A s the story goes, the Children of Lir were children of King Lir and his wife Eva. King Lir was King of Ireland and ruler of the sea. He adored his wife and children, eldest son Aodh, daughter Fionnula, and twins Fiachra and Conn. Sadly, the King’s wife died when the children were still very young. King Lir wanted a new mother for his children, so he married Eva’s sister Aoife who possessed magical powers.
At first Aoife loved her sister’s children, but she soon became jealous of the time and attention the King gave to them. From this jealousy, she brought the children down to a lake on a sunny day for a swim. She knew she couldn’t kill the children, as their ghosts would haunt her forever. So instead she casted a spell, a spell which would turn the children in to swans for the next 900 years. The spell would only be broken after this time, and once they heard a bell ringing, and the arrival of St. Patrick. The children were to live as swans for 300 years on Lake Derravaragh, 300 years on Straits of Moyle and the remaining 300 years on the Isle of Inish Glora.
The spell however had not taken away the children’s voices. They told their father what had happened, and he banished Aoife in to the mist, never to be seen again. The King remained a good father to his children. His children, who were now swans used to sing beautiful songs to their father who came to see them every day on the lake until his passing. After 300 years on Lake Derravaragh they moved to Straits of Moyle for the next 300 years of the spell, and then on to Inish Glora for the last 300 years.
After the King had passed away, the once glorious castle had gone to nothing but ruins. One day, the swans heard a bell ringing. They followed the bell, which brought them to the home of a holy man, Caomhog. Caomhog kindly cared for the children. One day at the house, a man dressed in armor came claiming he was the King of Connacht. He demanded to see the swans and listen to their beautiful singing. However, when he was there the mist came from the lakes and turned the swans back in to the children. The Kind fled with fear after seeing this.
The children now in human form again started to age quickly. Caomhog christened them all before they passed away, ensuring that their names and legend would live on forever, as they were the Children of Lir.
You can see the famous copper bronze statue of the Children of Lir, by artist Oisin Kelly, in the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square in Dublin, Ireland.