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Legends of the County Clare by Francis Robert Davies
Taken from “Choice Notes from ‘Notes and Queries’: Folklore” (London, 1859)

 

On the west coast of Ireland, near the Cliffs of Moher, at some distance out in the bay, the waves appear continually breaking in white foam even on the calmest day. The tradition among the country people is, that a great city was swallowed up there for some great crime, and that it becomes visible once every seven years. And if the person who sees it could keep his eyes fixed on it till he reached it, it would then be restored, and he would obtain great wealth. The man who related the legend stated farther, that some years ago some labourers were at work in a field on the hill-side in view of the bay ; and one of them, happening to cast his eyes seaward, saw the city in all its splendour emerge from the deep. He called to his companions to look at it; but though they were close to him, he could not attract their attention: at last, he turned round to see why they would not come; but on looking back, when he had succeeded in attracting their attention, the city had disappeared.

The Welsh legend of the Islands of the Blessed, which can only be seen by a person who stands on a turf from St. David’s churchyard, bears a curious coincidence to the above. It is not impossible that there may have been some foundation for the vision of the enchanted city at Moher in the Fata Morgana, very beautiful spectacles of which have been seen on other parts of the coast of Ireland.

How Fuen-Vic-Couil (Fingall) [Fionn mac Cumhaill] obtained the knowledge of future events.
Once upon a time, when Fuen-Vic-Couil was young, he fell into the hands of a giant, and was compelled to serve him for seven years, during which time the giant was fishing for the salmon which had this property — that whoever ate the first bit of it he would obtain the gift of prophecy; and during the seven years the only nourishment which the giant could take was after this manner: a sheaf of oats was placed to windward of him, and he held a needle before his mouth, and lived on the nourishment that was blown from the sheaf of corn through the eye of the needle. At length, when the seven years were passed, the giant’s perseverance was rewarded, and he caught the famous salmon and gave it to Fuen-Vic-Couil to roast, with threats of instant destruction if he allowed any accident to happen to it. Fuen-Vic-Couil hung the fish before the fire by a string, but, like Alfred in a similar situation, being too much occupied with his own reflections, forgot to turn the fish, so that a blister rose on the side of it. Terrified at the probable consequences of his carelessness, he attempted to press down the blister with his thumb, and feeling the smart caused by the burning fish, by a natural action put the injured member into his mouth. A morsel of the fish adhered to his thumb, and immediately he received the knowledge for which the giant had toiled so long in vain.

Knowing that his master would kill him if he remained, he fled, and was soon pursued by the giant breathing vengeance: the chase was long, but whenever he was in danger of being caught, his thumb used to pain him, and on putting it to his mouth he always obtained knowledge how to escape, until at last he succeeded in putting out the giant’s eyes and killing him ; and always afterwards, when in difficulty or danger, his thumb used to pain him, and putting it to his mouth he obtained knowledge how to escape.

Compare this legend with the legend of Ceridwen, Hanes Taliessin, Mabinogion, vol. iii. pp. 322, 323, the coincidence of which is very curious. Where also did Shakespeare get the speech he makes one of the witches utter in Macbeth:—

“By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.”

How Ussheen (Ossian) [Oisín] visited the Land of “Thiernah Ogieh" (the Country of perpetual Youth) [Tír na nÓg].
Once upon a time, when Ussheen was in the full vigour of his youth, it happened that, fatigued with the chace, and separated from his companions, he stretched himself under a tree to rest, and soon fell asleep. “Awaking with a start,” he saw a lady, richly clothed and of more than mortal beauty, gazing on him; nor was it long until she made him understand that a warmer feeling than mere curiosity had attracted her; nor was Ussheen long in responding to it. The lady then explained that she was not of mortal birth, and that he who wooed an immortal bride must be prepared to encounter dangers such as would appal the ordinary race of men. Ussheen, without hesitation, declared his readiness to encounter any foe, mortal or immortal, that might be opposed to him in her service. The lady then declared herself to be the queen of “Thiernah Ogieh,” and invited him to accompany her thither and share her throne. They then set out on their journey, one in all respects similar to that undertaken by Thomas the Rhymer and the queen of Faerie, and having overcome all obstacles, arrived at “the land of perpetual youth,” where all the delights of the terrestrial paradise were thrown open to Ussheen, to be enjoyed with only one restriction. A broad flat stone was pointed out to him in one part of the palace garden, on which he was forbidden to stand, under penalty of the heaviest misfortune. One day, however, finding himself near the fatal stone, the temptation to stand on it became irresistible, and he yielded to it, and immediately found himself in full view of his native land, the existence of which he had forgotten from the moment he had entered the kingdom of Thiernah Ogieh. But alas! how was it changed from that country he had left only a few days since, for “ the strong had become weak,” and “the brave become cowards,” while oppression and violence held undisputed sway through the land. Overcome with grief, he hastened to the queen to beg that he might be restored to his country without delay, that he might endeavour to apply some remedy to its misfortunes. The queen’s prophetic skill made her aware of Ussheen’s transgression of her commands before he spoke, and she exerted all her persuasive powers to prevail upon him to give up his desire to return to Erin, but in vain. She then asked him how long he supposed he had been absent from his native land, and, on answering “thrice seven days,” she amazed him by declaring that three times thrice seven years had elapsed since his arrival at the kingdom of Thiernah Ogieh; and though Time had no power to enter that land, it would immediately assert its dominion over him if he left it. At length she persuaded him to promise that he would return to his country for only one day, and then come back to dwell with her for ever; and she gave him a jet-black horse of surpassing beauty, from whose back she charged him on no account to alight, or at all events not to allow the bridle to fall from his hand. She farther endued him with wisdom and knowledge far surpassing that of men. Having mounted his fairy steed, he soon found himself approaching his former home; and as he journeyed he met a man driving before him a horse, across whose back was thrown a sack of corn: the sack having fallen a little to one side, the man asked Ussheen to assist him in balancing it properly; Ussheen instantly stooped from his horse, and catching the sack in his right hand, gave it such a heave that it fell over on the other side. Annoyed at his mistake he forgot the injunctions of his bride, and sprang from his horse to lift the sack from the ground, letting the bridle fall from his hand at the same time ; instantly the horse struck fire from the ground with his hoofs, and uttering a neigh louder than thunder, vanished; at the same instant his curling locks fell from Ussheen’s head, darkness closed over his beaming eyes, the more than mortal strength forsook his limbs, and, a feeble helpless old man, he stretched forth his hands seeking someone to lead him : but the mental gifts bestowed on him by his immortal bride did not leave him, and, though unable to serve his countrymen with his sword, he bestowed upon them the advice and instruction which flowed from wisdom greater than that of mortals.


Lake Inchiquin, c.1900. Photo: Macnamara Collection
Lake Inchiquin, c.1900. Photo: Macnamara Collection

About nine miles westward from the town of Ennis, in the midst of some of the wildest scenery in Ireland, lies the small but very beautiful Lake of Inchiquin, famous throughout the neighbouring country for its red trout, and for being in winter the haunt of almost all the various kinds of waterfowl, including the wild swan, that are to be found in Ireland, while the woods that border one of its sides are amply stocked with woodcocks. At one extremity of the lake are the ruins of the Castle of Inchiquin, part of which is built on a rock projecting into the lake, there about one hundred feet deep, and this legend is related of the old castle: — Once upon a time, the chieftain of the Quins, whose stronghold it was, found in one of the caves (many of which are in the limestone hills that surround the lake) a lady of great beauty, fast asleep. While gazing on her in rapt admiration she awoke, and, according to the customs of the Heroic Age, soon consented to become his bride, merely stipulating that no one bearing the name of O’Brien should be allowed to enter the castle gate: this being agreed to, the wedding was celebrated with all due pomp, and in process of time one lovely boy blessed their union. Among the other rejoicings at the birth of an heir to the chief of the clan, a grand hunting-match took place, and the chase having terminated near the castle, the chieftain, as in duty bound, requested the assembled nobles to partake of his hospitality. To this a ready assent was given, and the chiefs were ushered into the great hall with all becoming state ; and then for the first time did their host discover that one bearing the forbidden name was among them. The banquet was served, and now the absence of the lady of the castle alone delayed the onslaught on the good things spread before them. Surprised and half afraid at her absence; her husband sought her chamber: on entering, he saw her sitting pensively with her child at the window which overlooked the lake; raising her head as he approached, he saw she was weeping, and as he advanced towards her with words of apology for having broken his promise, she sprang through the window with her child into the lake. The wretched man rushed forward with a cry of horror: for one moment he saw her gliding over the waters, now fearfully disturbed, chaunting a wild dirge, and then, with a mingled look of grief and reproach, she disappeared for ever! And the castle and the lordship, with many a broad acre besides, passed from the Quins, and are now the property of the O’Briens to this day; and while the rest of the castle is little better than a heap of ruins, the fatal window still remains nearly as perfect as when the lady sprang through it, an irrefragable proof of the truth of the legend in the eyes of the peasantry.

Fuenvicouil (Fingal) [Fionn mac Cumhaill] and the Giant
Once upon a time, a Scottish giant who had heard of Fuenvicouil’s fame, determined to come and see which of them was the stronger. Now Fuenvicouil was informed by his thumb of the giant’s intentions, and also that on the present occasion matters would not turn out much to his advantage if they fought: so as he did not feel the least bit “blue-mowlded for the want of a batin’,” like Neal Malone, he was at a loss what to do. Oonagh, his wife, saw his distress, and soon contrived to find out the cause of it; and having done so, she assured him that if he would leave things to her management, and strictly obey her directions, she would make the giant return home faster than he came. Fuenvicouil promised obedience; and, as no time was to be lost, Oonagh commenced her preparations. She first baked two or three large cakes of bread, taking care to put the griddle (the iron plate used in Ireland and Scotland for baking bread on) into the largest. She then put several gallons of milk down to boil, and made whey of it; and carefully collected the curd into a mass, which she laid aside. She then proceeded to dress up Fuenvicouil as a baby; and having put a cap on his head, tucked him up in the cradle, charging him on no account to speak, but to carefully obey any signs she might make to him. The preparations were only just completed, when the giant arrived, and, striding into the house, demanded to see Fuenvicouil. Oonagh received him politely; said she could not tell any more than the child in the cradle, where her husband then was; but requested the giant to sit down and rest, till Fuenvicouil came in. She then placed bread and whey before him till some better refreshments could be got ready, taking care to give him the cake with the griddle in it, and serving the whey in a vessel that held two or three gallons. The giant was a little sur-prised at the quantity of the lunch set before him, and proceeded to break a piece off the cake, but in vain; he then tried to bite it, with as little success: and as to swallowing the ocean of whey set before him, it was out of the question; so he said he was not hungry, and would wait. He then asked Oonagh what was the favourite feat of strength her husband prided himself upon. She could not indeed particularise any one, but said that sometimes Fuenvicouil amused himself with squeezing water out of that stone there, pointing to a rock lying near the door. The giant immediately took it up; and squeezed it till the blood started from his fingers, but made no impression on the rock. Oonagh laughed at his discomfiture, and said a child could do that, handing at the same time the lump of curds to “the baby.” Fuenvicouil, who had been attentively listening to all that was going on, gave the curd a squeeze, and some drops of whey fell from it. Oonagh, in apparently great delight, kissed and hugged her “dear baby;” and breaking a bit off one of the cakes she had prepared, began to coax the “child” to eat a little bit and get strong. The giant amazed, asked, could that child eat such hard bread? And Oonagh persuaded him to put his finger into the child’s mouth, “just to feel his teeth;” and as soon as Fuenvicouil got the giant’s finger in his mouth, he bit it off. This was more than the giant could stand; and seeing that a child in the cradle was so strong, he was convinced that the sooner he decamped before Fuenvicouil’s return the better; so he hastened from the house, while Oonagh in vain pressed him to remain, and never stopped till he returned to his own place, very happy at having escaped a meeting with Fuenvicouil.

The Lake of Inchiquin is said to have been once a populous and flourishing city, and still on a calm night you may see the towers and spires gleaming through the clear wave. But for some dreadful and unabsolved crime, a holy man of those days whelmed all beneath the deep waters. The “dark spirit ” of its king, who ruled also over the surrounding country, resides in a cavern in one of the hills which border the lake, and once every seven years at midnight he issues forth mounted on his white charger, and urges him at full speed over hill and crag, until he has completed the circuit of the lake ; and thus he is to continue, till the silver hoofs of his steed are worn out, when the curse will be removed, and the city reappear in all its splendour. The cave extends nearly a mile under the hill; the entrance is low and gloomy, but the roof rises to a considerable height for about half the distance, and then sinks down to a narrow passage, which leads into a somewhat lower division of the cave. The darkness, and the numbers of bats which flap their wings in the face of the explorer, and whirl round his taper, fail not to impress him with a sensation of awe.

A Cromwellian Legend
In the west of Clare, for many miles the country seems to consist of nothing but fields of grey limestone flags, which gives it an appearance of the greatest desolation: Cromwell is reported to have said of it, “that there was neither wood in it to hang a man, nor water to drown him, nor earth to bury him!” The soil is not, however, by any means as barren as it looks; and the following legend is related of the way in which an ancestor of one of the most extensive landed proprietors in the county obtained his estates.

’Twas on a dismal evening in the depth of winter, that one of Cromwell’s officers was passing through this part of the country; his courage and gallantry in the “ good cause” had obtained for him a large grant of land in Clare, and he was now on his journey to it. Picturing to himself a land flowing with milk and honey, his disappointment may therefore be imagined when, at the close of a weary day’s journey, he found himself bewildered amid such a scene of desolation. From the inquiries he had made at the last inhabited place he had passed, he was led to conclude that he could not be far distant from the “land of promise,” where he might turn his sword into a pruning hook, and rest from all his toils and dangers. Could this be the place of which his imagination had formed so fair a vision? Hours had elapsed since he had seen a human being; and as the solitude added to the dismal appearance of the road, bitterly did the veteran curse the folly that had enticed him into the land of bogs and “Papistrie.” Troublous therefore as the times were, the tramp of an approaching steed sent a thrill of pleasure through the heart of the Puritan. The rider soon joined him, and as he seemed peaceably disposed, they entered into conversation; and the stranger soon became acquainted with the old soldier’s errand, and the disappointment he had experienced. Artfully taking advantage of the occasion, the stranger, who professed an acquaintance with the country, used every means to aggravate the disgust of his fellow-traveller, till the heart of the Cromwellian, already half overcome by fatigue and hunger, sank within him; and at last he agreed that the land should [be] transferred to the stranger for a butt of Claret and the horse on which he rode. As soon as this important matter was settled, the stranger conducted his new friend to a house of entertainment in a neighbouring hamlet, whose ruins are still called the Claret House of K_____. A plentiful, though coarse, entertainment soon smoked on the board; and as the eye of the Puritan wandered over the “creature comforts,” his heart rose, and he forgot his disappointment and his fatigue. It is even said that he dispensed with nearly ten of the twenty minutes which he usually bestowed on the benediction; but be this as it may, ere he retired to his couch —“vino ciboque gravatus” — the articles were signed, and the courteous stranger became possessed of one of the finest estates in the county!

Ballyportry Castle, 1898. Photo: Westropp Collection
Ballyportry Castle, 1898. Photo: Westropp Collection

Legend of the Castle of Ballyportree
About two miles from the village of Corofin, in the west of Clare, are the ruins of the Castle of Ballyportree, consisting of a massive square tower surrounded by a wall, at the corners of which are smaller round towers : the outer wall was also surrounded by a ditch. The castle is still so far perfect that the lower part is inhabited by a farmer’s family; and in some of the upper rooms are still remaining massive chimney pieces of grey limestone, of a very modern form, the horizontal portions of which are ornamented with a quatrefoil ornament engraved within a circle, but there are no dates or armorial bearings: from the windows of the castle four others are visible, none of them more than two miles from each other; and a very large cromlech is within a few yards of the castle ditch. The following legend is related of the castle:—When the Danes were building the castle (the Danes were the great builders, as Oliver Cromwell was the great destroyer of all the old castles, abbeys, &c. in Ireland), — when the Danes were building the Castle of Ballyportree, they collected workmen from all quarters, and forced them to labour night or day without stopping for food or rest; and according as any of them fell down from exhaustion, his body was thrown upon the wall, which was built up over him! When the castle was finished, its inhabitants tyrannised over the whole country, until the time arrived when the Danes were finally expelled from Ireland. Ballyportree Castle held out to the last, but at length it was taken after a fierce resistance, only three of the garrison being found alive, who proved to be a father and his two sons; the infuriated conquerors were about to kill them also, when one of them proposed that their lives should be spared, and a free passage to their own country given them, on condition that they taught the Irishmen how to brew the famous ale from the heather — that secret so eagerly coveted by the Irish, and so zealously guarded by the Danes. At first neither promises nor threats had any effect on the prisoners, but at length the elder warrior consented to tell the secret on condition that his two sons should first be put to death before his eyes, alleging his fear, that when he returned to his own country, they might cause him to be put to death for betraying the secret. Though somewhat surprised at his request, the Irish chieftains immediately complied with it, and the young men were slain. Then the old warrior exclaimed, “Fools! I saw that your threats and your promises were beginning to influence my sons; for they were but boys, and might have yielded: but now the secret is safe, your threats or your promises have no effect on me!” Enraged at their disappointment, the Irish soldiers hewed the stern northman in pieces, and the coveted secret is still unrevealed.

In the South of Scotland a legend, almost word for word the same as the above, is told of an old castle there, with the exception that, instead of Danes, the old warrior and his sons are called Pechts. After the slaughter of his sons the old man’s eyes are put out, and he is left to drag on a miserable existence: he lives to an immense old age, and one day, when all the generation that fought with him have passed away, he hears the young men celebrating the feats of strength performed by one of their number; the old Pecht asks for the victor, and requests him to let him feel his wrist; the young man feigns compliance with his request, but places an iron crow-bar in the old man’s hand instead of his wrist; the old Pecht snaps the bar of iron in two with his fingers, remarking quietly to the astounded spectators, that “it is a gey bit gristle, and has not much pith in it yet.” The story is told in the second volume of Chambers’ Edinburgh Journal, first series, but I have not the volume at hand to refer to. The similarity between the two legends is curious and interesting.

Tirmicbran Castle and Lake, 1901. Photo: Westropp Collection
Tirmicbran Castle and Lake, 1901. Photo: Westropp Collection

Legend of Fuenvicouil [Fionn mac Cumhaill] at Tiermacbran
About half a mile from the lake of Inchiquin is situated the small lake of Tiermacbran; high limestone cliffs nearly surround it, one of which is crowned with the picturesque ruins of an old castle, while the cliff immediately opposite has been occupied by the eyry of a falcon for many years: no stream appears to flow into or out of the lake. A solitary coot may generally be seen floating motionless in the dark sullen water, and a hawk hangs poised in mid air over it, or slowly circles round, uttering a harsh scream from time to time: altogether, a more eerie spot could not be easily found. The lake is popularly believed to be unfathomable, and though supposed to contain fish of fabulous size, it would not be easy to tempt the most zealous disciple of Izaak Walton among the peasantry to cast a line upon the sullen waters. The following legend accounts for the awe with which the lake is regarded. — Once upon a time Fuenvicouil (Fingal) went out with his attendant chieftains to hunt upon the heath-covered sides of Mount Callan, famous as being the burial-place of Conan, whose monument with its Ogham inscription is still extant; a noble hart, snow-white, whose hoofs and horns shone like gold, was soon started, and eagerly did the chieftains urge their hounds in pursuit. Hour after hour passed on, and still the deer sped on with unabated vigour, while one by one hunter and hound dropped exhausted from the chace — till none were left but Fuenvicouil and his matchless hound, the snow- white Bran; and now, as the sun was fast declining, the won-drous hart reached the cliff over the lake where the ruins of the old castle now stand. A moment’s pause, and it plunged into the lake, followed almost instantaneously by the gallant hound: the moment the deer touched the water it vanished, while instead appeared a beautiful lady seated on the rippling waves, and as the noble dog rose to the surface from his plunge she laid her hand on his head and submerged him for ever! and then disappeared. Some relate in addition that she inflicted a curse on Fuenvicouil. In memory of the event the cliff from which the dog sprang is called “Craig-a-Bran;” while the lake and castle are called by the name of “Tiarnach Bran,"—“the lordship of Bran,” corrupted in conversation to “Tir mac Bran.” It is a curious fact that the “machinery” of this legend is so peculiarly that of the metrical romances (see Partenopex of Blois, &c.). Somewhat different versions of it are given in Miss Brooke’s Translations of Irish Poetry, and in the spirited translations by Dr. Drummond; but as in Clare alone have the lake and cliff obtained names from the event, we may claim the legend as peculiar to that county. The old castle, once the property of the B___d [Blood] family, whose mansion of R____n [Roxton] within a mile of it is still (strange to say for Ireland) inhabited by a member of the family, as it had been for the last three hundred years, was destroyed by lightning: most of the inhabitants had time to make their escape, but the heir of the family, a young child, was left behind, and more than a week afterwards was discovered alive and unhurt under the great table which stood in the great hall, and which now groaned under the mass of ruins instead of the rich banquets which used to grace its ample surface. This event took place only about sixty or seventy years ago. I have conversed with persons cognisant of the fact.

Ossian [Oisín] and St. Patrick
When St. Patrick had, after many arguments, converted Ussheen (Ossian) to Christianity, he became a member of the saint’s household, and, being now a feeble, blind old man, he had a servant to attend on him. It appears that Ussheen’s appetite corresponded to his gigantic size, and that the saint’s housekeeper dealt his portion with a niggard hand; for when the old warrior remonstrated with her one day on the scantiness of his meal, she tauntingly replied that his large oatcake, his quarter of beef, and his “miscawn” of butter would amply suffice a better man.—“Ah,” said he, “I could yet show you an ivy leaf broader than your cake, a berry of the quick beam, larger than your miscawn, and the leg of a blackbird larger than your quarter of beef.” The surly housekeeper, with the contempt often shown to the aged and poor, gave Ussheen the lie direct; but he remained silent. Some time after Ussheen directed his attendant to nail a raw hide against the wall, and to dash the puppies of a wolf-dog that had been lately littered against it: each in succession fell howling to the ground, except the last, which clung to the hide with tooth and nail. By Ussheen’s desire he was taken and carefully reared, the milk of nine cows being appropriated to his use. When full-grown, Ussheen desired his attendant to conduct him to the plains of Kildare, and to lead the dog in a leash with them; as they went along, Ussheen at a certain place asked his guide if he beheld anything worthy of notice? and the boy replied, he saw an immense plant resembling ivy, that projected from a huge rock and nearly obscured the light of the sun; and also a large tree near a stream, bearing a red fruit of enormous size. Ussheen plucked a leaf from the plant and some fruit from the tree: soon after they reached the plain, and Ussheen asked again if his attendant saw anything? “Yes,” replied the boy, “I see a rock of immense size:” he then desired to be led to the stone, and after removing it from its place by one effort of his gigantic strength, he took from under it a sling, a ball, and an ancient trumpet; sitting down upon the rock he desired his attendant to break down nine gaps in the wall that surrounded the plain, and then to retire behind him. At the same time he blew a blast on the trumpet that appeared to pervade earth and sky, and yet was of surpassing melody. After some time Ussheen ceased, and asked his attendant what he saw? “I perceive the heavens darkened with the flight of birds that approach from all quarters,” said he. Ussheen again renewed the magic strain, when his companion exclaimed that a monstrous bird, whose bulk overshadowed the whole plain, was approaching. “That is the object of our expectation,” replied Ussheen; “let slip the dog as the bird alights.” The wolf-dog bounded forward with open mouth to the combat, and the bird received his attack with great courage, while the thrilling blasts of the magic trumpet seemed to inspire the combatants with increasing fury; they fought all day, and at the going down of the sun, the victorious wolf-dog drank the blood of his fallen foe. “The bird is dead,” said the affrighted servant, “and the dog, bathed in blood, is rushing towards us with open jaws to devour us!” “Direct my aim towards the dog,” said the hero; then launching the ball from the sling, it entered the open jaws of the hound, and stretched him lifeless on the earth. The leaf, the fruit, and the leg of the bird were produced to the housekeeper as proofs of the veracity of the aged hero. This was his last exploit, for the legend goes on to relate that the repeated insults of this woman soon after broke the heart of the warrior bard, the last survivor of the race of the Feinian heroes. I have often thought it possible that some battle of the Irish against the Danish invaders was obscurely typified by this legend, which is a very favourite one in the county of Clare.

Gobawn Saer
Among the most celebrated characters of antiquity, there is not one whose fame is more widely spread throughout Ireland than that of “Gobawn Saer,” whose skill as an architect was only equalled by the lessons of wisdom which dropped from his lips, many of which are to this day current among the peasantry through the length and breadth of the land. “Once upon a time,” as the Gobawn and his son were on their travels, they came to a place where there was a palace in progress of erection for the king of the country, and they turned aside to inspect the work. At the moment of their arrival the workmen were engaged in putting up the beams which joined together by pegs from the “couples” of the roof; this, from the height and size of the building, happened to be a most laborious and dangerous task. The Gobawn having looked on at their ill-planned efforts for some time, took up an axe and laying his glove down as a block, quickly fashioned a number of pegs; then flinging them up one by one to the places already pierced in the couples for their reception, he threw the hatchet at each, and drove it home with unerring aim; then taking up his glove uninjured, proceeded quietly on his way, leaving the workmen lost in amazement. The king came in presently, and having been told of the wonderful exploit, immediately declared that no one but the Gobawn Saer could have done this, and immediately despatched messengers to bring him back, and offer him any remuneration he might require to complete the building. The Gobawn, after some entreaty, returned with the messengers, and he and his son soon built a palace such as no king had hitherto possessed. Now it happened some time before they set out on their journey, the Gobawn thought it desirable that his son should take a wife; and as he preferred a woman who possessed sound sense and ready wit, rather than the factitious distinctions of birth or fortune, he took the following method of obtaining such a daughter- in-law as he wished for. Having killed a sheep, he desired his son to take the skin to the next town and sell it, charging him to bring back the skin and the price of it. To hear was to obey; but the young man wandered in vain through the town seeking a purchaser on the strange terms he required. At last, weary and disheartened, he was returning home towards evening, when he saw some girls washing clothes at the river outside the town. An Irishman never passes any persons at work without the salutation of “God bless the work.” One of the girls, when answering his good wish, observed his wearied appearance, and soon drew from him the cause. After a moment’s thought she at once agreed to purchase the skin on the proposed terms, and having brought him to her house, she took it, stripped off the wool, and returned the bare hide with the price stipulated, when the young man returned to his father and presented him with “the skin and the price of it.” He immediately sent him to ask the young woman in marriage, and in a few days she was installed mistress of Rath Gobawn. Now that her husband and his father were setting out on a journey she gave the former two sage counsels for his guidance and protection: first, she desired him, when his father was tired, to “shorten the road;” secondly, “not to sleep a third night in any house without having secured the favour of one of the females resident in it.” The elder Gobawn having become weary with the length of his journey, his son would gladly have “shortened the road” for him, but did not know how, until his father, to whom he mentioned the conjugal precept, desired him to begin some legend or romance, and so by the interest of the story beguile the tediousness of the journey. In obedience to the second precept of his wife, before they had been two days at the king’s palace the young man contrived to interest the king’s daughter in his favour; and on his informing his father of the fact, the cautious old man desired him, as a means of discovering whether her attachment was a mere caprice of passion, or founded on a more firm basis, to sprinkle a few drops of water in her face when the basin was carried round to wash the guests’ hands before sitting down to dinner: if she smiled, her love was sincere; but if she frowned, then was it a mere caprice of passion, and liable to be turned to hate or revenge. The young man did as his father desired, and when he playfully sprinkled the water on the lady’s face she smiled gently, and the young man’s mind was at rest. The palace now approached its completion, and the king determined to put the Gobawn and his son to death, so that no other prince should possess a building of equal magnificence: his daughter, however, found means to communicate her father’s benevolent intentions to her lover. Whereupon the Gobawn set his wits to work to circumvent the base designs of his employer; and in an interview with the king he stated that the building, which was the most beautiful he had ever erected, required the application of one implement, which he had unfortunately left at home, and requested permission to return for it. The king, however, could not think of allowing him to take the journey, but offered to send for the instrument. But the Gobawn declared that it was too valuable to be entrusted to any messenger. At length, after much debate, the Gobawn consented to allow the king’s only son to go for the instrument, which he was to ask for from his daughter-in-law by the name of “Cur-an-aigh-an-cuim.” This sentence, which has since become proverbial in Ireland, excited the suspicions of the mistress of Rath Gobawn, and by some artfully planned inquiries she obtained sufficient information to convince her that her husband and father-in-law were in danger from the treachery of their employer. Concealing her thoughts, however, she promised to give the prince the object of his journey; meantime re-freshments were set before him, and when the fascination of her discourse had completely thrown him off his guard, she caused him to be seized by her domestics, and thrown into the dungeon of the fort. The king, his father, having been duly informed of the situation of his only son, was compelled to forego his treacherous designs, and to dismiss the Gobawn Saer and his son with rich presents, and on their safe arrival at home the prince was set at liberty.
FRANCIS ROBERT DAVIES.

A story almost identical with the legend by Mr. DAVIES, (page 100,) [A Cromwellian Legend, above] appeared years ago under the name of The White Horse of the Peppers, written by Samuel Lover; the main difference appears to be that Lover’s tale is of a Jacobite in the co. Meath, Mr. DAVIES’ of a Cromwellian in the co. Clare. The Peppers of Ballygarth Castle are well known in Meath to this day. Mr. DAVIES will perhaps mention the name of the Clare family.
Y. S. M. — (Vol. ii. p. 455.)

To this query Mr. DAVIES replied as follows:
As the family are still in possession of the property said to have been gained so cleverly, I do not feel quite disposed to publish the name. The village where the event took place was named Kilfenora, remarkable for its very ancient Cathedral, and for several stone crosses, some of which were removed to Claresford House, Killaloe (the Bishop’s palace), by the late Dr. Mant, who had been Bishop of Killalloe and Kilfenora, before he was translated to the See of Down. I heard the legend many years ago from the same authority from which I derived nearly all the others published from time to time in “N. & Q.”; and as a further proof of its being a genuine co. Clare legend, I referred to one of the earlier volumes of the Christian Examiner (the fourth I think), where, under the head of legends of C____ co. Clare, will be found this legend related in nearly the same words, (having been derived from the same authority,) by a gentleman who is member of a family holding deservedly high stations in the Irish Bar and Church; and as the book referred to was published many years before Mr. Lover had come before the public eye, it is pretty good proof that two circumstances of a somewhat similar nature may have occurred in the “Troublous Times" to which Ireland has been subject for so many generations: besides, my legend refers to the age of Oliver Cromwell, and Mr. Lover’s to the week after the Battle of the Boyne.



Folklore of Clare