Stories for Children: some local folk traditions relating to St. Brigid.
by Mario Corrigan
(Historian, Author, and Member of Cill Dara Historical Society)
There are many stories about St. Brigid but none so famous as that of St. Brigid’s Cloak.
The King of Leinster had a terrible secret – ‘he had the ears of an ass!’ On hearing of the wonderful miracles performed by St. Brigid he invited her to his palace to see what could be done. The worthy Saint offered to help but asked for a ‘bit of land’ for her troubles. Now the King was very jealous of his land but Brigid asked only for a piece of land that her cloak would cover and he agreed to the bargain. Brigid fell to her knees in prayer and the King of Leinster fell into a deep sleep. When he awoke he had the most beautiful ears any man ever had in Ireland. He was delighted and Brigid returned home – a date having been set for the King to visit her at Kildare (from Cill Dara meaning Church of the Oak, as Brigid had built her church under the shade of an Oak Tree).
On the appointed day, the King of Leinster and his followers met with Brigid and her nuns at the edge of the town. In fulfilment of the bargain the King called on Brigid to cast out her cloak. This she did and through the power of the Lord and her true devotion sure didn’t the cloak spread and spread and kept spreading until, it covered the land we still know today as St. Brigid’s Pastures – The Curragh of Kildare. Needless to say the King was not too happy that he had been outwitted by Brigid but he kept to his side of the bargain.
The Wart-Stone: It is said that the extent of St. Brigid’s land was marked by four large crosses at the corners of the Curragh. There are no crosses left standing but there is a large stone at Rathbride (Brigid’s Rath or Rath Bhride) Cross on the Kildare to Milltown Road – it is said that this is the base of an old Christian cross and indeed may have been the base of one of the fabled crosses which marked out Brigid’s territory. The stone is rough on top and water gathers in the holes and hollows and locals believed that this stone had miraculous powers. If you suffered from warts then you placed your hand into the water gathered on top of the stone and prayed and you would be cured. This stone is still known as ‘The Wart-stone.’
Loughminane: Eighteen Bishops came to Kildare and Brigid and her nuns had to cater for their needs. Brigid asked her cook Blaithnait if there was enough milk but Blaithnait said there wasn’t as she had already milked the cows. Brigid fell to her knees in prayer and an angel appeared and told her to milk the cows again. When they milked the cows the milk filled all the tubs they had brought and it is said they could have filled all the vessels in Leinster. The milk spilled over the tops of the vessels and created a loch or lake and for ever after the place was known as Loch Leamnachta or ‘lake of the new milk.’