Skeheen-a-Vibo: A Local Legend of Muckross, Ireland

Pinpoint Location: Muckross, County Kerry / Map data ©2017 Google

This Local Legend from Muckross was collected by Thomas Crofton Croker some time before 1852. It tells the tale of Shane-Bawn-a Croohoore, who became the first abbot of Mucruss Abbey.

There lived in the neighbourhood of Slieve Loughera, a man whose name was Croohoore Bawn; he had a great deal of land, cattle, and sheep; and one son, who was called Shane-Bawn-a Croohoore.

Now, Shane-Bawn-a Croohoore was a very promising youth, and had an uncle a priest, who took a great fancy to him; so he sent him to Rome to study, and be made a priest of.

Arrived in Rome, Shane was lodged in a monastery, where he studied so hard, that in a short time he beat them all out and out, which made the other students so jealous that they were always watching for opportunities to bring Shane into disgrace. It happened one day, just after Shane was priested, that he saw one of the students shaving himself on a Monday.

“If you wish to live long, don’t shave on a Monday.” said Shane.

“What’s that you’re saying?” said the student.

“Why,” said Shane, “it’s an old Irish saying.”

As soon as he had done shaving, the student went to the abbot, and told him what Shane said; claiming it was a great crime for a priest to believe in any such thing, and that he had no right to be bringing his old Irish pishogues (charms) to Rome.

So the abbot went and told the pope; and the pope enjoined it as a penance upon Shane, that he should return to his own country, and never stop travelling till he came to a place called Skeheen-a-Vibo; but he wasn’t to ask anyone where it was, and when he found it, he was to build an abbey there.

When Shane arrived in Ireland, you maybe sure Slieve Loughera was the first place he made for, but his father was dead, and he found an old herdsman taking care of the place. He stopped that night with the herdsman, and the next morning, being Sunday, he went up to the top of the mountain to hear mass.

The herdsman asked him where he was going, and when Shane told him, he said there was neither mass nor chapel on the mountain.

“No matter,” says Shane, “I’ve the power to hear, from the top of the mountain, the bells ringing and the mass saying in the city of Rome.”

Shane travelled a long time in search of Skeheen-a-Vibo, till at last he came to the village of Cloghereen, at the foot of Mangerton mountain; there, as he was sitting on a rock, in a very melancholy way, he chanced to hear two little girls that were talking near him.

“Did you see my goats anywhere?” said one of the little girls.

“Indeed, then, I did,” said the other, “they’re up yonder there, at Skeheen-a-Vibo.”

Glad enough Shane was to hear what the little girl said, so he followed her to where she found the goats; and that’s where the Abbey is now.

Shane immediately gathered all the masons in the country, and began to build the Abbey; but as fast as he built in the day-time, it was thrown down at night. Who threw it down, is more than I can tell, unless it was the devil himself.

Well, this continued for a long time, till at last Shane was obliged to give it up as a bad job. The very night after he gave it up, there was a great noise heard in the air, as if there was a great battle, and the next morning, when Shane got up, what should he see but the Abbey built up nearly to the top of the tower. To be sure, it was the blessed angels that did it, and they would have finished it entirely, if Shane hadn’t cried out with surprise.

Shane took possession of it, and gathered the friars together, and became the first abbot of Mucruss Abbey. That’s the story of Skeheen-a-Vibo.

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