Clough Mór and Fionn mac Cumhaill

Fionn mac Cumhaill threw most of the big stones that are littered across the north of Ireland. He was also responsible for creating the Giants Causeway, the Isle of Man and Lough Neagh and gives his name to the Cooley mountains across the Lough.

Fionn mac Cumhaill pursued a wild boar across Slieve Foy mountain in Carlingford and slew it. He cooked it on top of the smouldering Volcano that had long since erupted but which still emitted enough heat to cook the unfortunate but delicious hog. He laid down to sleep and woke as the dawn sun began to rise in the Mourne’s, and as he cast his eyes on Carlingford Lough below, a great shadow stretched over the Lough and momentarily blocked out the sun. To his surprise he saw another giant as big as himself, a white shield slung over his shoulder, armed with a mighty sword in one hand and a club in the other.

“Who are you?” shouted Fionn his voice reverberating around the mountains. “I am the cock of the North,” shouted the other giant and he began to crow and flap his elbows like they were wings.”If I go across that Lough, said Fionn, I’ll put the crowing off you mighty quick.”

“My name is, Ruscaire, I am the Giant of Snow and Ice, the enemy of the whole human race, and if it’s fighting you want, I’m your man.”

You dare to challenge me, said Fionn, the Giant of Summer. You may think you have conquered me, you may even hold me prisoner, but in the end I will break out and the whole of nature will rejoice.

Both giants drew their swords, each with one foot in Carlingford Lough, and the other astride the mountains. They fought day and night with swords and on the second day with clubs. On the third morning Ruscaire awoke early from the nights slumber, and while Fionn still slept he crossed the Lough and stole the sword of Fionn. He could have slain him as he slept but he had honour.

When Fionn awoke and found that his sword was gone and that Ruscaire had taken it, he fell into a great rage, picked up stones and fired them at him across the water. A great battle of stone and rock firing began, thumping down and rocking the very foundations of the mountains. Close to where Fionn stood lay the Clough Mór stone, it weighed nearly 50 tons. With a great effort, Fionn summoning all his strength, gathered his great arms around it and hurled it at Ruscaire. It landed on the unfortunates head. It crushed his great body back into the mountain where it melted away like ice beneath the stone.

Fionn overextended himself with the mighty effort, he was exhausted and lay down on top of the smouldering volcano to sleep. His head lay at the mountain top and his feet rested in the Lough. Such was his tiredness that he never awakened and as the years passed by, his great body turned to rock, and the outline of his body can be seen to this day.

Fionn not only outlived his son and grandson, he survived to unfortunately see the massacre of his beloved Fianna at the battle of Gabhra.

However, according to the most popular account of Fionn’s death, he is not dead at all, rather, he sleeps in a cave, surrounded by the Fianna. One day they will awake and defend Ireland in the hour of her greatest need. In one account, it is said they will arise when the Dord Fiann, the hunting horn of the Fianna, is sounded three times, and they will be as strong and as well as they ever were.

Image @ Mac Creative Photography, exclusively for © Stair na hÉireann – History of Ireland

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