The Coppal Bawn

Donn Binn Maguire and the Coppal Bawn

The land along the Fermanagh border, to the south-west of Enniskillen, is lonely and wild. It is mostly mountain, lake and bog, dotted here and there with small villages and hamlets tucked away around some bend of a road - Belcoo, Garrison, Derrygonnelly. Here, the mist rolls back and forth across a bleak but beautiful landscape, lingering in the hollows and making strange and terrible shapes out of ancient standing stones. The region is famous for its caves and potholes, drawing explorers to places such as the Marble Arch and Boho, where there are many deep and still unfathomed caverns. There is talk too, in the tales of the area, that these caverns are doorways to strange, underground kingdoms where the Good People, or fairies, may still dwell. From time to time, people have been lost in such places and it is a common belief that they have been "carried away" to the dark realms below.

A great range of limestone mountains extends throughout this region, stretching away towards Sligo in the west. The most easterly of these is called Binaughlin, towering above the houses which make up the hamlets of Florencecourt and Swanlinbar. Many mountains in this area have legends connected with them and Binaughlin is no exception. Long ago, it is said, a famous chieftain was carried away by the Good People and made a prisoner under the mountain itself. The story is well-known amongst the old people of the region, and on a stormy night you may meet an old man, seated by the roaring fire in Frank Eddy Maguire's public house in Blacklion, who will draw his chair nearer to the blaze, fill his pipe and begin to relate the tale of Donn Binn Maguire:

"You will have heard of him no doubt? No? Oh, a great chieftain he was, the fiercest and proudest of all the chieftains in ancient Fermanagh. Now, what I'm telling you happened long ago in the old and barbarous times when the Maguires and the O'Rourkes fought in all the lands around the Hanging Rock and across the islands of Inishee and Cushrush on Lough Macnean. Bad, bloody and pagan times they were and I pray that they never come to the county of Fermanagh again.

They said that whenever this Donn Binn rode out to battle, that he rode like the wind and fought like fury and there were none who could keep up with him or who could stand against him. He was a grand and handsome man altogether and it is said that no woman could resist him whenever she had looked upon him.

Also, the Good People that lived in Binaughlin Mountain had set their eyes at him, for they have always designs on the mortal kind and will try to carry them away to their own dark country at the first opportunity. This is the way that it was with Donn Binn Maguire and the way that it came about was like this:

Donn Binn had a great love of horses. It was even said about him that he loved the saddle so much that he would only put his foot to the earth when he had no other choice. He had many beautiful and powerful steeds quartered in the stables at his castle and he always boasted that no man in Ireland had horses that were better than his. His stallions, he said, were the strongest and swiftest in all the lands around. There were none who could touch them.

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From Beasts, Banshees and Brides from the Sea by Bob Curran