GODRED CROVAN AND THE DRAGON

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Godred Crovan was a historical figure, who was ruler of Dublin and the Isles in the 11th century.

Legend tells us that Crovan's heroic exploits included the slaying of the last dragon on Islay.

Godred Crovan (also known in Gaelic as Goraidh Chrobhan) was an Islay hero and a ruler of Dublin and the Isles during the early years of the Lordship of the Isles. While an authentic historical figure, so many myths developed around Crovan that it is often difficult to separate fact from legend.

What we do know is that he fought alongside Harald Hardrada at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, after which he escaped for the Isle of Man. From there he went to Islay from which he launched successful attacks on Ireland and later captured Dublin. He is also said to have gone to war with the King of Scotland, Malcolm III and offered military support to Gruffudd ap Cynan, king of Gwynedd (in Wales).

For all his military achievements across the seas, if the legends are to be believed then Crovan had other battles to fight closer to home. One story tells of how Islay was being attacked by a fierce dragon, which made its home at a place called Imerchonart, near present-day Ballygrant. The dragon ravaged the island so that, eventually, only “three smokes” could be seen on Islay as most of the local population had been killed.

Crovan heard about the disaster while he was in a galley in Lochindaal. Riding on horseback and taking three horses with him, Crovan sought to goad the dragon out of his den and coax it into following him. Crovan kept ahead of the dragon as it devoured the three horses; this substantial meal meant the dragon was forced to slow down and this allowed the warrior time to pull away from the pursuing monster.

Crovan had previously lined up a series of barrels between the shore and his galley on which iron stakes had been hammered. Being swift and agile, he had no difficulty in getting across the barrels and safely back to his boat, but the dragon – now laborious in its movements – became impaled on them. Having ensnared the dragon, Crovan and his crew had little difficulty in finishing it off.

 

No dragons have been seen on Islay since that time.