The rugged mountains of north-west Cork in the province of Munster in the south of Ireland have for centuries provided the backdrop for strange tales and mysterious happenings. Once this land abounded with the tales of Fionn and the Fianna, bands of legendary heroes and god-like men who hunted the stag in its wooded slopes and glens. This was part of the famed Slieve Luachra, of Ireland's mystical past. Long before Saint Patrick introduced them to Chritianity the early inhabitants of this land gathered to practice their pagan worship.
Later, a vast part of this land from the summits of the Mullaghareirk Mountains to the plains of the Blackwater River, became the home of the MacAuliffe (Mac Amhlaoibh) clann. Descended from the Celtic kings of ancient Desmumu, the MacAuliffes ruled this land for centuries until driven out by English invaders. For most of the time they were peaceful farmers, producing bountiful crops of vegetables along with butter and honey. Their castles often resounded to music and song, as their bards and minstrels performed their works at many feasts. In times of war, the MacAuliffes became fierce warriors, fighting valiantly for their own land, which was known as Clanawley, and rallying to defend the rulers of Desmumu, to whom they were bound by allegiance and kinship ties.
The Gaelic clann MacAuliffe carried on the traditions of their Celtic ancestors until well into the 19th century, until English influence and land confiscations finally overwhelmed them. Today, the clann is spread throughout many parts of the world. Their traditions are not entirely forgotten, however, and the mysterious tales from their past are still told. Read on, dear visitor, as I present for you two of the legends of my people, the MacAuliffes.
These MacAuliffe legends were used as the subjects of two poems written by Edward Walsh, the poet of Duhallow, in the 1830's and published in 'the Dublin Penny Journal' in 1835. His poems are presented here, along with the legend of Mealane in story by M.Hickey
The beautiful daughter of the chieftain disappears in mysterious circumstances on her wedding day.According to this legend, Mealane Ni Amhlaoibh (Meelan Ni Auliffe) is taken by the faeries. (Note the prefix 'ni' - traditionally, the Gaelic prefix 'mac' referred to sons of the clann, while 'ni' was used for daughters. Meelan, as a daughter of the clann MacAuliffe, is referred to in the traditional way as Mealane Ni Auliffe. Alternative spellings of her name include Meelan and Meelin). To learn about the legend read the story by M.Hickey and the poem by Edward Walsh.
A chieftain of the MacAuliffes rescues the beautiful daughter of a neighbouring chieftain from the power of the Faeries. The lady Ellen had seemingly died but an old wizard told MacAuliffe that her spirit was held captive in the Palace of the Faeries. MacAuliffe ventured there while the faeries were holding a feast, found the lady Ellen and escaped with her. He married the lovely Ellen and, in the best tradition of all good fairy stories, they enjoyed a magical life together. The story is told in the poem by Edward Walsh.
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The MacAuliffe Legends
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This page last updated 9 May 2011
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