Lough Derravaragh


Beautiful Lough Derravarragh, near Crookedwood, Co. Westmeath is associated with one of the most famous tales of Irish imaginative literature – ” Oidhe Chlann Lir”, the Fate of the Children of Lir. Founded partly on fact and partly on fiction this tale is classed among what are generally called Tri Truagha na Scealaidheachta, The Three Sorrows of Storytelling – the other two being The Exile of the Children of Uisneach and The Faith of the Children of Tuireann.

Lir was a chieftain of the Tuatha de Danann tribe. On the death of Daghda, their king a convention of chiefs elected Bodhbh Dearg (Bov the Red) his son to succeed him. This decision offended Lir who felt he had a greater claim to the kingship.

Shortly thereafter, Lir ‘s wife died and Bodhbh Dearg, who had three beautiful foster-daughters, as a gesture of friendship offered Lir the choice of his daughters as wife. Lir chose Aobh (Eve) the eldest who bore him four beautiful children: Fionnuala, Aodh, Fiachra, and Conn. Tragedy struck and Aobh died, Lir was heartbroken and he too would have died but for the great love he had for his children.

After a time Bodhbh Dearg offered Lir Aoife, the sister of Aobh, as wife; accordingly Lir and Aoife were married.

Lir’s four children were famous for their beauty and were beloved by all the Tuatha De Danann. At the beginning Aoife looked after the children with a mother’s love but evil touched her heart and she became insanely jealous of Lir’s love for his children.

One morning when Lir was away hunting Aoife took the children out in her chariot to visit their grandfather Bodhbh Dearg. Stopping at Lough Derravaragh she led the children to the water to bathe. As soon as they were on the lake she cast a spell changing them into four beautiful swans, decreeing that they should spend 300 years on Lough Derravaragh, 300 years on the Sea of Moyle (between Ireland and Scotland) and 300 years on the Bay of Erris, Co Mayo.

Aoife left them their speech and also gave them the power of singing in a way surpassing all earthly music. Legend has it that for this crime Bodhbh Dearg punished Aoife by transforming her into an air demon.

During their 300 years on Lough Derravaragh great crowds frequently camped on the shore to listen to the singing of the swans. Later on the stormy Sea of Moyle and finally, on the Bay of Erris the four swan-children underwent great sufferings.

During their final days on the Bay of Erris, the children learnt of a holy man called Patrick, who had come to Ireland to tell the people about the Christian faith (St Patrick came to Ireland in 432A.D.). As one of Patrick’s disciples prayed with them their feathers fell away and they were restored to their human form. They were now three old feeble men and an old woman. Patrick’s disciple St Caemhoch baptised them before they died. They were buried together in the one grave as they had wished .


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