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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/513

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501
The Sanctuary of Mourie.

shepherd the week after; so the waters were potent for vengeance sixty years ago. Sir A. Mitchell's informant gave him a different version, viz., that the dog was cured and the healing virtue lost only for a time, and his account dates the occurrence as about 1845 or 1840. It is instructive to note the rapid growth and variation of popular explanatory legend. Pennant notes that the well possessed oracular as well as healing powers: "The visitants draw from the state of the well an omen of the disposition of St. Maree: if his well is full they suppose he will be propitious; if not, they proceed in their operations with fears and doubts."[1] This belief continued to recent times. In 1836, the New Statistical Account says "it is considered a hopeful sign if the well is full."[2]

Who were the folk who first found at this oak-stem a meeting-place with unseen powers? Who first brought their sick for healing to the grove of Mourie? The loch is called the Loch of Mourie in local records of the seventeenth century; the 25th August is mentioned as "dedicate to St. Mourie"; and one entry, to be quoted below, speaks of the "iland of St. Ruffus commonly called Elian (island) Moury". The name also occurs as Maelrubha, Malrubius, Malrube, Mulray, "and as the last corruption, Maree."[3]

The life and acts of the saint are related by the annalist Tighernach, and in the ancient Irish MSS. and records.[4] I am indebted for references, and for the following brief outline, to the paper by Dr. Reeves on "Saint Maelrubha: His History and Churches", published in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. iii, Part 2 1861.

Saint Maelrubha belongs to the roll of Ulster saints by

  1. Pennant, ii, p. 330.
  2. New Stat. Ac, xiv, 2, p. 92, note.
  3. Sir A. Mitchell, p. 6.
  4. Book of Lecan, fol. 37bc; Book of Ballymote, fol. 119ba; Annals of the Four Masters, vol. i; Annals of Ulster, s. a. 716; The Feilire, or Festival-book of Aengus the Culdee; Calendar of Donegall.