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Finn's Hounds
by Grainne Rowland

After many years, Finn met his mother, Muirne (mwir-neh). They met at the palace of Almú (ahl-moo). Along with Muirne came Finn's half-sister, Tuiren (thir-in). Finn had never seen her, but he liked her instantly.

While Muirne and Tuiren were visiting with Finn, Tuiren often watched while the Fianna (fee-un-nah) practiced their fighting and poetry skills. She fell in love with one named Ullan Eachtach (ull-un ahkh-thahkh). He was the best poet and the fiercest fighter of all the men. He fell in love with Tuiren as well, loving her beauty and gentleness. Since Finn was the leader of the Fianna, Ullan asked Finn's permission to marry Tuiren.

Finn was delighted to agree to the marriage. But he placed one condition on it. Finn told Ullan that if his sister should ever be unhappy, that he would return her to Finn. Ullan agreed, and the wedding was the biggest ever seen in that area.

Now before Ullan had ever seen Tuiren, he had made certain promises to a woman of the Sidhe (shee) also known as the Good People. Her name was Uchtdealb (ukhth-djahlv). When Uchtdealb found out about Ullan's wedding, she was furious. A few months later, when Tuiren was expecting a baby, Uchtdealb raged with jealousy. She vowed revenge, for she had loved Ullan for many years.

Once, when Ullan had been out with the Fianna for many days, Uchtdealb came to Tuiren. The Sidhe woman spoke most politely. She used her best manners, and was dressed in her prettiest silver robe.

"My lady," spoke Uchtdealb, "your brother Finn has sent me to invite you to a feast. He wishes to celebrate your good luck in soon having a babe. He wishes you to travel with me to Almú."

Tuiren replied, "Oh, it will be so good to see my brother again! But, surely, Finn would wish me to come with my husband Ullan. Let us wait until he returns home, and we shall all travel together."

"Your husband awaits you at Almú now," said Uchtdealb. "We must make haste."

So Tuiren and Uchtdealb set out without delay. But as soon as they were away from Ullan's home, Uchtdealb brought out her brown magic rod. She touched Tuiren across the back with it.

Tuiren cried out in fear as she watched herself quickly changing into a dog. Uchtdealb screeched with glee!

"The trick worked! Now I shall have Ullan!" cackled Uchtdealb. "You will remain a dog forever."

Tuiren whimpered sadly as Uchtdealb tied a rope around her neck and led her to the house of Fergus Fionnliath (fih-un-lee-ah).

"You will care for this dog by order of Finn," Uchtdealb lied to Fergus. Then Uchtdealb left.

Now Fergus hated dogs, and was known to treat them cruelly. So Uchtdealb thought that Tuiren would have a hard time for the rest of her life.

But she had forgotten how gentle and kind Tuiren was. It wasn't long before Fergus learned to care for the dog, for Tuiren lay quietly by his side. She licked his hand and guarded his family well. She was soon the favorite of all the household.

Meanwhile, Ullan was frantic over the disappearance of his wife. He couldn't eat and wouldn't sleep as he searched for her. He looked throughout the dark forests and over every rugged hill. He searched in every river and stream. He became sadder and sadder when he was not able to find Tuiren. He also worried about what Finn would do when he found out his sister was gone.

Finally, after many weeks, Ullan went to Uchtdealb.

"Please. Uchtdealb," he pleaded. "You are one of the Sidhe. Surely, you can help me find my wife. Use your magic to tell me where she is."

"Oh, I know where she is," said Uchtdealb. "But if I tell you where she can be found, you must do something for me. You must send her back to Finn, along with her children, for she has had twins. Then you must keep the promises you made to me long ago."

Ullan sadly agreed, for he loved his wife.

"I know I have treated you wrongly," he said. "I will do as you say. But you must show me where my wife and children are, and they must be safe." With that, Uchtdealb took Ullan to the house of Fergus. She touched the brown magic rod to Tuiren's back. Tuiren immediately regined her human form. But the twins remained puppies, for they had been born so. Ullan took all of them back to Finn.

When Finn saw his sister and the pups, he was not pleased with Ullan. But since Tuiren still loved him, Finn only banished him from the Fianna. As for the pups, Finn loved them as well as he would have loved human nephews. They were named Bran and Sceolán (shkih-oh-lawn) and they were given the best of everything. They grew up to be Finn's companions, and took part in many of Finn's adventures.

Sidhe from an art print by Luis Royo; All-Posters

Blackthorn Walking stick from Lollysmith
Photos of adult hounds "Rebel", "Kay-Dee" and two of their puppies reprinted with the kind permission of Bob & Donna Robinson, owners of Tenderland Farms.

Click here to read an article about the Irish Wolfhound.

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Wed, Jan 3, 2018

FOTA Wildlife Park

Only 10,000 cheetahs remain in their natural habitat and Fota Wildlife Park in Co. Cork, Ireland, is the world's leading breeder of this endangered species. Fota is among the most modern wildlife parks in Europe. It was opened in 1983 and has more than 70 species living in natural open surroundings with no obvious barriers. Only the cheetahs are behind fences.
Another species which is being saved from extinction at Fota is the white tailed sea eagle. It disappeared from Ireland in the early 1900's, but is now being bred at the park and re-introduced to the wild in Co. Kerry.
Fota is open to the public in the summer and is very popular with Irish families, as well as tourists.

Click for More Culture Corner.

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"No man ever wore a cravat as nice, as his own child's arm around his neck."
- Irish Proverb

Children's Irish Dictionary
by Hippocrene Books

As a total beginner in Irish, this has taught me quite a few words. The illustrations are beautifully done, and best of all, each word is given a rough English spelling of its pronunciation. Edited from an amazon review.
Click here for Kid's Irish Dictionary.

A lovely collection of well known Irish songs from the turn of the twentieth century. This album was created as a gift to MaryLee's Nana, Rose Burke Duval. The first half are songs well known to grandparents and the second half are original and traditional songs for children.

Click here for Irish Songs.


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