The Garran Bawn: A Folktale of Moghia, Ireland

Pinpoint Location: Aghaboe, County Laois / Map data ©2016 Google
Pinpoint Location: Aghaboe, County Laois / Map data ©2016 Google

This folktale from Moghia tells of a clever old horse, and of the ruffians that were naive enough to assail him. 

Once upon a time, there were two celebrated monasteries. One was at Aghaboe, in the Queen’s County, and the other some eight or ten miles distant, at Monahincha, in the County of Tipperary.

The monks of one of these monasteries had a grey horse, past its days of labour in the field. But the hardy and knowledgeable old animal was still turned to good use. It had travelled so frequently between Aghaboe and Monahincha, that it knew every inch of the Ballaghmore road.

In those times there were no postal facilities, but the monasteries needed to keep up a daily communication. And so the Garran Bawn — as the old horse was called — was trained to travel back and forth each day, with saddle-bags slung on either side of his back to balance each other. Soon the animal learned to jog along leisurely, with the necessaries and messages for the monks of both establishments contained in the saddle-bags.

None of the people along the road bothered the Garran Bawn, because they knew he bore only what was useful for the monks. However, there were three rascals living in the neighborhood, called Deegan, Dooly, and Dullany, who had no respect for the old horse, nor for the requisites he carried.

These men conspired to seize the poor animal, and to plunder the panniers. They waited on the highway, at a place called Moghia, near Lismore, where the Garran Bawn was stopped, and the robbers, emptying out the contents of the saddle-bags, escaped with their plunder.

However, after this shabby transaction, they all came to misfortune and sorrow, as the story goes. They even brought a deep disgrace on all those who belonged to their families. A law was passed in both the religious houses, that no person named Deegan, Dooly, or Dullany, should be ordained a priest; nor was any monk of the name ever afterwards admitted into the Monasteries of Aghaboe or Monahincha.

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  1. Note that I’ve placed the pinpoint location for this legend at Aghaboe, extending to the Tipperary County borders. I could not find a present day Moghia or Lismore anywhere in County Laois.


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