[Notes in brackets signed A.N., by Alfred Nutt. The references to Arg. Tales are to “Waifs and Strays of Celtic Tradition; Argyllshire Series II.; Folk and Hero Tales from Argyllshire” collected, edited, and translated by the Rev. D. MacInnes, with Notes by the editor and Alfred Nutt. London, 1889.]

The Tailor and the Three Beasts

Page I. In another variant of this tale, which I got from one Martin Brennan—more usually pronounced Brannan; in Irish, O’Braonáin—in Roscommon, the thing which the tailor kills is a swallow, which flew past him. He flung his needle at the bird, and it went through its eye and killed it. This success excites the tailor to further deeds of prowess. In this variant occurred also the widely-spread incident of the tailor’s tricking the giant by pretending to squeeze water out of a stone.

Page 2. Garraun gearrán, is a common Anglicised Irish word in many parts of Ireland. It means properly a gelding or hack-horse; but in Donegal, strangely enough, it means a horse, and coppul capall, the ordinary word for a horse elsewhere, means there a mare. The old English seem to have borrowed this word capal from the Irish, cf. Percy’s version of “Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne,” where the latter is thus represented—

“A sword and a dagger he wore by his side,
⁠Of manye a man the bane;
And he was clad in his capull hyde,
⁠Topp and tayle and mayne.”

Page 7, line 4. The modder-alla (madra-allta, wild dog), is properly a wolf, not a lion; but the reciter explained it thus, “madar alla, sin leóṁan,” “modder álla, that’s a l’yone,” i.e., “a lion,” which I have accordingly translated it.

Page 9, line 18. The giant’s shouting at night, or at dawn of day, is a common incident in these tales. In the story of “The Speckled Bull,” not here given, there are three giants who each utter a shout every morning, “that the whole country hears them.” The Irish for giant, in all these stories, is faṫaċ (pronounced fahuch), while the Scotch Gaelic word is famhair, a word which we have not got, but which is evidently the same as the Fomhor, or sea pirate of Irish mythical history, in whom Professor Rhys sees a kind of water god. The only place in Campbell’s four volumes in which the word fathach occurs is in the “Lay of the Great Omadawn,” which is a distinctly Irish piece, and of which MacLean remarks, “some of the phraseology is considered Irish.”

Page 11. This incident appears to be a version of that in “Jack the Giant-Killer.” It seems quite impossible to say whether it was always told in Ireland, or whether it may not have been borrowed from some English source. If it does come from an English source it is probably the only thing in these stories that does.

Page 13, line 6. “To take his wife off (pronounced ov) him again.” The preposition “from” is not often used with take, etc., in Connacht English.

Page 15, line 12. These nonsense-endings are very common in Irish stories It is remarkable that there seems little trace of them in Campbell. The only story in his volumes which ends with a piece of nonsense is the “Slender Grey Kerne,” and it, as I tried to show in my Preface, is Irish. It ends thus: “I parted with them, and they gave me butter on a coal, and kail brose in a creel, and paper shoes, and they sent me away with a cannon-ball on a highroad of glass, till they left me sitting here.” Why such endings seem to be stereotyped with some stories, and not used at all with others, I cannot guess. It seems to be the same amongst Slavonic Märchen, of which perhaps one in twenty has a nonsense-ending; but the proportion is much larger in Ireland. Why the Highland tales, so excellent in themselves, and so closely related to the Irish ones, have lost this distinctive feature I cannot even conjecture, but certain it is that this is so.

[The incident of the king’s court being destroyed at night is in the fourteenth-fifteenth century Agallamh na Senorach, where it is Finn who guards Tara against the wizard enemies.

I know nothing like the way in which the hero deals with the animals he meets, and cannot help thinking that the narrator forgot or mistold his story. Folk-tales are, as a rule, perfectly logical and sensible if their conditions be once accepted; but here the conduct of the hero is inexplicable, or at all events unexplained.—A.N.]

Bran’s Colour

Page 15. This stanza on Bran’s colour is given by O’Flaherty, in 1808, in the “Gaelic Miscellany.” The first two lines correspond with those of my shanachie, and the last two correspond in sound, if not in sense. O’Flaherty gave them thus—

“Speckled back over the loins,
Two ears scarlet, equal-red.”

How the change came about is obvious. The old Irish suaiṫne, “speckled,” is not understood now in Connacht; so the word uaiṫne, “green,” which exactly rhymes with it, took its place. Though uaiṫne generally means greenish, it evidently did not do so to the mind of my reciter, for, pointing to a mangy-looking cub of nondescript greyish colour in a corner of his cabin, he said, sin uaiṫne, “that’s the colour oonya.” The words os cionn na leirge, “over the loins,” have, for the same reason—namely, that learg, “a loin,” is obselete now—been changed to words of the same sound. airḋaṫ na seilge, “of the colour of hunting,” i.e., the colour of the deer hunted. This, too, the reciter explained briefly by saying, seilg sin fiaḋ, “hunting, that’s a deer.” From the vivid colouring of Bran it would appear that she could have borne no resemblance whatever to the modern so-called Irish wolf-hound, and that she must in all probability have been short-haired, and not shaggy like them. Most of the Fenian poems contain words not in general use. I remember an old woman reciting me two lines of one of these old poems, and having to explain in current Irish the meaning of no less than five words in the two lines which were

Aiṫris dam agus ná can go
Cionnas rinneaḋ leó an trealg,

which she thus explained conversationally, innis dam agus ná deun breug, cia an ċaoi a ndearnaḋ siad an fiaḋaċ.

Page 17, line 9. Pistrogue, or pishogue, is a common Anglo-Irish word for a charm or spell. Archbishop MacHale derived it from two words, fios siṫeóg, “knowledge of fairies,” which seems hardly probable.

Page 19. “A fiery cloud out of her neck.” Thus, in Dr. Atkinson’s Páis Partoloin, from the “Leabhar Breac,” the devil appears in the form of an Ethiopian, and according to the Irish translator, ticed lassar borb ar a bragait ocus as a shróin amal lassair shuirun tened. “There used to come a fierce flame out of his neck and nose, like the flame of a furnace of fire.”

Page 19. According to another version of this story, the blind man was Ossian (whose name is in Ireland usually pronounced Essheen or Ussheen) himself, and he got Bran’s pups hung up by their teeth to the skin of a newly-killed horse, and all the pups let go their hold except this black one, which clung to the skin and hung out of it. Then Ossian ordered the others to be drowned and kept this. In this other version, the coal which he throws at the infuriated pup was tuaġ no rud icéint, “a hatchet or something.” There must be some confusion in this story, since Ossian was not blind during Bran’s lifetime, nor during the sway of the Fenians. The whole thing appears to be a bad version of Campbell’s story, No. XXXI., Vol. II., p. 103. The story may, however, have some relation to the incident in that marvellous tale called “The Fort of the little Red Yeoha” (Bruiġion Eoċaiḋ ḃig ḋeirg), in which we are told how Conan looked out of the fort, go ḃfacaiḋ sé aon óglaċ ag teaċt ċuige, agus cu ġearr ḋuḃ air slaḃra iarainn aige, ’na láiṁ, agus is ionga naċ loirġeaḋ si an bruioġion re gaċ caor teine d’á g-cuirfeaḋ si ṫar a craos agus ṫar a cúḃan-ḃeul amaċ, i.e., “he saw one youth coming to him, and he having a short black hound on an iron chain in his hand, and it is a wonder that it would not burn the fort with every ball of fire it would shoot out of its gullet, and out of its foam-mouth.” This hound is eventually killed by Bran, but only after Conan had taken off “the shoe of refined silver that was on Bran’s right paw” (An ḃróg airgid Aiṫ-leigṫhe to ḃí air croiḃ ḋeis Brain). Bran figures largely in Fenian literature.

[I believe this is the only place in which Finn’s mother is described as a fawn, though in the prose sequel to the “Lay of the Black Dog” (Leab. na Feinne, p. 91) it is stated that Bran, by glamour of the Lochlanners, is made to slay the Fenian women and children in the seeming of deer. That Finn enjoyed the favours of a princess bespelled as a fawn is well known; also that Oisin’s mother was a fawn (see the reference in Arg. Tales, p. 470). The narrator may have jumbled these stories together in his memory.

The slaying of Bran’s pup seems a variant of Oisin’s “Blackbird Hunt” (cf. Kennedy, Fictions, 240), whilst the story, as a whole, seems to be mixed up with that of the “Fight of Bran with the Black Dog,”of which there is a version translated by the Rev. D. Mac Innes—”Waifs and Strays of Celtic Tradition,” Vol. I., p. 7, et seq.

It would seem from our text that the Black Dog was Bran’s child, so that the fight is an animal variant of the father and son combat, as found in the Cuchullain saga. A good version of “Finn’s Visit to Lochlann” (to be printed in Vol. III. of “Waifs and Strays of Celtic Tradition”) tells how Finn took with him Bran’s leash; and how the Lochlanners sentenced him to be exposed in a desolate valley, where he was attacked by a savage dog whom he tamed by showing the leash. Vol. XII. of Campbell’s “MSS. of Gaelic Stories” contains a poem entitled, “Bran’s Colour.” This should be compared with our text.—A.N.]

The King of Ireland’s Son

Page 19. The king of Ireland’s son. This title should properly be, “The son of a king in Ireland” (Mac riġ i n-Eirinn). As this name for the prince is rather cumbrous, I took advantage of having once heard him called the king of Ireland’s son (Mac riġ Eireann), and have so given it here. In another longer and more humorous version of this story, which I heard from Shamus O’Hart, but which I did not take down in writing, the short green man is the “Thin black man” (fear caol duḃ); the gunman is guinnéar, not gunnaire; the ear-man is cluas-le-h-éisteaċt; (ear for hearing), not cluasaire; and the blowman is not Séidire, but polláire-séidte (blowing nostril). This difference is the more curious, considering that the men lived only a couple of miles apart, and their families had lived in the same place for generations.

Page 27. This description of a house thatched with feathers is very common in Irish stories. On the present occasion the house is thatched with one single feather, so smooth that there was no projecting point or quill either above or below the feather-roof. For another instance, see the “Well of D’yerree in Dowan,” page 131. In a poem from “The Dialogue of the Sages,” the lady Credé’s house is described thus:—

“Of its sunny chamber the corner stones
Are all of silver and precious gold,
In faultless stripes its thatch is spread
Of wings of brown and crimson red.

Its portico is covered, too,
With wings of birds both yellow and blue.”

See O’Curry’s “Man. Materials,” p. 310.

Page 27. “He drew the cooalya-coric,” coolaya in the text, is a misprint. The cooalya-coric means “pole of combat.” How it was “drawn” we have no means of knowing. It was probably a pole meant to be drawn back and let fall upon some sounding substance. The word tarraing, “draw,” has, however, in local, if not in literary use, the sense of drawing back one’s arm to make a blow. A peasant will say, “he drew the blow at me,” or “he drew the stick,” in English; or “ṫarraing sé an buille,” in Irish, by which he means, he made the blow and struck with the stick. This may be the case in the phrase “drawing the cooalya-coric,” which occurs so often in Irish stories, and it may only mean, “he struck a blow with the pole of combat,” either against something resonant, or against the door of the castle. I have come across at least one allusion to it in the Fenian literature. In the story, called Macaoṁ mór mac riġ na h-Earpáine (the great man, the king of Spain’s son), the great man and Oscar fight all day, and when evening comes Oscar grows faint and asks for a truce, and then takes Finn Mac Cool aside privately and desires him to try to keep the great man awake all night, while he himself sleeps; because he feels that if the great man, who had been already three days and nights without rest, were to get some sleep on this night, he himself would not be a match for him next morning. This is scarcely agreeable to the character of Oscar, but the wiles which Finn employs to make the great man relate to him his whole history, and so keep him from sleeping, are very much in keeping with the shrewdness which all these stories attribute to the Fenian king. The great man remains awake all night, sorely against his will, telling Finn his extraordinary adventures; and whenever he tries to stop, Finn incites him to begin again, and at last tells him not to be afraid, because the Fenians never ask combat of any man until he ask it of them first. At last, as the great man finished his adventures do ḃí an lá ag éiriġe agus do ġaḃar Osgar agus do ḃuail an cuaille cóṁpaic”. Do ċuala an fear mór sin agus a duḃairt, “A Finn Ṁic Cúṁail,” ar sé, “d’ḟeallair orm,” etc. i.e., the day was rising, and Oscar goes and struck (the word is not “drew” here) the pole of combat. The great man heard that, and he said, “Oh, Finn Mac Cool, you have deceived me,” etc. Considering that they were all inside of Finn’s palace at Allan (co. Kildare) at this time, Oscar could hardly have struck the door. It is more probable that the pole of combat stood outside the house, and it seems to have been a regular institution. In Campbell’s tale of “The Rider of Grianag,” there is mention made of a slabhraidh comhrac, “Chain of combat,” which answers the same purpose as the pole, only not so conveniently, since the hero has to give it several hauls before he can “take a turn out of it.” We find allusion to the same thing in the tale of Iollan arm Dearg. Illan, the hero, comes to a castle in a solitude, and surprises a woman going to the well, and she points out to him the chain, and says, “Gaċ uair ċroiṫfeas tu an slaḃra sin ar an mbile, do ġeoḃaiḋ tu ceud curaḋ caṫ-armaċ, agus ni iarrfaid ort aċt an cóṁrac is áil leat, mar atá diar no triúr no ceaṫrar, no ceud,” i.e., “every time that you will shake yon chain (suspended) out of the tree, you will get (call forth) a hundred champions battle-*armed, and they will only ask of thee the combat thou likest thyself, that is (combat with) two, or three, or four, or a hundred.” Chains are continually mentioned in Irish stories. In the “Little Fort of Allan,” a Fenian story, we read, Ann sin d’éiriġ bollsgaire go bioṫ-urlaṁ agus do ċroiṫ slaḃra éisteaċta na bruiġne, agus d’éisteadar uile go foirtineaċ, i.e., “then there arose a herald with active readiness, and they shook the fort’s chain of listening, and they all listened attentively;” and in the tale of “Illan, the Red-armed,” there are three chains in the palace, one of gold, one of silver, and one of findrinny (a kind of metal, perhaps bronze), which are shaken to seat the people at the banquet, and to secure their silence; but whoever spake after the gold chain had been shaken did it on pain of his head.

[In the story of Cuchullain’s youthful feats it is related that, on his first expedition, he came to the court of the three Mac Nechtain, and, according to O’Curry’s Summary (“Manners and Customs,” II., p. 366), “sounded a challenge.” The mode of this sounding is thus described by Prof. Zimmer, in his excellent summary of the Tain bo Cualgne (Zeit, f. vgl., Sprachforschung, 1887, p. 448): “On the lawn before the court stood a stone pillar, around which was a closed chain (or ring), upon which was written in Ogham, that every knight who passed thereby was bound, upon his knightly honour, to issue a challenge. Cuchullain took the stone pillar and threw it into a brook hard by.” This is the nearest analogue I have been able to find to our passage in the old Irish literature (the Tain, it should be mentioned, goes back in its present form certainly to the tenth, and, probably, to the seventh century). As many of the Fenian romances assumed a fresh and quasi-definite shape in the twelfth-fourteenth centuries, it is natural to turn for a parallel to the mediæval romances of chivalry. In a twelfth century French romance, the Conte de Graal, which is in some way connected with the body of Gaelic Märchen (whether the connection be, as I think, due to the fact that the French poet worked up lays derived from Celtic sources, or, as Professor Zimmer thinks, that the French romances are the origin of much in current Gaelic folk-tales), when Perceval comes to the Castle of Maidens and enters therein, he finds a table of brass, and hanging from it by a chain of silver, a steel hammer. With this he strikes three blows on the table, and forces the inmates to come to him. Had they not done so the castle would have fallen into ruins. Other parallels from the same romances are less close; thus, when Perceval came to the castle of his enemy, Partinal, he defies him by throwing down his shield, which hangs up on a tree outside the castle (v. 44,400, et seq.). It is well known that the recognised method of challenging in tournaments was for the challenger to touch his adversary’s shield with the lance. This may possibly be the origin of the “shield-clashing” challenge which occurs several times in Conall Gulban; or, on the other hand, the mediæval practice may be a knightly transformation of an earlier custom. In the thirteenth century prose Perceval le Gallois, when the hero comes to the Turning Castle and finds the door shut, he strikes such a blow with his sword that it enters three inches deep into a marble pillar (Potvin’s edition, p. 196). These mediæval instances do not seem sufficient to explain the incident in our text, and I incline to think that our tale has preserved a genuine trait of old Irish knightly life. In Kennedy’s “Jack the Master, and Jack the Servant” (Fictions, p. 32), the hero takes hold of a “club that hangs by the door “and uses it as a knocker.—A.N.]

Page 29. They spent the night, &c. This brief run resembles very much a passage in the story of Iollan Arm-dearg, which runs, do rinneadar tri treana de ’n oiḋċe, an ċeud trian re h-ól agus re h-imirt, an dara trian re ceól agus re h-oirfide agus re h-ealaḋan, agus an treas trian re suan agus re sáṁ-ċodlaḋ, agus do rugadar as an oiḋċe sin i.e., they made three-thirds of the night; the first third with drink and play, the second third with music and melody and (feats of) science, and the third third with slumber and gentle sleep, and they passed away that night.

Page 33, line 28. This allusion to the horse and the docking is very obscure and curious. The old fellow actually blushed at the absurdity of the passage, yet he went through with it, though apparently unwillingly. He could throw no light upon it, except to excuse himself by saying that “that was how he heard it ever.”

Page 37, line 4. The sword of three edges is curious; the third edge would seem to mean a rounded point, for it can hardly mean triangular like a bayonet. The sword that “never leaves the leavings of a blow behind it,” is common in Irish literature. In that affecting story of Deirdre, Naoise requests to have his head struck off with such a sword, one that Mananan son of Lir, had long before given to himself.

Page 47. The groundwork or motivating of this story is known to all European children, through Hans Andersen’s tale of the “Travelling Companion.”

[I have studied some of the features of this type of stories Arg. Tales, pp. 443-452.—A.N.]

The Alp-Luachra

Page 49. This legend of the alp-luachra is widely disseminated, and I have found traces of it in all parts of Ireland. The alp-luachra is really a newt, not a lizard, as is generally supposed. He is the lissotriton punctatus of naturalists, and is the only species of newt known in Ireland. The male has an orange belly, red-tipped tail, and olive back. It is in most parts of Ireland a rare reptile enough, and hence probably the superstitious fear with which it is regarded, on the principle of omne ignotum pro terribli. This reptile goes under a variety of names in the various counties. In speaking English the peasantry when they do not use the Irish name, call him a “mankeeper,” a word which has probably some reference to the superstition related in our story. He is also called in some counties a “darklooker,” a word which is probably, a corruption of an Irish name for him which I have heard the Kildare people use, dochi-luachair (daċuiḋ luaċra), a word not found in the dictionaries. In Waterford, again, he is called arc-luachra, and the Irish MSS. call him arc-luachra (earc-luaċra). The alt-pluachra of the text is a mis-pronunciation of the proper name, alp-luachra. In the Arran Islands they have another name, ail-ċuaċ. I have frequently heard of people swallowing one while asleep. The symptoms, they say, are that the person swells enormously, and is afflicted with a thirst which makes him drink canfuls and pails of water or buttermilk, or anything else he can lay his hand on. In the south of Ireland it is believed that if something savoury is cooked on a pan, and the person’s head held over it, the mankeeper will come out. A story very like the one here given is related in Waterford, but of a dar daol, or daraga dheel, as he is there called, a venomous insect, which has even more legends attached to him than the alp-luachra. In this county, too, they say that if you turn the alp-luachra over on its back, and lick it, it will cure burns. Keating, the Irish historian and theologian, alludes quaintly to this reptile in his Tri Bior-ġaoiṫe an Bháir, so finely edited in the original the other day by Dr. Atkinson. “Since,” says Keating, “prosperity or worldly store is the weapon of the adversary (the devil), what a man ought to do is to spend it in killing the adversary, that is, by bestowing it on God’s poor. The thing which we read in Lactantius agrees with this, that if an airc-luachra were to inflict a wound on anyone, what he ought to do is to shake a pinchful of the ashes of the airc-luachra upon the wound, and he will be cured thereby; and so, if worldly prosperity wounds the conscience, what you ought to do is to put a poultice of the same prosperity to cure the wound which the covetousness by which you have amassed it has made in your conscience, by distributing upon the poor of God all that remains over your own necessity.” The practice which the fourth-century Latin alludes to, is in Ireland to-day transferred to the dar-daol, or goevius olens of the naturalists, which is always burnt as soon as found. I have often heard people say:—”Kill a keerhogue (clock or little beetle); burn a dar-dael.”

Page 59. Boccuch (bacaċ), literally a lame man, is, or rather was, the name of a very common class of beggars about the beginning of this century. Many of these men were wealthy enough, and some used to go about with horses to collect the “alms” which the people unwillingly gave them. From all accounts they appear to have been regular black-mailers, and to have extorted charity partly through inspiring physical and partly moral terror, for the satire, at least of some of them, was as much dreaded as their cudgels. Here is a curious specimen of their truculence from a song called the Bacach Buidhe, now nearly forgotten:—

Is bacach mé tá air aon chois, siúbhalfaidh mé go spéifeaṁail,
Ceannóchaidh mé bréidin i g-Cill-Cainnigh do’n bhraois,
Cuirfead cóta córuiġthe gleusta, a’s búcla buidhe air m’aon chois,
A’s nach maith mo shlighe bidh a’s eudaigh o chaill mo chosa
Ni’l bacach ná fear-mála o Ṡligeach go Cinn-tráile
Agus ó Bheul-an-átha go Baile-buidhe na Midhe,
Nach bhfuil agam faoi árd-chíos, agus cróin anaghaidh na ráithe,
No mineóchainn a g-cnámha le bata glas daraigh.


I am a boccugh who goes on one foot, I will travel airily,
I will buy frize in Kilkenny for the breeches(?)
I will put a well-ordered prepared coat and yellow buckles on my one foot,
And isn’t it good, my way of getting food and clothes since my feet lost their
There is no boccuch or bagman from Sligo to Kinsale
And from Ballina to Ballybwee (Athboy) in Meath,
That I have not under high rent to me–a crown every quarter from them–
Or I’d pound their bones small with a green oak stick.

The memory of these formidable guests is nearly vanished, and the boccuch in our story is only a feeble old beggarman. I fancy this tale of evicting the alt-pluachra family from their human abode is fathered upon a good many people as well as upon the father of the present MacDermot. [Is the peasant belief in the Alp-Luachra the originating idea of the well-known Irish Rabelaisian 14th century tale “The Vision of McConglinny?”—A.N.]

The Weasel.

Page 73. The weasel, like the cat, is an animal that has many legends and superstitions attaching to it. I remember hearing from an old shanachie, now unfortunately dead, a long and extraordinary story about the place called Chapelizod, a few miles from Dublin, which he said was Séipeul-easóg, the “weasel’s chapel,” in Irish, but which is usually supposed to have received its name from the Princess Iseult of Arthurian romance. The story was the account of how the place came by this name. How he, who was a Connachtman, and never left his native county except to reap the harvest in England, came by this story I do not know; but I imagine it must have been told him by some one in the neighbourhood, in whose house he spent the night, whilst walking across the island on his way to Dublin or Drogheda harbour. The weasel is a comical little animal, and one might very well think it was animated with a spirit. I have been assured by an old man, and one whom I have always found fairly veracious, that when watching for ducks beside a river one evening a kite swooped down and seized a weasel, with which it rose up again into the air. His brother fired, and the kite came down, the weasel still in its claws, and unhurt. The little animal then came up, and stood in front of the two men where they sat, and nodded and bowed his head to them about twenty times over; “it was,” said the old man, “thanking us he was.” The weasel is a desperate fighter, and always makes for the throat. What, however, in Ireland is called a weazel, is really a stoat, just as what is called a crow in Ireland is really a rook, and what is called a crane is really a heron.

Cáuher-na-mart, to which Paudyeen (diminutive of Paddy) was bound, means the “city of the beeves,” but is now called in English Westport, one of the largest towns in Mayo. It was apropos of its long and desolate streets of ruined stores, with nothing in them, that some one remarked he saw Ireland’s characteristics there in a nutshell—”an itch after greatness and nothingness;” a remark which was applicable enough to the squireocracy and bourgeoisie of the last century.

Page 79. The “big black dog” seems a favourite shape for the evil spirit to take. He appears three times in this volume.

Page 81. The little man, with his legs astride the barrel, appears to be akin to the south of Ireland spirit, the clooricaun, a being who is not known, at least by this name, in the north or west of the island. See Crofton Croker’s “Haunted Cellar.”

Page 87. “The green hill opened,” etc. The fairies are still called Tuatha de Danann by the older peasantry, and all the early Irish literature agrees that the home of the Tuatha was in the hills, after the Milesians had taken to themselves the plains. Thus in the story of the “Piper and the Pooka,” in the Leabhar Sgeulaigheachta, not translated here, a door opens in the hill of Croagh Patrick, and the pair walk in and find women dancing inside. Dónal, the name of the little piper, is now Anglicised into Daniel, except in one or two Irish families which retain the old form still. The coash-t’ya bower, in which the fairy consorts ride, means literally “the deaf coach,” perhaps from the rumbling sound it is supposed to make, and the banshee is sometimes supposed to ride in it. It is an omen of ill to those who meet it. It seems rather out of place amongst the fairy population, being, as it is, a gloomy harbinger of death, which will pass even through a crowded town. Cnoc Matha, better Magha, the hill of the plain, is near the town of Tuam, in Galway. Finvara is the well-known king of the fairy host of Connacht. In Lady Wilde’s “Ethna, the Bride,” Finvara is said to have carried off a beautiful girl into his hill, whom her lover recovers with the greatest difficulty. When he gets her back at last, she lies on her bed for a year and a day as if dead. At the end of that time he hears voices saying that he may recover her by unloosing her girdle, burning it, and burying in the earth the enchanted pin that fastened it. This was, probably, the slumber-pin which we have met so often in the “King of Ireland’s Son.” Nuala, the name of the fairy queen, was a common female name amongst us until the last hundred years or so. The sister of the last O’Donnell, for whom Mac an Bhaird wrote his exquisite elegy, so well translated by Mangan—

“Oh, woman of the piercing wail,
That mournest o’er yon mound of clay”——

was Nuala. I do not think it is ever used now as a Christian name at all, having shared the unworthy fate of many beautiful Gaelic names of women common a hundred years ago, such as Mève, Una, Sheelah, Moreen, etc. Slieve Belgadaun occurs also in another story which I heard, called the Bird of Enchantment, in which a fairy desires some one to bring a sword of light “from the King of the Firbolg, at the foot of Slieve Belgadaun.” Nephin is a high hill near Crossmolina, in North Mayo.

Page 89. Stongirya (stangaire), a word not given in dictionaries, means, I think, “a mean fellow.” The dove’s hole, near the village of Cong, in the west of the county Mayo, is a deep cavity in the ground, and when a stone is thrown down into it you hear it rumbling and crashing from side to side of the rocky wall, as it descends, until the sound becomes too faint to hear. It is the very place to be connected with the marvellous.

Leeam O’Rooney’s Burial.

Page 95. Might not Spenser have come across some Irish legend of an imitation man made by enchantment, which gave him the idea of Archimago’s imitation of Una:

“Who all this time, with charms and hidden artes,
⁠Had made a lady of that other spright,
And framed of liquid ayre her tender partes,
⁠So lively and so like in all men’s sight
⁠That weaker sence it could have ravished quite,” etc.

I never remember meeting this easy deus ex machinâ for bringing about a complication before.

Page 101. Leeam imprecates “the devil from me,” thus skilfully turning a curse into a blessing, as the Irish peasantry invariably do, even when in a passion. H’onnam one d’youl—”my soul from the devil” is an ordinary exclamation expressive of irritation or wonderment.


Page 104. When I first heard this story I thought that the name of the hero was Goillís, the pronunciation of which in English letters would be Gul-yeesh; but I have since heard the name pronounced more distinctly, and am sure that it is Giollaois, g’yulleesh, which is a corruption of the name Giolla-íosa, a not uncommon Christian name amongst the seventeenth century Gaels. I was, however, almost certain that the man (now dead) from whom I first got this story, pronounced the word as Gulyeesh, anent which my friend Mr. Thomas Flannery furnished me at the time with the following interesting note:—Ní cosṁúil gur Giolla-íosa atá ’san ainm Goillís, nír ḃ’ ḟeidir “Giolla-íosa” do ḋul i n “Goillis.” Saoilim gur b’ionann Goillís agus Goill-ġéis no Gaill-ġéis, agus is ionann “géis” agus “eala.” Is cuiṁne liom “Muirġéis” ’sna h-“Annalalaiḃ,” agus is iomḋa ainm duine ṫigeas o anmannaiḃ eun ċoṁ maiṫ le ó anmannaiḃ beaṫaċ, mar ata bran, fiaċ, lon, loinin, seaḃac, ⁊c. ’Sé Goillís na g-cor duḃ fós. Naċ aiṫne ḋuit gur leas-ainm an eala “cos-duḃ” i mórán d’áitiḃ i n-Eirinn. Tá neiṫe eile ’san sceul sin do ḃeir orm a ṁeas gur de na sgeultaiḃ a ḃaineas le h-ealaiḃ no géisiḃ é. Naċ aisteaċ an ni go dtug bainṗrionnsa taiṫneaṁ do ḃuaċaill cos-duḃ cos-salaċ leisceaṁuil mar é? Naċ ait an niḋ fós naċ dtugṫar an leas-ainm dó arís, tar éis beagáin focal air dtús ó sin amaċ go deireaḋ. Dearmadṫar an leas-ainm agus an fáṫ fá ḃfuair sé é. i.e., “It is not likely that the name Goillis is Giolla-iosa; the one could not be changed into the other. I think that Goillis is the same as Goill-ghéis, or Gaill-ghéis (i.e., foreign swan). Géis means swan. I remember a name Muirgheis (sea swan) in the Annals; and there is many a man’s name that comes from the names of birds as well as from the names of animals, such as Bran (raven), Fiach (scald crow), Lon and Loinin (blackbird), Seabhac (falcon), etc. Moreover, he is Goillis of the black feet. Do you not know that the black-foot is a name for the swan in many parts of Ireland. There are other things in this story which make me believe that it is of those tales which treat of swans or géises. Is it not a strange thing that the princess should take a liking to a dirty-footed, black-footed, lazy boy like him? Is it not curious also that the nickname of black-foot is not given to him, after a few words at the beginning, from that out to the end? The nickname is forgotten, and the cause for which he got it.”

This is certainly curious, as Mr. Flannery observes, and is probably due to the story being imperfectly remembered by the shanachie. In order to motivate the black feet at all, Guleesh should be made to say that he would never wash his feet till he made a princess fall in love with him, or something of that nature. This was probably the case originally, but these stories must be all greatly impaired during the last half century, since people ceased to take an interest in things Irish.

There are two stories in Lady Wilde’s book that somewhat resemble this.

“The Midnight Ride,” a short story of four pages, in which the hero frightens the Pope by pretending to set his palace on fire; but the story ends thus, as do many of Crofton Croker’s—”And from that hour to this his wife believed that he dreamt the whole story as he lay under the hayrick on his way home from a carouse with the boys.” I take this, however, to be the sarcastic nineteenth century touch of an over-refined collector, for in all my experience I never knew a shanachie attribute the adventures of his hero to a dream. The other tale is called the “Stolen Bride,” and is a story about the “kern of Querin,” who saves a bride from the fairies on November Eve, but she will neither speak nor taste food. That day year he hears the fairies say that the way to cure her is to make her eat food off her father’s table-cloth. She does this, and is cured. The trick which Gulleesh plays upon the Pope reminds us of the fifteenth century story of Dr. Faustus and his dealings with his Holiness.

[Cf. also the story of Michael Scott’s journey to Rome, “Waifs and Strays of Celtic Tradition,” Vol. I., p. 46. The disrespectful way in which the Pope is spoken of in these tales does not seem due to Protestantism, as is the case with the Faustus story, although, as I have pointed out, there are some curious points of contact between Michael Scott and Faustus. Guleesh seems to be an early Nationalist who thought more of his village and friend than of the head of his religion.—A.N.]

The description of the wedding is something like that in Crofton Croker’s “Master and Man,” only the scene in that story is laid at home.

The story of Gulleesh appears to be a very rare one. I have never been able to find a trace of it outside the locality (near where the counties of Sligo, Mayo, and Roscommon meet) in which I first heard it.

[It thus seems to be a very late working-up of certain old incidents with additions of new and incongruous ones.—A.N.]

Page 112. “The rose and the lily were fighting together in her face.” This is a very common expression of the Irish bards. In one of Carolan’s unpublished poems he says of Bridget Cruise, with whom he was in love in his youth:—”In her countenance there is the lily, the whitest and the brightest—a combat of the world—madly wrestling with the rose. Behold the conflict of the pair; the goal—the rose will not lose it of her will; victory—the lily cannot gain it; oh, God! is it not a hard struggle!” etc.

Page 115. “I call and cross (or consecrate) you to myself,” says Gulleesh. This is a phrase in constant use with Irish speakers, and proceeds from an underlying idea that certain phenomena are caused by fairy agency. If a child falls, if a cow kicks when being milked, if an animal is restless, I have often heard a woman cry, goirim a’s castraicim ṫu, “I call and cross you,” often abbreviated into goirim, goirim, merely, i.e., “I call, I call.”

The Well of D’Yerree-in-Dowan

Page 129. There are two other versions of this story, one a rather evaporated one, filtered through English, told by Kennedy, in which the Dall Glic is a wise old hermit; and another, and much better one, by Curtin. The Dall Glic, wise blind man, figures in several stories which I have got, as the king’s counsellor. I do not remember ever meeting him in our literature. Bwee-sownee, the name of the king’s castle, is, I think, a place in Mayo, and probably would be better written Buiḋe-ṫaṁnaiġ.

Page 131. This beautiful lady in red silk, who thus appears to the prince, and who comes again to him at the end of the story, is a curious creation of folk fancy. She may personify good fortune. There is nothing about her in the two parallel stories from Curtin and Kennedy.

Page 133. This “tight-loop” (lúb teann) can hardly be a bow, since the ordinary word for that is bógha; but it may, perhaps, be a name for a cross-bow.

Page 136. The story is thus invested with a moral, for it is the prince’s piety in giving what was asked of him in the honour of God which enabled the queen to find him out, and eventually marry him.

Page 137. In the story of Cailleaċ na fiacaile fada, in my Leabhar Sgeuluigheachta, not translated in this book, an old hag makes a boat out of a thimble, which she throws into the water, as the handsome lady does here.

Page 141. This incident of the ladder is not in Curtin’s story, which makes the brothers mount the queen’s horse and get thrown. There is a very curious account of a similar ladder in the story of the “Slender Grey Kerne,” of which I possess a good MS., made by a northern scribe in 1763. The passage is of interest, because it represents a trick something almost identical with which I have heard Colonel Olcott, the celebrated American theosophist lecturer, say he saw Indian jugglers frequently performing. Colonel Olcott, who came over to examine Irish fairy lore in the light of theosophic science, was of opinion that these men could bring a person under their power so as to make him imagine that he saw whatever the juggler wished him to see. He especially mentioned this incident of making people see a man going up a ladder. The MS., of which I may as well give the original, runs thus:—

Iar sin ṫug an ceiṫearnaċ mála amaċ ó na asgoill, agus ṫug ceirtle ṡíoda amaċ as a ṁála, agus do ṫeilg suas i ḃfriṫing na fiormamuinte í, agas do rinne drémire ḋí, agus ṫug gearrḟiaḋ amaċ arís agus do leig suas annsa dréimire é. Ṫug gaḋar cluais-dearg amaċ arís agus do leig suas anḋiaiġ an ġearrḟiaḋ é. Tug cu faiteaċ foluaimneaċ amaċ agus do leig suas anḋiaiġ an ġearrḟiaḋ agus an ġaḋair í, agus a duḃairt, is ḃao(ġ)laċ liom, air sé, go n-íosfaiḋ an gaḋar agus an cú an gearrḟiaḋ, agus ni mór liom anacal do ċur air an gearrḟiaḋ. Ṫug ann sin ógánaċ deas a n-eideaḋ ró ṁaiṫ amaċ as an mála agus do leig suas anḋiaiġ an ġearrfiaḋ agus an ġaḋair agus na con é. Ṫug cailín áluind a n-éidead ró ḋeas amaċ as an mála agus do leig suas anḋiaiġ an ġearrḟaiḋ an ġaḋair an ógánaiġ agus na con í.

Is dona do éiriġ ḋaṁ anois, ar an Ceiṫearnaċ óir atá an t-óganaċ aig dul ag pógaḋ mo ṁná agus an cú aig creim an ġearrḟiaḋ. Do ṫarraing an Ceiṫearnaċ an dréimire anuas, agus do fuair an t-ógánaċ fairre(?) an mnaoi agus an cu aig creim an ġearrḟiaḋ aṁuil a duḃairt, i.e., after that the kerne took out a bag from under his arm-pit and he brought out a ball of silk from the bag, and he threw it up into the expanse(?) of the firmament, and it became a ladder; and again he took out a hare and let it up the ladder. Again he took out a red-eared hound and let it up after the hare. Again he took out a timid frisking dog, and he let her up after the hare and the hound, and said, “I am afraid,” said he, “the hound and the dog will eat the hare, and I think I ought to send some relief to the hare.” Then he took out of the bag a handsome youth in excellent apparel, and he let him up after the hare and the hound and the dog. He took out of the bag a lovely girl in beautiful attire, and he let her up after the hare, the hound, the youth, and the dog.

“It’s badly it happened to me now,” says the kerne, “for the youth is going kissing my woman, and the dog gnawing the hare.” The kerne drew down the ladder again and he found the youth “going along with the woman, and the dog gnawing the hare,” as he said.

The English “Jack and the Beanstalk” is about the best-known ladder story.

Page 141. This story was not invented to explain the existence of the twelve tribes of Galway, as the absence of any allusion to them in all the parallel versions proves; but the application of it to them is evidently the brilliant afterthought of some Galwegian shanachie.

The Court of Crinnawn

Page 142. The court of Crinnawn is an old ruin on the river Lung, which divides the counties of Roscommon and Mayo, about a couple of miles from the town of Ballaghadereen. I believe, despite the story, that it was built by one of the Dillon family, and not so long ago either. There is an Irish prophecy extant in these parts about the various great houses in Roscommon. Clonalis, the seat of the O’Connor Donn—or Don, as they perversely insist on spelling it; Dungar, the seat of the De Freynes; Loughlinn, of the Dillons, etc.; and amongst other verses, there is one which prophecies that “no roof shall rise on Crinnawn,” which the people say was fulfilled, the place having never been inhabited or even roofed. In the face of this, how the story of Crinnawn, son of Belore, sprang into being is to me quite incomprehensible, and I confess I have been unable to discover any trace of this particular story on the Roscommon side of the river, nor do I know from what source the shanachie, Mr. Lynch Blake, from whom I got it, become possessed of it. Balor of the evil eye, who figures in the tale of “The Children of Tuireann,” was not Irish at all, but a “Fomorian.” The pattern, accompanied with such funest results for Mary Kerrigan, is a festival held in honour of the patron saint. These patterns were common in many places half a century ago, and were great scenes of revelry and amusement, and often, too, of hard fighting. But these have been of late years stamped out, like everything else distinctively Irish and lively.

[This story is a curious mixture of common peasant belief about haunted raths and houses, with mythical matter probably derived from books. Balor appears in the well-known tale of MacKineely, taken down by O’Donovan, in 1855, from Shane O’Dugan of Tory Island (Annals. I. 18, and cf. Rhys, Hibbert Lect., p. 314), but I doubt whether in either case the appearance of the name testifies to a genuine folk-belief in this mythological personage, one of the principal representatives of the powers of darkness in the Irish god-saga.—A.N.]

Neil O’Carree

Page 148. The abrupt beginning of this story is no less curious than the short, jerky sentences in which it is continued. Mr. Larminie, who took down this story phonetically, and word for word, from a native of Glencolumkille, in Donegal, informed me that all the other stories of the same narrator were characterized by the same extraordinary style. I certainly have met nothing like it among any of my shanachies. The crumskeen and galskeen which Neil orders the smith to make for him, are instruments of which I never met or heard mention elsewhere. According to their etymology they appear to mean “stooping-knife” and “bright-knife,” and were, probably, at one time, well-*known names of Irish surgical instruments, of which no trace exists, unless it be in some of the mouldering and dust-covered medical MSS. from which Irish practitioners at one time drew their knowledge. The name of the hero, if written phonetically, would be more like Nee-al O Corrwy than Neil O Carree, but it is always difficult to convey Gaelic sounds in English letters. When Neil takes up the head out of the skillet (a good old Shaksperian word, by-the-by, old French, escuellette, in use all over Ireland, and adopted into Gaelic), it falls in a gliggar or gluggar. This Gaelic word is onomatopeic, and largely in vogue with the English-speaking population. Anything rattling or gurgling, like water in an india-rubber ball, makes a gligger; hence, an egg that is no longer fresh is called a glugger, because it makes a noise when shaken. I came upon this word the other day, raised proudly aloft from its provincial obscurity, in O’Donovan Rossa’s paper, the United Irishman, every copy of which is headed with this weighty spruch, indicative of his political faith:

“As soon will a goose sitting upon a glugger hatch goslings, as an Irishman, sitting in an English Parliament, will hatch an Irish Parliament.”

This story is motivated like “The King of Ireland’s Son.” It is one of the many tales based upon an act of compassion shown to the dead.


Page 157. This description of the decapitated ghost sitting astride the beer-barrel, reminds one of Crofton Croker’s “Clooricaun,” and of the hag’s son in the story of “Paudyeen O’Kelly and the Weasel.” In Scotch Highland tradition, there is a “trunk-without-head,” who infested a certain ford, and killed people who attempted to pass that way; he is not the subject, however, of any regular story.

In a variant of this tale the hero’s name is Labhras (Laurence) and the castle where the ghost appeared is called Baile-an-bhroin (Ballinvrone). It is also mentioned, that when the ghost appeared in court, he came in streaming with blood, as he was the day he was killed, and that the butler, on seeing him, fainted.

It is Donal’s courage which saves him from the ghost, just as happens in another story which I got, and which is a close Gaelic parallel to Grimm’s “Man who went out to learn to shake with fear.” The ghost whom the hero lays explains that he had been for thirty years waiting to meet some one who would not be afraid of him. There is an evident moral in this.

The Hags of the Long Teeth

Page 162. Long teeth are a favourite adjunct to horrible personalities in folk-fancy. There is in my “Leabhar Sgeuluigheachta,” another story of a hag of the long tooth; and in a story I got in Connacht, called the “Speckled Bull,” there is a giant whose teeth are long enough to make a walking-staff for him, and who invites the hero to come to him “until I draw you under my long, cold teeth.”

Loughlinn is a little village a few miles to the north-west of Castlerea, in the county Roscommon, not far from Mayo; and Drimnagh wood is a thick plantation close by. Ballyglas is the adjoining townland. There are two of the same name, upper and lower, and I do not know to which the story refers.

[In this very curious tale a family tradition seems to have got mixed up with the common belief about haunted raths and houses. It is not quite clear why the daughters should be bespelled for their father’s sin. This conception could not easily be paralleled, I believe, from folk-belief in other parts of Ireland. I rather take it that in the original form of the story the sisters helped, or, at all events, countenanced their father, or, perhaps, were punished because they countenanced the brother’s parricide. The discomfiture of the priest is curious.—A.N.]

William of the Tree

Page 168. I have no idea who this Granya-Öi was. Her appearance in this story is very mysterious, for I have never met any trace of her elsewhere. The name appears to mean Granya the Virgin.

[Our story belongs to the group—the calumniated and exposed daughter or daughter-in-law. But in a German tale, belonging to the forbidden chamber series (Grimm’s, No. 3, Marienkind), the Virgin Mary becomes god-*mother to a child, whom she takes with her into heaven, forbidding her merely to open one particular door. The child does this, but denies it thrice. To punish her the Virgin banishes her from heaven into a thorny wood. Once, as she is sitting, clothed in her long hair solely, a king passes, sees her, loves and weds her, in spite of her being dumb. When she bears her first child, the Virgin appears, and promises to give her back her speech if she will confess her fault; she refuses, whereupon the Virgin carries off the child. This happens thrice, and the queen, accused of devouring her children, is condemned to be burnt. She repents, the flames are extinguished, and the Virgin appears with the three children, whom she restores to the mother. Can there have been any similar form of the forbidden chamber current in Ireland, and can there have been substitution of Grainne, Finn’s wife, for the Virgin Mary, or, vice versa, can the latter have taken the place of an older heathen goddess?—A.N.]

Page 169. See Campbell’s “Tales of the Western Highlands,” vol. III., page 120, for a fable almost identical with this of the two crows.