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Mystery lakes and mythical beasts

Outdoor Living

WHAT LIES BENEATH? The Dobhar chú is said to be most active after dusk.

Country Sights and Sounds
John Shelley

James had a plan. He would go into the hills of north Mayo and find where the red stags have hiding away while their antlers were growing anew. While there he would hike as far as another mountain lake or two and check out the size of the trout they hold. With the help of Google Maps he pointed at lake after lake, seemingly at random and failing to recognise that although they were only inches apart on the computer screen there were miles of rough and inhospitable terrain between them.
“That one’s not it,” he said. “Nor that. And it can’t be that one, either. There has to be a reason for it, something different that would make it stand out. There’s trout five and six pounds in it, if we can find which one we’re looking for. We’d have to go early…”
“Hold on,” I interjected, “what’s all this ‘we’ business. I’ve certainly no intention of heading back up there before the end of September, not after being eaten alive by the insect life. If you’re going now, you’re going alone.”
With the bit between his teeth James isn’t easily dissuaded. “Just think of it,” he said with a faraway look in his eyes. “That little lake’s been a mystery nearly forever. All of them have trout – even the little bog holes, as long as there’s a stream or even a drain connecting them to something bigger. And I heard that people put fish in most the others as well, years ago. We just have to find the one that has a limestone base. It’s there somewhere, I know it, and there’s trout within as long as your arm.”
I remained sceptical. “If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, they say that lake is in the Ox Mountains, beyond Lough Talt, although I don’t know it and I’ve never been there. I have my doubts it exists at all.”
“The Ox Mountains? That’s where they say it is, them that want to keep it to themselves. But I was in at Bangor and wasn’t there a group of English gentlemen reckoned they knew where it was. It’s my belief…” He paused, and stabbed the screen of my laptop with unnecessary violence before continuing. “One of them was an old gent and another was, well, I’d imagine he’d have a hearty appetite and some kind of desk job. It’s hard to see them walking far off the road, so they must’ve drove nearly right to it, and if they did then it’s nearby.”
Rumours of a mysterious little lake with a chalk bottom have persisted for as long as I can remember. If it really is there, it is well the exact location remains a secret to most, for such places can easily be spoiled given too much attention, and if it’s just a figment of somebody’s imagination, then there is no harm in imagining…
“You’ll come with me.” It was more command than invitation. “I couldn’t go alone. No man would, not with the likes of Dobhar chú abroad after dusk.”
Dobhar chú (he pronounced it ‘Do’-worr coo’) is a low-profile relative of the Loch Ness Monster, reputed to visit numerous Irish loughs and encountered around the globe by an Irish diaspora. Variously described as half dog and half fish, or half hound and half otter, this mythical beast has a fearsome reputation and might chase and kill any with the temerity to venture onto its territory or stand in its way.
Living mostly on a diet of fish, it is only reasonable that such a lonely, out-of-the-way water filled with large trout, such as the one James sought, would be the place Dobhar chú would rest up.
I chided James over his superstition. “Surely you don’t believe that rubbish?”
He looked at me sternly over the top of his glasses. “There’s a lot we don’t know and more we don’t understand. Just because you haven’t seen a thing, that doesn’t mean it’s not there. There’s plenty that say they’ve seen something, and more afraid to tell, for fear the likes of you would laugh at them.”
Leaning forward on his elbows, he continued in hushed tones. “Lough Fadda and Lough Auna have a mysterious creature living between them. When you search the one it goes to the other, as if there’s a tunnel connecting the two, like there is between Mask and the Corrib.”
“Alright,” I said, “I’ll come.”
And so, between now and the next time, that’s where I’ll be. Searching for monsters, red deer and trout.