How Cloughaneely got it's name

Image of rocks in the sea
"Balors Teeth" - courtesy of Sean Mac Gearailt

The Evil Eye Festival (named for mythological figure Balor of the Evil Eye) takes place in Falcarragh in the West Donegal parish of Cloughaneely, or in Irish, Cloich Cheann Fhaola meaning the Stone of Fhaola’s (Mac Aneely’s) Head.  The festival aims to tell the story of how the parish acquired this name.

In an interview with Kitty Gallagher, one of the organisers, she states that the motivation for the festival was to really bring the story to life for the first time and connect the area with the ancient past.  It is an exciting story and surprisingly few people are aware of it.  The festival is an event for all the family and is bilingual, including both English speakers and Irish speakers alike.  Although this is the first year the festival has been organised, the huge amount of work and organisation involved from the local community and beyond, indicates that the event will be quite a spectacle!

There are many versions of the story of Balor, but in Falcarragh it goes something like: There was once a Chieftain named Mac Aneely who owned a prize bull.  The ruler of Tory Island, Balor of the Evil eye, named for his one-eyed gaze which would kill anyone it rested on, stole the bull and brought it back to Tory.  Mac Aneely wanted revenge but his druidess informed him that Balor could only be killed by his grandson, for that was what the prophesies foretold.  Balor knew of this prophesy himself and so had his daughter Eithne cruelly locked up in a tower where only her maids could enter. 

So… Mac Aneely disguised himself as a woman and sneaked into the tower… and nine months later Eithne gave birth to triplets!  Balor, enraged at what had happened, order the triplets to be thrown into a river.  The druidess, managed to save one child, Lugh who was then raised by her uncle Goibhniu, but sadly the other two perished.    When Balor discovered that Mac Aneely was behind the incident he travelled to the mainland, seized and beheaded him on a large white stone.  That stone to this day has a red stain said to be the blood of Mac Aneely, and that stone is from where the parish Cloich Cheann Fhaola takes its name. 

Years later Lugh led the Tuatha de Danann to war against Balor during which he managed to drive a hot poker through Balor’s evil eye, ultimately killing him and thus avenging the death of his father.  The Evil Eye Festival tells this story over the course of three days and audience participation is a big part of the fun!!  There is a quest for Lugh, a dance to lure Balor to the land, and guided trips to Tory Island where Balor had his stronghold.  Festival goers will also be witness to carnival performers, giant puppetry, dance battles and music.  Definitely an event to support and help ensure its success.  Do your bit to help Lugh stop Balor of the Evil Eye!