The Legend of Lough Talt

Lough Talt is a beautiful lake located about 12km west of Tubbercurry. The lake is used for
the town’s water supply and over the past few years has become embroiled in a battle
between the water supply need’s of the town and the habitat needs of a small snail which
inhabits the lake’s shoreline. The snail in question (Vertigo Geyeri) is an extremely small and
rare species that is afforded the highest levels of protected by Irish and European legislation.
The water supply abstraction causes the lake level to be drawn down during the summer
which dries out the fen habitat the snail relies on. In my role as a hydrogeologist I have been
involved over the past 8 years in trying to understand the interaction between the lake levels
and groundwater levels in the snail habitat. During the course of my research I came across
the following recounted fable concerning the lake. The story was recorded by 11 year old
Maggie Ann Mullarkey from Masshill, Co. Sligo in 1938 as part of The Schools Collection of
folklore collected by school children. The story is part of the National Folklore Collection
stored in UCD and her beautifully handwritten journal can be viewed here:
The Maggie recorded the Legend of Lough Talt from Frank Ginty (aged at the time 70) also
from Masshill, Co. Sligo and goes as follows:
To the left of the main road running from Ballina there lies a big lake called Lough Talt. It is
supposed that there was a spring well in the place where the lake now lies. There was a big
flat flag over the well and on this flag these words were written. “No Protestant woman can
take water out this well lest it should flood the place.” One day a Protestant woman read the
words. She thought it was nonsense and brought water out of it. The water bursted, and
flowed over the flag and flooded the place.
There are other accounts told of how this lake was formed. Many say that it was first formed
by the action of lightning. Long, long, ago there stood a town where the lake now lies. A
thunder storm came and the lightning blasted the town and tore open a great hole in the
earth beneath it. Heavy rain fell and filled up the hole. So thence it formed a lake. The same
lightning burned the side of Crummis Mór, the huge mountain which stands above Lough
Talt, and since that time it looks very red.