Finn MacCool was a big man; some might even say he was a giant. But on that day he stood, disparaged, trying to hitch a ride at the spot where the highway met the sea.
Scotland was his destination and poker was his motivation. The twenty thousand Puint that he carried in his satchel was his ticket to play but first he had to get to Staffa. He needed to meet Benandonner, another big man, and buy into the game.
Traffic was light and not a soul had so much as passed him by for the three days Finn had been waiting in that spot. He wondered to himself if the road continued under the sea and thought that it must.
Why would they build a road to the sea if they didn’t continue it, beneath the waves?
Eventually, it became apparent to him that he should check this, so rising up to his full height he lifted his shillelagh over his head (he carried a loaded blackthorn stick with a heavy knob) and brought it down onto the surface of the water with a massive blow causing the sea to part. Not unlike stories he’d heard of what Moses had done.
Finn did not have the advantage of divine intervention, but the water remained back and allowed him to see what he needed to see. He saw that the road ended less than ten yards after it left the shore. He thought that a likely explanation for this could be that construction had ceased when sea levels rose as a result of the global warming that had seized the earth in those ancient days. It had obviously prevented them from finishing the highway.
When he turned his back to look at the hills the water returned to it’s position and Finn MacCool cursed the builders of such a stupid road, “Féadfaidh léim eilifint éalaigh ar do gluaisteán.”*
He realized he had to find another way to get to Staffa if he were to have any chance of taking Benandonner at cards. There was no ferry. He knew he must build a causeway; and so he did.
Singlehandedly, he shaped and drove interlocking hexagonal columns of stone deep into the seabed. Columns that reached the surface and terminated well above the white caps of the waves. The task was massive – it took decades to complete and when he finally reached Staffa he was not welcomed, as he had imagined. Rather, he was mocked by Benandonner and his entire clan.
“The game was finished years ago.” They said.
“You’re late!” Benandonner and his family taunted.
“Your entry fee is forfeit.”
“Hand it over.”
Finn MacCool was hot. He was angry. His face was a deeper red than even his dear sister’s hair, but he was outnumbered so he told his tormentors that he had left his satchel of money concealed on the beach, where he started, on the Emerald Isle. Benandonner was unperturbed and dispatched 15 of his clansmen to accompany MacCool and bring back the treasure the Scots all craved.
Finn assumed the countenance of a beaten man and reluctantly turned to begin the trek back across the causeway, back towards home. Halfway across the sea his demeanor changed and he raised his weighted stick, using it to lay waste to Benandonner’s kin, slaying them all and casting their corpses into the sea. A feast for the fishes. When he was finished with them he unleashed a mighty roar and brought the knob of his shillelagh down square atop the causeway, shattering the road that he had worked so long to build. It collapsed into the sea and MacCool went with it, clutching his blackthorn stick all the way to the bottom.
Legend tells us that he waits there still; a self appointed guardian of his beloved Éire – keeping invaders away from the shores of his home. It may be only a legend – but it cannot be argued that there is not a single recorded instance of a ship leaving from Staffa and reaching a port of call on the Emerald Isles. Not one.
And the ruins of the ends of the Giants Causeway remain standing straight and true. Is Finn MacCool’s treasure still hidden on that verdant Irish beach?
Perhaps it is; but no kith, or kin of Benandonner will ever find it.
*An ancient Irish curse that roughly translates as: “May an escaped elephant jump on your car.”