The following story appeared in The Roscommon Messenger on 4 May 1918. It was covered by a number of other papers, but the Messenger really went to town on it.
It’s a mad tale that The Irish Times believed existed only in the imagination of the journalist who “reported” it . However, it was reported as news – and it’s one of my favourite stories.
“THE BLACK PIG”
Mysterious Occurrence at Kiltrustan
Said to be “The Black Pig” Referred to in St Columcille’s Prophecy
Our Strokestown correspondent writes: - On Wednesday evening last the town of Strokestown was all astir over a strange story that was told by some people from Kiltrustan, a little over two miles away, who had come to town. According to the story told by these respectable people a little girl named Beirne, aged about 12 ½ years, saw what she described as a black pig come up out of a crack or small hole in the ground near the schoolhouse, and commence to walk about the stump of an old tree that had been cut down recently in a little grove convenient to the public road.
THE STRANGE APPEARANCE OF THE ANIMAL
and its peculiar movements attracted the little girl’s attention for some minutes, after which she ran down to the school and told the teacher (Mr Beirne), who came to the spot but failed to see the animal, the child persisting all the time that it was there and actually walking across the master’s boots. Other children of the same age and younger were called, and each of them cried out simultaneously, “Oh, look at the black pig,” “She is eating grass,” she is spitting,” she is walking on your boots,” etc. The news spread rapidly through the district, and a large number of men and women gathered to the spot, but all of them declared that they could see nothing but the grass and old trees. On Thursday the place was
VISITED BY HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE
from the town and districts around, including some priests. The little girls who claimed to have seen the strange animal on the previous day were requisitioned, and again declared that they could see the pig quite plainly walking around the old tree stump, but on this occasion accompanied by six little bonhams, three of them trotting on each side of her. Again the adults present stated that they could see nothing unusual, but the children insisted that the pig and bonhams were there all the time, and that some of those present had actually touched the pig with their hands when they stretched them forth. The same children, and others from a good distance away, stated that they again saw the pig and young ones on Friday last, but not since. The place was
VISITED ON SUNDAY LAST BY SEVERAL HUNDRED PERSONS.
It has been decided to close the school until the excitement dies down. There are many stories going the rounds as to the cause of the strange appearance of the pig, and the children undoubtedly must have seen it, because no amount of cross-examination could shake them in their description of what they saw, and there is not the slightest chance of their having invented it, because some were brought from a distance and not allowed to communicate in any way with those who claimed to have seen it first. A number of old people who studies
THE PROPHECIES OF ST COLUMCILLE
say that the “black pig” is referred to in them as an evil omen for Ireland, and that she is to travel through a certain part of the country west of the River Shannon before being killed or banished. Others say that the appearance of the pig is the forerunner of a rising in the North to fight against Home Rule. The affair has caused a great sensation in this district, and is the chief topic of conversation amongst all classes.
STRANGE VISITATION IN CO ROSCOMMON
A remarkably strange and interesting story is revealed as the result of further investigation into the circumstances connected with the mysterious appearance at Kiltrustan, Co Roscommon, of the famous black pig of the prophecies. Kiltrustan is situated almost midway between Strokestown and Elphin. It is a district boasting of numerous historical associations: its importance as an agricultural centre is at the present time considerable, and its situation has long been identified with the course of the boundary fortifications of ancient Ulster, otherwise known as the Valley of the Black Pig. Mr William F De Vismes Kane, of Drumreaske Castle, Co Monaghan, was the author of an interesting work on
“THE BLACK PIGS DYKE.”
He was an historian and antiquarian of much repute, and many of his works deal exhaustively with Co Roscommon. He gives a detailed description of the race or valley of the Black Pig – a great embankment and ditch which he traces with remarkable accuracy westward from Co Monaghan. Attached to the peculiar name are numerous legends, the main drift of which is that a demon, exorcised by St Patrick, assumed the shape of a black pig, and raging westward through Ireland, tore up a deep furrow with its snout. Following the deep track that the animal; left behind, St Patrick at length succeeded in running it down on the banks of the Shannon. The track left behind by the black pig afterwards formed the site of
A POWERFUL EARTHWORK,
mainly erected as a defensive boundary between certain provinces, but still retaining the title of the Black Pig’s Valley. It is a strange coincidence that on the same day that Mr Kane died suddenly at his residence the Black Pig was first stated to be observed at Kiltrustan. The circumstances of its appearance are rather peculiar. Creta demesne adjoins the main road leading to Kiltrustan National School; a right of way off the main road connects with the residence of a respectable resident of the district, a Mr Hughes. Beside this right of way, and a few yards from the road boundary, there is a small plantation which, according to local tradition, is haunted, mysterious lights having been occasionally seen, and weird sounds heard, at night time. Contrary to the wish of some of the old people in the neighbourhood, two young men cut one of the trees in the plantation. Both of them are now understood to be ill, and their
ILLNESS HAS BEEN ATTRIBUTED INDIRECTLY TO THE APPEARANCE OF THE PIG
referred to so significantly in St Columcille’s Prophecy.
1 Sorry, I didn’t record a date for this in my notes.
The Roscommon Messenger, 4 May 1918