Emerald Isle

The Harps of Cliach

Well known is the ancient tale of the Children of Lir, and how two of the three of Bodb Dearg's daughters by Oilell of Aran married Lir to keep the peace in Ireland, between the rival chieftains of the Tuatha De Dannan. But less well known perhaps is the story of the daughter of the Bodb and one of her admirers, Cliach the Harpist.

Cliach played harp for the Smirdubh Mac Smáil, the king of the three Rosses over the white mountain, or Sliabh Bán in Connacht. He had heard of the great beauty of the daughters of the Bodb but knew that one was married and the other dead, so he set out to find out for himself what the remaining one looked like.

So he travelled to Sidh-ar-Feman on Slievenamon, which is where Bodb Dearg lived, and asked to be allowed in. But the Bobd didn't like the cut of his cloth, and neither did his daughter! The Bodb called up the fog over his rath so that the entrance couldn't be seen, and Cliach wandered lost, calling out forlornly.

But he didn't give up, instead moving back a few miles to the hills, and continued to play and sing. His skill was that he could play two harps at once, and so he did, mixing marvellous melodies into wonderful and enchanting tunes, but to no avail. Still the daughter of the Bodb showed him no interest.

He played thus for a full year, but her heart was not softened, no matter how well he performed. Although she didn't acknowledge him, his singing attracted something else entirely, and that was a dragon from the underworld!

One dark evening it burst up from the fiery depths and dragged him down into the abyss with it, and the Bodb was so alarmed at the inferno so raised that he filled the top of the hills with water, making the lake we know as Loch Crotta, or the Lake of the Harps, where it is said that sometimes the playing of Cliach can still be heard to this day, when the wind is soft.

Marked below is the old house of the Bodb on Slievenamon should you wish to visit and listen for yourself, and while you're enjoying this site you might also enjoy a little Celtic and Irish music to set the mood, or just the one or two songs if you're not interested in the whole albums. Don't forget you can get some very nice Irish jewelry for yourself or someone else as well, or for the craftier maybe make your own!


More Stories from the Mythological Cycle

The Harps of Cliach

Well known is the ancient tale of the Children of Lir, and how two of the three of Bodb Dearg's daughters by Oilell of Aran married Lir to keep the peace in Ireland, between the rival chieftains of the Tuatha De Dannan. But less well known perhaps is the story of the daughter of the Bodb and one of her admirers, Cliach the Harpist. Cliach pl ... [more]

The Harp of Dagda

After the second battle of Moy Tura, Nuada the High King of the Tuatha De Danann was grievously injured, and as it was the law among their people that a king must be whole of body, Dagda Mór took his place. Mighty Dagda, of whom the ballads are sung,  he was called the father of the Tuatha, the lord of knowledge, the many-skilled, th ... [more]

Donn of the Dead

It is in the nature of fairytales and legends passed down from generation to generation that they might sometimes change and shift to fit the lives of the people of the time, and the more mysterious the figure the more legends accrue to it! And so it is with Donn of the Dead, king of the dead at the red tower of the dead, whose three sons cried &ld ... [more]

The Four Jewels of the Tuatha

It was at the dawning of the world when the fair folk walked in broad daylight as bold as you and I, before the coming of the Milesians with their bitter iron blades and earthen ways, it was the time when magic was wrought and druidry had power, when heroes gave battle to gods and the titanic children of Seth still troubled the dreams of Heaven, it ... [more]

Islands of the Otherworld

Irish legends from time immemorial have a great deal to say about the land of the fairies, the home of the Tuatha De Danann, or the world of the Sidhe. There are those who claim it lies beneath fairy mounds or on the other side of deep caves where Druids once held tryst and shared magical secrets, while other tales tell of heroes and adventurers, e ... [more]

The Morrigan

The raven has long been an omen of ill-tidings around the world, bearer of bad news and warnings, but in Ireland it was known once as a servant of the fairy Morrigan, or the raven was herself in person! She it was whose name meant the Great or Ghost Queen, from the old words for fear and greatness. Some will tell you earnestly that she was a god ... [more]

The Wooing of Etain

From the Yellow Book of Lecan... There was a famous king of Ireland of the race of the Tuatha De, Eochaid Ollathair his name. He was also named the Dagda, for it was he that used to work wonders for them and control the weather and the crops. Wherefore men said he was called the Dagda. Elcmar of the Brug had a wife whose name was Eithne and anot ... [more]

The Children of Lir

It was in the time of legends and heroes, when the Tuatha Dé Dannan had determined to go into their deep halls beneath the hills and mountains of Éireann the green, that the Dagda mór had fallen at the second battle of Moy Tura. With his slaying a new leader had to be elected and that was decided by the Tuatha to be the Red Cro ... [more]

The First Battle of Moy Tura

And so it was when dragons still flew and champions walked the earth that the men of the Fir Bolg had lordship over all of Ireland. They had left Ireland centuries before due to the violence and heavy tribute demanded by the Fomorians, travelling far and wide until they came to the distant land of Greece. Although they made agreement and treaty ... [more]