A Fishy Story from Dowra

oil painting by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Dowra Co. Cavan

After many days of wandering, ‘through hollow lands and hilly lands’ we arrived at the Shannon Pot, the source of Ireland’s longest river. This is a deep dark pool, deep in the Cavan hills, not far from the village of Dowra.

It is mentioned in the stories of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the Fianna, the warriors of Irish mythology.  Legend has it that Sionnan, granddaughter of the sea god Lir, came here in search of the Salmon of Knowledge. But the mighty salmon flew into a rage when it saw Sionnan and caused the pool to overflow and to drown the unfortunate maiden.  This was how the Shannon Pot was created and it (and the river itself) bears her name to this day.

Photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of the Shannon Pot near Dowra, Co. Cavan
The Shannon Pot, Co. Cavan

So, even though it’s the source of the Shannon and the area is wild and wonderful, I don’t think that this dark pool is a very pleasant place to visit. I much prefer to sit by the bridge in Dowra and to watch the river flow.

I was here before, about 25 years ago, and back then, I painted the landscape you see at the top of the page. But this time, I got quite a surprise.

It’s natural, of course, but everything has grown and grown.  See the photo below, and compare it with my oil painting above. You can see one big farmer’s shed there now, towards the back of the scene.  (Perhaps it was there back then and I simply ignored it, who knows)

Photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of the Shannon River at Dowra, Co. Cavan

But anyway, that salmon: An Bradán Feasa, the Salmon of Knowledge. According to the legend, it was just an ordinary salmon that ate nine hazelnuts that fell into the Well of Wisdom from the nine hazel trees that surrounded the well. Because of this, the salmon gained all of the world’s knowledge – and the first person to eat its flesh would in turn gain this knowledge. That’s why they all wanted to catch it.

Hmmm. ‘nfheadar now – it sounds a bit fishy to me. What do you think?

Salmon of Knowledge




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