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The White Trout of Tacumshane Lake

 

The story goes that a beautiful girl was born to the Reilly’s of Broadway and them being the richest family of the areas they had their pick of who she was to be married to. As she grew old more and more suitors and their families made a plea to be wed to her but her father refused and refused until he was blue in the face. 

Finally though a royal proposal found it’s way to the Reilly’s. A distant descendent of Ireland’s last great king Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair travelled from the west of the country to the house of the Wexford woman and sure who could refuse a royal wedding. Albeit Ireland’s royal family long ago lost any power there’s still a few who claim lineage. The Reilly father agreed to the marriage proposal and young Grace was set to marry her prince, as she called him the following summer.

They courted over that year although he travelled to France for some studies over the winter but on his return and with spring in the air they feel deeply in love as youngsters do. Tragedy struck though two months before the wedding, young Daniel was struck down by an out of control horse and cart as he was passing when he was on a trip to his ancestral home of Cong in Galway. 

The horse had been quiet all his life but that day he’d been agitated, the locals up there say a local old woman had put a hex on the horseman because he’d been spreading rumours about her around the village. Be that true or not the horse had indeed gone wild that day and Daniel was killed instantly. Grace was beyond grief, she shut herself away from the world and few say her for weeks after. Months turned into years and there’d be neither sight nor sound of Lady Reilly as she’d become known as. Had she emigrated to the new world, maybe to high society in France? The story around these parts shes she made her way to Tacumshane Lake one night and gave herself to the fairies. 

Modern Irish Folk Tales

At the lakeside under a full moon she begged the good folk to being her Daniel back to life so that they could be married and live happily together until the end of their days. The good folk have a bad reputation but they’ve always a soft spot for a tale of love and told her she must remain at the lake until Daniel returned.

How can I remain here?  she ask them. One spoke up for the fairies saying, we’ll turn you into a fish, that way you won’t notice time going so fast and when Daniel returns he’ll know you and kiss you and you’ll be wed soon after. 

Grace took the deal and was turned into a majestic white trout and swan the small lake for many years to come.

As the decades and decades passed and turned into centuries the story of Grace and Daniel was forgotten but from time to time there were tellings of a mystical white trout seen in the small Wexford lake. A British army soldier, a keen fisher growing up in Whitby Bay had found himself stationed in Kilmore Quay not far from the small lake. 

None of the local Irish fishermen were willing to being a British soldier out to sea for some fishing on their boats for love nor money, fearing it would be bad luck, but knowing they’d be shunned in the local villages really when it came to market days. The man took it upon himself to saddle up a horse and look for some inland fishing spots.

Sure enough he found Tacumshane and Lady’s Island close by and after a few trips had heard of a rumoured large white trout in the waters. Impossible he thought, white trout aren’t seen in this part of the world, you’d need to fish in the warmer waters off America’s gulf coast for such fish. These Irish must think I’m an idiot.

Irish Folk Tales

On his second time there he saw something that his eyes could hardly believe. Indeed there was a white trout there, as nice a fish he’d never caught before and at the pub that night he told anyone close enough to hear him that he’d be the one who’d finally catch the legendary white trout. One local pipped up and told him to leave the fish be, You’ll come to no good if you catch that fish, he says…..oh, why’s that Paddy, asked out soldier….she was put there by the good people, the fairies and when you go messing around with their world things don’t end up going well for the gobshites who trample in unwanted.

“Poppycock” said the soldier, “I’ve never heard such nonsense. There’s no such things as fairies and magical fish”. 

“Believe what you like soldier, that’s your right” the local said back, but some of us know our history still and respect the good people because they give good fortune to those that do. Anyway, it wouldn’t be right if you didn’t have fair warning boy, so I’m only telling you that it’s said that whoever catches her will lose the tongue out of his head because it’s none of us men who she’s meant for.” The local finished his drink and walked up, absolutely delighted with himself thinking that he’d given a British soldier a sleepless night of worry and torment.

He didn’t though, the soldier slept soundly and dreamt of landing that trout and telling his friends all about it.

By and by the soldier returned to Tacumshane a few days later early one summer’s morning in the hope he’d land the fish over a full day’s fishing. He sat patiently most of the day, only drawing in his line very occasionally to change bait. The whole day past with nothing biting. As he was about to give up the line suddenly shot off and he instantly knew it was the big one. He was an experienced fisherman though and know who to reel in it, giving it some line and then reeling it slowing in, giving it more to exhaust itself and again reeling it back. All in all it took him nearly two hours to land the White Trout of Tacumshane. 

It’s colour was like nothing he’d seen before as fishes go it’s a beauty. Too late to eat that night he decided to wait until morning for his deserved feast.

The following morning he awoke in his tent and rekindled his fire from the night before. He got out his pan and lay the fish on it and began cooking. 

Celtic Irish Folk Tales

Now we all know how to fry a bit of fish, so what happened next was a bit odd. He went to turn it onto the uncooked side but when he did so the side that should have been hot was bone cold. 

‘That’s odd’ thought our soldier friend but he just dismissed it, thought he’d been imagining things from not being fully awake and waited again to turn the fish. On turning it a second time the same thing happened, the side that should have been red hot from being cooked on the pan was stone cold when he turned it.

‘What the devil is happening with this fish’ he said aloud.

Again he turned it over, checking both sides, both were as cold as if the fish had just been plucked from the water. He reached into his bag and took out a knife wanting to poke a hole in the side of the fish on the pan. Just as he pricked the side of the fish, it leaped up out of the frying pan and onto the sand where it transformed right before his eyes into the most beautiful women he’d ever seen. 

‘What have you done you idiot….” she said….’they told me to wait here until Daniel came back for me…..

Dumbfounded the British man just stared at her. He could hardly believe what he was seeing… He opened his mouth to say something but he was too awe struck to speak…

What kind of clothes are you wearing? The lady on the sand asked…..are you British army? Are you lot still fecking here…does this country not rule itself yet…

He shock his head.

Ah for god’s sake….it doesn’t matter, the fairy folk told me to wait here until Daniel returns, it doesn’t matter about anything else but he could come at any moment. I have to be in the form of a fish when he does come. You need to bandage me up and put me back in the lake….what kind of eejit are you stabbing a fish anyway. You English…that’s your way isn’t it, strick first and ask questions later. How yous rules the waves is beyond my comprehensions.

The soldier was on his knees by now looking in his bag for something to heal her wound with. He pulled out a needle and thread and began to sow up the wound on her side. When it was done he covered it with a bandage.

Over there, to the left of that tree there’s some driftwood, go and get it like a good man’ Grace said.

He ran like the hammers of hell and returned with the piece of timber. Now put me on it and push me back into the lake, if I can get swimming again hopefully I’ll turn back into the fish and when Daniel comes I’ll be waiting for him. The soldier put her onto the piece of wood and dragged her into the shallows and once deep enough gave a heave and pushed her out as far into the lake as he could.

“Thank you” Grace shouted as she rolled off the board into the lake. The soldier turned out and made his way back to his small camp site and he packed up his things. The experience forever changed him, he returned to England and joined a monastery, took a vow of silence, not that he could speak anyway, seeing as the fairy folk had taken his voice away, and prayed every day for the soul of Grace Reilly. 

 

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