Tig na Vauriah: A Folktale of Donaghadee, Ireland

Pinpoint Location: Donaghadee, County Down/ Map data ©2018 Google

This folktale from Donaghadee explains the origin the town name, and of the saying ‘as far as Tig na Vauria from Donaghadee.’ 

There was once a poor man named Donagha Dee, who lived with a nagging wife in a small forest cabin at the heart of the County Kerry. Between his wife and his poverty, Donagha could never get a moment’s peace.

One morning in the beautiful month of May, Donagha was quietly smoking his pipe in the chimney corner, when his wife, coming in from the well with a can of water, began shouting at him as if there were a thousand beagles in her throat.

“You lazy good-for-nothing husband!” she said, “have you nothing else to do this blessed morning but to sit poking over the ashes with your doodeen stuck in your jaw? Shouldn’t you be gathering firewood?”

Donagha made no reply, but quietly took his billhook and gad, and started toward the forest. A beautiful day it was; the sun was dancing through the trees, and the little birds were singing like so many pipers at a pattern, so that it was like a new life to Donagha. Feeling his heart rise within him, he took up his billhook and began to work as contented as if he had no wife at home to fret him.

He wasn’t working long when he heard a voice coming out of the middle of the wood; and, though it was the sweetest voice he had ever heard, he couldn’t help being frightened a little, for it wasn’t the voice of man, woman, or child.

“Donagha! Donagha!” said the voice.

But Donagha didn’t much like to answer.

“Donagha!” said the voice again.

Donagha thought it would be best to speak.

“I am here.”

“Donagha, don’t be frightened,” the voice said, “I’m St. Brandon, sent to inform you that, because you’re a good Christian and mind your duty, you shall be granted two wishes. But be careful what you wish for, Donagha.”

As he began to work again, Donagha pondered on the best way to use his wishes. Would he take riches for his first wish? Then what should he take for the second? A good wife or no wife at all? He thought for a long time, unable to make up his mind what to wish for.

As night approached, Donagha gathered a great bundle of firewood, and, heaving it upon his shoulder, went home. He was tired from the work, and he found the load rather too much. Stumbling with weariness, he was obliged at length to throw it down.

Sitting upon his bundle, Donagha was greatly bothered. The night was closing in fast, and he knew what kind of a welcome he’d have at home if stayed out too late, or returned without a full load of firing.

“Would to heaven,” he said, in his distress, and forgetting the power of his wish, “this brosna could carry me, instead of the other way around.”

Immediately the brosna began to move, and, seated on the top of it, poor Donagha cut a mighty odd figure surely; roaring out a thousand murders for having thrown away one of his wishes so foolishly.

His wife Vauria (Mary) was standing at the door looking out for him, ready to give him a good beating; but she was struck dumb at seeing Donagha so queerly mounted, and at hearing him crying out in such a manner. When she came a little to herself, she asked Donagha a thousand questions; and poor Donagha told her what happened. She was mighty angry with him for throwing away his luck.

Donagha, worn out and perplexed, was not able to bear it, and at length cried out as loud as he could, “I wish to heaven, I wish to heaven, you old scold, that’s the plague of my life, I wish to heaven that Ireland was between us.”

No sooner said than done, for Donagha was whipped up by a whirlwind and dropped at the north-eastern side of Ireland, where Donaghadee now stands. And Vauria, house and all, was carried off at the same time to its most south-western spot, beyond Dingle, and not far from the great Atlantic Ocean. The place, to this day, is known by the name of Tig na Vauria, or Mary’s house.

When people speak of places wide asunder, it has become a proverb to say, ‘as far as Tig na Vauria from Donaghadee.’

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