The Sea Siren’s Revenge: A Folktale of the River Delvin, Ireland

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Pinpoint Location: River Delvin, County Meath / Map data ©2016 Google

This folktale of the river Delvin tells the story of Ruadh Mac Righduinn, who refused the acknowledge his child.

The present River Delvin, which rises in Meath and which falls into the Irish Channel at Gormanstown, north of Balbriggan, in the County of Dublin, was formerly called in Irish Inbher Oillbine.

Long ago, in that part of the country lived a prince, named Ruadh Mac Righduinn, son to the King of Fir-Muiridh (the people of Muiredh, a plain in Bregia or Meath). He collected a crew for four currachs, to cross the sea, in order to visit his foster-brother, the son of the King of Lochlann or Scotland.

When the sailors reached the middle of the sea, however, they failed to move in any direction; the currachs stood still as if held by an anchor. Ruadh looked around his ship to discover the cause of the delay. Finding none, he jumped over its side and went under the tide to examine the situation more closely.

He saw nine women, the fairest of the Nereid race. They were seated in three canoes, each boat holding three of those beauties. They took Ruadh with them, and for a time he was lost to his companions.

The sirens had a charming territory under the waves, abounding in all manner of delights. The prince remained in their realm for nine nights; spending one night with each of those Naiads, and, as fate would have it, one of the sea-nymphs became pregnant during his stay.

After a while, the prince was permitted to depart. He promised to visit them on his return trip. Ruadh then went to the house of his foster-brother and remained with him seven years. On his way home, he did not keep his promise, for he had no desire to live under the sea.

The nine women then went to seek him, bringing with them the son that had been born during his absence. They sought justice or revenge, but they were denied access to the prince in his palace.

Stung with rage and despair, the mother killed her own and Ruadh’s son. Afterwards, she flung his head on the shore; all who saw this were terrified and said, as if with one mouth, “Is oilb bine!,” (It is an awful crime). And so originated the name Inbher Oillbine.

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