Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 17th, 2010
Guest contributor today: Paul Burns
Though partially covered by lichens, the general shape of the Dobharchu can be seen here, as portrayed on Grace Connolly’s tombstone in Sligo County, Ireland.
Nobody wants to meet a Puca. More often than not this animal spirit is malevolent and is to be avoided. The Puca usually appears as a horse, though it can take the form of almost any animal. Several of my friends who are not well versed in Irish ways have named pets “Pooka,” and frankly I am cautious around them.
There are other animal spirits sometimes confused with the Puca. One is the Each-Uisge, or water-horse; and the other–an especially evil variety–is called the Dobharchu, or water-dog.
A recent social history called Echoes of a Savage Land, by Sligo historian Joe McGowan, recounts that September 22, 1722, Grace Connolly went from her home to nearby Glencade Lake to bathe. When she did not return, her husband Traolach McLaughlin went to search for her, and was horrified to find Grace’s mangled body on the lakeshore with a sated water fiend, the Dobharchu, lying asleep among the scattered remains.
McLaughlin slew the beast, but immediately another of that fearsome species sprang from the lake and attacked him. McLaughlin and his brother fled on horseback pursued for miles by the demon, but upon reaching Cashelgarran near Benbulben the horses gave out. The brothers placed their horses across the entrance to that ancient fort and prepared to fight for their lives. The Dobharchu charged at them with such violence that it thrust its head and forepart completely through one of the horses, and McLaughlin buried his dagger in its heart.
Grace Connolly’s tombstone in Conwell cemetery near Kinlough has on it a carving of a strange beast being stabbed by a dagger. Cashelgarran stone fort still stand beneath Benbulben, and both monster and horse are buried nearby. Bathers are seldom seen in Glencade Lake anymore.
Source: Sligo County Ireland Genealogy.