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.