Chapter II Page 13
THE COW OF A WIDOW OF BREFFNY
IN the ancient times a man the name of McGauran ruled in these parts. He was a cruel tyrant surely and prouder than the High King of Ireland or O'Rourke was a Prince in Breffny. He conceited for to build a house would stand to the end of time, a stronghold past the art of man to overthrow or the fury of the wind to batter down. He gave out that all the bullocks in his dominions were to be slaughtered and mortar wet with the blood of them. Evenly the cows were not spared at the latter end, the way a powerful lamentation went up from the poor of the world were looking on the lonesome fields.
You that are young will be thinking the blackness of his spirit and the cruelty of his heart brought a curse on him to rot the flesh off his living bones. You will be expectant of the story of a king, and he walking the provinces of Ireland a skeleton and a warning to the eyes of man. But the aged and wise have understanding to know of the tribulation laid out for the good and the just, they putting their sorrows over them in this world where the evil have prosperity. The like will be enduring for a short space only, and a queer fate waits the wicked in the age-long hours of eternity. Proud is the tyrant and wealthy till they set him in the clay : humbled with fear is his spirit at the journey's end.
There was a widow woman had her little dwelling convenient to where McGauran was building his castle. Gold she had none, nor evenly a coin was of silver, one cow only was her riches on the earth. (And surely them that had heart to molest her like would be robbing the dead of the raiment is with them in the grave.) Herself was more nor horrid lonesome the day she seen the creature driven from her by a man of the chief's, he having a lengthy knife in his hand.
At the fall of night a traveller came to the poor woman's cabin door. He was a bent, aged man with a sorrowful countenance on him, and the garments did cover him were rags. She invited him within, giving him the kindly welcome, and she set out what food was in the place for his refreshment.
"It is destroyed I am with a parching drought is splitting my gullet," says he, "and I walking the mountainy ways since the screech of dawn. The sun was splitting the bushes at the noon of day, and the fury of it was eating into my skin. But no person took compassion on me at all."
With that the widow set a mug of milk before him, and it the last drop was in the countryside. He drank it down, middling speedy, and he held out the cup to be filled again.
"'Tis a heart scald surely," says herself,
that I be to refuse the request of a man is weary walking the territory of Ireland, since the rising sun brought light on his path. There is a king in these parts, stranger, and he has the cattle destroyed on the poor of the world, the way he will have a lasting mortar to his house."
"Isn't yourself after giving me the loveliest mug of sweet milk?" says he, like one was doubtful of the honesty of her words.
"The last drop was in this townland, stranger, and it is heart glad I am that it refreshed you. I had but the one cow only, the grandest milker in the land, and she was driven from me this day-up yonder to the masons are working with their shovels dripping red."
" I am thinking it is four strong walls in the pit of Hell are building for that chieftain's soul. Maybe it's red hot they'll be, and he imprisoned within them for a thousand years and more," says the traveller.
" Let there be what masonry there will in the next world, the wealth of the people cements his castle there beyond. For the cow and the milk and the butter are the gold of the dwellers on the land," says the widow. "But let you be resting a while in this place what haste is on you to depart ? " For she seen he was rising to be gone.
He raised his hand in benediction, and the voice of him speaking was that sweet it charmed the birds off the bushes, the way they flew round him in the darkening night.
"May the blessing of the King of Heaven be upon you. May He send you a cow will never run dry, and you milking her at all seasons of the year to the day of your departure from the world."
With that the place was bare of his presence. He was gone the like of a spirit has power to travel the land unseen.
At the morning of the day following the poor woman stood at her cottage door, facing out to the mountains are a long journey from that place. Didn't she see a great wonder :A piece fell clean from the hillside and from it came a cow, white as the driven snow, she travelling faster nor the wind. The widow seen all as clear as we do be regarding the rising of the sun in the Eastern sky. Whatever power was laid on her eyes the distance was no obstruction to her vision that day. But it was not until the creature came and stood by herself that she bethought her of the benediction of the traveller, and the cow would never run dry.
That was the beast had the great renown on her : people came from every art and part to be looking on her. The milk she gave was richer nor the best of cream, and the butter off it was the best in Ireland. The day the widow died, a young child seen the white cow travelling away to the mountains. And no man beheld her more, nor evenly heard tell of the like. But the Gap of Glan confronts us to this day, and that is where the creature rose to the light of the world.
There were two McGowaran's castles, one at Ballymacgowran and the other at Lisanover. The ruins of the former still exist but the latter was completely destroyed and replaced by a Georgian mansion which itself was demolished in 1920s.
The above tale almost certainly refers to Lisanover Castle.
In 1835 Daniel Grosse, the author, artist and traveler stayed at the mansion and wrote about Lisanover, Templeport and the surrounding area.
He maintained 'Lisanover' means 'The Fort of Extravagance' although other authorities consider 'The Fort of Pride' more appropriate. Copies of his ink wash illustrations with an account of the topography and history of the area are available on the Templeport web site at: www.templeport.ie/pages/lisanover-castle.html