A Tale of Finn Mac Cooil

A Tale of Finn Mac Cooil

Thousands of years ago, at the time of the Battles of the Giants in Ireland, Finn Mac Cooil was fighting with a great, red-haired Scots giant who had come over to challenge him.

He beat him and chased him eastwards towards the sea. But the Scots giant was a faster runner and began to get ahead of him, so Finn, who was afraid that he would jump into the sea and escape, stooped down and clutched a great handful of the soil of Ireland to throw at him. He cast it, but missed his enemy, and the great lump of earth fell into the midst of the Irish Sea. It is the Isle of Mann, and the great hole which Finn made, where he tore it up, is Lough Neagh.

There were men, too, in Ireland in those days as well as giants, and to some of them it seemed to happen in a different way.

Men do not always understand the doings of giants, because men live, it may be said, in the footprints of the giants. It seems that at this time the Irish tribes were gathered in two great forces getting ready to meet the plunderers who had left Scotland and were at work on their own coast. Their blood got too hot and they went into each other in downright earnest, to show how they would do with the rascals when they came.

To their confusion – for they lost hold over themselves – they got into boggy ground and were in great danger. The leaders, seeing that it was going to mean a big loss of life, got all their men together on a big patch of dry ground that happened to be in the bog-land, when all of a sudden a darkness came overhead and the ground began to shake and tremble with the weight of the people and the stir there was at them, and then it disappeared, people and all.

Some said that it took plunge and sank into the bog with the people on it. Others said that it was lifted up, and the people on it dropped off into the swamp. No doubt the darkness that was caused by the hand of Finn made it hard to see just how it happened.

However that may be, a while after this they said the sea was surging dreadful, and the men in the boats had to hold to the sides, or it’s out they’d have been thrown. And behold!, a few days after this there was land seen in the middle of the sea, where no man ever saw the like before.

You may know that this story is true because the Irish have always looked on the Isle of Mann as a parcel of their own land.

(source: artwork, ‘Giant’ by saryth; text Manx Fairy Tales by Sophia Morrison (1911)).

Bernadette Weyde

Bernadette Weyde

I'm a web designer, amateur historian and keen gardener and I enjoy bringing Manx history, folklore and poetry to a modern audience.

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