THE LEGEND OF FINVARRA

As the person is not always conscious of her state while labouring under what is termed by physicians "puerpural mania," it is rather difficult to get any very accurate or collected account of the fairy nursery in which they pass their time; and when the cures and charms prove ineffectual, and they "die all out," the truth becomes more difficult to attain; nevertheless it is not quite impossible. In proof of this, we would refer our readers to a very poetic and well-told legend in the Rev. Mr. Neilson's "Introduction to the Irish Language," where we have an account of one Mary Rourke, who, having died in childbirth, in the county of Galway, was washed, laid out, waked, keened, and buried with all due form and ceremonial. Mary, however, "was in Knockmagha, three quarters of a year, nursing a child, entertaining with mirth and sweet songs; but notwithstanding, she was certainly in affliction. At length the host of the castle told her that her husband was now married to another woman, and that she should indulge no longer in sorrow and melancholy; that Fin Varra and all his family were about to pay a visit to the province of Ulster. They set out at cock-crowing, from smooth Knockmaah forth, both Fin Varra and his valiant host. And many a fairy castle, rath and mount they shortly visited from dawn of day till fall of night, on beautiful winged coursers:

     'Around Knock Greine and Knock-na-Rae,
     Ben Bulbin and Keis-Corainn,
     To Ben Echlann and Loch Da ean,
     From thence north-east to Slieve Guilin,
     They travelled the lofty hills of Mourne,
     Round high Slieve Donard and Ballachanery,
     Down to Dundrim, Dundrum and Dunardalay,
     Right forward to Knock-na-Feadala'"

These were all the celebrated haunts of the fairy people in the west and north. Now at the foot of Knock-na-Feadala there lived with his mother, who was a widow woman, a boy named Thady Hughes, an honest, pious, hard-working bachelor. Well, Thady went out on Hallow Eve night, and about the very time that the court of Fin Varra were passing thrtough the air, and as he stood in the gap of an old fort looking up at the stars that were shining bright through the clear frosty air, he observed a dark cloud moving towards him from the south-west, with a great whirlwind; and he heard the sound of horses upon the wind, as a mighty troop of cavalry came over the ford, and straight along the valley, to the very rath on which he stood. Thady was in a mighty flustrification, and trembled all over; but he remembered that he had often heard it said by knowledgeable people, that if you cast the dust that is under your foot against the whirlwind at the instant it passes you, "them that's in it" (that is, if they have any human being along with them) are obliged to be released.

So, being of a humane disposition, he lifted a handful of gravel that was under his foot, and threw it lustily, in the namy of the Trinity, against the blast, when, lo and behold! down falls a young woman, neither more or less than Mary Rourke from Galway, all the way, but mighty wake entirely. Thady took courage, having heard her groan like a Christian, so he spoke softly to her, and lifted her up, and brought her home to his mother, who took care of her till she recovered. In process of time the heart of Thady was softened, and he took Mary to wife, and they lived mighty happy and contented for a year and a day, the lovingest couple in the whole county Down, till a stocking merchant from Connemara, passing that way, recognised her as the wife of Michael Joyce, of Gort, who shortly after came all the way to from Connaught to claim her: and it took six clergy and a bishop to say whose wife she was.

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Gura Mi Ayd!

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Revised: October 31, 1998.