Morough O'Lee

Morough O'Lee lived in Connemara at the end of the seventeenth century.  Rory O'Flaherty who wrote a description of West Connaught in 1700 had this to say about Morough:

"There is now living Morough O'Lee who imagined he was himself personally in Hy Brasil for two days.  By that means about seven or eight years after, he began to practise both surgery and physic though he never studied either in all his lifetime before, as all we that know him since he was a boy can aver."

Apparently Morough had fallen asleep on a fairy fort and when he awoke he found himself in Tír na nÓg.  He remained there for a year studying the fairie's knowledge of medicine and when he set out for home he was given a book that contained the cures for all diseases.  At the same time he was told that he must not open it for seven years and then he would find all the secrets of healing.  When he reached his home he discovered that only three days had gone by since he had went away.

He kept the book carefully, intending to wait for seven years as the Good People had told him, but after three years there came a severe epidemic which spread throughout the country.  People came to him and beseeched him to open the fairies's book, so he opened it and he was able to help some of them, but because he had not waited seven years he was not able to help them all.

The manuscript which Morough had is now number 453 in the library of the Royal Irish Academy and it is known as the 'Book of Hy Brasil'.  It consists of ninety-three pages of vellum and was written during the fifteenth century.  The language is in Irish and it contains medical texts which were typical of those read by the Irish doctors of the time.  In all probability it was one of the books which had been part of the library of the well-known medical family called Mac an Leagh (Lee) who practised medicine for a  least two centuries before the year 1600 in the area of Sligo and north Roscommon.


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