kings aud princes ; sweet- voiced her clerics ; 
her birds warble joyously in the woods ; gentle are her 
youths ; wise her seniors ; comely and graceful her women, 
of spotless virtue ; illustrious her men, of noble aspect. 

''There is a grey eye that fills with tears when it looks 
back towards Erin. While I stand on the oaken deck of 
my bark I stretch my vision westwards over the briny sea 
towards Erin." 

During his whole life Columkille retained his affec- 
tion for his native land and for everything connected 
with it. One breezy day, when he was now in his 
old age in lona, a crane appeared flying from the 
west towards the island : it was beaten about by the 
wind, and with much difficulty it reached the beach, 
where it fell down quite spent with hunger and 
fatigue. And the good old man said to one of his 
monks : 

" That crane has come from our dear fatherland, 
and I earnestly commend it to thee : nurse and 
cherish it tenderly till it is strong enough to return 
again to its sweet home in Scotia." 

Accordingly the monk took the bird up in his 
arms and brought it to the hospice and fed and 
tended it for three days till it had quite recovered. 
The third day was calm, and the bird rose- from 
the earth till it had come to a great height, when 
resting for a moment to look forward, it stretched 
out its neck and directed its course towards Ireland. 

On the day before the saint's death he went to a 
little hill hard by the monastery that overlooked the 
whole place ; and gazing lovingly round him for the 
last time, he lifted up his hands and blessed the 
monastery. And as he was returning with his 


attendant lie grew tired and sat down half way to 
rest; for he was now very weak. While he was 
sitting here an old white horse that was employed 
for many years to carry the pails between the milk- 
ing place and the monastery, first looked at him 
intently, and then coming up slowly step by step, 
he laid his head gently on the saint's bosom. And 
he began to moan pitifully, and big tears rolled from 
his eyes and fell into the saint's lap : which, when 
the attendant saw, he came up to drive him away. 
But the old man said: " Let him alone: he loves 
me. May be God has given him some dim knowledge 
that his master is going from him and from you all : 
so let him alone." At last, standing up, he blessed 
the poor old animal and returned to the monastery. 

The death call came to him when he was seventy- 
six years of age. Though his death was not a 
sudden one, he had no sickness before it : he 
simply sank, wearied out with his life-long labours. 
Although he knew his end was near, he kept writing 
one of the Psalms till he could write no longer; 
while his companion Baithen sat beside him. At 
last, laying down the pen, he said, " Let Baithen 
write the rest." 

On the night of that same day, at the toll of the 
midnight bell for prayer, he rose, feeble as he was, 
from his bed, which was nothing but a bare flagstone, 
and went to the church hard by, followed immediately 
after by his attendant Dermot. He arrived there 
before the others had time to bring in the lights ; 
and Dermot, losing sight of him in the darkness, 
called out several times "Where are you, father ?" 
Receiving no reply, he felt his way, till he found his 


master before the altar kneeling and leaning forward 
on the steps : and raising him up a little, supported 
his head on his breast. The monks now came up 
with the lights ; and seeing their beloved old master 
dying, they began to weep. He looked at them with 
his face lighted up with joy, and tried to utter a 
blessing ; but being unable to speak, he raised his 
hand a little to bless them, and in the very act of 
doing so he died in Dermot's arms."* 

* This simple and beautiful narrative of the last days of 
St. Columkille, including the two pleasing little stories about 
the crane and the old white horse, with the affecting account of 
the saint's death, is taken altogether from Adamnan's Life. 
The circumstances of Columkille's death are in some respects 
very like those attending the death of the Venerable Bede, as 
recorded in the tender and loving letter of his pupil, the monk 
Cuthhert. But Adamnan's narrative was written more than 
forty years before that of Cuthbert. 

Baithen was Columkille's first cousin and his most beloved 
disciple, and succeeded him as abbot of lona. 



RODERICK 0' CONNOR the last native king of Ireland 
retired from the throne tpwards the end of the 
twelfth century, to end his days in the monastery of 
Cong.* After his time there was no longer a king 
over the whole country. But for hundreds of years 
afterwards, kings continued to reign over the five 
provinces. f Roderick had been king of Connaught 
before he became king of all Ireland ; and after his 
retirement there were several claimants for the 
Connaught throne who contended with one another, 
so that the province was for a long time disturbed 
with wars and battles. 

Roderick had a young brother named Canal,'! who 
was called Cahal of the Red Hand from a great blood- 
red mark on his right hand. He would naturally 
have a claim to the Connaught throne when old 
enough ; and as he was a noble young fellow even 
when a boy, and showed great ability, the queen of 
Connaught, jealous of him, feared that when he grew 
up he would give trouble to her own sons, and she 
sought him out determined to kill him : so that Cahal 
and his mother had to flee from one hiding place to 

Finding at last that he could no longer remain in 

* Cong. in Mayo, between Lough Coriib and Lough Mask ; the 
remains of an abbey are there still. 

f The five ancient provinces were Leinster, Munster, Connaught, 
Ulster, Meath. In later times Meath fell out as a province. 

J I?or whom, and for the legends about him, see O'Donovan's 
Four Masters, A.D. 1224. 


the province with safety, he and his mother crossed 
the Shannon into Leinstei 1 where no one knew him, 
and there for several years they remained, while he 
made a poor living for both by working in the fields 
as a common labourer. And as the fame of the 
brave young Cahal with the red mark on his hand 
had gone abroad, he always wore a loose mitten on 
his right hand for fear of discovery ; for he well 
knew that the queen had spies everywhere searching 
for him. 

At this time the people had no newspapers : but 
there were news-carriers* who made it their business 
to travel continually about the country, picking up 
information wherever they could, and relating. all 
that occurred whenever they came to a village or to 
any group of people who desired to hear the news . 
They generally received some small payment and 
perhaps food ; and in this manner they made their 

One day while Cahal was employed with several 
others reaping in a field of rye, they saw one of 
these men approaching ; and they stopped their 
\vork for a few moments to hear what he had to say. 
After relating several unimportant matters he came 
at last to the principal news : that the king of 
Connaught was dead, and that the leading people of 
the province, having met in counsel to choose a king, 
declared that they would have no one but young 
Cahal of the Bed Hand. " And now " continued the 
newsman "I and many others have been searching 
for him for several weeks. He is easily known, for 

* Irish bollficairc [pron. boll'seara] a news -carrier. 


his right hand is blood-red from the wrist out : but 
up to this we have been unsuccessful. We fear 
indeed that he is living in poverty in some remote 
place where he will never be found : or it may be 
that he is dead." 

When Cahal heard this his heart gave a great 
bound, and he stood musing for a few moments. 
Then flinging his sickle on the ridge he exclaimed : 
''Farewell reaping-hook: now for the sword!" 
And pulling off the mitten, he showed his red hand 
and made himself known. The newsman, instantly 
recognising him, threw himself prostrate before him 
to acknowledge him as his king. And ever since 
that time " Cahal' s farewell to the rye" has been 
a proverb in Connaught, to denote a farewell for 
ever. He returned immediately with his mother to 
Connaught where he was joyfully received, and was 
proclaimed king in 1190. 

At this time the Anglo-Norman barons who had 
come over at the time of Henry II. 's Invasion nearly 
twenty years before, had settled down in various 
parts of Ireland : and they were constantly encroach- 
ing on the lands of the Irish and erecting strong 
castles everywhere ; while the Irish chiefs resisted as 
far as they were able, so that there was much dis- 
turbance all over the country. Cahal was a brave 
and active king and took a leading part in fighting 
against the barons. 

After he had reigned over Connaught in peace for 
eight or nine years, trouble came again. There was 
at this time, settled in Limerick, a powerful Anglo- 
Norman baron, William de Burgo (or Burke) to 
whom a large part of Connaught had been granted 
by King Henry II. This man stirred up another of 


the O'Conors to lay claim to the throne in opposition 
to Cahal, promising to help him : and now Connaught 
was again all ablaze with civil war. Cahal was de- 
feated in battle and fled to Ulster to Hugh O'Neill 
prince of Tyrone, who took up his cause. Marching 
south with his own and O'Neill's men he attacked 
his rival, but was defeated, and again fled north. 
He soon made a second attempt, aided this time by 
Sir John de Courcy (for whom see below) : but he 
and De Courcy were caught in an ambush in Galway 
by the rival king, who routed their army. In this 
fight De Courcy very nearly lost his life, being felled 
senseless from his horse by a stone. Kecovering in 
good time however, he and Cahal escaped from the 
battlefield and fled northwards. 

Cahal of the Bed Hand, in no way cowed by these 
terrible reverses, again took the field after some 
time, aided now by De Burgo who had changed 
sides. A battle was fought near Boscommon in 
which the rival king was slain ; and Cahal once 
more took possession of the throne. From this 
period forward he ruled without a native rival ; 
though a few years later he was forced to surrender 
a large part of his kingdom to King John, in order 
that he might secure possession of the remainder. 

But he was as vigilant as ever in repelling all 
attempts of the barons to encroach on his diminished 
territory. Thus when in 1220 the De Lacys of 
Meath, a most powerful Anglo-Norman family, went 
to Athleague on the Shannon at the head of Lough 
Ree, where there was a ford, and began to build a 
castle at the eastern or Leinster side, in order that 
they might have a garrison in it always ready to 
use the ford and attack Connaught, Cahal promptly 


crossed the river into Longford, and so frightened 
them that they were glad to conclude a truce with 
him. And he broke down the castle which they had 
almost finished. 

Cahal of the Bed Hand was an upright and 
powerful king and governed with firmness and 
justice. The Irish Annals tell us that he relieved 
the poor as long as he lived, and that he destroyed 
more robbers and rebels and evil-doers of every kind 
than any other king of his time. In early life he 
had founded the abbey of Knockmoy* into which he 
retired in the last year of his life : and in this retreat 
he died in 1224. 


THE ancient Irish people like those of Greece and 
Kome and several other countries -believed that 
when a just and good king reigned, the country was 
blessed with fine weather and abundant crops, the 
trees bended with fruit, the rivers teemed with fish, 
and the whole kingdom prospered. This was the 
state of Connaught while Cahal of the Eed Hand 
reigned in peace. And it is recorded that when he 
died, fearful portents appeared, and tliere was gloom 
and terror everywhere. James Clarence Mangan, a 
Dublin poeo who died in 1849, pictures all this in 
the following fine poem. He supposes himself to be 
living on the river Maine in Germany, and he is 
brought to Connaught in a vision (" entranced "), 
where he witnesses the prosperity that attended 

* Knockinoy in Gahvay, six miles from Tuam : the ruins of 
the abbey still remain. 


Cabal's reign. This he sets forth in the first part 
of the poem : but a sudden mysterious change for 
the worse comes, which he describes in the last two 
verses. The whole poem forms a wild misty sort of 
picture such as one might see in a dream.* 

I walked entrancedf 

Through a land of Morn ; 
The sun with wondrous excess of light 
Shone down and glanced 

Over seas of corn 

And lustrous gardens aleft and right. 
Even in the clime 

Of resplendent Spain 
Beams no such sun upon such a land ; 
But it was the time, 

It was in the reign, 
Of Cahal More of the Wine-red Hand. 

Anon stood nigh 

By my side a man 
Of princely aspect and port sublime. 
Him queried I 

" Oh, my Lord and Khan,J 
What clime is this, and what golden time f " 
When he " The clime 
Is a clime to praise, 

The clime is Erin's the green and bland ; 
And it is the time, 

These be the days 
Of Cuhul More of the Wine-red Hand ! " 

* Mangau wrote many poetical translations from the Irish, as 
well as from the German and other languages. This " Vision of 
Connaught " is however an original poem, not a translation. 

t Observe the rhymes: entranced, glanced morn, corn 
light, right : and so all through the poem : occurring every 
third line which is unusual. Mangan was particularly skilled 
in rhyme and metre. 

J Irish, Ceann [can], meaning 'head,' one of the Gaelic titles 
for a chief. 


Then saw T thrones 
And circling fires, 

And a dome rose near me as by a spell, 
Whence flowed the tones 

Of silver lyres, 

And many voices in wreathed swell ; 
And their thrilling chime 

Fell on mine ears 

As the heavenly hymn of an angel-band 
" It is now the time, 
These he the years, 
Of Cahal More of the Wine-red Hand ! " 

I sought the hall, 

And behold ! . . . a change 
From light to darkness, from joy to woe! 
King, nobles, all, 

Looked aghast and strange ; 
The minstrel-group sate in dumbest show ! 
Had some great crime 

.Wrought this dread amaze, 
This terror ? None seemed to understand ! 
It was then the time, 

We were in the days, 
Of Cahal More of the Wine-red Hand. 

I again walked forth ; 

But lo ! the sky 

Showed fleckt with blood, and an alien sun 
Glared from the north, 

And there stood on high, 
Amid his shorn beams, A SKELETON. 
It was by the stream 

Of the castled Maine, 
One Autumn eve, in the Teuton's land, 
That I dreamed this dream 

Of the time and reign 
Of Cabal More of the Wine-red Hand! 



AMONG the many Anglo-Norman lords and knights 
who came to settle in Ireland in the time of Henry II., 
one of the most renowned was John de Courcy. The 
Welsh writer, Gerald Barry, already mentioned 
(pp. 2, 160), who lived at that time and knew him 
personally, thus describes him : 

" He was of huge size, tall and powerfully built, 
with bony and muscular limbs, wonderfully active 
and daring, full of courage, and a bold and venturous 
soldier from his youth. He was so eager for fighting 
that though commanding as general he always 
mingled with the foremost ranks in charging the 
enemy, which might have lost the battle ; for if he 
chanced to be killed or badly wounded, there was no 
general able to take his place. But though so fierce 
in war, he was gentle and modest in time of peace 
and very exact in attending to his religious devotions ; 
and when he had gained a victory he gave all the 
glory to God and took none to himself." 

When King Henry II. divided the country among 
his lords in 1172, he gave Ulster to De Courcy. But 
it was one thing to be granted the province and 
another thing to take possession of it ; for the Ulster 
chiefs and people were warlike and strong : and for 
five years De Courcy remained in Dublin without 
making any attempt to conquer it. 

At length he made up his mind to try his for- 
tune ; and gathering his followers to the number 
of about a thousand, every man well armed and 
trained to battle^ he set out for the north. Through 


rugged and difficult ways the party rode on, and early 
in the morning of the fourth day the 2nd February 
1177 they arrived at Downpatrick, then the capital 
of that part of the country. The Irish .of those 
times never surrounded their towns with walls ; and 
the astonished Downpatrick people, who knew 
nothing of the expedition, were startled from their 
beds at daybreak by a mighty uproar in the streets 
shouts and the clatter of horses' hoofs and the martial 
notes of bugles. Whatever little stock of provisions 
the party had brought with them was gone soon 
after they left Dublin ; and by the time they arrived 
at Downpatrick they were half -starved. They 
scattered themselves everywhere, and breaking away 
for the time from the control of their leader, they 
fell ravenously on all the food they could lay their 
hands on : they smashed in doors and set fire to 
houses, and ate and drank and slew as if they were 
mad, till the town was half destroyed. And the 
people were taken so completely by surprise that 
there was hardly any resistance. 

When this terrible onslaught at last came to an 
end, De Courcy, having succeeded in bringing his 
men together, made an encampment which he care- 
fully fortified ; and there the little army rested from 
their toils. At the end of a week the chief of the 
district came with a great army to expel the invaders ; 
while De Courcy arranged his men in ranks with 
great skill to withstand the attack. The Ulstermen, 
who were without armour, wearing a loose saffron- 
coloured tunic over the ordinary dress according to 
the Irish fashion, rushed on with fearless bravery ; 
but by no effort could they break the solid ranks of 



the armour-clad Anglo-Normans, who after a long 
struggle put them to flight, and pursued them for 
miles along the seashore. 

After this victory De Courcy settled in Down- 
patrick with his followers, and built a strong castle 
there for his better security. Nevertheless the Ulster- 
men in no way discouraged continued their fierce 
attacks : and though he was victorious in several 
battles he was defeated in others, so that for a 
long time he had quite enough to do to hold his 

But through all his difficulties the valiant De Courcy 
kept up his heart and battled bravely on, continually 
enlarging his territory, founding churches and build- 
ing strong castles all over the province. King Henry 
was so pleased with his bravery and with his success 
in extending the English dominions, that he made 
him earl of Ulster and lord of Connaught ; and in 
1185 he appointed him Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. 
This obliged him to live in Dublin ; but he left 
captains and governors in Ulster to hold his castles 
and protect his territory till he should return, which 
he did in 1189. 

By the death of Henry II. in 1189, Sir John de 
Courcy lost his best friend : and things began to go 
ill with him when King John came to the throne in 
1199. For another Anglo-Norman lord, Hugh de 
Lacy, grew jealous of his great deeds and hated him 
with his whole heart, so that he took every means to 
poison the king's mind against him. In a very old 
volume written by some Anglo-Irish writer, there 
are several entertaining stories of all that befell 


De Courcy after his return to Ulster from Dublin 
in 1189. Two of these somewhat shortened and 
re-arranged are given here combined in one, and 
much of the fine old language in which they are 
told is retained, as it is easily understood. 

The first story relates that whereas Sir Hugh de 
Lacy, who was now appointed general ruler of Ireland 
by the king, did much disdain and envy Sir John 
de Courcy, and being marvellous grieved at the 
worthy service he did, he sought all means that he 
could possible to damage and hinder him and to 
bring him to confusion, and promised much rewards 
in secret to those who would invent any matter 
against him ; for which De Lacy had no cause but 
that Sir John's actions and commendations were held 
in greater account than his own. He feigned also 
false charges against him and wrote them over to the 
king, and sore complained of him. 

Amongst other his grievous complaints, he said 
De Courcy refused to do homage to King John, and 
he charged him also with saying to many that the 
king had somewhat to do with the death of Prince 
Arthur, lawful heir to the crown of England ;* and 
many other such like things. All these were nothing 
but matters feigned by De Lacy to bring to a better 
end his purpose of utterly ruining De Courcy. On 
this De Courcy challenged him, after the custom of 
those times, to try the matter by single combat : but 
t>e Lacy fearing to meet him, made excuses and 

* Prince Arthur the rightful ht-ir t<> the English tl-'-mo was 
cast into prison by John ; he was soon after murdered, which it 

was believed was dune by John's ordeis. 


By reason of such evil and envious tales, though 
untrue they were, Sir Hugh de Lacy was at last 
commanded by King John to do what he might to 
apprehend and take Sir John de Courcy. Whereupon 
he devised and conferred with certain of Sir John's 
own men how this might be done ; and they said 
it was not possible to do so the while he was in his 
battle-harness. But they told him that it might be 
done on Good Friday ; for on that day it was his 
accustomed usage to wear no shield, harness, or 
weapon, but that he would be found kneeling at his 
prayers after he had gone about the church five times 
barefooted. And having so devised, they lay in wait 
for him in his church at Downpatrick ; and when 
they saw him barefooted and unarmed they rushed 
on him suddenly. But he, snatching up a heavy 
wooden cross that stood nigh the church, defended 
him till it was broken, and slew thirteen of them 
before he was taken. And so he was sent to England 
and was put into the Tower of London to remain 
there in perpetual, and there miserably was kept a 
long time without as much meat or apparel as any 
account could be made of. 

Now these men had agreed to betray their master 
to Sir Hugh de Lacy for a certain reward of gold and 
silver ; and when they came to Sir Hugh for their 
reward, he gave them the gold and silver as he had 
promised. They then craved of him a passport into 
England to tell all about the good service they had 
done ; which he gave them, with the following words 
written in it : 

" This writing witnesseth that those whose names 
are herein subscribed, that did betray so good a 


master for reward, will be false to me and to all 
the earth besides. And inasmuch as I put no trust 
in them, I do banish them out of this land of Ireland 
for ever ; and I do let Englishmen know that none 
of them may enjoy any part of this our king's land, 
or be employed as servitors from this forward for 

And so he wrote all their names, and put them 
in a ship with victuals and furniture, but without 
mariners or seamen, and put them to sea, and gave 
them strict charge never to return to Ireland on pain 
of death. And after this they were not heard of for 
a long time ; but by chance of weather and lack of 
skilful men, they arrived at Cork, and being taken, 
were brought to Sir Hugh de Lacy ; and first taking 
all their treasure from them, he hung them in chains 
and so left them till their bodies wasted away. 

This deed that Sir Hugh de Lacy did was for an 
ensample that none should use himself the like, and 
not for love of Sir John de Courcy : since it appeareth 
from certain ancient authors that he would have it 
so that De Courcy's name should not be so much 
as mentioned, and that no report or commendation 
of him should ever be made. 

And now Sir John de Courcy, being in the Tower 
in evil plight, cried often to God why He suffered 
him to be thus so miserably used, who did build so 
many good abbeys and did so many good deeds to. 
God : and thus often lamenting with himself he 
asked God his latter end to finish. 

It fortuned after this that much variance and 
debate did grow between King John of England and 


King Philip of France* about a certain castle which 
the king of France won from King John. And 
when King Philip had often been asked to restore it 
he refused, saying it was his by right. But at last 
he offered to try the matter by battle. For he had a 
champion, a mighty man who had never been beaten ; 
and he challenged the king of England to find on his 
side, a champion to.jight him, and let the title to the 
castle depend on the issue thereof; to which King 
John, more hasty than well advised, did agree. 

And when the day of battle was appointed, the 
king of England called together his Council to find 
out where a champion might be found that would 
take upon him this honour and weighty enterprise. 
Many places they sought and inquired of, but no one 
was found that was willing to engage in so perilous 
a matter. And the king was in a great agony, 
fearing more the dishonour of the thing than the 
loss of the castle. 

At length a member of the Council came to the 
king and told him that there was a man in the 
Tower of London one De Courcy that in all the 
earth was not his peer, if he would only fight. The 
king was much rejoiced thereat, and sent unto him 
to require and command him to take the matter in 
hand : but Sir John refused. The king sent again 
and offered him great gifts ; but again he refused, 
saying he would never serve the king in field any 
more ; for he thought himself evil rewarded for such 
service as he did him before. The king sent to him 

* At this time the kings of England had a large territory in 
France, so that quarrels often arose between them and the French 


a third time and bade him ask whatever he would 
for himself and for his friends, and all should be 
granted to him : and he said furthermore that upon 
his stalworth and knightly doings the honour of the 
realm of England did rest and depend. 

He answered that for himself the thing he would 
wish to ask for, King John was not able to give, 
namely, the lightness and freedom of heart that he 
once had, but which the king's unkind dealing had 
taken from him. As for his friends, he said that 
saving a few they were all slain in the king's 
service ; " and for these reasons " said he " I mean 
never to serve the king more. But " he went on to 
say " the honour of the realm of England, that is 
another matter : and I would defend it so far as lies 
in my power provided I might have such things as I 
shall ask for." 

This was promised to him, and the king sent 
messengers to set him at liberty ; who, when they 
had entered into his prison, found him in great 
misery. His hair was all matted and overgrew his 
shoulders to his waist; he had scarce any apparel, 
and the little he had fell in rags over his great body ; 
and his face was hollow from close confinement and 
for lack of food. 

After all things that he required had been granted 
to him, he asked for one thing more, namely, that 
his sword should be sent for all the way to 
Downpatrick in Ireland, where it would be found 
within the altar of the church ; for with that weapon 
he said he would fight and with no other. After 
much delay it was brought to him ; and when they 
saw it and felt its weight, they marvelled that an^ 


man could wield it. And good food was given to 
him, and seemly raiment, and he had due exercise, 
and in all things he was cherished and made much 
of; so that his strength of body and stoutness of 
heart returned to him. 

The lists were enclosed and all things were prepared 
against the day of battle. The two kings were there 
outside the lists with most of their nobility and 
thousands of great people to look on, all sitting 
on seats placed high up for good view. Within the 
lists were two tents for the champions where they 
might rest till the time appointed. And men were 
chosen to see that all things were carried on fairly 
and in good order. 

When the time drew nigh, the French champion 
came forth on the field and did his duty of obeisance, 
and bowed with reverence and courtesy to all around, 
and went back to his tent where he waited for half 
an hour. The king of England sent for Sir John to 
come forth, for that the French champion rested a 
long time waiting his coming ; to which he answered 
roughly that he would come forth when he thought it 
was time. And when he still delayed, the king sent 
one of his Council to desire him to make haste, to 
which he made answer : " If thou or those kings 
were invited to such a banquet, you would make no 
great haste coining forth to partake of it." 

On this the king, deeming that he was not going 
to fight at all, was about to depart in a great rage, 
thinking much evil of Sir John de Courcy. While 
he was thus musing, Sir John came forth in surly 
mood for memory of all the ill usage that had been 


wrought on him ; and he stalked straight on looking 
neither to the right nor to the left and doing no 
reverence to anyone : and so back to his tent. 

Then the trumpets sounded the first charge for 
the champions to approach. Forth they came and 
passing by slowly, viewed each other intently without 
a word. And when the foreign champion noted 
De Courcy's fierce look, and measured with his eyes 
his great stature and mighty limbs, he was filled 
with dread and fell all a- trembling. At length the 
trumpets sounded the last charge for the fight to 
begin ; on which De Courcy quickly drew his sword 
and advanced ; but the Frenchman, turning right 
round tl ranne awaie off the fielde and betooke him 
to Spaine." 

Whereupon the English trumpets sounded victory ; 
and there was such shouting and cheering, such 
a-clapping of hands and such a-throwing of caps in 
the air as the like was never seen before. 

When the multitude became quiet, King Philip 
desired of King John that De Courcy might be called 
before them to give a trial of his strength by a blow 
upon a helmet : to which De Courcy agreed. They 
fixed a great stake of timber in the ground, standing 
up the height of a man, over which they put a shirt 
of mail with a helmet on top. And when all was 
ready, De Courcy drawing his sword looked at the 
kings with a grim and terrible look that fearful it was 
to behold ; after which he struck such a blow as cut 
clean through the helmet and through the shirt of 
mail, and down deep in the piece of timber. And so 
fast was the sword fixed that no man in the assembly 
using his two hands with the utmost effort, could 


pluck it out ; but Sir John taking it in one hand 
drew it forth easily. 

The princes, marvelling at so huge a stroke, 
desired to understand why he looked so terrible at 
them before he struck the blow : on which he 

"I call St. Patrick of Down to witness that if I 
had missed the mark I would have cut the heads off 
both of you kings on the score of all the ill usage I 
received aforetime at your hands." 

King John being satisfied with all matters as they 
turned out took his answer in good part : and he 
gave him back all the dominions that before he had 
in Ireland as Earl of Ulster and lord of Connaught 
and of Kinsale in Cork ; and licensed him to return, 
with many great gifts besides. And to this day the 
people of Ireland hold in memory Sir John de Courcy 
and his mighty deeds ; and the ruins of many great 
castles builded by him are to be seen all over Ulster.* 

* When I was a boy John de Courcy was well known in 
tradition and legend among the Limerick peasantry ; and stories 
about him were common. Paddy MacGrath, of Glenosheen, a noted 
shanachie of whom I retain a genial and pleasant memory 
often told this very story of De Courcy and the foreign champion, 
.and told it with spirit, as he did all his stories ; while we boys 
listened entranced and breathless. I have not the least notion 
of how the people got these stories. 

The usual name by which John de Courcy was known among 
the people was Sean a bhidlle mhtiir. " John of the mighty 



IN every good History of Ireland we are told 
how missionaries and learned men went in great 
numbers from Ireland to the Continent in the 
early ages of Christianity to preach the Gospel 
and to teach in colleges. A full account of the lives 
and labours of these earnest and holy men would 
fill several volumes: but the following short sketch 
of one of them will give the reader a good idea of all. 

Donatus was born in Ireland of noble parents 
towards the end of the eighth century. There is 
good reason to believe that he was educated in the 
monastic school of Inishcaltra, a little island in 
Lough Derg, near the Galway shore, now better 
known as Holy Islandf : so that he was probably 
a native of that part of the country. Here he studied 
with great industry and success. He became a priest, 
and in course of time a bishop : and he was greatly 
distinguished as a professor. 

Having spent a number of years teaching, he re- 
solved to make a pilgrimage to Kome and visit the 
holy places on the way. He had a favourite pupil 
named Andrew belonging to a noble Irish family, 
a handsome, high-spirited youth, but of a deeply 
religious turn : and these two, master and scholar, 
were much attached. And when Donatus made 
known his intention to go as a pilgrim to foreign 
lands, Andrew, who could not bear to be separated 

* Fiesolein Tuscany, Italy ; pronounced in four syllables : Fee- 

t In the " Child's History of Ireland " there is a picture of the 
round to\rer and church ruins ou this little island. 


from him, begged to be permitted to go with him : 
to which Donatus consented. When they had made 
the few simple preparations necessary, they went 
down to the shore, accompanied by friends and 
relatives ; and bidding farewell to all home, friends, 
and country amid tears and regrets, they set sail 
and landed on the coast of France. 

And now, here were these two men, with stout 
hearts, determined will, and full trust in God, ex- 
hibiting an excellent example of what numberless 
Irish exiles of those days gave up, and of what trials 
and dangers they exposed themselves to, for the sake of 
religion. One was a successful teacher and a bishop ; 
the other a young chief ; and both might have lived 
in their own country a life of peace and plenty. But 
they relinquished all that for a higher and holier 
purpose ; and they brought with them neither luxury 
nor comfort. They had, on landing, just as much 
money and food as started them on their journey ; 
and with a small satchel strapped on shoulder, con- 
taining a book or two, some relics, and other neces- 
sary articles, and with stout staff in hand, they 
travelled the whole way on foot. Whenever a 
monastery lay near their road, there they called, 
sure of a kind reception, and rested for a day or two. 
When no monastery was within reach, they simply 
begged for food and night- shelter as they fared along, 
making themselves understood by the peasantry as 
best they could, for they knew little or nothing of 
their language. Much hardship they endured from 
hunger and thirst, bad weather, rough paths that 
often led them astray, and constant fatigue. They 
were sometimes in danger too from rude and wicked 


peasants, some of whom thought no more of killing 
a stranger than of killing a sparrow. But before 
setting out, the two pilgrims knew well the hardships 
and dangers in store for them on the way : so that 
they were quite prepared for all this : and on they 
trudged contented and cheerful, never swerving an 
instant from their purpose. 

They travelled in a sort of zigzag way, continually 
turning aside to visit churches, shrines, hermitages, 
and all places consecrated by memory of old-time 
saints, or of past events of importance in the history 
of Christianity. And whenever they heard, as they 
went slowly along, of a man eminent for holiness and 
learning, they made it a point to visit him so as to 
have the benefit of his conversation and advice; 
using the Latin language, which all learned men 
spoke in those times. 

In this manner the pilgrims made their way right 
through France and on through north Italy till they 
arrived at Kome. This was the main object of their 
pilgrimage, and here they sojourned for a considerable 
time. Having obtained the Pope's blessing, they set 
out once more, directing their steps now towards 
Tuscany, till at length they reached the beautiful 
mountain of Fiesole near Florence, where stood 
many churches and other memorials of Christian 
saints and martyrs. They entered the hospice of 
the monastery, intending to rest there for a week or 
two, and then to resume their journey. At this time 
Irish pilgrims and missionaries were respected every- 
where on the Continent ; and as soon as the arrival 
of those two became known, they were received with 
honour by both clergy and people, who became 


greatly attached to them for their gentle quiet ways 

and their holiness of life. 

It happened about the time of their arrival here 

that the pastor of Fiesole, who, was a bishop, died ; 

and the clergy and people resolved to have Donatus 

for their pastor. But when they went to him and 

told him what they wanted, he became frightened ; 

and trembling greatly he said to them in his gentle 

humble way : 

" We are only poor pilgrims from Scotia, and I do 

not wish to be your bishop ; for I am not at all fit 

for it, hardly even knowing your language or your 


But the more he entreated the more vehemently 

did they insist : so that at last he consented to 

take the bishop's chair. This was in or about the 

year 824. 

We need not follow the life of St. Donatus further 
here. It is enough to say that notwithstanding all 
his fears and his deep humility, he became a great 
and successful pastor and missionary. For about 
thirty-seven years he laboured among the people of 
Fiesole by whom he was greatly loved and revered. 
Down to the day of his death, which happened 
about 861 when he was a very old man, he was 
attended by his affectionate friend Andrew. He is 
to this day honoured in and around Fiesole as an 
illustrious saint of those times. His tomb is still 
shown and regarded with much veneration : and in 
the old town there are several other memorials of him.* 

* A detailed and reverent and very interesting account of 
Donatus' s work in Fiesole, of the legends told about him, and 
of the memorials of him still preserved there will be found in 
Miss Margaret Stokes's book " Six Months in the Apennines." 


Like St. Columkille, Donatus always cherished a 
tender regretful love for Ireland ; and like him also 
he wrote a short poem in praise of it which is still 
preserved. It is in Latin, and the following is a 
translation of part of it made by a Dublin poet (the 
Rev. William Dunkin) a century and a half ago : 
Far westward lies an isle of ancient fume, 
By nature bless' d ; and Scotia is her name 
Enroll 'd in Looks* : exhaustless is her store 
Of veiny silver and of golden ore.f 
Her fruitful soil for ever teems with wealth, 
With gemsj her waters, and her air with health ; 
Her verdant fields with milk and honey flow ; 
Her woolly fleeces|| vie with virgin snow ; 
Her waving furrows float with bearded corn ; 
And arms and arts her envied sons adorn !1J 
No savage bear with lawless fury roves, 
Nor fiercer lion through her peaceful groves ; 
No poison there infects, no scaly snake 
Creeps through the grass, nor frog annoys the lake;** 
An island worthy of its pious race, 
In war triumphant, and unmatch'd in peace ! 

* I.e., Scotia is the name by which it is known in books. 
Scotia was one of the names of Ireland ; but at home the natives 
always called it Erin. 

t Ireland had mines of gold in old times ; and silver was also 
found. Great numbers of Irish gold ornaments, found from 
time to time in the earth, are now preserved in museums. 

J Pearls were then found in many Irish rivers ; as they are 
sometimes to this day. 

The Venerable Bede, a great English historian writing in 
the eighth century, calls Ireland " a land flowing with milk and 

|| Ireland was noted for the plenty and goodness of its wool. 

IT Ireland had great warriors and many learned men and 
skilful artists. 

** See page 5, above. 




IN no country in the world is there so large a 
proportion of the names of places intelligible as in 
Ireland. This may be accounted for partly by the 
fact that the names are nearly all Gaelic, which has 
been the language of the country without a break 
from the time of the first colonies till the introduction 
of English, and is still the spoken language over a 
large area, so that the names never lost their 
significance ; and partly that a very large number 
of the names are recorded in their correct original 
forms in our old Gaelic books. But, even with these 
helps, we have still a considerable number of local 
names whose meanings we cannot discover. In my 
two volumes on " Irish Names of Places," I have 
confined myself to those names of whose meanings I 
had unquestionable evidence of one kind or another ; 
but it may be interesting to pass in review here a 
few of those names that came across me whose 
meanings I was unable to determine. 

Where names do not bear their interpretation 
plainly on their face in their present printed 
anglicised forms, there are two chief modes of 
determining their meanings ; either to hear them 
pronounced as living words, or to find out their 
oldest forms in ancient Gaelic documents : in either 
case you can generally determine the meaning. But 
still there are names and not a few about which 
we are in the dark, though we can hear them 
pronounced, or find them written in old books. 


And here it is necessary to observe that once you 
hear a name distinctly pronounced by several 
intelligent old people who all agree, or find it plainly 
written in manuscripts of authority, if in either case 
it is not intelligible, you are not at liberty to alter it 
so as to give it a meaning, unless in rare exceptional 
cases, and with some sound reason to justify the 
change. It is by indulging in this sort of license 
that etymologists are most prone to error, not only 
in Gaelic, but in all other languages. 

Let us look at an example of this vicious procedure. 
There are many places in Ireland called Templenoe 
or Templenua, a name quite plain and simple, 
meaning "new-church," so called in each case to 
distinguish the building from some older church in 
the neighbourhood ; exactly like Kilnoe or Kilnue 
(" New Church "), which is also a common townland 
name. There is a parish called Templenoe near 
Kenmare in Kerry, taking its name from an old 
church still existing. Ask the old people of the 
place to pronounce the name, and they always say 
" Templenoe," never anything else (except perhaps a 
few who have been recently perverted by the new 
and spurious book learning detailed here). Or look 
through written Irish documents in which the place 
is mentioned especially songs and you always find 
it written Templenua. But a name which means 
nothing more than " New Church " was too prosy 
and commonplace a designation in the eyes of certain 
local antiquarians some of them good Irish scholars 
too ; and in order to connect the old Church for its 
greater honour with the Blessed Virgin, they 
invented a form of the name which never had any 


existence at all anywhere outside themselves 
Temple-na-hOighe (pronounced Temple-na-hoe), which 
would mean the " Temple or Church of the Virgin." 
The discussion was carried on in print some twenty- 
five or thirty years ago with mighty learning, 
drowned in a whole deluge of conjecture and 
guesswork, which had no more limit or law than the 
flood of Noah. I think the disputants in the end 
settled down to Temple-na-hOighe, blissfully oblivious 
of the fact that there are many other places called 
Templenoe, which, like this one, were and are 
called correctly, by the peasantry, who had the name 
from their grandfathers, as well as in writing. 

This is the sort of spurious etymology, which, a 
century ago or more, made the treatment of our 
antiquities the laughing stock, not only of England, 
but of all Europe. But the sky is clearer now ; 
though we come across still now and then some 
wild freaks of etymology, dancing before our eyes 
like a daddy-long-legs on a window-pane. 

We are not able to tell, with any degree of 
certainty, the meaning of the name of Ireland itself, 
or of any one of the four provinces. Our old writers 
have legends to account for all ; but these legends 
are quite worthless as etymological authorities, except 
perhaps the legend of the origin of the name of 
Leinster, which has a historical look about it.* The 
oldest native form of the name of Ireland is Eriu or 
Heriu. But in the ancient Greek, Latin, Breton and 
Welsh forms of the name, the first syllable Er, is 
represented by two syllables, with a b, v, or w 

* See my Irish Names of Places, vol. i., page 93, 


sound : Gr. and Lat., Iberio or Hiberio, Hibemia 
Jouernia (Ivernia) ; Welsh and Breton, Ywerdilon, 
Iwerdon, Iverdon. From this it may be inferred, 
with every appearance of certainty, that the native 
name was originally Ibheriu, Eberiu, Iveriu, Hiberm, 
Hiveriu, or some such form ; but for this there is no 
native manuscript authority, even in the very oldest 
of our writings. Beyond this, all is uncertainty. 
Dr. Whitley Stokes suggests that this old form may 
be connected with Sanscrit avara, western; but this, 
though possibly right, is still conjecture. 

The name Krin has been explained iarin, western 
land ; or iar-inis, western island. Zeuss conjectures 
iar-rend, or iar-renn, modern iar-reann, western 
island or country ; and Pictet regards the first 
syllable of the form Ivernia as being the Celtic 
word ibh, land, tribe. Pictet took the word ibh from 
O'Reilly, whereas there is no nominative singular 
word ibh in the Irish language : ibh or uibh is merely 
the dative plural of ua or o, a grandson. Max Miiller 
(Lectures on the Science of Language, I. 245) thinks 
he sees in Erin or Eriu a trace of the name of 
the primitive Aryan people. But all these latter 
conjectures are almost certainly wrong. 

The name of Navan, in Meath, has long exercised 
Irish etymologists including even 'Donovan. 
This greatest of all Irish topographers identified it 
at the time he was employed on the Ordnance 
Survey with Nuachongbhail, which is often mentioned 
by the Annalists ; or perhaps it would be more 
correct to say that he showed beyond doubt that 
Nuachongbhail stood where Navan now stands. 
Nuachongbhail signifies new habitation, from nua, 


new ; and conybhail, a habitation. This long name 
would be sounded Noo-hong-val ; and elsewhere in 
Ireland it has been softened down to Noughaval and 
Nohoval. L is often changed to n in Irish names, 
and if we admit that this has taken place here, and 
that the middle h sound has been omitted (which 
it often is, as we see in Drogheda for Droghed-aha, 
Drumlane for Drumlahan, &c.), we shall have the 
fovmNovan; and we know that in some old documents, 
written in English, the place is called Novane. 

But another very different, and indeed a far more 
interesting origin for the name suggests itself. We are 
told in several of our most ancient legendary records, 
that Heremon son of Miled or Milesius, while still 
living in Spain, before the Milesian expedition to 
Ireland, married a lady named Odhbha [Ova] who 
became the mother of three of his children. After a 
time he put her away and married Tea, from whom 
in after time, according to the legendary etymology, 
Tea-mur or Tara derived its name. When Heremon 
came to Ireland, Odhbha followed him and her 
children, and soon after her arrival died of grief on 
account of her repudiation by her husband. Her 
three children raised a mound to her memory, which 
was called Odhbha after her ; and from this again 
was named the territory of Odhbha which lay round 
Navan, and which in after ages was known as the 
territory of the O'Heas. 

This mound we know was (and is still) near the place 
on which Navan now stands ; and like all sepulchral 
mounds, it must have contained an artificial cave in 
which the remains were deposited. We know that 
the present colloquial Irish name of Navan is an 


uaimh, " the cave " : this name is still remembered by 
the old people, and we find it also in some of our 
more modern Irish annals. We may fairly conclude 
that the cave here meant is that in which Queen 
Odhbha has rested from her sorrows for three 
thousand years ; and it may be suspected that 
uaimh, though a natural name under the circum- 
stances, is a corruption from Odhbha, as both have 
nearly the same sound ; in fact the modern pronun- 
ciation varies between an Uaimh and an Odhbha. 

Another element of difficulty is the fact that in 
the Annals of Lough Key the place is called An 
Umama "The UMamd" which seems to show that 
the old writer was as much puzzled about the name 
as we are, and wrote it down honestly as best he 
could, without attempting to twist it into an intel- 
ligible word, as many modern writers would do 
without hesitation. This form Umamd is probably 
evolved from the old form Odhbha at least I shall 
regard it so. 

Now, from which of *these three words, Nuachong- 
bhail, Odhbha, or An Uaimh, is the name of Navan 
derived ; for it is certainly derived from one or an- 
other of the three ? The first n of Navan (as repre- 
senting an uaimh) is the Irish article an, contracted 
to n, as it usually is ; and this is still remembered, even 
by the English-speaking people, for Navan has been 
and is still often called The Navan. But this fact 
might apply to any one of the three derivations. In 
the case of Navan coming from NuachongWiail, the 
first n of this Irish name was mistaken for the 
article ; just as in the case of Onghaval in Sligo, 
Mayo, and Queen's County, in which the initial n 


has been dropped by the people, who mistook it for 
the article, the proper name being Noughaval, i.e. 
Nuachongbhail ; and as to Odhbha and Uaimh, the 
article is there to the present day annexed to both. 
The presence of the last n of Navan is quite com- 
patible with the derivation from either Odhbha or 
An Uaimh, for it is the termination of an oblique 
form, and as a matter of fact uaimh is often written 
and pronounced uamhainn, as in the case of the 
name of the village of Ovens, west of Cork city, 
which is really Uamhainn, i.e., caves, from the 
great limestone caves near the village, and either 
'n-Odhbhan or 'n- Uamhainn would sound almost 
exactly the same as the old English name, Novane. 

The change from Nuachongbhail to Novane looks 
too violent, though possible, and I am disposed to 
believe that Queen Odhbha's name still lives in the 
name " Navan." The people having lost all tra- 
dition of Heremon's repudiated queen, and not 
understanding what Odhbha meant, mistook it for 
Uaimh, which has nearly the same sound, and which 
was quite applicable, as the cave was there before 
their eyes, so they prefixed the article and used 
Uamhainn (as elsewhere) for Uaimh, the whole Irish 
name, n- Uamhainn (pronounced Noovan), being 
Anglicized to Novane, which ultimately settled down 
to Navan. But this is by no means certain, and 
until we discover more decided authorities the name 
will continue doubtful and tantalizing. 

Granard, in the county Longford, is mentioned in 
the Tain-bo-Chuailgne in Leabhar-na-hUidhre (p. 57, 
col. a, line 30), a book written A.D. 1100. In the 
text it is written Grdnairud, which is the oldest form 


of the name accessible to us, and a gloss immediately 
over the word " .i. Granard indiu " ("namely 
Granard to-day ") identifies Grdnairud with the 
present Granard. Moreover, the gloss was written 
at the same time as the text, so that the name had 
taken the form Granard 800 years ago, (rrdnainnl 
being a still older form. If we were profane enough 
to take liberties with this grand old text, we could 
easily, by a very slight twist, change Grdnairud to 
an intelligible word ; but there it stands, and no one 
can tell what it means. 

But a name may be plain enough as to its meaning 
may carry its interpretation on its face and still 
we may not be able to tell what gave rise to it 
why the place was so called. There are innumerable 
names all over* the country subject to this doubt ; 
but in these cases a little more liberty of conjecture 
is allowable. Moreover, local inquiry among the 
most intelligent of the old inhabitants often clears up 
the doubt. Still there are hundreds of names that 
remain, and will always remain, obscure in this 

The name of the village of Sneem, in Co. Kerry, to 
the west of Kenmare, is a perfectly plain Gaelic 
word, and universally understood in the neighbour- 
hood Snaidhm [snime] , a knot. The -intelligent 
old people of the place say that the place got its 
name from a roundish grass-covered rock, rising over 
a beautiful cascade in the river just below the bridge, 
where the fresh water and the salt water meet. 
When the tide is in, this rock presents the appear- 
ance of a snaidhm or knot over the stream. This is 
not unlikely. But there is another name formed 


from the same word just one other in all Ireland, 
so far as I am aware the origin of which it is not 
so easy to discover. This is Snimnagorta, near the 
village of Ballymore in Westmeath, which is a real 
puzzle, though its meaning is plain enough, gort or 
gorta,. hunger or famine: Snimnagorta, the "knot of 
hunger." So also, there are places called " Frossa," 
which is an anglicized form of the Irish Frasa, 
11 showers." But why are these places called in 
Irish " Showers " ? Perhaps the name of the "Caha 
Mountains " (i.e. "showery mountains)", between 
Ken mare and Bantry, may give some help (Names of 
Places, ii. 153). " Frosses " in Antrim is the same 
name, only with the English plural termination. I 
will leave these names and others like them to 
exercise the judgment of the readers. 

Sometimes a single glance at the place clears up 
the matter. A few years ago I saw for the first time, 
from the railway carriage, Ballydehob ("The Ford 
of the two mouths ") in Cork, which enlightened my 
ignorance (See my Names of Places, i, 253). Just 
at the bridge, where the ford stood in old times, the 
river divides in two, forming a little delta, and enters 
the sea by two mouths. See also Lough Avaul in 
Names of Places, i. 4. 

As giving examples of the doubts and difficulties 
attending the investigation of local etymologies, and 
of the extreme caution with which the investigator 
must proceed, this short sketch may be of some use 
to the younger and less experienced students who 
are labouring to master the language, the local 
names, and the antiquities of Ireland. 


In addition to my two volumes on " Irish Names 
of Places" (in which are explained the names of 
20,000 or 80,000 different places) there is room for at 
least one more volume. Whoever undertakes the 
very serious task of writing this will have aids that 
I had not : especially the Rev. Dr. Hogan's great 
work " Onomasticon Goedelicum " ; "Early Irish 
Population-Groups " (Proc. R. I. Acad.) by Pro- 
fessor John MacNeill ; and " The Place-Names of 
Decies," by the Rev. P. Power. 




[I WROTE this little story when I was very young, 
and put it aside for some years. It was published in 
the year 1857, in a local newspaper, "'The Tipperary 
Leader" over the pen-name " Carnferay " : my 
first appearance in print. It represents faithfully 
the dialect of the Limerick peasantry of seventy years 
ago, which I think is still much the same as it was 
then. Most or all of the scenes and incidents are 
depicted from real life, as I witnessed them in my 
boyhood and youth. As the Palatines figure in this 
story a few words about them will not come amiss. 

The Palatines were German Protestants from the 
Palatinate of the Upper Rhine. In the beginning of 
the eighteenth century, great numbers of them were 
brought to England, where they were settled on farms 
at low rents. From England a number were brought 
to Ireland by Sir Thomas Southwell (or " Lord 
Southwell," as I heard him called) of Limerick, who 
settled them about Rathkeale. From this place 
again many families were transferred to Glenosheen, 
Ballyorgan, and Garranleash near Kilfinane, where 
the landlord, the Right Hon. Silver Oliver, gave them 
small plots at trifling rents, with help to build their 

In my time there was a popular rhyme : 

"In the year seventeen hundred and nine 
In came the brass-colored Palatine 
From the ancient banks of the Swabian Rhine." 

In Glenosheen the land given them was unoccu- 


pied, so that there were no evictions Oliver took 
care of that ; and as the place was mostly wooded they 
had to clear the bush before tilling their little farms. 
At the time of their arrival and for many years 
subsequently, they had several customs that seemed 
very strange to the natives : their dress was made of 
canvas, even to the shoes except the soles ; they 
ate "sour krout" (a preparation of cabbage); and 
slept between two feather beds. This is the account 
that I had in my early days, as handed down by the 
old people ; but these peculiarities had all disappeared 
long before my time. They were dark yellow and 
rather swarthy in complexion, as are most of their 
descendants to this day, 

As to religion, they were all Methodists : but they 
attended the little Protestant church, as they were 
too few to be able to afford a church and pastor of 
their own. But they often engaged the services of a 
Methodist preacher for a short time. He was enter- 
tained in the houses of the well-to-do by turns, and 
they treated him hospitably : in fact, he lived on the 
fat of the land while he was among them. 

As I remember them, they were steady, sober, and 
industrious : good farmers : understood gardening ; 
kept bees ; and were fond of making pastry. * 

In my early time Glenosheen had a mixture of 
Catholics and Protestants (chiefly Palatines) about 
half and half, and we got on very well together : in 
recalling the kindly memories of my boyhood com- 
panions, Palatines come up as well as Catholics. 

* Gfrald Griffin, who knew the Palatines well, depicts their 
character truly in his story, " Suil dhuv the Coiner," 


The following were some of the prevailing Palatine 
family names in my neighbourhood seventy years 
ago; Bovenizer, Alltimes or Alton, Stuffle (Stoffel), 
Young, Glaizier, Ruttle.Ligier(Ligonier), Heck, Bark- 
man (Berchmans), Strough (with a strong guttural 
at the end), Fizzell, Shoultiss, Delmege. But of these 
not more than four or five are extant now : all the 
rest have been cleared out by death or emigration.] 

The Ballyhoura Mountains extend for several 
miles on the borders of the counties of Cork and 
Limerick. Commencing near Charleville, they 
stretch away towards the east, consisting of a 
succession of single peaks with lone and desolate 
valleys lying between, covered with heath or coarse 
grass, where for ages the silence has been broken 
only by the cry of the heath-cock or the yelp of the 
fox echoing among the rocks that are strewn in 
wild confusion over the sides of the mountains. They 
increase gradually in height towards the eastern 
extremity of the range, where they are abruptly 
terminated by the majestic Seefin, which projecting 
forwards its back to the west and its face to the 
rising sun seems placed there to guard the desolate 
solitudes behind it. Towards the east it overlooks 
a beautiful and fertile valley, through which a little 
river winds its peaceful course to join the Funsheon ; 
on the west "Blackrock of the eagle " rears its front 
a sheer precipice over Lyre-na-Freaghawn, a 
black heath-covered glen that divides the mountains. 
On the south it is separated by Lyre-na-Grena the 
" valley of the sun," from "the Long Mountain," 


which stretches far away towards Glenanaar; and 
immediately in front, on the opposite side of the 
valley, rises Barna Geeha, up whose sides cultivation 
has crept almost to its summit. Just under the 
eastern face of Seefin, at its very base, and extend- 
ing even a little way up the mountain steep, reposes 
the peaceful little village of Glenosheen.* 

Gentle reader, go if you can on some sunny morning 
in summer or autumn let it be Sunday morning if 
possible to the bottom of the valley near the bank 
of the little stream, and when you cast your eyes up 
to the village and the great green hill over it, you 
will admit that not many places even in our own 
green island can produce a prettier or more cheerful 
prospect. There is the little hamlet, with its white- 
washed cottages gleaming in the morning beams, and 
from each a column of curling smoke rises slowly 
straight up towards the blue expanse. The base of 
the mountain is covered with wood, and several 
clumps of great trees are scattered here and there 
through the village, so that it appears imbedded in a 
mass of vegetation, its pretty cottages peeping out 
from among the foliage. The land on each side rises 
gently towards the mountain, its verdure interspersed 
by fields of blossomed potatoes laughing with joy, or 
of bright yellow corn, or more beautiful still, little 
patches of flax clothed in their Sunday dress of light 
blue.f Seefin rises directly over the village, a perfect 

* See "Sir Donall" and "The White Ladye" in Robert 
D\\ r yer Joyce's " Ballads of Irish Chivalry " for all these places 
commemorated in verse. 

t Flax was grown there then (1845); but there is no flax 
now (1911). 


cone ; white patches of sheep are scattered here and 
there over its bright sunny face ; and see, far up 
towards the summit, that long line of cattle, just 
after leaving Lyre-na-Grena, where they were driven 
to be milked, and grazing quietly along towards 
Lyre-na-Freaghawn. The only sounds that catch 
your ear are, the occasional crow of a cock, or 
the exulting cackle of a flock of geese, or the softened 
low of a cow may reach you, floating down the hill 
side ; or the cry of the herdsman, as with earnest 
gestures he endeavours to direct the movements of 
the cattle. But hear that merry laugh. See, it 
comes from the brow of the hill where the women 
of the village are just coming into view, returning 
from Lyre-na-Grena after milking their cows. Each 
carries a pail in one hand and a spancel in the other, 
and as they approach the village, descending the steep 
pathway- the " Dray-road," as it is called that 
leads from " The Lyre," a gabble of voices mingled 
with laughter floats over the village, as merry and as 
happy as ever rung on human ear. Observe now 
they arrive at the village, the group becomes thinner 
as they proceed down the street, and at length all 
again is quietness. 

Happy village ! Pleasant scenes of my childhood ! 
How vividly at this moment do I behold that green 
hill-side, as I travel back in imagination to the days 
of my boyhood, when I and my little brother Eobert, 
and our companions all now scattered over this 
wide world ranged joyful among the glens in search 
of birds' nests, or climbed the rocks at its summit, 
eager to plant ourselves on its dizzy elevation. Why 
did ambition tempt me to leave my peaceful home ? 


Why did I abandon that sunny valley, where I might 
have travelled gently down the vale of life, free from 
those ambitious aspirations, those struggles with 
fortune that only destroy my peace? But though 
exiled far from my home, my heart shall never cease 
to point to its loved retirement ; and ever, as release 
from business grants me the opportunity, I shall 
return to wander over the scenes of my infancy, to 
hold communion once again with the few companions 
of my boyhood that remain, and to think with feelings 
of kindly regret on those that are gone. And when 
weary from the incessant struggles of life, I seek an 
asylum from its turmoil, grant me, oh, kind Providence, 
to spend my declining years in that beloved valley, 
and to rest at length my aged head in the grave of 
my fathers on the green hill of Ardpatrick.* 

About a century and a-half ago, that part of the 
valley where the village now stands was almost 
uninhabited. It was covered with a vast forest of 
oaks, which not only clothed the valley, but extended 
more than half way up to the summits of the sur- 
rounding hills ; and to this day the inhabitants will 
tell you, in the words of their fathers, that " a person 
could travel from Ardpatrick to Darra (about five 
miles) along the branches of the trees." No human 
habitation relieved the loneliness, save only one 
small cottage that stood near the base of the hill. 
It was inhabited, from times too remote for even 
the memory of tradition to reach, by a family named 

* All this sentiment was natural enough for a young man. 
homesick, after leaving his native place ; but sixty years or more 
will hring changes of feeling (April, 1911). 


MacEniry, descendants of that princely sept that 
once possessed the Ballyhoura Mountains with many 
miles of the surrounding country. About three acres 
of land just in front of the house, and a small garden 
in the rear, had been rescued by some of the early 
dwellers from the grasp of the forest ; the produce 
of these, with the assistance of a cow or two, and a 
few sheep and goats that browsed on the mountain 
side, afforded each succeeding family a means of 
subsistence ; and they lived as happy as the days are 
long in the quiet of their mountain solitude. 

Garret Mac Eniry was the occupant of the little 
tenement at the period of which we speak. His 
locks were whitened by the frost of seventy winters, 
but age had not deprived him of the firm tread and 
the erect gait of his youth. Although of humble 
position and accustomed to daily labour on his 
little farm, there was a certain dignity stamped on 
his countenance that spoke descent from a distin- 
guished race, and gained for him the respect of all 
who knew him. He had married young the daughter 
of a neighbouring farmer, and had seen a family 
spring up around him ; but he had scarcely begun to 
enjoy his happiness when it vanished from his grasp. 
His children died one after another ; and now, with 
the exception of his aged partner, all that his heart 
had ever prized slept in the lonely churchyard of 
Ardpatrick. His disposition was once buoyant and 
cheerful ; but the death of his children and the con- 
sciousness that he was the last of an expiring race 
had long marked his face with a settled expression 
of pensiveness. Mary his wife was old and feeble, 
for grief had done its work ; she was devotedly 


attached to Garret, and this alone prevented her 
from wishing to sleep with her children in Ard- 
patrick ; and so they lived on from year to year. 
Garret still rose with the lark and worked on his 
little- farm; and Mary was still able to manage all 
their domestic affairs. Their attachment to each 
other had become, if possible, more deep as time 
advanced Mary's increasing helplessness calling 
forth from Garret all those latent affections that lie 
sleeping in the depths of every human heart till 
wakened into life and strength by the sufferings of 
some beloved object. 

The solitude of their mountain home was at length 
broken. The Right Hon. Silver Oliver brought twelve 
Palatine families from Rathkeale to reside in Gleno- 
sheen; giving each, at some trifling rent, a house and 
a small farm of land. The houses were built just 
under Seefin, six on each side of the road, forming a 
little street which ran straight up against the hill 
the germ from which gradually arose the pleasant 
little village of Glenosheen . On each side of the village 
the trees were cut down, and the cleared land was 
parcelled out in small lots of about three acres each, 
one of which was appropriated to each Palatine 
family. In a few months from the commencement 
of the work the strangers were settled down in their 
new abode, and the valley exhibited the cheerful 
signs of industry. Garret's cottage lay a few perches 
to the west of the village, and he was left in undis- 
turbed possession. 

His prying Palatine neighbours were not long in 
winning his acquaintance, and in discovering from 
the other inhabitants of the valley, his whole history. 


He neither courted nor repelled their advances, but 
was uniformly quiet and obliging, and he soon gained 
their esteem and confidence. Only on very rare 
occasions did he enter any of their cottages, but when 
he did they were really rejoiced to welcome him, and 
he was sure to be offered a plate of plum pudding or 
some of those other delicacies for the manufacture of 
which some of the Palatine women are to this day 
famed. The children too though they were silent 
in his presence, yet loved to steal near him in hopes 
that he would rub their heads, for he was gentle 
and kind to them. Mary was equally a favourite 
among the women, and when Garret was out at 
work during the day she was hardly ever alone, for 
they came and sat with her while they knitted. 
Though Garret had at first regretted to see the quiet 
of his home disturbed by* these strangers, and though 
there were many peculiarities in their manners that 
appeared to him harsh and rude, yet on the whole he 
was not displeased with his altered circumstances, 
and two or three years passed away agreeably 

One evening when Garret returned from work 
somewhat earlier than usual, intending to look after 
a few sheep which he had on the mountain, he found 
Mary alone : she was more silent than usual, and 
he thought she looked ill. 

'* Mary acushla," said he, " is there anything amiss 
with you ? I think you don't look well this evenin." 

" Why thin indeed Garret," she replied, " to tell 
the thruth, I didn't feel too well these couple o' days, 
but I didn't like to tell you afore, for fear you might 
be throubled. I don't know how it is, but there's 


something quare comin' over me that I never felt 
afore, an' there's a weight here on my heart I 
can't get rid of. The Lord sind, Garret avourneen," 
said she doubtingly, "that it wouldn't be anything 

" Mary agragal you're takin' id too much to heart," 
said he, "you wor never used to sickness, and a 
little thing frightens you ; but you'll see there's no 
danger. Wait till to-morrow, an' I'll engage with 
the help of God you'll be as well as ever you wor." 

" Well, God is good, glory be to His holy name. I 
hope it may turn out as you're sayin'. But sure 
Garret avourneen, 'tis afore us all, praise be to God, 
an' His will must be done anyway." 

This delicate allusion to the possibility of real 
danger caused a thrill of anguish to shoot through 
his breast. Suppressing his emotion however he 
again assumed his former cheerful encouraging tone, 
and replied 

" Mary, a sullish machree, you're too much down- 
hearted ; indeed I can't bear to hear you spakin' in 
that way, for id goes through my heart, so id does. 
I'll stay wid you all this evenin', an* I'll engage 
you'll see, please God 'tis only a little fit of cowld or 
some other thriflin' thing." 

Her presentiments proved to be too true. That 
evening she was obliged to take to bed, and next 
morning her illness had increased to an alarming 
extent : symptoms of fever set in, and her mind 
occasionally wandered. All this soon became known 
to their neighbours, who heard it with real concern, 
and the cottage was never without visitors. For 
several days she lingered, but her strength 


sank, and now all hopes of her recovery were re- 
linquished. She requested that Father Quinlan might 
be sent for ; he came, and she received the last rites 
of the church. Garret was in a state of utter despon- 
dency ; he neglected everything, and was with 
difficulty prevailed upon to taste a morsel of food ; 
but he never wept, and he spoke but little. He spent 
his whole time either in sitting by the bed-side or in 
walking silently about his little farm. He wandered 
from place to place, stopping with clasped hands and 
gazing at every object with which the memory of 
Mary was in any way associated. 

There was a little green at a short distance behind 
the house, with a seat made of sods at the upper end 
of it ; it was a pretty nook, cut as it were out of the 
forest. The trees completely overshadowed it, and 
except when the morning sun peeped in beneath the 
branches it was screened from his beams. Long ago, 
Garret and Mary loved to sit together on this little 
bank and listen to the song of the birds in the trees 
over them ; and when their children grew up, the 
whole family often left the house on a Sunday morn- 
ing to enjoy themselves in this spot, the hearts of 
the parents overflowing with happiness, as under the 
laughing beams of the morning sun their little ones 
gambolled on the green before them. Garret now 
haunted this spot continually ; he ended every walk 
by seating himself for a short time on that little 
bank, where he had spent so many happy hours. 

On the evening of the fourth day several persons 
sat in the cottage, some of Garret's old acquaintances, 
and several Palatines ; he himself sat by the bedside. 
They were all silent, or only talked occasionally in 


hushed whispers, for they sat by a death bed. Mary 
had nearly lost all consciousness of those around her, 
and her mind wandered in a bewildered and perplexed 
chaos. She spoke at intervals in a low voice ; her 
words wandered wildly without connection, over the 
events of her past life ; and she spoke of each as if 
it were of recent or present occurrence. Quick as 
lightning her mind darted after every new flash of 
thought, until she uttered a word, or perhaps her 
eye accidentally caught some external object that 
awoke some long slumbering association, and turned 
her thoughts into a new channel. The aged man 
bent silently over her, catching every word and 
watching anxiously for a gleam of returning con- 
sciousness. Occasionally she paused, looking per- 
plexed, and seemed as if she endeavoured to recollect 
herself ; then uttered a few words, .or asked a question, 
that seemed to indicate the momentary return of 
sanity. Here he would speak to her, reminding her 
of his presence and asking in a low voice if she knew 
him, in a most gentle and affectionate manner; but 
again her eyes assumed their meaningless vacancy, 
and her scattered replies showed that the faint gleam 
of returning reason was again lost in the gloom of 
disordered imagination. In the intervals of her 
speaking she occasionally moved her right hand 
lightly over the bed-clothes, as if feeling for some- 
thing ; then she would catch them in her fingers, 
lifting and arranging them, in that childish way that 
throws such a sickening chill on the heart of any- 
one who witnesses a death bed. 

" Yes Garret, there it is comin' home there is the 
little lamb you was lookin' for; the poorliltiecrathur 


is almost dead with the hunger. And look, Garret- 
oh, look ! little Jimmy is dhrivin' her. Sure I knew it 
was Jimmy. Come here, Jimmy alanna an' kiss 
your poor mother that's a long time lookin' for you 
and cryin' afther you. But no ! this isn't my 
darlin' boy wid the two blue eyes no, this isn't 
Jimmy (a pause) * * * But och ; sure I'm 
ravin' this burnin', this burnin' (putting her hand 
to her forehead) is sindin' me mad. Jimmy alanna 
bawn, sure you're sleepin' undher the whitethorn 
bush near the ould wall in Ardpatrick. I heard the 
clay soundin' on your little coffin, an' I saw your 
father cryin' afther you unknown to everyone. But 
I saw him when he purtended to turn his head to 

look for the cow ; poor Bawneen ! I reared her 

wid my own two hands. Garret, Bawneen isn't 
milked yet dhrive the crathur in an' cut some 
* * * Oh ! this burnin'. God above gi'me a little 
relief * * * Garret, avourneen, Garret ?" " What 
do you want, Mary darlin' ; don't you know me ; sure 
here I am at the bed near you." " Garret, I'm sick, 
very sick, but I didn't like to tell you afore, for I 
knew you'd be throubled. But I can't keep it any 
longer. I'm sick I'm going to die to go to heaven 
to see our poor little Jimmy an' Mary, and all our 
poor little crathurs and to see my poor father an' 
mother too. * * * Don't be cryin' so much, 
mother dear, sure I'll come to see you often, an' 
Garret will come wid me, whin we'll be livin' in our 
own nice cottage. An' father, little Eileen will 
comb your white hair instead o' me. * * * Look, 
Garret, look ! how nice they look in their new 
dresses, the blessed little darlins. Garret, I'm very 


- I'd be very happy only for this this terrible 

Here she paused her face contracted, and her 
body writhed, as if she suffered intensely. For a 
considerable time after this she remained apparently 
insensible ; at length she began to speak again, but 
her words were more detached, and her voice was 
scarcely audible, tho' Garret bent his face close to 

" Garret, the night is comin' on. I see it growin' 
dark I'm going to see to sleep with little Jimmy 
poor little fellow I'd like to sleep wid him under the 
old white thorn bush * * * I'm goin* Garret I'm 
lavin' you for ever. An' I know you'll be lonesome 
when I'm gone * I'm goin' to see our 

little crathurs but Garret Garret avourneenTd 
like to stay wid you a little a little longer." 

She ceased closed her eyes breathed one long 
sigh and her spirit winged its way to heaven. 

Among the peasantry, as soon as the last struggle 
of the sufferer is over, the men retire, and the women 
" lay out " the corpse and arrange the room. When 
this is done, the female friends and relatives of the 
deceased gather round the bed and commence the 
usual wild and musical lament, in which all the 
women present, and if the person be a favourite 
among the people many of the men too, usually 
join, all swaying slowly backwards and forwards 
over the bed. It is I believe generally considered 
by those not intimately acquainted with the peasantry, 
that this is merely a kind of mechanical habit, and 
that all, with the exception of the immediate relatives 
of the deceased, join in the external manifestation 


of sorrow, while they are in reality utterly indifferent. 
But this assertion, if not totally unfounded, needs 
much qualification. It is my belief and I have had 
extensive opportunity of judging that in general 
persons join in the lament because they cannot help 
it, and that they really feel what they express. To 
every human heart, however sluggishly proof against 
the influence of emotion, sorrow is more or less 
contagious ; it is one of those kind dispensations of 
Providence that helps to smooth the rugged ills of life ; 
for it teaches or rather forces us to sympathize with 
our neighbour in his sufferings. Look on a wretched 
mother, crushed and broken-hearted, bending over 
the body of her son, cut down in the prime of man- 
hood her face a picture of hopeless misery her 
whole soul one rayless blank of despair, and see if 
your heart will not bleed for the anguish of the poor 
mourner. The heart of an Irish peasant at least will. 
That heart, so impulsive, so keenly alive to emotion, 
ever gushes with sympathetic sorrow at the sight of 
another's grief ; and the peasant women, and often- 
times the men, too, raise the wild keen, not to comply 
merely with a cold custom, but to give vent to the 
uncontrolled impulses of their own kindly hearts. 
The fact of their joining in the laugh, or song, or 
sport, of their companions immediately after, is no 
proof of their want of feeling ; 'it is only an illustra- 
tion of the facility with which their changeable 
temperaments can pass from one extreme of passion 
to another, according to the influences with which 
they are surrounded. 

Garret was led mechanically from the bedside to 
the little kitchen, where he walked backwards and 


forwards; his hands clasped, his eyes fixed on 
vacancy, and seeming totally unconscious of what 
passed around him. When the necessary arrange- 
ments were completed, the women collected around 
the bed and began to cry, and the sudden burst of 
lamentation appeared to arouse him to a sense of the 
reality. Among the peasantry, there are many men 
who, no matter how near and dear the deceased 
relative may be, will not yield to their feelings so far 
as to join in this cry ; for they consider that it is, or 
should be, beneath the firmness of a man. Garret 
was one of these he did not join the mourners. 

Among the children of the village there was one 
that had always been a special favourite with him, 
because he fancied that its little broken accents, and 
fair hair, resembled these of his lost child Mary. 
This child happened to be in the room with its 
mother at the time, and Garret took her in his arms, 
and sat on the corner of the table. When bending 
over her, and rocking himself backward and forward 
as if in the act of soothing her to sleep, he com- 
menced in a voice low and softened by sorrow, to 
sing his favourite nurse song. It was one of these 
beautifully poetic effusions that gush from the 
parental feeling of the Irish heart ; with air wild 
and breathing throughout a tone of touching sadness. 
How powerfully old memories are awakened by 
unexpectedly hearing some long-forgotten old tune 
" we used to love in days of boyhood," those only 
can tell whose hearts the world has not steeled 
against those softer feelings of our nature. No 
sooner had Garret commenced to sing than all the 
vanished happiness of his former life presented itself 


vividly before bis mind in quick succession ; then he 
passed on to his present condition ; he saw himself 
utterly desolate, the sole survivor, the last wreck of 
his race ; the full sense of his misery rushed across 
his mind like the blast of the desert. His words 
became indistinct ; the whole gradually lost the 
character of a song ; his voice trembled, failed, and 
at length the old man's firmness gave way before 
the tide of feeling, and he burst out into a loud and 
long fit of weeping. The other men in the room did 
not attempt to stop or soothe him ; for they includ- 
ing even the rough Palatines who were unaccustomed 
to indulge their feelings so openly were themselves 
deeply affected at this outbreak of sorrow. * 

The Palatines had resided sufficiently long among 
the Irish to adopt many of their habits ; they attended 
wakes and funerals, and even joined in the lament 
over the dead. Garret's cottage was thronged that 
night, both by the villagers and by the more distant 
inhabitants of the valley. Next day Mary was carried 
to her resting place on the hill of Ardpatrick ; the 
funeral attended by all the grown persons of the 
village. She was laid, as she had requested, under 
the old whitethorn bush, by the side of her little 
Jimmy; and Garret returned for the first time to 
a lonely house. 

During the whole troubled period from the last 
struggle of the sufferer, there is no time at which so 
keen a sense of their loss is felt by the mourners as 
when they first enter home after the funeral. The 

* I witnessed the scene described here on one occasion when J. 
was u boy. 


dreary appearance of the house, all in confusion after 
the wake; the cheerless hearth without its usual 
blaze for all attend the funeral, the fires are put 
out, and the door locked the complete silence, 
rendered more chilling by contrast with the hurry 
and confusion and lamentation that still ring on 
the ears of the mourners ; but, above all, the sudden 
recollection, forcing itself vividly on their minds, 
that there is one absent, abandoned for ever to the 
cold abode all these, aided by the bodily exhaustion 
which want of rest produces, throw a feeling of 
chilling desolation over the mind, which those only 
who have experienced it can understand. How 
intense a feeling of misery Garret felt on first entering 
his lonely cottage, and seeing Mary's chair empty, 
and missing her accustomed kind welcome, we shall 
not attempt to describe. But he resolved that this 
should be his last night in Glenosheen ; and he kept 
his resolution. 

Garret had one younger brother, to whom he was 
much attached, and who in early life left his home 
and settled in some distant part of the country, where 
he occupied a farm. At that time the means of com- 
munication between different parts of the country 
were very imperfect. The country was wooded and 
thinly populated, and there were few roads except 
between the larger towns ; so that Garret had never 
seen his brother since they parted, and for the last 
eight or ten years had not even heard from him. 
Once indeed a pedlar, who had travelled in that part 
of the country about four years before, brought him 
word that he had heard his brother intended to remove 
to another locality, still more distant ; so that he was 


in a state of uncertainty with regard to his place of 
residence. To him he now however turned his 
thoughts ; he determined to seek with him an asylum 
for his remaining days, and leave a place that only 
embittered his existence by many painful recol- 

He had a few articles of household furniture, and 
some simple agricultural implements left. These he 
readily disposed of among his neighbours, merely 
however for the purpose of obtaining whatever trifle of 
ready money would be necessary to bear the expenses 
of his journey. Few preparations were necessary, his 
intention soon became known through the village, 
and early on that evening he was standing, with a 
small bundle in his left hand and a stick in his right, 
surrounded by a group of the villagers taking his 
farewell of them. Some of the neighbouring farmers 
were also there. From the beginning they had 
endeavoured to dissuade him from his purpose, and 
now pressed on him with double earnestness to remain. 
" Sure, Garret, man alive, can't you stay for a couple 
o' days, anyway ? You can stop below at the house, 
an' welcome ; there's a spare feather bed there, that 
we have no use in life of, an' the ould woman will 
have a rale Cead mile faille for you. I'll be bound if 
you stay wid us for a few days, it '11 wear away, an 1 
may be you'd be con tinted to remain intirely." 

" Indeed Tom," said Garret, " I know I'd be 
welcome to stay with you you 'an yours never 
shut your doore in the face of a sthranger, let alone 
an ould neighbour, the blessin' o' God be on you for 
id. But indeed Tom, there's no use in thinkin' I 
could live here ; no, I must go, an' wid God's help I 


will. Roger was a good brother whin we wor both 
young ; he had the big heart o' the Mac Enirys in 
him ; an' I know he'll not refuse to shelther these 
grey hairs in my ould days." 

"The deer knows," observed a woman to her 
neighbour, " 'tis a burnin' shame to let the poor ould 
cratlmr go at all, so it is. Sure he's out of his mind 
clear 'an clane wid throuble, 'an hardly knows what 
he's doin," " Why thin indeed Nancy agiayal, that's 
thrue for you, an' I'll go bail he'll be sarry for id yet. 
But anyway, goodness knows 'tis no wundher the 
way he's in now, God help him, without a mother's 
sowl belongin' to him to care for him. Sure after 
all, Nancy, no one has the nature for a person like 
one's own, an' God help uz 'tis a sarraful thing to be 
left all alone. God rest poor Mary's sowl, 'tis she 
was the good housekeeper in her day, an' the good 
warrant to take care of her husband. But anyway 
Nancy I think we ought to spake to him, along wid 
the rest, an' thry to make him stop." 

"Garret," said a grey-headed old man, who took 
him warmly by the hand, "you're now ould an' 
haven't the sthrinth to go thro' much, an' you ought 
to considher what you're about afore you go. 'Tis a 
hard journey you have afore you, an' many a long 
road you'll have to thravel, afore you meet wid a 
Ghristhen that would as much as say ' God save 
you.' Indeed the never a one o' me likes the iday 
of you attemptin' that journey at all at all." 

In this manner was he earnestly pressed by several 
persons, but in vain ; Garret, tho' quiet in his dis- 
position, was resolute in character. But he was 
deeply affected by their kindness : he tried in vain to 


conquer his emotion, for tears filled his eyes, as he 
finally replied : 

" Misther O'Brien, God knows but id goes to 
my heart to refuse you an' all my ould neighbours* 
Many a long day we all spint together, an' God 
sees that my heart's nearly broke to be lavin' the 
ould frinds and the ould hills behind me. I'm 
goin' now, neighbours, from among ye, an' may 
the God of Heaven keep ye, that doesn't forget 
an ould an' frindless man, from bein' ever left 
solithary like me." 

They ceased to press him further, and he was on 
the point of taking his final leave when he encountered 
another appeal not less powerful than that of his 
neighbours. Among the many privations which he 
suffered, death as if tired of persecuting him had left 
him his dog. He was a great shaggy animal, with 
huge tail, and hair which was originally nearly black, 
but which age had converted into a kind of dirty grey. 
In his more youthful days, before affliction had visited 
him, Garret was fond of hunting, armed merely with 
a heavy stick, and always accompanied by Bran. In 
these excursions, from his great skill and the sagacity 
of his dog as well as from the abundance of game on 
the mountain, he was often more successful than the 
best accoutred sportsman of modern days, with choice 
brace of pointers. 

When age and trouble came at last on Garret, 
he gradually relinquished his favourite sport, but 
Bran's love of the mountains never ceased. He still 
continued to resort to his favourite haunts, and 
almost every day he repaired to the hills alone to 
chase the game as when his master accompanied 


him. He sometimes remained out for two or three 
days, sleeping on the heath, and subsisting on the 
prey he managed to catch. In the end however the 
poor old fellow found this rather a precarious mode 
of subsistence, for age had blunted the keenness of 
his nose and stiffened his limbs ; and his visits to the 
hills became less frequent, though they never alto- 
gether ceased. On the day before Mary's death he 
set out on one of his usual excursions, and just as 
Garret was preparing to go, he returned. When he 
came to the cottage and found the door closed, he 
scratched at it as usual when he wanted to be let in 
When he found that the door was not opened, he 
scampered through the garden and round the little 
farm searching for his master, but not finding him, 
he returned again to the cottage ; then he scratched 
violently at the door and listened, walked back to 
some distance, and looked wistfully at the house, 
scratched again, whining pitifully, and at length, 
finding all unsuccessful, he sat down and began to 
howl in downright agony. Suddenly he jumped up, 
scampered down through the village, and with that 
extraordinary certainty with which instinct some- 
times directs these animals to find out their masters 
even in the most hidden places, he bounded in among 
the group just as the old man was preparing to 

Nothing could exceed the wildness of his joy at 
finding his master so unexpectedly. He jumped 
upon him, howled and yelped and frisked around 
him, scampered away to some distance, and instantly 
returned to jump upon and around him again ; then 
he would crouch motionless on the ground opposite 


him, and, with a steady eye, look straight in his face 
for a few moments, then springing suddenly off the 
ground, would yelp and whine, and play the same 
gambols over again. A smile a transient slight 
gleam of gladness lighted Garret's features, while 
a tear stood in his eye, as he looked on his dog, the 
faithful companion and the only living remnant of 
his happy days. He had in fact searched closely, 
inquired, and repeatedly whistled for him that morn-- 
ing : and not being able to obtain any tidings of him, 
one of his neighbours, by his request, promised to adopt 
him as his own. This was now rendered unnecessary, 
as he resolved to take Bran with him. He accordingly 
set off, with the blessings and regrets of all his 

It is not our intention to follow Garret through all 
the incidents of his long and weary journey from the 
home of his heart* In the evening of the fourth day 
he found himself approaching the townland where he 
hoped to find his brother. The country lay along the 
foot of an extensive range of mountains and was 
rather thinly populated, but here and there a few 
comfortable-looking farmers' houses lay scattered at 
wide intervals. There was one of these that stood a 
few perches in from the road that presented the 
appearance of both wealth and comfort. A haggard 
behind the house, hedged in with whitethorn, was 
well stocked with newly made stacks of corn, sur- 
rounding an enormous hayrick ; and in front a large 
bawn field of several acres extended, through which a 
pathway led into the house. Into this field the cows 
were just after being driven to be milked ; and it was 
pleasant to hear the busy sounds that proceeded from 


the place where all were collected. It was a beautiful 
evening in autumn one of those that so often occur 
at that season, daring a long continuance of dry 
weather clear, serene and silent. The sky was 
covered all over with a uniform veil of small mottled 
clouds, perfectly motionless, and spread out at a 
great height, leaving the lower part of the atmosphere 
so clear that the outlines and features of the most 
distant hills appeared with perfect distinctness. 

Almost the whole family had retired to the field. 
The girls were busily engaged in milking each her 
favourite cow and one or two of them were singing 
their milking songs ; " the boys "viz., the servant 
man and the farmer's two eldest sons were occupied 
in preserving order and distributing fresh cut clover 
among the numerous herd ; the children were playing 
"higbgates" at a little distance; and the farmer 
himself, a healthy comfortable-looking old man with 
a face full of contentment and good-nature, walked 
among them, his left hand in his breeches pocket and 
a stick in his right, occasionally giving directions, and 
gazing with placid enjoyment on the busy scene. At 
this moment their attention was directed to an old 
man who had just crossed over the stile that led from 
the road into the field, and who now approached them. 
His shoes were covered with dust, and he was evi- 
dently very tired, for he came on slowly and with 
difficulty ; and though he endeavoured to yield as 
little as possible, he was obliged to halt slightly and 
lean on his stick for support at every step. His hair 
was white, and his face wrinkled with age, and he 
looked worn and dejected. He was accompanied by 
a large old dog who appeared as weary and spiritless. 


as his master, for lie hung his ears and tail, and 
scarcely raising his head, he trudged along close 
behind him. 

The road by which Garret arrived at the place was 
a lonely mountain one, where for the last two hours 
he had not met with an individual ; and he now 
turned his steps towards the farmer's house, as being 
the first place that presented itself, for the purpose of 
making inquiry. Behind the house there were several 
large dogs lying, who now pricked up their ears and 
eyed the travellers for some 'time attentively. I 
suppose they could discover nothing in their appear- 
ance that looked in any degree pugnacious, for after 
having gazed at them till they appeared to be satisfied, 
they proceeded to dispose themselves leisurely in their 
former lazy attitudes ; and the travellers would 
probably be allowed to pass quietly, were it not for 
the malice of a sour-looking cur, one side of whose 
nose had, from constant practice, permanently curled 
upwards, into a perpetual grin, exposing his teeth. 
This wretch chafed and snarled, and succeeded at 
last in angering his quieter companions to such a 
pitch that they all suddenly started up and scampered 
helter-skelter towards them, howling and yelping like 
a legion of devils. The women who were milking 
instantly stood up to avoid the danger of being 
trampled on by the startled cows, while the boys 
ran toward the dogs, threatening them with their 
sticks and shouting at them to come back. 

11 Tundher an' ages ! Dick, run, man, run," cried 
the farmer ; " fly Tom ! skelp away you omadhawn, 
an' bring back them divels (bad luck to 'em), afore 
the poor man will be ate, body an' sowl. Oh ; 


murder alive, the life is frightened out o' the poor 
cratlmrs. That's id, Dick, leather the thieves ! Faith 
an' sowl Boxer wait till I ketch you an' if I don't 
sink the top of my shoe two inches into your ribs, 
the divel a cotner in Cork " ; and the good old 
fellow raised his stick and shook it at them as 
he spoke. Dick and Tom arrived just in time to 
come between them and their victims, and by shout- 
ing and feathering succeeded in driving them off. 
" Lie down Boxer ! Captain ! Captain ha ! you 
divel's limb, you'll yowl loud enough now when 
you're not wan tin' but I'll make you yowl a little 
loudher I'm thinkin.' Hislith <lo rai/al a rehoonif/" 
(whack, whack, accompanied by a doleful yelping, 
and Captain scampered home howling and limping). 
" Down with you Boxer! Pincher, I say, you thief 
o 1 the world come here !" At length the dogs were 
all driven home and peace restored. The cur, it 
must be remarked, like many another cur under 
similar circumstances, after having provoked the 
fight, was the first to scamper ingloriously off 
the field, looking furtively behind him when the 
appearance of the boys with their sticks threatened 

By this time Garret had arrived at the group. 
God save ye all, an' God bless the work," said he 
with as much assumed cheerfulness as he could com- 
mand. " God save you kindly honest man," said 
the farmer in good-natured accents ; " the deer 
knows but I'm ashamed that a stranger can't as 
much as show his nose inside that stile but thim 
rogues o' dogs is ready to frighten the life amost out 
of him." 


" Oh !" replied Garret, vexed with himself for 
having been the cause of so much confusion, " 'tis 
nothin' at all I never mind the bark of a dog, for 
I'm well used to id." 

" Well! honest man you look tired at any rate ; 
sit down here on this bundle o' clover an' take a 
dhrink. Biddy alanna, bring hether two piggins o' 
the sthrippins for I'm dead wid the dhruth, an' so is 
this good man too, I'm thinkin'. Begor, I know 
what it is to travel myself ; an' many a time when I'd 
be on a long streel of a road, an' hardly able to wag, I'd 
give anything for a couple o' good slugs o' new milk." 

"Why thin," said Garret, seating himself as 
desired near the farmer, who was sitting on another 
bundle, " as the thruth is best to be towld, I do feel 
a little fitagued, an' I'll take a dhrink, may God 
increase you for your kindness. Indeed Sir I'm ould 
now, and haven't the sthrinth nor the sperrit in me 
that I had ; sure only for I am, twenty or thirty 
little miles wouldn't be after knocking me up." 

" Oh ! Holy Virgin," exclaimed the farmer, look- 
ing at him in surprise, " an' you're after walkin' 
thirty miles to-day an ould man like you ! Stop ! 
don't dhrink id in that way 'twould kill you to put 
such stuff into your stomach after such a walk. 
Here, Biddy, take this kay an' run in, ma colleen 
dhas, to the three-cornered cupboard, an' bring me 
out the black bottle that's stannin' in the right hand 
corner. Mind, Biddy, the black bottle." 

" A little dhrop put into id," said he turning again 
to Garret, "will knock the cowld out of it anyway." 

" The blessin' o' God be on you," said Garret 
deeply grateful, " sure I didn't think I'd meet wid 


this kindness among strangers, once I left the ould 
neighbours, God be wid 'em. Indeed, Sir, I'm a 
sthrangerin this part o' thecounthry, an' don't know 
id at all ; an' I just stepped down to ax." 

"Oh! the divel a question you'll ax till you 
din-ink that first ; an' thin you can come in an' rest 
yourself for a thommul (a short time), an' we'll get 
somethin' to ate ; you must be in want of id now 
after a hard day's walk. An' indeed for the matther 
o' that, you're too tired to go any farther to-night, 
an' there's a good feather bed within there to spare, 
that you'll be welkim to. Sure God is good to me, 
an' gev me the manes, glory be to His Holy Name 
(taking off his hat reverently) an' it'll never be said 
that the sthranger or the thraveller ever turned 
away from Roger MacEniry's doore widout " 

He started in surprise and alarm, and looked at 
the old man, who had suddenly dropped the piggin 
from his hand. His body had shot up to its full 
height, though he still remained sitting his open 
hands were thrown a little forward his mouth half 
opened and he stared dazed and astonished at the 
farmer. For a considerable time he remained per- 
fectly unconscious of what passed around him. 

The farmer stood up, and, laying his hand on his 
shoulder, attempted to rouse him. " Yerra 1 honest 
man, what ails you sure, murdher alive, I wouldn't 
say anything for the world that id offind you. Oh 1 
monoma yee, I'm in dhread he's gettin' into a fit, the 
Lord purtect uz ! I suppose the crathur is bate all 
out wid the long journey an' the hardship, an', God 
help him, may be wid hunger too. Yerra, girls 
come here and thry " Here he was interrupted by 


the low accents of Garret. " Roger Mac Eniry, did 
you say eh ?" and he peered closely into his face. 
" Roger Mac Eniry ! Oh, that can't be ; dheeling, that 
can't be ! You, my fair-haired brother Roger, that 
used to hunt wid me long ago on the side o' Seefin !" 
The poor old fellow's senses still wandered. The 
fact was, he had met no one from whom to make 
an inquiry within the last six miles ; before that, 
though all could direct him to the townland, yet no 
one could tell him of " one Roger Mac Eniry that lived 
there"; and with that unaccountable tendency to 
depression that seizes the heart as the moment draws 
nigh that is to determine success or failure, all hope 
of finding his brother had very nearly abandoned 
him. It is therefore not to be wondered at that, 
worn with the fatigue of a long journey, his mind 
depressed with sorrow, and harassed by uncertainty 
approaching to despair, the unexpected discovery of 
his brother should overcome him. When to this we 
add that he had always cherished the memory of his 
brother as he was when they parted ; and though of 
course he knew that age must have produced the 
usual effect, yet his memory obstinately refused to 
change its object, and still recalled the image of " his 
fair-haired brother Roger, that used to hunt wid him 
on the side of Seefin." In the sudden perplexity of 
his feelings he found it impossible to reconcile these 
traces of his brother that clung to his memory, 
with the aged man that now stood before him, and 
for a considerable time he could not bring himself to 
believe in the reality. 

It was now, however, the farmer's turn to be 
surprised. " God of mercy," he exclaimed, as he 


grasped Garret's two Lauds in his and looked in his 
face ; " is it to my own brother I'm spakin' all this 
while. Garret, a drahaar machree, is it you. Sure, 
Garret, I'm Roger, your own brother Roger ; don't 
you know me and won't you spake to me ; " for 
Garret was only beginning to collect together his 
scattered faculties, though tears streamed plentifully 
down his wrinkled face. " Garret, avourneen, sure 
it is I that's here alive an' well, glory be to God for 
brmgin' uz together once more." 

We shall not attempt to describe further the 
happiness of the brothers on meeting after so many 
years' separation, or the joy of the youngsters on 
finding their " uncle Garret," of whom their father 
had told them so many stories. For many years 
they lived together after this, and many a time would 
they delight the family by relating stories " about 
ould times " when they lived together in the lonely 
cottage on Seefin. 

As for poor Bran he did not long survive separation 
from his native mountains ; he died, and was buried 
by the children on the side of a glen, with due funeral 
honours, and followed to his grave by his old master, 
who dropped many a tear over him, a tribute to his 
worth and faithfulness. 

Garret's grief for Mary softened down at last to 
pious resignation, but he still cherished her in his 
memory, and he looked forward with hope to the 
time when he should go to join her and "his little 
crathurs." Before he died he made a request which 
was not refused " To be carried back again to the 
ould place, and berrid on the hill of Ardpatrick, 
undher the ould whitehorn, by the side of Mary." 



IN my_ two books, {< A Social History of Ancient 
Ireland" and " A Smaller Social History of Ancient 
Ireland," there is a chapter on " Workers in Wood, 
Metal, and Stone," of which one section is devoted 
to an account of the Blacksmith and his Forge. It 
is necessary to remind the reader that this section 
as well indeed as the whole chapter relates to a 
period from the eleventh century backwards to ages 
of unknown antiquity. 

The various appliances of the forge are there 
described in detail : the anvil with its nose and 
block ; the sledge and hand-hammer ; the pincers 
or tongs ; the water-trough ; the bellows and 
bellows-blower, as well as the manner of blowing. 
The fuel used was wood-charcoal (appropriately 
called cualcrainn, " coal of crann or wood ") of which 
that made from the wood of the birch tree gave the 
greatest heat obtainable by the old metal workers. 
The smith always kept a supply of charcoal in bags 
in the forge. All these appliances, helps, utensils, 
and tools, as well as others, are described, and as it 
were reconstructed, with their make and the modes 
of working them, from a minute examination of 
Ancient Irish Writings. 

After the publication of the " Social History," a 
further close inspection of the old texts enabled me 
to arrive at the construction of the blacksmith's fur- 
nace, as it existed more than a thousand years ago : 
a point never worked out till now. As an example of 


a proper and sana method of investigation and of 
careful induction, I will here set forth the whole 
process, mainly for the instruction of those numerous 
persons and especially young workers who are now 
busily engaged in the study of Irish lore all over 
Ireland, as well as elsewhere. I will do so in simple 
language too ; and I ask my readers to be careful 
not to mistake simplicity of language for shallowness 
of treatment, as some people do.* 

The following short essay and indeed the whole 
of this little book may be considered as still carry- 
ing out the main literary function of my life : namely, 
to simplify and popularise Irish lore, and thereby to 
make it more generally read and enjoyed. 

In ancient times in Ireland, as well as in many 
other countries, smiths, as being the makers of 
arms, were held in great estimation ; many stories 
were told about them in Irish writings, which are 
still extant ; and they and their various implements 
are often mentioned. So the literary mine we are 
now about to open up in search of Smith-lore is 
richer than usual. 

The great legendary Smith of Ireland was Goib- 
niu, of the magic-skilled Dedannan race, who was 
such a mighty master of his craft, that after his 
death he became a god, like Hephaestus or Vulcan 
among the Greeks and Romans, and Wayland the 
Smith among the Germans ; and we often find his- 

* For two other, though less ancient, examples of the appli- 
cation of this inductive method, the reader may look at the 
identification of Spenser's " Baleful Oure " with the river 
Avonbeg in Wicklow (p. 90, above), and of his " Molanna " 
with the little stream Behanna (pp. 99 to 105). 


name mixed up with old Irish literature. He is 
mentioned in a " Glossary " written in the late ninth 
(or early tenth) century by Cormac Mac Cullenan. 
Archbishop and King of Munster. The main purpose 
of this Glossary was to explain old Irish words that 
had become in the time of the writer more or less 
obsolete and obscure. This little work of Cormac's, 
which is very scholarly for the period, is still extant 
and has been translated in our day by Dr. John 
0' Donovan : and edited and printed by Dr. Whitley 
Stokes. One of the old words Cormac explains is 
" ness, 1 ' and in doing so he brings in a short story 
about Goibniu. He relates taking his information 
of course from documents older than his own time 
how Goibniu was one day in his forge holding in his 
hand a wooden instrument called a crand or crann, 
when a person came in and told him a very unpleasant 
story about the misconduct of his wife, which put 
him into a terrible rage. His anger continued ; and 
day after day he stood in his forge, boiling and fum- 
ing in bad humour with the whole world ; and when- 
ever anyone had the ill luck to walk in, Goibniu 
having first breathed a baleful spell into the crann to 
charge it with hellish venom lifted it up and gave 
the visitor a blow, which either killed him outright 
or left a malignant and incurable lump or boil in the 
shape of the crann, that burned like fire and was worse 
even than death ; all by the power of the spell. 

Here we will leave him for a moment standing in 
his surliness, to have a look into an Irish document 
still older than Cormac's Glossary for another illus- 
tration of the use of this word crann as denoting a 
wooden implement. In the eighth century some 


scholarly Irish monk, then living in his monastery 
in Milan, while reading a Latin copy of the Old 
Testament, wrote, in the wide spaces between the 
lines, explanations of unusual Latin words as he met 
them while reading along, and sometimes general 
explanatory comments on the text. These * ' Glosses, ' ' 
as we now call them, he wrote in his native language 
Irish. But the Irish of that time which was then in 
every day use, is now, after more than a thousand 
years, " Old Irish " and hard enough to understand. 
This was a usual practice with the Irish scholars of 
those days, mainly for the use of their young Irish 
students : for there were then no Latin Dictionaries 

This monk, commenting on an expression in the 
9th verse of "Psalms" II, about a potter's vessel, 
takes occasion to mention two implements used by 
[Irish] potters in their work : viz. (1) the round 
crann t that is to say, as he explains, the wooden 
block on which the vessel is first roughly formed in 
the soft clay : and (2) the wheel on which it is finally 
turned into shape. This makes clear what the 
potter's crann was.* 

But to return to Goibniu. What was this crann 
which he turned away from its proper function and 
used as a weapon when his passion was up ? So far 
we only know that it was a wooden implement of 
some kind, like the potter's crann ; for crann means . 

* That venerable copy of the Psalms is still in Milan with the 
very handwriting of our countryman. The passage relating to 
potters has been published and translated in a learned work, 
" Thesaurus Palaeo-hjbernicus," by Drs. Stokes and Stracbun, 
vol. i, p. 23, 


a tree, a piece of wood, or anything made of wood. 
But it is not Cormac's custom to leave his reader in 
doubt as to his meaning ; and the mention of the 
smith's crann leads him up to the explanation of 
that and of the old word ness. He begins by saying 
that ness has four meanings, all of which he gives. 
With two of these we have nothing to do : the other 
two concern us here. First, as to the implement 
that the smith had in his hand ; Cormac says that 
this particular kind of crann was called a ness, 
adding, after his usual happy manner, that its use 
was to mould or form on it the urnisi criad or u fur- 
nace of clay " [for the forge fire], an expression that 
comes like a flash of light, and makes everything 

But he gives another meaning : that ness is also a 
name for [a smith's] urnisi or furnace. To illustrate 
and prove this he quotes an old verse from an elegy 
written on a smith by his wife (given here in 
translation) : 

" It is grievous to me to look at him [lying dead] : 
The led flame of his furnace mounted up to the roof : 
Sweet was the murmur that his bellows 
Used to chant to [or at] the hole of his furnace." 

Here the furnace comes in twice, and in each case 
the word applied to it is ness, though not in the 
nominative but in the genitive form, rendered 
necessary by the construction, as seen in the verse. 
What the " hole of his furnace " means is explained 

* The reader will observe that in both the cas^s where the 
function of the crann has been determined, it was used as a 
mould to shape soft clay on : in the one case for potters' vessels, 
and in the other for smiths' furnaces. 


farther on (p. 240). This explanation of Corniac's is 
corroborated in a manuscript quoted by Dr. Kuno 
Meyer in his " Triads of Ireland," p. 52: in which 
it is stated that ness is aurnisi criacl, a " clay 

There was still a third application of this word 
ness that touches our subject, which we learn from 
another and totally different old Irish document. 
The Irish like the Welsh have always been fond 
of presenting things in triads or groups of three ; as 
is seen in the modern triad : " Three good things 
to have a clean shirt, a clean conscience, and a 
guinea in one's pocket." There is a collection of 
old Irish triads, in the Irish language, which has 
been lately translated and edited by Dr. Kuno Meyer, 
of which one is : ' Three renovators of the world 
the womb of woman, a cow's udder, and a smith's 
ness."* This old writer does not as Cormac does- 
explain ness ; but another writer in another manu- 
script quoted by Dr. Meyer, explains the word as 
Mala ere, " a bag of [moulding] clay " : but goes 
no farther. From all this we learn that ness was a 
name for three different, but closely related things : 

1. The clay [kept in a bag] of which the smith's 

furnace was made. 

2. The wooden mould on which the furnace was 

formed of the soft clay. 

3. The furnace itself fully shaped. 

It is well to remark that all the preceding Irish 
lore, which is presented here in plain readable 

* Royal Irish Academy, Todd Lecture Series, vol. xiii., page 21 

(No. 148). 


language, is, in the originals whether Irish or 
translation excessively condensed, almost as much 
so as algebra.* 

We are now in a position to draw our conclusions 
to give the shape and material of the furnace, and 
show how it was made. At the back of the fire stood 
upright a small flag-stone, with a hole in it for the pipe 
of the bellows exactly like the hole for the pipe of 
the present smith's bellows : and as illustrating the 
close observation of the old Irish writers, even this 
little hole is referred to in the verse of the elegy quoted 
by Cormac : p. 238, above. It was the hole through 
which the bellows used to chant the murmur that 
the poor woman loved to recall. 

The Crann or Ness that Goibniu had in his hand 
was a wooden mould round which was formed the 
soft clay furnace to contain and confine the fire. 
From what precedes we can see as we might indeed 
expect that whenever the walls of this furnace got 
burned or worn out (as our present fire-clay blocks 
often wear out in our grates) which might be 
perhaps once a week or fortnight with constant use 
it was cleared away, the ness or mould was set in 
the proper place (the exact place for the fire) and a 
new structure of soft clay was formed round it in a 
few minutes with the hands ; after which the mould 
was gently lifted up, leaving the furnace (urnlsi 
criad) ready for use. At the time the incident above 
related occurred i.e. when the unwelcome story wa, c 

* Another example of how our concentrated old Irish literatim 
may be expanded and popularised, without departing frorc 
accuracy, is seen in the first paper in this book, ''The Wonders 
of Ireland." 


brought to Goibniu, he happened to be engaged in 
moulding a fresh furnace round the ness. 

It may be asked what need had those old smiths 
of an enclosed furnace at all : why did they not use 
an open fire-place like our blacksmiths ? The answer 
is obvious : they used wood-charcoal, which being 
much lighter than our coal, would be blown about 
and scattered by the blast of the bellows, if not 
confined by the furnace. 

From Cormac's statement, that the lump or boil 
which was left on the visitor by Goibniu's blow was 
in the shape of the ness, we may infer that the 
ness was round or nearly so ; with perhaps 
a small part of the surface flat to lay up 
against the back flag, just opposite the 
pipe-hole. Putting all the references 

together we may be pretty sure that this 

ness o'r mould was like what is repre- iQ" 
sented here, either solid or hollow. The v^ ^J 
handle was for holding and lifting up ; 
which same handle Goibniu found very convenient 
when using the instrument as a weapon. 

A word about the clay for the furnace. It had of 
course to be carefully selected, just as our modern 
artisans select their fire-clay which you may now 
buy in the shops; and no doubt these old Irish 
workmen well knew the best fire-clay to stand the 
fire. It was not common clay, but was more or less 
valuable, and accordingly was kept in bags in the 
forge like the charcoal to prevent waste ; as we may 
gather from the expression of the writer quoted by 
Dr. Kuno Meyer Mala ere, a " bag of [moulding] 
clay," p. 239 above. 


Of the three meanings of ness given at p. 239 above, 
the writer of the triad, when citing the word as 
applied to a renovator, must have had one or the 
other of two in his mind, viz., either the bag of clay, 
or the mould for shaping (the third the clay 
furnace would not apply). And whichever of the 
two he meant, mark how satisfactorily it squares-in 
with the main function running through the triad 
the function of renovating or renewing : the 
clay, or the mould, whichever we take, renewed the 

This short essay illustrates how our old Irish 
authorities brief and dry as they often are, and 
uncommunicative as they often seem may, when 
subjected to a searching cross-examination, reveal 
to us the various materials, appliances, tools, and 
modes of working of the ancient Irish handicraftsmen 
of the several arts and trades. 


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CONTENTS. Chap. I. Sources of Anglo-Irish Dialect n. Affirming, 
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iv. Idioms derived from the Irish Language v. The Devil and his 
' Territory ' vi. Swearing vn. Grammar and Pronunciation 
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