Tag Archives: T. Crofton Croker

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 Legend of Puck Fair

Extract from Legends of Kerry, by T. Crofton Croker and Sigerson Clifford, published by The Geraldine Press, made and printed by the Kerryman Ltd,. Tralee, Co. Kerry.


In olden times the Kingdom of Kerry had ten times as many goats as all the other counties of Ireland rolled into one, for the people believed, and who is to say they were wrong, that children reared on goat’s milk grew up into handsome women and fine strapping men the height of a goalpost. The mountains around Kilorglin were favourite feeding grounds for the goats as some special herb that grew therer was greatly to their liking, for it put extra silk in their coats and added another inch to their horns.

Most of the Killorglin goats, and Killorglin as well, were owned by a rich man called Jenkin Conway, whose ancestors came over with the Elizabethans and he was no great prayer in any Irishman’s beads. Conway’s chief herdsman was Crohan O’Sullivan, and every year when the goats were kidding Crohan sent his son, Danny into the mountains to guard the young goats from the eagles. In those days eagles were as plentiful in Killarney as the picture-postcards are today, and they thought nothing of flying across the few miles to kill a kid for their supper.

Danny had a little cabin on the mountains to give him shelter from the elements, but as he was only fifteen years old he found the life very lonely with no one to talk to up among the roacks and the heather, and he began to imagine all varieties of strange wonders happening around him. Every three or four days when his father came to visit him Danny had a new story for his entertainment.

“Dada, I saw a serpent early this morning crossing the bog below and diving into the Laune. Forty foot long he was if he was an inch, and a mane of foxy hair like a horse growing down his neck”

“That’s the last time you’ll see him alive, son,” the father said. “I’ll put some salt over his tail on my way home and he’ll keep us chewing for a month of Sundays.”

“Dada, I saw a leprachaun yesterday evening, sitting on the rock to the west beyond. Mending old shoes he was and singing away as happy as a wranboy.”

“Ah, you’re no good, Daneen, that you didn’t catch hiom by the back of the neck. That smart little fellow has a pot of gold fat enough to keep us all in clover while grass grows and water flows. You’ll never get on in this world, son, if you don’t listen to your elders, for ’tis they have the thumb of knowledge to their hand like Finn MacCool himself.”

“Dada, what wonder do you think I saw the other day? An eagle the size of a cock of hay flew over from the Church of the Sloo Trees and made for the young kids but I beat him off with my stick. And didn’t he whistle with bad temper and grab a rock between his claws and fly high into the clouds and drop it down upon my head, only I wasn’t there to meet it when it landed.”

“Ah, that must bethe feathered gentleman I saw last Saturday, lad. He swooped down on a three-masted ship in Dingle Bay and flew with it as far as the Skelligs Rocks beyond. You were a lucky garsoon he didn’t grab your-self and land you on the back of the Old Man in the moon above.”

That night after his father had gone home, Danny looked out the door of his little cabin and saw the red eye of a fire winking at him from the blackness at the foot of the mountain. He stole quietly down to it carrying two sticks for protection; an oak cudgel in case of human enemies and a hazel stick to deal with them if they were malignant fairies. When he came near he could hear voices speaking English, and the jingle of horse-harness. He crept closer until he was almost near enough to put a finger on tho two men who were talking at the edge of the camp .

“By this time tomorrow we should be on our way to my Lord Cromwell with the head of Jenkin Conway in a leather satchel,” one of the men said.

“Aye we’ll strike into the town at dawn when their sleep will be heaviest. We must take them by surprise for they outnumber us vastly,” the second man declared.

Danny listened a while longer and then stole quietly away. When he thought himself safe from the strangers, he ran as fast as the wind into Killorglin and rapped at his father’s door. Crohan O’Sullivan opened it and shook his head when he saw Danny on the doorstep.
“What wonder is it this time, garsoon? A big ship with a mast of gold and silver sails floating among the clouds of the sky, maybe?” v

“English horses and soldiers at the foot of the mountain, Dada, and they’re going to attack the town at dawn and kill everyone!”

The father laughed and patted Danny on the head. “‘Tisn’t that easy to kill the Killorglin people, son,” he said. “How many soldiers did you see now?” “Around sixty, Dada. They landed in Valentia Island the other day, and they have a boy with a drum, and a man with a brass bugle, and guns and all. And one of the officers said he’d be cutting the head off Jenkin Conway and making a present of it in a leather satchel to his Lord Cromwell.’·

“Faith, this Cromwell mustn’t be too easy to satisfy whoever he is,” Crohan ‘Sullivan asid, “Well, ‘ll tell you what I’ll do so Danny. I have some birdlime in the room beyond that I made yesterday from holly-bark to catch linnets and goldfinches, and I’ll smear it along the road and trap the Sassenachs instead. Off with you now up the muontain for there’s bound to be an eagle or two foraging for food in the morning, and that’s not too far way from this minute.”

Young Danny sighed in sorrow when he saw that his father did n’t believe a tittle of what he said.

“But ’tis the white and shining truth I’m telling you, Dada,” he cried. “Come on up to the mountain and see for yourself.”

“Foot I’ll not plant on the mountain until the say after tomorrow, and if there’s any young goats whipped away by the eagles ’tis your head will be cut from your shoulders and not Jenkin Conway’s. Be off now with you or Ill take an ash plant to put a bit of life in your two legs!” Crohan O’Sullivan warned him.

When Danny reached his cabin on the mountain he gave a low whistle and the Puck goat who was king of the muontain came trotting across to him. Danny caught the Puck by the horns and, followed by all the goats of the mountain, marched towards the camp of the sleeping Crom-wellians. When he came close to it he gave a shout to frighten the deadf, hit the Puck on the rump, and in a minute the regiment of goats were galloping through the camp, filling fhe night with their weird cries, and trampling the soldiers asleep on the grass. The bugler thought the camp was being attacked and blew the alarm, the drummer-boy rattled his kettledrum, and the soldiers exploded their guns. Not since the days of the fighting Fianna was there so much noise and hullabaloo on the mountain, and Kill-orglin was saved, for the Cromwellians, knowing that they could not make a surprise attack any longer, rode back to their ship in the morning.

When the big August fair came around that year the Killorglin citizens remembered the debt they owed to the goats and they made the Puck King of the Fair, and gave a purse of gold to Danny. And a Puck goat has been King every year since, and he’ll be King every year from this on while there’s an O’Sullivan in Killorglin and a goat in the Kingdom of Kerry.