The Hurlers of Loch Leane: A Folktale of Killarney, Ireland

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

This folktale from Killarney tells the story of Tim Shea, who was witnessed the most wonderful hurling match.

It was a beautiful moonlit night, and Tim Shea was sitting on a rock by the lakeside, looking at the cattle that were grazing about. It wasn’t long until he began to get quite lonesome; and it did not take long before the dark islands and gray rocks in the lake, and their shadows that were dancing a moneen1)A jig, from Mom-turf, for a dance upon the turf on the water, brought O’Donoghue and his hurlers into his mind.

Before long he saw something white waving on the lake at a great distance; and when it came near he saw O’Donoghue himself riding on a big white horse.

“Tim Shea,” he said, “you must deliver a message for me; you must carry this letter to the county Waterford.”

“To Waterford!” Tim replied, “Mr. O’Donoghue, don’t send a poor gomalf (fool) like me on such a journey this blessed night.”

“You must be off in a minute, or maybe it would be worse with you. I will mind the cattle until you return, and I will lend you my own horse so that you’ll be better mounted than any gentleman in the kingdom.”

And that was true enough; for he was a beautiful horse, with silver shoes, and gold stirrups, and little gold and silver bells upon his bridle, that jingled with every stir.

“Tim Shea, put this letter in your pouch, and when the horse stops in front of a big castle, give it to whomever opens the door, and bring me back an answer.”

“I will, your honour.”

The white horse flew like the wind. Indeed, it gave Tim some trouble to stick on his back, though he held tight by the neck. Soon they arrived in county Waterford, and the horse made for a big cliff that hang over the sea. Tim thought he was a dead man.

When they reached the edge of the cliff, the horse turned up his snout and gave a great snort, and leaped clean into the middle of the wide ocean. Splash, splash, went the water, and down they went to the bottom; where Tim foundhimself in the middle of a fine city.

They went through the street —all the people staring — until they came in front of a big castle, and the white horse stopped and began to jingle his bells, until the door was opened and an elegant lady walked out.

“What’s your business, Tim Shea?” she asked.

“A note from O’Donoghue, my lady.”

“Give it here, and I’ll bring you an answer in a minute.”

As soon as Tim stored the reply in his pouch, the white horse started back to the big rock by the lakeside; and as soon as he came up to O’Donoghue, he tossed Tim off like a straw.

“Where’s the answer, Tim?” asked O’Donoghue.

“Here, your honour.”

“Tim,” he said, when he read it, “you’ll see some fun soon, for the boys from Waterford are coming, and there’ll be a fine hurling match; but whichever way it goes, remain silent.”

With that he got on his white horse, and galloped into the lake.

“Joy be with you,” Tim said, but the words were hardly out of my mouth, when the lake was covered over with O’Donoghue’s people; and it wasn’t long until the boys from Waterford rushed by in a whirlwind.

Tim was delighted to see the beautiful ball and hurleys they had, and to hear the shouts as they pucked it about from one end of the lake to the other, until at last the Waterford boys began to get the better of the Kerry men. ‘

“Blug-a-bouns! what are you doing, O’Donoghue!” Tim shouted, quite forgetting that he wasn’t allowed to speak; up jumped a big ugly-looking fellow, and hit him over the head with his hurley. Tim dropped to the ground; and when his consciousness returned there was nothing to be seen but the gray mist of the morning, creeping calmly along the lake, and the cattle that were quietly grazing around him.

Ever after, Tim kept a civil distance from the lake after nightfall.

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Notes   [ + ]

1. A jig, from Mom-turf, for a dance upon the turf

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