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Friday, 23 May 2014



The Irish Merpeople are called merrows and they can be distinguished from other sea-dwelling faeries in that they wear red feather caps to propel themselves down to their homes in the depths. Should their caps be stolen or hidden, they can no longer return to their watery homes. The female merrow are very beautiful and, like other mermaids, appear before storms as an omen, but they are gentle by nature and often fall in love with mortal fishermen.

The word merrow or moruadh comes from the Irish muir (meaning sea) and oigh (meaning maid) and refers specifically to the female of the species. Mermen - the merrows male counterparts - have been rarely seen. They have been described as exceptionally ugly and scaled, with pig-like features and long, pointed teeth. Merrows themselves are extremely beautiful and are promiscuous in their relations with mortals.

Merrows have special clothing to enable them to travel through ocean currents. In Kerry, Cork and Wexford, they wear a small red cap made from feathers, called a cohullen druith. In more northernly waters they travel through the sea wrapped in sealskin cloaks, taking on the appearance and attributes of seals.

The Irish merrow differs physically from humans in that her hands have a thin webbing between the fingers. It should not be assumed that merrows are kindly and well-disposed towards humans. As members of the sidhe, or Irish fairy world, the inhabitants of Tir fo Thoinn(the Land beneath the Waves) have a natural antipathy towards humans. In some parts of Ireland, they are regarded as messengers of doom and death.
On the sea she is as wild as she is alluring, but on the land she is submissive to men.

Sometimes they come ashore in the form of little hornless cattle, but usually they are wearing their sealskin cloak. In order to come ashore, the merrow must abandon her cap or cloak, so any mortal who finds these has power over her, as she cannot return to the sea until they are retrieved. Hiding the cloak in the thatches of his house, a fisherman may persuade the merrow to marry him. Such brides are often extremely wealthy, with fortunes of gold plundered from shipwrecks. The offspring of these marriages are sometimes said to be covered with scales, just as the descendants of the Roane, or Seal People, are said to have webs between their fingers. Eventually the merrow will recover the cloak, and rediscover an urge to return to the sea so strong that she eventually leaves her mortal husband and children behind.

Many coastal dwellers have taken merrows as lovers and a number of famous Irish families claim their descent from such unions, notably the O'Flaherty and O'Sullivan families of Kerry and the MacNamaras of Clare. The Irish poet W B Yeats reported a further case in his Irish Fairy and Folk Tales: Near Bantry in the last century, there is said to have been a woman, covered in scales like a fish, who was descended from such a marriage.

Despite her wealth and beauty, you should be particularly wary about encountering this marine fairy.

The Lady of Gollerus

One day Dick Fitzgerald was at the shore on Smerwick harbor smoking his pipe and admiring the fine sunny morning. Dick was a rather lonely man. This problem could quickly be fixed if only he could find a good woman for a wife. He knew this to be fact. “For what in the wide world is a man without a wife”, he said to himself as he took the pipe from his mouth.

He was lost in his thoughts when he happened to see movement in the rocks. He saw a young beautiful creature combing her long shining sea green hair. Although he never saw one before he knew at once she was a Merrow. Not far from her he spotted her cohuleen driuth. This was the enchanted cap she wore so she could dive into the deep and stay down there. Dick knew if he gained possession of the cap she would lose the power to go into the sea. So he quietly slipped up behind her and grabbed the cap. Since she couldn’t go back in the water and Dick wouldn’t give back the cap, she agreed to marry him. This worked out quite well because Dick was looking for a wife anyway.

They had a happy marriage. She made a good wife even considering where she came from. They never lacked for money; because she could have all the gold they needed brought up to her from the ocean floor. They had two boys and a girl.
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