Told by Eoghan Mac Fionnghaile, Mullach Dubh, Ceann Caslach aged 86 years in 1938, Eoghan heard it from his father Domhnaill Ruadh Mac Fionnghaile (McGinley) from Mullach Dubh (Mullaghduff) in 1862.
Just the other day I have past an island in Mullaghderg lake and they call it Óilean Seán and it brought back to my memory when about 75 years ago I had passed the same island along with my father. I asked my father the reason for the foundations of a mud-cabin which had been built there and he told me the following story.
Once there was a man called Seán Ó Domhnaill and he lived in the townland of Baile Mhanuis or Mullagh Dubh Irish
and that occupation was hunting and fishing.One day he was at sea fishing and his wife was at home, when who should come into the house but a beggar man looking for some help. Sean’s wife rose and gave him plenty oaten cake and some water to drink with it. The beggar said nothing but ate the bread and drank the water. Then he wished to God that she always would have plenty oaten bread and water. Seán’s wife took this prayer very highly, as it was the people’s notion at the time that whatever prayer the beggar would ask he would get from God. The beggar then left. It was not long after the beggar left when Sean came in and his wife was crying. Seán asked her the reason she had for crying but his wife did not like to tell him, but Seán said at last that he would surely kill her if she would not tell him what was wrong. So as last she told him. So after Seán took some bread and water, he rose and got on his hat, took his sword, and asked his wife, which end of the house did the beggar pass when he left. She told him he passed from the west and that meant by Kincasslagh road. So off went Seán and it is said that he came up with the beggar at a place called Cruit Strand. Sean and the beggar fought a duel there but having only a dagger, Sean got the better of the beggar and killed him there and then. Seán came home then after killing the beggar and told the wife all about what happened. Sean’s wife was grief stricken about what happened.
It was said that the beggar was a Connaught man. All the Connaught beggars at that time used [to] frequent Donegal and the Donegal beggars used [to] frequent Connaught. That was all the communication was between Donegal and Connaught. It was not long until the news went to Connaught that this beggar was killed by Seán Ó Domhnaill and Seán got word also that the Connaught men were going to have revenge on him. So Seán prepared and built a mud cabin in Oileán Sean which gave the name Oileán Seán to the island ever since that time. When the mud cabin was built Sean and his son Marcus went to live on the island. They got in contact with the Dohertys of Belcruit and the Dohertys of Meenbannad. The Dohertys of Belcruit were to watch the sea side of the island and the Dohertys of Meenbannad were to watch the mountain side of the island. If the Dohertys of Belcruit were to see the enemy coming from sea, they were to signal to Seán and his son to take the mountain side for safety. The Dohertys of Meenbannad were to signal Seán and his son to sea, if the enemy was coming from the mountain side. So when the enemy did come the Dohertys of Meenbannad waved on Sean and his son against the enemy.
Seán had a currach on the island. When he got the signal himself and his son went into the currach and made by way of Glenmore.
That night the enemy saw the currach coming up the lake. They divided themselves into two squads, one party staying close to the lake and the other party farther off from the lake. So when Sean and his son landed on the shore the party nearest to him went between him and the currach for fear he would get on the lake again. Seán and his son had to run for their lives. They did run for when the enemy got Sean and killed him there and then. The son being strong and supple went farther up the glen, until he reached the second party who stopped him. Marcus the son had to make for the cross glen. Once in there he thought he was safe as there is a very high spink (cliff) in this glen.
Marcus got his back to the spink and faced his enemies but none of them had the courage to come closer to him. It was then getting late in the day and they did not know how they would get him rooked (chased) out of glen. At last they thought of rolling a big stone off the top of the spink on top of Marcus.
This stone killed him at once. The enemy then covered Marcus’ body with tons of stones so that they would be sure he would not rise from the dead again. And I am sure myself that it would be impossible for him to rise under the weight of stone that were built over his body. Because it is not “hear say” (rumour) with me about the stones that were built over Marcus’ body. I saw the stones hundreds of times as I used to be looking after cattle and sheep in my young days. I remember to be very many times sitting on top of the wall of stones built over Marcus, and I was not afraid that Marcus would be able to rise. The wall of stones over his body at that time was about two feet high, two feet wide and seven feet long.
There is now a public road passing over Marcus’ body. The place is now called “Scailpe Mharcuis” and the glen is now called “Áilt Seáin Uí Domhnaill.
Notaí … Áilt Seáin Uí Domhnaill is a big glen situated between the townlands of Belcruit and Mullaghderg Mountains.
Scailpe Mharcuis is a narrow glen which crosses the larger glen at right angles. Through this glen runs one of the roads leading from of Belcruit and Mullaghderg Mountains.
Oilean Seán an island in Mullaghderg Lake
Recorded by Pádraig Ó Domhnaill O.S (Teacher) as Béal na Cruite, Ceann Caslach for the School Folklore Collection on 30th March 1938
This story is set towards the end of the 18th century. The following are some historical facts that supports this time frame. The Dohertys came to live in Cruit Island and Belcruit around 1750, and it would be another 10 years before they would have be trusted with such an important role as ensuring the native Seán Ó Domhnaill’s safety. I say that Seán was a native, but local genealogical knowledge would show that the Seán or a generation before him would have came from one of the islands off the Rosses’ western coast.
Oaten bread was the main fare in Seán’s household. This event may have taken place in the days before the introduction of Indian Meal (Maize) to Ireland to alleviate hunger in the early years of the 19th century.