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Finn McCool and the Giants Causeway (Ireland)
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The Giant's Causeway legend.

There are some who will try to tell you that the Giant's Causeway was built by volcanoes, claiming that 63 million years ago, in Ireland, or the Northern Ireland at least, was on fire with volcanoes, spewing lava constantly into a chasm that existed between there and Scotland. All of these eruptions kept the magma in the chasm hot. Then a long slow cooling process allowed there to chill and to crack into the crystalline columns that you'd see there today. These columns extend under the sea all the way from the North-eastern tip of Northern Ireland over to the west coast of Scotland, emerging at Fingals Cave on the Ireland of Staffa, just off the west coast. This is the largest example of its kind in the world and, therefore it's Northern Ireland's only heritage site.

Another more interesting story that tells that it was built by giants. A long long time ago, in the North of Ireland lived the giant called Finn McCool. Finn McCool was a kind and a peaceful giant. He looked after his land and his people well. He was, however, constantly under threat from a giant from Scotland. That giant's name was Benandonner; the name itself means 'mountain of Thunder'. Benandonner wanted to go to Ireland and to kill Finn McCool and charge high taxes on the people that lived there. The only thing stopping him, the expanse of water in between, which was too wide and too deep; and Benandonner could not swim. The two giants, Scottish and Irish, had never met. They had never even seen each other. They lived too far apart, but they had heard each other on a daily basis, yelling, shouting, bawling, coursing and threatening over the seas.

One morning, Finn McCool, sick, tired and weary of listening to the threats of Benandonner, roused early and he built a causeway between Northern Ireland and Scotland. Using strange hexagonal columns of rock, he pushed them into the ground and into the seabed with his bare hands. When the causeway was finished, Finn McCool stood up at the Northern Ireland side and called over to Scotland, telling the Scottish giant Benandonner to come and fight for the lands, whenever he could find the courage to do so.

This was the biggest mistake that Finn McCool had ever made in his life for now as an angry Benandonner could be seen striding across this new Giant's Causeway, Finn McCool seeing him for the first time could now clearly see that the Scottish giant was twice as big as he was. Terrified, he run to his wife and told her to pack all their belongings. 'Get ready to leave', he said: 'Leave now and we'll leave with our lives; wait a moment longer, Benandonner will come and he'll kill us, both'.

Oonagh, Finn's wife, was just a bit more cunning and certainly a lot more intelligent than Finn McCool. She poured a large bottle of sleeping potion and into Finn McCool's early morning bottle of beer, and when he drank the beer, he drank the sleeping potion. As he did so, he fell sound asleep, and as he slept, Oonagh stripped him naked and then dressed him again just like a baby; she even placed a baby's bonnet on his head. She took carpentry tools, she manufactured a giant cradle and lifting Finn McCool, she placed him in the cradle and stuck his thumb in his mouth... just in time for the door to knock. It was Benandonner. He'd arrived and he was furious. Where was this Irish upstart who had the audacity to challenge him?

Oonagh answered the door and smiling politely into the ugly Scottish giant's face, she told him a lie. She told him that her husband, Finn McCool, had forgotten all about the threat. He'd gone off to the fields to work. It must have meant so little to him that it completely slipped his mind and he'd gone away to the fields. Benandonner was welcomed to come in and wait if he wanted, although he had best probably make his way back to Scotland and save himself for a severe beating. But if he did decide to come in, he had to promise not to make a fuss and wake the sleeping baby.

Of course Benandonner did not wish to appear to be a coward, so he agreed to come in. But on entering the house he saw the size of the cradle in the corner. Peering inside, he saw Finn McCool lying there with a great big ginger beard; snoring loudly, breath stinking of stale beer.

"Are you telling me that's the baby?". "Oh yes, said Oonagh, that's Finn McCool's baby alright. Take a seat, I'll bring you a nice cup of Irish tea". "There'll be no need for your hospitality", said Benandonner, "I'm not waiting here to meet the father of something as gigantic as that". And with that, he ran away back to Scotland again. But using his club, he smashed up the Giant's Causeway in between Northern Ireland and Scotland to make sure that this Finn McCool, should he return from work, should not be able to follow him and do him injury.

But Finn McCool, lying sleeping in the cradle, heard the noise of the causeway breaking up, and it woke him up, and in a fit of anger at seeing his handiwork being destroyed he ++++ed with his bare hand a sod of earth from the north of Ireland and threw it after the retreating Benandonner.

Now, the sod of earth that Finn McCool ++++ed from the ground left a hole, a hole that can still seen today even though it's filled with water. It's called Lough Neagh. It's the largest inland waterway in the United Kingdom. Not only bigger than Logh Ness, but bigger than Logh Ness and all the lakes of the English Lake District all put together.

But what happened to this sod of earth ++++ed from the ground by Finn McCool's hand and thrown after the retreating Benandonner? Well, Finn McCool was still a bit drowsy from the sleeping potion. He was still a bit drunk from the beer, and ++++ all that, Finn McCool in his whole life had never been a great shot with anything. So the sod of earth missed Benandonner and went flying through the air and landed with a mighty splash right in the middle of the Irish Sea, and today we call that The Isle of Man.

Now, you may think that story number one was the truth and this of giants was a lie. But let me put it to you like this: Should you visit the north of Ireland and look closely, you will see no volcanoes, but take a look of a map of the United Kingdom and compare the size, the shape and the area of Lough Neah to the size, the shape and the area of the Isle of Man, and even to the untrained eye you will have to admit there are certain striking similarities. So I put it to you that what you see there today is no geological formation at all, but truly was built by giants.


The Giants Causeway and the legend of Finn McCool was read by Tom Purves.



What caused the Giants Causeway? Scientists say that millions of years ago, there were huge volcanic eruptions and after they were over, thousands of strange-looking columns appeared on the coast of Co. Antrim. Is that really what happened? The Seanchai, or Irish story-teller, has a far different tale to tell.

It's said that the Causeway was built by a gentle giant, Fionn MacCumhain, or Finn McCool. Even legend, though, has its contrasting accounts. In one tale, Finn was said to be in love with a lady giant who lived on the Scottish island of Staffa, and that he built the Causeway in order to safely bring her home to Ireland. In fact, there's a similar though smaller collection of the strange columns on Staffa's coastline, and geographically, Ireland and Scotland were once much closer than they are today.

The other legend says that Finn built the Causeway due to an ongoing argument with a Scottish giant named Benandonner who could not swim. In an argument one day, while they were shouting at each other over the Sea of Moyle, Finn took a clump of earth and flung it at his enemy. The land fell in the sea and became the Isle of Man, while the huge hole left in Ireland became Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the British Isles.

As the arguments continued, Finn decided to build the Causeway in order to make it easy for Benandonner to come and fight him. After so much hard work, Finn was exhausted and he fell asleep.

Here again, there are different versions of the same story

Oonagh was Finn’s wife. When she heard the sound of thunderous footsteps, she knew it was Brenandonner come to fight Finn. Oonagh took one look at the gigantic visitor on her doorstep and realised this was a battle Finn could never win. She threw a blanket over her sleeping husband and stuck a bonnet on his head. There was no possible way Finn could defeat Benandonner for he was too small.

Where's Finn?" roared Benandonner. "Shusha, shusha", whispered OOnagh - "You'll wake the wee one!" Benandonner looked at the snoring Finn. His jaw dropped 10 feet. If the child was that hefty, what size would the father be? Benandonner wasn't sticking around to find out. He ran like the wind, destroying part of the Causeway in his wake so Finn could not pursue him.

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