Even today when you look up at Sliabh Foy; the Mountain that towers above the medieval town of Carlingford in Co Louth and you can see the white fairy horse of Mountain Park grazing the sparse grass that grows between the thick ferns and whins.
Other horses follow his path oblivious of the fact that he once lived in a house on the hill at Mountain Park as a human as rich and as well regarded as those who live there now.
His name was O’Reilly, “the Cocker O’Reilly” they called him, on account of the fact that he was cock sure of everything he said. There wasn’t a man or woman born who dared to contradict him, without feeling the lash of his tongue and a tirade of abuse about how stupid they were.
And funny thing was that he was rarely wrong. However it would have been strange indeed if he had been right in everything in all of his life, and in the one single occasion that he was to get it wrong he paid a very heavy price for his obscenity.
He had been carousing and drinking in the village below, long past the time when he should have gone home. He rowed with everyone that night as the whiskey took hold of his senses but even those who argued with him in the fullness of their sobriety, had, in the end to give way to his arguments and to accept that he was right. He finally left the pub; the hill towards his house seemed steeper than normal. He was unsteady on his feet and he took both sides of the pathway stumbling into ditches and blackthorn hedges as he headed upwards muttering and arguing with himself.
Close to the stream at Mountain Park the sound of running water put a terrible pressure on his kidneys. The nights drinking had taken its toll and there was nothing for it, but in the darkness but by the light of the moon, he had to relieve himself.
Had he been sober it would never have happened.
He would never have dared. He stood there with the water flowing out of him oblivious of where he was.
His eyes were closed as the agony of full kidneys drained from him and his bowels emptied.
He opened his eyes and to his horror he discovered he had relieved himself on the hawthorn tree that grew from the fairy mound :the home of Queen Sadhbh and the fairy princess Abbie.
He turned in haste and headed for home, but there was to be no haste .
A great fear came over him, as he thought of the luck that might befall him if he had been seen.
Falling, then scrambling to his feet, he made his way unsteadily up the hill, looking behind him to see if he was been followed. He finally came to the door of his white washed thatched cottage.
Opening it and slamming it behind him he then threw himself on the bed. I am safe he thought and fell into a deep sleep.
When morning came and nothing had befallen him, he headed out of the house and saw a small group of neighbours huddled in conversation below at the Hawthorn Tree.
Down he went: one man pointed to the base of the tree, twelve of the coloured toadstools that had been growing there the day before were wizened and dead. “There is going to be bad luck on this hill coming to all of us before the weeks out” he said.
“It looks like the fairies have deserted this place”.
“Not at all” says the Cocker sure I can smell horses piss from here, that’s what killed them”.
“Do you think so Cocker”, says the man comforted by the knowledge that he was always right.
“I know so” says Cocker and they all left to go about their day’s business much relieved by Cockers assurance.
When Cocker went to bed that night he slept soundly and as was usual he was awakened by the crowing of O’Loughlin’s rooster as he greeted the dawn.
Cocker threw his legs out of the bed and on to the floor. Reaching for the side of the bed to steady himself he discovered to his horror that his hands and legs were gone, and worse still, that his behind seemed to be at a 45 degree angle from where he stood.
He looked around and terror gripped him when he saw the tail of a horse swishing behind him.
He leapt forward only to discover that the tail belonged to him, and that he had turned into a horse.
The fairies had taken a terrible revenge on him for what he had done. He was stuck in the house.
He tried shouting but only a neigh came out of his mouth.
The neighbours hadn’t seen him for a few days and went to investigate but instead they found the horse in the cottage.
” Maybe this was the horse that Cocker spoke about” said the man to his neighbours They had to knock down the wall of the house down to release him.
They chased him far away from the fairy mound.
They never saw Cocker again nor ever knew what had befallen him but they still tell stories around here about how he was always right about everything and they continue to keep the horses away from the fairy mound at Mountain Park.
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