The McDonnells and McQuillans of Dunluce, County Antrim

"Reader, surely you cannot be at a loss for a drawing or print of Dunluce Castle? take it now, I pray you, in hand, and observe with me the narrow wall that connects the ruined fortress with the mainland; see how this wall is perforated, and, without any support from beneath, how it hangs there, bearing time and tempest, and still needing no power of arch, simply by the power of its own cemented material; the art of man could not make such another self-supported thing, it is about eighteen inches broad, just the path of a man; do not fear to cross it, rest assured it wont tumble with you, it has borne many a better man, so come on, who's afraid?—'I really cannot bring myself to venture,' was the reply of both my companions.

'Sit ye down then, ye giddy-headed cockneys, and bask your day in the sun; Alick and I will step across and visit the banshee.' So, with the greatest ease, we tripped across: Carrick-a-Rede is seventy times more fearful. 'And now, Mr. M'Mullen, as you and I have this old place to ourselves, come show me everything, and tell me all about it.' 'With the greatest pleasure in life, sir,' says Alick, 'for it gave me joy to see a gentleman like you hopping like a jackdaw over that bit of a wall; and indeed many a good one comes here, like yon gentleman and lady, who I believe have their skulls full of what they call nerve, instead of sensible steady brains.' 'Well, Alick, beyond a doubt this is a fine old place.'

'Why then, sir, it's you that may say that, for many a battle and bloody head was about it in good old fighting times, when fighting and fun were all one in merry Ireland.' 'Come then, Alick, tell me some of this fighting fun that the good old happy people you speak of enjoyed here in Dunluce.' 'And does it become me to tell your honour of the wars of Dunluce? why I thought as how, with your black coat and spatterdashes, you might be a scholar—besides, as you intend to see the Causeway, and the Cave, and Pleaskin, it may be your honour wont have time to hear all I have to tell you about the M'Quillans and M'Donnells, and Surly Boy and Captain Merriman—but, at any rate, I'll tell you, in short, about the boat-race, whereby this castle was won and lost, when the M'Quillans and M'Donnells contended for it in the presence of the King of Scotland, and agreed to leave their right to the issue of a row from Isla to Dunluce—he who first touched the land was to have the castle as his prize; so they started on just such a day as this—wind and wave agreed to sit still and let the oarsmen have fair play—and to be sure it was they who rowed for honour and glory as for life, and the M'Quillans prayed enough for St. Patrick, and the M'Donnells to Columkill of the Isles, and neither, you may be sure, spared the spirits—for it's hard to say whether John Highlandman, or Pat of the green hills, is better at that work; but, at any rate, on they came, beautiful and abreast, like two swans cutting with white bosoms the green waters; and now it was pull Paddy, and now it was pull Sandy, and none on the shore could tell for their lives which was foremost; but, at any rate, the Irish boys shouted enough, and prayed enough for the M'Quillans; and now, sir, they were within stone's throw, and now almost within oar's length, when what do you think my Scotchman did? For never put it past canny Sawney, all the world over, for getting the better of others; and if he fails at fair beating, he'll not pass by cheating: so it was here. The two chiefs were each at their boat's bow, and M'Quillan had his long arm outstretched, and M'Donnell held his lochabar axe in his hand, and all at once laying his left wrist on the gunwale before him, he slashed at it with his hatchet, severed it at a blow, and while it was spinning out blood, he flung it with all his force against the rock; and do you see where the sea-parrot is now perched, on that bird's-nest ledge? there the bleeding hand lay, and the red mark is said to be there, though I have never seen it, unto this very day.

'Huzza for M'Donnell, Dunluce is our own!

For, spite of M'Quillan, the castle is won.'

Such was the cry of the Scotchmen as they landed, and so it was that even the Irish gave it in favour of the foreigner, who, at the expense of his limb, won the prize; and long and many a day the Scotchman held it, until he became a good Irishman; and to this hour you may see a bloody hand painted in the middle of Lord Antrim's coat-of-arms.'"

END OF CHAPTER VI.


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