Emerald Isle

The Long Black Hand

Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales tales of Ireland

Even wicked spirits get their comeuppance

The author of the Long Black Hand was a man called Richard Cronnolly, born in Ballinderreen County Galway in 1828. He spent his spare time in the record office where he studied old documents. Although he was not a wealthy man and had no help from anyone, he found a publisher just before he died at the very young age of thirty five.

The Long Black Hand is his work which tells of the slaying of malicious spirit who made life miserable for the people of Ballinderreen a few hundred years ago.

In olden days when Sheamus reigned
And plenty crowned the land,
A spirit was seen in old Killeen,
T’was called the Long Black Hand.

No traveller every passed that way
from setting sun ’til dawn,
But was by this malicious elf
Half murdered on the bawn.

The church wherein he lay was built
By Colman, son of Duagh.
T’was three long miles from old Tyrone
And two short miles from Clough.

Now Clough belonged to Andrew Lynch,
A man of large estate,
But yet he felt dissatisfied
This elf being near his seat.

Ten thousand pounds he would lay down
And fifty hides of land
To any knight on Irish soil
Who’d slay the Long Black Hand.

And with that too his daughter, Kate,
A maid divinely fair
Whose golden tresses loosely hung
Adown her shoulders fair.

A lovelier maid you could not find
If you searched this island o’er,
And she was styled, as records tell,
The “Rose of Ballymore.”

The offer large, the gift was great,
As hero might demand;
To undertake for gold, or love,
To slay the Long Black Hand.

But still the elf was left at ease
For six long years or more,
‘Til Lynch’s friends a visit paid
To him at Ballymore.

And with them too there also came
A bold and valiant knight,
Who vowed to God he’d have revenge
On Killeen’s churchyard sprite.

‘Twas young O’Heyne from Inseguair,
For so the youth was called,
As Annals say he scarcely was
Full twenty summers old.

But yet he did not courage lack,
To face that hellish foe,
Who shed his father’s precious blood
And prove his overthrow.

The guests all round the table sat,
And wine went round and round,
While Andrew Lynch’s health was drunk
To which he did respond.

My gentle sirs and valiant knights,
Why should I life resign,
When each of you has pledged my health
And drank to me in wine.

And yet I feel I cannot live
I know the end is near
This churchyard spirite will surely put
An end to my career

I cannot find a champion bold,
Or knight throughout the land
Who’ll undertake for love or gold
To slay the Long Black Hand.

The old man then resumed his seat,
The tears rolled down his cheeks
They knew the cause for all his grief,
But not a soul would speak.

One would at the other gaze,
But none would raise the strain,
‘Till young O’Heyne at last arose,
And broke the silent chain.

Saying “Now kind sir, for me provide,
A steed both swift and strong,
And I’ll be off to Killeen’s Church
And search the ruins along.

And if the Long Black Hand is there,
I’ll die or revenge take
Upon that murdering hellish elf,
For my dear father’s sake.”

His sword he grasped in his right hand,
And mounted Lynch’s steed
And off to Kileen’s Church he went,
To fall, if fate decreed.

Arriving at the Abbey gate
“Art thou within?” he cried.
“I am and will be soon with you,”
The Long Black Hand replied.

On hearing such unearthly sound,
His gallant steed took fright,
His retrogressing pace to check
He pulled with all his might.

But curb or rein could not prevail
But lo! What makes him stand?
The elf has seized him by the tail,
That hellish Long Black Hand.

Our valiant Knight well knew the cause;
And with one backward stroke
He cut the Long Black Hand across
When thus the demon spoke.

“Another cut my valiant Knight;
If I survive you’ll rue.”
“Oh no” our valiant Knight replied.
“I think that one will do.”

He posted off without delay,
And soon arrived at home
And stabling there his dapple grey,
Whose sides were white with foam.

In haste he joined the festive train,
In Lynch’s genial hall
Where rival wooers were base enough
To pray for his downfall.

Now young O’Heyne and Andrew Lynch
Went out to see the grey
And ordering out his stalwart grooms
To him with oats and hay.

But Paladore was now no more
Old Andrew Lynch’s pride
And some would say that to his tail
The Long Black Hand was tied.

Now Andrew Lynch addressed the guests
Our hero claimed his bride
And by McDunal’s holy curb
The Nuptial knot was tied

In peace they lived, in peace they sleep
Amid tombs of ample space
Within long Killeen’s lonely walls
That lonesome haunted place.

Ballinderreen can be found on the map below!

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