Kingdom of Mourne

Saint Patrick figures in many legends of Ireland. Did you know that the boundary of what is now generally known as the Kingdom of Mourne …

…. was fixed by an act of Saint Patrick himself? Well, here is one version of the story – told below in rhyme by Tom Porter.  His tale differs from the one I print here myself – but that’s the nature of time and legends!

First that other explanation! Patrick, it’s said, was made unwelcome by some local chief in this Low Mournes (I know! That last story was of the High Mournes round the coast by Newcastle!). Defiantly Patrick threw his sandal to mark out the ‘forbidden area’.  He was at a stream known as Struth Patrick in the townland of Ballaghnery (Townland of the Shepherd) and the footwear landed a distance of twelve Irish miles away at the Cassy Water.  The Saint didn’t apply curses but he was indicating at least that this area was beyond his blessing and influence!

Happily the whole district came on board later and – indeed – the odd Christian is to be found there yet, if you look hard enough!

Perhaps you know that until recent decades – indeed until the present bridge there was built, a works that dislodged the object in question! – there was a riverbed rock beneath the water that still bore the imprint of the Saint’s knee? 

It’s the God’s honest truth!

Then the river water was known to have curative properties for eye complaints, though I wouldn’t vouch for that since the stone was removed!

Right up to the time of the English interference Struth Patrick formed a territorial division – between the baronies of Mourne and Upper Iveagh. Indeed it still marks the administrative line between the Councils of Down and Newry and Mourne, but not for much longer. They’re both going soon!  The other end, the Cassy Water still marks the boundary between the upper half of the aforementioned baronies.

Time for Porter’s version of the legend!

Boundaries of Mourne


On his way from Saul to Tara

Patrick stopped to rest one day

On a heather-covered hillside

Overlooking Dundrum Bay

And from the crystal mountain stream

That flows from Donard’s seat

He quenched his thirst, gave thanks to God

And bathed his aching feet.


He sat there on a granite slab

And looked across the Bay

And saw the lovely Mona’s Isle

A wheen o’ miles away.

The day was warm, the sky was blue

The larks sang loud and clear

When round the shoulder of a hill

He saw three men appear.


Now Patrick was a civil man

And he bid them time of day

He could see they looked uneasy

So he let them have their say.

They’d come, they said, from round the hill

Between the mountain and the shore

‘..but ours is not the happy land

That it always was before.


The folk there’s always fighting

They’re murderin’ each other.

We cannot do a thing with them

We need your help, dear brother.

If you could come and see if you

Can make them mend their ways

For if you don’t we’ll all be killed

It’s been goin’ on for days’.


‘I haven’t time to go,’ says he

‘But I’ll tell you what I’ll do.

I’ll stop this fighting here and now’.

And with that picked up his shoe

He stood there at the water’s edge

With his sandal in his hand

‘Blood!’ says he, ‘will ne’er be spilled

From here to where this lands.’


‘Stand back!’ says he. The men stood back

He flung with all his might

They watched the shoe fly through the air

Till it disappeared from sight.

They thought that it was lost for sure

But then they heard next day

It had landed in another stream

Twelve Irish miles away.


The fightin’ stopped right then and there

The blood it ceased to flow

It’s been known as the Kindly Mourne

Since that time long ago.

Those streams still mark the ends of Mourne

They both flow to this day

The one into Lough Carlingford

Th’other to Dundrum Bay.





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