Author: weebush

Fingers Kelly’s Vision

Throughout Ireland, there are many hills, and all are of varying sizes. Some are covered in forest, some covered in gorse and heather, some covered in grass, and some others with rock and shale. Each and every hill has its own story in local folklore, but there are some which are particularly renowned. One particular hill stands out from the others and still haunts the people who live on or around its slopes. The hill has a peak that time has eroded into a smooth shape and, over one hundred years ago, the owner of the land built a small summerhouse there for his children. His daughters were often to be seen at the summerhouse, where they would picnic while admiring the beautiful scenery that surrounded them. But, just as Ireland changed over the subsequent years so did this small summerhouse, and it soon fell into ruin. Before the summerhouse was built, however, the hill was largely used as pasturage for cattle. In those times the herdsman would spend most of his days and nights on that peak.

The BodachIt must be told, at this stage of the story, that the man who owned the land on and around the hill was not a popular character in the district. He was seen as one of the new, modern farmers who wanted to squeeze every last ounce of profit out of the land, neglecting any and all of the traditions of the local people. They had always considered the peak to be the home of the “Good People,” who blessed the entire district with their presence. Understandably, since the purchase of the land by the new owner, the “Good People” had grown restless and angry that their special place should be trampled over by the hooves of bulls, cows and sheep. Under normal circumstances tradition called for the “Good People” to be given both food and drink in return for their permission to work upon their special land. The new landowner had done nothing but show the “Good People” his disdain by choosing not to believe in their existence.

To the ears of the “Good People” the lowing of the cattle and the crying of the sheep were sad sounds that hurt them and made them melancholy. They turned to their queen and pleaded with her to do something to relieve their plight and the plight of the animals. The queen loved her people, of course, and listened with patience to their pleas for her assistance. At length she told her people that she would do something to drive away the animals from these places, along with those who cared for them. It was her decision to wait until the arrival of the harvest nights came, when cloudless skies would allow the moon to shine its silver light brightly upon the hill. On those peaceful nights the cattle and sheep would lie down to rest while the herdsmen also settled themselves to sleep beneath the bright, twinkling stars that filled the night sky. It was the the queen would come to them and make her appearance before them. She would dance, changing shapes from one ugly, frightening thing to another, threatening them by circling like a huge spider ready to strike with its deadly fangs.

In her first appearance the queen showed herself as a great horse, with the wings of an eagle, and the tail of a dragon. She came to them spitting fire and roaring so loudly that the ground trembled. Then she would change to a limping man with the head of a bull, over which a flame moved lightly and flickered softly in the darkness of the night. She would follow this by forming herself into a variety of hideous, monstrous shapes, that terrified those who saw her. She reared, hissed, bellowed and howled loudly, making those who saw her believe that the very doors of hell had been opened to allow all its demons into the world. Screaming in absolute terror the herdsmen pulled their great coats over their eyes, believing if they could not see the demon, then the demon could not see them. Shaking in their terror the herdsmen whimpered every prayer they could think of, to all the saints in heaven that they would come and rescue them. The Fairy Queen would blow up a strong breeze that removed the greatcoats that covered their eyes, despite the great efforts they made to keep them in place. Worse still, the saints to whom they offered such earnest pleas did not come and rescue them from the horror. They could not move in their fear and the hair on their heads stood up, turning grey because of the terror they felt. Even as they prayed their teeth chattered so much, as they shook with fear, that they were certain they would fall out of their mouths. Meanwhile, their herds were scampering here, there, and everywhere. Some animals called out loudly and bolted wildly, as if they had been driven mad by a huge swarm of biting flies. Frozen to the spot in their terror the herdsmen could do nothing for them.

The horrors of that first night only ended when the first rays of dawn’s sun shone upon the hill from the east. All around the herdsmen the cattle and sheep had been scattered everywhere. Many had fallen to the ground too exhausted to stand or graze upon the rich green grass. Others staggered about, walking into trees, bushes, and hedges. Some of the animals, because they had been so badly frightened, had stampeded into a pit, or ditch, maiming themselves beyond healing. These would have to be disposed of but, in the fast, flowing river that flowed by the base of the hill, many more were already dead. During the night they had been drawn down hill in their terror and carelessly ploughed into the fast, flowing stream.

Each and every night for the following two weeks the same events occurred until, finally there was hardly a man in the county who would dare take the job of herdsman on that hill. The stoutest and hardiest men had been recruited to the job and promised good rewards, but none stayed after they had been visited by the Fairy Queen. The once great herd of cattle and sheep had thinned rapidly and no amount of money or any other reward would convince a man to endure the horror of facing the demons that lived upon that hill. He who owned the herd was at a loss as to what he could do about the problem, while the fairies began to return to their former abode in greater numbers. Once again, the evenings were filled with fairy music and dancing, drinking and feasting, sports and challenges, all of which pleased the Fairy Queen.

The great landowner had continued to see his livestock become smaller in number and, with such losses, his income became seriously depleted. The man’s family worried about him as they watched the normal sparkle of life that he had possessed leave him. They were worried for his welfare because he had become so depressed. Moreover, they wondered what the future held for him and what would happen to them. But, in the local village of Ardee there lived a man known as “Fingers” Kelly. He would not have been anyone’s first choice as a potential saviour because he was better known for his drinking habits and for being a master of the “Uileann Pipes”. It was indeed true that Fingers enjoyed a good glass of whisky and a few glasses of porter. But it was also known that with a drink on him Fingers had the heart of a lion that feared no man or creature. He was not the type of man, drunk or sober, who would seek out trouble, but neither would he walk away from trouble if it sought him.

Fingers liked nothing more than taking a stroll into the countryside, where he could sit and play his pipes in peace. One evening as Fingers sat upon a large, black rock the landowner happened to pass by. Regularly the landowner would walk alongside the river that ran along the foot of the hill and consider what could be done. As he approached Fingers on his rocky perch the piper spoke to him. “Jimmy McCann, why do you have a face on you that would trip a train?” he asked.

“Fingers my man,” the landowner replied, “sure I find myself in a desperate way.”

“Dear God, Jimmy, what has happened?”

“It’s the fairies on the hill that have me destroyed,”

“Fairies?” asked Fingers.

Jimmy McCann sat down on the large rock with Fingers. “Aye. The fairies have took a great dislike to me and mine!” Jimmy told him. “I’m losing cattle left, right and centre, and every herdsman in the county has been scared off.”

Fingers put his pipes down on the rock, jumped down to the pathway and faced Jimmy. “Quit your worrying, Jimmy, sure I’ll help you,” he told him.

“You will?”

“Of course, I will. Sure, what sort of trouble could they give you? I can sort them out. After all they are much smaller than us,” laughed Fingers.

“Be careful what you say Fingers,” Jimmy warned him. “You don’t know who or what could be listening to you.”

Almost in unison they moved their heads to and fro trying to make sure they were alone and that no one could hear them speak. “If you will help me and take care of my cattle for one week on top of this hill, I will make sure you never want for anything,” he told Fingers quietly.

“That’s no problem, Jimmy” smiled Fingers, offering his hand to shake agreement on their deal.

Jimmy took his hand eagerly, shaking it strongly. There was a great sense of relief that came over him and he asked, “Start tonight?”

“Why not?” answered Fingers and the two men sauntered off, shoulder to shoulder, toward Jimmy’s house. In the big farmhouse Fingers was well fed, and well supplied with whisky, which would help him keep him warm in the cold air of night. After he had eaten well Fingers put on a heavy coat and, with his pipes over his shoulder, he walked to the top of the hill, just as the bright harvest moon rose into the cloudless night sky. What was left of Jimmy’s cattle and sheep were quietly grazing as he reached the summit, where he found a big stone in the hollow of a small hillock. The stone, he decided, would give him ample shelter from the cool night breezes and he began to settle down, unfurling his pipes to play a pleasant, quiet tune.

Fingers had just begun to play, completing only a couple of bars of his tune before hearing sweet voices from the shadows. He recognised them immediately as the voices of the fairy folk singing softly and comfortingly. As he strained his ears, however, he could also hear some of his visitors muttering and, occasionally, laughing. “It is another of those cattle watchers,” he heard one of them say. Go and report it to the Queen. He will be a sorry man that he ever dared set foot on this hill.” There was nothing more said, and Fingers could not see them leave with the darkness of the night. But, for some reason or other, he turned his head upward and looked at the top of the hollow in which he sat. There, above him, silhouetted against the bright, silver moon he saw the massive figure of a black cat. The back of the cat was raised as if ready to pounce, and the hairs along its spinal ridge were standing up. The creature’s huge claws looked like great spears ready to grab and pull apart its victim. As it looked down on Fingers with blood-red eyes the monster cat gave a strange, frightening noise and began to swell rapidly into yet another creature, much larger than the cat. As it made its metamorphosis the gigantic creature fell to the ground not far from where Fingers was sitting. The piper didn’t move, even as the creature rose up from the ground, and took the shape huge, savage Bear.

“Come to dance to the music of my pipes?” Fingers asked the creature calmly. There was no immediate reply to his question, but he continued, nonetheless. “Just you begin your dance and I will join in with the pipes.” The Fairy Queen remained silent while she changed her shape, taking on a variety of terrible and monstrous characters. Fingers, however, laughed loudly at her efforts to frighten him and he continued to play the pipes until the queen finally lost patience with her puzzling and stubborn opponent. If fear had no effect on this man, she thought, then she would try a different means of forcing him away from fairy lands. The queen instantly changed into a milk-white coloured calf and began to gently moo at the piper. Step by step she brought herself closer to Fingers and hoped to take him by surprise. She planned that by demonstrating a female gentility towards the man it might be enough to put him off his guard. Perhaps it would give her a much better opportunity to rid herself and her fairy folk of this human presence. Fingers, however, was no fool and could not be so easily deceived by such trickery. In her disguise as a milk-white calf the Queen came closer with a motion that showed him no sign of danger or threat. Suddenly, Fingers dropped his pipes to the ground and in one jump leaped upon the back of the calf.

It was the fairy queen who was caught completely by surprise when Fingers jumped on her back, but she reacted quickly to rid herself once of this burden. She immediately began to buck and leap in the moonlight that lit up the night sky. But no matter how hard she tried the queen could do nothing to loosen the grip that Finger’s had on her. In her frustration the Fairy Queen summoned all her strength and took a huge leap from the steepest side of the Hill. With one enormous bound her flight took her across the wide and fast flowing river that coursed by the base of the hill. Then, as she landed on the far bank of the river, she kicked up her heels once again, loosening the man’s grip and causing him to fall from her back on to the soft turf. After catching his breath Fingers lifted himself up on one elbow and he looked the queen directly in the eyes. “That was a big leap for such a small calf”, he laughed aloud.

In an instant the queen returned to her own shape and stood over the man lying on the ground. “You mean it was some leap to be made with you upon my back,” she said. “Would you like to go back the same way you came?”

Fingers was quite undisturbed by the apparent threat and replied, “Why not?” Then, as the queen returned to the shape of a calf once more, Fingers jumped upon her back. He had hardly got himself settled before she took one huge bound that brought them back to the summit of the hill.

The queen resumed her natural shape and again came to stand before Fingers. “You have shown great courage in standing to face all the horrors that I have brought upon you. You stayed upon my back as I leaped from this great hill and back again,” the queen smiled at him. “I will honour the courage you have shown, and I will tell you now that while you keep the herds on this hill you never shall be molested by me or my people!”

Fingers was happy with what he had heard and thanked the queen graciously. “Look to the east now,” she said. “The morning sun is about to rise and you should go immediately to farmer McCann and tell him of my promise to you. Be assured that if ever there should be any service that I can do for you, ask and you shall have it.” With these words the Fairy Queen disappeared from Fingers’ sight

It has been many years since the events in this story, but the fairy queen kept her word and never again visited the hill during the remainder of Fingers Kelly’s life. In like manner Kelly never troubled the queen nor her people with any requests. For many years he continued to play his pipes on the hill while he attended the cattle and never again had he to pay for a drink out of his own pocket. In fact, Fingers Kelly never wanted for anything ever again, living his life to the full and in comfort. When Fingers eventually passed away, he was buried at the foot of the hill, on the Riverbank and near the big stone on which he played his pipes. There are those who will tell you that on peaceful summer evenings, if you walk on the hill, you can still hear the melodious refrains of the “Uillean Pipes” wafted upon the breezes that blow across the summit. They also say that if you can keep your approach quiet you will have every opportunity to see the Fairy Queen and her folk dancing to the music that the spirit of Fingers Kelly plays for them.

On the hill at Ardee

They say you can see

The Dancing Queen and her Fairies.

Then comes the sunrise

and the sun shines in your eyes.

You’ll see no more than the daisies.”

 

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“Smelly Feet”

A Tale of County Armagh

Smelly Feet 1In the County of Armagh, there once lived a young man, who had never washed his feet from the day he was born. His name was Danny Grealish but, because people said there was enough dirt on his feet to grow potatoes, they used to call him ‘Spud Foot’. His father would often call him, “Get up, you great waste of space and wash. ” But not one inch would he move out of the bed, and never a thought did he give to washing one foot, never mind two.
There was no sense at all in talking to the idler. Everyone would constantly be making fun of him because of his dirty feet, but not one bit of attention did he pay to them. In fact, you could have said anything to him, but he had the hide of rhinoceros and would pay no heed, going his own way despite all.  Then, one night the whole family were gathered in the house, sitting by the fire, telling stories and having great craic, with him in the middle of it. The father took a puff of his pipe and said to him, “Danny, my boy, this day you are twenty-one years old this day, and you’ve never washed a foot from the day you were born.”
“That’s a lie,” said Danny, “sure, didn’t I go swimming last May Day, and I couldn’t keep my feet out of the water.”
” Well, let me tell you, boy, they were as dirty as ever they were when you came to the shore,” said the father.
“Aye, that’s the truth. They were,” replied Danny.
“Precisely!” replied his father, “Isn’t that what I’m telling you! It was never in you to wash your feet.”
“Aye, and I will never wash them until the day that God calls me,” Danny told him.
“You’re a miserable gobshite! A clown! a tinker! a good-for-nothing wastrel! What kind of answer is that? ” says the father, who drew back his hand and gave him a great thump with his fist on the boy’s jaw. “Get out of this!” he said, “I can’t stand you being about me any longer.”
Danny lifted himself up from the floor and put a hand to his jaw, where he had got the fist. “Only that it is you that gave me that blow,” said the boy, “You’d never hit another blow for the rest of your life.” His eyes were filled with rage and his voice with anger as he stormed out of the house.
Just a little way off from the gable of the house there was the finest Rath in Ireland, with a fine grass bank that ran around it, and Danny would often sit there by himself. He stood, half leaning against the gable wall of the house, looking up into the sky, and watching the beautiful white moon over his head. After he was standing there for a couple of hours, he said quietly to himself, “It’s my fault that I am not away from this place before now. By God, I would rather be any other place in the world than here. Och, sure, it’s well for you, white moon, going around and around just as you wish, and no man can hold you back. I wish, I was the same as you.”
Hardly were the words out of his mouth when he heard a great noise coming toward him, like the sound of many people running together, talking, and laughing, and having fun, and the sound went by him like a whirl of wind. He listened attentively to it as it went into the Rath, “Well, by my soul,” says he, ” but you’re all sounding in good form, and I’ll follow your example”.
Although he did not know it at the time, it was the fairy host that had passed him by, and he followed them into the Rath. It was there that he heard whooping, hollering, whistling, and the cheering, and every one of them crying out as loud as he could, “My horse, and bridle and saddle!”
“Now, that’s not a bad shout,” said Danny, “Sure, I’ll imitate you.” Cupping his hand to his mouth, he cried out as loudly as they did, “My horse, and bridle, and saddle! My horse, and bridle, and saddle! “
 In an instant, a fine horse with a bridle of gold, and a saddle of silver was standing before him and leapt upon it. The moment he was on its back Danny clearly saw that the Rath was full of horses, and of little people riding on them. One of these little people turned to him and asked, “Are you coming with us to-night, ‘Spud Feet’?”
He was surprised to hear himself called this, nevertheless, he answered, “I am sure.”
“Well, if you are, come along,” said the little man, and he rode out with them, riding like the wind, faster than the fastest horse ever you and faster than the fox with the hounds at his tail. The cold winter’s wind that was blowing ahead of them, they overtook, and the cold winter’s wind that was behind them, could not overtake them. They made no stop or slowing down that race until they eventually came to the brink of the sea. Then every one of them cried out, “High up! High up!”. In a flash, they were high up in the air, and before Danny had time to think about where he was, they were down again on dry land and were going like the wind.
Finally, they stood, and one of the little people asked Danny, ” ‘Spud Feet’, do you know where you are now?”
“Not a clue,” replied Danny.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA” You’re in Rome, ‘Spud Feet’’” said he, “but we’re going much further than that. The daughter of the king of France is to be married to-night, and she the most handsome woman that ever the sun shone upon, and we must do our best to bring her with us if we can carry her off. You must come with us, so that we may be able to put the young girl up behind you on the horse, when we bring her away, for it’s not permitted for her to sit behind us. But you are flesh and blood, and she can take a good grip of you, to prevent her from falling off the horse. Are you satisfied, ‘Spud Feet’, and will you do what we’re telling you?”
“Sure, why shouldn’t I be satisfied?” said Danny. “I’m satisfied, surely, and anything that you tell me to do I’ll do it, but where are we now?”
“You’re in Rome now, ‘Spud Feet’,” said the fairy.
“In Rome, is it ?” said Danny. “Indeed, and no lie. Sure, I’m glad of that, for the parish priest that we had was suspended and lost his parish some time ago. Now, I’ll go to the Pope and get a ‘Bull’ from him that will put the priest back in his own place again.”
“Oh, ‘Spud Feet’,” said the fairy, “sure, you can’t do that. You won’t be allowed into the palace and, anyhow, we can’t wait for you, for we’re in a terrible hurry.”
“I’ll not go with you one foot,” Said Danny, “until I go to the Pope! All of you can go on ahead without me if you want. But I’ll not move an inch until I go and get the pardon for my parish priest.”
“’ Spud Feet’, have you completely lost your senses, man dear? You can’t go, and there’s your answer for you now! I tell you, you can’t go, so settle yourself.”
“Can you not just go on and leave me here behind you?” said Danny, “Then, when you come back, can you not just throw the wee girl up behind me?”
 “But we want you at the palace of the king of France,” said the fairy, “and you have to come with us now.”
“No! The devil a step I’ll take, I’ve told you,” stressed Danny, “until I get the pardon for the priest. I tell you, he’s the most honest and the most pleasant man in Ireland.”
Another now stepped forward and spoke, “Now, don’t you lot be so hard on ‘Spud Feet’. Sure, that boy’s a kind boy, and he has a good heart. If he doesn’t want to come without the Pope’s bull in his hand, then we must do our best to get it for him. He and I will go into the Pope together, and you all can wait here for us.”
“Thank you, a thousand times,” an excited Danny said with a huge grin. ” I’m ready to go with you now, for this priest is the nicest and most generous man in the world.”
“You just talk too much, ‘Spud Feet’,” said the fairy leader, “but come along with me now. Get off your horse and take my hand.”
Danny dismounted and took the fairy’s hand, and he heard the little man say a couple of words that he did not understand. Then, before he could get his thoughts together, he found himself in a room with the Pope. That night the Pope was sitting up late reading a book that he liked, and he was sitting on a big soft armchair with his two feet on the chimney-board. He had a fine fire going in the grate, and a little table standing at his elbow and a drop of hot whiskey with sugar in a little glass. He was so involved in his book that he never felt Danny coming up behind him. “Now ‘Spud Feet’,” said the fairy leader, “go and tell him that unless he gives you that bull, you’ll set the room on fire. And, if that fellow refuses it to you, I’ll spurt fire all around the place out of my mouth, until he thinks the place is really in a blaze, and I’ll bet you that he’ll be quick enough then to give you that pardon.”
Danny went up to the Pope and put his hand on a shoulder, with a jump of fright the Pope turned around, and when he saw Danny standing behind him, he almost fainted. “Don’t be afraid, big man,” said Danny comfortingly, “we have a parish priest at home, and some blackguard told your honour an awful lie about him, and he was a broken man. But, let me tell you that he’s the most decent man ever your honour came across, and there’s not a man, woman, or child in the entire Parish that doesn’t love him.”
“Hold your whisht, you wee imp!” snapped the Pope angrily. “Where did you come from, and how did you get in here at all, for I have a lock on the door? What is it you want of me?”
“Didn’t I come in through the keyhole?” Danny told him. “And I’d be very much obliged if your honour would do just what I’m asking of you.”
The Pope cried out in fear, “Where are all my people? Where are my servants? Seamus! Sean! I’m killed! I’m robbed!”
Danny had put his back to the door of the to prevent his escape, and he was afraid to go anywhere near Danny, so there was little choice Pope but to listen to the story. Danny, however, was the type of man who could not tell a story briefly and plainly, because his speech was naturally slow and coarse, and this made the Pope angry. So, when Danny had finished his story, the Pope vowed that he would never pardon the priest, and he threatened that he would have Danny put to death for his audacity in bursting in upon him uninvited. He immediately began to cry out for his servants to attend him, but there was a lock on the inside of the door which would prevent them coming into the room, whether they heard him or not. “Unless you give me a bull under your hand and seal, granting the priest his pardon, I will burn this house of yours to the ground,” Danny threatened.
Smelly Feet 3The fairy man, whom the Pope had not seen, now began to blow fire and flame out of his mouth, and the Pope panicked as he thought that the room was all ablaze. He cried out, “Oh, Stop your destruction! I’ll give you the pardon you want. I’ll give you anything you want if you would stop your fire, and don’t burn my house.”
The Fairy man stopped the fire, and the Pope had to sit down at his desk and write a full pardon for the priest and giving him back his old Parish. When he had it written, he put his name under it on the paper, and he placed it in Danny’s hand. “Thank you,” Danny said humbly, “I will never come here again to disturb you, good-bye.”
“Don’t even think about it,” replied the Pope, ” for if you do, I’ll be ready for you, and you won’t get away from me so easily again. I will have you shut up in a dark prison, from which you will never get out.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t be coming again,” Danny insisted and, before he could say another word, the Fairy Man spoke some words, caught Danny’s hand again, and they left. Danny found himself among the other Fairies, and his horse waiting for him.
“Now, ‘Spud Feet’,”  they said, “you have caused us a great delay, and us in such a hurry. But, no matter, come on now, and don’t be playing such a trick again, for we won’t wait for you the next time.”
“I’m satisfied, now,” said Danny, “and I thank you all. But tell me, where are we going?”
“We’re going to the palace of the king of France,” they told him, “and if we can, we are going to carry off his daughter.”
With one voice they said, “Rise up, horse !” and the horses began leaping, and running, and prancing. The cold wind of winter that was before them they over-took, and the cold wind of winter that was behind them did not overtake them. As they raced on their journey there was no obstruction to their progress, and they never stopped once until they came as far as the palace of the King of France. On their arrival, they all got off their horses and not one of them said, and in a moment, they were all lifted up. Danny now found himself and his companions in the palace, where there was a great feast in progress.  At this feast, every nobleman and other men of rank were present and dressed in colourful silk and satin, with gold and silver jewellery. In that hall the night was as bright as the day with all the lamps and candles that were lit, causing Danny to shut his eyes because of the brightness. When he opened them again and looked out at the crowded hall, he thought that he had never seen anything as fine as all that he saw there.
There were a hundred tables spread out, and each was filled with meat and drink, flesh-meat, and cakes and sweetmeats, and wine and ale, and every drink that ever a man could think of. The musicians were at the two ends of the hall, and they were playing the sweetest music that a man’s ear had ever heard. In the centre of the hall, there were young women and fine young men dancing and turning, and going around so quickly and so lightly, that it caused Danny’s head to spin, just by looking at them. There were more people playing tricks, and others making fun and laughing, for such a feast as this had not been held in France for twenty years. This was special because the old king had no children alive but the one daughter, who was to be married to the son of another king that night. For three days the feast had been going, and on the third night, she was to be married. That was the night that Danny and the Fairy host had come in the hope that they could carry off the king’s daughter with them.
Danny and his companions were standing together at the head of the hall, where there was a fine altar dressed up, and two bishops behind it waiting patiently to marry the girl, as soon as the appointed time arrived. Nobody could see the Fairies, for they had spoken their charm of invisibility as they came in, and it was as if they were not there at all. “Tell me which of these people is the king’s daughter,” said Danny, as he became increasingly used to the noise and the light about him.
“Don’t you see her there, in front of you?” said the small fairy that was standing at his side. Danny looked to the place where the little man was pointing with his finger, and there he saw the loveliest woman that ever he had seen. The rose and the lily were in her face, and you could not tell which of them had dominance, while her entire form was smooth and slender, and her hair was falling from her head in tresses of gold. Her garments and dress were woven with gold and silver, and the bright stone that was in the ring on her hand was as shining as the sun.
Danny was almost made speechless by the loveliness and beauty of the woman before him, but when he looked at her again, he noticed that she was crying and that there were tracks of tears in her eyes. “It can’t be,” said Danny, “that she’s so sad when everybody around her is so full of joy and merriment.”
“Aye, she is very sad,” said the little man, “for she is being forced to marry against her will, and to a man, she does not love. The king was going to give her to him three years ago when she was only fifteen, but she said she was too young, and asked him to leave her as she was. The king gave her a year’s grace, and when that year was ended, he gave her another year’s grace, and then another. But, after that, he would not give her another week or a day longer. Tonight, she is eighteen years old, and it’s time for her to marry. But, indeed,” says he, and he twisted his mouth in an ugly way, “she’ll marry no king’s son if I can help it.”
Danny pitied the beautiful young lady when he heard that, and he was heart-broken to think that it would be necessary for her to marry a man she did not like, or what was worse, to take a nasty ‘Fairy Man’ for a husband. Although he said nothing, he could not help cursing the ill-fortune that had been laid out for himself, because he was helping the people that were to snatch her away from her home and from her father. Nonetheless, he began to think about what he could do to save her, but he could think of nothing. “If I could only give her some help and relief,” he told himself, “I wouldn’t care whether I was alive or dead. But I see nothing that I can do for her.” He was looking on when the king’s son came up to her and asked her for a kiss, but she turned her head away from him. Danny was filled with great sorrow for her, especially when he saw the young man taking her by the soft white hand and drawing her out to dance. They went dancing around the floor near to where Danny stood, and he could plainly see that there were tears in her eyes. When the dancing was over, the old king, her father, and her mother the queen came up and said that this was the right time to marry her. The Bishop was ready, and all had been prepared, and it was time to put the wedding-ring on her finger and give her to her husband.
The old king laughed out loud. “Well, friends,” he said, “the night is nearly over, but my son will make a great night for himself, and I’ll bet you that he won’t be rising early in the morning.”
“Well, maybe he will,” said the Fairy man in Danny’s ear, “or maybe he won’t go to bed, at all. Ha, ha, ha! “
Danny did not answer him, for he was busy watching to see what they would do then. He watched as the king took the young man by the hand, and the queen took her daughter, and they all went up together to the altar, with all the lords and great people following them. When they came near the altar and were no more than about four yards from it, the little fairy man stretched out his foot in front of the girl, and she fell. Before she was able to get up again, he threw something that was in his hand upon her, saying a couple of words, and immediately the girl was gone from the scene. Nobody could see her, for those words made her invisible. The little man had taken her and lifted her up behind Danny, and not a person saw them as they moved through the hall until they came to the door. The place was in a chaos with people screaming and crying as they searched and pulled the place apart, seeking the lady who had disappeared in front of their eyes. The fairy folk were now out of the palace door, without being seen by anyone and they all called out, “My horse, my bridle, and saddle! “
“My horse, my bridle, and saddle!” shouted Danny and in an instant, the horse was standing ready and waiting for him.
“Now, jump up, Spud Feet,” said the little man, “and put the lady behind you, and we will be going. It won’t be long until morning.”
Danny raised her up on the horse’s back, and leapt up in front of her, calling out, “Move on horse.” His horse, and the other horses with him, went in at full pace until they came to the sea.
“High over, cap!” said every man of them.
“High over, cap!” said Danny, and immediately the horse rose under him, cutting a path through the clouds, and came down in Ireland. They did not stop there but went racing off to the place where Danny’s house and the Rath stood. And when they came as far as that, Danny turned and caught the young girl in his two arms and leapt off the horse. “I call out and bless you to myself, in the name of God!” he said and even before he had finished speaking the horse fell and immediately changed into the beam of a plough, from which they had made it. Simultaneously, every other horse they had was returned to its original form. Some of them were riding on an old brush, and some on a broken stick, and more on a ragweed, or a hemlock-stalk.
The ‘good people’ called out together when they heard what Danny said: “Oh, ‘Spud Feet’, you clown, you thief, no good fortune will come your way now. Why did you play that trick on us?” But they had no power at all to carry off the girl after Danny had consecrated her to himself. “Oh, ‘Spud Feet’, isn’t that a nice turn you did us, and we were so kind to you? What good have we now out of our journey to Rome and to France? Never mind now, you clown, but you’ll pay us back another time for this deceit. Believe us you’ll repent of it.”
“He’ll have no life with that young girl,” said the little man that was talking to him in the palace before that, and as he said these words, he moved over to her and struck her a slap on the side of the head. “Now,” says he, “she’ll not be able to talk anymore. So, now, ‘Spud Feet’, what good will she be to you when she’ll be dumb? It’s time for us to go, but you’ll remember us, ‘Spud Feet!” When he said that he stretched out his two hands and before Danny was able to give an answer, he and the rest of them were gone into the rath out of his sight, and he saw them no more.
He turned to the young woman and said to her, “Thanks be to God, they’re gone. Would you not sooner stay with me than with them?”. She did not answer. “She’s still troubled and grieving,” Danny told himself, and he spoke to her again, “I’m afraid that you must spend this night in my father’s house, lady, and if there is anything that I can do for you, tell me, and I’ll be your servant.” The beautiful girl remained silent, but there were tears in her eyes, and her face was white and red after each other.
“Lady,” said Grealish, “tell me what you would like me to do now. I never belonged at all to that lot of fairy folk who carried you away with them. I am the son of an honest farmer, and I went with them without knowing it. If I am able to send you back to your father, I’ll do it, and I pray you make any use of me now that you may wish.” He looked into her face, and he saw the mouth moving as if she was going to speak, but there came no word from it. “It cannot be,” said Danny, “that you are dumb. Did I not hear you speaking to the king’s son in the palace tonight? Or has that devil made you really dumb, when he struck his nasty hand on your jaw?”
The girl raised her white smooth hand, and laid her finger on her tongue, to show him that she had lost her voice and power of speech, and the tears ran from the ducts in her two eyes like streams, and Danny’s own eyes were not dry. Although he may have rough on the outside, he had a soft heart, and could not stand the sight of the young girl in such an unhappy condition. He began thinking to himself what he could do, and he did not like the idea of bringing her home with himself to his father’s house. He fully realised that they would not believe that he had been in France and brought back with him the King of France’s daughter, and he feared that they might make fun of her.
The girl bent her head, to show him that she was obliged, and she gave him to understand that she was ready to follow him any place he was going. “We will go to the priest’s house, then,” said he, “he is under an obligation to me, and will do anything I ask him.” They went to the priest’s house, and the sun was just rising when they came to the door. Danny knocked it hard, and as early as it was the priest was up and opened the door himself. He wondered when he saw Danny and the girl, for he was certain that they had come to him wanting to be married. “Danny, aren’t you a nice boy that you can’t wait until ten o’clock or twelve, but decide to come to me at this hour, looking to get married, you and your girlfriend. You ought to know that I’m suspended and that I can’t marry you or can’t marry you lawfully. But, hold on! ” said the priest as he looked again at the young girl, “In the name of God, who have you here? Who is she, and where did you get her?”
 “Father,” said Danny, “you can marry me, or anybody else, from now on, if you wish. But I’m not looking to be married. I came to you now, just to ask you, if you would please give a room in your house where this young lady can stay.” And with that, he drew out the ‘Papal Bull’ and gave it to the priest to read. The priest took it, and read it, in disbelief. But, took careful notice of the writing and the seal, and he had no doubt, that it was a legitimate document from the Pope’s own hand.
“Where did you get this?” he asked Danny, and the hand he held the paper in, was trembling with wonder and joy. “Oh, now! ” said Danny, airily enough, “I got it last night in Rome. I remained a couple of hours in the city when I was on my way to bring this young-lady, daughter of the king of France, back with me.” The priest looked at him as though he had ten heads on him. But without putting another question to him, the priest asked them both to come in. When they entered the house, the priest shut the door, brought them into the parlour, and bade them be seated.
“Now, Danny,” said he, “tell me the truth. Where did you get this ‘bull’, and who is this young lady, and are you completely out of your senses, or are you only making a joke out of me?”.
“I’m not telling you a word of a lie, nor am I making a joke of you,” said Danny. “But it was from the Pope himself that I got the paper, and it was from the palace of the King of France that I carried off this lady, and she is the daughter of the king of France.” He began to tell his whole story to the priest, surprising the priest so much surprised that he could not help calling out at times or clapping his hands together. When Danny said that from what he saw he thought the girl was not happy with the marriage that was going to take place in the palace before he and the fairy-folk broke it up, there came a red blush into the girl’s cheek, and that persuaded him that she would sooner be as she was, and as badly as she was than be to a man she hated. When Danny said that he would be very thankful to the priest if he would keep her in his own house, the kind man said he would do that as long as Danny wanted, but that he did not know what they ought to do with her, because they had no means of sending her back to her father again. Danny made it clear that he was uneasy for the same reason, but that he saw nothing else to do but to keep quiet until they should find some opportunity of doing something better.
They decided between themselves that the priest should say that she was his brother’s daughter, who had come to visit him from another county. They also agreed that the priest should tell everybody that she was dumb and do his best to keep everyone away from her. They told the young girl what they intended to do, and she showed her support through her eyes. Danny then went home and, when his people asked him where he had been, said that he was asleep at the foot of the ditch, and had passed the night there.
There was great surprise among the neighbours when the honest priest showed them all the Pope’s bull and regained his old position. Everyone rejoiced at the news because they could never see any fault at all in that honest man, except that every now and again he would have too much of a liking for a drop of whiskey. But no one could say that he ever saw him in a state that he could not utter “here’s to your health,” as well as any other man in the land. But if they were surprised to see the priest back again in his old place, they were much more surprised at the arrival of a girl so suddenly to his house without anyone knowing where she was from, or what business she had there. Some of the people said that everything was not as it ought to be, and others that it was not possible that the Pope gave the parish back to the priest after taking it from him before, on account of the complaints about his drinking. And there were more of them, too, who said that Danny was not at all like the same man that he was before, and that it was a great surprise how he was going every day to the priest’s house. But, the one thing they could not quite understand was how the priest had come to respect for him. There was seldom a day passed but Danny would not go to the priest’s house and have a talk with him, and as often as he would come, he used to hope to find the young lady well again, and able to speak. Alas! she remained dumb and silent, without relief or cure. Since she had no other means of talking, she communicated by moving her hand and fingers, winking her eyes, opening and shutting her mouth, laughing or smiling, and a thousand other signs, so that it was not long until they came to understand each other very well.
Danny was always thinking about how he should send her back to her father, but there was no one to go with her, and he himself did not know what road to take, for he had never been out of his own country before the night he brought her away with him. Nor had the priest any better knowledge than he, but when Danny asked him, he wrote three or four letters to the King of France, and gave them to buyers and sellers of wares, who used to be going from place to place across the sea. They all went astray, however, and not one ever came to the king’s hand. This was the way they were for many months, and Danny was falling deeper and deeper in love with her every day, and it was plain to himself and the priest that she also liked him. The boy soon began to fear that the King would, somehow, hear where his daughter was and would take her away from him, and he pleaded the priest to write no more letters, but to leave the matter to God.
In this manner, a year passed until there came a day when Danny was lying by himself on the grass on the last day of October, and he was thinking about everything that happened to him from the day that he had gone with the fairy-folk across the sea. He suddenly remembered that it was one November night that he was standing at the gable of the house when the whirlwind came, and the fairy-folk in it, and he said to himself: “We have a November night again today,  and I’ll stand in the same place I was last year until I see will the ‘good people’ come again. Perhaps I might see or hear something that would be useful to me and might bring back Mary’s voice” – that being the name Danny and the priest had given the King’s daughter, for neither of them knew her right name. He told his intentions to the priest, and the priest gave him his blessing. Danny then went to the old Rath when the night was darkening, and he stood with his bent elbow leaning on a grey old flag, waiting until the middle of the night should come. The moon rose slowly, and it was like a knob of fire behind him, and there was a white fog which was raised up over the fields of grass and all damp places, through the coolness of the night after a great heat in the day. The night was calm as is a lake when there is not a breath of wind to move a wave on it, and there was no sound to be heard but the hum of the insects that would go by from time to time, or the hoarse sudden scream of the wild geese, as they passed from lake to lake, half a mile up in the air over his head, or the sharp whistle of the golden and green plovers, rising and flying, flying and rising, as they do on a calm night. There were thousands upon thousands of bright stars shining over his head, and there was a little frost, which left the grass under his foot white and crisp.
 He stood there for an hour, for two hours, for three hours, and the frost increased greatly so that he heard the breaking of the daisies under his foot every time he moved. He was thinking, in his own mind, at last, that the fairy-folk would not come that night, and that it was as good for him to return back again, when he heard a sound far away from him, coming towards him, and he recognised what it was at the first moment. The sound increased, and at first, it was like the beating of waves on a stony shore, and then it was like the falling of a great waterfall, and at last, it was like a loud storm in the tops of the trees, and then the whirlwind burst into the Rath, and the fairy-folk was in it. It all went by him so suddenly that he lost his breath with it, but he came to himself on the spot, and he began listening to what they would say. Scarcely had they gathered into the Rath until they all began shouting, and screaming, and talking amongst themselves. Then, each one of them cried out, “My horse, and bridle, and saddle! My horse, and bridle, and saddle!”
Danny now took courage, and called out as loudly as any of them, “My horse, and bridle and saddle! My horse, and bridle and saddle!”
But before the word was out of his mouth, another man cried out; “Oh! ‘Spud Feet’, my boy, are you here with us again? How are you coming on with your woman? There’s no use in your calling for your horse tonight, I bet you won’t make fools of us again. It was a good trick you played on us last year!”.
“It was,” said another man, “he won’t do it again.”
“Isn’t he a smart lad, the same lad! To take a woman with him that never said as much to him as, ‘how do you do?’ since this time last year!” says the third man.
” Perhaps he just likes to be looking at her,” said another voice.
“And if the eejit only knew that there’s a herb growing up by his own door, and to boil it and give it to her, she’d be well,” said another voice.
 “That’s true.”
“He is an eejit!”
“Don’t be bothering your head with him, we’ll be going.”
” We’ll leave the gobshite as he is.”
And with that, they rose up into the air, and out with them the way they came. They left poor Danny standing where they found him and the two eyes going out of his head, looking after them and wondering. He did not stand long till he went back, and he thought about all he saw and heard, and wondering whether there was really a herb at his own door that would bring back the voice of the King’s daughter. “It can’t be,” he told himself, “that they would tell it to me if there was any truth in it, but perhaps the fairy man didn’t think before he let the word slip out of his mouth. I’ll search as soon as the sun rises, to see if there’s any plant growing beside the house except thistles and dockings.” He went home, and as tired as he was, he did not sleep a wink until the sun rose in the morning. He got up then, and it was the first thing he did to go out and search through the grass round about the house, trying to see if he could he get any herb that he did not recognize. And, indeed, he was not long searching until he saw a large strange herb that was growing up just by the gable of the house. He went over to it, and examined it closely, and saw that there were seven little branches coming out of the stalk, and seven leaves growing on every branch of them and that there was a white sap in the leaves. “It’s very wonderful,” he said to himself, “that I never noticed this herb before. If there’s any virtue in a herb at all, it ought to be in such a strange one as this.”
He drew out his knife, cut the plant, and carried it into his own house, stripped the leaves off it and cut-up the stalk, and there came a thick, white juice out of it, as there comes out of the dandelion when it is bruised, except that the juice was more like oil. He put it in a little pot and a little water in it and laid it on the fire until the water was boiling, and then he took a cup, filled it half up with the juice, and put it to his own mouth. It came into his head then that perhaps it was a poison that was in it, and that the ‘good people’ were only tempting him that he might kill himself with that trick or put the girl to death without meaning it. He put down the cup again, raised a couple of drops on the top of his finger, and put it to his mouth. It was not bitter, and, indeed, had a sweet, agreeable taste. He grew bolder then, and drank the full of a thimble of it, and then as much again, and he never stopped till he had half the cup drunk. He fell asleep after that and did not wake till it was night, and there was great hunger and great thirst on him. He had to wait, then, until the day returned. But, he determined as soon as he should wake in the morning, that he would go to the king’s daughter and give her a drink of the juice of the herb.
As soon as he got up in the morning, he went over to the priest’s house with the drink in his hand, and he never felt himself so bold and valiant, and spirited and light, as he was that day, and he was quite certain that it was the drink he drank which made him so hearty. When he came to the house, he found the priest and the young lady within, and they were wondering greatly why he had not visited them for two days. He told them all his news and said that he was certain that there was great power in that herb, and that it would do the lady no hurt, for he tried it himself and got good from it, and then he made her taste it, for he vowed and swore that there was no harm in it. Danny handed her the cup, and she drank half of it, and then fell back on her bed and a heavy sleep came on her, and she never woke out of that sleep until the next morning.
Danny and the priest sat up the entire night with her, waiting until she should awaken, and they were between hope and despair, between the expectation of saving her and fear of hurting her. She awoke at last when the sun had gone half its way through the day. She rubbed her eyes and looked like a person who did not know where she was. She was like one astonished when she saw Danny and the priest in the same room with her, and she sat up doing her best to collect her thoughts. The two men were anxious to see would she speak, or would she not speak, and when they remained silent for a couple of minutes, the priest said to her, “Did you sleep well, Mary?”
She answered him, “I slept well, thank you.”
No sooner did Danny hear her talking than he gave a shout of joy and ran over to her and fell on his two knees, and said, “A thousand thanks to God, who has given you back your voice, my love, speak again to me.”
The lady answered him that she understood it was he who had boiled that drink for her and gave it to her. She was thankful to him from her heart for all the kindness he had shown her since the day she first came to Ireland, and that he might be certain that she never would forget it. Danny was ready to die with satisfaction and delight. Then they brought her food, and she ate with a good appetite, and was merry and joyous, and never stopped talking with the priest while she was eating. After that Danny went home to his house and stretched himself on the bed and fell asleep again, for the force of the herb was not all spent, and he passed another day and a night sleeping. When he awoke, he went back to the priest’s house and found that the young lady was in the same state and that she was asleep almost since the time that he left the house. He went into her chamber with the priest, and they remained there watching her until she awoke the second time, and she had her voice back, as well as ever, and Danny was overjoyed.
The priest put food on the table again, and they ate together. After this, Danny used to come to the house from day to day, and the friendship that was between him and the king’s daughter increased, because she had no one to speak to except Danny and the priest, and she liked Danny best. He had to tell her the way about standing by the Rath when the ‘good people’ came, and how he went into the Pope, and how the Fairy man blew fire out of his mouth, and every other thing that he had done until the time that the ‘good people’ carried her off. When he had told all, he would have to begin it again from the start, and she never tired of listening to him. When they had been that way for another half year, she said that she could wait no longer without going back to her father and mother. She was certain that they were grieving terribly for her, and that it was a shame for her to leave them in such grief when it was in her power to go to them. The priest did all he could to keep her with them for another while, but without any effect, and Danny spoke every sweet word that came into his head, trying to get win her over to the idea and to coax her and make her stay as she was, but it was no good. She was determined that she would go, and no man alive would make her change her intention. She had not much money, but only two rings that were on her hand, when the ‘good people’ carried her away, and a gold pin that was in her hair, and golden buckles that were on her little shoes. The priest took and sold them and gave her the money, and she said that she was ready to go. She left her blessing and farewell with the priest and Danny and departed. She was not long gone before a great grief and melancholy began to come over Danny that he knew he would soon die unless he could be near her, and he followed her. After being restored to her parents and they, having heard the whole story, permitted the princess and Danny to marry. They lived a long, married life together with neither care, sickness nor sorrow, mishap nor misfortune until the hour of their death.

Good for the Cow

St. John’s Eve Lore

At sunset on June 23rd, another of the ancient fire festivals begins and is known as St. John’s Eve. Not that long ago, it was a wide-spread tradition throughout Ireland that on St. John’s Eve a curious practice prevailed, in some districts, which related to the time-honoured tradition of lighting a bonfire.
St Johns Eve 1Before sunset on St. John’s Eve a small fire was built and lit in a place that was near to the byre because in such a position the milk-cows would pass close to the fire as they returned from the fields. In fact, great care was taken to drive the cows as close as possible to the fire itself. This was done, it was said, to allow the cows to “smell” the fire, which it was believed would have a very beneficial effect on the quantity and the quality of the milk and butter produced. It was also believed to be a safeguard against any evil spirits or witchcraft which might befall the cow herself. Then, coals were taken from the little fire, and one of them is thrown into each field of potatoes that belong to the owner of the cow. Through this ritual, it was thought, a great increase in the cow’s production would be achieved..
It was the custom in some places that when a cow begins to calve the owner would place a “grape” (the ordinary steel fork used in farming operations) near her head until she “cleans” (Rids herself of the afterbirth). The steel or iron from which they form the grape was considered “lucky,” and effective defence against any evil influences spread by the fairy-folk. There may, of course, be other customs resorted to on such occasions as this, but what kind of results they achieve I couldn’t say. There is another custom where a silver coin is placed in the first drink that is given to the cow after it has calved, and the reason behind this curious custom was simply that it was considered “lucky to let the cowlick the silver.”
There are many other peculiar practices, such as tying a red rag to the tail of the milch-cow (Milk Cow), with a few horse-shoe nails, a partially burned coal, and some salt are rolled in the rag. It was quite common at one time to see red rags hanging from the tails of milch -cows at fairs in the west of Ireland, allowing the intending purchasers of milch-cows to easily recognise the milking cow, from the ones due to calve (‘springer’).  
Tradition also advises farmers to take a very necessary precaution when the cow calves. Strangely this is to give the first of the milk, a small glassful is enough, to that very useful domestic animal, the cat. The reason behind this peculiar tradition, I have been told, is that they give the first of the milk to the cat so that the cat can take the bad luck away with her on her paws.

Dance of the Dead

Fairy Lore

Don’t stay out after dark, or the bogeyman will get you!” was the warning a mother would give her children when they went out to play. But, more often than not, the children would laugh at the very idea of a bogey-man existing. Tradition in Ireland, however, does warn us that it is very dangerous for any person to be wandering the country roads and lanes on a late November night because that is the time that the dead celebrate the fact that they are able to wander the earth once again.

Tradition says that the busiest night for these spirit celebrations is the very last night of the month, for that is the evening on which the celebrations cease. It is on that night their right to dance freely on the hill with the fairy folk comes to an abrupt end. After they have danced their last dance the dead have to return to their cold graves, where they will lie in the ice-cold earth without music or drink until November returns the next year. It is only at that time will they be able to spring-up once again from their graves, dressed in what remains of their funeral clothing, and rush into the moonlight shouting loud howls of joy. But some might wonder from where such a tradition originated and, perhaps, the following story might help in answering the question.

“One cold November night there was a local woman who was making her way home at a time when it was said, the dead roamed the land. But she was very tired and carelessly she sat down on a large rock that stood by the side of the road so she could rest for a few moments and regain her breathing in the cold night air. Within a few moments of her sitting down upon the rock, however, a young man came walking by and he began to speak with her. ‘If you wait here a little while,‘ he told her, ‘you will see the most beautiful dancing that you have ever witnessed, over there by the side of the hill.‘”

Dance of Death 2“The woman stared quietly at the young man for a moment and noticed that his face was very pale and wore a very sad expression. ‘Why are you so sad?‘ she quietly asked him. ‘Your face is as pale as that of a corpse.‘”

“‘ Take a good look at me,‘ the young man told her. ‘Do you know me?‘”

“‘ Yes,‘ she said nervously, ‘Now I know who you are! Sure, you are young Breen and you were drowned last year when you went out fishing. What are you doing here?‘”

“‘ Look over there,’ he told her, ‘On the side of that hill over there you will see the reason for me being here.‘”

“The woman took a look over to where he pointed and saw a large crowd dancing in time to sweet music, and among their number she could see all those who had died as far back as she could remember. There were men, women and children, all dressed in white clothing, and their faces were as pale as the moonlight. ‘Now,‘ the young man said ominously to the woman, ‘you should run for your life, for if the fairies see you here, and bring you into the dance you will never be able to ever leave again.‘”

“While the woman and the young man were talking, however, the fairy folk came up to them both and danced in a circle around the woman, joining their hands together. At that moment she fell to the ground in a faint, and she was to remain in an unconscious state until the next morning when she awoke in her own bed. All those people who saw her at that time said that her face was as pale as that of a corpse, indicating that the woman had been given a ‘fairy-stroke.’ Having realised that she was afflicted the herb doctor was asked to help cure her, but despite their best efforts, she remained the same. As soon as the moon rose that night there was soft, low music heard from all around the house. Then, when the neighbours went to check on the woman, they found her dead.

Sweet Eileen

A Tale of Tragedy

Sweet Eileen 1Eileen Lennon was a small, lively, four-year old child with an Angel’s face and a smile that could melt the hardest of hearts. Her long, red curly hair flowed down over her shoulders and highlighted her bright, hazel coloured eyes. She was the unspoiled only child who had been gifted to her mother and father by a loving God and they treasured every moment that they could spend with her. Joey, Eileen’s father, was a hard working labouring man who also looked after a few sheep, which were allowed to roam on a small plot of land that he owned in the hills on the outskirts of town. Meanwhile, Sarah, Eileen’s mother, was an industrious housewife who took pride in the way she cared for her daughter, her home and the small flock of sheep, which allowed her husband to work hard, earning cash as a labourer with a local builder.

Mule hoggs with suffolk sired lambs at foot.

As with most farmer’s wives, the Spring was always Sarah’s busiest season of the year. Over those weeks she and joey would work all hours together to ensure that the ewes were safely delivered of their lambs. Spring was also Eileen’s favourite time of the year because she could see the little lambs frolic about the farm and, sometimes, hold them. She particularly loved to prance about the small field behind the house, where her parents would keep the lambs and ewes until they were less dependent on their mother’s milk. Every morning, even before breakfast, Eileen would traipse around after her mother begging to be allowed out into the small field with the lambs. Sarah, being the good mother she was, would not permit the child to leave the house until she had breakfasted and dressed appropriately. There were times, nonetheless, when Sarah’s attention was elsewhere that Eileen would quietly open the kitchen door to the outside and make her way toward the lambs. But, such escapes often did not last long and Eileen more often than not would find herself back at the breakfast table with her mother’s scolding words echoing in her ears.
One bright, sunshine filled Spring morning young Eileen sat at the family breakfast table, silently eating a bowl of ‘Weetabix’ and milk, her favourite cereal. She had been particularly well behaved that morning, but she was very eager to be outdoors and in the lambing field. A new, black lamb had been born a couple of days previously and she so wanted to go to it and snuggle into its soft fleece. That morning, her mother had dressed Eileen in a beautiful powder blue tee-shirt and blue jeans, and on her feet were her oldest pair of sandals. These were, Eileen knew, her ‘rough clothes’ and they would be staying home that day. She was very excited at the prospect of spending the entire morning with her beloved lambs, and especially the new black addition to the flock. “Mammy, I’m all done,” the little girl called out to her mother. “I have put my dishes in the sink, so can I go out now into the fields for a while?”
“Well, if you are finished your breakfast, I can’t see why not? But keep close to the house, Eileen! I am going to do the washing and I will be checking on you,”
“Okay, Mammy,” the child answered with a large beaming smile that lit up her entire face. She jumped down from her seat at the table and wasted no time in hurrying out of the kitchen door. “Don’t be running, for you will hurt yourself!” warned Sarah as Eileen ran out of the door and closed it loudly behind her. “That will keep her occupied for an hour or so and out from under my feet,” Sarah sighed gratefully. “I hate washing day!”
Sweet Eileen 3Sarah began sorting out the clothes from the washing baskets into “Whites” and “Coloureds” before she placed them, in their separate groups, into the washing machine. Once the first load of washing was switched on Sarah began to tidy away all the breakfast dishes into the sink, where they would be washed. There was one thing that anyone could be sure of when it came to Sarah Lennon, and that was her dedication to cleanliness within her home. There were many occasions when Joey had voiced his frustration at being obliged by his wife to remember that there was a place for everything and everything had to be put in its place. Despite the frustration, Joey was aware of the fact that his wife was not the sort of woman to tolerate untidiness in the home.
Earlier that morning Joey had left the house to cycle into town to undertake another day’s work on the building site. Over the previous few years the town of Derryard appeared to be expanding at a great rate, with new homes being built everywhere. The new creamery and cheese factory had encouraged people to move into the area and now the building of a sugar processing unit promised an influx of people seeking work. Quite a number of people had asked Joey, why did he not seek work in one of the factories? But, he would simply tell them that he had worked outdoors all his life and could not even contemplate in a factory environment. “Sure I wouldn’t see the sky, or breathe the sweet fresh air. I would not hear the birds sing, or the bleating of the sheep. It would be like sentencing me to jail to put myself in one of those places,” he would tell people. There was little doubt that Joey did indeed enjoy the outdoor life, and those who knew him said you would have to go a long way to find a man who worked as hard as he did.
As the town expanded and he was fully employed building new houses for the anticipated workforce, it often puzzled Joey as to how people could actually afford to buy these new houses. He saw the billboards advertising some houses for £125,000, others for £140,00, and even some at £175,000. The cottage in which he lived with his family, and the bit of land that came with it, had been inherited through the passing of a spinster aunt who had left it to him in her will. He knew nothing about mortgages or other means of financing property. Joey had been brought up in a family that believed in the idiom, “Never a borrower be.” He had no loans, either owed or owing to him, and his dealings with others were mostly in cash. Sarah, being the recognised sensible person, was the family’s banker and ensured that whatever surplus of money they had was put into the town’s branch of the “Credit Union.”
In the cottage, while Joey was at work, Sarah bused herself in the home. She began to make the beds and finished hoovering the hall before she went back to the kitchen to check if the first load of washing was complete. The washing machine’s cycle had finished and Sarah opened the machine’s door to begin lifting the still damp clothes out on to the kitchen table. When the washing machine was emptied she filled it with a second load of clothes and put it on another cycle. The second cycle would continue while she folded the clothes from the first was in preparation for the drying line in the garden. This was always the routine that she followed, but she had been too busy to notice that the weather was about to change for the worse. The rain had begun to fall outside while she folded her clothes. Sarah had hoped that a full week’s washing of dresses, shirts, blouses and undergarments would be completed and hung out to dry before lunch, but she now heard the sound of rain drops beating heavily against the glass pane of the kitchen window.
Sweet Eileen 4“Ah, good Jesus, no!” she exclaimed loudly as she watched the rain bounce off the glass. “Eileen? Eileen? Where are you?” she called out from the opened Kitchen door. Eileen might only have been four years old, but she knew that when the rain began, playtime outside was over and it was time to come back into the house. There was, however, no reply and the rain began to get heavier.
“Eileen? Come here now!” she shouted at the top of her voice, but again there was no reply. Opening the door wider and putting a coat over head and shoulders, Sarah stepped outside and could see no sign of her daughter. The sheep had moved nearer to the hedgerows to find some shelter and Sarah thought that maybe Eileen had followed their lead. Again she called out loudly and again there was no reply forthcoming. “If she is acting the ‘cod’ with me now, I’ll give her a red bottom with the strap,” Sarah promised herself. But she was more frustrated and worried than angry with her daughter. Pulling her raincoat closer around herself Sarah made for the small gate that led into the field where the sheep and lambs were. As soon as she opened the gate, and despite the rain blowing in her eyes, Sarah caught sight of her daughter lying prostrate on the ground a few yards into the field.
“Eileen?” she screamed, her lungs nearly bursting with the effort and her heart pounding in fear.
Without a moment’s hesitation Sarah ran to the body of her child, which lay motionless in the wet grass as the rain continued to pours down on her. Immediately she noticed a large, bloody gash at the side of the child’s temple, where she had evidently hit her head against a large rock that lay half-buried in the soft ground. Picking Eileen up into her arms, Sarah called for the child to awaken, begging her to open her eyes, as she moved quickly to the shelter of the cottage. There was, however, no movement from the child.
Eileen was laid carefully on the couch and a ‘fleece throw’ was put over her damp, cold body. With her daughter comfortable, Sarah lifted the phone and dialled for an emergency ambulance. “It’s my daughter!” Sarah told the operator excitedly. “She has had an accident and is not moving!”
“Please speak slowly and clearly,” the operator asked. “What has happened?”
“She has fallen and hit her head off a rock, and she is cut at the side of her head,” replied Sarah, hurriedly.
“Is she responsive?”
“No! She’s not moving, please send an ambulance!”
“I am sending it now, Madam,” replied the operator. “Is the child breathing?”
“Yes; No; I don’t know!” Sarah panicked.
“I know it is hard, but please try to keep calm. An ambulance is on its way and I need you to check if she is breathing,” the operator told Sarah calmly.
“I don’t know for sure; I don’t think so; My God help me!”
Sweet Eileen 5The operator continued to talk calmly to Sarah over the phone, giving her instructions on how to administer CPR. But Sarah was in no state of mind to carry out the exercise precisely. She tried to listen to what the operator was saying and tried her best to follow the instructions, but all her efforts appeared to be in vain. The seconds were lost in minutes as Sarah tearfully tried to encourage Eileen to awaken, and the minutes ticked by relentlessly as the child remained unresponsive. She didn’t know how long she had been on the phone, or even when she had contacted the operator, but her heart filled with new hope as the ambulance pulled up outside the cottage with all lights flashing. In moments a para-medic entered the house, closely followed by the ambulance driver, who was carrying oxygen cylinders and a plethora of other equipment.
Sarah, now relieved of her nursing duties, sat back and allowed her emotions to take control. She wept and wept until large tears flowed from her eyes, down her pale cheeks and dripped on to the cushion that lay on her knees. She didn’t want to wipe away the tears, preferring to stretch her hands out to hold the small, pale, cold hands of her daughter. “Will she be okay?” she asked the para-medic as he worked frantically with the unconscious little girl.
“Paddles!” he called out to the driver. “Keep your hands away,” he told Sarah.
The paddles were put on her bare chest and the shock caused her body to jump, and then the CPR continued. Nothing.
He tried again and as the driver tried CPR the para-medic interrupted him and shook his head. He turned to Sarah and asked, “Is there someone we can contact for you?”
“She is going to be alright?” Sarah asked but she noticed the desolation in the man’s eyes and received her answer. All the hope she had for Eileen’s recovery was gone in a moment. “I’m sorry Mrs Lennon, but she has gone,” confirmed the para-medic in a very quiet tone.
Sarah screamed in her grief, kissing her daughters face and crying bitter tears of heartbreak. Quietly the ambulance driver noted the time of death and began to tidy away the equipment, for the police would soon be at the scene.

Satan’s Creation

A Tale of Ireland’s West Coast

Along the west coast of Ireland there are many small fishing villages, and from one of these villages a narrow valley runs back from the sea into the mountains. It is a rugged valley created by two precipices that were torn apart ages ago and, when entering it along the road from the sea-shore, all that can be seen are the cliffs and craggy heights covered in patches of moss. Then, as you move further along the road, the valley narrows and the moss grows more thickly on the overhanging rocks. The trees that grow out of the clefts in the precipices, intermix their leafy branches and shelter the land below them from the strong rays of the midday sun. There a crystal clear brook runs swiftly over its bed of moss covered pebbles, flashing white as it leaps down a short decline, before taking cover once again under large ferns whose branches stretch from bank to bank. Then it reappears into the light, sparkling as it hurries on its way to the sunshine that engulfs a wider valley, and finally pours itself into the sea. Its origin lies in a spring that bursts out of a rock crevice into a a circular well, which had been partly scooped out and partly built up to receive the cool clear water. Above this well rises a sheer cliff-face to a height of fifty feet, where the rock changes shape, eroded by powers of nature into the shape of human face.
West Coast Cliffs 3The forehead of this rock face is shelving and its eyebrows are heavy and menacing. The nose that is so prominent is shaped like the beak of a hawk, while its upper lip is short, and the chin prominent and pointed. There, in the shelter of the crag that forms the nose is a thick growth of ferns that give the impression that the face has a small mustache and goatee. Above the forehead stands a mass of tangled undergrowth and ferns that many have likened to an Eastern turban, and an eye is clearly shown by a bit of lighter-coloured stone that gives the entire face a leer that could easily inspire fear among an ignorant and superstitious people. But on a level with the chin, and to its right is the mouth of a cave that can be reached by a path up the hillside, along which rudely hewn steps have been created to ease the steep ascent. Although the visitor to the cave must stoop to enter, inside they discover a large room seven feet high and twelve feet square. It was, without doubt, this cave was once home to a religious hermit because on each side of the entrance a cross has been carved deeply into the rock, and inside, a block of stone four feet high has been left standing at the far side and opposite the entrance. Above this altar a shrine has been hollowed out of the stone wall and over it another cross has been carved, over which has been written the legend, I.H.S.
The legend of the cave was told to my great-grandfather by a local old woman, considered to be a ‘Wise Woman’ by her neighbours, whose rendition of the tale was allegedly a tedious event. Nevertheless, she was a devout believer in her own story and told it with great earnestness and use of vocal intonations that kept her audience attentive. “It’s the cave of a saint, but I’m not certain of what saint it is. There’s some say it was Saint Patrick himself, but I don’t believe it. Others have said it was Saint Kevin, the one that conned the old King out of his land in the bargain he made for curing his goose, but I don’t believe that either. I tend to agree with those that said it was Saint Tigernach, you know that one who built the big Abbey at Clones in County Monaghan. Sure, didn’t Father Murphy say the same thing and there’s not a one who would know better than he.”
“Do you see that big head on the rock?” she asked. ” Well, that’s the devil’s own face that the saint made him put there, the time that the saint proved to be too smart for him when the evil one tried to cheat the blessed man. Aye, a quare story it is too, and the wealthy ones that come down here have a great laugh about it when it is told, saying they don’t believe a word of it. It’s because they don’t understand, but if men had to understand everything they believed in then they wouldn’t have much to believe in.”
“But, as I was telling you, Saint Tigernach lived in that cave alone, a good man and more cunning than a fox. He made it to suit himself and every day he would say a thousand ‘Our Fathers’, five thousand ‘Hail Marys’, a thousand ‘Credos’, before he would go out among the poor. Thanks be to God there weren’t many poor in Ireland in those days, for times were better, and those that were there looked up to the saint. He fed them and, when he begged for the poor, there wasn’t a man or woman that wouldn’t give something to him because he would stick to them like glue until he would get the offering. All that suffered persecution, or were hungry, or without clothes would go to the saint like a child to its mother and tell him everything that was in their heart.”
The old woman muttered under her breath for a moment before resuming her story. “While that blessed saint lived here, across the hill and beyond the peat-bog lived a ‘hedger and ditcher’ by the name of O’Connor. He was only a poor working man, helped by his wife, while his daughter, Kathleen, took care of the house. Strange to tell, in that house they kept a wooden board in the corner, which acted as a bar and had a jug of poteen sitting on it. From the jug they would sell poteen to all who passed by, because this was the day before the customs men, bad luck to them all, and every man drank as much as he wished without paying a penny to the government. O’Connor, himself, made the poteen while Kathleen would sell it to the turf cutters on the bog, but they didn’t buy large amounts because they rarely had enough money. Kathleen, however, was a fine girl with eye that would melt the heart of the toughest man, young or old. She was always to be seen in a nice dress during the week, and had a special one for wearing on Sundays, and it was said one sight of her would make an old man feel young again. But there wasn’t a mischievous bone in her body, for she was as pleasant as sunshine in winter and as innocent as a new born lamb, going to Mass regularly and doing her ‘duty’. Kathleen, however, had fallen in love with a young fellow who was employed as a ‘ditcher’, and they were to be married when the house he was building was done, and his father gave him a cow. Although he was by no means a rich man, he had the love of this beautiful young woman and he thought he had a fortune.”
West Coast Cliffs 2“Now, in those days, the castle at the foot of the hill was owned by a lord, who was bedridden because of the rheumatism and pains he had in his body. But his son, Lord Robert, was a devil of a man for running after girls and had earned himself a terrible reputation in the entire County. He was the type of man who would chase after a girl and, when he had won her heart, he would break it like he was snapping a twig. There was many a young girl destroyed by his deceptions, for once that devil of a man had his foot on her neck she would never be able to lift her head again. Then, one day, the old Lord’s pains got the better of him and he died. They gave him a great wake and funeral, but while he was standing at his father’s graveside, Lord Robert noticed Kathleen standing among the crowd and he wondered who this beauty was. Inheriting the estate he filled the stables with horses and dogs, which allowed him to continue his hobby of hunting. But Robert was a soldier and he had a great number of troopers at the castle, who were at his call. But not long after his father was buried, Lord Robert went hunting in the hills and came upon O’Connor’s cabin and said to one of his men, ‘I wonder if they would have a wee drop to spare here, for I am dry as a bone.’ So, they went into the cabin, asked, and were served their drinks. But Robert’s wicked eye was fixed on Kathleen and said, ‘Aren’t you the fine girl and fit to be in the house of a prince?'”
The old woman smiled and told her audience, “But she was fit for him and told him, ‘Don’t be trying your fine talk on me, Sir. I know who you are and have never heard a good word said about you!’ Kathleen was a good girl and as firm as stone when she thought someone was up to no good. So, Robert went away that time and came again and again when he was hunting, and he always had a smart, impudent word in his mouth for her. When she told her parents they agreed that his behaviour wasn’t nice, but they did not fear for the girl’s safety and reminded her that he would spend more in one drinking session than they would normally take in a week. Although they did not want to stop Robert in coming to the cabin, their lack of action encouraged his bad behaviour and every time he he came to the cabin he went away more determined to have the girl for himself. Then, when he realised that he would never get her by fair means, he decided that foul means were all that was left to him. Finally, when she rejected his advances again and refused to accept a present he had brought her, Lord Robert told her, ‘I’ll bring you to heel young lady, if you will not accept my presents,’ and he went away. Frightened by the threat, Kathleen told Tim McCarthy about Lord Robert and what he had said to her. An angry Tim swore that he would break every bone in Robert’s body if he so much as touched Kathleen. Then, as he got to thinking about the situation he became anxious about Kathleen’s safety and decided that he should marry her immediately and move to another county. ‘If that blackguard dares to come after her he’ll have his head crushed like an egg shell,’ he said to himself, knowing that many of the next county’s menfolk had little love for the English aristocracy. Without another thought he left his job and went immediately to Kathleen and told her, ‘I’m afraid for you, my darling, and I would rather be dead than see any harm being done to you. I believe, then, that we should get married immediately.'”
“Kathleen agreed, gathering up her best Sunday dress, and they both set out for the saint’s cave in belief that it was the nearest place where they could be married, for being married by him would be the same as being married by a priest. They hurried along the road to the large oak tree, where the footpath leaves the road and takes them along a boreen. Suddenly, from behind them, they caught the sound of a loud noise and they stood closer to the hedge, through which they peeped to see what was following. It was Lord Robert and a dozen of his men, with their weapons and armour shining in the moonlight, and they were riding swiftly toward O’Connor’s house. Tim and Kathleen realised that they had made a narrow escape and as soon as Lord Robert and his men were out of sight they sped along their way. They left the path and went to cross over the hill, which was mistake. If they had kept to the hedge and went around by the footbridge, took the footpath along the other side of the stream that runs in front of the mill they would have kept themselves hidden and safe. But as they crossed over the hill, one of Robert’s men spied them, for Robert had discovered from Kathleen’s father that she and Tim were gone and he had began to search after them. The soldier who had seen the two fugitives blew on his trumpet and the rest of the company rode swiftly after them. Kathleen and Tim now came stumbling down the slope and staggered into the cave just minutes before Lord Robert’s men pulled up there with their horses puffing, and their armour rattling loudly. “
“In a corner of the cave, on a pile of straw, the saint snored peacefully in his sleep after a tiring day’s work and was undisturbed by Tim and Kathleen’s entry into the cave. Meanwhile, Lord Robert and his men left their horses just below the cave and climbed up the short distance to look in. But, they could see nothing because it was so dark and Robert called out, ‘Come on, now, Kathleen! Come out, now that I have found you safe and well.’ Neither Kathleen or Tim answered him, but Robert heard a noise that was the saint turning himself uneasily in his sleep. ‘Come along out of there,’ Robert repeated, ‘and you, Tim McCarthy, if you come out, you can return to your ditch digging, but if we have to drag you out then the crows will be eating your corpse at sunrise. Strike a light you men!'”
“Robert’s men did as they were ordered and almost immediately they saw Tim and Kathleen standing, one on each side of the altar, holding tightly to the cross that was on it. ‘Drag him out of there!’ Robert roared loudly and his men went in to do his bidding. But before they came within distance of their target, Saint Tigernach had stopped snoring because he was disturbed by the light and the noise, and he now stood up before them. ‘Hold on,’ said the saint, ‘What’s the matter here? Why is there all this noise?’ Lord Robert’s men drew back in fear of the saint and what he might do. Lord Robert then came forward and explained that the girl was a servant of his, who had ran away with a ditch digger. The saint, however, immediately saw through Robert’s deception, “Stop it! Don’t try to trick me with your lies! Get away now, with your murdering band or I’ll put a great curse upon you all before you can count to five.’ With these warnings in their ears the men left the cave, followed by Lord Robert, who was still vainly trying to urge them to go back after the girl.”
“‘No Lord,’ they told Robert. ‘We have eaten you food and drank your drink, and we’ll do your Lord’s bidding in all that is right. We are perfectly willing to wait until morning and take the girl, and murder the ditch digger, when they come out of the cave, but the saint must not ind out. That would be too much of a risk, for we all have souls to save!'”
The armed men all mounted their horses and started back to the castle, with Lord Robert following them. But Robert’s evil heart was set upon having Kathleen and he couldn’t bear the thought of someone else getting her. Then, when he reached the turn in the road he halted and swore loudly, ‘ It’s the great eejit, I am. Sure, why didn’t I think of using the witch before?'”
West Coast Cliffs 4“There was in those days a great witch living in a cabin built near a rath that lay in the break between the mountains beyond the mill. She was well known in the county for bringing storms, causing cows to stop producing milk, and many other black deeds. She would have been taken long before and drowned, but the people feared that the devil, himself, was at her elbow when she did these things. So, it was to her cabin that Lord Robert went, and he was allowed to enter after he had rapped on the door. She sat in the middle of a long row of black cats, holding a skillet of serpents that were stewing over the fire, and she knew who he was because she had done many deeds for him before this. Without even greeting her, Robert made the reason for his visit clear to her. The old hag made a charm to call her master to her and, within a minute, he stood by her side sporting a large smile and waiting for her to speak. But it was Robert who spoke and began to make a complicated deal with the devil, with which he hoped to cheat Satan. The devil, however, was no fool at making contracts and he tried to make this one as strong as it could be. There was much talk and dealing between the two and, finally, the Devil agreed to do all that Lord Robert asked of him for twenty years, in exchange for his body and soul. If the Devil failed in any way, however, that would be an end of the bargain. Although pleased, at first, the Devil’s face grew longer when he heard that his first task was to bring Kathleen out of the cave and take her to the castle. Scratching his head in puzzlement, Satan said to himself, ‘It’s not going to be an easy task taking that girl from the power of a saint like him. But we will try.'”
So, Robert, the Witch and Satan mounted the one horse and rode like the wind toward the cave. When they came near the top of the hill they all got off and hid in the bushes standing between the cave and the spring, and the devil explained that every night the saint would go to spring to get a drink of water to ease his thirst after saying his devotions. At the same time the saint would also bring back to the cave with him a bucket of the cool liquid. ‘We’ll stop him by the spring with the witch, ‘ said the Devil. ‘You and I will steal the girl while he’s talking.'”
“So, as the clock struck twelve o’clock, the saint came out with his water bucket and walked down to the spring. When he got there and was taking his drink, the witch approached and began to tell him about a son that she had, who was as lazy as a cart-horse and as useless as a sore thumb. She asked the saint’s advice about what she could do with her son, but she was lying to the saint in order to distract him and allow Satan and Lord Robert to get into the cave unobserved.
The Devil picked up Kathleen in his arms, but he wouldn’t have dared do that if she had been on the other side of the cave and away from the altar. Tim, however, was standing by it, and joined with Kathleen kicking and scratching her attacker. When Tim ran to grip him, Satan simply tossed him back and caused him to fall on the floor. ‘Hold on until I stab him,’ Lord Robert called and pulled out his sword.”
“‘Come on, you buck-eejit,’ Satan replied to Robert. ‘Sure the saint will be on top of us if we don’t hurry,’ and almost as soon as he had spoken those words, the door opened, and Saint Tigernach rushed in with a bucket of water on his arm, for he had an inkling that something was wrong.”
“‘God’s preserve us!’ exclaimed the blessed saint, when he saw the devil before him. Great goose-bumps began to rise on the blessed man’s back and the sweat poured down his face. He had known Satan well enough, and he began to think that ‘Old Nick’ had come for him because of a bit of meat that he had eaten that day, and it being a Friday. But he didn’t eat the meat. He had only tasted it and then spit it out again to settle a quarrel between the butcher and a woman who had bought the meat and said it was bad. Nevertheless, he feared that Satan hadn’t seen him when he spat the meat out again. ‘God preserve us!,’ said the saint, as he speedily crossed himself. In a moment, however, he saw that it wasn’t him, but Kathleen, that was in trouble, and he let go of the water, caught the blessed cross that was hanging on him with his right hand and gripped Satan by the throat with his left. While, in the same movement, he pushed the cross into the Devil’s face. In shock, the devil dropped Kathleen like she was a bag of meal, and she rolled over and over on the floor like a worm until she reached the altar and she took a hold of it as tight as the bark on a tree. And it was a fine scene with the black enemy of our souls just lying there trembling in fear, and with the saint’s foot on his neck.”
“‘Glory be to God,’ declared the saint. ‘Just you lie there while I make an example of you,’ he continued as he turned to look for Lord Robert, because he knew that the two of them would be in this together. That blackguard, however, needed no invitation to be walking away from this, but when he saw what had happened to the devil, he ran away with all the speed his feet could carry him, and the witch with him. While, behind them Tim was chasing and hurling stones from a fistful he was carrying. But Lord Peter and the witch quickly left him behind and got completely away. Tim ceased his pursuit and came back to  where the devil and Kathleen were standing.”
“‘Get up,’ Saint Tigernach ordered the devil, ‘and stand in the corner, for I’m going to marry these two at once, without fee or license, and you shall be the witness to it.’ So the saint married them, while the devil looked on. It’s the truth I’m telling you, but it’s not the only wedding that the devil’s been at, and he’s not often seen at them when he’s in as low spirits as he was at Tim and Kathleen’s. Yet, this was the way that they were married, with Satan for a witness, and there are some who say that the saint transported the young couple all the way to County Kerry. Personally I don’t believe that story, for I think that they walked all the long way to Cork and got a fisherman’s boat to Kerry. Nonetheless, after they had started, the saint turned to Satan and told him, ‘No more of your tricks with them two, my fine fellow, for I mean to give you a job that’ll keep you out of mischief for a while at least.’ The saint was greatly angered with him coming into his cave that way, as if the place belonged to him. ‘Go you to work,now’ he began to say, ‘and put your face on that rock over the spring, so that as long as the mountain stands men can come and see what sort of a dirty looking beast you are.'”
“So Satan went out and looked up at the rock, smiling, as if to say that it was not a hard task, and when the blessed saint saw the grin that was on his face, he told him, ‘None of your enchantments are allowed, at all. It’s honest work you’ll be doing, and in that spirit, here’s my own hammer and chisel that you’ll take.’ That soon wiped the smug smile off the devil’s face, as he began to realise that the cliff was granite.”
“‘Surely you’re joking,’ he complained, ‘you don’t mean it. Sure there’s no harder bit of stone between here and Donegal.’ And wasn’t he the very man to know, since he was familiar with all the land.”
“‘Bad luck to you and your lies,’ said the saint. ‘Now, take your tools and get stuck into it, you old blackguard, for the sooner you begin, the quicker you’ll be finished, and you can be sure that the stone won’t soften any by your wating. Just you remember to keep a civil tongue in your head while you’re doing the job, or it’ll not be the only thing that you will suffer this day,’ says he, looking daggers at him.”
“So, it was with great displeasure that Satan took the hammer and chisel, and he climbed up the cliff face to begin work cutting his own face on the stone. But he soon discovered that it was as hard as iron and, after he had hit it a couple of cracks, he stopped and shook his head and then scratched over his ear with the chisel as he looked around at the saint as if to say something. The blessed saint looked at him again so ferociously that he made no further remark, turning back to the cliff quickly and began to hammer away in earnest until the sweat stood on his heathen face like drops on a water-jug.”
“The next day, Lord Robert thought he’d call with the old enemy, and remind him that, as he’d failed to get Kathleen, their bargain was now off. So he made-up the charm Satan had given him, but he didn’t come for any protest. ‘Bad luck to the Imp,’ said Lord Robert. ‘Sure, maybe he’s mighty busy or else he’s forgotten the  entire thing.’ So lord Robert went out to see the witch, but she wasn’t in. He was not very far away from the saint’s cave and thought, while he was waiting for the witch, he would have a wee peep to see if Tim an’ Kathleen were still there. So he crawled over the top of the hill beyond the cave like the snake in the grass that he was, and when he came down a little, he saw the old Pooka on the cliff, with the hammer in one hand and the chisel in the other, pounding away at the rock and hanging on by his tail to a tree. Lord Robert thought his eyes were deceiving him, for he saw it was the devil, but he couldn’t clearly make out what he was doing. So he crawled down until he had a better view, and when he saw what was happening, he got up and went to a big stone that stood before the cliff, where he sat and slapped his legs with his hands, roaring with laughter and the tears pouring out of his eyes.”
“‘Helloo Nick,’ says he, after he had gotten his breath back again and could speak. ‘Is that you up there?’ He had the quare cheek speaking so impudently at the devil, but the man had a tongue like an adder, and he could use it too.”
“‘Keep away from me,’ said Satan to him angrily, and without turning his head to look at him. ‘Leave me alone! Gobshite, or I’ll wipe the cliff clean with your carcass if ye come any closer!’
“‘A-a-a-h, now. Be easy, you deceiving old blackguard,’ says Lord Robert boldly, for he knew that the devil dare not leave the job to come after him. ‘Will you keep your temper? Sure you haven’t got the manners of a goat, to be speaking to a gentleman like that. I’ve just come to tell you that because you failed the task, our bargain’s off,’ says he.”
“‘Get out of here,’ the devil answered, turning himself half around and holding on to the big shone nose he’d just done with one hand, while shaking the other fist with the chisel in it at Lord Robert. ‘Do you think that I want to be aggravated with the likes of  you, you white-faced wee troublemaker, and losing the whole day, while I’m so busy at this time of the year, and breaking my back on this job, and my fingers sore with working the chisel, and my tail skinned with having to hold on? Damn this stone anyway, for it’s harder than a Scotchman’s head, it is, so it is,'”
 He was just turning back again when he noticed the saint standing at the door of the cave. Without hesitation he began a digging away at the cliff as if his life depended upon it, swearing under his breath, so the saint couldn’t hear him, every time he gave his knuckles an unlucky crack with the hammer. ‘You’re not worth the trouble,’ says Satan to Lord Robert, being filled with a rage that he couldn’t hold in. ‘Sure, It’s a waffling wee boy I was for trifling with when I was sure of you.'”
“‘You’re a liar,’ said Lord Robert, ‘you deceiving black heathen. If you were so sure of me why did you want to make a bargain?'”
“‘You’er another,’ replied Satan. ‘Isn’t a sparrow in your hand better than a goose on a string?'”
“So they were continuing with the insults, when the blessed saint came out again, and stood at the door watching to make sure that old Nick didn’t a mess of the job. He now spoke up, ‘Hold your peace, Satan, and keep working. And, as for you, you mouthy, milk-faced villain, with a heart as black as a crow, walk away and go down on your hardhearted, unbelieving knees, or you’ll come to no good.’ And so he did.”
“Do I believe the story? Well, I don’t know. There were quare things happened in them old days, and there’s the face on the cliff as ugly as the devil could be and the hammer and chisel are in the church. Sure, what better proof could you ask for? You might ask what became of the the lovers, but I know nothing. They probably grew old together, stayed poor and forgot the spring-time of their youth in the winter of their age. But if they lived a hundred years, they would never have forgotten getting married in the saint’s cave, with the black face of the Evil One looking on from the dark corner.”

The Mountain Walk

By and Unknown Irish Poet

From the haunts of busy life, 
Homes of care, and paths of strife, 
Up the breezy mountain way, 
’Mid the upper fields of day, 
Let me wander, far and lonely, 
Without guide, save nature only; 
And still ever as I go, Lose all thought of things below, 
Cast all sorrow to the wind, 
While the low vales sink behind: 
 

Mournes
The Mourne Mountains 

Fetterless and spirit free 

As the merry mountain bee. 
Like a spirit, thought and eye 
Buoyant between earth and sky, 
There to bask in free pure light 
On the joyous mountain height; 
Dallying with the breeze and shower, 
Claiming kin with every flower, 
Catching iris dreams that glance 
On the breath of circumstance. 
 
Changing with the changeful scene—
Solemn, sombre, gay, serene: 
As each change fresh wonders bring, 
Weaving thought from every thing. 
Oft let shadowy hollows fall, 
And grey cliffs’ embattled wall 
Crown the gloom with hoary height, 
Where the raven wheels his flight. 
Or green vale unfolding soft, 
In the lonesome crags aloft 
Shut the far down world from view. 
 
There, long up ether’s darkening blue, 
The eye may gaze for worlds unseen, 
In the skyey void serene, 
And weave visions strange and fair, 
Of the starry empires there—
Spirits changeless, pure, and bright, 
In their glorious vales of light; 
Till some wild note break the spell 
From sequester’d rural dell 
Where the mountain goatherds dwell: 
 

mountain walk 3
Benbulben

So to break the wild fond dream, 

And to man bring down the theme; 
For all earthly things impart 
Thoughts of Man to human heart. 
Then from towery crag on high, 
If far city win the eye, 
Glittering through the misty air, 
’Twere a prospect meet and fair 
For the lone sequestered gaze 
O’er its wide uncertain maze, 
 
Then to muse on wealth and fame, 
And on every specious name 
That gilds the dross of earth below, 
Till, from reflection, wisdom grow. 
Wisdom:—not that sense which cleaveth 
To the world where all deceiveth; 
Not grave prudence, hard, yet hollow—
In the beaten round to follow 
Lengthened aims, in life’s short day, 
While the ages glide away:
 
—But that moral, old and sage, 
Said and sung in every age; 
Old as man—yet ever new, 
Heard by all, and known to few; 
Murmur of Being’s wave, that still, 
Unheeded as the babbling rill, 
In the world’s noise, makes music only 
’Midst the hush of deserts lonely. 
Last, from o’er the seaward steep, 
Let me view the spacious deep, 
 
While the billows break and flow
 In the caverned gloom below. 
There let cloud and sunbeam flee 
O’er the sunned and shadowy sea—
Light and dark in fleeting strife, 
Like the vanities of life; 
So to dream of joy and woe, 
Imaged in the gliding show, 
As they come, and as they fly, 
To the verge of sea and sky; 
 

mountain walk 4
County Kerry by Angela Stack

So our joys and sorrows flee, 
Onward to eternity. 
Then away in spirit wrought 
By the voluntary thought, 
Where the heath is freshly springing, 
Where the sky-borne lark is clinging 
On mid air with lively song, 
Which the echoing cliffs prolong; 
O’er wild steep and dreamy hollow, 
On, still onward let me follow. 
 
While the airy morn is bright, 
While rich noon is at its height, 
Till eve falls with sober grey, 
Freely let me roam away.

Knocknashee

For many years the idea of fairies and the little people brought a laugh and a disbelieving shake of the head from me. In later years I was to learn better and it is to be hoped that those doubters who shall read these stories will experience the same change in their thinking. It is only to be expected that not every reader of these stories will believe in Leprechaun’s, banshees and other Irish spirits. But I am here to tell you that all these things do exist in the Irish countryside. You may consider that disbelief in such things will ensure that such spirits have less power over you. Do not be fooled by such comforting thoughts. Constantly remind yourself that you should never ignore the possibility that such spirits can and do exist. Do not give voice to your disbelief and never mock the fact that others do believe. All those things are insults to “The Good People” and the most foolish actions that any man, woman, or child can commit. Testing the fairy folk of Ireland can and will bring a response in ways that are totally unexpected.

Knocknashee 3When I was a child my parents raised me to always be polite and civil to everyone that I met, irrespective of race, colour, creed and physical appearance. My mother, may she rest in peace, always taught me that, “Good manners are a burden to no person.” She was often shocked by the way people treated each other and would warn me to always be civil because, “Civility costs you nothing.” Such moral codes were bred into my being by both my parents. “If you cannot speak well of another person then it is best to say nothing about them,” my father would tell me. He would also insist that, “if you cannot do something nice for another person, then do nothing.” My parents were very firm believers that every action a person undertakes has certain consequences for which they must accept total responsibility. “Do unto others as we would have them do unto us,” was a scriptural adage of which I was constantly reminded. Those who decide to ignore such words of wisdom soon discover that they would have been better to take on board the advice of those older than they are.

As an example, I recall the story of Eddie Daly, a muscular young man who was full of bravado. His muscular frame was maintained by his hard work in the fields around Knocknashee. As a worker, Eddie was well thought of by local farmers while, as an attractive young man, he was admired by many of the ladies in the area. Eddie Daly, tall but muscular, was a common sight on the many roads that criss-crossed the area around Knocknashee. He would walk from farm to farm undertaking whatever work he could find, and he appeared to be almost always in demand. Perhaps much of his demand was due to Eddie’s pleasant personality, and his ability to make people laugh. There was always a bounce in the young man’s step, a lightness in his tread, and as He walked along it was as if his heels were spring-loaded. Hence, Eddie’s friends called him “Spring Heels.”

It was not uncommon for Eddie to be seen at any hour of the day and night walking the highways and by-ways that surrounded the hill of Knocknashee. He seemed to have no fear of the darkness and the spirits that made the night their own. Because he did not believe in such things Eddie was comfortable walking through graveyards at night or settling to snooze below the branches of a fairy thorn tree. He laughed at those who gave credibility to superstitions and “old wives’ tales” that were common throughout the district. He would scoff those who would attempt to protect themselves from evil spirits with the sign of the Cross, or who would greet the fairies with a pleasant, “May goodness and peace be with you.”

Knocknashee 2It is well known that almost every county and townland contains lonely places that have become noted for the fairy activity that goes on there. However, Knocknashee was famous throughout the entire country because of the strange things that had been seen or heard in that place. On every crag and in every depression, there seemed to be a “Leprechaun Mound”, fairy trees and fairy caverns. In other places throughout the district stood dark green woodland and long abandoned grave sites. People told of instances when they had heard the Banshee wails from those places, seen strange lights reflecting in the darkness, and observed dark creatures stalking the souls of the unwary. Eddie, however, did not believe in such things and wandered, carefree, wherever he wished.

Late one evening, as he walked home from farmer McCann’s property, Eddie noticed that there was someone else on the road. Occasionally Eddie would meet people he knew walking along the Kilcoo Road, and he would chat with them to pass the time. On this occasion, however, Eddie could not recognise who his fellow traveller was, but he was sure that he was not a local resident. The man a short distance ahead of him was only an inch or two shorter than Eddie, but much better dressed. From the professional hiking gear on his back Eddie could discern that the person was just another sightseeing hiker dressed in a high-class range of outdoor clothing to protect him from the elements. It would not take Eddie too long to catch up with him.

The night was passing on, getting darker as the black, rain laden clouds gathering in the sky, threatening to soak the land with a downpour. As expected, it didn’t take Eddie much time before he caught up with the stranger and began to walk at his side. “Good evening, sir,” Eddie greeted him in his most friendly voice. “I am Eddie Daly and maybe I can walk a while with you along the road.”

“Good evening to you,” replied the stranger, “my name is Joe Crawford from Dublin and I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“You’ll stay in the village tonight, Joe?” Inquired Eddie. “It could be a bad night for there a powerful lot of rain on the way.”

The stranger looked skyward as he continued to walk and, turning to Eddie, told him, “sure don’t I have my own accommodation with me.”

“And where would you be planning to put up your tent, if I might ask?”

“On top of Knocknashee Hill,” came the reply, which took Eddie completely by surprise.

“Knocknashee?”

“That’s right. The summit of Knocknashee Hill, so we will not have much farther to travel together.”

The stranger had now aroused Eddie’s inquisitiveness. “So, you will take the track that runs from this road up to the top of the hill?” Eddie asked and then continued, “But why would a man of your standing wish to go to that lonely, exposed and windswept place”

“You have been there?”

“I have and there is nothing there,” answered Eddie.  “Even with your tent you will get little protection from the weather this night, especially up there.”

Mr. Crawford smiled at the concern his new companion was showing for his welfare. “The tent will suffice, and I intend to be settled upon the top of that hill by midnight.”

“But what in the name of all that is good, is bringing you to the top of that bleak hill? What are you looking for?” Eddie asked.

“The Good People,” said Joe, irritated by the questions. “I am going to the top of the hill to see the “Good People”.”

“Fairies!” Exclaimed Eddie in total disbelief and he sniggered at the very idea. That sort of attitude did not endear him to Joe, and he marched on in silence for a moment. “Fairies”, Eddie sniggered again.

Knocknashee 5This time Joe stopped and looked at his companion with growing anger displayed in his face. “For goodness sake, keep you voice low!” he told Eddie. “Better still keep it shut! Do you know nothing?” Eddie was taken aback by the angry tone exhibited by his companion, but Joe was not finished. “You never call “The Good People” fairies because it is a disrespectful term to them. Furthermore, to laugh at them is an unwise thing to do, because they look upon that as a grave insult. Just keep your ideas and your careless words to yourself, or you might just end up being very sorry!”

Eddie was somewhat dumbfounded by Joe’s dramatic change in attitude toward him. But he decided he would not react at this time. It all seemed a bit pointless anyway because they were approaching the track that led up to the summit of Knocknashee. Only a minute or two later they came upon the entrance to the narrow dirt path, which swept across several fields before going up the steep side of the hill to its summit. At the entrance Joe stopped and immediately offered his hand in friendship to Eddie. “Thank you for your company,” the man said. “Even though it was only for a brief period of time.”

Eddie took his hand, shook it warmly and simply replied, “Thank you, Joe.”

With their farewells said, Eddie watched as Joe climbed over a wooden stile that assisted his crossing of a barbed wire fence. On the other side he stepped on to the dirt track and began to follow it as it wound its way to the base of Knocknashee Hill. He was just about to re-start his own journey home to Kilmore, about three miles distant, when a sudden thought crossed his mind and caused him to pause again. “That man is a bit of an odd fellow, but he is definitely no fool,” he said to himself. He continued to ponder for a while as he watched Joe walk further away along the path. “I don’t believe he’s here for the fairies,” he said aloud to himself. “That man is up to something on that hill and he doesn’t want anyone else to see him. Maybe I should just follow him at a distance and find out for myself just what he is up to.” He stood for a few moments longer, watching the stranger move along the track and come closer to the base of the hill. “Fairies,” he exclaimed loudly with a certain distaste in his voice. “Mark my words, there is something more than fairies, or the “good people as he calls them, that is bringing him up that hill on a night like this.” He could not take his eyes off the man in the distance, even though what light there was left now began to fade quickly.

He muttered several curses to himself, “That man knows as much about fairies as I do about deep-sea diving.” Shaking his head in disbelief at the stranger’s declared intentions he told himself, “Fairies don’t exist and he expects a grown man like me to believe that he is going to seek them out. He tells me I should be wary about what I say concerning fairy folk, but if they don’t exist why should I be afraid?” Eddie looked down the path again, now illuminated by a shimmering full moon that had arisen from behind the hills. In that silver moonlight he could see Joe Crawford still pacing his way toward the base of the hill.

“Why would he try to frighten me off?” Eddie asked himself. “There must be something special up there that he doesn’t want another person to see.” He now strained his eyes in the lessening light to attempt to gauge just how far ahead of him Joe was. Eddie decided that it wasn’t too far and made up his mind to follow the stranger and attempt to catch him up. He was determined that he would find out the truth of the man’s decision to climb Knocknashee Hill. The more he had thought about it, Eddie became increasingly convinced that whatever the man was seeking it was most likely to be very valuable. His mind now became filled with ideas of gold, buried treasure, or jewels and he wanted to have a share in the fortune. In that instant he began to clamber over the wooden stile and begin his own journey to the summit. “Alright, big man,” he said aloud, “the game has begun.” He pulled up his trousers and closed over his jacket before setting off along the dirt path in his effort to catch the stranger.

Eddie had travelled along the track many times and despite it being illuminated only by moonlight he surefootedly pressed ahead. After a short time, he had reached the foot of the hill, just where the track turned and began to ascend windingly to the summit. At this point stood an old, gnarled, but sturdy thorn tree that local superstition had declared was a fairy tree. Eddie, of course, was not a believer in such superstitions, nonetheless something in his subconscious told him to give this tree a wide berth. He did give the tree a wide-berth and began to ascend the hill in the increasing darkness that was beginning to make the narrow path even more treacherous than was normal. With every step he took Eddie moved upward and occasionally, as the full moon peeped out from behind a dark cloud, he caught a glimpse of Joe approaching the summit of the hill.

Onward Eddie pressed, realising that he would never catch his former companion before he reached the top of the hill. Three full hours of toiling up that rugged path finally brought Eddie almost to the end of his journey. The path had taken him over broken ground, loose rocks and even areas of swampy ground. On several occasions during his journey he had almost lost his footing and fallen to the ground. It was with some relief that Eddie finally reached the end of the path and could sit down to rest his weary body. He found a dry, level, grassy spot on which he could comfortably relax and take in his surroundings. But, no matter how hard his eyes scanned the area around him, he saw no sign of his former companion.

Eddie couldn’t understand what had happened to Joe, but he was determined to seek him out. After a short rest he began to move carefully across the ground seeking the whereabouts of Joe. As he searched the area Eddie came across a large opening in the ground that sat close to a large, wind-formed thorn tree. It was the entrance to a deep shaft, the bottom of which he could not see. The hole itself was wide and deep enough to swallow up any person who might carelessly fall into it. This, he decided, may have been the fate that befell Joe Crawford and that was the reason why Eddie could not see any sign of him.

It came into Eddie’s mind that this dark shaft was none other than “The Black Hole of Knocknashee” that he had heard so much about since he was a child. Although Eddie had scaled Knocknashee Hill on many occasions he had never come across this place. Old tales suggested that “The Black Hole”, was indeed the entrance to an underworld kingdom where the fairies ruled from a magnificent, magical castle. He recalled the tales of people who were said to have gone to the top of Knocknashee and never returned. It was said that the fairies had lured them to “the Black Hole”, which simply swallowed them up. There was a famous legend that a local policeman who had set out to search for a person who was missing on the hill also never returned. He was supposed to have been a skilled climber and was well equipped for his rescue mission. Rumour suggested that even he had fallen for the wiles of the fairy folk and disappeared, never to be seen again.

Knocknashee 4These were stories that Eddie shrugged off as being nothing but old wives’ tales. Nevertheless, Eddie did realise that any person could have fallen down this hole and maybe he should check it out in case this is what happened to Joe. Lying on the ground he tried to peer into the dark depths of the shaft, but he could see nothing. “Maybe, if I throw in a stone, I might hit the gate of the magical castle,” he laughed. “At least I might get to find out if there is anyone at home.” Eddie moved away from the shaft entrance to search for a large stone and eventually came across a big, granite rock. He lifted it with both hands and bringing it to the opening of the shaft he flung it down with all his might. As he listened, he could hear the echo of the rock as it bounded downward, tumbling from one wall of the pit to another.

The large granite rock made a terrible confusion of noise and Eddie leaned his head over the hole to hear the stone reach the bottom. But, as Eddie leaned over the hole, he could still hear the rumbling of the tumbling rock and he was surprised to hear that it did not appear to be going away from him. The sound, instead, seemed to be coming louder and quite suddenly the stone shot out of the hole with as much force as it first entered the shaft. The large rock flew at Eddie, catching him totally by surprise, and hit him with great force full in his face. He was flung backward quite a distance where he lay motionless for a moment.

Eddie was still very dazed as he raised himself up from the ground and his eyes were a little out of focus. Perhaps it was concussion, but Eddie’s head was spinning violently, causing him to lose his balance. He lost his footing on the grass and soon found himself rolling down the side of Knocknashee Hill. He was now faking head over heels from one crag to another and descending faster with every roll of his body. Eddie finally came to a stop at the bottom of the hill, unconscious and unmoving. There he lay until early next morning when he was discovered by a local farmer.

At first sight the farmer was convinced he had come across a dead body, but there was a loud groan when the body was turned over. Even in the shadows of the branches of a white-thorn tree the farmer could see that the person was badly injured. The bridge of Eddie’s nose was broken quite seriously, which caused disfigurement to his entire face. There was blood dried on his face and upon the grass on which he had come to a rest after his fall. The blood came from the cuts that covered his head and hands, enhanced by a multitude of purple-black coloured bruises. Eddie’s eyes were swollen shut, blackened by deep blue and black colouring.

Although Eddie was nursed to full recovery, he was changed man. He no longer demonstrated the same bravado as he once had. He began to avoid those places associated with the fairies, especially after the sun began to set. On those few occasions when he found himself alone in lonely places, he would press hard to get home before it became too late. Even as Eddie hurried home he could not be diverted from his path, nor could he allow himself to be delayed by any person he met on the road. Never again did he seek out “The Good People” or ask questions about them. In fact, Eddie became quite introverted and avoided the company of others. Those who knew him had no knowledge of what had changed him, but some insisted that he had been touched by the fairies.

Cures at the Graves of Saints

Dromahair Abbey
Dromahair Abbey

At Dromahaire Abbey, in County Leitrim, many years ago there was a man saying his prayers in a part of the sacred enclosure. It is said that, when he rose from his knees, he took an iron spoon that lay under a slab covering a grave and put his hand into a hole up to the shoulder and drew up a spoonful of the clay. This he wrapped up in paper and told people it was for a sick person who subsequently mixed it in water, and he drank it for a remedy. he declared that this was the grave of Father Peter and that he had been a very holy man.

ARDMORE

There are many legends and superstitions that surround these beautiful ruins of Ardmore Abbey and its round tower. It was said to be Saint Declan who founded the original abbey and its tower, building the base course in one night, while on the second night he built it up to its second level, carrying it to the third level on the third night. But an angry old woman scolded the saint and asked, “Will you never be done?” Saint Declan immediately completed the final part of the structure finishing it off with a conical cap.

Ardmore Abbey
Ardmore Abbey, Co Waterford

It was also said that Declan went on a pilgrimage to Rome, and on his return, as his ship approached Ardmore some gigantic pagans tried to prevent his landing and ran out to sea threatening him. But Declan transformed them into rocks, and they stand there to this day, forming a reef. At this time also, it is reported, that a large glacial boulder floated behind Declan’s ship all the way from Rome. It followed in the ship’s wake and lodged itself safely on a ridge near the ship and cried out, “The clerk forgot the bell,” whereupon they found the bell and his vestments on the rock although they had been left behind in Rome. The stone lies there until this day, resting upon an outcrop of local rocks on the shore, and it is said to work miraculous cures to those who rub their backs against it, or creep under it in the hollow between two supporting rocks. There is a warning, also, that anyone attempting to gain a cure with a stolen garment or having unabsolved sins on their soul will have the stone press down upon them and prevents their passage through.

At Ardmore, County Waterford, in the churchyard of the ancient and most interesting ruined abbey, they show the spot where it was said Saint Declan, the founder, was buried. It is walled around, but inside the soil has been excavated to a considerable depth in past times and the custodian of the place was selling the earth as a cure for sick people.

Ardmore Holy Well
St Declans Well, Ardmore

Also, in the graveyard the practice of creeping beneath stones is seen when a childless woman creeps under a tombstone in their quest to become mothers. (from ‘Notes on Irish Folklore’, Folklore vol.27, No.4, 1916, pp419-426: JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/ 1255596)