In April/May of this year, we undertook our second school mural, on a wall in the playground of our school. We chose the theme of “Irish Myths & Legends” for this mural. We wanted to depict local legends with well-known Irish myths in the project.
Our mural is divided into five ‘panels’, each depicting a separate legend/myth. Before beginning the mural, the children had to research each of the selected myths and also the wall we intended to use, needed to be plastered and painted with an undercoat.
The children drew pictures of each myth and these pictures were transferred to the wall. The background and pictures were then painted.
Read below to find out about the myths we selected for this project.
The Salmon of Knowledge
Finegas was a poet. He was one of the wisest men in Ireland. He lived near the River Boyne. Finegas read books and wrote poems. Finegas was watching all the time to try and see the salmon of knowledge in the river.
The salmon of knowledge was a magic fish. The first person to taste the salmon would be the wisest person in Ireland. Its skin was the colour of gold. Its eyes were magic. A lot of people tried to catch it but they failed.
There was no school but young warriors were taught by wise men like Finegas. People went to live with poets and they learned a lot and after that people became true warriors. Fionn was a son of a warrior called Cumhall. Fionn was training to be a warrior. Then Fionn went to live with Finegas the poet.
Suddenly Finegas saw a huge powerful fish swimming in the river. It was the salmon of knowledge. He had never seen a fish like it before. He rushed to get a strong net. Fionn was sitting with his back to the river so he never saw the salmon. Finegas was very careful not to look into its eyes because if you did you would fall into a deep sleep. Finegas tried to catch the fish but couldn’t. All of a sudden the fish jumped high into the air towards him. The old poet was taken by surprise when he looked at the fish. He fell fast asleep.
Fionn saw him asleep and rushed to wake him up before the salmon got away. When Finegas woke up he asked Fionn to fetch him a cloth. Then Finegas covered his eyes with the cloth. He threw in his net again. For hours and hours he tried to catch the fish.
Night was falling. He had one last try. This time he was lucky. He caught the salmon. The huge fish struggled to get out. It pulled and tossed and turned but could not escape. Finegas was tired after this so he told Fionn to cook the fish. Finegas warned Fionn not to eat the fish, not even a mouthful. Fionn promised he would not eat any of the salmon. Fionn built a fire and when it was ready he placed the fish over the fire. A drop of oil went onto his thumb. Fionn put his thumb in his mouth.
When the salmon was done he brought the fish to Finegas. The wise poet noticed there was something different. His cheeks were redder and his eyes were a lot brighter.”Have you eaten any of the salmon?” Finegas asked Fionn.Fionn told him the truth. “I did not eat any of the fish.”
Finegas was still not happy. “Have you even tasted the fish,” he asked.
Then Fionn remembered that he had burnt his thumb and put it in his mouth. He told this to Finegas. Finegas knew at once he had the wisdom of the salmon of knowledge. At first he was very sad. He knew he would never be the wisest man in Ireland. But he was happy that Fionn got the gift. Finegas knew that Fionn would become the greatest warrior that the Fianna had ever known.
The Legend of Cuchulainn
Long ago, a king called Conor MacNessa had warriors called the Red Branch Knights. He trained them to be strong men. King Conor also had a nephew called Setanta who wanted to be a Red Branch Knight. From a very early age he showed superhuman qualities of wisdom, warfare, magic and poetry.
One night he said to his mother, “I want to be a Red Branch Knight.” But she said he was too young.
Setanta was a happy child who played the game of hurling with his friends. His team always won. When Setanta was ten he said to his father, “I want to join the Red Branch Knights.” His father said he was still too young. So he stayed on milking cows, carrying water to his house and chopping wood.
One night a man came to the house to tell stories. He told lots about King Conor and his knights. That night, while everyone was asleep, Setanta got his hurling stick and ball and left for King Conor’s castle.
It was a long trip but when he got there, a hurling match was on. Setanta joined in and the other boys did not like it because he was such a good hurler. He went to meet King Conor and King Conor said he could stay.
Some days later, the king said to Setanta, “I am going to a party at Culain’s, do you want to come?” Setanta replied, “I will come later as I am playing a hurling match.”
Later that night he set off. It was a long trip. He got to the fort and found a wolfhound guarding the fort. He hit the ball and killed Culain’s hound. The man heard the dog’s cry and ran out. He said, “I am sorry to see my dog go but glad you are okay. But who is going to guard my house now?” “I’ll be your guard dog until you can replace the one I killed. I’ll be the “Hound of Culain” (CuChulain),” said Setanta.
So that’s how Cuchulainn got his name. Soon he became the best guard of all and joined the knights. He was the best Red Branch Knight ever.
The Legend of St. Colman
Legend has it that King Guaire was feasting in his castle after a successful hunt. It was nearly Easter, and St. Colman and his assistant were fasting for Lent,and they were starving. As they sat praying in the woods, all the dishes from King Guaire’s feast lifted off the tables and flew all the way to St. Colman’s cave.
The King and his servants looked high and low for the feast, but it was nowhere to be seen. He was furious. He stormed out of his castle, jumped on his horse, and followed in pursuit of the dishes.
As Colman and his assistant prayed, Guaire’s feast miraclously appeared before them. Finally, Guaire reached Colman’s cave. To this day, you can see hoof prints in the rock.
When at last King Guaire was let into the wood, he and St. Colman stood face to face. At that moment, he was no longer angry, and they shook hands and embraced.
And so Kilmacdough was formed by St. Colman in the early 600’s and he became bishop of all of King Guaire’s territory.
The Legend of the Seven Streams
There was once a smith living in the Burren who had one leg and three arms. He made swords for Fionn McCumhaill. His most prized possession was a cow who never ran out of milk. One day a wicked witch decided to test the cow and milked it with a bucket with holes in it. The cow died of exhaustion. The milk that leaked through the holes in the bucket became the Seven Streams of the Burren.
The Children of Lir
Long ago there lived a king called Lir. He lived with his wife and four children: Fionnuala, Aodh, Fiachra and Conn. They lived in a castle in the middle of a forest. When Lir’s wife died they were all very sad. After a few years Lir got married again. He married a jealous wife called Aoife.
Aoife thought that Lir loved his children more than he loved her. Aoife hated the children. Soon she thought of a plan to get rid of the children.
One summer’s day Aoife took the children to swim in a lake near the castle. The children were really happy to be playing in the water. Suddenly Aoife took out a magic wand. There was a flash of light and the children were nowhere to be seen. All there was to be seen was four beautiful swans, with their feathers as white as snow. “I have put you under a spell. You will be swans for nine hundred years,” she cackled. “You will spend three hundred years in Lough Derravaragh, three hundred years in the Sea of Moyle and three hundred years in the waters of Inish Glora,” Aoife said. She also said, “You will remain swans for nine hundred years until you hear the ring of a Christian bell.”
She went back to the castle and told Lir that his children had drowned. Lir was so sad he started crying. He rushed down to the lake and saw no children. He saw only four beautiful swans.
One of them spoke to him. It was Fionnuala who spoke to him. She told him what Aoife had done to them. Lir got very angry and turned Aoife into an ugly moth. When Lir died the children were very sad. When the time came they moved to the Sea of Moyle.
Soon the time came for their final journey. When they reached Inish Glora they were very tired. Early one morning they heard the sound of a Christian bell. They were so happy that they were human again. The monk (some even say it was St. Patrick himself) sprinkled holy water on them and then Fionnuala put her arms around her brothers and then the four of them fell on the ground. The monk buried them in one grave. That night he dreamed he saw four swans flying up through the clouds. He knew the children of Lir were with their mother and father.