Rathlin has been associated with some of the best known Irish myths. The legend that The Giant’s Causeway was created by Finn MacCool as stepping stones to Scotland is very well-known, but the story of the foundation of Rathlin, by the giant’s mother, is not so familiar. It is said that she walked off to Scotland to get whiskey, since her son had drunk Ireland dry. In her apron she was carrying soil, which she threw in front of her to make a path. She tripped and fell, the contents of her apron falling into the sea and creating Rathlin, with her trapped beneath it. So there is a saying on the island, when a storm is raging “the oul witch is kickin”. Finn’s son, Oisin, the warrior-poet, also known as Ossian, is said to be buried in the Glens, under Ossian’s Grave, a megalithic court tomb found at Glenaan. There is a monument nearby to a modern poet, John Hewitt.
The Children of Lir, (Fionnuala, Aed, and the twins Conn and Fiachra), were enchanted by their stepmother, Aoife, who turned them into swans, condemning them to spend three hundred years on the Sea of Moyle (now known as the North Channel), as part of a nine hundred year sentence. This was a place of spectacular storms, and when the children were separated by them, they flew to a meeting place on Rathlin, at, the Rock of Seals, Carraignarone. When eventually they were turned back into humans, they aged and died very rapidly.
Taise was the daughter of Donn, King of Rathlin. Her beauty was so great that Nabhogdon, King of Norway, wished to marry her, and brought an army to the island to carry her off. He was defeated and killed in battle by Congal, High King elect of Ireland. Glentaisie, the Glen of Taise, is named after her. She is said to have lived in the first century BC.
Of much later date is the story of Robert Bruce, the King of Scotland. In 1306, he took refuge on the island, at a time when things were going very badly for him. Defeated in battle by the English, excommunicated by the Pope, his wife imprisoned and his three brothers murdered, he gave way to despair.
However, according to the tale, he observed a spider persistently climbing the walls of a cave, and refusing to give up until it had spun its web. He decided to follow the spider’s example of perseverance, and returned to Scotland to reclaim his throne.