Category Archives: Stories and Legends

Daniel O’Connell and the Cow

Taken from Folktales of the Irish Countryside
By Kevin Danaher
1967

Stories from Dick Denihan

DANIEL 0’CONNELL AND THE COW

It was always said that there was no fear of you in the court of law if you could get Daniel O’Connell to defend you. There was a story about a man that was brought up for stealing a cow, and at that time you could be hanged for stealing, or if you weren’t hanged you’d be transport ed for the rest of your natural life. And the man that was bringing the case against the poor man was Counsellor Goold, the same man who was the landlord of this parish And he was good friends with Daniel O’Connell, but they were always trying to get the better of each other in the court.

Well, the case came up, and Goold led off, accusing the poor man of the theft of the cow. ‘What age was the cow?’ says O’Connell. ‘It was a three year old,’ says Goold. ‘How would you know the like of that?’ says O’Connell. ‘Aren’t you just after buying a big estate of land of the Earl of Devon, and isn’t it land so bad that if you put a three year old beast on it, the poor creature would come out of it after a year only the size of a yearling, but with horns on her like a deer from the hills of Kerry! ‘Tis all nonsense, my lord,’ says he to the judge. ‘My friend, Mr Goold is a good and honest man, but he knows nothing about cattle. The case should be dismissed!’ And Goold got so flustered with all the fun and laughing in the court that he got all mixed up, and the judge dismissed the case.

They were going out of the court, and the poor man came up to O’Connell. And Goold was there, too, talking to O’Connell. And the poor man was full of thanks and praise for the man that saved him, and all excuses that he was so poor that he had nothing to offer O’Connell for getting him off free. ‘Of course you are innocent, you haven’t even the cow?’ says O’ConnelL He swore by this and by that that he hadn’t the cow and that he didn’t know anything about it. ‘Well,’ says O’Connell, ‘I’ll forgive you the costs of the case this time, for I can well understand how poor and how honest you are. But tell me this, now, especially when my good friend Mr Goold here knows so little about cattle. Suppose that myself or my friend Mr Goold wanted to steal a good cow, and we saw a big herd of them in a field on a winter’s night like last night. How would we know the best one?’ ‘Easy enough, sir,’ says the man, ‘all you have to do is to pick out the one that is the farthest out in the field from the hedge. Because that is the one that is the fattest and with the best condition. There’s no bother to it at all, then, only to drive her away, but of course you’ll have to have the arrangements made to sell her to a butcher before the daylight,’ says he. He was so delighted at the Counsellors talking to him that he gave himself away completely. But O’Connell and Goold only laughed. ‘There now, Thomas, my friend,’ says O’Connell, ‘is a man that could teach us both about cattle.’ ‘Every man to his trade,’ s

Irish Sagas, Tochmarc Étaíne, The Wooing of Étaín III

Tochmarc Étaíne 3 : The Wooing of Étaín 3
by Miles Dillon

The third story is in a form familiar to those of you who have heard folk-tales recited, or who have read Padraic Colum’s book, The King of Ireland’s Son. A stranger visits the hero and offers to play a game of cards (here it is a game of chess). The hero wins three times “but the stranger wins the last game, and lays a penalty on the hero.

I shall read you the opening of this story, following pretty closely the translation of Bergin and Best.

Another time on a lovely summer day, Eochaid Airem king of Tara arose and climbed the terrace of Tara to gaze over Mag Breg. It was radiant with flowers of every colour. As Eochaid looked around, he saw a strange warrior on the terrace before him. A purple tunic was about him, and his hair was golden yellow and reached to his shoulders. His eyes were bright blue. He had a spear in one hand, and a shield in the other with a white boss and ornament of gold.

Eochaid said “Welcome to the warrior whom we do not know.” “It is for that we have come” said the warrior (That is to say: ‘I come as a friend, not as an enemy’). “We know you not,” said Eochaid. “But I know you,” said the warrior. (Many of you will be reminded of the common episode in the folk-tales about the king of Ireland’s Son: Aithnionn tusa mise 7 ni aithnim-se thú). “What has brought you? ” said Eochaid. “To play chess with you,” said he … “The queen is asleep,” said Eochaid, “and it is in her house that the chess is.” “I have here,” said Midir’, ” a set of chess that is as good.” That was true: a silver board and golden men, and each corner of the board lit up by a precious stone, and the bag for the chessmen was of plaited links of bronze.’

They play three games of chess and Eochaid wins each time, and Midir gives him rich prizes. The fourth time they play for a stake to be named by the winner. Midir  wins the game, and the stake he claims is a kiss from Étaín. Eochaid was vexed at that, but he bade Midir come a month from that day to receive his prIze.

On the day appointed Eochaid had gathered his warriors around him and the doors were locked. But Midir appeared in the banqueting-hall. ‘What is promised is due,’ he said. He put his arms around Étaín and rose with her into the air and through the roof of the house; and they flew away in the form of two swans.

Eochaid and his men set out to recover Étaín, and attacked Bri Leíth, the fairy-mound which was Midir’s home. He appeared before them and promised to restore Étaín. The next morning fifty women appeared at Tara all like Étaín in form and dress, and Eochaid was in doubt which one to choose. The one he chose turned out to be not Étaín herself, but her daughter and his daughter too, another Étaín. She bore him a child, and the child was put out to die, as it was a child of incest. It was found by a herdsman and he and his wife reared the girl, and she prospered, for she was the daughter of a king and queen. Etarscéle became King of Ireland, and one day his people saw the herdsman’s child and told him of her beauty. She was Étaín reborn, and Etarscéle made her his wife, so that she was the mother of Conaire son of Etarscéle.

This brings us to the opening chapter of the Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel, a saga of the Ulster Cycle which you shall hear later on. I may conclude with the description of this young Étaín at the beginning of that story. I first learned of it from A.E. who told me of this wonderful description to illustrate what he called the incandescent imagination of Irish story-tellers:

He saw a woman at the edge of a well, and she I..ad a silver eomb with gold ornament. She was washing in a silver basin in which were four birds of gold, and bright little gems of purple carbuncle on the chasing of the basin. She wore a purple cloak of good fleece, held with silver brooches chased with gold, and a smock of green silk with gold embroidery. There were wonderful ornaments of animal design in gold and silver on her breast and shoulders. The sun shone upon her, so that the men saw the gold gleaming in the sunshine against the green silk. There were two golden tresses on her head, plaited in four, with a ball at the end of every lock. The color of her hair was like the flower of the iris in summer or like pure gold after it had been polished. She was undoing her hair to wash it, so that her arms were out from beneath her dress. White as the snow of one night were her hands, and her lovely cheeks were soft and even, red as the mountain foxglove. Her eyebrows were as black as a beetle’s back. Her teeth were like a shower of pearls. Her eyes were as blue as the hyacinth, her lips as red as Parthian leather. High, smooth, soft, and white were her shoulders, clear white her long fingers. Her hands were long. White as the foam of a wave was her side, long and slender, yielding, smooth, soft as wool. Her thighs were warm· and smooth and white; her knees small and round and hard and bright, Her shins were short and bright and straight. Her heels were even and lovely. If a rule had been laid upon her feet it would hardly have shown any imperfections in them, unless it should crease the flesh or the skin. The blushing light of the moon was in her noble face, a lofty pride in her smooth brow. The radiance of love was in her eyes ; the flush of pleasure on her cheeks, now red as a calf’s blood and changing again to snowy   whiteness. There was gentle dignity in her voice. Her step was firm and graceful. She had a walk of a queen. She was the fairest, loveliest, finest that men’s eyes had seen of all the women of the world. They thought she was of the fairies. Of her it was said:  “All are lovely till compared with Étaí.  All are fair till compared with Étaín.'”

Taken from Radioe Éireann.  Thomas Davis lectures.  IRISH SAGAS

Irish Sagas, Tochmarc Étaíne, The Wooing of Étaín II

Tochmarc Étaíne : The Wooing of Étaín 2
by Miles Dillon

The second story begins after the interval of a thousand years, when the Tuatha Dé Danann have retired into their fairy-mounds and the Gaels are established in Ireland. But we are still in a period of pure legend, so you must not expect any dates. The king of Ireland in this story was succeeded by a king whose son was killed in Da Derga’s Hostel shortly before the period of Cú Chulainn and the Ulster heroes, according to the learned tradition.

When Eochaid Airem became king of Ireland, the people refused to pay tribute to a king who had no queen. He sent out messengers to find the loveliest girl in Ireland, and they brought him Étaín  the daughter of Étar. Eochaid had a brother Ailill, and he fell sick for love of Étaín, and none could cure him. Eochaid went on his royal circuit of Ireland, leaving Étaín to care for Ailill, so that his grave might be dug, his lamentation made and his cattle slain. (The slaying of a dead man’s cattle is of some interest for the religious ideas of the pagan Irish).

One day, as they were together in the house, Ailill confessed to Étaín the cause of his sickness, and she said that she would gladly cure him with her love, but that it might not be in the house of the king. She made a tryst with him on the hill above the court. But at the hour appointed, a magic sleep came upon Ailill, and a man in the likeness of Ailill came in his stead to keep the tryst with Étaín. Three times this happened, and the third time Étaín protested that it was not with him that she had made the tryst. The stranger said : ‘It were fitter for you to come to me, for when you were Étaín daughter of Ailill, I was your husband.’ And he told her that he was Midir of Brí Leith, and that they had been parted by the sorcery of Fuamnach. He asked her to come away with him, and she refused to go without the consent of her husband, the king of Ireland.

That is the end of the second story.

Taken from Radio Éireann : Thomas Davis Lectures : Irish Sagas.  Published 1959

Irish Sagas, Tochmarc Étaíne, The Wooing of Étaín I

TOCHMARC ÉTAÍNE 1
By Miles Dillon

WE SHALL TELL YOU in this series of Davis Lectures about Irish heroic literature, that is, about the old Irish sagas. They are indeed the most important part of early Irish prose literature, for we have no historians before Keating and Michael O’Clery, no orators, no dramatists, and the novel is a modern invention. We have plenty of. poetry of various kinds, and we have tales about visions of the Otherworld and about voyages in search of the Land of Youth, and we have the sagas. Poetry and legend are the substance of Irish literature.

The sagas fall into four cycles of tales: the Mythological Cycle, the Ulster Cycle, The Fenian Cycle and the Historical Cycle (or Cycles of the Kings, for there are a number of separate cycles with one or other of the early kings as its central figure). You shall hear where these tales are preserved and what they are about, and you shall hear a few of the sagas from each of the four cycles.

The oldest Irish manuscripts are in Latin and are copies of the Psalms and of the Gospels. The earliest of these Irish Latin manuscripts in existence is the Cathach of St. Columba, written towards the end of the sixth century. The Irish sagas are preserved in great folio manuscripts of vellum, of which the earliest surviving were written in the twelfth century. There are three important twelfth century manuscripts, the Book of Noughaval, commonly called the Book of Leinster, in Trinity College, the Book of the Dun Cow in the Royal Irish Academy, and a MS. the Irish title of which has been lost, listed as Rawlinson B 502, in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Next in importance is the Yellow Book of Lecan, written towards the end of the 14th century and preserved in Trinity College. These are certainly copied from earlier manuscripts now lost, for the language of many of the sagas is as old as the ninth century, and Irish was being written as early as the sixth century, if we may judge from the very ancient language of some poems and law-tracts which survive.

The Mythological Cycle is the earliest in time, as it deals with heroes who were thought to have lived in Ireland before the coming of the Gaels. It is the chief source of knowledge of the religion of the pagan Irish. And very little is known about their religion. They believed in a happy Otherworld in the western sea where some of the gods dwell and which heroes sometimes were allowed to visit. It is not a heaven to which men go after death, but a happy island, Tir na nÓg, where there is no death or old age. Oisín went there with Niamh of the Golden Hair, and after three days he came back to Ireland to find that he had been away for three hundred years, and that all his companions were dead.

Besides this notion of an island (or islands) beyond the sea, there is a tradition that a race of supernatural beings inhabited Ireland before the coming of the Gaels, and that they withdrew into fairy-mounds all over the country where they still dwell, and whence they sometimes emerge to interfere in the affairs of men. These two traditions have become much confused, and we probably have to do with a blend of pre-Celtic and Celtic religious ideas. (It may be said in passing that there seem in Greece also to have been two mythologies, the gods of Homer, and others such as Demeter and Persephone, associated with agriculture, who play no part in heroic tradition.) A few of the names of these divine beings are good Celtic names, and evidently came in with the Celtic immigrants perhaps as early as 1000 B.C.

Chief of the gods is the Dagda (‘Good God ‘). Oengus is his son, and Boann (the river Boyne) is the mother of Oengus. Lug is another, and his name occurs in the place-name Lugdunum in various parts of Europe where Celts have dwelt. The common name for all is Tuatha Dé Danann, peoples of the goddess Danu, of whom nothing further is known. There is a British Don, who is probably the same divinity.

Alfred Nutt suggested that the association of the gods with earth-mounds (such as New Grange, which was the dwelling of Oengus) went back to a stage of nature-worship when rivers, trees, wells and mounds were worshipped. He went on to suggest a common origin for certain features of Greek and Irish mythology, specially the doctrine of re-birth, which was part of the cult of Dionysus and which you will notice in the story I am going to tell. For Étaín is re-born three times, first by falling into the cup of a mortal queen while she is bewitched in the form of a fly, and again as the daughter of Eochaid Airem “king of Ireland, while her mother is in the fairy-mound of Brí Leith, and finally as the daughter of this third Étaín.

Before I come to the story of Étaín in the Mythhological Cycle, let me tell you briefly about the other cycles of heroic tales or sagas. The Ulster Cycle is that of which Cú Chulainn is the central figure. King Conor Mac Nessa is king of Ulster and Maeve is queen of Connacht; the traditional date is the first century of the Christian era. These are the tales which Lady Gregory made into a book in her Cuchullin of Muirthemne, and which gave Yeats many themes for his plays and poems. The longest saga, and one which is epic in scale and temper, is the famous Cattle Raid of Cooley (Táin Bó Cúailnge), the story of Cú Chulainn’s defense of Ulster, alone against the whole army of Queen Maeve. The noblest saga, and probably the finest in all Irish literature, is the story of Deirdre and the Sons of Uisneach. Then there is Bricriu’s Feast, full of interest and humour, and the story of Mac Da Thó’s Pig, in which champions contend for the hero’s portion at a feast, as we are told the Gaulish warriors used to do in Caesar’s time. These are the sagas we have chosen for discussion. There are many others that I would gladly have included.

The Fenian Cycle is later in time, being set in the reign of Cormac Mac Airt, who was supposed to have reigned at Tara in the third century. These are the tales of Fionn and Oisin and Caoilte, of Conán Maol and Goll Mac Morna, many of which may still be heard from story-tellers in the Gaeltacht. The Pursuit of Diarmuit and Gráinne is the Fenian love-story. And the last survivors of the Fenians are made to live on into St. Patrick’s time, so that we have a famous tale called The Colloquy of the Ancients (Acallam na Senórach) which Professor Gerard Murphy will tell you about.

And last come the Cycles of the Kings, from which we have found room for only two stories, one of them having to do with the birth of King Cormac Mac Airt and his accession to the Kingship of Tara (there is a parallel here to the Roman legend of Romulus and Remus), the other a saga about a young queen married to an old husband and her love for her stepson. It is a motif which occurs in ancient Greek tradition, and which supplies the theme of T. C. Murray’s Autumn Fire. There are some seventy sagas in this Historical Cycle, some of them about legendary kings, many about historical persons, and they are not without moments of pathos and of humour. Some of them were made into poetry by Ferguson a hundred years ago, when there was more interest in these traditions than there is now.

A.E. once said: ‘We have often thought a book surpassing the Arabian Nights might be made by a writer of genius who would weld into a continuous narrative the tales of the Gods, the Fianna and the Red Branch, so full of beauty, mystery and magnificence that, as the raw material for romance, there is hardly anything to equal them in the legendary literature of other countries.’

The Wooing of Étaín is one of the two chief tales of the Mythological Cycle. (The other is The Battle of Moytura, which you shall hear about next time). It is in the Book of the Dun Cow, but owing to loss of leaves a great deal of it was missing, and scholars had made various attempts to supply the lost passages. Then some twenty years ago Dr. Best made an exciting discovery. He was examining the Irish manuscripts in the Phillipps Collection at Cheltenham, when he saw among them a gathering of parchment leaves which looked familiar, and he recognised it as part of the famous Yellow Book of Lecan. And these leaves, which are now in the National Library, contain the complete text of the Wooing of Étaín. It has since been published in Ériu xii.

The chief points that have been cleared up by the discovery of the complete text concern details of the relationship between various mythological persons, and I shall not discuss them. But one matter is worth mention because it gave rise to more than one false scent, and serves to show how hazardous it is to guess the answer to a problem in mythology. At a certain point in the story, as you shall hear,  Étaín was changed into a beautiful fly by the curse of a jealous wife, and in this form she was carried out to sea by the wind. Oengus rescued her and kept her in a glass cage which he carried about with him. He fed her with flowers. The passage describing her transformation is missing from the Book of the Dun Cow, which was the only manuscript known until Best discovered the lost leaves of the Yellow Book of Lecan.  Zimmer, indeed, made a shrewd guess at what must have happened in the missing part of the story. But other scholars gave rein to their imaginations. Sir John Rhys in his Arthurian Legend decided that Oengus was the Celtic Zeus, and Étaín the goddess of Dawn. ‘Her dwelling in the glass house which the god carried about with him seems to be a sort of picture of the expanse of the heavens lit up by the light of the sun.’ Alfred Nutt thought rather of Snow White in her glass coffin watched by the seven dwarfs. Roger Loomis seized upon the diet of flowers, and sought to equate Étaín with Persephone of Greek mythology, who was gathering flowers when she was carried off to Hades. Étaín, he says, is a flower-maiden and moon-maiden. It is now plain that Étaín had been changed into a fly, and the glass cage and the flowers are no longer a problem.

Now to the story, which dates from the ninth century in its present form. There are indeed three stories, but they form a sequence and appear as a sequence in the two manuscripts which contain them. There is a strange beauty here which perhaps no other Irish story shares. The temper of love is there, and the power of magic, and a happy ending. It is one story in three, as it were, a comedy in three acts. The Dagda became the lover of Boann, wife of EIcmar of the Brug (New Grange), and from their union was born Oengus. He was given in fosterage to Midir of Bri Leith (near Ardagh, Co. Longford). Later when Oengus had grown to be a man, and was in possession of the Brug, Midir came to visit him. While he was there he suffered an injury and he claimed in compensation the fairest maiden in Ireland, Étaín the daughter of Ailill. Oengus won her from her father for Midir with the Dagda’s help, by clearing twelve plains and making twelve rivers and giving her weight in gold and silver.

Midir returned home with the beautiful Étaín, but his first wife, Fuamnach, struck her with a magic quicken rod and turned her into a pool of water. The heat of the air and of the earth turned the water into a worm, and the worm became a purple fly of wonderl’ul size and beauty. I ts music was sweet, and the air was fragrant around it. The fly was always with Midir, and he knew that it was Étaín. Then Fuamnach drove her away by causing a magic wind which carried. her out on to the rocks and waves of the sea. For seven years she was in misery until she alighted one day on the breast of Oengus himself. For some time he carried her about in a sun-lit cage of crystal, but the jealous Fuamnach got to know of it and drove her away again. This time she came to rest on the roof of a house in Ulster, and fell into the cup of one of the women in the house, the wife of Étar who was an Ulster king. The woman swallowed the fly, and she was re-born as the daughter of Étar. It was a thousand and twelve years from the time of her birth as daughter of the fairy Ailill to the time of her birth in the house of Étar.

That is the end of the first story.

The Stolen Treasures

In olden days there lived in a magnificent castle near the centre of Ireland a rich chieftain named Ruairi with his wipe Manissa and their three sons, Sean, Aindreas and Brian.

There was another member of the household who was regarded as one of the family and who was loved by all.This was Maire who had been nurse to the mother and afterwards to the three boys. She was very clever. Indeed it was believed she was friends with the fairies and knew some of their secret ways.

They were a happy family. Each of the sons had many precious possessions. Sean was a talented artist. Among all his work that which he treasured most was a picture of his parents which he had painted when he was quite young. Aindreas, a musician, was the owner of a splendid small harp. To Brian belonged a precious gold chain that had been in the possession of the family through centuries.

These treasures were kept among others on a large table in a room at the uppermost part of the house.

One lovely day in spring the family went to visit friends who lived at some distance from their home. They were to spend a few days with them. Maire accompanied them.The other members of the staff were given a free time during their absence.Great care was taken to secure all entrances to the castle against robbers or intruders of any kind.

At some distance from the castle there was a strange little house known as ‘The Black Witch’s Den’. It was situated on a narrow road remote from any other dwelling or building of any kind.

The witch, a small, thin, wizened old creature was the terror of the people for miles round. All in the neighbourhood were careful to bolt their doors when they had occasion to go from home. It was said she cast cruel spells on anyone who came her way. She saw with delight that the inmates of the castle were about to leave their home. Oh! what treasure would now be hers! But how was she to gain an entrance to the castle?

Written by Sinéad Bean Uí DeValera.

The Sleeping Monk of Innisfallen

Written by T. Crofton Croker.

Above all the islands in the lakes of Killarney give me Innisfallen, “sweet Innisfallen” as Tom Moore, the poet, described it. It is indeed a fairy island, although I have no fairy story to tell you about it; and if I had, these are such unbelieving times that people only smile at my fairy stories, and doubt them.

However, none will doubt that a monastery once stood upon Innisfallen Island, for its ruins may still be seen. Centuries ago the monks of Innisfallen were popular, pious, and learned, and if you saw them coming along the road you didn’t hop inside the fence to avoid them for they were the best of company at all times. In short they weren’t the kind of men to preach hellfire and damnation in your terrified car every time they saw you. And out of all the monks you could not pick a merrier soul than Father Cuddy who could sing a good song, tell a droll story, and play flute and fiddle as though he had been reared in a bandmaster’s house.

On one occasion the monastery ran out of wine, and Father Cuddy was ordered to go at once to Muckross Abbey for a supply, because a monastery without wine is like an ark without Noah or a pair of golden gates without Saint Peter, or the Mona Lisa without her smile. With the morning’s light he was seen rowing his little boat across the crimson waters of the lake towards the peninsula of Muckross, and that was the last sight the Innisfallen community got of Father Cuddy, for he never returned to them.

At Muckross Abbey Father Cuddy was welcomed like an archangel, which he probably is today, for his fame had travelled before him, and after giving the monks all the news from Innisfallen and singing a few songs for the students he set out for home with a promise that the wine would be sent the following morning. What with the beauty of the scenery, the heat of the sun, the humming ol the bees, and the warm handshakes of friends, he felt a, happy as a Mayboy and he opened his mouth wide and began to sing:
“Tirra-lirra, tirra-lirra, tirra-lirra lee.” Suddenly he stopped singing and listened as a beautiful bird-voice warbled among the trees to his left hand. Father Cuddy knew his songbirds, blackbird, thrush, lark, siskin, linnet, goldfinch, but this was far superior. Louder and sweeter grew the song until it possessed the wood, and the whole world glowed and throbbed with its music. Know-ing that the music was not of this world, Father Cuddy fell on his knees and began to pray. When the music stopped – he looked about him, and the more he looked the more he wondered dLt the alteration which appeared in the face of the country. The hills bore the same majestic outline, and the lake spread itself beneath his view in the same tranquil manner and studded with the same number of islands; but every smaller feature in the landscape was strangely altered. What had been naked rocks were now clothed with holly and arbutus. Whole woods had disappeared, and waste places had become cultivated fields; and to complete the enchantment the very season itself seemed changed. In the rosy dawn of a summer’s day he had left the monastery of Innisfallen, and now he felt in every sight and sound the dreariness of winter. The hard ground was covered with withered leaves; icicles hung from leafiess branches; and he felt his fingers numbed from the nipping frost. Father Cuddy wondered greatly at the sudden transformation, and when he got up he saw that his knees had worn deep grooves in the stone he had knelt on. He decided to return in haste to Innisfallen and report these mysterious events to his superiors who might be able to explain them to his satisfaction. When he reached the gate of the monastery a stranger dressed in queer unmonkish garments occupied the porter’s place.

“Has the wine arrived safely, my good man?” Father Cuddy asked him. “Wine!” the fellow said. “What wine are you talking about?”
“Why, wine for the monks of Innisfallen, of course. 1 left this island yesterday morning for Muckross to order it. why is the place so quiet anyway. Is there a retreat in progress?”
“The day of monks and retreats in Innisfallen is over,” the stranger said. “The fathershave been suppressed, and the Abbey lands were granted in August last to Robert Collan by Lady Elizabeth, Queen of England. And if you were here yesterday I’d have seen you for you are by no means a small man. And if you stay here any longer you are likely to loose your head for monks are not popular with our new masters.”
“I tell you Iwas here yesterday, man,” the astonished monk persisted. “I am Father Cuddy of Innisfallen. Now, sir, do you know me?”
“I do not know you, but there is a story told of Father Cuddy who disappeared from Innisfallen one morning, and was drowned in the lake very likely. But all that happened two hundred years ago.”
Suddenly Father Cuddy recalled the wonderful unearthly music of the singing bird in the forest, and he realised he had taken part in a miracle. His heart was heavy within him as he walked away from the strange quietness of the monastery. The world he know had been swept away, and all his friends and brethren were dead. Avoiding the towns he managed to arrive safely in the port of Dingle where he was put on board a ship sailing for the friendly land of Spain. And in a monastery in Malaga the good man quietly wore out the remainder of his days.

The stone impressed with the mark of Father Cuddy’s knees may be seen to this day. Should any persons doubt my story let them go to Killarney where Clough na Cuddy – Cuddy’s Stone -as it is called remains in Lord Kenmare’s park, an indisputable evidence of the fact. Spillane, the bugle-man, will be able to point it out to them, as he did so to me.

The Bewitched Butter

Written by John Keegan.

About the commencement of the last century there lived in the vicinity of the once famous village of Aghaboe, a wealthy farmer, named Bryan Costigan. This man kept an extensive dairy and a great many milch cows, and every year made considerable sums by the sale of milk and butter. The luxuriance of the pasture lands in this neighbourhood has always been proverbial; and, consequently, Bryan’s cows were the finest and most productive in the country, and his milk and butter the richest and sweetest, and brought the highest price at every market at which he offered these articles for sale.

Things continued to go on thus prosperously with Bryan Costigan, when, one season, all at once, he found his cattle declining in appearance, and his dairy almost entirely profitless. Bryan, at first, attributed this change to the weather, or some such cause, but soon found or fancied reason to assign it to a far different source. The cows, without any visible disorder, daily declined, and were scarcely able to crawl about on their pasture: many of them, instead of milk, gave nothing but blood; and the scanty quantity of milk which some of them continued to supply was so bitter that even the pigs would not drink it; whilst the butter which it produced was of such a bad quality, and stunk so horribly, that the very dogs would not cat it. Bryan applied for remedies to all the quacks and ‘fairy-women’ in the country – but in vain. Many of the imposters declared that the mysterious malady in his cattle went beyond their skill; whilst others, although they found no difficulty in tracing it to superhuman agency, declared that they had no control in the matter, as the charm under the influence of which his property was made away with, was too powerful to be dissolved by anything less than the special interposition of Divine Providence. The poor farmer became almost distracted; he saw ruin staring him in the face; yet what was he to do? Sell his cattle and purchase others! No; that was out of the question, as they looked so miserable and emaciated, that no one would even take them as a present, whilst it was also impossible to sell to a butcher, as the flesh of one which he killed for his own family was as black as a coal, and stunk like any putrid carrion.

The unfortunate man was thus completely bewildered. He knew not what to do; he became moody and stupid; his sleep forsook him by night, and all day he wandered about the fields, amongst his ‘fairy-stricken’ cattle like a maniac.

Affairs continued in this plight, when one very sultry evening in the latter days of July, Bryan Costigan’s wife was sitting at her own door, spinning at her wheel, in a very gloomy and agitated state of mind. Happening to look down the narrow green lane which led from the high road to her cabin, she espied a little old woman barefoot, and enveloped in an old scarlet cloak, approaching slowly, with the aid of a crutch which she carried in one hand, and a cane or walking-stick in the other. The farmer’s wife felt glad at seeing the odd-looking stranger; she smiled, and yet she knew not why, as she neared the house. A vague and indefinable feeling of pleasure crowded on her imagination; and, as the old woman gained the threshold, she bade her “welcome” with a warmth which plainly told that her lips gave utterance but to the genuine feelings of her heart.

“God bless this good house and all belonging to it,” said the stranger, as she entered.
“God save you kindly, and you are welcome, whoever you are,” replied Mrs. Costigan.
“Hem, I thought so,” said the old woman with a significant grin. “I thought so, or 1 wouldn’t trouble you.”

The farmer’s wife ran, and placed a chair near the fire for the stranger; but she refused, and sat on the ground near where Mrs. Costigan had been spinning. Mrs. Costigan had now time to survey the old hag’s person minutely. She appeared of great age; her countenance was extremely ugly and repulsive; her skin was rough and deeply embrowned as if from long exposure to the effects of some tropical climate; her forehead was low, narrow, and, indented with a thousand wrinkles; her long grey hair fell in matted elflocks from beneath a white linen skullcap; her eyes were bleared, bloodshotten, and obliquely set in their sockets, and her voice was croaking, tremulous, and, at times, partially inarticulate. As she squatted on the floor, she looked around the house with an inquisitive gaze; she peered pryingly from corner to corner, with an earnestness of look, as if she had the faculty, like the Argonaut of old, to see through the very depths of the earth, whilst Mrs. Costigan kept watching her motions with mingled feelings, curiosity, awe, and pleasure.

“Mrs,” said the old woman, at length breaking silence, “I am dry with the heat of the day, can you give me a drink?”
“Alas!'” replied the farmer’s wife, I have no drink to offer you except water, else you would have no occasion to ask me for it.”
“Are you not the owner of the cattle I see yonder?” said the old hag, with a tone of voice and manner of gesticulation which plainly indicated her fore-knowledge of the fact. Mrs. Costigan replied in the affirmative, and briefly related to her every circumstance connected with the affair, whilst the old woman still remained silent, but shook her grey head repeatedly; and still continued gazing round the house with an air of importance and self-sufficiency.

When Mrs. Costigan had ended, the old hag remained a while, as if in a deep reverie; at length she said –
“Have you any of the milk in the house?”
“I have,” replied the other.
“Show me some of it.”

She filled a jug from a vessel and handed it to the old sybil, who smelled it, then tasted it, and spat out what she had taken on the floor.

“Where is your husband?” she asked.
“Out in the fields,” was the reply.
“I must see him.”
A messenger was dispatched for Bryan, who shortly after made his appearance.
“Neighbour,” said the stranger, “your wife informs me that your cattle are going against you this season.”
“She informs you right,” said Bryan.
“And why have you not sought a cure?”
“A cure!” re-echoed the man; “why, woman, I have sought cures until I was heart-broken, and all in vain; they get worse every day.”
“What will you give me if I cure them for you?”
“Any thing in our power” replied Bryan and his wife, both speaking joyfully, and with a breath.
“All I will ask from you is a silver sixpence, and that you will do everything which I will bid you,” said she.
The farmer and his wife seemed astonished at the moderation of her demand. They offered her a large sum of money.
“No,” said she, “I don’t want your money; I am no cheat, and I would not even take sixpence, but that I can do nothing till I handle some of your silver.”

The sixpence was immediately given her, and the most implicit obedience promised to her injunctions, by both Bryan and his wife, who already began to regard the old beldame as their tutelary angel. The hag pulled off a black silk ribbon or fillet, which encircled her head inside her cap, and gave it to Bryan, saying: “Go, now, and the first cow you touch with this ribbon, turn her into the yard, but be sure don’t touch the second, nor speak a word until you return; be also careful not to let the ribbon touch the ground, for, if you do, all is over”.

Bryan took the talismanic ribbon, and soon returned, driving a red cow before him.

The old hag went out, and, approaching the cow, commenced pulling hairs out of her tail, at the same time singing some verses in the Irish language in a low, wild and unconnected strain. The cow appeared restive and uneasy, but the old witch still continued her mysterious chaunt until she had the ninth hair extracted. She then ordered the cow to be drove back to her pasture, and again entered the house.

“Go, now,” said she to the woman, “and bring me some milk from every cow in your possession.”

She went, and soon returned with a large pail filled with a frightful looking mixture of milk, blood and corrupt matter. The old woman got it into a churn and made preparations for churning.

“Now,” said she, “You both must churn, make fast the door and windows, and let there be no light but from the fire; do not open your lips until I desire you, and by observing my directions, I make no doubt but, ere the sun goes down, we will find out the infernal villain who is robbing you.”

Bryan secured the doors and windows, and commenced churning. The old sorceress sat down by a blazing fire which had been specially lighted for the occasion, and commenced singing the same wild song which she had sung at the pulling of the cow-hairs, and after a little time, she cast one of the nine hairs into the fire, still singing her mysterious strain, and watching, with intense interest, the witching process.

A loud cry, as if from a female in distress, was now heard approaching the house; the old witch discontinued her incantations, and listened attentively. The crying voice approached the door.

“Open the door quickly,”‘ shouted the old charmer.

Bryan unbarred the door, and all three rushed out in the yard, when they heard the same cry down the boreheen, but could see nothing.

“It is all over,” shouted the old witch; “something has gone amiss, and our charm for the present is ineffectual.”

They now turned back quite crestfallen, when, as they were entering the door, the sybil cast her eyes downwards, and perceiving a piece of horse-shoe nailed on the threshold, she vociferated –
“Here 1 have it; no wonder our charm was abortive. The person that was crying abroad is the villain who has your cattle bewitched; i brought her to the house, but she was not able to come to the door on account of that horse-shoe. Remove it instantly, and we will try our luck again.”

Bryan removed the horse-shoe from the doorway, and by the hag’s directions placed it on the floor under the churn, having previously reddened it in the fire.

They again resumed their manual operations. Bryan and his wife began to churn, and the witch again to sing her strange verses, and casting her cow-hairs into the fire until she had them all nearly exhausted. Her countenance now began to exhibit evident traces of vexation and disappointment. She got quite pale, her teeth gnashed, her hand trembled, and as she cast the ninth and last hair into the fire, her person exhibited more the appearance of a female demon than of a human being.

Once more the cry was heard, and an aged red-haired woman was seen approaching the house quickly.

“Ho, ho!” roared the sorceress, “I knew it would be so; my charm has succeeded; my expectations are realized, and here she comes, the villain who has destroyed you.”
“‘What are we to do now?” asked Bryan.
“Say nothing to her,” said the hag; “give her whatever she demands, and leave the rest to me.”

The woman advanced screeching vehemently, and Bryan went out to meet her. She was a neighbour, and she said that one of her best cows was drowning in a pool of water – that there was no one at home but herself, and she implored Bryan to go rescue the cow from destruction.

Bryan accompanied her without hesitation; and having rescued the cow from her perilous situation, was back again in a quarter of an hour.

It was now sunset, and Mrs. Costigan set about preparing supper. During supper they reverted to the singular transactions of the day. The old witch uttered many a fiendish laugh at the success of her incantations, and inquired who was the woman whom they had so curiously discovered.

Bryan satisfied her in every particular. She was the wife of a neighbouring farmer; her name was Rachel Higgins; and she had been long suspected to be on familiar terms with the spirit of darkness. She had five or six cows; but it was observed by her sapient neighbours, that she sold more butter every year than other farmers’ wives who had twenty. Bryan had, from the commencement of the decline in his cattle, suspected her for being the aggressor, but as he had no proof, he held his peace.

“Well,” said the old beldame, with a grim smile, “it is not enough that we have merely discovered the robber; all is in vain, if we do not take steps to punish her for the past, as well as to prevent her inroads for the future.”
“And how will that be done?” said Bryan.
” I will tell you; as soon as the hour of twelve o’clock arrives to-night, do you go to the pasture, and take a couple of swift-running dogs with you; conceal yourself in some place convenient to the cattle; watch them carefully; and if you see any thing, whether man or beast, approach the cows, set on the dogs, and if possible make them draw the blood of the intruder; then ALL Will be accomplished. If nothing approaches before sunrise, you may return, and we will try something else.

Convenient there lived the cow-herd of a neighbouring squire. He was a hardy, courageous young man, and always kept a pair of very ferocious bull-dogs. To him Bryan applied for assistance, and he cheerfully agreed to accompany him, and, moreover proposed to fetch a couple of his master’s best grey-hounds, as his own dogs, although extremely fierce and blood-thirsty, could not he relied on for swiftness. He promised Bryan to be with him before 12 o’clock, and they parted.

Bryan did not seek sleep that night; he sat up anxiously awaiting the midnight hour. It arrived at last, and his friend, the herdsman, true to his promise came at the time appointed. After some farther admonitions from the collougb, they departed. Having arrived at the field, they consulted as to the best position they could choose for concealment. At last they pitched on a small brake of fern, situated at the extremity of the field, adjacent to the boundary ditch, which was thickly studded with large, old white-thorn bushes. Here they couched themselves, and made the dogs, four in number, lie down beside them, eagerly expecting the appearance of their as yet unknown and mysterious visitor.

It was a still, calm night, and, for the season, extremely dark and gloomy. There was not a single star visible in all the vast expanse of heaven, whilst large masses of dark vapour, which rolled slowly athwart the brow of the silent summer-night sky, almost constantly obscured the waning moon, which at intervals appeared sinking redly on the western horizon. There was a solemn tranquility, too, over the face of nature – not a sound was to he beard, except the monotonous, grating call of the land-rail from the adjacent meadows, or, now and then, the appalling shriek of the screech-owl, hovering on dusky wing over the ivy-wreathed ruins of Aghaboe Priory, which, a little to the eastward of where the watchers lay, reared its venerable head in grim and isolated grandeur.

Here Bryan and his comrade continued a considerable time in nervous anxiety, still nothing approached, and it became manifest that morning was at hand. The twilight breezes had now sprungup, and were chasing the clouds along the sky before them, and the morning star was visible over the rocky pinnacle of Shean More. Still nothing appeared to disturb the sentinels; they soon began to grow impatient, and were talking of returning home, when on a sudden they beard a rushing sound behind them, as if proceeding from something endeavouring to force a passage through the thick hedge in their rear. They looked in that direction, and judge of their astonishment, when they perceived a large hare in the act of springing from the ditch, and leaping on the ground quite near them. They were now convinced that this was the object which they had so impatiently expected, and they were resolved to watch her motions narrowly.

After arriving to the ground, she remained motionless for a few moments, looking around her sharply. She then began to skip and jump in a playful manner; now advancing at a smart pace towards the cows, and again retreating precipitately, but still drawing nearer and nearer at each sally. At length she advanced up to the next cow, and sucked her for a moment; then on to the next, and so respectively to every cow on the field – the cows all the time lowing loudly, and appearing extremely frightened and agitated. Bryan, from the moment the hare commenced sucking the first, was with difficulty restrained from attacking her; but his more sagacious companion suggested to him, that it was better to wait until she would have done, as she would then he much heavier, and more unable to effect her escape than at present. And so the issue proved; for being now done sucking them all, her belly appeared enormously distended, and she made her exit slowly, and apparently with difficulty. She advanced towards the hedge where she had entered, and as she arrived just at the clump of ferns where her foes were couched, they started up with a fierce yell, and hallooed the dogs upon her path.

Now came on the ‘tug of war.’ The hare started off at a brisk pace, squirting up the milk she had sucked from her mouth and nostrils, and the dogs making after her rapidly. Rachel Higgins’s cabin appeared, through the grey of the morning twilight, at a little distance; and it was evident that puss seemed bent on gaining it, although she made a considerable circuit through the fields in the rear. Bryan and his comrade, however, had their thoughts, and made towards the cabin by the shortest route, and had just arrived as the hare came up, panting and almost exhausted, and the dogs at her very scut. She ran round the house, evidently confused and disappointed at the presence of the men, but at length made for the door. In the bottom of the door was a small, semi-circular aperture, resembling those cut in fowl-house doors for the ingress and egress of poultry. To gain this hole, puss now made a last and desperate effort, and had succeeded in forcing her head and shoulders through it, when the foremost of the dogs made a spring and seized her violently by the haunch. She uttered a loud and piercing scream, and struggled desperately to free herself from his grip, and at last succeeded, but not until she left a piece of her rump in his teeth. The men now burst open the door; a bright turf fire blazed on the hearth, and the whole floor was streaming with blood. No hare, however, could he found, and the men were more than ever convinced that it was old Rachel who had, by the assistance of some demon, assumed the form of the hare, and they now determined to have her if she were over the earth. They entered the bed-room, and heard some smothered groaning, as if proceeding from some one in extreme agony. They went to the corner of the room from whence the moans proceeded, and there, beneath a bundle of freshly cut rushes, found the form of Rachel Higgins, writhing in the most excruciating agony, and almost smothered in a pool of blood. The men were astounded; they addressed the wretched old woman, but she either could not, or would not, answer them. Her wound still bled copiously; her tortures appeared to increase, and it was evident that she was dying. The aroused family thronged around her with cries and lamentations; she did not seem to heed them, she got worse and worse, and her piercing yells fell awfully on the ears of the bystanders. At length she expired, and her corpse exhibited a most appalling spectacle, even before the spirit had well departed.

Bryan and his friend returned home. The old hag had been previously aware of the fate of Rachel Higgins, but it was not known by what means she acquired her supernatural knowledge. She was delighted at the issue of her mysterious operations. Bryan pressed her much to accept of some remuneration for her services, but she utterly rejected such proposals. She remained a few days at his house, and at length took her leave and departed no one knew whither.

Old Rachel’s remains were interred that night in the neighbouring churchyard. Her fate soon became generally known, and her family, ashamed to remain in their native village, disposed of their property, and quitted the country for ever. The story, however, is still fresh in the memory of the surrounding villagers; and often, it is said, amid the grey haze of a summer twilight, may the ghost of Rachel Higgins in the form of a hare, be seen scudding over her ancient favourite and well-remembered haunts.

What a wild, fanciful, and improbable story is this; yet to discredit it is considered by many in the neighbourhood where it is said to have occurred, as a crime equal at least to murder or heresy.

Paddy Welsh and the Gold

This is an extract from Sir William Wilde’s Superstitions of Ireland. For those who don’t know Sir William Wilde was the father of Oscar Wilde – Oscar Wilde achieved his own notoriety as an author, poet, playwrite and character of some eccentricity. Sir William, his father was a doctor, an antiquarian and another eccentric character or so it is said, Oscar’s mother was known as ‘Speranza who also was a writer, poet – I’ve read that on the day that Thomas Davis was being buried, Miss Jane Francesca Elgee (from Wexford (Lady Wilde to be)) was in Dublin and as the funeral cortege passed she did not know whose it was and made enquiries – wondering then about a person whose death could cause such sorrow to so many, she took to reading the articles in the ‘Nation’ newspaper and then began contributing as ‘Speranza. Sir William Wilde is one of the mourners named as standing around that grave on the day that Thomas Davis was buried.

It was said he had found a crook of gold in one of the towers of the old barns of Ballintober, which was not more than a mile and a half distant from his cabin, and where Paddy and his son were often seen in the twilight, looking, they said, for moths and wall-flies among the old ivy, or bats and starlings to manufacture fishing materials; at least, so they said, but the people thought otherwise. We often endeavoured to worm the story out of the cunning angler, but, drunk or sober, he was always on his guard, and generally passed it off with a joke, or –

“Sure, Master Willie, you don’t give into the likes -’tis only ould women’s; talk. It’s myself that would be glad to own to it if I got the goold, and not be slaying myself, summer and winter, by the river’s brink, as I am.”

“Yes; but, Paddy, they say you made the attempt, at all events. Cannot you tell us what happened to you ?”

“Oh, then, it’s only all gollymoschought. But that’s mighty fine parlimint* your honour has in the little flask; ’tis a pity it doesn’t hould more, and the devil a tail we are rising to keep up our spirits.”

“Come now, Paddy, since you know very well it will be quite too bright and dull these two hours to stir even a roach, lot alone a trout – don’t you perceive there isn’t a cloud in the sky, and I can see the bottom as plain as my hand: look, even the cows have left off feeding, and are standing in the ford switching their tails to keep of the clags? – just stick the rods, and lie on your face in the grass there, and tell me all about the night you went to look after the money in the old bawne. Do, and you’ll see I’ll squeeze another mouthful out of the cruiskeen.”

“Well, but you’re mighty ‘cute and disquisitive after ould stories and pishogues. I suppose I may as well be after telling it to you while the breeze is getting up; but keep an eye to the river, avourneen, and try could you see e’er a rise; and be sure you don’t miss a gray coughlin or a merrow, if e’er a one flies past you; we’ll want them coming on evening. But don’t be tellin’ on me, nor let on at the big house* that I told you the likes at all. Sure the mistress ‘ud never forgive me for putting such things in your head; and maybe it’s Father Crump she’d be after repatein’ it to the next Sunday he dines; in Dundearmot; and if she did, troth I wouldn’t face him for a month of Sundays. Maybe it’s to St. Ball or to St. John’s Well he’d send me for my night walkin’.”

“Oh, never fear, I’ll keep your secret.”

“Well, then, avourneen, to make a long story short, I dhramed one night that I was walking about in the bawne, when I looked into the old tower that’s in the left hand corner, after you pass the gate, and there I saw, sure enough, a little crook, about the bigness of the bottom of a pitcher, and it full up of all kinds of money, goold, silver, and brass. When I woke next morning, I said nothin’ about it, but in a few nights after I had the same dhrame over agin, ony I thought I was lookin’ down from the top of the tower, and that all the flures were taken away. Peggy knew be me that I had a dhrame, for I wasn’t quite asey in myself; so I ups and tells her the whole of it, when the childer had gone out.

“Well, Paddy,” says she, “who knows but it would come thrue, and be the making of us yet; but you must wait till the dhrame comes afore you the third time, and then, sure, it can do no harm to try, anyways.”

How the First Cat Was Created

If he did not sit on the hob, the seanachai always got a chair nearest the fire, that’s if the cat was not in the way. In my father’s time visitors who came calling to our house, always greeted those present with the blessing (Go sabhalaigh Dia gach a bhfuil in láthair ach an Cat’) ‘God save all here except the cat’, for ’twas well known that the divil was often in the cat, and if you listen to me carefully I tell you how it was that the first cat was created. And no divil at all in it.

One day Mary and her Son were travelling the road, and they were heavy and tired, and it chanced that they went past the door of a house in which there was a lock of wheat being winnowed. The Blessed Virgin went in, and she asked an alms of wheat, and the woman of the house refused her.”Go in again to her” said the Son, ” and ask her for it in the name of God”She went, and the women refused her again.”Go into her again” said He, ” and ask her to give you leave to put your hand into the pail of water, and to thrust it down into the heap of wheat, and to take away with you all that shall cling to your hand.”She went, and the woman gave her leave to do that.

When she came out to our Saviour, He said to her, “Do not let one grain of that go astray, for it is worth much and much.” When they had gone a bit from the house they looked back, and saw a flockof demons coming towards the house, and the Virgin Mary was frightened lestthey might do harm to the woman. “Let there be no anxiety on you” said Jesus to her; “since it has chanced that she has given you all that of alms, they shall get no victory over her”

They travelled on, then, until they reached as far as a place where a man named Martin had a mill. “Go in” said our Saviour to his mother, ” since it has chanced that the mill is working, and ask them to grind that little grain-een for you”She went. ” O musha, it’s not worth-while for me” said the boy who was attending the querns, “to put that little lock-een a-grinding for you.” Martin heard them talking and said to the lout “Oh, then do it for the creature, perhaps she wants it badly” said he. He did it, and he gave her all the flour that came from it.

They travelled on then, and they were not gone any distance until the mill was full of flour as white as the snow. When Martin perceived this great miracle he understood well that it was the son of God and His Mother who chanced that way. He ran out and followed them, at his best, and there was that much haste on him going through a scunce (a thick-set double ditch) of hawthorns that a spike of the hawthorn met his breast and wounded him greatly.

There was that much zeal in him that he did not feel the pain, but clapt his hand over it, and never stopped until he came up with them. When our Saviour beheld the wound upon poor Martin He laid His hand upon it, and it was closed, and healed upon the spot. He said to Martin then that he was a fitting man in the presence of God, “and go home now,” said He, ” and place a fistful of the flour under a dish, and do not stir it until morning”When Martin went home he did that, and he put the dish, mouth under, and the fistful of flour beneath it.

The servant girl was watching him, and thought that maybe it would be a good thing if she were to set a dish for herself in the same way, and signs on her, she set it.On the morning of the next day Martin lifted his dish, and what should run out from under it but a fine sow and a big litter of bonhams with her. The girl lifted her own dish, and there ran a big mouse and a clutch of mousheens with her. They ran here and there, and Martin at once thought that they were not good, and he plucked a big mitten off his hand and flung it at the young mice, but as soon as it touched the ground it changed into a cat and the cat began to kill all the young mice.

That was the beginning of cats. Martin was a saint from that time forward, but it was not known which of the saints he was of all the saints who were called Martin.And that happened.

Cathal Crovederg or “Charles of the Red Hand”

The ruins of Ballintober Castle are amongst the most magnificent in Connaught, and are memorable as the last strong- hold of the O’Conors. The castle, which stands on an elevated ridge by the road-side, above the little village of Ballintober, four miles from the town of Castlebar, consists of a quadrangular inclosure, 270 feet in length, and 230 feet in breadth, with four flanking towers, and one upon each side of the great entrance, the whole surrounded by a deep fosse, portions of which still retain water. Mr. Weld has remarked upon the strong resemblance which the towers of this castle bear to some of those in Wales. “No one tower, it is true,” he says, “is comparable to the Eagle Tower at Caernarvon. Nevertheless, the south-west tower at Ballintober is a superb piece of architecture, and, for its general effect, amongst the most imposing remains of antiquity that I can call to recollection in Ireland.” There are two localities of this name in Connaught: Baile-an-tobhair-Phaidraig, the town of the Well of St. Patrick, in Mayo, and Baile-an-tobhair-Brighde, that of St. Bridget, now under consideration.

This place is, among other things, memorable as the birth-place of the celebrated Cathal Crovederg, or “Charles the Red-Handed,” the illegitimate son of Turlough-More O’Conor, the brother of Roderick, and last of the Irish monarchs. About this prince, who was born in the latter end of the twelfth century, – and who, says the Ulster Annals, was “the best Irishman, from the time of Brien Boroma, for gentility and honour; the upholder, mighty and puissant, of the country; keeper of peace; rich and excellent,” there are many romantic tales and superstitious legends, still lingering with the people in the vicinity, which, were they woven into a novel, would far surpass most modern works of fiction. When we have a novelist not only acquainted with Irish history and antiquities, but possessing the power of fusing the ancient legend with the drama of modern life and impulse; making the feelings that influence the lover or the hero subservient to the chronicle; picturing the part, through the knowledge of the human heart at the present-then, and then only will Irish history be known and appreciated.

Cathal of the Red Hand was the son of a beautiful girl of very small stature, named Gearrog Ny-Moran, of the Muhall territory. When the queen heard what had occurred, she, like Sarah of old, commenced a bitter persecution against the king’s mistress, and had, as was customary at the time, recourse to witchcraft and Sorcery to prolong the sufferings of the unhappy maiden. Like Juno, before the birth of Hercules, she, with the assistance of a noted witch, set a charm, consisting of a bundle of elder rods, tied with a magic string, knotted with nine knots. This she hung up in her chamber and watched with great care. Stratagem, however, achieved what humanity could not induce. The queen, while walking on the terrace, was accosted by a female (the midwife disguised), who entreated alms for a poor women who had just been confined in the neighbouring village. On hearing who it was, she was so enraged, that she instantly rushed to her apartment, and cut the charm into pieces. The spell was broken, and the bond-woman’s child was born.

For several years after, the people protected Gearrog and her son from the jealous fury of the queen; and both were long harboured in the monasteries of Connaught. As time wore on, however, the Church was insufficient against the wrath of the offended queen, and Cathal was obliged to fly to a distant province, where, in the garb of a peasant, he supported himself by manual labour. At length the King of Connaught died; and the people declared they would have no monarch but his son, Cathal Crovederg, if he could be found. Heralds were sent forth, and proclamations issued, according to the fashion of the times, yet still no tidings of the elected king. One day, as harvest was drawing to its close, a Bollscaire, or herald, from the Court of Ballintober, entered a field in Leinster, where some of the peasantry were at work reaping rye, and told the oft-repeated tale of the missing monarch of Connaught. Cathal, who was among the reapers, heard the story, and stood for some minutes lost in reverie. He then, removing the cover with which he always concealed the mark, held up the red hand, and throwing down the reaping-hook, exclaimed- “Slan leath a corrain anois do’n cloideam” -i.e., “Farewell, sickle; now for the sword!” The Bollscaire recognizing him, both he, and the men who were along with him in the field, prostrated themselves before him, and proclaimed him King of Connaught. He was afterwards crowned at Carnfree, near Tulsk, by the chieftains and the coorbs of Sil-Murray, and “Cathal’s Farewell to the Rye” is a proverb and an air still well known in Roscommon and Galway.

From Wilde’s Superstitions of Ireland.