The story of the Children of Lir is a well known legend in Ireland. In our visit to the remote West Cork village of Allihies on the Bere Peninsula, we came across the graves site of the children. According to tradition, the children were the sons and daughters of Lir, and a member of the Tuatha de Danaan clan. Lir married Eve, the eldest daughter of King Bov The Red, King of the Tuatha de Danaan. Eve gave birth to two sets of twins. The eldest were Aed and Finola, followed by two boys, Conn and Fiacra. Unfortunately, Eve died while the children were still young and Lir, not wanting the children to grow up without a mother, married King Bov’s second daughter Eva.

The old copper mine overlooks the village of Allihies beyond.

Eva became jealous of Lir’s love of his children and, overcome with hatred, transformed them into swans. Realizing what she had done and overcome with remorse, she attempted to release the spell but could only relieve their distress by enabling them to speak and sing. The children remained trapped as swans for the next 900 years. The swans spent the first three hundred years on Lough Darravagh, close to their home. The next three hundred years were spent on the Sea of Moyle, a cold and desolate place between Ireland and Scotland. The last three hundred years of the swans’ exile was spent on the Bill, Cow and Calf rocks off the coast from Allihies. The spell was broken when they heard bells from the church in the village and came ashore in human form. The children were by now very old men and women and they died shortly thereafter and were buried under the large white boulders found outside the village. Traditionally local people would walk around the stones as a sign of devotion and would leave money on the stones as an offering to the Children.

Placing a penny on the grave for good luck.

In 1812, the local landlord John Puxley, established a copper mining operation in the mountains above the village of Allihies. Cornish miners were brought over from England to manage the operation and a steam engine house was built in 1862. By the late 1800s the mines became less viable. Many of the miners emigrated to the mines of Butte, Montana where work was promised for any Irishman willing to work. Today, many Harringtons and O’Sullivans, descendants of these original miners, live in the most Irish city in America.

Irish Miners photographed at Butte, Montana.