FROM the town of Fermoy, famous for the
excellence of its bottled ale, you may plainly see the mountain of Cairn Thierna.
It is crowned with a great heap of stones, which, as the country people
remark, never came there without "a crooked thought and a cross
job." Strange it is, that any work of the good old times should be
considered one of labour; for round towers then sprung up like mushrooms in
one night, and people played marbles with pieces of rock that can now no more
be moved than the hills themselves.
This great pile on the top of Cairn
Thierna was caused by the words of an old woman, whose bed still remains – Labacally,
the hag’s bed — not far from the village of Glanworth. She was certainly
far wiser than any woman, either old or young, of my immediate acquaintance.
Jove defend me, however, from making an envious comparison between ladies; but
facts are stubborn things, and the legend will prove my assertion.
O’Keefe was Lord of Fermoy before the
Roches came into that part of the country; and he had an only son — never
was there seen a finer child; his young face filled with innocent joy was
enough to make any heart glad, yet his father looked on his smiles with
sorrow, for an old hag had foretold that this boy should be drowned before he
grew up to manhood.
Now, although the prophecies of Pastorini
were a failure, it is no reason why prophecies should altogether be despised.
The art in modern times may be lost, as well as that of making beer out of the
mountain heath which the Danes did to great perfection. But I take it, the
malt of Tom Walker is no bad substitute for the one; and if evil prophecies
were to come to pass, like the old woman’s, in my opinion we are far more
comfortable without such knowledge.
"Infant heir of proud Fermoy,
Fear not fields of slaughter
Storm and fire fear not, my boy,
But shun the fatal water."
These were the warning words which caused
the chief of Fermoy so much unhappiness. His infant son was carefully
prevented all approach to the river, and anxious watch was kept over every
playful movement. The child grew up in strength and in beauty, and every day
became more dear to his father, who, hoping to avert his doom, which, however,
was inevitable, prepared to build a castle far removed from the dreaded
The top of Cairn Thierna was the place
chosen; and the lord’s vassals were assembled and employed in collecting
materials for the purpose. Hither came the fated boy; with delight he viewed
the laborious work of raising mighty stones from the base to the summit of the
mountain, until the vast heap which now forms its rugged crest was
accumulated. The workmen were about to commence the building, and the boy, who
was considered in safety when on the mountain, was allowed to rove about at
will. In his case, how true are the words of the great dramatist:
"—Put but a little water in a
And it shall be, as all the ocean,
Enough to stifle such a being up."
A vessel which contained a small supply of
water, brought there for the use of the workmen, attracted the attention of
the child. He saw, with wonder, the glitter of the sunbeams within it; he
approached more near to gaze, when a form resembling his own arose before him.
He gave a cry of joy and astonishment, and drew back; the image drew back
also, and vanished. Again he approached; again the form appeared, expressing
in every feature delight corresponding with his own. Eager to welcome the
young stranger, he bent over the vessel to press his lips; and losing his
balance, the fatal prophecy was accomplished.
The father in despair abandoned the
commenced building, and the materials remain a proof of the folly of
attempting to avert the course of Fate.