I step through origins

like a dog turning

its memories of wilderness

on the kitchen mat

Seamus Heaney


Chapter CLXIX.

The Threefold Plague is Driven out of Hibernia by Saint Patrick

And the most holy Patrick applied all his diligence unto the extirpation of this threefold plague; and at length by his salutary doctrine and fervent prayer he relieved Hibernia of the increasing mischief. Therefore he, the most excellent pastor, bore on his shoulder the staff of Jesus, and aided of the angelic aid, he by its comminatory elevation gathered together from all parts of the island all the poisonous creatures into one place; then compelled he them all unto a very high promontory, which then was called Cruachan-ailge, but now Cruachan-Phadruig; and by the power of his word he drove the whole pestilent swarm from the precipice of the mountain headlong into the ocean. O eminent sign! O illustrious miracle! even from the beginning of the world unheard, but now experienced by tribes, by peoples, and by tongues, known unto all nations, but to the dwellers in Hibernia especially needful! And at this marvellous yet most profitable sight, a numerous assembly was present; many of whom had flocked from all parts to behold miracles, many to receive the word of life.

Chapter CLXX.

Without Earthly Food the Saint Completeth A Fast For Forty Days

And that in Hibernia or in the other islands which had received his blessing no poisonous animal should continue or revive, nor the wonted troop of demons therein abide, the saint completed without earthly food a fast of forty days. For he desired to imitate in his mystical fast Moses, who was then bound by the natural law, or rather Elias the prophet, appointed under the law; but most principally desiring to please the great Founder of nature, the Giver of the law and of grace, Jesus Christ, who in Himself had consecrated such a fast. Therefore he ascended the high mountain in Conactia, called Cruachan-ailge, that he might there more conveniently pass the Lent season before the Passion; and that there, desiring and contemplating the Lord, he might offer unto Him the holocaust of this fast. And he disposed there five stones, and placed himself in the midst; and therein, as well in the manner of his sitting as in the mortification of his abstinence, showed he himself the servant of the cross of Christ. And there he sat solitary, raising himself above himself; yet gloried he only in the cross, which constantly he bore in his heart and on his body, and ceaselessly he panted toward his holy Beloved; and he continued and hungered in his body, but his inward man was satisfied, and filled, and wounded with the sweetness of divine contemplation, the comfort of angelic visitation, and the sword of the love of God: “For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing even unto the separation of the body and the spirit,” wherewith the saint was wounded, even unto holy love.

Chapter CLXXII.

He Banisheth the Demons forth of the Island

And the demons grieved for their lost dominion, and assailing the saint they tormented him in his prayers and his fastings; and they fluttered around him like birds of the blackest hue, fearful in their form, their hugeness, and their multitude, and striving with horrible chatterings to prevent his prayer, long time they disturbed the man of God. But Patrick being armed with His grace, and aided by His protection, made the sign of the cross, and drove far from him those deadly birds; and by the continual sounding of his cymbal, utterly banished them forth of the island. And being so driven away, they fled beyond the sea, and being divided in troops among the islands which are alien unto the faith and love of God, there do they abide and practise their delusions. But from that time forward, even unto this time, all venomous creatures, all fantasies of demons, have through the merits and the prayers of the most holy father Patrick entirely ceased in Hibernia. And the cymbal of the saint, which from his frequent percussions thereof appeared in one part broken, was afterward repaired by an angel’s hand; and the mark is beheld on it at this day. Likewise on the summit of this mountain many are wont to watch and to fast, conceiving that they will never after enter the gates of hell; the which benefit they account to be obtained to them of God through the merits and the prayers of Patrick. And some who have thereon passed the night relate them to have suffered grievous torments, whereby they think themselves purified of all their sins; and for such cause many call this place the Purgatory of Saint Patrick.

Chapter CLXIII.

Troops of Angels Appear unto the Saint

And God, the ruler of all, who after darkness bringeth light, compassionated his servant; and so soon as the evil spirits were driven forth, a multitude of angels poured around the place with exceeding brightness, and with wondrous melody they comforted the saint. And he, having finished his fast of forty days, offered the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving unto God, who had vouchsafed to mortal man the virtue of so great abstinence, and had bestowed such mercies through the intercession of Him. And moreover he rejoiced in the angelic salutation. Then being led by the angels, he descended from the mountain, and smote his cymbal, the sound whereof the Lord caused to be heard through all parts of Hibernia. Thence, let none of the faithful doubt that every man even over the whole world will hear the sound of the last trumpet. And raising his hands, Saint Patrick blessed the island and all the dwellers therein, and commended them unto Christ.

Now understand ye how it was the custom of Patrick, as of the other ancient saints who abided in the islands, to have with them cymbals, for the expulsion of evil spirits, for their own bodily exercise, to proclaim the hours of the day and night, and for I know not what other causes. One thing, however, is certain, that many miracles are known to have been performed by the sound or the touch of these cymbals. Therefore at the Lord’s Supper, the blessed Patrick going forth of his retirement into public view, rejoiced with his presence the whole church of the saints who were born of his preaching unto Christ. And there he discharged his episcopal office, the which he always joined with those sacred seasons; and thus went he forward in the work of salvation.


Jocelyn  was a 12th cen.  Cistercian hagiographer and monk of Furness Abbey in Cumbria.


James O’ Leary, The Most  The Most Ancient Lives of Saint Patrick Including the Life by Jocelin, Hitherto Unpublished in America, and His Extant Writings”, 1880


Frosche in Bauch und Ruckenla, Josef Maria Eder

Biological Control


I shall close this feeble Attempt on the antient State of Ireland, with the Description thereof by Donat, Bishop of Fesulæ, near Florence, in the 7th or 8th Century; referring, at the same Time, to the most authentick British Antiquaries, Campden, Giraldus Cambrensis, Buchanan, Ware, &c. for Confirmation of what hath been previously observed on the same Subject.

Poem Latin

Finibus Occiduis describitur optima Tellus,
Nomine et Antiquis SCOTIA scripta Libris——
Insula dives Opum, Gemmarum, Vestis et Auri,
Commoda Corporibus, Aere sole Solo;
Melle fluit pulchris et lacteis SCOTIA Campis
Vestibus atque Armis, frugibus, arte viris
Ursorum Rabies, nulla est ibi; sæva Leonum
Semina, nec unquam SCOTICA Terra tulit
Nulla Venena nocent, nec Serpens serpit in Herbâ,
Nec conquesta canit Garula Rana Lacu;
In qua SCOTORUM Gentes habitare merentur
Inclita Gens Hominum Milite, Pace, Fide.
Poem English
Thus Englished by the Ingenius and Reverend Mr. Dunkin:
Far Westward, lies an Isle of antient Fame,
By Nature bless’d, and SCOTIA is her Name;
Enroll’d in Books: Exhaustless is her Store
Of veiny Silver, and of Golden Ore:
Her fruitful Soil for ever teams with Wealth,
With Gems her Waters, and her Air with Health:
Her verdant Fields with Milk and Honey flow;
Her woolly Fleeces vie with Virgin Snow:
Her waving Furrows float with bearded Corn,
And Arms and Arts her envy’d Sons adorn.
No savage Bear, with lawless Fury, roves;
No rav’nous Lion, thro’ her peaceful Groves;
No Poison there infects; no scaly Snake
Creeps thro’ the Grass, nor Frog annoys the Lake:
An Island worthy of its pious Race,
In War triumphant, and unmatch’d in Peace.”
This Donat, Bishop of Fesula, was an Irishman, of the antient and hospitable Family, afterwards O Hogan; a Family which held ample and fair Possessions in the Province of Munster, and which, in former Times, adorned the See of Killaloe, with four very learned and exemplary Prelates; namely, with Matthew O Hogan, who succeeded to this Bishoprick, in the Reign of Henry the IIId, and in the Year of our Lord 1267; and who, having much enlarged his Diocese, and done many signal Acts of popular Charity, died in the Year, 1281, and was buried in Limerick…..”

Saint Donatus (9th cen.) was an Irish monk who became bishop of  Fiesole (Tuscany). He wrote an early Irish Life of St. Bridget
An Essay On the Ancient and Modern State of Ireland With the Various Important Advantages Thereunto Derived, under the auspicious Reign of his most sacred Majesty King George the Second. Including a particular Account of the great and glorious St Patrick.
Bufo Marinus, Cane Toad,  Gaum. The cane toad was introduced to Gaum in 1937 in the hope it would eat insects and the black garden slug, source

The Consumption of Purgatory

Loch Derg/ Red Lake

…. a very strange Story hath been invented, and goes current, concerning the Reafon why inftead of Fin-lough, that is, the White Lake, it was called Loghderg, or the Red Lake. Bolar Beman, a Gyant, and an Irifh King (as fome-fay) in Days of yore, having neglected to perform fome mighty Feat, which he had engaged to do in his Life-time; Conan, another Gyant ( the Son of Fin Mc Cuil, the great Champion of Ireland) finding a little Worm in one of his Jaw Bones, threw it into Finlough, where it grew fo big within 24 Hours, that the whole Lake could hardly contain it. This Monfter, called by the Natives Caoranch, would Fuck Men and Cattle into its Mouth at a Miles Diftance. and becoming by this attractive Quality fo very pernicious to the Country, that no one durft come near the Lake; at laft they came to a Compfition, and obliged themfelves to fend a certain Number of Cattel, to be devoured by it every day. When almost all the Cattel in Ulster were deftroyed, infomuch that they were forced to fend to Lienfter and Munfter for Supplies; the People began to threaten Conan (as well they might) for bringing fo much Mifchief upon them. Whereupon, he undertool to be avenged of the Monfter, and taking a Dagger in his hand, he went to knockanacguinny ( a Mountian near the lake, where the prey was ufually delivered to it) and was there * fwallowed up by it himfelf. When he was in Caoranach’s Belly, preceiving that it might be wounded in the side (which, like Achilles’s Heel, was the only Part that could be pierced by cold Iron) he cut his Way through it with his Dagger, and fwam to the fhore. having loft his Skin anf Hair by the Heat of its Entrails. as is fuppofed, for which Reason, he was ever afterwards called Conan Mail. i.e. bald Conan. The Monfter immediately died, and Conan having cut off its Head, threw it upon the Shore, where the Stones were coloured red with the Blood. that gufhed out of it, (as the Natives believe:) whereas it is obvious to obferve, that it is a Mineral Spring flowing over them, that gives them this Colour. The Blood of the Body ran in fo great a Quantity into the Lake, that ir was red for 48 hours, and for this reafon it goes by the Name of Lough-Derg ever fince. Caoranachs Bowels were metamorphofed into great Stones. of which there will be occafion to make mention hereafter. The Image of this pretented Monfter is cut in Stone, and kept in the fsland where Pilgrims perform Devotion, to confirm them in the Belief of this ridiculous Fable.


* The fable is taken from Ovid Metamprph. b. 11. where it is faid, that Hercules leapt into the Mouth of a Whale, by which Hefione was to be devoured; and fliding down into his Belly, he fpent 3 days inside tearing it open at laft came out, having lost his Hair


John Richardson, “The Great Folly, Superstition, and Idolatry, of Pilgrimages in Ireland”, Dublin, 1727


Plate XVI, Physarella oblonga, in,  T.H. Macbride, ‘The North American Slime Moulds a Descriptive List of All Species, 1922

Related posts

The first part of this texts appears in Landscape

Beautiful Scene

Slime King

A Worm

The earthly flime wherein confifts thy pride?

Sith all thy glory goes to ground,

That bed of wormes wherein thou shalt abide

Thy faireft face moft filthy fhall be found:


Simion Grahame, The Anatomie of Humours


Physarum Notable, in, T.H. Macbride, ‘The North American Slime Moulds a Descriptive List of All Species of Myxomycetes Hitherto Reported from the Continent of North America’, 1922


The Defcription of Patrick’s Purgatory

In the Southern part of the county of Donegaul, near the Borders of Tyrone and Fermanagh, in the Latitude 54.10. there is a lake now called by the natives logh-derg, about three Miles long, and two broad. It is furrounded with wild and barren Mountains. fome of which their Names from thofe Saints, who are fuppofed to have continued there in Prayer for the Pilgrims ; and that fo long, that the Print of one of their Knees is ftill to be feen in a big Stone, and is adored by the Votaries as a precious Relick. It is amoft inacceffible by Horfemen, even in Summer, because of great Bogs, Rocks and Precipces with which it is environed on all Sides. Such difmal and loanfom * Places are very apt to make frightful and melancholy Impreffions upon the Minds of the Weak and Ignorant ; and, therefore, it is very probable, that it was pitched upon, as a convenient Place for paffing so grand an Impofture upon them. To raife the Imaginations of thofe who refort to it, and to make them more fufeptible of terrifying Ideas, a very strange Story hath been invented, and goes for current, concerning the Reason why inftead of Fin-Lough, that is, the White Lake, it was called loghderg, or the Red Lake.


*  Eagles and wild Geefe breed there.


John Richardson, “The Great Folly, Superstition, and Idolatry, of Pilgrimages in Ireland”, Dublin, 1727


From J. Richardson The Great Folly, 1727



Title page

To the Famous Ile of Glorious Britannie


His Sceptter proud and his great conqu’ring hand

Will erect Troph’s of high Triumphes on all,

Earth-ruling mindes ftooping at his command

Adorn’d they are by him to bee made thrall.

So Monarch hee muft caufw ech potent king

For him and his rich tributes for to bring.


 No treafons gilt fuch threatnings can abide,

Nor vipers vilde who eates their tongues to barke,

With feares confut’d muft needs their felues go hide,

And lye obfcure in the Cemerian darke,

From light debar’d to preffage Plutoes place

Where monftrous fpirts fuch monfters fhall imbrace.


Sweld with Enuie and poyf’ned great with griefe,

Most ferpent-like fpewes vennome on their owne

Damn’d harts abhord whofe mutins breeds mifcheif,

They with their felfe, their felfe fhall bee orethrowne.

So diu’llifh braynes brings reftleffe murther ftill,

They filthie frogs each one shall kill.


Simion Grahame, son of Archibald Grahame, a Burgess of Edinburgh. A traveller, soldier scholar and later Franciscan monk. His education was conducted under the patronage of James VI. He was described as ” a great traveller and very good scholar, but otherways licentious, and given over to all manner of debordings.”  The passionate Sparke of a Relenting Minde was printed in London in 1604 and he would later publish The Anatomie of Humours in Edinburgh in 1609.


Simion Grahame, The Anatomie of Humours, And the Passionate Sparke of a Relenting Minde, Endinburgh, 1830

William Anderson, Rev. Simion Grahame, Scottish Biographical Dictionary.

Noblis Erecta

Gens de Mer

Not many years after the first newt colonies had been settled in the North Sea and the Baltic a German scientist, Dr. Hans Thüring, found that the Baltic newt had certain distinctive physical features–clearly as a result of its environment; that it was somewhat lighter in colour, it walked on two legs, and its cranial index indicated a skull that was longer and narrower than other newts. This variety was given the name Northern Newt or Noble Newt (Andrias Scheuchzeri var. nobilis erecta Thüring).

The German press took this Baltic newt as its own, and enthusiastically stressed that it was because of its German environment that this newt had developed into a different and superior sub-species, indisputably above the level of any other salamander. Journalists wrote with contempt of the degenerate newts of the Mediterranean, stunted both physically and mentally, of the savage newts of the tropics and of the inferior, barbaric and bestial newts of other nations. The slogan of the day was From the Great Newt to the German Übernewt. And what had been the origin of all the latter day newts on German soil? Had its glorious miocene skull not been found in Öhningen by the learned German Doctor Johannes Jakob Scheuchzer? There was therefore not the slightest doubt that the original Andrias Scheuchzeri had had its origin in the geological past on German soil; its migration to other seas and climatic zones was something it had had to pay for with its decline and degeneration; but as soon as it found itself back on the soil of its homeland it once again became what it had been in the past: the noble northern Scheuchzer Newt, light in colour, erect in gait and long in skull. It was only on German soil that newts could return to their pure and highest form, such as it had been found by the great Johannes Jakob Scheuchzer from the impression in the quarry at Öhningen. This was why Germany needed new and longer shores, it needed colonies, it needed the seas of the world so that a new generation of racially pure, original German salamanders could develop in German waters. We need new living room for our newts, wrote the German newspapers; and so that this fact was always present to the German eyes a grand memorial to Johannes Jakob Scheuchzer was set up in Berlin. The great doctor was depicted with a thick book in his hand; at his sits the erect and noble Nordic newt, gazing into the distance towards the boundless shores of the worlds oceans.


The Commission for the Study of the Newt Question achieved a great and useful function, mainly by settling all difficult questions in politics and economics. It was in permanent session for many years and met on more than thirty occasions, diligently concerned with unifying the international terminology for newts which, up till then, had been in hopeless chaos. Besides the scientific terms of ‘salamander’, ‘newt’, ‘batrachus’ and so on, which had begun to take on a rather disrespectful character, there were many other different names suggested. the newts could be referred to as ‘tritons’, ‘neptunids’, ‘bathyds’, ‘Abyssals’, ‘hydrions’, ‘gens de mer’, ‘soumarins’ and so on. It the task of the commission to select the most suitable name, and it was vigorously active in this affair right up to the end of the newt age; although it never did arrive at any final and unambiguous conclusion.


D. Wyllie (trans.) Karel Capek. The War with the Newts


 Tirtus Marmorarus, Dordogne France, Clara Cartier



On the fourth of July eighteen hundred and six
We set sail from the sweet cove of Cork
We were sailing away with a cargo of bricks
For the grand city hall in New York
‘Twas a wonderful craft, she was rigged fore-and-aft
And oh, how the wild winds drove her.
She’d got several blasts, she’d twenty-seven masts
And we called her the Irish Rover.

We had one million bales of the best Sligo rags
We had two million barrels of stones
We had three million sides of old blind horses hides,
We had four million barrels of bones.
We had five million hogs, we had six million dogs,
Seven million barrels of porter.
We had eight million bails of old nanny goats’ tails,
In the hold of the Irish Rover.


The Irish rover is a song of unknown origin concerning the misadventures of a fantastical sailing ship with an improbable cargo and misbegotten crew.


The Irish Rover, Wikipedia

Earthly Delight


From our Own Science Correspondent in Australia

Sydney, Tuesday

A man today killed a two-foot snake in his Vaueluse garden, disproving a legend that Irish soil placed there 150 years ago had frightened snakes from the suburb.

Mr S. Thomas killed the snake in the garden of his home in Palmerston street Vaucluse

Australian historian Mr C.H. Bertie said tonight “There hasn’t been a report of one in the district since Sir Henry Brown Hayes imported Irish soil 150 years ago”

Sir Henry Brown-Hayes, an emancipated Irish convict was troubled by snakes at Vaueluse, where he bought a large area of land from the government before the turn of the 19th century.

He remembered an Irish legend that St Patrick had rid Ireland of snakes by giving  a pungent smell to it’s soil so, in 1804 he commissioned a friend in Ireland to send him 500 barrels of Irish soil.

Convicts dug the soil into a trench around his property.


C.F Bertie , trained as a metallurgical chemist before working as a librarian. An early collector of Australiana  with a strong interest in Australian history.


What, Snakes on Irish Soil, The Argus, Melbourne, Australia, of Jan 1952

Bertie, Charles Henry (1875-1952) by John Ward, Australian Dictionary of Biography


Large Eastern Brown Snake, Tamban Forest, Kempsey, Australia, Peter Woodard

Archaeology of Ethnicity

The Death of A Naturalist

The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat
Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.
I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings
Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew
That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.

Seamus Heaney

Terror and Surprise

“As the recent discovery of the bones of the Common Frog in the cave deposits of Kesh Corran, Sligo (Trans. R.I.A., xxxvii, Sec.B,. p. 183), has once more drawn attention to this question, so vigorously discussed in vols II. and VI. of this Journal (1893 and 1897), the following quotation may be of interest. Though by no means from recondite source- it occurs on p.315 of Dubordieu’s Statistical Survey of the County of Down, published in 1802- the passage appears to have escaped notice in the course of the discussion. It has not, at least, been referred to or quoted in these pages so far as I can discover.”

“The introduction of frogs into this country, from which they have spread in such numbers through the rest of the kingdom, though in itself a subject of no importance, must form a curious and interesting object in the eyes of a naturalist. That they are not indigenous, and that they first made their appearance near Moira, in the western parts of this country, can be proved beyond contradiction, but by whom they were first imported is not so certain. I was assured by an old gentleman of the greatest veracity, who died some years ago above the age of eighty, that the first frogs he ever saw were in a well near the above mentioned town, from whence he brought some of them to Waringstown, where, until that time, they had never been seen; the quickness with which they multiplied, and the rapidity with which they spread are surprising, especially the latter, in a creature not very well adapted, at least in appearance, either to move with celerity or with perseverance; and there are many stories still current of the terror and suprise excited by the view of this disgusting though innocent animal, which seems formed to be the prey of every voracious creature either by land or water within whose reach it comes……”


Nathaniel Colgan, ‘Is the Frog a Native of Ireland’? ‘The Irish Naturalist‘, Vol. 13, No.4 (Apr., 1904), pp.93-94


Frosche in Bauch und Ruckenla, Josef Maria Eder