An Chailleach Bhéara (the Hag of Beara) is one of the oldest mythological beings associated with Ireland and she is particularly associated with Kilcatherine in the Beara Peninsula, where she mostly lived.
She was considered a goddess of sovereignty, giving the kings the right to rule their lands. According to legend, she had seven periods of youth one after another, so that every man who had lived with her came to die of old age. Her grandsons and great-grandsons were so many that they made up entire tribes and races and as a result she was known in many parts of Ireland and up along the west coast of Scotland.
She considered the arrival of Naomh (Saint) Caitiarin, who preached Christianity in Kilcatherine and the surrounding districts, as a threat to her power. One day, after gathering seafood along the shore of Whiddy Island in Bantry Bay, the hag returned to Kilcatherine to find the saint asleep on a bare hillock. She approached him quietly, grabbed his prayer book, and ran off. A cripple who lived nearby saw what happened and shouted at Naomh Caitiarin, who then woke up and saw Chailleach running off. The saint ran after her, caught up with her at Ard na Caillí, and recovered his prayer book. He turned her into a grey pillar stone with her back to the hill and her face to the sea. There she remains to the present day.
I had such a vivid “vision” of her when I stood at that pillar stone that I knew I had to paint her.