Of the Strange and Woonderfull Places in Ireland.
The Fourth Chapter.
I THINKE it good to begin with S. Patrike his purgatorie, partlie bicause it is
S. Patrike his purgatorie.
most notoriouslie knowne, & partlie the more, that some writers, as the author
of Polychronicon and others that were miscaried by him, séeme to make great
doubt where they néed not. For they ascribe the finding out of the place not to
Patrike that conuerted the countrie, but an other Patrike an abbat, whom likewise
they affirme to haue béene imploied in conuerting the Iland from beathenrie to
But the author that brocheth this opinion, is not found to carie anie such credit
with him, as that a man may certeinlie affirme it, or probablie coniecture it; vnlesse
we relie to the old withered worme eaten legend, loded with as manie lowd lies, as
lewd lines. The better and the more certeine opinion is, that the other Patrike
found it out, in such wise as Cambrensis reporteth. There is a poole or lake, saith
Camb. lib. 1. topag. dist. 2. rub. 6.
he, in the parts of Vlster, that inuironneth an Iland, in the one part whereof there
standeth a church much lightned with the brightsome recourse of angels: the
other part is ouglie and gastlie, as it were a bedlem allotted to the visible assemblies
of horrible and grislie bugs. This part of the Iland conteineth nine caues. And if
anie dare be so hardie, as to take one night his lodging in anie of these ins, which
hath béene experimented by some rash & harebraine aduenturers, streight these
spirits claw him by the backe, and tug him so ruggedlie, and tosse him so crabbedlie,
that now and then they make him more franke of his bum than of his toong;
a paiment correspondent to his interteinement. This place is called S. Patrike his
purgatorie of the inhabitors. For when S. Patrike laboured the conuersion of the
people of Vlster, by setting before their eies in great heat of spirit, the creation of
the world, the fall of our progenitors, the redemption of man by the blessed and
pretious bloud of our sauiour Iesus Christ, the certeintie of death, the immortalitie of
the soule, the generall resurrection, our latter doome, the ioies of heauen, the paines
of hell, how that at length euerie man, small and great, yoong and old, rich and
poore, king and keaser, potentate and pezzant must either through God his gratious
mercie be exalted to the one, to floorish in perpetuall felicitie; or through his
vnsearchable iustice tumble downe to the other, to be tormented in eternall miserie.
These and the like graue and weightie sentences, wherwith he was abundantlie
stored, so far sunke into their harts, as they séemed verie flexible in condescending
to his behest: so that some proofe of his estrange preaching could haue béene
verefied. Wherevpon, without further delaie, they spake to the prelat in this wise.
"Sir, as we like of your preaching, so we dislike not of our libertie. You tell
vs of manie gugawes and estrange dreames. You would haue vs to abandon infidelitie,
to cage vp our libertie, to bridle our pleasure: for which you promise vs for
our toile and labour a place to vs as vnknowen, so as yet vncerteine. You sermon to
vs of a dungeon appointed for offendors and miscredents. In deed if we could find
that to be true, we would the sooner be weaned from the sweet nappie of our
libertie, and frame our selues pliant to the will of that God, that you reueale vnto
vs." S. Patrike considering, that these sealie soules were (as all dulcarnanes for the
more part are) more to be terrified from infidelitie through the paines of hell, than
allured to christianitie by the ioies of heauen, most hartilie besought God, so it
stood with his gratious pleasure, for the honour and glorie of his diuine name, to
giue out some euident or glimsing token of the matter they importunatlie required.
Finallie by the especiall direction of God, he found in the north edge of Vlster a
desolate corner hemmed in round, and in the middle thereof a pit. where he reared
a church, called Reglis or Reglasse. At the east end of the churchyard a doore
leadeth into a closet of stone like a long ouen, which they call S. Patrike his purgatorie,
for that the people resort thither euen at this daie for penance, and haue
reported at their returne estrange visions of paine and blisse appearing vnto them.
The author of Polychronicon writeth that in the reigne of king Stephan, a knight
Polychr. lib. 1. c. 36.
named Owen pilgrimaged to this purgatorie, being so appalled at the strange visions
that there he saw, as that vpon his returne from thense he was wholie mortified, and
sequestring himselfe from the world, he spent the remnant of his life in an abbeie
of Ludensis. Also Dyonisius a charterhouse moonke recordeth a vision seene in
Dyon. Cart in lib. de quatu. nouiss. art. 48.
Iob. Camert. in lib. Salini. cap. 35.
that place by one Agneius, Egneius, whereof who so is inquisitiue, may resort to
his treatise written De quatuor nouissimis.
Iohannes Camertes holdeth opinion,
which he surmiseth vpon the gesse of other, that Claudius writeth of this purgatorie.
Which if it be true, the place must haue béene extant before saint Patrike, but not
so famouslie knowen. The poet his verses are these following:
"Est locus, extremum pandit qua Gallia littus,
Oceani prætentus aquis, quo fertur Vlysses
Sanguine libato populum mouisse silentum,
Flebilis auditur questus, simulachra coloni
Pallida, defunctásque vident migrare figuras."
"There is a place toward the ocean sea from brim of Gallish shore,
Wherein Vlysses pilgrim strange with offred bloud ygore,
The people there did mooue, a skritching shrill from dungeon lug
The dwellers all appall with gastlie galpe of grislie bug.
There onelie shapes are seene to stare with visage wan and sad,
From nouke to nouke, from place to place, in eluish skips to gad."
They that repaire to this place for deuotion his sake vse to continue therein foure &
twentie houres, which dooing otherwhile with ghostlie meditations, and otherwhile a
dread for the conscience of their deserts, they saie they see a plaine resemblance of their
owne faults and vertues, with the horror and comfort therevnto belonging, the one
so terrible, the other so ioious, that they verelie déeme themselues for the time to
haue sight of hell and heauen. The reuelations of men that went thither (S. Patrike
yet liuing) are kept written within the abbeie there adioining. When anie person is
The ceremonies vsed in entering S. Patrike his purgatorie.
disposed to enter (for the doore is euer spard) he repaireth first for deuise to the
archbishop, who casteth all pericles, and dissuadeth the pilgrime from the attempt,
bicause it is knowen that diuerse entering into that caue, neuer were seene to turne
backe againe. But if the partie be fullie resolued, he recommendeth him to the
prior, who in like maner fauourablie exhorteth him to choose some other kind of
penance, and not to hazard such a danger. If notwithstanding he find the partie
fullie bent, he conducteth him to the church, inioineth him to begin with praier
and fast of fiftéene daies, so long togither as in discretion can be indured. This
time expired, if yet he perseuere in his former purpose, the whole conuent accompanieth
him with solemne procession & benediction to the mouth of the caue
where they let him in, and so bar vp the doore vntill the next morning. And then
with like ceremonies they await his returne and reduce him to the church. If he be
séene no more, they fast and praie fiftéene daies after. Touching the credit of these
matters, I sée no cause, but a christian being persuaded that there is both hell and
heauen, may without vanitie vpon sufficient information be resolued, that it might
please God, at sometime, for considerations to his wisdome knowen, to reueale by
miracle the vision of ioies and paines eternall. But that altogither in such sort,
and by such maner, and so ordinarilie, and to such persons, as the common fame
dooth vtter; I neither beléeue nor wish to be regarded. I haue conferd with
diuerse that had gone this pilgrimage, who affirmed the order of the premisses to
be true; but that they saw no sight, saue onelie fearefull dreams when they chanced
to nod, and those they said were excéeding horrible. Further they added, that the
fast is rated more or lesse, according to the qualitie of the penitent.
Cambrensis affirmeth, that in the north of Mounster there be two Ilands, the
Camb. lib. 1. topog. distinct. 2. rub. 5.
greater and the lesse. In the greater there neuer entereth woman or anie liuing
female, but forthwith it dieth. This hath béene often prooued by bitches and cats,
which were brought thither to trie this conclusion, and presentlie they died. In
this Iland the cocke or mascle birds are seene to chirpe, and pearch vp and downe
the twigs, but the hen or female by instinct of nature abandoneth it, as a place
vtterlie poisoned. This Iland were a place alone for one that were vexed with a
shrewd wife. The lesse Iland is called Insula viuentium,
bicause none died there,
ne maie die by course of nature, as Giraldus Cambrensis saith. Howbeit the
dwellers when they are sore frusht with sicknesse, or so farre withered with age as
there is no hope of life, they request to be conueied by boate to the greater Iland,
where they are no sooner inshored, than they yéeld vp their ghosts. For my part,
I haue béene verie inquisitiue of this Iland, but I could neuer find this estrange
propertie soothed by anie man of credit in the whole countrie. Neither trulie
would I wish anie to be so light, as to lend his credit to anie such feined gloses, as
are neither verefied by experience, nor warranted by anie colourable reason. Wherfore
I see not why it should be termed Insula viuentium,
vnlesse it be that none
dieth there, as long as he liueth.
Cambrensis telleth further, that there is a churchyard in Vlster, which no female
Cambren. in codem loco.
kind maie enter. If the cocke be there, the hen dareth not follow. There is also
in the west part of Connaght an Iland, placed in the sea, called Aren, to which
saint Brendan had often recourse. The dead bodies néed not in that Iland to be grauelled.
For the aire is so pure, that the contagion of anie canien maie not infect
it. There, as Cambrensis saith, maie the sonne sée his father, his grandfather, his
great grandfather, &c. This Iland is enimie to mice. For none is brought thither,
but either it leapeth into the sea, or else being staied it dieth presentlie. There was
in Kildare an ancient monument named the Firehouse, wherein Cambreasis saith,
The Firehouse of Kildare.
was there continuall fire kept day and night, and yet the ashes neuer increased. I
trauelled of set purpose to the towne of Kildare to sée this place, where I did sée
such a monument like a vault, which to this daie they call the Firehouse.
Touching the heath of Kildare Cambrensis writeth that it maie not be tild: and
The heath of Kildare.
of a certeintie within this few yeares it was tried, and found, that the corne which
was sowed did not prooue. In this plaine (saith Cambrensis) stood the stones that
The stones of Salisburie plaine.
now stand in Salisburie plaine, which were conueied from thense by the sleight of
Merlin the Welsh prophet, at the request of Aurelius Ambrosius king of the Britons.
There is also in the countie of Kildare a goodlie field called Moolleaghmast, betwéene
the Norrough and Kilka. Diuers blind prophesies run of this place, that
there shall be a bloudie field fought there, betwéene the English inhabitants of
Ireland and the Irish, and so bloudie forsooth it shall be, that a mill in a vale hard
by it shall run foure and twentie houres with the streame of bloud that shall powre
downe from the hill. The Irish doubtlesse repose a great affiance in this balducktum
dreame. In the top of this height stand motes or rundles verie formalie fashioned,
where the strength of the English armie (as they say) shall be incamped.
The Earle of Sussex being lord lieutenant of Ireland, was accustomed to wish,
The earle of Sussex.
that if anie such prophesie were to be fulfilled, it should happen in his gouernement,
to the end he might be generall of the field. Not farre from Moolleagmast, within
a mile of Castledermot, or Thristledermot, is there a place marked with two hillocks,
which is named the Geraldine his throw or cast. The length of which in
The Geraldines throw.
verie déed is woonderfull. The occasion procéeded of this. One of the Geraldins,
who was ancestor to those that now are lords of Lackath, preded an enimie of his.
The earle of Kildare hauing intelligence therof, suppressing affection of kinred,
and mooned by zeale of iustice, pursued him with a great troope of horssemen, as
the other was bringing of the prede homeward. The Geraldine hauing notice giuen
him, that the earle was in hot pursute, and therefore being warned by the messenger
to hie him with all speed possible: the gentleman being nettled, that his
kinsman would séeme to rescue the prede of his deadlie fo; and as he was in such
fretting wise frieng in his grease, he brake out in these cholerike words, "And
dooth my cousine Kildare pursue me in déed? Now in good faith, whereas he
séemeth to be a suppresser of his kindred, and an vpholder of my mortall enimie, I
The Geraldines wish.
would wish him no more harme, than that this dart were as far in his bodie, as it
shall sticke foorthwith in the ground:" and therewithall giuing the spurres to his
horsse, he hurled his dart so farre, as he abashed with the length thereof aswell his
companie as his posteritie.
The Geraldine was not verie farre from thense, when the earle with his band
made hot foot after, and dogging still the tracke of the predours, he came to the
place where the dart was hurled, where one pickthanke or other let the earle to
vnderstand of the Geraldine his wild spéeches there deliuered. And to inhanse the
heinousnesse of the offense, he shewed how farre he hurled his dart, when he
wished it to be pitched in his lordship his bodie. The erle astonied at the length
thereof, said: "Now in good sooth, my cousine in behauing himselfe so couragiouslie,
The earle of Kildares answer
is woorthie to haue the prede shot free. And for my part I purpose not so
much to stomach his cholerike wish, as to imbrace his valiant prowesse." And
therewithall commanded the retreat to be blowne and reculed backe. There is in
Meeth an hill called the hill of Taragh, wherein is a plaine twelue score long, which
The hill of Taragh.
was named the Kempe his hall: there the countrie had their méetings and folkemotes,
as a place that was accounted the high palace of the monarch. The Irish
historians hammer manie fables in this forge of Fin mac Coile and his champions,
as the French historie dooth of king Arthur and the knights of the round table.
But doubtlesse the place séemeth to beare the shew of an ancient and famous
There is in Castleknocke a village not far from Dublin, a window not glazed nor
The strange welles.
latized, but open, and let the weather be stormie, the wind bluster boisterouslie on
euerie side of the house; yet place a candle there, and it will burne as quietlie as
if no puffe of wind blew. This maie be tried at this daie, who so shall be willing to
put it in practise. Touching the strange wels that be in Ireland, I purpose to
speake litle more than that which I find in Cambrensis, whose words I will English,
as they are Latined in his booke. There is (saith he) a well in Mounster, with the
Camb. in lib. 1. topog. dist. 1. rub. 8. & 10.
water of which if anie be washed, he becōmeth forthwith hoare. I haue séene a
man that had one halfe of his beard, being died with that water hoare; the other
halfe vnwashed was browne, remaining still in his naturall colour. Contrariwise,
there is a founteine in the further edge of Vlster, and if one be bathed therewith,
he shall not become hoare: in which well such as loath greie heares are accustomed
to diue. There is in Connaght a well that springeth on the top of an hill farre and
distant from anie sea, ebbing and flowing in foure and twentie houres, as the sea
dooth; and yet the place is vplandish, and the water fresh. There is another
spring in the same countrie, the water of which is verie wholsome to men and
women, but poison to beasts: and if a man but put the grauell of this well into his
mouth, it quencheth presentlie his thirst.
There is in Vlster a standing poole thirtie thousand pases long, and fiftéene
thousand pases brode, out of which springeth the noble northerne riuer, called the
Banne. The fishers complaine more often for bursting of their nets with the ouer
great lake of fish, than for anie want. In our time vpon the conquest a fish swam
from this poole to the shore, in shape resembling a salmon, but in quantitie so huge,
that it could not be drawne or caried wholie togither, but the fishmongers were
forced to hacke it in gobbets, and so to carrie it in peecemeale throughout the
countrie, making thereof a generall dole. And if the report be true, the beginning
of this poole was strange. There were in old time where the poole now standeth,
vicious and beastlie inhabitants. At which time was there an old said saw in euerie
man his mouth, that as soone as a well there springing (which for the superstitious
reuerence they bare it, was continuallie couered and signed) were left open and
vnsigned, so soone would so much water gush out of that well, as would foorthwith
ouerwhelme the whole territorie. It happened at length, that an old trot came
thither to fetch water, and hearing hir child whine, she ran with might and maine
to dandle hir babie, forgetting the obseruance of the superstitious order tofore vsed.
But as she was returning backe to haue couered the spring, the land was so farre
ouerflowne, as that it past hir helpe: and shortlie after she, hir suckling, & all
those that were within the whole territorie were drowned. And this séemeth to
carie more likelihood with it, bicause the fishers in a cleare sunnie daie see the
stéeples and other piles plainlie and distinctlie in the water. And here would be
noted, that the riuer of the Banne flowed from this head spring before this floud,
but farre in lesse quantitie than it dooth in our time. Hitherto Giraldus Cambrensis.
Boetius telleth a rare propertie of a poole in Ireland, & for that he maketh himselfe
Hector Boet. in Scot. reg. descript. pag. 9. Sect. 50.
an eiewitnesse of the matter, he shall tell his owne tale. "Ac quoniam Hiberniæ
incidit mentio, præter infinita in ea rerum miracula, haud importunum fore
existimem, si vnum, quod ob portentuosam nouitatem fidem omnium excedere
videatur, nos tamen verum experti sumus, adiunxerimus. Lacus in ea est, circa
quem amplissimo circumquaque spatio nec herba nec arbor vlla nascitur, &c: in
quem si lignum infigas anni circiter vnius curriculo, id quod in terra fixum erit, in
lapidem conuertetur; quod deinceps aquâ operietur, in ferrum: reliquum aquâ
exstans ligni formam naturámque seruabit. Ita coniuncta, lapis, ferrum & lignum
eodem in stipite inaudita nouitate conspectantur." But for that mention is made
of Ireland, ouer and aboue the infinite number of woonders in that land, it will not
be wholie beside the purpose, to insert one maruellous thing, which although it
may seeme to some to haue no colour of truth: yet because it hath beene by vs
experimented, and found out to be true, we maie the better aduouch it. There is
a standing poole in that Iland, neere which of all sides groweth neither herbe, shrub,
nor bush. If you sticke a rod or péece of timber in this poole, that which sticketh
in the earth within the space of one yeare turneth to a stone; as much as is dipt in
the water, is conuerted to iron; all that is aboue the water remaineth still in the
pristinat and former woodden shape. So that you may sée that which is strange,
in one stocke or sticke, stone, iron and wood linkt and knit togither. Thus much
In the countrie of Kilkennie and in the borders thereto confining, they vsed a
solemne triall by a water they call Melashée. The propertie of this water is, as they
say, that if a periured person drinke thereof, the water will gush out at his bellie,
as though the drinker his nauill were bord with an auger. The riuer that runneth
by Dublin named the Liffie hath this propertie for certeine, and I haue obserued it
at sundrie times. As long as it reigneth, yea if it stood powring six daies, you
shall find diuerse shallow brookes, and the riuer will be nothing thereby increased:
but within foure and twentie houres after the showres are ceast, you shall perceiue
such a sudden spring flow, as if the former raine were great; a verie few places or
none at all will be found pasable. Cambrensis writeth, that in the south part of
Cambr. lib. 1. dist. 2. rub. 41.
Mounster, betwéene the maine sea coasting on Hispaine and saint Brendan his hills,
there is an Iland of the one side incompassed with a riuer abundantlie stored with
fish, & on the other part inclosed with a little brooke. In which place saint
Brendan was verie much resiant. This plot is taken to be such a sanctuarie for
beasts, as if anie hare, fox, stag, or other wild beast be chased néere that Iland by
dogs, it maketh straight vpon the brooke, and assoone as it passeth the streame, it
is so cockesure, as the hunter may perceiue the beast resting on the one banke, &
the dogs questing on the other brim, being as it were by some inuisible railes
imbard from dipping their féet in the shallow foord, to pursue the beast chased.
On the other side of this Iland there runneth a riuer stored aboue measure with
fresh water fish, and in especiallie with salmon. Which abundance, as Cambrensis
writeth, procéeded of God, to mainteine the great hospitalitie that was kept there.
And because the dwellers thereabout shall not like pinching coistrels make anie sale
of the fish, let it be poudered as artificiallie as may be, yet it will not kéepe (as
though it were manna) aboue the first night or daie that it be taken. So that you
must eate it within that short compasse, otherwise it putrifieth and standeth to no
This riuer ouerfloweth a great rocke, vsuallie called the Salmon leape: for as it
The Salmon leape.
is commonlie the propertie of all fish to swim against the tide, as for birds to flitter
against the wind; so it is naturallie giuen to the salmon to struggle against the
streme, and when it approcheth neere this high rocke, it bendeth his taile to his
head, and sometime taketh it in his mouth; and therewithall beareth it selfe ouer
the water, and suddenlie it fetcheth such a round whiske, that at a trice it skippeth
to the top of the rocke. The like salmon leape is néere Leislip, but not so high as
this. There be also, as witnesseth Cambrensis, in the further part of Vlster, certeine
hils néere to saint Bean his church, where cranes yearelie bréed. And when
they haue laied their egs, if anie purpose to ransacke their nests, let him but attempt
to touch the egs, they will shew like yoong scralling pullets without feather or
downe, as though they were new hatched, and presentlie brought out of their shels.
But if the partie plucke his hand from the nest, forthwith they shew (whether it be
by anie metamorphosis, or some iugling legier de maine by dazeling the eies) as
though they were transformed into egs. And further, saith Cambrensis, let two
at one instance be at the nest, and let the one of them onelie giue the gaze, and
the other attempt to take awaie the egs, they will séeme to the looker on as egs,
and to the taker as yoong red little cranets, being as bare as a bird his arsse.
The towne of Armagh is said to be enimie to rats, and if anie be brought thither,
presentlie it dieth. Which the inhabitants impute to the praiers of saint Patrike.
But to omit the strange places, that either by false reports are surmised, or by
proofe and experience dailie verefied: there are in this Iland such notable quaries
of greie marble and touch, such store of pearle and other rich stones, such abundance
of cole, such plentie of lead, iron, latin and tin, so manie rich mines furnished
Ireland the storehouse of nature.
with all kind of metals, as nature séemed to haue framed this countrie for
the storehouse or iewelhouse of hir chiefest thesaure. Howbeit she hath not
shewed hir selfe so bountifull a mother in powring foorth such riches, as she
prooueth hir selfe an enuious stepdame; in that she instilleth in the inhabitants a
drousie lithernesse to withdraw them from the insearching of hir hourded and
hidden iewels. Wherein she fareth like one, that to purchase the name of a sumptuous
frankelen or a good viander, would bid diuerse ghests to a costlie and deintie
dinner, and withall for sauing of his meat with some secret inchantment would
benum them of their lims, or with some hidden lothsomnesse would dull their
stomachs, as his ghests by reason of the one are not able, or for the other not
willing, by taking their repast to refresh themselus, in so much as in my phantasie
it is hard to decide whether estate is the better: either for a diligent laborer to be
planted in a barren or stonie soile, or for a luskish loiterer to be setled in a fertill
ground; because the one will, and may not; the other may and will not through
his painefull trauell reape the fruit and commoditie that the earth yéeldeth.