The Story of the Fairest Lady

Nuair a bhí Fionn Mac Cumhaill agus Fianna Éireann fé lán réim in Éirinn, do thug triúr dearthár agus a ndeirfúr, cuairt ar Theamhair na Rí. Do chaitheadar tamall ag féachaint ar na Fianna ag gabháil dá gcluichí gaile agus gaisce. Thug an cailín – an tAon-Bhean a tugtaí uirthi – grá croí do dhuine den bhFéinn ar a dtugtaí Diarmuid Ó Duibhne. Deirtear gur thug Diarmuid grá agus gean di comh maith. Ach do rinne an tArd-Draoi tuair agus tairngreacht go bhfaigheadh an triúr drochbhás dá bpóstaí an tAon-Bhean. Arna chlos san dóibh, do thógadar an cailín leo siar go Ceann Léime. Do rinneadar trí daingin ansan trasna na rinne. Cruachán a b’ainm do dhuine acu. Do dhein seisean daingean le hais na farraige móire [agus] tugtar Cathair Cruacháin ar an áit ó shin i leith. Tá sé ar an dtaobh thuaidh [de Chill Cloichir] le hais na farraige móire. I lár baill, do rinne an tarna dearthár – Sabhall ab ainm do – rinne sé sin daingean eile ansan. Cathair Sabhaill a tugtar ar sin. Níl aon rian de sin le feiscint anois, ach tá an fothrach nó an áit ina raibh sé tuairim fiche nó triocha péirse ar an dtaobh ó dheas de Ghabhal an Dá Bhóthair.1 Rinne an tríú dearthár – Daileann – daingean le hais na Sionainne ar an dtaobh theas [de Cheann Léime]. Ansan, do rinneadar cathair don Aon-Bhean – Cathair na hAon-Mhná a tugtaí air. Adeirtear leis go raibh ollphéist ag cosaint na háite ar thaobh na farraige. An Dabhrach a tugtaí ar an ollphéist so, agus de réir innsint an Chrotaigh, ba dhearthár é don ollphéist a bhí istigh in Inis Cathaigh – An Cathach. Ar aon chuma, nuair do chuala Diarmuid Ó Duibhne go raibh an cailín imithe ó Theamhair na Rí, thug sé cuairt ar bhean feasa a bhí an’, agus do mhol sí dhó dul go Cnoc Bréanainn i gCiarraí agus lonnú ann ar feadh tamaillín. Do thug sí fáinne dhó go raibh chloch dhearg ann, coinneall cearnach, agus curaichín draíochta, agus dúirt sí leis fanúint ansan ag bun Chnoic Bhréanainn go n-iompódh an dath sa tseoid – an chloch dhearg a bhí sa bhfáinne, go n-iompódh sé uaithne.

Rinne sé amhlaidh. Bhí an triúr dearthár ansan ar a sáimhín só i gContae an Chláir, [agus] an tAon-Bhean istigh sa chathair acu. Ní fhéadfadh fear, bean ná páiste teacht ó thaobh an Chláir i nganfhios dóibh. Bhí na failltreacha ar thaobh na farraige móire. Bhíodar comh ádhbhail [awful?] ard san ná féadfadh fia ná fiolar teacht aníos ansan, is bhí an ollphéist ag cosaint na háite ar thaobh na Sionainne.

Tamaillín ina dhiaidh san, do tháinig triúr taoiseach ó thuaisceart an Chláir ag tógaint creiche. Crochúr ab ainm do dhuine acu; Ceanúr ab ainm don tarna duine, agus Stuithín ab ainm don tríú duine. Do sciobadar eallaigh na [n]dearthár leo; do lean na deartháracha iad agus thánadar suas leo. Do mharaíodar Ceanúr agus Crochúr, agus d’éalaigh Stuithín uatha amach go hOileáinín draoíchta bhí aige – Cill Stuithín. Deirtear gur chaill sé eochair an gheata – eochair óir agus geata óir a bhí ar Chill Stuithín – agus go raibh sé sa tairngreacht, pé uair a caillfí an eochair go mbáfaí an t-oileán. Do báthadh an t-oileán. Do tháinig na deartháracha abhaile agus an chreach acu aríst, agus nuair a bhíodar ag teacht anoir ag Ard an Bhóthair, do chonacadar go raibh an fharraige thiar dearg ar fad. Do thuigeadar ansan go raibh an tAon-Bhean imithe. Is mar seo a sciobadh í. Nuair a d’imigh na deartháracha, tháinig malairt dath ins an tseoid. Do chuir Diarmuid an curaichín draoíchta san uisce: do chuir sé an choinneall cearnach ar lasadh ina tosach, agus thug sé aghaidh ar chontae an Chláir. Nuair a tháinig sé gairid don chósta do chonac an ollphéist é, ach do chuir solas na coinnle taom trom-shuain air. Tháinig Diarmuid i dtír agus do sciob sé an tAon-Bhean. Nuair a tháinig na deartháracha, do chonacadar Diarmuid agus an tAon-Bhean ag dul i dtir ar chósta Chiarraí. Bhí fhios acu ansan ná raibh i ndán dóibh ach droch-bhás.

Chuadar síos go dtí bruach na h-aille: do rugadar barróg ar a chéile, agus chaitheadar iad féin le faill. Tugtar Faill an Triúr nó Faill na gCreach ar an áit ó shin i leith. Tugann daoine Faill na gCruach air, leis. Tá na trí h-áiteacha ann – Cathair Chruacháin, Cathair Sabhaill, agus Dún Dailinn. Tá Cathair na hAon-Mhná ann, leis, agus deir na daoine aon duine do shiúladh san áit sin go mba bhaol do an féar gorta fháil. An áit ina raibh an ollphéist sa tSionainn, tugtar Poll na Péiste ar an áit sin, agus is sin is cuimhim liomsa den scéal.

Ó sea! Dúirt an Crotach ansan, nuair a bhí an triúr báite, agus Diarmuid agus an tAon-Bhean imithe, gur dhúisigh an ollphéist agus tháinig stroighin feirge air. Do bhuail sé buille dá ruball sa bhfarraige a chuir na clocha in airde ar chósta Chláir agus cósta Chiarraí, agus mara gcreideann tú mo scéal, arsa é sin, ‘níl agat ach gabháil siar ann agus chífidh tú na clocha’.2

Translation:

In the days when Finn McCool and the Fianna were at their height in Ireland, three brothers and a sister came to visit Tara of the Kings. They spent their time marvelling at the sports and combat practised by the Fianna. The girl – an tAon-Bhean or the ‘Fairest Lady’ as she was known – fell in love with a member of the Fianna called Diarmuid Ó Duibhne, and it’s said that Diarmuid in turn fell in love with her. But the chief druid prophesied that the three brothers would suffer a terrible fate if the Fairest Lady ever married. On hearing this they took the girl away west with them to Loop Head.

There they erected three fortresses across the peninsula. One of the three brothers was named Croghan, and he built his fortress close to the sea and it is called Cahercroghan ever since. It is just a little to the north of Kilclogher. In the middle of the peninsula a second brother Soull built a second fortress. This was called Cahersoull. There is nothing to be seen of it today, but it was where the Fodra and Kilbaha roads meet about forty perches east of the lighthouse. The third brother, Dallinn, built his fortress next to the Shannon on the south side of the peninsula. Inside these fortresses they built a mansion for the Fair Lady, and it became known as the Fairest Lady’s Mansion.

It’s said that there was a sea monster guarding this place on the seaward side. It was known as the Dabhrach and, according to Crotty who told me the story, this was a brother of the monster who lived in Scattery Island – the Cathach. In any event, when Diarmuid Ó Duibhne learned that the girl had left Tara of the Kings he visited a wise woman there, and she advised him to go to Mount Brandon in Kerry and to bide his time there. She gave him a ring with a red stone in it, a diamond shaped candle and a magic curach, and she told him to wait at the foot of Mount Brandon until such time as the stone in the ring turned from red to green. He did as she asked.

Meanwhile the three brothers were at their ease in County Clare, and they had the Fair Lady secure in the mansion. Not a man, woman or child could approach it from the Clare side without their knowing it. The seaward side was protected by high cliffs. These were so frightfully high that not even a deer or an eagle could scale them, and the Shannon side was protected by the sea monster.

One day three lords from the north of Clare came to west Clare on a cattle raid. One was called Conchúir (Connor), the second was known as Ceanúr (Cannor), and the third Stuithín (Stiffin). They made off with the brothers’ cattle, but the brothers followed them and caught up with them. They killed Ceanúr and Conchúir, but Stuithín escaped out to his magical island of Cill Stuithín (Kilstiffin). It’s said that he lost the key of the gate – a gold key and a gate that lead to the island. And it was prophesied that if the key was ever lost, the island would drown. And so the island sank into the sea.

The brothers returned home with the plundered cattle, and as they neared home they could see that the sea had turned completely red. They knew instantly that the Fair Lady was gone. This was how she was taken. Once the brothers left to pursue the plunderers, Diarmuid’s ring turned a different colour. He immediately put his magical curach in the water and lit the diamond shaped candle in the bow of the curach and set out for County Clare. As he approached the coast the monster spotted him,

but the light from the candle put him into a deep sleep. Diarmuid landed and mad eoff with the Fairest Lady. When the brothers arrived they could see Diarmuid and the Fair Lady landing on the Kerry shore. They knew then that they were destined to die a terrible death.

They went down to the shore and, holding one another’s hands, they leaped from the cliff. This place is known ever since as Faill an Triúr or Faill na gCreach. People also call it Faill na gCruach. The three fortresses – Cahercroghan, Cahersoull and Dundallin – are there still. So too is Cathair na hAon-Mhná, the Mansion of the Fairest Lady, and people say that if you walk by this place you’re in danger of developing the hungry grass (hunger knock). The place where the monster lived in the Shannon is since known as Poll na Péiste (the Monster’s Pool), and that’s all I remember of the story.

Oh yes! Crotty also told me that when the three brothers drowned and Diarmuid and the Fairy Lady had left, he awoke and in a mad fury lashed the sea with his tail, casting rocks up on the Clare and Kerry shores. And if you don’t believe it you’ve only to go back west and you’ll see the rocks for yourself.

[Recorded from Kilcreddaun schoolteacher Seán Ó Ceallaigh by Tadhg Ó Murchú for the Irish Folklore Commission in 1942. Ó Ceallaigh had learnt the tale from Seán Crotty of Ross. Translation by Críostóir Mac Cárthaigh]

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