Emerald Isle

The Three Sons

Times were hard in Ireland back years ago, and while some might say they've had it tough today, it was not a patch on the hardships people endured in times gone by. And so it was with Michael McGovern, a poor farmer with hardly an acre of stony soil to rent, who looked upon his three young sons with love for the life of them and fear for their future.

So thinking, he did something nobody should ever do – he called upon the ould bent one himself and made a deal! He said the ould fella could take him if only his three sons would live happy lives and have every blessing men could have. And the deal was signed in blood in a dark and lonely place, with the wind sobbing mournfully about them, and the moon hiding her face.

But Michael's three sons grew up tall and straight, with never a bother on them, and went on to do great things with their lives. One became a reckoner of books, an accountant, the next a policeman, and the third, sure what should he become but a priest.

And never a word of his deadly deal did Michael breathe to them, until one day he was with his son Thomas, the accountant, sitting in his little house, when the midnight chimes rang out and there was a thunderous knocking at the door. Who was it but the devil himself come to collect!

Michael wept and hung his head as the whole business became known to his son, who asked the devil solemnly to give his father one more year. So pitiful was the sight with the two men hanging off one another that the devil agreed, for although pity was never in his heart, he knew the torment of the wait and savoured it in others like fine brandy.

The next year Michael was sitting with his son John the policeman, when the very same thing happened, and John begged and pleaded in terror for his father's eternity that he be given but one more year, and again the devil agreed, stalking off into the cloying night with his many-sealed parchment under his arm.

On the third year, Michael sat in mortification with his son the priest, who knew now the whole affair, and tried to make his peace, for what little good it would do him. Again ould scratch battered in the door and stalked into the one room with them, waving the scroll with the signed name before him.

“You come with me tonight, Michael,” he said, “and no mistake!”

Francis the priest stood up then and looked the enemy in the eye, and asked him for one more year.

“Not one more year nor one more month!” said the devil, gleeful he could vex a priest at the last.

“One more week then?” asked Francis.

“Not so much as a day,” said the devil as the clock chimed midnight with leaden tones.

“Well then will you at least give my father until this candle burns out,” asked the priest, indicating with a wave the guttering candle stub on the table without finger's breadth in it.

“Fair enough,” said the devil, steeped in mischief, for he was enjoying this game, “and I'll do you one better to show there are no hard feelings – I'll not touch it or change it in any way.”

With that, Francis puffed out the candle and picked it up, and putting it in his pocket he bid the ould fella to be off, for the candle was his now, and with it his father's imperishable spirit. Giving throat to a mighty raging howl the fiend was driven away, and the door slammed shut behind him, and so Michael McGovern escaped his debt.

Marked on the map is the likely location near where these events took place, 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!


Further Folk and Faerie Tales of Ireland

The Three Sons

Times were hard in Ireland back years ago, and while some might say they've had it tough today, it was not a patch on the hardships people endured in times gone by. And so it was with Michael McGovern, a poor farmer with hardly an acre of stony soil to rent, who looked upon his three young sons with love for the life of them and fear for their ... [more]

A Promise

There was a prince in Ireland a long, long time ago, back when Ireland still had princes, and O'Donall was his name. A brave fellow he was, and powerful, but given to risk and heedless thrills in his hunting and leaping and running and swimming, all the better to impress his friends. He was lord of a wide land, and he wasn't hard on the poo ... [more]

The Dark Valley

A woman was out one day looking after her sheep in the valley, and coming by a little stream she sat down to rest, when suddenly she seemed to hear the sound of low music, and turning round, beheld at some distance a crowd of people dancing and making merry. And she grew afraid and turned her head away not to see them. Then close by her stood a you ... [more]

The Field of Ragweed

They say that in Ireland you will enjoy all four seasons in a day, but on this day the four seasons were high and glorious summer, or so it seemed to Tom Fitzpatrick as he walked along a narrow road between two tall hedges in harvest time. As he walked, he chanced to hear a strange ringing like a tiny bell, and he paused, puzzled as to what it migh ... [more]

The Taking of Connla

Connla of the Fiery Hair was one of the sons of Conn of the Hundred Battles, and his favourite son, a swift and agile warrior with a voice that could make the mountains tremble. Himself and his father climbed the heights of Usna on Samhain, when he saw coming towards them a slender maiden of great beauty, clad in strange clothes. “Where do ... [more]

The Horned Witches

Strange are the ways of the Fairies of Ireland, and strange the look about them, but for all their wild and untamed manner they follow rules written in the ripples of willow-branches on still ponds, and laws murmured by the echo of birdsong in deep wells. Once there was a woman sitting in her cottage, a humble enough abode, and she was making wo ... [more]

Gan Ceanach

There are many types of fairy in Ireland, some more risky than others, and some to be avoided due to their habits rather than out of any particular malevolence. Such a one is the Gan Ceanach, whose name means “Without Love”. Although you might think such a title would indicate a friendless creature of a lonely nature lacking in socia ... [more]

Fairy Forts

There are a great many raths or fairy forts of old scattered throughout Ireland today, numbering in the tens of thousands, and it is here, the wise say, that the good people or fairy folk gather to hold their revels. Nobody would dare to cross, let alone build on a fairy dwelling in the past, marking as they did the boundary between our civilise ... [more]

The Tragedy of Cairn Thierna

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Stairs of the Giant

On the road going down to Cork there's an old set of four walls that used to once be called Ronayne's Court. Although there's little enough to see of it nowadays still the stack of the chimneys stands proud, and on it can be seen the coat of arms of the family that built it and used to live there. They were a fine couple and had one ... [more]

John Fagan

It was known in times past in Ireland that there were men and women who could talk to the fairies, ask favours from them, and even live among them, and some used this acquaintance to work their will on the world, for good or for ill. Most famous, perhaps, among these people were the fairy healers of old. Biddy Early is the best known of their ki ... [more]

A Bride for the Fairy

James Mac Neill was as strapping a young fellow as you could hope to meet, and likely with it. Never did he walk away from a tussle or a drink, and never far from his hand was his shillelagh. He had no fears save the lacking of a pint, no cares except for who would pay for it, and not a thought in his head but how to have fun after it. One cold ... [more]

The Rocks of Knockfierna

Maurice Mulreaney was well known for travelling about the countryside without fear of anything living or otherwise, as quick to cross a graveyard or fairy mound as you or I would be to cross the street, for he didn't believe in that which he couldn't see with his own two eyes or touch with his own two hands, and he didn't bother with ol ... [more]

An Unexpected Guest

It wasn't a bad life for Fergus O'Hara in Owenmore, for all that himself and his wife Rose had little, the little they had was enough for them. Some goats, pigs and poultry ranged far and wide about their few acres, and a field of oats and potatoes kept them busy for the harvest and brought in a few pennies. It so happened that there lay ... [more]

Amadan Dubh

In many cultures those that used to be called insane held a special place of reverence, and were treated almost as envoys from another place, or as though they could see something nobody else could, or were dancing to music only they could hear and the rest of us were deaf to. From far-off India and China to more familiar shores people would doff t ... [more]

The Hunchback of Knockgrafton

The children of De Danann once ruled the island of Ireland, before they departed back to their own lands in the farthest west or went below the earth in their fairy mounds to dance and sing forevermore, but if you're lucky – or unlucky! – you might still come across them in the wild places and those deep forests yet untouched. An ... [more]

Aoibhell Fairy Queen of Love

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Changelings

While most people nowadays believe fairies to be gentle creatures, prone to mischief perhaps and capricious by their natures yet well intended for all that, in Ireland they have a more sinister reputation. Some say, and some still believe, that the fairies will take small children and young people, leaving in their place creatures known as changeli ... [more]

The Calf of Knockshegowna

It's well known among those who know of such things that fairies love to dance more than anything else, and they take it ill should anything interfere with their merriment. And if someone wanted to spoil a dance, they could come up with few better ways of doing so than to send a herd of cattle wandering through! The hill atop Knockshegowna w ... [more]

The Leprechaun

The cheerful Leprechaun is about as well known an emblem of Ireland as you could want, but what truth lies behind the stories? Well the truth is nobody really knows the truth, for leprechauns are are a cagey bunch at the best of times, not prone to gossip or holding forth on the important events of the day or the local hurling results, even after a ... [more]