Edition 1, (October 7, 2006)
THE GHOSTS, GIANTS, POOKAS, DEMONS, LEPRECHAWNS, BANSHEES, FAIRIES, WITCHES, WIDOWS, OLD MAIDS, AND OTHER MARVELS OF THE EMERALD ISLE
Popular Tales as told by the People
WEATHERVANE BOOKS - NEW YORK
Copyright © MDCCCLXXXVIII
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 77-72113
All rights reserved.
This edition is published by Weathervane Books
a division of Imprint Society, Inc., distributed by Crown Publishers, Inc.
a b c d e f g h
IN MEMORY OF YEARS OF FRIENDSHIP,
IS INSCRIBED TO
Mr. JOSEPH B. McCULLAGH,
AS A MODEST TRIBUTE OF
The wonderful imaginative power of the Celtic mind is never more strikingly displayed than in the legends and fanciful tales which people of the humbler walks of life seldom tire of telling. Go where you will in Ireland, the story-teller is there, and on slight provocation will repeat his narrative; amplifying, explaining, embellishing, till from a single fact a connected history is evolved, giving motives, particulars, action, and result, the whole surrounded by a rosy wealth of rustic imagery and told with dramatic force an actor might envy. The following chapters comprise an effort to present this phase of unwritten Celtic literature, the material having been collected during a recent lengthy visit, in the course of which every county in the island was traversed from end to end, and constant association had with the peasant tenantry. As, however, in perusing a drama each reader for himself supplies stage-action, so, in the following pages, he is requested to imagine the charms of gesticulation and intonation, for no pen can do justice to a story told by Irish lips amid Irish surroundings.
View the rest of Irish Wonders by D. R. McAnally, Jr. - Full Text
THE SEVEN KINGS OF ATHENRY.
It was a characteristic Irish ruin. Standing on a slight elevation, in the midst of a flat country, the castle lifted its turreted walls as proudly as when its ramparts were fringed with banners and glittered with helmets and shields. In olden times it was the citadel of the town, and although Athenry was fortified by a strong wall, protecting it alike from predatory assault and organized attack, the citadel, occupying the highest ground within the city, was itself surrounded by stronger walls, a fort within a fort, making assurance of security doubly sure. Only by treachery, surprise, or regular and long-continued siege could the castle have been taken.
The central portion was a large, square structure; except in size, not differing greatly from the isolated castles found in all parts of Ireland, and always in pairs, as if, when one Irish chieftain built a castle, his rival at once erected another a mile or so away, for the purpose of holding him in check. This central fort was connected by double walls, the remains of[pg 002]covered passages, with smaller fortresses, little castles built into the wall surrounding the citadel; and over these connecting walls, over the little castles, and over the piles of loose stones where once the strong outer walls had stood, the ivy grew in luxuriant profusion, throwing its dark green curtain on the unsightly masses, rounding the sharp edge of the masonry, hiding the rough corners as though ashamed of their roughness, and climbing the battlements of the central castle to spread nature's mantle of charity over the remains of a barbarous age, and forever conceal from human view the stony reminders of battle and blood.
The success of the ivy was not complete. Here and there the corner of a battlement stood out in sharp relief, as though it had pushed back the struggling plant, and, by main force, had risen above the leaves, while on one side a round tower lifted itself as if to show that a stone tower could stand for six hundred years without permitting itself to become ivy-grown; that there could be individuality in towers as among men. The great arched gateway too was not entirely subjugated, though the climbing tendrils and velvety leaves dressed the pillars and encroached on the arch. The keystone bore a rudely carved, crowned head, and ivy vines, coming up underneath the arch, to take the old king by surprise, climbed the bearded chin, crossed the lips, and were playing before the nose as if to give it a sportive tweak, while the stern brow frowned in anger at the plant's presumption.
But only a few surly crags of the citadel refused to go gracefully into the retirement furnished by the ivy, and the loving plant softened every outline, filled up every crevice, bridged the gaps in the walls, toned down the rudeness of projecting stones, and did everything that an ivy-plant could do to make the rugged old castle as presentable as were the[pg 003]high rounded mounds without the city, cast up by the besiegers when the enemy last encamped against it.
The old castle had fallen on evil days, for around the walls of the citadel clustered the miserable huts of the modern Irish village. The imposing castle gate faced a lane, muddy and foul with the refuse thrown from the houses. The ivy-mantled towers looked down upon earth and stone huts, with thatched roofs, low chimneys, and doors seeming as if the builder designed them for windows and changed his mind without altering their size, but simply continued them to the ground and made them answer the purpose. A population, notable chiefly for its numerousness and lack of cleanliness,[pg 004]presented itself at every door, but little merriment was heard in the alleys of Athenry.
"Sure it's mighty little they have to laugh at," said the car-man. "Indade, the times has changed fur the counthry, Sorr. Wanst Ireland was as full o' payple as a Dublin sthrate, an' they was all as happy as a grazin' colt, an' as paceful as a basket av puppies, barrin' a bit o' fun at a marryin' or a wake, but thim times is all gone. Wid the landlords, an' the guver'mint, an' the sojers, an' the polis, lettin' in the rich an' turnin' out the poor, Irishmin is shtarvin' to death. See that bit av a cabin there, Sorr? Sure there's foorteen o' thim in it, an' two pigs, an' tin fowls; they all shlape togather on a pile av wet shtraw in the corner, an' sorra a wan o' thim knows where the bit in the mornin' is to come from. Phat do they ate? They're not in the laste purtickler. Spakin' ginerally, whatever they can get. They've pitaties an' milk, an' sometimes pitaties an' no milk, an' av a Sunday a bit o' mate that's a herrin', an' not a boot to the fut o' thim, an' they paddlin' in the wather on the flure. Sure the town's full o' thim an' the likes av thim. Begorra, the times has changed since the siven Kings held coort in the castle beyant yon.
"Niver heard o' the Siven Kings av Athenroy? Why ivery babby knows the whole shtory be heart, an' all about thim. Faith I'll tell it, fur it's not desayvin' ye I am, fur the ould castle was wan o' the greatest places in the counthry.
"Wanst upon a time, there was an ould King in Athenroy, that, be all accounts, was the besht ould King that iver set fut upon a throne. He was a tall ould King, an' the hairs av him an' the beard av him was as white as a shnow-flake, an' he had a long, grane dressin' gown, wid shamrocks av goold all over it, an' a goold crown as high as a gintleman's hat, wid a[pg 005]dimund as big as yer fisht on the front av it, an' silver shlippers on the feet av him. An' he had grane cârpets on the groun' in the hall o' the ould castle, an' begob, they do say that everything about the coort was goold, but av that I'm not rightly sartain, barrin' the pipe. That was av goold, bekase there's a picture av him hangin' in Michael Flaherty's shebeen, an' the pipe is just the look av goold an' so it must have been.
"An' he was the besht King in Ireland, an' sorra a beggar 'ud come an the dure, but the King 'ud come out in his gown an' shlippers an' ax him how he come to be poor, an' sind him 'round to the kitchen to be warrumed wid a dhrop av whishkey an' fed wid all the cold pitaties that was in the panthry. All the people riz up whin he was a-walkin' down the shtrate wid a big goold-top shtick in his hand, an' the crown a-shinin' on his head, an' they said, 'God save yer Holiness,' an' he said, 'God save ye kindly,' mighty perlite, bekase he was a dacent mannered ould King, an' 'ud shpake to a poor divil that hadn't a coat on his back as quick as to wan av his ginerals wid a goold watch an' a shiny hat. An' whin he wint into a shop, sure they niver axed him to show the color av his money at all, but the man 'ud say, 'God save ye! Sure ye can pay whin ye plaze, an' I'll sind it be the postman whin he goes by.' An' the ould King 'ud say, 'Oh, I wont throuble ye. Bedad, I'll carry it,' an' aff the blessed ould King 'ud go, wid his bundles undher his arm, an' the crown on his head, as happy as a widdy wid a new husband.
"An' there was six other ould Kings, that was frinds to him, an' they was all as like him as six paze. Foor times a year they'd all come to Athenroy fur a bit av a shpree like, bekase the King av Athenroy was the ouldest av thim, an' they thought the worruld an' all av him. Faix, it was mighty improvin' to see thim all a-goin' to chapel in the mornin',[pg 006]an' singin' an' drinkin' an' playin' whisht in the avenin'. Sure thim was the blessed days fur the counthry.
"Well me dear, in coorse av time, the six ould Kings all died, God rest their sowls, but as aitch wan had a son to come afther him, the differ was mighty shmall, for the young Kings was dacent shpoken lads an' kept on comin' to Athenroy just like the ould Kings.
"Oh, bedad, I forgot to tell yez that the ould King had a dawther, that was the light av his eyes. She was as tall as a sargent an' as shtrate as a gun, an' her eyes was as blue as the shky an' shone like the shtars. An' her hairs was t'reads av goold, an' she was the beautifulest woman iver seen in Athenroy. An' shmall love there was for her, fur she was as cowld as a wet Christmas. She didn't shpake often, bekase she wasn't wan o' thim that 'ud deefen a smith, but whin she did, the tongue that was in the head av her was like a sting-nettle, an' 'ud lash around like a throut on land. An' ivery woman in the shtrate watched her like kites whin she set fut out o' the dure, bekase she dressed as fine as a fiddle, wid a grane silk gown, an' a blue bonnet wid yellow ribbins, an' a shtring av goold baids the size av plums 'round her neck.
"Musha, thin, it's a quare thing entirely, that min like wan woman betther than another. Begob, it's my belafe, savin' yer prisence, that there's not the differ av a cowld pitaty bechune thim all whin it's a queshtion av marryin' wan o' thim, an' if the whole worruld knewn that same, its few hurted heads there'd be along o' the wimmin. Well, it was the divil's own job, axin' yer pardon, but ivery wan o' thim young Kings tuk into his head to fall in love wid the Princess Bridget, fur that was her name, an' a good name it is; an' wan afther another, they'd shlip in whin they'd be passin', to pay their respicts. Whin wan o' thim found out that[pg 007]another wan was comin', he'd come the aftener himself to make up fur it, an' afther a while, they all found out aitch other, an' thin, begob all o' thim come to be beforehand wid the rest, an' from foor times in the year, it was foor times in the week that the gang o' them 'ud be settin' in the kitchen till the cock 'ud crow, all a-makin' love to the young Princess.
"An' a fine sight it was to see thim, bekase they was all shtrivin' to do somethin' for her. Whin she paled the pitaties fur the ould King's brekquest, sure wan o' thim 'ud be givin' her the pitaties, another wan 'ud catch the palin' an' the rest lookin' on wid the invy shinin' out o' their faces.[pg 008]Whin she dropped the thimble, you'd think the last wan 'ud jump out av his shkin to get it, an' whin she wint to milk the cow, wan 'ud carry the pail, another wan 'ud fetch the shtool, an' two 'ud feed the cow, an' two other wans 'ud hold the calf, an' aitch wan 'ud bless God whin she gev him the laste shmile, bekase she was so cowld, d' ye mind, that divil a wan o' thim all cud say that he'd get her at all.
"So at firsht, ould King Dennis, that bein' his name, was mighty plazed to see the young chaps all afther his dawther, an' whin he knewn they was in the kitchen, he'd shmoke his pipe an' have his sup be himself in the other room so as to lave thim; an' whin he saw thim hangin' over the wall o' the gârden beyant, or peepin' through the hedge, he'd let on not to parsave thim; an' whin they folly'd the Princess to church, he was as proud as a paycock to see thim settin' behind her wid their crowns in a row undher the sate. But whin they kept an a-comin' ivery night in the week an' drinkin' his whishkey an' shmokin' his besht terbakky,--more-betoken, whin they begun' to be oncivil to aitch other, says he to himself, says he, 'Bedad,' says he, 'there'll be throuble if it kapes on thish-a-way. Sure I'll shpake to the gurrul.'
"So he called to the Princess, 'Biddy,' says he.
"'What, Father?' says she.
"'Come here to me,' says he.
"'Sure how can I? I'm busy,' says she.
"'Phat's that you're at?' says he.
"'I'm afther shwapin' the kitchen,' says she.
"'Lave aff,' says he. 'Come to me at wanst,' says he.
"The ould King was very starn, bekase he knewn it was only an axcuse she was afther makin,' an' she was lookin' that he'd be sayin' somethin' about the young Kings an' was afther dodgin' as long as she cud. So whin he shpoke so[pg 009]crass, she riz up aff the sate, for it was a fib she was tellin', an' she didn't shwape the kitchen at all, an' that was done be wan av the maids, an' gev a sigh, an' wint in the ould King's room.
"An' there was the ould King on his throne, his crown on his head, shmokin' his goolden dhudeen wid a glass o' grog at his side, as detarmined as he cud be. 'I'm wantin' to know,' says he, 'phat you're afther goin' to do,' says he, 'in regârds av the young Kings,' says he.
"'Phat's that you're sayin', Father?' says she, mighty shly, as lettin' on not to see phat he was drivin' at. The ould King repated his statemint.
"'Troth, then, I dunno, Father,' says she.
"'Do you mane to marry thim, at all, at all?' says he.
"'Not all o' thim,' says she, shmilin'.
"'Well, which wan o' thim?' says he.
"'How can I tell?' says she.
"'Has any o' thim axed ye?' says he.
"'Hasn't they all?' says she.
"'An' which wan do ye love besht?' says he.
"'Sure how do I know?' says she, an' sorra a word more cud he get from her be all the queshtions he cud ax.
"But he tuk a dale av bother an' thin gev it up an' says to her, 'Go an' get the supper,' says he, 'come in the throne-room afther brekquest wid yer mind made.' But he was afeard she'd give him throuble fur it was the cool face she had, an' afther she was gone he set his crown over wan ear an' scrotched his head like a tinant on quarther day widout a pinny in his pocket, bekase he knewn that whoever the gurrul tuk, the other five Kings cud make throuble.
"So the next mornin', the Princess towld him phat she'd do, an' whin the Kings come that night, he walks into the[pg 010]kitchen where they were shmokin', an' makin' a low bow, he says, 'God save ye,' an' they all riz an' says, 'God save yer Holiness.' So he says, 'Bridget, go to bed immejitly, I'll shpake to the jintlemin.' An' she wint away, lettin' an to shmile an' consale her face, 't was the divil av a sharp gurrul she was, an' the ould King set on the table an' towld thim phat she'd do. He towld thim they must play fair, an' they said they would, an' thin he towld thim the Princess wanted to see which was the besht man, so they must have shports in her prisence, an' the next day afther the shports they'd find out who she was goin' to marry. So they all aggrade, an' wint home at wanst to get ready fur the shports.
"Faith, it 'ud 'uv done the sowl av ye good the next day to see the whole av Ireland at the shports whin the contist bechune the Kings kem.
"'T was held in the field beyant, an' they made a ring an' the six young Kings run races an' rassled an' played all the axcitin' games that was iver knewn, aitch wid wan eye on the shports an' the other on the Princess, that was shmilin' an thim all an' lookin' as plazed as a new Mimber o' Parlaymint, an' so did they all, bekase, d' ye see, before the shports begun, they was brought, wan at a time, in the coort, an' the Princess talked wid aitch be himself, wasn't it the shly purtinder that she was, fur whin they kem out, every wan was shmilin' to himself, as fur to say he had a very agrayble saycret.
"So the shports was ended an' everybody wint home, barrin' thim as shtopped at the shebeens. But sorra a wink o' shlape crassed the eyes av wan o' the young Kings, fur the joy that was in the heart o' thim, bekase aitch knewn he'd get the Princess.
"Whin the mornin' come, the like o' the flusthration that was in Athenroy was niver seen afore, nor sense aither, fur[pg 011]
"DIVIL A WAN O' ME KNOWS," SAYS HE.
[pg 013]whin the maid wint to call the Princess, sure she wasn't there. So they sarched the coort from the garret to the cellar an' peeped in the well an' found she was nowhere entirely.
"So they towld the ould King, an' says he, 'Baithershin, where is she at all,' says he, 'an' phat'ull I be sayin' to the young Kings whin they come.' An' there he was, a-tarin' the long white hair av him, whin the young Kings all come.
"'God save yer Holiness,' says they to him.
"'God save ye kindly,' says he, fur wid all the sorra that was in him, sure he didn't forgit to be perlite, bekase he was as cunnin' as a fox, an' knewn he'd nade all his good manners to make aminds fur his dawther's absince. So, says he, 'God save ye kindly,' says he, bowin'.
"'An' where is the Princess?' says they.
"'Divil a wan o' me knows,' says he.
"'Sure it's jokin' wid us ye are,' says the Kings.
"'Faix, I'm not,' says the ould King. 'Bad cess to the thrace av her was seen sense she went to bed.'
"'Sure she didn't go to bed entirely,' says the maid, 'the bed wasn't touched, an' her besht gown's gone.'
"'An' where has she gone?' says the Kings.
"'Tare an' 'ounds,' says the ould King, 'am n't I ignerant entirely? Och, Biddy, Biddy, how cud ye sarve me so?' a-wringing his hands wid the graif.
"Well, at firsht the Kings looked at aitch other as if the eyes 'ud lave thim, bein' all dazed like an' sarcumvinted intirely. An' thin they got their wits about thim, an' begun to be angry.
"'It's desayvin' us ye are, ye outprobious ould villin,' says they to him. 'Musha, thin, bad cess to ye, bring out the Princess an' let her make her chice bechune us, or it'll be the worse fur ye, ye palaverin' ould daddy long-legs,' says they.[pg 014]
"'God bechune us an' harm,' says the ould King, 'sure d' ye think it's makin' fun av ye I am, an' me spindin' more than tin pounds yestherday fur whishkey an the shports? Faix, she's gone,' says he.
"'Where to?' says they.
"'Divil a know I know,' says he, wid the face av him gettin' red, an' wid that word they all wint away in a tarin' rage wid him, fur they consaved, an' shmall blame to thim, that he had her consaled in the coort an' was shtrivin' to chate thim.
"An' they wint home an' got their armies, an' come back wid 'em that night, an' while the ould King an' his min were all ashlape they made these piles av airth to take the city whin the day 'ud break.
"Whin the ould King riz an' tuk a walk an the roof wid his shlippers, sure phat 'ud he see but banners a-wavin', soords a-flashin', an' the ears av him was deefened wid the thrumpets. 'Bad scran to the idjits,' says he; 'phat's that they're afther?' says he. 'Isn't there more nor wan woman in the worruld, that they're makin' a bother afther Bridget?' So wid that he ordhered his min to get ready wid their waypons, an' before the battle 'ud begin, he wint out to thry an' make a thraty.
"While they were a-talkin', up comes wan av the King's tinants, wid a donkey an' a load av sayweed fur the King's gârden, that he'd been to Galway afther. 'God save ye,' says he, a-touchin' his cap; 'where is the six Kings?'
"'An' phat d'ye want, ye blaggârd?' says they, lookin' lofty.
"'I've a message fur yez,' says he, 'from the young Princess,' an' whin they heard him shpake, they all stopped to listen.
"'She sent her respicts,' says he, 'an' bid me tell yez that[pg 015]she was afther kapin' her word an' lettin' yer Honors know who she was goin' to marry. It's the King av Galway that's in it, if it's plazin' to ye, an' she says she'll sind yez a bit av the cake. I met her lasht night in the road ridin' wid him on a câr an' had a bundle undher her arrum. Divil a taste av a lie's in it entirely.'
"Bad cess to the gurrul, it was thrue fur him, fur she had run away. But, my dear, it was as good as the theayter to see the six young Kings an' the ould King, a-lookin' at aitch other as stupid as a jackass, all as wan as the castle 'ad 'a' fallen on thim. But they was sinsible young fellys, an' seen the Princess had desaved thim all complately.
"'Bad scran to the gurrul,' says they, 'an' it's the blessed fools we was fur belavin' her.' Thin they come to talk to aitch other, an' wan says, 'Sure she thought most av me, fur she towld me she hoped I'd bate yez,' says he. 'Begob, she said to me that same,' says the other wans, an' they stud, scrotchin' the heads av thim an' disconsarted intirely.
"'An' phat's the good av fightin,' says the ould King, 'bein' as we're all in the thrap at wanst?'
"'Thrue fur ye,' says they. 'We'll dispinse widout her. We'll have it out wid the King o' Galway,' says they.[pg 016]
"An' they all wint into the coort an' had the bit an' sup, an' made a thraty forninst the King av Galway. It was the great war that was in it, the Siven Kings wid the King av Galway, an' bate him out o' the counthry intirely. But it's my consate that they was all fools to be afther fightin' consarnin' wan woman whin the worruld is full o' thim, an' any wan competint to give a man plenty to think av, bekase whin she gives her attinshun to it, any woman can be the divil complately."