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LOUGH GUR “A Magical Mystical Land”

The landscape around Lough Gur has the most important assemblage of Bronze Age sites in Ireland and ranks among the most important archaeological areas in Europe. Bronze Age finds from Lough Gur are held in the national museums of many countries around the world. The locality is also exceptionally rich in field monuments from the Neolithic Period, over 5,000 years ago, to medieval times.

Much of Irish archaeologists knowledge of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages has been learnt from sites excavated at Lough Gur.

We warmly invite you to have a look around and enjoy some of the fascinating places of heritage interest found locally. Sites accessible to the public are signposted.

Lough Gur graveyard has many memorials, which have been digitally surveyed and are viewable if you follow this link:  Lough Gur Historic Graves click here  |  Lough Gur (Patrickswell) Historic Graves, click here

JOHN FRANCIS FITZGERALD (1863-1950)

Our theatre has been dedicated to the memory of John Francis Fitzgerald, the first son of Irish emigrants to be elected mayor of a US city. He was a grandfather of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. John Francis father, Thomas, emigrated from Bruff to Boston, where they married in 1857. At that time, over one third of the 150,000 people living in Boston were Irish. The Fitzgeralds produced eleven children, of whom the fourth son was John Francis. Thomas Fitzgerald and his brother, Jasmes, ran a grocery store in the city, which served as a liquor store at night. After their mothers death in 1879, John was sent to medical school to become a doctor. When his father died in 1885, John returned home to run the family business and take care of his siblings. Soon afterwards, he went to work for Democratic ward boss Matthew Keaney, who employed him as his political assistant. Fitzgerald then went into the insurance business, but not before marrying his cousin, Mary Josephine Hannon.

By 1890, he was actively involved in city politics. He soon became known as “Honey Fitz” a reference to his fine singing voice and great charm. With help from Keany, he was elected to the Common Council – Bostons lowest rung on the political ladder. He was elected to the 35 member State senate in 1893 and 1894. Further success followed with his election to Congress (1895-1901).

However, he really wanted to become Mayor of Boston. While canvassing for election as mayor in 1906, he coined the slogan “Fitzgeraldism”, which stood for better schools, better streets and better hospitals. He introduced extraordinary razzmatazz into the campaign and ended rallies with musical performances. Fitzgerald won the election and served as mayor from 1906-1908 and from 1910-1914.

PRESIDENT

When the “Honey Fitzs” first grandchild, (Joe Junior) was born in 1915, the delighted grandfather told a newspaper reporter that

“Hell make a good man on the platform some day Of course, he is going to be President of the US and he may act as Mayor of Boston and governor of Massachusetts on his way to the Presidents chair”.

The boy was not, as he had hoped, named after him, nor did he become president. However, his next grandson, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, born in 1917, became 35th President of the United States in 1961.

The association between Lough Gur/ Bruff and the Fitzgeralds was consolidated in 1908 when the Mayor visited his Irish home. He paid another visit to the locality in 1936. His granddaughter, Jean Kennedy-Smyth, opened the Honey Fitz Theatre in 1994, when she was US Ambassador to Ireland.

The area around the shores of Lough Gur is rich in mythology and folklore. The lake itself was considered to be a magical place that linked this earth with the Otherworld. Many of these stories were first recorded by folklorists in the 19th and 20th centuries.

AINA

Aina was an Irish fairy queen, a member of the mythical Tuatha da Danann. One legend states that she used her magic to kill the King of Munster, who had raped her. Legend also tells that Gerald, the Earl of Desmond, saw her brushing her hair by the banks of Lough Gur and instantly fell in love with her. He persuaded her to marry him after stealing her magical cloak, with the stipulation that Gerald would never show surprise. They had a child named Gerald FitzGerald whose antics surprised his father, therefore breaking his promise. Aina and her son were reclaimed by the loughs waters and returned to their fairy world. Aina’ son is said to have a castle beneath Lough Gur from which he emerges on a white horse every seven years.

“There was a stone belonging to Aina that was called Cathair Aina. And if anyone would sit on that stone he would be in danger of losing his wits, and any one that would sit on it three times would lose them forever. People whose wits were astray would make their way to it and mad dogs would come from all parts of the country and would flock around it, and then they would go into the sea to Aines place there. But those that did cures by herbs said she had power over the whole body; and she used to give gifts of poetry and of music, and she often gave her love to men, and they called her the Leanáin Sidhe, the Sweetheart of the Sidhe.

“And it was no safe thing to offend Aina, for she was very revengeful. Oilioll Oluim, a king of Ireland, killed her brother one time, and she made a great yew-tree by enchantment beside the river Maigue in Limerick, and she put a little man in it, playing sweet music on a harp. And Oiliols son was passing the river with his step-brother, and they saw the tree and heard the sweet music from it. And first they quarrelled as to which of them would have the little harper, and then they quarrelled about the tree, and they asked a judgment from Ollioll, and he gave it for his own son. And it was the bad feeling about that judgment that led to the battle of Magh Mucruimhe, and Oilioll and his seven sons were killed there, and so Aina got her revenge.”

Lady Augusta Gregory, Gods and Fighting Men, 1904

GEARÓID IARLA

Gearoid Iarla FitzGerald (1338-98), Earl of Desmond, was leader of the Geraldines, the most powerful Norman family in late medieval Ireland. His castle at Lough Gur was at the centre of Desmond and nearby was Knockainey (The Hill of Aina). Aina was the goddess of Munster and the mate of the mythical King Ailill Olom. Gerald’s father, Maurice the first earl, was known as Aine king and Gerald himself as “the son of Aine’s knight”. Maurice was walking one day by the shore of Lough Gur when he saw the beautiful Aine bathing in the waters of the lake. He seized her cloak, which act magically put her into his power and then lay with her. In this way Gearoid laria was conceived and when he was born Aine appeared at the castle of the earl to present the child to him.

A SMITHS STORY

Teigue O’Neill was a smith and his forge stood on the brow of the hill, overlooking the lake, on a lonely road to Caherconlish. One bright moonlight night, he was working very late and quite alone. The clink of the hammer, and the wavering glow reflected through the door on the bushes at the other side of the narrow road, were the only sounds that told of life for miles around.

One night while working late, he heard the ring of many hooves ascending the steep road that passed his forge. Standing in the doorway, he was just in time to see a gentleman, on a white horse, who was dressed in a fashion the likes of which the smith had never seen before. The man was accompanied by other riders.

They seemed, by the clang and clatter that announced their approach, to be riding up the hill at a hard gallop; but the pace abated as they drew near. The rider of the white horse who, from his grave and lordly air, he assumed to be a man of rank, and accustomed to command, came to a halt before the smiths door. He did not speak and his followers were silent, but he beckoned to the smith and pointed down to one of his horses hoofs.

Teigue stooped and raised it, and held it just long enough to see that it was shod with a silver shoe. Instantaneously, his realised his situation and recoiled with a terrified prayer. The ghostly rider, with a look of pain and fury, struck at him suddenly with what seemed to be a whip, but it left no mark. At the same moment, the whole cavalcade broke into a gallop and disappeared down the hill.

This had been the ghost of the Earl of Desmond himself, who had tried to get the smith to speak with him. Had he succeeded, then his enchantment might have been lifted but whoever spoke to him would have become enchanted forever.