Clare County Library
Clare History
Home | Search Library Catalogue | Foto: Clare Photo Collection | Search this Website | Copyright Notice

Ordnance Survey Letters by John O'Donovan and Eugene Curry, 1839

Parish of Drumcrehy (c)

In the north of this Parish, in a Townland to which it has given its name, is situated a lough called Lough Rasg, which is celebrated by Magrath in his Wars of Thomond. I shall here translate the passage in which this lough is mentioned as a specimen of the bombastic style of the Homer of Ireland.

“The heroes of broad swords advanced silently in close array and vast numbers until they reached the banks of Loch Rasga. All the hosts viewed the bright lake together, and lo! they beheld on its white margin a deformed sprite, which struck them with amazement. It was a hag with blue face, withered aspect, green teeth, rough hair, sharp bent nails. (He exhausts the Dictionary in bestowing epithets expressive of deformity and ugliness on this hag). Her hair was fretted, strong and filthy, and of a grey, reddish color; her forehead narrow, full of bumps, deeply furrowed with irregular ridges, every hair of her eyebrows, which were of a reddish grey color, was like unto a strong rough fishing hook; her eyes, like red berries with soft and scarlet margins, were sharp sighted though flaming with unearthly glare, and looking out between rough bristled eyelashes; her nose large, blue, green, soft, broad, with wide nostrils, from a copious stream flowed down her furrowed face; her mouth wide, prominent, of green mixed with pale color, and her upper lip with a beard and turned up towards her nose; she had two long slender and sharp and green-coloured teeth in her head, which were never cleansed since the day of her birth; her tongue sharp-pointed, rapid, bitter, etc., etc. She had a cairn of heads, a load of arms, i.e., weapons, and a bundle of skin, bones, all which she was washing in the lake, the waters of which were stained with blood and brains, and human hair appeared in great abundance floating on its surface. The hosts stopped short to view this sprite, and the king interrogated her fearlessly as follows:- ‘What name dost thou rejoice in? Of what tribe are thy friends? And of what people are those whose remains thou hast gotten here on the margin of the lake?’ She thus replied to the King:- ‘Bronach of Burren is my constant name. I am of the Tuatha De Danann people; yours are the heads which I have here in a litter, and thine own, O Fair King! in the very centre of them! For though thou carriest it, it is not thine own, and though proud your march to the field of contest, soon shall ye all perish with the exception of very few.’ The army were startled at the dire prediction of the horrid sprite, and they all cried out ‘let her be cast into the lake’ but she mounted on the wings of the wind over them, and spoke as follows fluttering over them:-

Wo to those who go on the expedition;

It will be a pitiful excursion;
Violent will be the struggle
Rough will be the contest;
Terrible as the last clash of elements
The impetuosity of the hosts
Rushing to the contest
There shall be many a headless lance
Sword to the bone;
Fair (fine) hairs under foot,
And headless trunks;
Shrieks and groans;
Destruction of the race of Cas,
Oppressive news!
The race of the mighty king
Shall feel the loss,
They shall perish in the fight,
Their Chief shall fall
O fair Donogh,
Thou wilt not survive the fight.
The comely Brian Beara
Shall be left on the field,
And Murchertach Mor
Though rough shall be stabbed,
And his body entombed.
I say unto you,
Pitiful your journey
Passing to East;
Great shall be the wo!
Wo to those etc.

“Heed not the flowing prediction of the dire sprite” said Donogh to his brave hosts ”for she is only a friendly Bádabh to the lordly Clann of Torlogh, who is endeavouring to strike dismay into your minds by pretended predictions of your deaths. Wherefore my nobles, be not terrified, but proceed on your undertaken journey with firmness and valour to meet your enemies. By this wise and calm exhortation of their Chief, the generous Donogh, the minds of the nobles were animated, and proceeded on their march with firmness, impetuosity and high spirits.”

This was in 1317. Torlogh O’Brien and his forces were at this time encamped within the precincts of the Abbey of Corcumroe - A slios bláth-fhoirghneamh na snuadh Mhainisdreach. See Ordnance Survey Copy, page 445.

On this occasion a furious engagement took place between two parties of the Dalcassians outside the Abbey of Corcomroe, the site of which is still pointed out. This hag is still well known in the country by the name of Caileach Cinn Boirne, or the Hag of Blackhead.