The Race of the Black Pig

An ancient trackway across the Curragh is known as the Race of the Black Pig or the Black Ditch - when the new motorway sculpture was added the artist was looking for a suitable name and we suggested this to preserve the old and new together in one tradition.

J.K.A.S. VOL.II 1896.98


This ancient track, which was some 20 miles in length, sparks off many traditional stories. Here are two examples:-

The tradition about 'Gleann na muice duibhe' (i.e., 'the Glen of the Black Pig') is the wildest I ever heard. A schoolmaster lived in Drogheda a long time ago, who used to work the magic art, and so turn his scholars into pigs. One day as they were playing in the field adjoining the schoolhouse, in this shape, O'Neill, who was hunting in that neighbourhood with a pack of hounds, observing the swine in the field, set the pack at them. The pigs immediately fled in various directions through the country, and formed those dykes called 'glen na muck duv', which are to be seen throughout the country.

In the old ancient times there dwelt in a castle down in the North of Ireland a king, who employed a schoolmaster for the education of his two sons. This same king was notorious for his knowledge in witchcraft, whereby he possessed supernatural power. On one occasion, during the king's absence at a hurling-match, the schoolmaster and his two pupils entered the king's private room, though they had been forbidden to enter it on any pretext. On a table in it lay a great book: this the schoolmaster opened and commenced to read aloud from its pages, though he could not understand the meaning of what he had read; after a short time he happened to look up from the book, and was amazed to see that, in place of his two pupils, two great shaggy hounds were present; in terror he fled from the room. On the king's return home in the evening, he was met near the castle by two strange hounds, which fawned on him, and bayed with delight at his arrival. In perplexity the king proceeded hot-foot to his room, and on seeing the open book guessed what had occurred. In a rage he sent for the schoolmaster, transformed him into a big black boar, and driving him from the castle with the assistance of his camaun (hurly), set the two hounds at him. The boar fled for its life; crossing the Boyne it ran through Meath to Maynooth, on past Kildare into the County Carlow, then away through the country lying between the Barrow and the Slaney, until it reaches Priests-haggard in the County Wexford, where the two hounds eventually killed it. They then returned home the same way they came, and were transformed by the king back again into their human form.

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