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The Sea Fairies

Moruadh, or Moruach, is the name given to the mer­maids that haunt the shallow waters near our coasts. The word is composed of Mur, sea, and Oich, maid. The mermen do not seem on the whole to be an attrac­tive or interesting class. Their hair and, teeth are green, their noses invariably red, and their eyes resemble those of a pig. Moreover, they have a penchant for brandy, and keep a look-out for cases of that article that go astray in shipwrecks. Some naturalists attribute the hue of their noses to extra indulgence in that liquor. It is little to be wondered at that their young women occa­sionally prefer marriage with a coast farmer. The wear­ing of a nice little magic cap (the Cohuleen Druith) is essential to their well-being in their country below the waves, and the mortal husband must keep this cap well concealed from his sea-wife, instances are rife of deso­lation made in families by the inadvertent finding of it by one of the children, who, of course, shows it to his mother to learn what it is. However strong her affection for husband and children, she is instinctively obliged to seize on it, and clap it on her head. She tenderly em­braces her children, but immediately flies to the sea-brink, plunges in, and is seen no more. The distracted husband, when he hears the news from the forsaken children, accuses destiny, and calls for aid to the powers of sea and land, but all in vain. Why did he perpetrate an unsuitable marriage?

One man, who lived near Bantry, was blessed with an excellent wife of this class. (As a rule, a Moruach is most desirable as wife, mother, and mistress of a family.) They would have lived comfortably, but many sea-cows, aware of her original condition, would persist in coming up to graze on her husband's meadows, and thus be near their relative. The husband, an unsentimental fellow, would chase and worry the poor sea-cattle, even to wounds and bruises, till the wife, after many useless appeals to his good feelings, poked out her Cohuleen Druith and quitted him. He was sorry when it was too late. His children, and theirs again, were distinguished by a rough scaly skin and a delicate membrane between fingers and toes.

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