According to local folklore, a large black dog, with “fiery eyes” and “snow white sharp teeth”, would rise up out of the Corrib and follow anyone who dared to cross the Claddagh Bridge (now called Wolfe Tone Bridge) after midnight. It was said that in the absence of a crucifix or holy water, which provided protection from the beast, anyone who was followed would have to outrun the dog as far as the crossroads at Lynch’s Castle – the dog could not pass the cross!
Strangely, the beast is referred to as the “gliomach”, the Irish for ‘lobster’, but perhaps it originally derived from the Irish word “gliobach” meaning ‘hairy’ or ‘shaggy’.
Did the story evolve to keep children from the Claddagh from straying up the town? Well, it would seem, that it is a Galway version of a story commonly found throughout Ireland and Britain – the Black Shuck of East Anglia, the Gwyllgi of Wales, the Moddey Dhoo of the Isle of Man, and the Cù-Sìth of the Scottish Highlands.
In folklore, black dogs are commonly encountered late at night at intermediary places, such as bridges or crossroads. Their function, it seems, is to warn people against late-night rambling, drinking and card-playing.
According to Scottish legend, the best protection from the dreaded black dog is to travel in the company of a descendant of Ean MacEndroe of Loch Ewe, in the north-western Highlands. At the time of the Battle of Culloden (1746), Ean rescued a fairy who, in gratitude, granted him and his clan everlasting immunity from the black dog.
Visit “The Corrib: Myth, Legend & Folklore” exhibition at Galway City Museum, which has been beautifully illustrated by artist Sadie Cramer, to learn more fascinating tales from our town. Walking trails are also available to take away.
Please note that Galway City Museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday with four daily time-slots: 10am, 11.30am, 2pm and 3.30pm. Admission remains FREE but visitors require a ticket for their visit. Tickets can be booked online by visiting galwaycitymuseum.ie which will need to be presented either in printed format or on mobile phones at the main entrance to the Museum. The number of visitors will be strictly controlled and those attending will have to adhere to correct social distancing and health and safety protocols so that everyone can enjoy the exhibitions in a safe and comfortable environment. For any further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +353 (0)91 532 460.
Thank you to artist Sadie Cramer and especially to William Henry, who so kindly shared his stories. This project has received funding from Creative Ireland, through Galway City Council.
9 September 2020