A Legend of Knockmany
What Irish man, woman, or child has
not heard of our renowned
Hibernian Hercules, the great and glorious Fin M'Coul?
Not one, from
Cape Clear to the Giant's Causeway, nor from that back
again to Cape
Clear. And, by-the-way, speaking of the Giant's Causeway
at once to the beginning of my story. Well, it so happened
and his men were all working at the Causeway, in order
to make a
bridge across to Scotland - when Fin, who was very fond
of his wife
Oonagh, took it into his head that he would go home and
see how the
poor woman got on in his absence. So, accordingly, he pulled
fir tree, and, after lopping off the roots and branches,
walking stick of it, and set out on his way to Oonagh.
Oonagh, or rather Fin, lived at this time on the very
tip top of
Knockmany Hill, which faces a cousin of its own called
that rises up, half-hill, half-mountain, on the opposite
There was at that time another giant, named Cucullin. Some
was Irish, and some say he was Scotch, but whether Scotch
sorrow doubt of it but he was a targer. No other giant
of the day
could stand before him, and such was his strength, that,
vexed, he could give a stamp that shook the country about
fame and name of him went far and near - and nothing in
the shape of
a man, it was said, had any chance with him in a fight.
By one blow
of his fists he flattened a thunderbolt and kept it in
in the shape of a pancake, to show to all his enemies,
were about to fight him. Undoubtedly he had given every
Ireland a considerable beating, barring Fin M'Coul himself -
swore that he would never rest, night or day, winter or
he would serve Fin with the same sauce, if he could catch
However, the short and long of it was, with reverence be
that Fin heard Cucullin was coming to the Causeway to have
of strength with him - and he was seized with a very warm
fit of affection for his wife, poor woman, leading a very
uncomfortable life of it in his absence. He accordingly
the fir tree, as I said before, and having snedded it into
walking stick, set out on his travels to see his darling
the top of Knockmany, by the way.
In truth, the people wondered very much why it was that
such a windy spot for his dwelling house, and they even
went so far
as to tell him as much.
"What can you mane, Mr. M'Coul," said they, "by
pitching your tent
upon the top of Knockmany, where you never are without
a breeze, day
or night, winter or summer, and where you're often forced
your nightcap without either going to bed or turning up
finger - ay, an' where, besides this, there's the sorrow's
"Why," said Fin, "ever
since I was the height of a round tower, I
was known to be fond of having a good prospect of my own -
the dickens, neighbours, could I find a better spot for
prospect than the top of Knockmany? As for water, I am
pump, and, plase goodness, as soon as the Causeway's made,
to finish it."
Now, this was more of Fin's philosophy - for the real state
case was, that he pitched upon the top of Knockmany in
order that he
might be able to see Cucullin coming towards the house.
All we have
to say is, that if he wanted a spot from which to keep
a sharp lookout - and, between ourselves, he did want it grievously - barring
Slieve Croob, or Slieve Donard, or its own cousin, Cullamore,
could not find a neater or more convenient situation for
it in the
sweet and sagacious province of Ulster.
"God save all here!" said
Fin, good humouredly, on putting his
honest face into his own door.
"Musha, Fin, avick, an'
you're welcome home to your own Oonagh, you
darlin' bully." Here followed a smack that is said
to have made the
waters of the lake at the bottom of the hill curl, as it
kindness and sympathy.
Fin spent two or three happy days with Oonagh, and felt
comfortable, considering the dread he had of Cucullin.
however, grew upon him so much that his wife could not
something lay on his mind which he kept altogether to himself.
woman alone, in the meantime, for ferreting or wheedling
out of her good man, when she wishes. Fin was a proof of
"It's this Cucullin," said he, "that's
troubling me. When the fellow
gets angry, and begins to stamp, he'll shake you a whole
and it's well known that he can stop a thunderbolt, for
carries one about him in the shape of a pancake, to show
to any one
that might misdoubt it."
As he spoke, he clapped his thumb in his mouth, which
he always did
when he wanted to prophesy, or to know anything that happened
absence - and the wife asked him what he did it for.
"He's coming," said Fin, "I
see him below Dungannon."
"Thank goodness, dear! an'
who is it, avick? Glory be to God!"
"That baste, Cucullin," replied Fin, "and
how to manage I don't
know. If I run away, I am disgraced - and I know that sooner
I must meet him, for my thumb tells me so."
"When will he be here?" said
"Tomorrow, about two o'clock," replied
Fin, with a groan.
"Well, my bully, don't be cast down," said Oonagh, "depend
and maybe I'll bring you better out of this scrape than
could bring yourself, by your rule o' thumb."
She then made a high smoke on the top of the hill, after
put her finger in her mouth, and gave three whistles, and
Cucullin knew he was invited to Cullamore - for this was
the way that
the Irish long ago gave a sign to all strangers and travellers,
let them know they were welcome to come and take share
In the meantime, Fin was very melancholy, and did not
know what to
do, or how to act at all. Cucullin was an ugly customer
with - and, the idea of the "cake" aforesaid flattened
the very heart
within him. What chance could he have, strong and brave
was, with a man who could, when put in a passion, walk
into earthquakes and knock thunderbolts into pancakes?
Fin knew not
on what hand to turn him. Right or left, backward or forward - where
to go he could form no guess whatsoever.
"Oonagh," said he, "can
you do nothing for me? Where's all your
invention? Am I to be skivered like a rabbit before your
to have my name disgraced for ever in the sight of all
my tribe, and
me the best man among them? How am I to fight this man-mountain -
this huge cross between an earthquake and a thunderbolt? - with
pancake in his pocket that was once..."
"Be easy, Fin," replied Oonagh, "troth,
I'm ashamed of you. Keep
your toe in your pump, will you? Talking of pancakes, maybe,
give him as good as any he brings with him - thunderbolt
otherwise. If I don't treat him to as smart feeding as
he's got this
many a day, never trust Oonagh again. Leave him to me,
and do just
as I bid you."
This relieved Fin very much - for, after all, he had great
in his wife, knowing, as he did, that she had got him out
of many a
quandary before. Oonagh then drew the nine woollen threads
different colours, which she always did to find out the
best way of
succeeding in anything of importance she went about. She
platted them into three plats with three colours in each,
one on her right arm, one round her heart, and the third
right ankle, for then she knew that nothing could fail
with her that
Having everything now prepared, she sent round to the
borrowed one-and-twenty iron griddles, which she took and
into the hearts of one-and-twenty cakes of bread, and these
baked on the fire in the usual way, setting them aside
cupboard according as they were done. She then put down
a large pot
of new milk, which she made into curds and whey. Having
this, she sat down quite contented, waiting for his arrival
next day about two o'clock, that being the hour at which
expected - for Fin knew as much by the sucking of his thumb.
was a curious property that Fin's thumb had. In this very
moreover, he was very much resembled by his great foe,
Cucullin - for
it was well known that the huge strength he possessed all
lay in the
middle finger of his right hand, and that, if he happened
mischance to lose it, he was no more, for all his bulk,
At length, the next day, Cucullin was seen coming across
and Oonagh knew that it was time to commence operations.
immediately brought the cradle, and made Fin to lie down
in it, and
cover himself up with the clothes.
"You must pass for your own child," said she, "so
just lie there
snug, and say nothing, but be guided by me."
About two o'clock, as he had
been expected, Cucullin came in. "God
save all here!" said he, "is this where the great
Fin M'Coul lives?"
"Indeed it is, honest man," replied Oonagh, "God
save you kindly -
won't you be sitting?"
"Thank you, ma'am," says he, sitting down, "you're
Mrs. M'Coul, I
"I am," said she, "and
I have no reason, I hope, to be ashamed of my
"No," said the other, "he
has the name of being the strongest and
bravest man in Ireland - but for all that, there's a man
not far from
you that's very desirous of taking a shake with him. Is
he at home?"
"Why, then, no," she replied, "and
if ever a man left his house in a
fury, he did. It appears that some one told him of a big
a - giant called Cucullin being down at the Causeway to
look for him,
and so he set out there to try if he could catch him. Troth,
for the poor giant's sake, he won't meet with him, for
if he does,
Fin will make paste of him at once."
"Well," said the other, "I
am Cucullin, and I have been seeking him
these twelve months, but he always kept clear of me - and
never rest night or day till I lay my hands on him."
At this Oonagh set up a loud laugh, of great contempt,
and looked at him as if he was only a mere handful of a
"Did you ever see Fin?" said
she, changing her manner all at once.
"How could I?" said he, "he
always took care to keep his distance."
"I thought so," she replied, "I
judged as much - and if you take my
advice, you poor looking creature, you'll pray night and
you may never see him, for I tell you it will be a black
day for you
when you do. But, in the meantime, you perceive that the
the door, and as Fin himself is from home, maybe you'd
enough to turn the house, for it's always what Fin does
This was a startler even to Cucullin - but he got up, however,
after pulling the middle finger of his right hand until
three times, he went outside, and getting his arms about
turned it as she had wished. When Fin saw this, he felt
the sweat of
fear oozing out through every pore of his skin - but Oonagh,
depending upon her woman's wit, felt not a whit daunted.
"Arrah, then," said she, "as
you are so civil, maybe you'd do
another obliging turn for us, as Fin's not here to do it
You see, after this long stretch of dry weather we've had,
very badly off for want of water. Now, Fin says there's
spring well somewhere under the rocks behind the hill here
and it was his intention to pull them asunder - but having
you, he left the place in such a fury, that he never thought
Now, if you try to find it, troth I'd feel it a kindness."
She then brought Cucullin down to see the place, which
was then all
one solid rock - and, after looking at it for some time,
his right middle finger nine times, and, stooping down,
tore a cleft
about four hundred feet deep, and a quarter of a mile in
which has since been christened by the name of Lumford's
"You'll now come in," said she, "and
eat a bit of such humble fare
as we can give you. Fin, even although he and you are enemies,
scorn not to treat you kindly in his own house - and, indeed,
didn't do it even in his absence, he would not be pleased
She accordingly brought him in, and placing half a dozen
cakes we spoke of before him, together with a can or two
a side of boiled bacon, and a stack of cabbage, she desired
help himself - for this, be it known, was long before the
of potatoes. Cucullin put one of the cakes in his mouth
to take a
huge whack out of it, when he made a thundering noise,
between a growl and a yell. "Blood and fury!" he
shouted, "how is
this? Here are two of my teeth out! What kind of bread
this is you
"What's the matter?" said
"Matter!" shouted the other again, "why,
here are the two best teeth
in my head gone."
"Why," said she, "that's
Fin's bread - the only bread he ever eats
when at home - but, indeed, I forgot to tell you that nobody
it but himself, and that child in the cradle there. I thought,
however, that, as you were reported to be rather a stout
fellow of your size, you might be able to manage it, and
I did not
wish to affront a man that thinks himself able to fight
another cake - maybe it's not so hard as that."
Cucullin at the moment was not only hungry, but ravenous,
accordingly made a fresh set at the second cake, and immediately
another yell was heard twice as loud as the first. "Thunder
gibbets!" he roared, "take your bread out of
this, or I will not
have a tooth in my head - there's another pair of them gone!"
"Well, honest man," replied Oonagh, "if
you're not able to eat the
bread, say so quietly, and don't be wakening the child
in the cradle
there. There, now, he's awake upon me."
Fin now gave a skirl that startled the giant, as coming
from such a
youngster as he was supposed to be.
"Mother," said he, "I'm hungry, get me something
to eat." Oonagh went
over, and putting into his hand a cake that had no griddle
Fin, whose appetite in the meantime had been sharpened
eating going forward, soon swallowed it. Cucullin was thunderstruck,
and secretly thanked his stars that he had the good fortune
meeting Fin, for, as he said to himself, "I'd have
no chance with a
man who could eat such bread as that, which even his son
in his cradle can munch before my eyes."
"I'd like to take a glimpse at the lad in the cradle," said
Oonagh, "for I can tell you that the infant who can
nutriment is no joke to look at, or to feed of a scarce
"With all the veins of my heart," replied Oonagh, "get
and show this decent little man something that won't be
your father, Fin M'Coul."
Fin, who was dressed for the occasion as much like a boy
possible, got up, and bringing Cucullin out, "Are
you strong?" said
"Thunder an' ounds!" exclaimed the other, "what
a voice in so small
"Are you strong?" said Fin again, "are
you able to squeeze water out
of that white stone?" he asked, putting one into Cucullin's
The latter squeezed and squeezed the stone, but in vain.
"Ah, you're a poor creature!" said Fin. "You
a giant! Give me the
stone here, and when I'll show what Fin's little son can
do, you may
then judge of what my daddy himself is."
Fin then took the stone, and exchanging it for the curds,
squeezed the latter until the whey, as clear as water,
oozed out in
a little shower from his hand.
"I'll now go in," said he, "to
my cradle - for I scorn to lose my
time with any one that's not able to eat my daddy's bread,
squeeze water out of a stone. Bedad, you had better be
off out of
this before he comes back - for if he catches you, it's
he'd have you in two minutes."
Cucullin, seeing what he had seen, was of the same opinion
his knees knocked together with the terror of Fin's return,
accordingly hastened to bid Oonagh farewell, and to assure
from that day out, he never wished to hear of, much less
to see, her
husband. "I admit fairly that I'm not a match for
him," said he,
"strong as I am - tell him I will avoid him as I would
and that I will make myself scarce in this part of the
Fin, in the meantime, had gone into the cradle, where
he lay very
quietly, his heart at his mouth with delight that Cucullin
to take his departure, without discovering the tricks that
played off on him.
"It's well for you," said Oonagh, "that
he doesn't happen to be
here, for it's nothing but hawk's meat he'd make of you."
"I know that," says Cucullin, "divil
a thing else he'd make of me -
but before I go, will you let me feel what kind of teeth
has got that can eat griddle bread like that?"
"With all pleasure in life," said she, "only,
as they're far back in
his head, you must put your finger a good way in."
Cucullin was surprised to find such a powerful set of
one so young - but he was still much more so on finding,
when he took
his hand from Fin's mouth, that he had left the very finger
which his whole strength depended, behind him. He gave
groan, and fell down at once with terror and weakness.
This was all
Fin wanted, who now knew that his most powerful and bitterest
was at his mercy. He started out of the cradle, and in
a few minutes
the great Cucullin, that was for such a length of time
the terror of
him and all his followers, lay a corpse before him. Thus
through the wit and invention of Oonagh, his wife, succeed
overcoming his enemy by cunning, which he never could have