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The Dismal of the Burren – 1934


Limerick Leader 20th October, 1934 p.10 (abridged)

St. Colman’s
Photo: EO’D

The clans are embattled at dark Corcomroe,
And proudly their trumpets and warhorns blow;
The blood, bone and strength of all Thomond are there,
With lances in rest and broad-swords bare.
The chivalrous powers of Clan Cullein march on,
With the proud MacNamaras, like towers, in the van;
The plumes of their legions are nodding on high,
Like tall forest-tops waving dark in the sky.
(The Bard of Thomond)
The clans encamped for the night, securing their cattle within the boundary walls of the monastery. Many slept on the floor of the church, some in cubicles, but others passed the night in mirth around their blazing bivouac fires. They were the MacInerneys, Lorcains, O’Claras, Mannions, O’Molonys, O’Hallorans, O’Currys, O’Slatterys, O’Hassetts, O’Malleys, O’Hartigans, O’Haleys, O’Condergans, O’Conways, O’Meehans, O’Mahons, MacMahons, O’Lynchs and O’Kellys of Galway. O’Regans, O’Griffys, O’Howards, Mahownas, MacEncros of Inagh, O’Galvins, O’Liddys, O’Doyles, O’Kellihers, O’Cunneens, O’Gerans and the clan Giolla Maoel.
Donough Brian Rua’s followers were assembled on the Burren hills to the westward of the abbey. At early morning he marshalled his forces, and marched to meet his foes. Reaching the shores of Lough Raska he and his men met with a strange apparition, described by MacGrath as “the monstrous and distorted form of a lone, ancient, hideous hag, that stooped over the bright lock’s shore. The creature’s semblance was this; she was thatched with elf locks, foxy-grey and rough as heather; long as sea-wrack, inextricable tangled; that had a bossy, wrinkled, foully ulcerated forehead, every hair of her eyebrows was like a strong fishhook, and from under them, bleary dripping eyes peered with malignant fire between lids all rawly crimson-edged. The crone had a cairn of heads, a pile of arms and legs, and a load of spoil, all of which she rinsed and diligently washed, so that by her labour the water of the lake was covered with hair and gory brains. The army, hushed, intently and long gazed at her, but the chief spoke to the beldame;
“What is thy name, what people are thing, or whome are, these the so maltreated dead on this moist shore?”
She nothing loth replied; “The Dismal of Burren I am named always, ’tis of the tuatha de Danann I declare myself, and royal chief; this pile stands for your heads, in their midst thine own here; which now thou carriest it, yet no longer is thine. Proudly as thou goest to battle, the time is not far from thou when all to a very few ye must be slain.”

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