Very long ago there lived at Doonamona a man named Seán Kelly. He was very fond of sport and particularly fishing and hunting. One May morning he was taking a walk along by the river that runs through Belcarra and on to Foxford. He had walked along the river for a mile when he saw a man with a pack of cards and a table along the side of the river. Kelly bid him good morning and he answered the same. He asked Kelly would he like a game of cards and Kelly said he would. Kelly asked what would the stakes be? Anything you like to play for said the strange man. The strange man said he would play for three wishes and if you win, any three wishes you would like to get I will get them for you. Kelly agreed. The strange man said if you lose any three wishes I want you must get them for me. The game stared and Kelly won. Now said the strange man any three wishes you want I will get them for you. Kelly said one of my wishes is a castle. The next wish is that I must have as many cattle, sheep and horses as I can count. And the third wish is I heard of a king’s daughter in east India and is the loveliest girl in the world. I want her for my wife. The strange man told Kelly to go home now. When he got near Doonamona he saw the castle, one of the finest in Ireland. When he got near the castle he met droves of cattle, sheep and horses. He walked to the front door and he knocked at the door. The door was opened by a young lady. He thought she was the loveliest girl he ever saw. She told him she was his wife. They lived very happy for many years. They had all sorts of cattle, sheep, horses and riches.
One day the first of May he walked the same way as he walked the day he got the riches. He met the strange man at the same place. They had a shake hands. The strange man asked Kelly how he liked his riches. Kelly said he liked them very good. He asked Kelly would he like a game. Kelly said he did not mind. They played and Kelly lost this time. The stranger said now I want my three wishes. Very well said Kelly name them. The first wish the strange man said is a silver sword from a certain King in the East. The second wish he wanted is a golden fife and the third wish was a golden ring that was lost in a deep well near the castle. Kelly turned for home and when he got home he told his wife that he lost to the strange man. His wife said that he might be able to carry out the task. She told him to get a bridle and go out to the horse park and the first horse that would come up to him when he would shake the bridle to saddle him. Kelly got the bridle and when he shook it the smallest horse that he had come up to him and put her head in the bridle. Kelly pulled off the bridle and struck her three blows and hunted her off. Then he went in and told his wife what happened. She told him to try again. He did so with the same result but Kelly saddled the horse this time and got on the saddle. When he did the horse asked him was he a good jock and Kelly told him he was. With the first jump he went from Doonamona to Cnocspullagane three miles below Balla and next jump he landed back at the castle again. The horse jumped the same distance South, East and North. Then the horse said to Kelly that he was a good jock and that he would be able to make the journey.
When Kelly was leaving his wife gave him half a golden ring and she told him to drop it into the King’s cup. The horse went into the air and Kelly knew no more until he landed him at the King’s castle in the East. He alighted. Kelly seeing the door partly open and walked in. He saw the old King and his wife. They were in a cradle each beside the fire. They had a rope out of each cradle. He had a rope out of her cradle and he gave a pull. She had a rope out of his cradle and she gave a pull. That’s how they rocked themselves. The sword and the silver fife were hanging over the mantelpiece. Kelly gave a sharp look at the sword and it roared at him. The old lady got up out of the cradle and made the tea. Kelly dropped the ring into the King’s tea. The old man saw the ring in the bottom of the cup. When he did he jumped up and said did you bring something about our daughter? The old King and the old lady got as young looking as ever when they got tidings of their daughter. Kelly told them that she was his wife and that he had a great castle far away in the West. Kelly got the silver sword and the silver fife from the King. Then they went to the well and got the ring. They were overjoyed and the King told Kelly that it was the strange man that stole their daughter. And they never did any good until he brought tidings of their daughter.
Kelly saddled his horse and returned to Doonamona. Then there was great rejoicing when he had the three things for the strange man. So Kelly and his wife lived in great luxury until they died.
The ruins of this old castle remain to this day. It is situated in the parish of Balla in the barony o fCloongown. So that ends the story of Seán Kelly and his adventures.
This information was collected and hand written by local schoolteacher Peadair Ó Longáin for “The Schools Folklore Collection 1938” .
Wonderful stories were shared by storytellers who visited each other’s houses at this time of year. This was one of the few types of entertainment available to country people in the 19th and early 20th century.
Many of these stories involved strange happenings or hauntings. Several of these stories survive and are documented in “The School’s Folklore Collection 1938”. Here is one such story concerning Clogher House.
In Mr. Fitzgerald Kenney’s demesne is an arch and strangers passing through it after nightfall are said to be led astray by some unseen and unknown agency.
In the British regime Mr Kenney was a JP and it happened that Sergeant Green, of the Belcarra police, called on him one winter’s night on some official business, to get summons signed or some such thing. The business done, Sgt. Green left for home.
About two hours afterwards a knocking was heard on the door of Mr. Kenney’s house. It was the Sergeant. He had travelled round the demesne trying to find his way out to the main road, but when he thought he had reached the gate each time he found he was up against a thorn hedge and could go no further. At length making another effort to find his way he found himself in front of the house. There was nothing for it but to look for a guide.
Fr. O Connell, the then PP of Carnacon - Clogher House is in Carnacon parish - was in the house at the time and when he heard the story he laughed to ridicule. “Drink” he commented.
Some while later, Fr. O Connell started for home. Trust him not to lose his way, he assured the people of the house, when he was counselled to beware, he was "too fly.”
At twelve o’clock another knocking was heard at Mr. Kenney’s door, but a good deal more violent than the first. It was Fr. O Connell. He had walked for hours trying to find his way, always travelling in a circle, and at last he found himself in front of the house. There was nothing for him either but to ask for a guide.
Both the policeman and the Clergyman had passed under the arch.
The 6th of January marks the 177th anniversary of "Oíche na Gaoithe Móire." .
NIGHT OF THE BIG WIND
Weather is often the most talked about item in the conversations of persons in rural Ireland. There is one event more than any other recalled in the oral history and folklore of the Clogher locality that stands out more than any other. "The Night of the Big Wind” that occurred on Sunday January 6th 1839. That night became the subject of Irish myth; stories of what happened during the storm have been handed down for generations.
On the evening of Saturday the fifth there was a heavy snow fall. The next morning the temperature rose and the snow quickly melted. By afternoon a cold front swept in off the Atlantic bringing high winds, heavy rains and hail. The thunder was loud and the lightning impressive. By Sunday night the winds had reached gale force & continued until Monday evening. A great deal of damage was done throughout County Mayo. Almost every thatched house lost its roof. Slates went flying from slate roofed houses. Fires broke out and houses were destroyed.
The Ordnance Survey, completed in Co. Mayo in 1838, showed the location of houses, cabins and out-offices existing at that time. Many of these cabins and out-offices were wiped out by the storm causing the maps to be quickly outdated. The antiquarian John O'Donovan described the Big Wind as if "..... the entire country had been swept clean by some gigantic broom." "My Estate is now as bald as the palm of my hand" was the complaint of a Mayo landlord who had seventy-thousand trees felled by the storm on his lands.
.Accounts in local newspapers recall some of the widespread damage but this accounts only for a smaller percentage of the actual damage.
Few buildings escaped damage and the impoverished tenements of the poor were particularly badly effected in Castlebar. Windows were smashed, doors burst open and roofs were blown down. Slates, thatch, and roofing timbers whirled through the streets.
When the storm reached its worst a fire broke out on Staball Hill. Constabulary Officers the Revenue Police managed to extinguish the fire after it had destroyed six houses.
Almost every thatched house in the town was stripped of its roof. Trees in the lawn of the residence of Lord Lucan and on the Mall were felled by the storm. As dawn broke the town was a scene of great destruction. The destruction was even worse in the poorer suburbs. Many houses were completely unroofed. Hundreds were left homeless.
Many of the homes of tenant farmers and labourers were completely destroyed in many cases leaving thousands homeless. Many received injuries which necessitated the amputation of limbs. This often led to death. Exposure to the elements led to illness among most vulnerable.
Many lost their savings when the roofs of their cabins blew off: the thatch was a favourite hiding place for money, but few had the foresight to remove it when the storm came.
In the countryside stacks of corn and hay were blown completely from their haggards and were scattered in the fields. That which was saved had been drenched causing it to subsequently rot, leaving farmers without winter feed for their livestock. Boundary walls of dry stone construction were blown down allowing animals to stray and mix with other herds and flocks. High orchard walls on rural estates fell in long sections. Sheep on mountains were blown to their death and killed by loose stones tumbling down hillsides. Hill farmers were depleted of their chief source of income.
CLOGHER AND LOCALITY
On the 6th January 1839, ‘The night of the big wind’ Clogher House was badly damaged and left roofless. This disaster was however welcomed as it gave reason to remodel the house – a further storey was added to the house and it was roofed with modern slates. In the vicinity of Lough Carra eight houses were blown down and destroyed.
Near Castlebar the house of Mr. Henry Browne at Rehins was badly damaged and four thousand trees in the vicinity were torn up, while at Greenhill on the road to Westport two children were killed when the houses in which resided was destroyed.
There were people in every community who practiced weather forecasting (with a degree of success) using such factors as the lunar cycle, appearance of the sky and sea, wind direction, the behaviour of birds, animals, fish and insects and their own intuition. Amateur weather forecasters failed to predict the event, so the people sought their explanations elsewhere.
The superstitious were quick to blame the fairies. Traditionally the 5th of January was the feast of St. Ceara, when, it was believed, the fairies held a night of revelry. The fairies, they thought, caused such ructions that the storm resulted. Others believed that on that night most of the fairies of Ireland left the country never to return and that the wind was caused by their departure.
The devout, noting that the storm occurred on the night of 6th of January - the Christian feast of Epiphany, saw it as of Divine origin. All the more so since many Roman Catholics in Ireland believed that the 7th of January would be the Day of Judgement. The wrath of God was a favourite reason cited by local newspapers. For many, the Night of the Big Wind caused them to re-think their lives as it re-awakened their belief in the existence of God. The weather remained unsettled for days following the storm and occasionally the wind became gusty causing people to fear that the storm would return.
The overwhelming terror of the storm, particularly the injury and destruction it caused, was long remembered by those who experienced the event. A rumbling noise, similar to thunder at a low volume, continued throughout the storm but increased in volume as the gusts increased. The storm quenched lanterns and candles and it was impossible to see what was actually happening, except when streaks of lightning occasionally illuminated a district or when the sky cleared and the aurora borealis illuminated the northern sky in a mantle of red. People huddled together in fear, barely able to hear each other speak, as the houses around them shook. Many fearing that their houses would be blown down on top of them crawled into the fields where they clung to bushes and rushes. It was a frightful night for all but particularly scary for those attending wakes or travelling long distances.
Blessed Well Walk
A walk to Tobermacduagh Blessed Well will be held on Good Friday March 25th the traditional pilgrimage day or Pattern Day at his shrine.
As Good Friday was traditionally the official Pattern Day at this well there will be a short prayer service, reflection on St. Colman Mac Duagh & prayers for all unbaptised children buried here.
Tobermacduagh Holy Well is situated in Killeen townland in the parish of Drum .The name is ascribed to Colman-Mac-Duac, who lived at the beginning of the 7th century. (Another sister well is located in Kinvara, County Galway and is closely associated with Colman, who gave the name Kilmacduach to the diocese. He was closely related to Guaire, King of Connaught).
Stations of the Cross were performed annually on Good Friday. Pilgrims came and erected tents in this area. Over 100 years ago this tradition ceased and the well fell into disrepair.
In the townland of Killeen was the site of an old Church and burial ground for the unbaptised babies. It was said that little coffins were brought in the night and the only sign that a burial had taken place was a newly made grave. This practice stopped around 1900 and cattle were let graze in the area but it was never tilled.
The phrase "Children's burial ground" refers to an unconsecrated place used primarily, though not exclusively, for the burial of unbaptised children. When the Well was being refurbished it was thought to be appropriate to recognise those who lay here and erect a small memorial to them.
This walk is an ideal family walk along quiet country roads is approx 5.5 km in length and is relatively easy. Although the walk reaches only 41 metres at its highest point there are excellent views of the surrounding countryside.
Walk will be led by Brían Hoban, Fáilte Ireland Approved Guide.
This walk is a free event organised by Clogher Environmental Group.