Glenbower is a
sub-division of the townland of Garryduff. It adjoins the townlands
of Kilmanahin, Oldcourt and Mullinbeg. The wood of Glenbower was
originally planted by the Earl of Bessborough in the 18th century.
Landlords were given government grants to plant deciduous woods on
their estates. Glenbower became the property of the Irish Free State
in the 1930s. After having been burnt down during the Irish Civil
War of 1922-23, it was replanted with conifers.
Thicketed in legend
and lore, it is a place of mystery and a place of pre-Christian
significance. On the river called the Glenbower river, which flows
through the wood, is a waterfall, which is the source of an
interesting legend. A legend which illustrates vividly the fusion of
the old Celtic or pagan religion with the new Christianity.
A snake like
serpent is said to have inhabited the waterfall. The legend of St.
Patrick visiting here with his donkey tells how he slayed the snake
with his crozier. Red stones in the river, which are really red
sandstone, are said to mark the spot where Patrick's donkey cut his
knee while crossing the river. The stones are stained with the
donkey's blood. Again it is highly unlikely that St. Patrick himself
ever visited Glenbower or anywhere in the parish of Templeorum. This
point of literal truth is not the issue. Here we have a legend of
deep significance, one which echoes St. Patrick's banishing of the
snakes from Ireland. This is a local version of the widely known
legend. It symbolises the defeat of so called paganism by
Christianity. In other words the conquest of good over a perceived
evil as the wider well known legend of the snakes symbolises. Of
course there is no evidence to suggest that snakes existed in
Ireland then if ever. Again this factual truth is not relevant here.
The crozier represents the might of the new Christianity, as it does
in the legend relating to the overthrowing of the dolmen at
The Celtic sacred waters of wells and waterfalls are associated with
the three archetypes of light the sun, the eye and consciousness.
Consciousness is not physical vision alone, it is the inner eye or
how we take in what we see physically and how we become aware of its
significance. Celtic rivers have their own indwelling deities.
Certain waterfalls were said to have healing properties, especially
for sprains and muscle pains - hence the symbolism of the donkey
cutting his knee on the stones in the waterfall. The donkey is an
important animal in Christianity, he carries the cross of Jesus on
his back. It was on a donkey that Christ rode into Jerusalem on Palm
Sunday to shouts of joy and jubilation before his betrayal and
crucifixion on Good Friday.
The crossing of the
river is not merely a physical journey or the crossing from one side
to the other. Its significance reaches much deeper. Christianity as
a belief and as a spirituality is often described as being a
journey, the metaphor of journey is a well trotted out one by now.
The Celts too believed that life was a journey. At its deeper level
what is meant by journey in the two beliefs and in their coming
together in Celtic Christianity, is the journey inwards, walked in a
circular route, back to the light from which each of us came, to the
light of Christ or of the soul, to which each of us returns. St.
Patrick in the legend is crossing over from one belief to another,
namely from pre-Christianity to Christianity. In essence the journey
of the soul.
Lore tells of the
Banshee combing her hair in Glenbower wood, near the waterfall. The
Banshee whose origins are not clear, might be a guardian angel of
certain families as she is associated with certain surnames. Her
screeching fortells an impending death in the family. A comb seen on
a window-sill in the morning that was not put there by a human
belongs to the Banshee. This is a sign of somone's death, especially
if left on a bedroom window-sill.
In Glenbower wood,
adjoining the townlands of Oldcourt and Kilmanahin, there is a stone
shorter in height than that of a regular standing stone. This stone
according to tradition marks the spot called the 'mass-hollow' or
mass-pit. In this writer's opinion it is pre-Christian in origin,
possibly the remains of a place of worship. What was destroyed in
the original planting of the wood can never be known? There is a
similar type stone though less distinctive at the Mullinbeg end of
the wood not far from the river either. Glenbower is the meeting
point of a maze of roads mentioned earlier. Could these stones mark
stopping-places on a journey? Are they some kind of sign-posts?
were said to be laid down by the feet of angels trodding on them,
trackways before Christianity were trodden on by fairies and were
sacred to the fairies. Christianity replaced the fairies with
angels. The well known prohibition of not interfering with a
masspath, such as ploughing it, might have had its origin in their
sacred fairy and angel association. There is so much we cannot and
do not know. It is this elusive quality which makes a visit to
Glenbower wood such a treasure.
From Parish of Templeorum, a Historical Miscellany, (Granagh)
1999, © MaryO'Shea
Piltown Land League.
Express" of 1880 carries an account of a large Land League meeting
held in the village of Piltown on December 19th 1880. Templeorum and
Owning had their own branches. Rev. Shortal C.C. Piltown headed the
Piltown branch of the Land League, with 103 members. Rev. Doyle C.C.
Owning had 94 members and Rev. Murphy Templeorum had 71 members. A
great number of them had subscribed from 2s 6d to £1 each. The total
amount was to go towards the expense of the Parnell Defence fund and
partly towards the expense of the public meeting to be held on
December 19th. On the Friday before the Land League meeting in
Owning, Lord Bessborough offered to grant a reduction of 10% to all
tenants paying before January 1st 1881. The tenants set no value on
this reduction. Bum-bailiff Clearly had been visiting the northern
district of the estate warning tenants to pay, for those afraid to
go to the estate office to lodge money (Belline House), they could
lodge at a bank. It was proposed to card this bailiff but the Land
League did not want violence.
It is rumoured that
an official connected with the earl's office will be boycotted
within a fortnight. He is suspected to be unfriendly towards the
tenants and at present is always attended by Lord Bessborough's
groom while travelling about. The mass meeting on Sunday December
19th aimed to form a branch of the Land League on the Iverk estate.
Between 5 and 6,000 people attended, there were large contingents
from Carrick, Mullinavat, Portlaw and Waterford. Portlaw marched in
procession with the Carrick-on-Suir Brass Band, headed by 80
persons, led by Mr. J.D. Power. Some 60 horsemen from Kilmacthomas
district headed by Mr. D. Gleeson were there. The Thomas Meagher
Brass Band from Waterford played at intervals around the village.
Mr. E. Blackmore on whom the whole responsibility of the meeting
rested carried out all the arrangements of the day. The Moroccan
contingent was very large with banners and appropriate mottoes. Rev.
Maher C.C. Windgap presided
present on the platform were E. Leamy M.P. for Waterford, Major
Gorman, Rev. Shortal, Rev. Nearly Mooncoin, Rev. Doyle Owning,
Messrs. T. Bowers Graigavine, J. Nolan, W. Sheehy Mullinavat, Martin
Walsh Waterford, J.D. Power Tinhalla, E. O'Brien Three Bridges, E.
Lonergran Waterford, J.P. Kennedy Waterford, L. Larkin, D. Gleeson,
E. Moloney Kilmachthomas, John Ryan Waterford, E. Blackmore Piltown,
R. Power Waterford, W.G. Fisher Waterford, James Brophy, John Hearn
Moondhiga, T. Sheehy, P. Walsh Springfield, T. Casey Waterford, T.
Duggan Carrick-on-Suir, J. O'Connell Carrick-on-Suir, Joseph Hearn,
E. Walsh P.L.G. and M. Treacy P.L.G.
The speakers were
chairman Rev. Maher C.C. Windgap, Major Gorman, Rev. Shortal Piltown,
Mr. E. Leamy M.P., Mr. T. Power jnr. Graigavine, he was vice
Chairman of Carrick-on-Suir Land League and E. Blackmore also spoke
Rev. Shortal delivered a lengthy address to the crowd in which he
condemned the landlord system for making paupers of Irishmen who had
to seek a livelihood in foreign shores or die broken hearted by the
wayside or in the workhouse. Ireland he said did not want charity,
it wanted industry, but they could not have it when tenant farmers
were burdened with heavy rents. Was it not time the tide of
emigration that has so depopulated this country should stop? He
responded to accusations that priests who attended Land League
meetings were inciting people to violence by vehemently denying the
charge on behalf of the priests of Ireland. It was the priest's
place to be at the head of the people, it was their duty to relieve
them of their temporal wants and necessities. He urged the people to
be united in their fight for justice. He believed that the present
Government (of Gladstone) was very willing to do everything in its
power for Ireland and therefore he urged the people not to use any
violence. Loud cheering accompanied and followed his address.
were bad in the late 1870s and 1880s. The year 1879 because of bad
harvest weather, especially in the west of Ireland, threatened to be
a repeat of the Famine of the 1840s. Cattle and grain prices were
James Brophy of
Oldcourt did lose his farm because of Land League activity during
this period. On the whole, on the Bessbrough estate, conditions were
not dire and the amount of trouble was not significant during this
period. Farmers under the leadership and inspiration of Parnell and
Davitt were beginning to demand the repeal of the inefficient
landlord system. They wanted more control over their livelihoods,
the three F's - fixture of tenure, fair rent and free sale were the
central aims of the Land War of 1880-82. The fall of Parnell
resulting from the citing of him by Kitty O'Shea's husband as
correspondent in a file for divorce, led to a split which led to the
collapse of the movement. However in 1904 farmers finally gained the
right to take out loans enabling them to buy their land, they paid
annuities as repayment, at last were not answerable to the land
agent of the landlord.
History of Piltown Co-Operative and Its Branches, (Granagh) 2001,
© Mary O'Shea
A Look the Rural Hinterland of
Piltown Creamery in 1901.
The 19th century Bessborough estate village
of Piltown straddles four townlands. These are Belline and
Rogerstown, Banagher, Ardclone and Kildalton. In the year 2000, the
geographical situation has not changed as the modern village
straddles the same four townlands. This chapter looks at the social
structure and population of the rural hinterland of the village of
Piltown at the beginning of the 20th century, a year after the
formation of Piltown Co-operative Agricultural and Dairy Society
Limited. In many ways what is here contained, reflects the social
structure of the rural Ireland of the time, and especially that of
south county Kilkenny. A townland in the upland district, that of
Raheen, in the Mullenbeg catchment area is examined.
The sheets containing the rural entity of
the townland of Banagher appear to be missing from the microfilm,
maybe they are also missing from the original forms. For instance
cattle figure sheets for 1901 are missing. The larger portion of the
townland is occupied by the village of Piltown itself. Also the
Census enumerators has placed most of the village of Piltown in the
Belline and Rogerstown townland. So in 1901 the Banagher portion of
the village contains two families living into two separate houses.
Both are second class houses with slate roofs and stone walls,
leased from Viscount Duncannon or Earl of Bessborough. Eliza
Doherty, lodge-keeper, with daughter Mary and son Fred inhabit one
house. The second house, which is another lodge, is inhabited by
Mary Anne O'Halloran and daughter Ellen aged two.
Belline and Rogerstown.
Moving to the rural entity of the townland
of Belline and Rogerstown, on the northern and western outskirts of
the village of Piltown, there are 17 houses, 16 of whom are
inhabited by a population of 61 people, 10 of whom are Church of
Ireland. All the houses are stone walled and slated, the number of
out-offices numbering from 1,6,3 to 14 and 15. Belline House is
included here, and so is the large farm house of what is now Lal
Kiely's attached to the Belline House demesne.The number of rooms in
each dwelling house vary from 2, 4 to 6. All 2nd class houses, with
the exception of Belline House, the Bessbrough Land Agent's
residence, which is a 1st class house. It is a Neo-Classical
James Hurley, a shoemaker.
Captain W. Penrose, resident of Belline
James Mansfield, a blacksmith family from
Bridget Butler.James Flynn.
Rural Entity of Ardclone.
The rural entity of the townland of Ardclone,
to the west of the village of Piltown, contained in 1901, 11 houses,
all inhabited and 53 people. The names of the heads of households
are as follows:
Catherine Daniel, railway gatekeeper.
Thomas Shea aged 34, farmer, not married,
who lives with his sister Theresa aged 25 who is described as a
housekeeper. In the house with the family are Michael Phelan aged
19, an unmarried farm servant and Bridget Phelan, aged 17, an
unmarried female servant, or to use the colloquial expression, a
'servant girl.' The above Thomas Shea was a committee man of Piltown
creamery. He and his household are representative of the typical
medium size farm family of rural south Kilkenny and of the
post-Famine Ireland of the beginning of the 20th century. The type
of farming practised on his 42 acre farm was mixed farming, the
milking of cows, the rearing of calves to yearling or year and a
half stage, to be sold at the fairs at Carrick or Waterford, to the
graziers and fatteners in county Meath, the growing of tillage crops
such as oats, wheat, barley, potatoes, cabbage, swedes, maybe
mangols, with which to feed cattle, horses and humans. Definitely
one horse if not two were kept as work horses. Though aged 34 he is
not yet married, and this is in line with the social structure and
mores of class which he represents.
The trend in the post-Famine Ireland was
that of later marriage. For instance his wife's fortune or dowry
would in large measure give a dowry to his sister Theresa to enable
her to marry into another farmer. Or else she remained unmarried and
worked at home until her death. Or she might have entered religious
lif but she would do so before the age of 25. The servants,
Michael Phelan and Bridget may not never marry either. They might
continue to live and work on the Shea farm for the rest of their
lives. When too old to work, if very infirm, with no one to look
after them, these servants often died in the work house. Again,
something that was very typical of this type of family, it produced
a diocesan priest, Fr. Richard O'Shea. An old saying from Mooncoin,
which defines the south Kilkenny medium size farming family in
social terms, goes as follows: "A bull for the cows, three churns in
the yard and a priest in the family." These being the pillars of
success and social status in the radically altered landscape of
John Brown, farmer, with wife and five
children, one daughter Margaret is a lady's companion.
Interestingly, both husband and wife and three of the children can
speak both Irish and English. The parents are native Irish speakers,
the children may been involved in the Gaelic League, which was then
active in Piltown. In 1901 the spoken language, Gaelic or Irish, is
still known by a relatively small number of people, born in the
1830s and 1840s, native speakers, the majority of whom are working
class, and a smaller number are farmers.
John Walsh, mill worker.
John Norris, carpenter.
All the above are farmers, except where
Rural Entity of Kildalton.
The rural part of the townland of Kildalton,
to the east and south of the village of Piltown, in 1901, has 19
houses and 68 people. The Bessborough demesne, occupies 797 out of
the 799 statute acres in the townland of Kildalton. Here follows the
names of heads of households:
Bartholmew O'Keefe, Royal Patoons, on
Edmond Grace, labourer.
James Scully, general labourer and
Patrick Carroll, agricultural labourer.
James Shea, shepard.
Robert Laurie, Presbyterian, born in
Scotland, under steward.
Richard Holden, horse trainer.
Michael Mitchel, land steward, born in
Maura Manning, fowl rearer.
Stephen Knox, farm labourer.
Jessica Forrest, domestic servant,
housekeeper, born in Scotland. In this household with her there are
8 other servants, all of whom, except one, are Church of Ireland
denomination. They are as follows - Margaret Faithweather, laundry
maid, born in Scotland, Ellen Swain, laundry maid, born in England,
Mary Lucas, laundry maid, born in England, Rose Brooks, housemaid,
born in England, Millie Jameson, stillroom maid, born in Scotland,
Maud Thoroughgood, housemaind, born in London, Annie Davies,
housemaid, born in South Wales, and Maura O'Neill, Roman Catholic,
housemaind, born in county Kilkenny.
These here under are the servant staff
living in the servants' quarters of Bessborough House. None of them
James Pedder, Church of Ireland, domestic
servant, born in London.
Thomas Mara, stableman, not married, living
with his sister, born in county Kilkenny.
Willaim Cleary, general labourer, born in
John George Weston, gardener/domestic, born
in England, Church of Ireland.
Michael Shadbolt, gardener/domestic, Church
of Ireland, born in England. In the same household there are three
other servants - James Prendergast, Roman Catholic,
gardener/domestic, born in county Tipperary, Robert Smart, Church of
Ireland, gardener/domestic, born incounty Meath, and Samuel Slatin,
Church of Ireland, gardener/servant, born in county Longford.
Fenton Maguire, Park Ranger, born in county
Abraham May, dairy manager, born in county
Raheen - a
townland in an upland District of the Walsh Mountain.
Looking at Raheen, one of the townlands in
the catchmen area of the Mullinbeg branch of Piltown creamery in
1901, we see the profile of a rural community in one of the Walsh
Mountain, upland districts, into which the co-operative movement as
represented by the local creamery reached. Raheen has 15 houses and
88 people, all except three are living in what is classified as 2nd
class houses, of the two, one family lives in a 3rd class house, the
second lives in a 1st class house. In the main these are slated
traditional type farmhouses, originally one storey high, with
thatched roof, which were risen to two storey height with slated
roof in the 19th century. The original thatched, clay walled houses,
probably date from the late 1600s. John Ryan, formerly of Kilmogue,
told this writer that his one storey, previously thatched farmhouse
at Kilmogue, was built in 1690, as this number was discovered etched
on a stone at the front of the house, during renovations, years ago.
For instance John Daniels senior of Raheen, now aged 96, told this
writer that he remembers in his childhood, McCarthy's farmhouse as
having a thatched roof.
A 1st class farmhouse is defined in the 1901
Census as a one or two storey house, with slated roof, walls built
of stones, mixed with lime and sand, containing four rooms and six
windows. In 1901 there are six thatched farmhouses in the townland
These are the farmhouse of Bridget Brown,
classified as 3rd class, with stone walls, two rooms and two
windows. Richard Fitzpatrick, stone walls, with three rooms and five
Michael Fitzpatrick with stone walls, two
rooms and three windows.
Denis McCarthy with stone walls, three rooms
and three windows.
Thomas Walsh, stone walls, with three rooms
and two windows.
John Holden with stone walls, two rooms
and two windows.
The single storey thatched farmhouse,
generally, had one or two bedrooms at ground level, and a low loft
which was accessed by means of a wooden ladder at upper level.
Whereas the larger, two storey farmhouse contained within it, one
bedroom or none at downstairs or ground level, and a stairs leading
to three or two bedrooms at top level. Each house with three or four
rooms in total, had a parlour, modern day name is sitting-room, to
the left as you entered the porch, the kitchen with its open fire
and stairway leading to upper storey to the right of the porch. Some
houses had another room known as a dairy leading off the kitchen
along with dining room or downstairs bedroom. Household butter was
made and stored in this dairy room before co-op creameries came into
being. Sometimes the dairy was an out-house, attached to the
The following are the names of the heads of
households or families in the townland of Raheen in 1901:
Bridget Brown, farmhouse derelict now,
farm owned by Daniel's of Raheen.
Richard Fitzpatrick, farmhouse derelict,
farm now owned by Michael Kinsella, Dowling.
Michael Fitzpatrick, farmhouse house now in
other ownership, farm sold in lots in 1986, to Michael Kinsella of
Dowling and to Michael Miklis, a German national.
Anastatia Morris, farmhouse derelict, farm
exchanged through Land Commission in the 1940s for farm at
Bridget Power, farmhouse unoccupied, farm
now owned by the Daniel's of Raheen.
James Murphy, house in other ownership,
fields in different ownership.
Ambrose Daniel, farmhouse still occupied and
farm owned by same family.
John Daniel, the western end of joined
farmhouse, vacant, both houses and farms owned by John Daniels of
Denis McCarthy, farmhouse unoccupied, farm
now owned by Pat Walsh of Kilmurry and John Daniels of Raheen.
Michael Power, farmhouse unoccupied, farm
now owned by Daniel's of Raheen.
Thomas Walsh, farm and house of the Walsh
business family of Templeorum, farm remains in the family, as an
outside farm, dwelling is unoccupied.
John Cleary, cottage long gone.
Patrick Ryan, cottage at side of road, now
Mary Phelan, the farm of relations, the
Fitzgeralds, land leased, house occupied.
Margaret Shea, farm of this writer, still
occupied by the O'Shea family, land leased.
John Holden, blacksmith with two small
fields. The house is semi-derelict, land is owned by Paddy Cullen of
Folklore in the Templeorum, Owning and Piltown,
Districts of South County Kilkenny.
A Definition of
"Lore or legend is
not simply a collection of amusing and fabulous stories handed down
orally from one generation to the next, rather it is a way of
explaining the processes of natures and the mystery of existences by
ancient, largely illiterate peoples before the advent of science. A
mythological world picture was common to all ancient cultures across
the globe, with variations of different myths occurring across
different cultures. For example before Christianity came to Norway,
people believed that lightening and thunder happened when the god
Thor rode across the sky in a chariot drawn by two goats, swinging
his hammer." (From The Marrying of Brigit and Christ in the
Parish of Templeorum, Introduction (Granagh) 2000, p. 2,
by Mary O'Shea.)
within the ambit of lore, myth and legend. In the Gaelic tradition
as distinct from the Greek myths, none of it was written down, until
the coming of Christianity to Ireland in a more organised way, in
the 5th century, with the return of Patrick to Ireland as a
missionary. In the centuries which followed, these myths, legends
and beliefs, were Christianized. The great mythological sagas such
as the Táin Bó Culáige, the story of the contest for
possession of the Brown Bull of Cooley, was committed to manuscript
in the post Christian era. In many cases, in the committing of these
ancient stories to paper, by the Christian monks, a liberal amount
of revisionism was applied to the original story. At its most
simple, folklore can be defined as body of stories illustrating the
way of life and beliefs of a people at a given period, in place and
time, coming to encompass their culture. The folklore of the
Templeorum, Owning and Piltown, districts of south county Kilkenny
is both a reflection of its own specific way of life and beliefs and
those of the wider Gaelic/Celtic tradition.
As a local historian in my historical
research and in my growing up in the south county Kilkenny, I came
by many stories. A collection of my folklore stories is deposited in
the Department of Folklore at University College Dublin. The
manuscripts of the National Schools Collection collected by the
Folklore Commission in the 1930s is also there and contains material
from the schools in my area. The material on this site is drawn from
both my own collection and the latter 1930s Folklore Commission
Collection, which I accessed on microfilm at the county library in
Kilkenny city. In what comprises folklore - myths, legends,
superstitions, beliefs and practices, there is flowing through some
recurring motifs or themes. Both on a local level and a wider level,
the magical numbers 3, 5, 7, and nine recur, the animal world,
magical horses, cows, pigs , bulls, and the black hound, the red
haired woman at the well, the banshee, her comb, sightings of
fairies, sometimes hurling in raths late at night, the witch like
woman who can appear in the guise of a rabbit who steals butter or
cream on the eve of 1st of May and the headless funeral coaches,
seen late at night. Lore and legend is not a set of actual factual
truths, if you fail to see beyond this and miss the symbolism, you
have missed everything. The symbolism is the wheel on which it turns
and spins out to the wider world of recognition. Symbolism is
inherent in all early peoples and their cultures. In relaying the
selection of stories chosen for inclusion in this site, I attempt
to give a short explanation as to what may be the symbolism
underlying each story.
By Mary O’Shea
Published in Christmas Supplement, Munster Express, December
As with many counties throughout the country, the county of Kilkenny
is rich in lore and legend. The Folklore Commission in the 1930s
collected many of them from National School pupils throughout the
country, and the Kilkenny scholar John O’Donovan spent his life in
the mid 19th century collecting lore. We have the O’Donovan Ordnance
Survey Letters for each county. He also contributed to the Journal
of the Royal Society of Antiquities of Ireland, then published in
Apart from human ghosts in the form of the banshee for instance,
animals feature frequently in lore and legend. Ancient peoples lived
in intimate connection with the natural world around them and
depended on it to sustain them through their lives. The early Irish
saints in their closeness to nature, had animals as companions, St.
Ciaran, for instance is a good example, as a fox and a badger were
his helpmates. There is the well known Legend of St. Ciaran, in
which his sister who was living with him was devoured by a wolf and
he in his great distress knitted back the bones and buried her as a
Saint Kieran's well, Kilkieran
St. Kieran's well.Certain animals symbolise an
unlucky or even evil influence, the snake/serpent is an almost
universal symbol of temptation, of the Devil. Particularly in the
Judea/Christian tradition. For instance in south Kilkenny, St.
Patrick is said to have banished with his crozier a serpent who
lived in the river running through the wood of Glenbower, near
Owning. At the waterfall, the red stones are stained by the blood of
St. Patrick’s donkey as he cut a knee crossing the river. It is on a
donkey that Jesus Christ, that the founder of Christianity rode in
triumph into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The donkey is said to have
the outline of the Cross on his back from this association with
Christ. The donkey symbolises goodness, a good omen.
Cattle and horses are the subjects of sagas and myths, not only
confined to the Celtic canon of legend but feature in the legends of
other cultures across the globe. In occurrence the cow and the bull,
take predominance. For instance St. Brigit was reared on the milk of
a red eared cow. In the Ulster Cycle sagas a collection of Irish
epic prose stories, belonging to a group called the Tåin, or
the Cattle Raid of Cooley, feature the brown Brown Bull, the
Donn and the White Bull of Cooley. It is a story of cattle rustling,
political strife between Ulster and Connaught, and the ambition of
Queen Meabh to subdue Ulster and have the Brown Bull of Cooley. This
ancient saga was written down in the 12th century by Christian
scribes and was given a Christian interpretation, with a liberal
dappling of revisionism.
Moving to the Near East, Indians personified all aspects of nature
and spirituality in the form of their numerous deities. The best
loved deity of Krishna the cowherd, eight incarnation of Vishnu. He
lives as child in the forest surrounded by childhood friends, by
cows and by peacocks. He dances with his lover, the divine Radha,
and together they share perfect spiritual love. Followers of Krishna
offer him their unconditional devotion as the one Supreme God. The
cow is sacred in India.
In outer Mongola, among the Khalkha tribe, there is a belief that
their origin is due to the love of a shamanic nature spirit and a
cow. The first Khalka was born from a cow and raised on her creamy
milk, and left to the tribe a natural inclination towards cattle
rearing and nomadic life. The married women of this tribe wear their
hair parted in the middle, combed outwards, and stiffened with
mutton fat, in the form of a long pair of horns. Their dresses are
notable for the high projections that they wear on their shoulders,
resembling the shoulder blades of cattle.
In the Irish context, these stories were handed down orally, as the
ancient Irish committed nothing to paper, so it was in the early
Christian era and especially, in the 12th century that most of these
sagas and legends were written down, and given the Christian slant,
imbued with a Christian moral instruction. Here under are stories
from south county Kilkennny
Coffin Stone, Ballyhennebry
An Unclean Beast.
In the parish of Kilcolumb, barony of Ida, there is an elevation
called Con-bhuidhe, which got its name from the following
legend. It comes from the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick. St.
Patrick travelled through the plains of Ossory, on his conversion
and to see what progress his predecessor St. Ciaran had made. He
came to a remarkable hill, then called Cnoc-na-radharc, -
hill of the sights or views, and he resolved to build a church
there. Patrick set about the work, and collected a number of
labourers and others to help him. While the work was progressing, a
woman who lived in the adjacent village of Ballincrea, sent St.
Patrick a present of an animal cooked in a dish for his dinner.
After he viewed the animal for some time, he formed the view that it
was an unclean beast, and, moreover, as he had found some of the
inhabitants of the area ill-instructed in Christianity, and others
stubborn pagans, he concluded that the present was sent to insult
him. So he laid down the dish upon a large stone, he knelt down upon
the same stone, and prayed to God to restore life to whatever animal
had been cooked. A yellow hound sprang from the dish and ran in the
direction of the conflux of the Three Waters. St. Patrick ordered
the workmen to kill it, and they followed the hound with spades,
pick-axes, shovels, and crow-bars. A mile away they overtook it and
killed it. They buried it on the side of the road, and over its
grave sprang a white-thorn, called “The Little Thorn of the Hound.”
All the stones from a one mile distant of this white-thorn show the
track of the hound’s feet, and one stone contains a hollow which is
said to be the impression of St. Patrick’s knee. This hollow is
filled with water and is regarded as being sacred.
High Cross, Ahenny.
In a place called Tinnahoe, there is a small lake, out of which
horses of a black colour, were seen to emerge. These are enchanted
horses, and a man versed in the art of catching these beautiful
animals, caught a mare. She remained with him until she had seven
foals. As the man who had her, used the halter with which he caught
for common purposes and scolded the animal herself, called her ugly
names and mentioned the name of the devil, he lost her. As soon as
she heard the name of the evil one she neighed seven times, broke
loose from his grasp, and ran towards the lake, followed by her
seven foals. Mac Oda, the owner, saw the mare and her foals plunge
into the water according to their age.
There is a field, a hilly one, in the townland of Raheen, in which
magical white horses were seen. A group of young lads were crossing
this field after stealing apples in an orchard a mile away, when out
of nowhere, a herd of white horses began to chance after them. They
ran with fright and lost their apples in the rush away from these
horses. Only when they had crossed the stream in the bog, leading
into the Mountain Grove wood, did the horses disappear into thin
air. The field is said to a haunted one.
Horses pull headless coaches and hearses late at night. Sightings of
these are quite common in lore stories. A field called “The Mass
Path” field is the location of many sightings of such coaches, late
at night, in the townland of Raheen.
The hound, be he either yellow or black features in many stories. In
the townland of Raheen, again, he crosses a Mass path and old
roadway, at the spot where an old mansion house or colloquially
called “Shireley’s Castle,” stands. A man is believed to have been
murdered here by his brother, tumbled out of a boat in a field in
the front of the castle, where there was an artificial lake. Several
people encountered this strange hound, bearing his white teeth. On
one occasion this hound tried to block the path of a man going over
to Templeorum village to call the priest to a dying person. And on
another occasion the hound halted in front of a passer-by, bearing
his white teeth and exclaiming: Mo Cailin Deas Crua na mbó.
My beautiful young girl who is milks the cows.
A group of men who had been playing cards late into the night in
Miltown, were chased from the vicinity of Muckalee graveyard all the
way to Mullinbeg by a more than one black hound.
A woman living in a small house in Potstown, up Owning hill, near
O’Neill’s mill, was said to be a witch. One morning on the 1st of
May, she came into the cowhouse of a neighbour and was caught
stealing cream. She escaped by changing herself into the form of a
rabbit. This woman is said to have stolen cream and butter from many
farmers. Even though she had only one cow herself and a few hens,
she was never short of milk, butter or eggs, all year round.
These two stories are taken from my own collection and
from the 1930s Folklore Commission Collection from pupils of the
National Schools of Templeorum, Owning and Piltown. In both these
stories, some of the common motifs occur. In the first story, above,
we have the magical white horses of the Otherworld, white horses
feature in Tír na óng, the Land of Everlasting youth, from
which Fionn returns and is changed into an old man, all grey hairs
and wrinkles. The hound appears, this mythical canine may symbolise
the Hound of Cuchaláinn. Sometimes this hound is associated with a
tragic death, such as that of a murder. The struggle between Saint
Patrick and the unclean beast shows us the influence of
Christianity, the unclean beast can be interpreted as symbolising
the "pagan" or pre-Christian world of beliefs and obviously, Saint
Patrick symbolises Christianity, the "true God" and his and its
struggle with the pre-Christian beliefs of early Christian Ireland.
In the story of the seven bishops in a basket, we have a similar
theme, and there is the echo of Moses' basket in the Old Testament.
The wolf is the demon beast in relation to Saint Ciaran. The magical
number 7 is prominent in the bishops' story. The woman who turns
into a rabbit on May Eve to harm steal people's cream and butter and
to make their cows dry is part of the canon of superstitions
associated with 1st May, Bealtine, in the old "Celtic"
calandar. The "Celtic" or "pagan" pre-Christian year was divided
Seven Bishops In A
Taken from The Marrying of Brigit and Christ in the
Parish of Templeorum, (Granagh) 2000.
The lore collected from the national schools of Templeorum,
Harristown, Garrygaug, Tobernabrone, and Piltown in 1938 by the
Folklore Commission, is on microfilm at Kilkenny library. It is
needless to say a fascinating collection of material collected by
the pupils from the grandparents and old neighbours. In compiling
this booklet this writer read them.
Former National School, Templeorum, now Parish Hall.
A man lived with his wife on the hill near Kilkieran. He emigrated
for a time, when he returned home he discovered that he had seven
sons. Infuriated he put them into a basket, to carry them to the
Lingaun river, where he intended to drown them. On his way he met a
priest who asked him what had he in the basket. He replied: "pups."
The priest lifted the cover and saw the infants, he admonished the
man, took the infants away, he reared and educated them. Each of
the seven infants became a bishop. These seven infants were said to
have been born at the one birth.
On their way back from Rome, while walking by Granny Castle, the
Countess Granny sees them, she orders her servant to kill them so as
to get any gold chalices being carried with them. Her
servant chases them as far as Lismatigue, a townland adjoining
Harristown, some seven or eight miles from Granny. They are murdered
at a place called The Ford of the Heads, near the moat at
Lismatigue. Near the moat also are the remains of an old church and
graveyard. They are said to have been buried at Kilkieran and or at
Ahenny, underneath the High Crosses which sprang up overnight over
their graves. In the district of Mullinavat, there is a place called
where it is said three bishops were murdered and three stones sprang
up overnight over their graves. These stones are likely to be three
standing stones which are the remains of a stone circle, a place of
Celtic worship. Different versions of similar type legends occur in
more than one district. The springing up of stones miraculously or
magically overnight over graves might be something of pre-Christian
significance associated with important personages such as Celtic
priests and transferred in early Christian times to Catholic
Long Stone, Garryduff Crossroads.
This is a story or legend carrying more than one symbol. Behind the
legend is the story of a man who returned home from abroad to find
that his wife had committed adultery, having maybe twins not seven
infants as this would have been biologically impossible without
fertility pills and he decided to take revenge by drowning the
innocent infants. The intervention of the priest represents the
intervention of Christ who represents Christianity which abhors
revenge and looks after the innocent. We note that number seven is a
Celtic magic number, this being an ancient Irish legend.
There is an Old Testament Biblical element in the presence of the
basket. Moses immediately springs to mind, a Jew who is a universal
symbol of liberation and leadership. He led the Jews out of slavery
in Egypt, the venerated images being the burning bush, the parted
sea, the dry rock bursting with water and manna.
Rameses II (reign 1279-1213 BC), was threatened by the growth of the
Israelite population and so he ordered the killing of all new born
males by throwing them into the Nile river. Moses' mother kept her
baby hidden for three months in a basket and then set him adrift.
The story of the baby in the basket is a favourite among Hebrew
scholars and it is part of an ancient type of legend handed down
from one generation to another. Pharoh's daughter, an Egyptian,
adopts the child in the basket and calls him Moses. The name is
connected to a Hebrew verb indicating that she drew him from water.
It should be noted that Jesus or Christ was in danger of being
beheaded as a first born male infant by a jealous and power-hungry
ruler of the time, Herod.
The numbers three and seven feature in the Book of Job in the Old
Testament, Job has three daughters, three comforters, and seven
sons. In the mythology and in the literature of many cultures these
two numbers occur frequently, not least in the East and Near East.
Their occurrence is not fully explainable.
In 1814 workmen engaged in
repairs at Lismore Castle County Waterford, came across a walled up
passage where there was hidden a wooden box, wherein was a crozier
and an old vellum manuscript, the remains of the so called Book
of Lismore. This book contains lives of saints written in Irish
with a good dollop of legend thrown in
for good measure. A mixture of the factual and the
imaginative, again heavily symbolic. Brigit is one of the saints
featured. Among the personages who came to visit her during her
lifetime were the seven bishops who were on the hill east of
Leinster. Brigit ordered a certain man of her
household to go and catch fish for the guests. The man in the
attempt to catch a seal was dragged over the sea to the shore of
Britain, the seal made its way back. British fishermen gave a boat
to Brigit's fisherman when he told them of his difficulty. When he
crossed the sea he found his seal on the shore of the sea of
Leinster and took it back to Brigit. It was accounted one of
Brigit's miracles and the fishermen of Britain sang her praises
The basket of Moses is also a symbol of fecundity or plenty. Many
legends have within them a universal element, the story of the seven
bishops is a rich blend of the Celtic, the early Christian and the
Jewish. It is this wider resonance and symbolism which gives it its
real force. We can also see that lawlessness and robbery are not
just a feature of modernity or modern day living.
Samháin, the time of the dead, the dying of the old year and
the beginning of the new on 1st of November. Christianity
Christianises it into All Souls, the 1st of February, Imbólog,
very much associated with saint Brigit, whose person
incorporates in one, the pre-Christian goddess of fertility, of the
arts, of poetry and of metal work, and the Christian nun, saint,
whose feast day is marked on 1st February by among other things, the
making of Brigit's Cross, made of twisted wreaths in the shape of a
crucifix, it marks the beginning of Spring and re-growth,
Beáltine, 1st of May, when May bushes were erected, consisting
of hawthorns or sceachts, decorated with eggs shells and
ribbons, marking the beginning of summer, and on 1st August the
great harvest festival of Lúghnasa, honouring the old God,
Lugh, the god of light and fecundity. May was Christianised to the
month of the Blessed Virgin, indeed, the Virgin Mary and Brigit are
closely linked in early Christianity and the month of August is the
month of the Assumption on the 15th of the month, marking the
reception of the Blessed Virgin, mother of Christ into heaven,
welcomed by her son.
A long time ago there lived a sportsman who hunted every day. This
day as he went out with his horse to hunt he said to his friends and
servants that he would beat the Devil today. As he was riding along
a gentleman rode in front of him with his horse. In the evening he
invited him to tea. When they had finished they played a game of
cards. As they were playing one of the cards fell and this gentleman
went to pick it up. As he was about to pick it up he saw the "epub"
of a hound and people say that the Devil has one "epub". They sent
for a priest to drive out the Devil. When the priest arrived at the
house he drove the Devil through the slates of the house. Whilist
the Devil was flying through the slates he tumbled down a great
number of slates. The next day a mass was said. They went to put up
the slates but as they put them up they were falling down. At last
he had to put a sheath of glass on top of the house. The house is
still to be seen in Kilkenny.
Written by Mary Joe O'Shea, Raheen a pupil of Templeorum N.S.,
collected from her father Thomas O'Shea.
A watery sun donates rain. When the sun is red in the sky in the
morning it is a sign of bad weather. Red in the evening is a sign of
good weather. A mackerel sky is a sign of wet weather. A circle
around the moon is sign of rain. A cloudy sky denotes rain. Rainbow
in the morning is a sign of rain. Rainbow in the night is a sign of
good weather. "Rainbow in the morning is a sailor's warning. Rainbow
in the night is a shepard's delight." When a pinkish flame comes
from he fire it is a sign of rain. When the swallows fly low it
denotes good weather. When the curlew screams it foretells bad
Written by Patrick Culleton of Ashtown, pupil of Templeorum N.S.
It does not say from whom he collected the material, presumably his
parents or old neighbours.
People sought cures in many deserted places long ago. A doctor was
very seldom sent for or required as the people cured their ailments
with herbs. Many of the medical remedies used at present were not
known by the old people.
A person whose surname was Walsh or Cahill, his blood was employed
to cure wild fire. The blood of a black cat was used also for this
disease. To heal a cut a cobweb was applied, after which the cut was
soon healed. For warts many cures were employed, the slime of a
snail being the commonest, after which the snail was hung on a
hawthorn bush and left to wither. When the snail withered the wart
withered also. A frog was sometimes used to cure toothache. A burned
alder stick was used to heal ringworm.
Many people visited holy wells to cure sore eyes. Some applied the
water to their eyes while others drank it.
Written by Nancy Moran of Kilmogue, collected from her father
Note: The above two stories, with others, were published in
Parish of Templeorum, a Historical Miscellany, (Granagh)
1999, by Mary O'Shea. The stories are written down as they were
spoken orally, as I do with the stories in my own collection, in
order to preserve the waof telling, the colloquial expression and
dialect. So excuse the sometimes improper English and grammar.
More Stories Collected in the
Bowers of Cloncunny
can cure any kind of disease. Mansel Bowers has cures and collects
herbs for the diseases. To cure a pain in the back, he boils ground
ivy. Patrick Oakey, Clonmore, can cure warts. Using an alder stick,
he cuts as many holes in it as there are warts on the person. He
then bruises them. The warts will go away. He also says some
prayers. Patrick Cahill could cure wildfire. He ties a cord tightly
around the top of the finger and pricks it. Then he rubs the blood
on the wildfire. There is a man named Eaton Bowers that can cure
dropsy. old tea will cure sore eyes. White paper would stop blood.
Patrick Walsh Mooncoin stops blood, or bleeding. Mrs. Walsh Fiddown
could cure yellow jaundice. St. Patrick's leaf will cure a cut.
My Home District.
I live in the
townland of Raheen in the parish of Templeorum and the Barony of
Iverk. Raheen comes from the Irish word ráithin. It means the
little rath. There are twelve families in Raheen. Their surnames are
- Larkins, Daniels, Browns, Powers, Walshs, Fitzgeralds, Murphys,
Fitspatricks and O'Sheas. The population is forty people. There are
four old people in the townland and their surnames are Mrs. Damiels
whose age is 94, Mr. Daniels who is 72. There is a ruin of an old
house in Raheen. Holden was the man's name that lived in it. There
are a few hills in Raheen and a river which divides Raheen from
From Mary Joe
O'Shea, Raheen, Piltown, County Kilkenny. Collected from her father
Raheen Dolmen, south view
There lived in
Harristown a boy who was very poor. One day as he was coming home
from school he went to a smith's forge for shelter from the rain.
Whilst the boy was inside the smith was making shoes. On the fire
was a red hot iron. The smith told the boy he would give him a
shilling of he would lick it. The boy taking the shilling licked it
and walked out with it. When the smith saw what the boy had done, he
became very angry and told the boy to come back with it. But the
boy never returned..
In olden times
people used to get up early to go to the fairs. One morning very
early a man was going to a fair. he met a funeral. The last in the
crowd was his sister who had been buried four months before. She had
not much clothes on her. He asked her why she had not much clothes
on her. She told him that the person to whom he gave her clothes,
pawned them. He was to go and get them and get a mass said for her.
So he did and never saw her again.
Carroll, Brenor, Piltown, County Killkenny. Collected from his
father, John Carroll.
In every district in the country, there were certain people who had
old cures for various animal and human ailments, handed down to them
from generation to generation, going back in time. How deeply the
seeker believed in the cure determined its success or failure. The
story featuring the smith echoes back to the sacred nature of smith
in ancient Ireland. Forge water was said to have curative powers.
The smith was a member of the priviliged aés dána class in
ancient times, along with poets, brehons, druids, priests and
wheel-rights. The carrying out of a dying person's wishes and the
respect shown to the dead is a theme of the last story above.
Flavin Forge, Templeorm, early 1990s, now apartments
Stories from website author's own
remains and graveyard is a circular site situated between the
townlands of Miltown and Garrygaug. The site is early Christian,
whose patron saint is Saint Canice. A family named Reddy lived near
the graveyard. They had to block the window of their house which
faced the graveyard as lat at night a light could be seen. Often a
funeral was held late at night and headless coaches leading a
funeral late at night wee also observed.
A Curse on
The townland of
Kilmogue is named after Saint Mogue, who was abbot of Ferns and
patron of the early Christian small church and monastery at Kilmogue.
The remains of church and graveyard fence were taken down in the
18th century and remains left in Grant's, now O'Shea's haggard.
There was a hermit monk's cell in a rath, nearby.
Two monks in the
Middle Ages were walking from Kilmogue to Jerpoint Abbey, by an old
roadway which went from Kilmogue, through Lismatigue and came out at
Castlemorris or Aghavillar, to Knocktoper and to Thomastown, when
they were waylaid and robbed. Hence a curse fell on Kilmgue.
Sightings of Two
A named Anty Higgins
of Templeorum townland, a place named High Street, was closing her
door one night when she saw two sisters of a her neighbour, Frank
Walsh, walk up the road together. Nothing unusual in that you might
say, except they were dead with some years in America. It was not
unusual to hear of sightings of dead people who died in America back
in their native place after dying. Old people could tell you several
The Banshee's Comb.
I never heard the
Banshee myself. She is supposed to follow certain families. A baby
died in agony a mile from our home, in a house on the side of the
road. My father told us that just after it died, an unmerciful keen
was heard outside. Sometimes cats bawling late at night sounded like
her. A dog keening late at night is a sign that someone from the
house or related to the house is about to died or that someone far
away, even in another country, who once came from the house, has
My father told me
that a week after his mother dying in 1917, they found a strange
comb outside her bedroom window, downstairs, in the morning.
Everyone was certain that no one in the house had put it there. The
Banshee came during the night and put it there. It wasn't like any
of the combs used by ordinary people.
Rath or ring-fort Curraghmore.
The Leg of a
a central role in the lives of rural people down to the 1950s/1960s,
even, in some areas. Many a family had vicious rows over spells etc,
especially around 1sy May. We were digging out spuds one time and we
found eggs on a drill. Our father was fearful. It was probably a
bird to happened to lay them there. If a person could be blamed he
would not be regarded highly afterwards by us.
A woman from
Ashtown, which is bordering Kilmogue, visited another woman in
Kilmogue. She brought a currant cake in a bag which was customary.
They had a great chat. The visitor killed a cock for food a few days
before, however, one of his legs found its way, somehow, into the
bag with the currant bread. When the visitor was gone, the woman of
the house looked to see what she had brought and was livid to find a
dead cock's leg in the bag. She thought that she was deliberately
bringing her bad luck by leaving it behind. They fell out over it.
The Civil War was nothing to the row that took place.
late at night in graveyards and mysterious late night funerals are
commonly found in the folklore repertoire. The dead and their place
of rest was surrounded by all kinds of superstitions and mysticism.
If a soul was not at rest for some reason, maybe buried in a place
not of their wishes, they came come back to haunt the people.
Respecting a dying person's wishes was regarded as a must and sacred
duty. Otherwise haunting and bad luck would follow. The Banshee is a
mysterious otherworld creature, described as being heard without
been seen, more often than the other way around. She is said to
follow certain Gaelic families with the prefix O or Mac before their
surnames. After the displacement of the Gaelic lords by the English
and the Flight of the Earls in 1607, she is sometimes seen as a
protector and lamenter for lost Irish. She might be an otherworld
pre-Christian goddess, who has changed and come down to us as the
Banshee, the foreteller of a death in a family. The Banshee's comb
is a familiar motif found in stories relating to her. It is an
object not to be touched by human hands. It, too, may foretell an
imminent death in the family. The cock, in folklore, has flying
about him many superstitions. His crowing early in the morning can
signify a bad omen if heard too often in the one week. In the story
of Christ's betrayal and denied by Peter three times, the cock crows
three times as Christ predicted he would when Peter was about to
deny him. Potatoes in Ireland are known as spuds.