Myths & Legends
Tir na N'og
(The Land of Youth)
One day the Fianna, the ancient Irish warriors, were hunting on the shores of Lough Leane when a beautiful woman rode out of the lake on a white horse. She invited Oisin (the son of Fionn, the leader of the Fianna) to return to her home which she said was under the waters of the lakes and was called Tir na N'og (the land of youth) where nobody grew old and there was eternal spring.
Everything was as Niamh Cinn iir (Niamh of the golden hair) had promised but after what he thought was three years Oisin wanted to visit his family. Niamh warned him that 300 years had passed since he left the shores of Lough Leane. If he ever got off his horse's back he would immediately become a very old man.
All had changed in the land of mortals. There was no trace of the Fianna. St Patrick had come to Ireland and many churches were being built.
One day watching five men making heavy weather of moving a huge rock Oisin said one of the Fianna could have done the job.
Challenged by the builders Oisin was moving the rock with one hand when his horse's stirrup broke. When he fell to the ground his body was subject to all of the 300 years he had been away. It is said that for the short while he lived he was a great help to St Patrick filling him in on the ancient history and customs of Ireland.
It has been claimed that the Chieftain O'Donoghue makes his grand appearances on May-Day morning because this is the anniversary of his disappearance from this life. An early nineteenth-century account states that 'a favoured few only are in general permitted to see him, and this distinction is always an omen of good fortune to the beholders. When it is granted to many, it is a sure token of an abundant harvest.
A description of the vision has the rising sun beginning to gild the lofty summit of Glena when, amid showers of spray, O'Donoghue suddenly appears on his proud white war-horse which springs after a great wave. Followed by mirthful youths and maidens, with beautiful garlands of Mayflowers, dancing to the strains of an enchanting melody.