Emerald Isle

The Sidhe Spring

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

Bad company leads to bad decisions and a bad end

One upon a time in Ireland, in the farthest west of County Clare, there lived a brave young chieftain whose name was O'Quinn. A kindly enough man was he, and fair to behold, of ruddy locks and clean limbs, and he made his Dún on a flat plain near to a clearwater spring, the purest in all of Ireland and perhaps all the world.

He was content with his castle and hunted wild deer and boar up and down the hills which overlooked his lands, but he heard tales of fair young maidens who would come forth from a strange sidhe-cave nearby when the moon was at its fullest and most silver, and bathe in the twinkling starlit spring.

Although most people these days would be inclined to scoff at such stories, back then they were taken quite seriously, so O'Quinn made himself a secret hiding place near to the cave entrance and waited. Long night after night he lay hidden, so that the wild things and night birds would grow used to his presence, hoping to see the maidens.

And sure enough, forth from the mist-veiled cavern mouth came three graceful ladies, each more beautiful than the last. He was smitten and watched as they bathed, joking and laughing, and when they made their way back to the cave, he waited until the first two had gone within, then reached out his arm and grasped the third, who was youngest and most beautiful!

The others fled silently into the mysterious shadows, and the one whom he had caught begged to be allowed to follow them, but O'Quinn was having none of it, and asked her to be his wife on the spot.

She looked into his heart and saw there strength of will, but also gentleness and kindness, and so she agreed. But before she did so, she laid upon him a geis, or forbidding! If he agreed never to bring company back to the Dún, she said, she'd be his wife, and so the two of them were married and lived together in peace and comfort for seven years, having two lovely children.

O'Quinn was a breeder of horses and he had one of the fastest racehorses in the country stamping and snorting in his stables, so one year he asked his lady if he might go to the race and try his luck. Reluctantly she agreed but warned him again not to being anyone he met back with him!

And on the first day he won a fine trophy, which he proudly showed to his wife. She roiced alogn with him, and agreed that he could go on the second day of the races, and the third as well. But third time is the charm, or the curse as it may be.

For on that day he won the grand prize, and was surrounded by well wishers and those not so well disposed, who plied him with rich hazelnut mead and cajoled and mocked him, saying he was telling them tall tales about his lovely wife!

More than a little tipsy and his pride affronted, he brought them back to the Dún, and sure enough as the gates opened they saw before them the most beautiful woman any had ever beheld. But when she in turn saw the drunken louts and hangers-on, she was horrified, and seizing the two children, ran to the spring and leaped into it!

The chieftain in horror remembered his oath and with a cry he sprang after them, but not only was it too late to regain the sidhe-lady's love and esteem, great gushing waves of water began to burst forth from the spring, swiftly filling the whole plain and drowning himself and his unlucky companions too! Out the water poured until it reached the height it is today, and that lake is known as Inchiquin, which can be found on the map below, and if you arrive at a certain time of night, you may see three swans circling the lake in sorrow.

Further Folk and Faerie Tales of Ireland

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