Tale of Morty Sullivan and the Spirit Horse
The tale took place between Gougane Barra and Tobar Ghobnatan. This was the story of a 14 year old named Morty who ran away from home leaving his parents to die heartbroken when he left Ireland on a ship to America. 30 years after they died, Morty returned to find of their deaths. So he went on a pilgrimage to atone for his sins, and was recommended to do so at Ballyvourney at St. Gobnait’s well.
He ran off on that advice traveling many miles on into the dark, a new moon nonetheless, with stars obscured by a thick fog. He ascended into the valleys and got lost, but pushed on to reach his destination. The fog grew thicker and thicker lost he became and in doubt he was going to find the chapel. He saw a light not far off in the distance and as it went towards it the light became distant and distant twinkling dimly through the fog. He continued onwards with his journey nonetheless for he thought it was Saint Gobnait guiding his feet through the mountains to her chapel.
He realized the light came from a fire of an old woman which came to a surprise to him that a alone woman would travel as far as he on such uneven roads in the dark. He said to her “In the holy names of the pious Gobnait, and of her preceptor Saint Abban .. how that burning fire move on so fast before me, who can that old woman be sitting beside the moving fire?” and upon those words found himself close to the warm fire beside the old woman who was eating her supper.
She appeared to him angry at having her meal disturbed, and her eyes would roll at him at every bite. Her eyes were not normal like human eyes, but a wild red color similar to that of an eye of a ferret. He sat in silence watching her. She asked him “What’s your name?” with a sulfurous puff of a breath coming out when she spoke, nostrils distending, eyes growing a bright red. He replied “Morty Sullivan at your service.” She replied “Ubbubbo! we’ll soon see that! and her eyes turned pale green.
She said “Take hold of my hand Morty and I’ll give you a horse ride to your journey’s end” and as they did, the fire going before them, shooting out bright tongues of flame flickering fiercely. They approached a cave in the side of the mountain where the hag called for her horse – out of which came a jet-black steed with clanging hoofs. “Mount Morty Mount!” she cried seizing him with supernatural strength and forcing him on the back of the horse. He cried “O that I had spurs!” grasping frantically to the horse’s mane, catching a shadow that bore him up and bounded forward with him, springing him down a cliff onto the rugged bed of a torrent.
Pilgrims coming back from Gougane Barra found him flat on his back under a steep cliff down which he had been flung by the phooka. He wads bruised by the fall and said to have sworn on the spot by the hand of O’Sullivan – “Nulla manus, Tam liberalis, Atque generalis, Atque universalis, Quam Suilivanis” never again to take a full quart bottle of whiskey with him on his pilgrimage. The lesson from this fable is to young men to stay at home, live decently, and stay sober if they can, and not to travel around the world. A tale of delusion and whiskey and a long night’s quest through the woods with hallucinations of a phooka-like hag and steed.