Sunday, December 5, 2021

Tales of Mourne

Tales of Mourne (Duckworth, 1937) sounded like an interesting title. I didn't know, at the time I acquired the book, that the Mourne Mountains were a known geographical feature of County Down, in the south-eastern part of Northern Ireland.  But I did know that the Tales concerned the fairies and legends about them. 

When the book arrived I found a surprise: an unsigned frontispiece, of an eccentric and individualistic style.  I later learned that the frontispiece also appears on the dust-wrapper, and that the artist was one Edward Scott-Snell. I subsequently discovered an interesting book on Edward Scott-Snell (later Godwin) and his wife, Stephani, by their son, Joscelyn Godwin, himself a well-known author of books on philosophical, occult, and mystical topics. The art deserves a separate post, so I will say no more now. 

Now to the tales themselves. The book includes fourteen stories, plus one dedicatory poem. The stories are not mere retellings of fairy lore, but new tales which often encompass fairy lore. I found them rather closer to Bernard Sleigh's Gates of Horn (1926) than to folk tales--thus stories of encounters with various fairy-type beings, but without the investigatory framework of Sleigh's collection, though all the tales are set around Mourne. The first story concerns a seal-woman who marries a mortal. Another, "The Ending of a Song," tells of a shepherd who sees a fairy light, and following it, he hears the ending of a song he had been searching for. The longest story in the book, "Fairy's Farm," tells of a man who purchases a farm, with a fairy friend providing the necessary money.  A blood pact is signed between them, and some years later its breaking by the man causes unforeseen results. The frontispiece illustrates a scene from "The Fiddler," in which a man's music comes between  him and his new pious wife. An interesting and varied collection. 

The author's name is given as Richard Rowley, but this was the pseudonym of the poet and playwright Richard Valentine Williams (1877-1947). Tales of Mourne was his only volume of fiction.


  1. But for all that I found there, I might as well be
    Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea

  2. Gathering faerie snippets from the maelstrom of time, thank you!

    1. Such fun! Meanwhile I'm looking forward to Dancing with Salome, which is wending its way to me!