The Fate of Larry Cotter: A Folktale of Lough Gur, Ireland

Lough Gur - Ireland
Pinpoint Location: Lough Gur, County Limerick / Map data ©2017 Google

This folktale from Lough Gur tells the story of Larry Cotter, a farmer who was ruined by supernatural influence. 

Larry Cotter was an industrious man who had a thriving farm near Lough Gur. He would have lived there quietly and soberly to the end of his days if misfortune had not come upon him.

You see, Larry owned a bit of meadow-land by the watersider, but one year after the other the grass of the meadow was destroyed. No one could tell how this happened. The walls were well made and not a stone of them was disturbed; nor could his neighbours’ cattle have been guilty of the trespass, for they were fettered.

“What will I do?” said Larry to his neighbour, Tom Welch. “That meadow-land, for which I am paying much rent, is doing nothing to make up for it.

“Maybe,” replied Welch, “if you keep watch by night, you will discover what’s going on. Mick and Terry, my boys, will go with you.”

The following night, Larry Cotter and Welch’s two sons hid in a corner of the meadow. The full moon was shining beautifully down upon the lake, and the only sound to be heard was the cry of corncrakes answering one another across the water.

“Boys!” said Larry, “look! look there! but don’t make a sound.”

They looked and saw a great fat cow, followed by seven milk-white heifers, moving on the smooth surface of the lake towards the meadow.

“Now, boys,” said Larry Cotter, when he judged that the wonderful creatures had advanced far enough into the meadow, “get between them and the lake.”

The cow must have overheard Larry speaking, for she quickly returned to the shore of the lake, and into it. The seven heifers fled after her, but the Welch boys got down to the lake first and drove them toward Larry.

Larry drove the seven heifers to the pound. After he had kept them there for three days, and no owner came forth, he took them out and put them in a field of his own. There they remained, until one night the gate of the field was left open. In the morning the seven heifers were gone.

Larry searched high and low, but he could not find a trace of them. In the end he concluded that the creatures had made their way back into the lake.

Wherever they came from, or to whatever world they belonged, Larry Cotter never had a crop of grass off the meadow because of these creatures. He took to drinking out of grief, and they say it was this drinking habit that killed him.

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