CELT document T307006D

The Court of Crinnawn

Douglas Hyde

Cúirt an Chronnáin

Whole text


The Court of Crinnawn

A LONG time ago there came a lot of gentlemen to a river which is between the County Mee-òh (Mayo) and Roscommon, and they chose out a nice place for themselves on the brink of a river, and set up a court on it. Nobody at all in the little villages round about knew from what place these gentlemen came. MacDonnell was the name that was on them. The neighbours were for a long time without making friendship with them, until there came a great plague, and the people were getting death in their hundreds.

One day there was the only son of a poor widow dying from the destructive plague, and she had not a drop of milk to wet his tongue. She went to the court, and they asked her what she was looking for. She told them that the one son she had was dying of the plague, and that she had not a drop of milk to wet his tongue.

“Hard is your case,” says a lady that was in the court to her. “I will give you milk and healing, and your son will be as well at the end of an hour as ever he was.” Then she gave her a tin can, and said: “Go home now, this can will never be empty as long as you or your son is alive, if you keep the secret without telling anybody that you got it here. When you will go home put a morsel of the Mary's shamrock (four-leaved shamrock?) in the milk and give it to your son.”

The widow went home. She put a bit of four-leaved shamrock in the milk, and gave it to her son to drink, and he rose up at the end of an hour as well as ever he was. Then the woman went through the villages round about with the can, and there was no one at all to whom she gave a drink that was not healed at the end of an hour.


It was not long till the fame of Maurya nee Keerachawn (Mary Kerrigan), that was the name of the widow, went through the country, and it was not long till she had the full of the bag of gold and silver.

One day Mary went to a pattern at Cultya Bronks, drank too much, fell on drunkenness, and let out the secret.

There came the heavy sleep of drunkenness on her, and when she awoke the can was gone. There was so much grief on her that she drowned herself in a place called Pull Bawn (the White Hole), within a mile of Cultya Bronks.

Everybody thought now that they had the can of healing to get at the Court of Crinnawn if they would go there. In the morning, the day on the morrow, there went plenty of people to the court, and they found every one who was in it dead. The shout went out, and the hundreds of people gathered together, but no man could go in, for the court was filled with smoke; and lightning and thunder coming out of it.

They sent a message for the priest, who was in Ballaghadereen, but he said: “It is not in my parish, and I won't have anything to do with it.” That night the people saw a great light in the court, and there was very great fear on them. The day on the morrow they sent word to the priest of Lisahull, but he would not come, as the place was not in his parish. Word was sent to the priest of Kilmovee, then, but he had the same excuse.

There were a lot of poor friars in Cultya Mawn, and when they heard the story they went to the court without a person with them but themselves.

When they went in they began saying prayers, but they saw no corpse. After a time the smoke went,  p.144 the lightning and thunder ceased, a door opened, and there came out a great man. The friars noticed that he had only one eye, and that it was in his forehead. “In the name of God, who are you?” said a man of the friars.

“I am Crinnawn, son of Belore, of the Evil Eye. Let there be no fear on ye, I shall do ye no damage, for ye are courageous, good men. The people who were here are gone to eternal rest, body and soul. I know that ye are poor, and that there are plenty of poor people round about ye. Here are two purses for ye, one of them for yourselves, and the other one to divide upon the poor; and when all that will be spent, do ye come again. Not of this world am I, but I shall do no damage to anyone unless he does it to me first, and do ye keep from me.”

Then he gave them two purses, and said: “Go now on your good work.” The friars went home; they gathered the poor people and they divided the money on them. The people questioned them as to what it was they saw in the court. “It is a secret each thing we saw in the court, and it is our advice to ye not to go near the court, and no harm will come upon ye.”

The priests were covetous when they heard that the friars got plenty of money in the court, and the three of them went there with the hope that they would get some as the friars got it.

When they went in they began crying aloud: “Is there any person here? is there any person here?” Crinnawn came out of a chamber and asked: “What are ye looking for?” “We came to make friendship with you,” said the priests. “I thought that priests were not given to telling lies,” said Crinnawn; “ye came with a hope that ye would get money as the poor friars got. Ye  p.145 were afraid to come when the people sent for ye, and now ye will not get a keenogue (mite) from me, for ye are not worth it.”

“Don't you know that we have power to banish you out of this place,” said the priests, “and we will make use of that power unless you will be more civil than you are.”

“I don't care for your power,” said Crinnawn, “I have more power myself than all the priests that are in Ireland.” “It's a lie you're speaking,” said the priests. “Ye will see a small share of my power to-night,” said Crinnawn; “I will not leave a wattle over your heads that I will not sweep into yonder river, and I could kill ye with the sight of my eye, if I chose. Ye will find the roofs of your houses in the river to-morrow morning. Now put no other questions on me, and threaten me no more, or it will be worse for ye.”

There came fear on the priests, and they went home; but they did not believe that their houses would be without a roof before morning.

About midnight, that night, there came a blast of wind under the roof of the houses of the priests, and it swept them into the river forenent the court. There was not a bone of the priests but was shaken with terror, and they had to get shelter in the houses of the neighbours till morning.

In the morning, the day on the morrow, the priests came to the river opposite the court, and they saw the roofs that were on all their houses swimming in the water. They sent for the friars, and asked them to go to Crinnawn and proclaim a peace, and say to him that they would put no more trouble on him. The friars went to the court, and Crinnawn welcomed them, and  p.146 asked them what they were seeking. “We come from the priests to proclaim a peace on you, they will trouble you no more.” “That is well for them,” said Crinnawn, “come with me now until ye see me putting back the roofs of the houses.” They went with him as far as the river, and then he blew a blast out of each nostril. The roofs of the houses rose up as well as they were when they were first put on. There was wonder on the priests, and they said:

“The power of enchantment is not yet dead, nor banished out of the country yet.” From that day out neither priest nor anyone else would go near the Court of Crinnawn.

A year after the death of Mary Kerrigan, there was a pattern in Cultya Bronks. There were plenty of young men gathered in it, and amongst them was Paudyeen, the son of Mary Kerrigan. They drank whiskey till they were in madness. When they were going home, Paudyeen O'Kerrigan said: “There is money in plenty in the court up there, and if ye have courage we can get it.” As the drink was in them, twelve of them said: “We have courage, and we will go to the court.” When they came to the door, Paudyeen O'Kerrigan said: “Open the door, or we will break it.” Crinnawn came out and said: “Unless ye go home I will put a month's sleep on ye.” They thought to get a hold of Crinnawn, but he put a blast of wind out of his two nostrils that swept the young men to a lis (old circular rath) called Lisdrumneal, and put a heavy sleep on them, and a big cloud over them, and there is no name on the place from that out, but Lis-trum-nail (the fort of the heavy cloud).

On the morning, the day on the morrow, the young men were not to be found either backwards or forwards, and there was great grief amongst the people. That  p.147 day went by without any account from the young men. People said that it was Crinnawn that killed them, for some saw them going to the court. The fathers and mothers of the young men went to the friars, and prayed them to go to Crinnawn and to find out from him where the young men were, dead or alive.

They went to Crinnawn, and Crinnawn told them the trick the young men thought to do on him, and the thing he did with them. “If it be your will, bestow forgiveness on them this time,” said the friars; “they were mad with whiskey, and they won't be guilty again.” “On account of ye to ask it of me, I will loose them this time; but if they come again, I will put a sleep of seven years on them. Come with me now till you see them.” “It's bad walkers, we are,” said the friars, “we would be a long time going to the place where they are.” “Ye won't be two minutes going to it,” said Crinnawn, “and ye will be back at home in the same time.”

Then he brought them out, and put a blast of wind out of his mouth, and swept them to Lisdrumneal, and he himself was there as soon as they.

They saw the twelve young men asleep under a cloud in the lis, and there was great wonder on them. “Now,” said Crinnawn, “I will send them home.” He blew upon them, and they rose up like birds in the air, and it was not long until each one of them was at home, and the friars as well, and you may be certain that they did not go to the Court of Crinnawn any more.

Crinnawn was living in the court years after that. One day the friars went on a visit to him, but he was not to be found. People say that the friars got great riches after Crinnawn. At the end of a period of time the roof fell off the court, as everyone was afraid  p.148 to go and live in it. During many years after that, people would go round about a mile, before they would go near the old court. There is only a portion of the walls to be found now; but there is no name on the old court from that day till this day, but Coort a Chrinnawn (Crinnawn's Court).

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Title (uniform): The Court of Crinnawn

Title (original, Irish): Cúirt an Chronnáin

Author: Douglas Hyde

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Electronic edition compiled and proof corrections by: Beatrix Färber

Funded by: School of History, University College, Cork

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1. First draft

Extent: 3340 words

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Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland— http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2012

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: T307006D

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only. This work is copyrighted and reproduced here with the kind permission of the copyright holder.

Notes statement

This story was collected by Douglas Hyde in Ballinrobe, as he notes on p. 174. The original Irish version was published in his Leabhar Sgeulaigheachta, (see below).

Source description

Literature by or about Douglas Hyde

  1. Douglas Hyde, Leabhar Sgeulaigheachta: folk stories in Irish with notes by Dr. Hyde, LL.D. (Dublin: Gill 1889), 184–193.
  2. Douglas Hyde, An Irish funeral oration over Owen O'Neill of the house of Clanaboy, Ulster Journal of Archaeology 3/4; 4/1 (1897) 258–271, 50–55.
  3. Douglas Hyde, A literary history of Ireland from the earliest times to the present day (Dublin 1899).
  4. Diarmuid Ó Cobhthaigh, Douglas Hyde: an Craoibhín Aoibhinn (Dublin: Maunsel 1917).
  5. Douglas Hyde, Catalogue of the books and manuscripts comprising the library of Sir John T. Gilbert (Dublin 1918).
  6. Douglas Hyde [=an Craoibhín Aoibhinn] (ed.), Abhráin ghrádha Chúige Chonnacht: ar n-a gcruinniughadh agus ar n-a bhfoillsiughadh de'n chéad uair (Baile Átha Cliath [=Dublin]: Foillseacháin Rialtais 1931).
  7. Douglas Hyde [=an Craoibhín Aoibhinn] (ed. & trans.), Abhráin diadha Chúige Connacht [=The religious songs of Connacht: a collection of poems, stories, prayers, satures, ranns, charms etc. being chapter VI of the Songs of Connacht (Dublin: Gill 1905–06).
  8. Douglas Hyde, Mo thúras go h-Americe (Dublin 1937).
  9. Douglas Hyde, Mise agus an Connradh (Dublin 1937).
  10. Diarmid Coffey, Douglas Hyde, President of Ireland (Dublin: Maunsel 1918).
  11. Review of above, The Irish Monthly, vol. 46/537 (March 1918) 179–180.
  12. P. S. O'Hegarty, A bibliography of Dr. Douglas Hyde (Dublin: privately printed by Alex. Thom 1939).
  13. Doiminic Ó Dálaigh, 'The young Douglas Hyde', Studia Hibernica 10 (1970) 108–135.
  14. Seán Ó Lúing, 'Douglas Hyde and the Gaelic League', Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 62/246 (summer 1973) 123–138.
  15. Gareth W. Dunleavy, Douglas Hyde (Lewisburg, New Jersey: Bucknell University Press 1974).
  16. Dominic Daly, The young Douglas Hyde: the dawn of the Irish revolution and renaissance, 1874–1893 (Dublin: Irish University Press 1974).
  17. Robert Welch, 'Douglas Hyde and His Translations of Gaelic Verse', Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 64/255 (autumn 1975) 243–257.
  18. Gareth Dunleavy, 'Hyde's Crusade for the Language and the Case of the Embarrassing Packets', Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 73 (1984) 12–25.
  19. Douglas Hyde, Language, Lore, and Lyrics: Essays and Lectures. Edited by Breandán Ó Conaire. (Blackrock: Irish Academic Press 1986).
  20. Janet Egleson Dunleavy & Gareth W. Dunleavy, Douglas Hyde: a maker of modern Ireland (Berkeley: University of California Press 1991).
  21. Brian MacCuarta, review of above, Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 81/321 (spring 1992) 122–124.
  22. Risteárd Ó Glaisne, Dúbhglas de h-Íde (1860–1949): náisiúnach neamhspleách 1910–1949 (Baile Átha Cliath [=Dublin]: Conradh na Gaeilge 1993).
  23. Seán Ó Lúing, Celtic studies in Europe: and other essays (Dublin: Geography Publications 2000).


  • Caoimhín Breatnach, Oidheadh Chloinne Tuireann agus Cath Maige Tuired: Dhá Shampla de Mhiotas Eiseamláireach, Éigse 32 (2000) 35–46.

The edition used in the digital edition

Hyde, Douglas (1890). Beside the Fire: a Collection of Irish Gaelic folk stories; with additional notes by Alfred Nutt‍. 1st ed. lviii + 203 pages. London: David Nutt.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  title 	 = {Beside the Fire: a Collection of Irish Gaelic folk stories; with additional notes by Alfred Nutt},
  author 	 = {Douglas Hyde},
  edition 	 = {1},
  note 	 = {lviii + 203 pages},
  publisher 	 = {David Nutt},
  address 	 = {London },
  date 	 = {1890}


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The present text covers pages 142 to 148 of the volume.

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Creation: Translation by Douglas Hyde; original Irish 19th century.

Date: 1890

Language usage

  • The Text is in English. (en)
  • Some words are in Irish. (ga)

Keywords: folklore; folktale; Balor; prose; 19c; translation

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(Most recent first)

  1. 2012-04-30: File proof-read (2); file parsed; SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2012-04-24: File proof-read (1); strucural makup applied; header created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2012-04-21: File captured. (text capture Beatrix Färber)

[Hyde's notes]: The Court of Crinnawn


Page 142.
The court of Crinnawn is an old ruin on the river Lung, which divides the counties of Roscommon and Mayo, about a couple of miles from the town of Ballaghadereen. I believe, despite the story, that it was built by one of the Dillon family, and not so long ago either. There is an Irish prophecy extant in these parts about the various great houses in Roscommon.

Clonalis, the seat of the O'Connor Donn — or Don, as they perversely insist on spelling it; Dungar, the seat of the De Freynes; Loughlinn, of the Dillons, etc.; and amongst other verses, there is one which prophecies that “no roof shall rise on Crinnawn,” which the people say was fulfilled, the place having never been inhabited or even roofed. In the face of this, how the story of Crinnawn, son of Belore, sprang into being is to me quite incomprehensible, and I confess I have been unable to discover any trace of this particular story on the Roscommon side of the river, nor do I know from what source the shanachie, Mr. Lynch Blake, from whom I got it, became possessed of it. Balor of the evil eye, who figures in the tale of “The Children of Tuireann” was not Irish at all, but a “Fomorian”. The pattern, accompanied with such funest results for Mary Kerrigan, is a festival held in honour of the patron saint.

These patterns were common in many places half a century ago, and were great scenes of revelry and amusement, and often, too, of hard fighting. But these have been of late years stamped out, like everything else distinctively Irish and lively.

[This story is a curious mixture of common peasant belief about haunted raths and houses, with mythical matter probably derived from books. Balor appears in the well-known tale of MacKineely, taken down by O'Donovan, in 1855, from Shane O'Dugan of Tory Island (Annals. I. 18, and cf. Rhys, Hibbert Lect., p. 314), but I doubt whether in either case the appearance of the name testifies to a genuine folk-belief in this mythological personage, one of the principal representatives of the powers of darkness in the Irish god-saga. Alfred Nutt.]

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