Lough Neagh

Wonderful tales are related about the formation of Lough Neagh; and the whole country round abounds with traditions. One of them affirms that the great Fionn Ma-Coul, being in a rage one day, took up a handful of earth and flung it into the sea; and the handful was of such a size that where it fell it formed the Isle of Man, and the hollow caused by its removal became the basin of the present Lough Neagh.

Another legend is that a holy well once existed in the locality, blessed and sanctified by a saint with wonderful miraculous powers of healing; provided that every patient on leaving, after cure, carefully closed the wicket-gate that shut in the well. But once, however, a woman having forgotten this information, left the gate open, when instantly the indignant waters sprang from their bed and pursued the offender, who fled in terror before the advancing waves, until at last she sank down exhausted, when the waters closed over her, and she was no more seen. But along the track of her flight the waters remained, and formed the great lake now existing, which is exactly the length the woman traversed in her flight from the angry spirit of the lake.

Mysterious influences still haunt the locality all round Lough Neagh; for it is the most ancient dwelling-place of the fairies, and when they pass at night, from one island to another, soft music is heard floating by, and then the boatmen know that the fairies are out for a pleasure trip; and one man even averred that he saw them going by in the track of the moonbeam, a crowd of little men all dressed in green with red caps, and the ladies in silver gossamer. And he liked these pretty creatures, and always left a little poteen for them in the bottle when he was on the island. In return for which attention they gave him the best of good luck in fishing and in everything else; for never a gauger came next or nigh his place while the fairies protected him, and many a time they led the gauger into a bog, and otherwise discomfited him, when he and his men were after a still.

So the fisherman loved his little friends, and they took great care of him; for even in the troublous times of '98, when the wreckers were all over the country, they did him no harm; though indeed the same wreckers knew where to find a good glass of something when they came his way, and he always gave it to them with a heart and a half; for didn't they tell him they were going to free Ireland from the Sassenach tyranny.

Down deep, under the waters of Lough Neagh, can still be seen, by those who have the gift of fairy vision, the columns and walls of the beautiful palaces once inhabited by the fairy race when they were the gods of the earth; and this tradition of a buried town beneath the waves has been prevalent for centuries amongst the people.

Giraldus Cambrensis states, that in his time the tops of towers, "built after the fashion of the country," were distinctly visible in calm, clear weather, under the surface of the lake; and still the fairies haunt the ruins of their former splendour, and hold festivals beneath the waters when the full moon is shining; for the boatmen, coming home late at night, have often heard sweet music rising up from beneath the waves and the sound of laughter, and seen glimmering lights far down under the water, where the ancient fairy palaces are supposed to be.