Donnchadh Ó Cróinín on the run in Faill na Sróine near Gougane Barra



A man named Donnchadh Ó Cróinín once lived in Goirtín na Coille, about a mile north of Ballingeary village. Donnchadh’s mother had given a loan of some money to the McCarthy family who lived in Gort na Scairte about a mile south of Carrig an Adhmaid (Ballyvourney). However, the McCarthy’s were failing to repay the loan despite being asked to do so frequently by the Cronin family. Donnchadh Ó Cróinín decided that he would take some cattle instead of the money.


He headed for Gort na Scairte one morning accompanied by two men. He took his gun with him and when the three men were driving home the cattle they were stopped on the way by the McCarthy family who attempted to take back their animals. In the battle that followed Donnchadh fired a shot and killed two members of the McCarthy family. He and his comrades then headed for home and Donnchadh had to go on the run. He took shelter in a cave on a cliff in Gougane Barra, where it was impossible to reach him.


He spent five years there, until he was so worn out and weary that he finally decided that it would be better to surrender. Barry the landlord lived in Kilbarry in the parish of Uíbh Laoire at that time and Donnchadh sent word to him saying that he was going to give himself up. Barry sent a message to Donnchadh telling him that he should surrender to himself and that he would set him free. He asked him to meet him in the forge in Ballingeary and told him to bring his gun with him. Donnchadh was there. Barry came in and the first thing he did was to take the gun in one hand and he put his other hand on Donnchadh’s shoulder, and said, "I’m going to take you prisoner and you will have to come with me".


He placed him on his own horse and brought him to Kilbarry. Barry had a brother living with him in the house, who was not very well off. He was standing outside when Donnchadh and Barry passed him by.


"Good day to you, Mr. Cronin" he said, "that’s a road that you will not travel again". "I pity him that laid a hand on you, but I have greater pity for his family and for their family again". Barry took Donnchadh to Cork and he was put into prison. The day of the trial arrived and Barry was the first man to speak in his favour, but the Cárthach Spáinneach spoke against him, saying "Barry you got a bribe to bring this man in here, and it would suit you now to get another bribe to set him free. If any other man speaks in his favour he will have to fight me with a pistol". He had been allowed to bring a pistol into court.


During the trial the Cárthach Spáinneach turned to Donnchadh Ó Cróinín, who was trying to plead that the shooting of the two men had been an accident.


He said, "You knew very well what your hand was capable of doing, any man who could shoot the eagle on Maolach an Chuma Rua from your cave and the wild geese on the lake in Gougane".


Donnchadh was convicted immediately and sentenced to be hanged.


Collected in 1938 for the Folklore Commission by Donnacha Ó Súilleabháin of Keimaneigh National School from Padraig Ó Murchú, Gort Luachra. Translated by Nora Levis. The original Irish version can be found in the Cumann Staire Journal 2000. The story related here took place in the early 1800s.


 Copyright held by An Roinn Béaloideas, UCD.