Basic Information

Alternative names: Lig-na-Baste, Lig-na-Paiste, Lig-na-Paistie
Translation: Lig-na-Paiste means 'Last Great Reptile.' [3] Paiste meaning 'dragon' or 'snake.' [1]
Type/Species: Wurm
Slayer: Saint Murrough O'Heaney (Saint Mordeani O'Heaney) [3]
Origin: Irish Mythology and Legend

About Paiste

Paiste was an enormous dragon that had potent venom and the ability to exhale fire. [6] He lived near the source of the Owenreagh River in the Banagher Forest; the serpent would curl up in a small pool there. [5]

According to early sources, this small pool, which was the source of the Owen Reagh stream/river, was called Lig-na-paistie, [3] from which the dragon inherited his name. Other stories claim that Paiste was left over from the most ancient times, the beginning of the world. [6] While he spent much of his time in the pool, Paiste would also curl around a green hill [3] in the dark valley near the Owenreagh River [5] and hold his tail in his mouth. [3]

Saint Patrick chased the serpents from Ireland, but Paiste remained overlooked, [5] and shortly after the death of St. Patrick, the dragon began to destroy the area around Lough Foyle, [6] terrorizing the countryside, [5] and ravaged all the neighboring herds. [3]

The local people cried out for help, finally turning to a famous holy man named St. Murrough. He fasted for nine days and nines, asking for God's aid in defeating the monster. [5] Then he carried three rods to Paiste's dwelling place. [6] When Paiste saw the holy man, the dragon was sure he was merely a sacrifice from the local peoples. The dragon taunted the saint, saying he would surely devour him, but the man remained calm. [1]

How St. Murrough managed his feat depends on the account. In one, he tricks the serpent into lying down and allowing him to put three reed rods across his back. [6] St. Murrough did this by asked if he could perform an 'ancient task,' which Paiste (unaware of the traditions of Christianity) assumed was part of the sacrifice. [1] In another, the saint tricked the serpent into putting the bands on himself, [5] and in another, St. Murrough prayed for the ability to put the three bands of rushes on the serpent, which was granted. [3]

However Paiste came to be wrapped in the bands (or rods), St. Murrough then prayed, as he never had prayed before, [6] that the restraints would become as strong of iron, [5] which was granted, [3] imprisoning the dragon in bounds stronger than steel. [6]

Paiste cried out that he had been tricked, but the saint would not free him. [6] So, the dragon begged to have his face turned towards O'Kane County, which the St. Murrough allowed, [3] as the dragon would never be free, since Paiste was a malevolent beast that simply could not be trusted. [6] Paiste protested, claiming that humans had no authority to command him. St. Murrough explained that he did the work of God, and as Paiste was a living creature and creation of God, the dragon must obey and do as God commanded. [1]

Finally, St. Murrough banished the dragon downstream, into the waters of Lough Foyle, [5] where he remains to this day. [6] Many have felt a sense of dread when they passed by Paiste in his imprisonment. [3] Odd disturbances near the Lough, and unusual tides or currents in the Foyle, are said to be the movements of Paiste, bound below the water till the Day of Judgment. [6]

There are accounts from times when wheeled vehicles were less common, especially in mountainous regions, when horses, donkeys, and people were the primary way to carry goods. [3]

Once, people carrying trusses of timber on their horses traveled to the Owenreagh area to find it impassible and flooded, a result of the summer rains and the water's unruly movements. They were forced to wait until the water levels went down before they could cross. [3] Such incidents have been attributed to Paiste's struggle with his bindings. [3]

Once, a poor man who lived nearby had rheumatic pains begged to be carried up to see the torrent falling into the pool of Lig-na-paistie (the pool where the dragon once dwelled). Attendants granted him this wish, and he watched the waters from a high place. He spotted something (the pins of one of the straddles that had fallen into the water) that appeared, from his vantage point, to be the horns of the monstrous dragon Paiste, rising up to devour him. He leapt to his feet and ran home, never feeling ache or pain anymore. [3]

Saint Murrough O'Heaney

Saint Murrough (sometimes Mordeani or Muirdeach) O'Heaney outsmarted the dragon Paiste. [5] Though the story is regarded as legend, St. Murrough was a real historical figure with a lasting legacy. [6]

St. Murrough founded the Old Banagher Church, also called Banagher Church, after a stag led him to the site. [6] The church was then built in the fifth century. [2] In some accounts, St. Patrick founded the original church, [6] but in either case, the titular saint for the building is St. Murrough. [3]

Around 1100, the current structure replaced the original church, [6] which was likely established in the fifth century. [2] Though it's considered a ruin today, it can still be visited, [6] as can the grave of St. Murrough, who was buried at Old Banagher Church in 474. [5] The church is located outside Feeny. [5]

Paiste in Recent News

Some locals in the county of Derry-Londonderry maintain that the presence of Paiste can still be seen to this day, as the dragon causes the unusual currents along the northern coast of the county. [4]

Maurice Harron, a Northern Irish sculptor, crafted a sculpture of Paiste, which currently stands in the Feeny Picnic site (Feeny, Limavady, Ireland). [5]

The small pool where Paiste coiled so long ago can be found in Banagher Glen, a European Area of Nature Conservation. By 1770, much of the local forests had been cleared for the sake of agricultural pursuits, but Banagher Glen may have escaped these clearings, allowing for native flora to flourish to this day. [6] One of the natural features of the Glen includes a deep pool below a bridge. This was once the home to the dragon Paiste. [6]

Physical Description

Paiste was a huge and fierce, [5] a hideous dragon with the horns of a ram. [6] The dragon was eleven feet tall with a thick black tongue and long fangs. His scales were the size of dinner plates and were like armor. [1]

Quick Facts

  • Paiste remains a bound prisoner at the bottom of Lough Foyle to this day. [6]
  • St. Murrough O'Heany outsmarted the dragon, binding him with rods or bands with help granted from God. [3]
  • Paiste was called Lig-na-Paiste in reference to being the last serpent in Ireland. [3]
  • Paiste's old hunting grounds in Banagher Glen can still be visited, [6] and a recent sculpture of the dragon can also been seen in Feeny. [5]


  1. Source information lost.
  2. M'Sparran 148
  3. M'Sparren 149
  4. St. Murrough O'Heaney and The Last Serpent in Ireland
  5. Limavady's myths and legends come to life...
  6. Banagher Glen in focus

For more information on footnotes and references, please see the bibliography.