The fate of Cahir Rhu


‘A drink, a drink, my pretty maid’ cried Cahir, drawing rein
To the miller’s daughter singing down the lonely mountain lane
He drained the draught, then suddenly his arms around her threw
‘With me you’ll ride, whatever betide’ said roving Cahir Rhu

‘Oh, chide me not, sweet Mary, for my rough and ready love
Ah, lonely grew the eagle on his mountain height above
Whose stony perch and heath’ry nest and cage of sunny blue
Shall shortly own a bonnier bird’ said reckless Cahir Rhu

She looked where Mam-a-cooliagh smiled across at Brandon hill
And where the tumbling Urin overshot her father’s mill
Then came her piercing cry that thrilled the country thro’ and thro’
‘O father – brother – Rory Óg, save me from Cahir Rhu’

Young Rory caught his dapple-grey, fit for an Irish King
And though thro’ his left arm he felt a bullet’s fiery sting
On, on he rode and strong he rode, till side by side he drew
And he tore his darling Mary from the arms of Cahir Rhu

‘My hand to you, bold Rory Óg’ the happy maiden cried
‘My heart to you, brave Rory Óg, on Cooliagh’s heath’ry side
And welcome kith, and welcome kin, and welcome neighbours too
Who throng to hunt from Wexford’s hills this demon Cahir Rhu

The outlaw, like a fox beset, beheld the people swarm
Saw Mary, sorest sight of all, bind up her lover’s arm
Then down the Witches’ Cave he sprang, whose floor no mortal knew
Thus Love, the life of all the world, was death to Cahir Rhu


Cahir Ruadh (Red Charley) was a famous outlaw who infested the borders of Wexford and Carlow during the middle of the last century. He was popular with the local people till he became enamoured with a young girl in the neighbourhood. He met his fate when he endeavoured to abduct her. Cahir Rhu’s Den, the fatal chasm into which he leaped on being pursued and overtaken is still pointed out on the Blackstair Mountain.

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