The Devil’s Tune: A Folktale of Knockeendubh, Ireland

Knockeendubh, County Kerry
Pinpoint Location: Knockeendubh, County Kerry / Map data ©2018 Google

This folktale from Knockeendubh tells the story of Father Clancey, who got delayed by a devilish tune. 

Father Phill Clancey was in Killarney on a little business, and became delayed until the night came on. A desperate dark night it was; so, as there was no use in attempting to go home, he was obliged to content himself with a snug lodging, and a smoking tumbler of whiskey punch.

Just as he was mixing the second tumbler, word was brought him that Moll Barry of Claunteens was at the last gasp, and that she couldn’t leave the world in peace unless Father Phill gave her the blessed sacrament.

Now, Father Phill didn’t like to leave his warm tumbler of punch and snug room, but how could he refuse Moll Barry? Seeing there was no help for it, he got on his pony and galloped along the Castle Island road as fast as the dark would let him.

It wasn’t long till he passed the park-gate, and the little bridge over the Dinah, and reached the old fort at Knockeendubh; a lonesome place, said to be home to the good people. There, Father Phill heard the most beautiful music in the world, and he couldn’t help to stand and listen.

All at once, the music stopped and two voices begun to sing Aileen a roon.

Father Phill was pleased with the song. After listening for some time, he rode into the fort to discover who was doing the singing. The moment he entered the gates, he saw them; two great mastiffs singing for the bare life. But no sooner did he make the sign of the cross, than they vanished in flame.

Father Phill set spurs to his pony, and galloped on as fast as he could. It wasn’t long until he came to the house at Claunteens; but he was the day after the fair, for poor Moll Barry was already. Then he knew that it was the devil himself that delayed him at the old fort, to prevent the poor woman from receiving blessed sacrament.

So Aileen a roon became known as the the devil’s tune.

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