At Slieve-na-Glaise, in Clare, is a dolmen, to which an old woman gave the name of Carrig-na-Glaise, that is, the Rock of the Sea-Green (Cow) - the word bo, "a cow," being understood, as it is in the name of the ancient MS., Leabhar na h-Uidhri, that is "Book of the Dun (Cow)." After she had told me the story of how the poor enchanted cow, from whose udders used to flow all the rivers on the mountain-side, had been tricked by an impious old hag, who, in place of a milk-pail, had milked her into a sieve, and how, in consequence, she had either died of grief or deserted that locality for ever, I ventured to ask her the question whether there were any cows of that colour to be seen nowadays - whether, that is to say, she applied the term glas to the colour of any of the cows we saw on the mountain. She replied by a decided negative*, and added that the enchanted cow was the only one of that colour ever known, and that she travelled through Ireland from end to end in the space of a single day. The name of the Smith Gavida, the cow's owner, in the tale, as still related in Donegal, was not remembered by my informant, although the name of one of the hills near by, on which were several dolmens, Glasgivneach, proved that it was once current there.
From 'The dolmens of Ireland' by William Copeland Borlase (1897).
The highest point of Slievenaglasha, --rising 700 feet above the sea, which is visible far to the west, --has fourteen cairns and overlooks a long shallow valley, with strange brown patches here and there and another strong ring wall over a little cave. The patches are the labbas or beds of the Glas and her calf, the waterfall sprang from the abundant milk of the cow, and the fort is Mohernagartan ("the smiths's fort"), the residence of Lon the Smith. The footprints of the wonderful animal and of Lon's seven sons are visible on every crag, and the cave with strange cinder-like debris is the reputed forge of the "dark brown Luno" of (Macpherson's) Ossian.
A Folklore Survey of County Clare (Continued)
Thos. J. Westropp
Folklore, Vol. 23, No. 1. (Mar., 1912), pp. 88-94.
The tale of the Glasgeivnagh, or Grey-green Cow, on Slievenaglasha [..] runs as follows:- Lon mac Liomhtha (Loon mac Leefa), of the Tuatha De Danann, was the first smith to make an edged weapon in Ireland. He had only one leg, with which he could spring over hills and valleys, but as compensation he had a third arm and hand growing out of his chest, with which he held the iron on the anvil while forging it with the huge hammer held by his other hands.
He had stolen a wonderful grey-green cow from Spain, and lived on its unlimited milk. After long seeking he found a "desert" sufficiently fruitful to support her in Teeskagh. Many tried to steal her, but failed, because her hoofs grew backwards and she could not be tracked.
One of Lon's seven sons took charge of her on each day of the week, holding her tail while she grazed. When she reached the edge of the plateau, he pulled her round by the tail, and let her graze back to Lon's fort, Mohernagartan ("the smith's fort"). She drank of the seven streams of Teeskagh, and the rocks were marked in every direction with her hoof prints.
At last the fame of Finn mac Cumhail reached Lon, and he, unlike the rest of his race, (who sulked in the fairy hills after their defeat by the Milesians), determined to recognise the chief hero of the new race and to make for him a wondrous sword. Lon set off to make himself known, and springing over the intervening plains and hills reached Ben Edair, the Hill of Howth on the east coast. Finn and his warriors were holding a court when the strange being dropped into their midst, and Finn demanded the name and errand of the intruder.
"I am Lon, skilled in the smith's craft, a servant to the King of Lochlan," the visitor replied. "I lay on ye a geis (obligation) to overtake me ere I reach my home," and off he sprung.
The Fianna were soon outdistanced, except Caeilte "of the slender, hard legs," who came up with Lon hard by his forge, a cave with heaps of slaggy material in a nook still called Garraidh na gceardchan.
Caeilte slapped Lon on the shoulder with the words, "Stay, smith. Enter not they cave."
"Success and welcome, true man of the Fianna," replied Lon, in delight. "Not for witchcraft did I visit thee, but to lead thee to my forge and make thee a fame-giving weapon."
The two had already wrought in the forge for two days when Finn and his followers arrived, and Lon sold them eight swords. He resumed work aided by Goll and Conan, sons of Morna, but their mighty blows split the anvil and ended the work.*
*Ordnance Survey Letters (Co. Clare), vol. ii., p, 71; taken down in 1839 from Shane Reagh O'Cahane, an old tailor and shanachy (story-teller) in Corofin, by O'Donovan and E. O'Curry.
.. The tale was minutely localised on Glasgeivnagh Hill and Slievenaglasha before 1839. At first our enquiries seemed to show that the story had died out, but after a couple of years Dr. MacNamara found it still subsisting amongst a few old folk and herdsmen neer Teeskagh. As neither of us referred to the 1839 story, we were much struck by the perfect agreement after the lapse of two generations. I took down one recension at Tullycommaun in 1896, from John Finn. The main story is identical with that given above, and it ends as follows:-
"At Slievenaglasha were the Glas cow's beds. No grass ever grows on them. She used to feed near the herd's house [at the dolmen of Slievenaglasha] and over Cahill's mountain, where she could get plenty of water out of Teeskagh. And she went away, and how do I know where? And there were no tidings."
Another tale, extant and in 1839, tells that the cow could fill any vessel with milk, until an ill-conditioned woman bought a sieve; the mill ran through and became the Seven Streams; and the cow, mortified at being unable to fill the sieve, ran away and (or, in one version) died. With reference to another appendix to the tale,-- "an Ulsterman took the cow,"...
County Clare Folk-Tales and Myths, I
Thos. J. Westropp
Folklore, Vol. 24, No. 1. (Mar., 1913), pp. 96-106.