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What's in a name?

Blog by Cliff McCool | February 3rd, 2007

I am often asked if McCool is my birth name. A strange question, I must say, but the answer is an unequivocal YES. I thought I would take the time to educate the reader on my heritage. 

I am sure that all McCool's would like to think that they are descendants of the legandary giant Finn McCool. I don't know if I am, but I don't know that I am not. Finn McCool had his own army of fabulous warriors who protected Ireland against attack, and these men spent most of their time practising their skills and hunting deer and other wild animals. It was Finn McCool who fought against another giant from Scotland.

In order to chase him away, Finn reached down and pulled a sod from the ground and threw it at the Scottish giant. If you look at a map of Ireland, you will see the hole which was left when he pulled out this sod of earth. It later filled with water and is now known as Lough Neagh, the largest lake in Ireland. The place where the sod landed is in the middle of the Irish Sea, just between Ireland and England, and is now called the Isle of Man.

He is also credited with creating the Giant's Causeway.

At 52½ feet tall, Finn McCool was big and getting bigger. Truly a gentle giant, Finn and his wife Oonagh loved to spend the clear summer days gazing across the Sea of Moyle to the heather clad hill of the Western Isles. It was on such a day they first saw the shadow and heard the rumbling voice of the mighty Benandonner.

In a challenge bellowed across the waves, Finn invited the Scottish giant to visit Ireland for the most typical of giant contests, a trial of strength. County Antrim hospitality being what it is, Finn determined to keep his guests feet dry by building a pathway to the Western Isles using the many hexagonal stones that lay strewn along the shoreline.

Even for a big giant it was a long and laborious task. For weeks on end Finn worked from dawn till dusk until at last, the end of the Causeway was only a stride away from Benandonner's hide away, Fingal's Cave on the island of Staffa. It was late in the day and Finn decided to get a good night's rest, completing his work the following morning. Oonagh woke at dawn, the floor of their cave was trembling in time to approaching footsteps. She looked out to sea and the rising sun cast the massive shadow of Benandonner across the land. She looked at her exhausted husband lying sound asleep, and quickly realised the result of the trial of strength was a foregone conclusion.

Oonagh had vision of being carted off to Scotland as spoils of war. Thinking on her feet, she woke Finn bundled him into one of her nightgowns, covered his head with a bonnet and made her bewildered husband to pretend he was asleep. Moments later, the mighty head of Benandonner looked into the cave. "Right, where is he hiding?" He roared. Oonagh shushed him, "Be quiet or you'll waken our baby", and pointed out the slumbering Finn.

It was at this point Benandonner decided he'd seen enough. If that was the baby, he wasn't hanging around to meet his dad. He was last seen retreating back across the Causeway tearing it up in his wake. Leaving visitors to marvel at what remains of Finn McCool's legacy, his great pathway to the Western Isles

Many thanks to Northern Ireland Tourism for my history lesson.