The Story of O'Kennedy of Lackeen Castle, Tipperary and the Phooka.

O'Kennedy was coming home one dark night after being to the funeral of a lady in Aglishlohane and afterwards dining with his cousin O'Kennedy of Ballyhough Castle, when on passing Eglish old church he saw a light glimmering in a back window and he thought he heard and saw two old women within.  He got down from his horse and tied him to an ash bough by the roadside. He climbed over the stile that led to the churchyard and cautiously peeped in through the window, and what did he see but a pair of vagabonds sitting beside an open coffin which held the corpse of the lady whose funeral he had been to earlier that day.  The old women were just in the act of stealing from the corpse a fine pearl necklace, and real gold rings from her ears and jewels from her hair, and diamond rings from her fingers.  This enraged O'Kennedy who let out an oath and jumped down upon the two old women, who shouted with fright and ran off as quick as their legs could take them.

O'Kennedy let out a whoop and chased after the old crones but they ran as if they  were carried on the wind and shook their bony fists at him daring him to catch them which he could not and they disappeared in the distance.  As they ran they called out to the Pooka which lived nearby.  The Pooka raised himself from the bottom of a hole with red eyes and nostrils flaming like fire, "You'll be sorry you ever entered Eglish churchyard tonight" he says.   O'Kennedy replies cheekily "Maybe you'll be sorrier yourself" and with that he drew his sword from it's scabbard as quick a lightning he slashes the pooka across the forefeet and sent his hooves flying in the air and then just as quickly he threw his sword belt around the fore and hind legs of the beast, strapping him down tightly and then he slung him on his back as if the pooka was just a hare or partridge caught for sport, for O'Kennedy was as strong as an ox.  The Pooka kicked, and turned and lashed out to no avail.  He cursed and swore for he was so enraged at being caught in such a manner.

O'Kennedy carried the pooka back to his horse "Cock-of-the-Walk" and slung him over the back of the saddle-crupper and the pooka roared all the way as they galloped home to Lackeen Castle past Sir Toby Butler's big house called "Lisduff".  It was after twelve o'clock when he reached his own gates and ordered the servants who were still awake wondering where their master had gone, to open the gates and let him and his howling prize inside.  "If you dare to do that I'll burn you all with my breath and you'll be truly gone to the blazes then!" says the pooka.  The servant Tim O'Meara ignored the pooka being loyal to his master and opened the gate, but says he to his master "For goodness' sake let the creature loose or neither yourself, nor your family nor none of us will have any peace or ease, or be able to get a decent night's sleep again!"  So O'Kennedy listened to the advice of his servant and let the pooka go, first eliciting a promise that the pooka would harm no breed, seed or generation of the O'Kennedy family.  The Pooka agreed to the terms with a scowl and scampered off.  Although many people claim to have seen an otherworldly goat lurking about the castle on occasions, no harm has come to the O'Kennedy family since.

Source:  John O'Hanlon,  Irish Folklore: Traditions and Superstitions of the country, first published 1870. republished 1973.


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