Emerald Isle

The Rocks of Knockfierna

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

Fairy hijinks in 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 old stories, laughing aloud when he saw farmers ploughing around fairy trees.

But for all that such a man might gather an uncanny reputation, Maurice was a welcome guest in most places for he could play the pipes in such a way that would set your feet to dancing without your knowledge, and indeed he was playing a merry tune one night in a pub near to Knockfierna.

“More power to your bellows, Maurice,” praised Pateen MacNamara, “and 'tis a pity if we should let the piper run dry! Did you have a sup for yourself?”

“I did not and I will indeed,” said Maurice, for there was never a piper or schoolmaster who refused his drink.

“And what will you have Maurice," asked Pateen.

“I'm not one to fuss,” said Maurice, “I'll drink anything but ditchwater, but if it's one and the same to yourself master MacNamara I'll have the lend of a glass of whiskey.”

“I've no glass at all Maurice,” said that that worthy, “but only the bottle!”

“Never has that bothered me,” said Maurice, “for my mouth holds exactly a glass to the drop – I've often tried it.”

So Pateen gave him the bottle, and more fool to him, for he found that while Maurice's mouth might not hold more than a single glass, there was a hole at the bottom of it that took a deal more filling.

“Not at all bad whiskey either,” said Maurice.

“We'll never know,” said Pateen mournfully, looking at the empty bottle to see was there a drop left, and there was not.

I'll tell you it was a foolish man indeed who would so tackle a bottle of whiskey, and a rare one who could stand afterwards! But stand Maurice did and reeled while he reeled, playing a tune as cheerful as any had heard.

“Play us one for the fairy folk,” shouted up old Finnegan who always had straw in his hair.

“I'll do no such thing,” said Maurice in a tipsy way, “for no fairy ever gave me a bottle or a bed!”

A hush fell in the pub then and folk looked askance at one another, some muttering that you shouldn't speak so of the fair folk. Maurice scoffed, his boldness awoken to a high pitch of bravery, and swore he'd go himself that very night to an Poul Dubh, or the Black Hole of Knockfierna atop the fairy mound of Donn, and knock at their door to see who answered!

People gathered around and tried to dissuade him, telling him about a land surveyor called Mongan who'd once tried to fathom the hole with a weighted line, but was himself pulled in and never seen again, and other such tales, but Maurice would have none of it.

“Whist ye ould women!” he cried, and staggered out the door and up the mountainside, which wasn't far away.

Up the side of the mountain he climbed, and paid no heed to the wind rising about him, or the dark cast to the sky with scudding clouds quickly covering the moon. He clambered at last to the top and wavered over and back, gazing down into the hole.

“Fairies!” he muttered to himself, and heaved up a stone bigger than his head, big enough to need both hands to heft, and flung it down the hole, leaning over to try and hear when it would hit the bottom. He waited and waited, but no sound echoed from the hole.

What came out of the hole instead was the very same rock he had dropped, and with such speed that it battered him clean off his feet and rolled him tumbling down the side of the mountain! From this boulder to that crag he bounced, far quicker than he had ascended, and in the morning Maurice was found in a tangle of thorny hazelwood, his nose broken and his face all bruised and battered, both eyes as black as if he'd boxed a champion.

From that day forward Maurice Mulreaney never again spoke ill of the fair folk, when he spoke at all, and he never drank a drop of whiskey either! And if he found himself in a dark and lonely place by night, he'd hurry on straight to wherever he was going, looking neither left nor right, in case he might see something he'd rather not looking back at him.

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