The Tyrant Chieftainess: A Folktale of Kilmagoura, Ireland

Pinpoint Location: Kilmagoura, County Cork / Map data ©2016 Google

This folktale from Kilmagoura tells of Eileen Oge Fitzgerald, who lived a life of violence and paid the price in death.

Not far from the town of Charleville lies the townland of Kilmagoura. On it may be seen a large elevated Lios (Fort), where a castle is said to have stood. This castle was the home of a masculine and tyrannical lady, belonging to the great Desmond Geraldine family. As an extensive wood grew around the castle, she is traditionally remembered in the neighborhood as Eileen Oge Fitzgerald of Kylemore (or of the Great Wood).

Eileen was a fierce and restless woman, constantly leading her clansmen to make forays in all the adjoining districts. She killed all who opposed her and then took possession of their property. This plunder she brought to and buried in the Lios.

Her death at length relieved her neighbors from the terror she inspired. Her punishment followed afterwards, for she was often seen at night wandering over the scenes of her former depredations as an evil spirit.

Owing to her oppressive behavior she was condemned to wear a thin garb, appearing as an old woman shivering with cold. Her feet resembled those of a sheep, with divided horny hoofs.

Once, when a priest was out late and attending a sick call, she crossed his path. He commanded her to stop and inquired why she was thus wandering, or why she appeared in that guise, with the feet of a sheep.

The spirit answered: “For my cruelty in oppressing the poor, for forcing them to perform weighty tasks, and for depriving a poor widow of the milk of her five sheep, my feet are deformed, and I am thus doomed to perpetual motion, until the Day of Judgment.”

With the single exception of this Eileen Oge Fitzgerald, all the local and popular traditions regarding the Geraldines are invariably in their praise; admiration for their worth, bravery, and noble actions was generally expressed in the fireside stories of the peasantry.

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