Monsters and Sheoguey Beasts ~ Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland
Lady Gregory’s Work’s
Monsters and Sheoguey Beasts
The Dragon that was the monster of the early world now appears only in the traditional folktales, where the hero, a new Perseus, fights for the life of the Princess who looks on ciyjng at the brink of the sea, bound to a silver chair, while the Dragon is “put in a way he will eat no more kings’ daughters.” in the stories of today he has shrunk to eel or worm, for the persons and properties of the folklore of all countries keep being trans-formed or remade in the imagination, so that once in New England on the eve of George Washington’s birthday, the decorated shop windows set me wondering whether the cherry tree itself might not be a remaking of the red-berried dragon guarded rowan of the Celtic tales, or it may be of a yet more ancient apple. I ventured to hint at this in a lecture at Philadelphia, and next day one of the audience wrote me that he had looked through all the early biographies of Washington, and either the first three or the first three editions of the earliest–I have mislaid the letter–never mention the cherry tree at all. The monstrous beasts told of today recall the visions of Maeldune on his strange dream-voyage, where he saw the beast that was like a horse and that had “legs of a hound with rough sharp nails,” and the fiery pigs that fed on golden fruit, and the cat that with one flaming leap turned a thief to a heap of ashes; for the folk-tales of the world have long roots, and there is nothing new save their reblossoming.
I have been told by a Car-driver:
I went to serve one Patterson at a place called Grace Dieu between Waterford and Tramore, and there were queer things in it There was a woman lived at the lodge the other side from the gate, and one day she was looking out and she saw a wool-pack coming riding down the road of itself.
There was a room over the stable I was put to sleep in, and no one near me. One night I felt a great weight on my feet, and there was something very weighty coming up upon my body and I heard heavy breathing. Every night after that I used to light the fire and bring up coal and make up the fire with it that it would be near as good in the morning as it was at night. And I brought a good terrier up every night to sleep with me on the bed. Well, one night the fire was lighting and the moon was shining in at the window, and the terrier leaped off the bed and he was barking and rushing and fighting and leaping, near to the ceiling and in tinder the bed. And I could see the shadow of him on the walls and on the ceiling, and I could see the shadow of another thing that was about two foot long and that had a head like a pike, and that was fighting and leaping. They stopped after a while and all was quiet. But from that night the terrier never would come to sleep in the room again.
The worst form a monster can take is a cow or a pig. But as to a lamb, you may always be sure a lamb is honest.
A pig is the worst shape they can take. I wouldn’t like to meet anything in the shape of a pig in the night.
No, I saw nothing myself, I’m not one of those that can see such things; but I heard of a man that went with the others on rent day, and because he could pay no rent but only made excuses, the landlord didn’t ask him in to get a drink with the others. So as he was coming home by himself in the dark, there was something on the road before him, and he gave it a hit with the toe of his boot, and it let a squeal. So then he said to it, “Come in here to my house, for I’m not asked to drink with them; I’ll give drink and food to you.” So it came in, and the next morning he found by the door a barrel full of wine and another full of gold, and he never knew a day’s want after that.
Walking home one night with Jack Costello, there was some-thing before us that gave a roar, and then it rose in the air like a goose, and then it fell again. And Jackeen told me after that it had laid hold on his trousers, and he didn’t sleep all night with the fright he got.
There’s a monster in Lough Graney, but it’s only seen once in seven years.
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There is a monster of some sort down by Duras, it’s called the ghost of Fiddeen. Some say it’s only heard every seven years. Some say it was a flannel seller used to live there that had a short fardel. We heard it here one night, like a calf roaring.
One night my grandfather was beyond at Inchy where the lads from Gort used to be stealing rods, and he was sitting by the wall, and the dog beside him. And he heard something come running from Inchy Weir and he could see nothing, but the sound of its feet on the ground was like the sound of the feet of a deer. And when it passed by him the dog got in between him and the wall and scratched at him, but still he could see nothing but only could hear the sound of hoofs. So when it was passed he turned away home.
Another time, my grandfather told me, he was in a boat out on the lake here at Coole with two or three men from Gort. And one of them had an eel-spear and he thrust it into the water and it hit something, and the man fainted, and they had to carry him in out of the boat to land. And when he came to himself he said that what he struck was like a horse or like a calf, but whatever it was, it was no fish.
There is a boy I knew, one Curtin near Ballinderreen, told me that he was going along the road one night and he saw a dog. It had claws like a cur, and a body like a person, and he couldn’t see what its head was like. But it was moaning like a soul in pain, and presently it vanished, and there came most beautiful music, and a woman came out and he thought at first it was the Banshee, and she wearing a red petticoat. And a striped jacket she had on, and a white band about her waist. And to hear more beautiful singing and music he never did, but to know or to understand what she was expressing, he couldn’t do it. And at last they came to a place by the roadside where there was some bushes. And she went in there and disappeared under them, and the most beautiful lights came shining where she went in. And when he got home, he himself fainted, and his mother put her beads over him, and blessed him and said prayers. So he got quiet at last.
I would easily believe about the dog having a fight with something his owner couldn’t see. That often happens in this island, and that’s why every man likes to have a black dog with him at night–a black one is the best for fighting such things.
And a black cock everyone likes to have in their house–a March cock it should be.
I knew the captain of a ship used to go whale fishing, and he said he saw them by scores. But by his account they were no way like the ones McDaragh saw; it–was I described them to him.
We don’t give in to such things here as they do in the middle island; but I wouldn’t doubt that about the dog. For they can see what we can’t see. And there was a man here was out one night and the dog ran on and attacked something that was in front of him–a faery it was–but he could see nothing. And every now and again it would do the same thing, and seemed to be fighting something before him, and when they got home the man got safe into the house, but at the threshold the dog was killed.
And a horse can see many things, and if ever you’re out late, and the horse to stop as if there was something he wouldn’t pass, make the sign of the cross between his ears, and he’ll go on then. And it’s well to have a cock always in the house, if you can have it from a March clutch, and the next year if you can have another cock from a March clutch from that one, it’s the best. And if you go late out of the house, and that there is something outside it would be bad to meet, that cock will crow before you’ll go out.
I’m sorry I wasn’t in to meet you surely, knowing as much as I do about the faeries. One night I went with four or five others down by the mill to hunt rabbits. And when we got to the field by the river there was the sound of hundreds, some crying and the other part laughing, that we all heard them. And something came down to the river, first I thought he was a dog and then I saw he was too big and strange looking. And you’d think there wouldn’t be a drop of water left in the river with all he drank. An dl bid the others say nothing about it, for Patrick Green was lying sick at the mill, and it might be taken for a bad sign. And it wasn’t many days after that he died.
My father told me that one night he was crossing this road, he turned to the wall to close his shoe. And when he turned again there was something running through the field that was the size of a yearling calf, and black, and it ran across the road, and there was like the sound of chains in it. And when it came to that rock with the bush on it, it stopped and he could see a red light in its mouth. And then it disappeared. He used often to see a black dog in this road, and it used to be following him, and others saw it too. But one night the brother of the priest, Father Mitchell saw it and he told the priest and he banished it.
The lake down there (Lough Graney) is an enchanted place, and old people told me that one time they were swimming there, and a man had gone out into the middle and they saw something like a great big eel making for him, and they called out, “If ever you were a great swimmer show us now how you can swim to the shore,” for they wouldn’t frighten him by saying what was behind him. So he swam to the shore, and he only got there when the thing behind him was in the place where he was. For there are queer things in lakes. I never saw anything myself, but one time I was coming home late from Scariff, and I felt my hair standing up on my head, and I began to feel a sort of shy and fearful, and I could feel that there was something walking beside me. But after a while there was a little stream across the road, and after I passed that I was all right again and could feel nothing near.
I never saw anything myself but once, early in the morning and I going to the May fair of Loughrea. It was a little way outside of the town I saw something that had the appearance of a black pig, and it was running in under the cart and under the ass’s feet. And the ass would keep backing away from it, that it was hardly I could bring her along, till we got to the bridge of Cloon, and once we were over that we saw it no more, for it couldn’t pass the running water. And all the time it was with us I was hitting at it with my stick, and it would run from me then, for it was a hazel stick, and the hazel is blessed, and no wicked thing can stay when it is touched with it. It is likely the nuts are blessed too. Aren’t they growing on the same tree?
I was over at Phayre’s mill one time to get some boards sawed and they said l must wait an hour or so, where the mill wasn’t free. And I had a load of turf to get, and I went along the road. And I heard something coming after me in the gutter, and it stood up over me like an elephant, and I put my hands behind me and I said, “Madad Fior,” and he went away. It was just at the bridge he was, near Kilchriest, and when I was coming back after a while, just when I got to the bridge there, he was after me again. But I never saw him since then.
One time I was at the fair at Ballinasloe, and I but a young lad at the time, and a comrade with me that was but a young lad too. We brought in the sheep the Monday evening, and they were sold the Tuesday morning, and the master bid us to go home on the train. “Bad cess,” said my comrade, “are we to get no good at all out of the fair? Let us stop,” says he, “and get the good of it and go back by the mail train.” So we went through the fair together and went to a dance, and the master never knew, and we went home on the mail train together. We got out at Woodlawn and we were going home, and we heard a sort of a groaning and we could see nothing, and the boy that was ‘with me was frightened, for though he was a strong boy, he was a timorous man. We found then the groaning coming from beyond the wall, and I went and put my two fists on the wall and looked over it. There were two trees on the other side of the wall, and I saw walking off and down from one tree to the other, something that was like a soldier or a sentry. The body was a man’s body, and there was a black suit on it, but it had the head of a bear, the very head and puss of a bear. I asked what was on him. “Don’t speak to me, don’t speak to me,” he said, and he stopped by the tree and was groaning and went away.
That is all that ever I saw, and I herding sheep in the lambing season, and falling asleep as I did sometimes, and walking up and down the field in my sleep.
My father told me that in the bad times, about the year ’48, he used to be watching about in the fields, where the people did be stealing the crops. And there was no field in Coole he was afraid to go into by night except one, that is number three in the Lake Farm. For the dog that was about in those times stopped the night in the clump there. And Johnny Callan told me one night passing that field he heard the noise of a cart of stones thrown against the wall. But when he went back there in the morning there was no sign of anything at all. My father never saw the dog himself but he was known to be there and he felt him.
And as for the monster, I never saw it in Coole Lake, but one day I was coming home with my twobrothers from Tirneevan school, and there as we passed Dhulough we heard a great splashing, and we saw some creature put up its head, with a head and a mane like a horse. And we didn’t stop but ran.
But I think it was not so big as the monster over here in Coole Lake, for Johnny Callan saw it) and he said it was the size of a stack of turf. But there’s many could tell about that for there’s many saw it, Dougherty from Gort and others.
As to the dog that used to be in the road, a friend of his own was driving Father Boyle from Kinvara late one night and there it was–first on the right side and then on the left of the car. And at last he told Father Boyle, and he said. “Look out now for it, and you’ll see it no more,” and no more he did, and that was the last of it.
But the driver of the mail-car had often seen a figure of a woman following the car till it came to the churchyard beyond Ardrahan, and there it disappeared.
Father Boyle was a good man indeed–a child might speak to him. They said he had the dog or whatever it may be banished from the road, but of late I heard the driver of the mail-car saying he sees it on one spot on the road every night. And there’s a very lonely hollow beyond Doran’s house, and I know a man that never passed by that hollow but what he’d fall asleep. But one night he saw a sort of a muffled figure and he cried out three times some good wish-such as “God have mercy on you”-and then it gave a great laugh and vanished and he saw it no more. As to the forths or other old places, how do we know what poor soul may be shut up there, confined in pain?
Sure a man the other day coming back from your own place, Inchy, when he came to the big tree, heard a squealing, and there he saw a sort of a dog, and it white, and it followed as if holding on to him all the way home. And when he got to the house he near fainted, and asked for a glass of water.
There’s some sort of a monster at Tyrone, rising and slipping up and down in the sun, and when it cries, some one will be sure to die.
I didn’t believe in them myself till one night I was coming home from a wedding, and standing on the road beside me I saw John Kelly’s donkey that he always used to call Neddy. So he was standing in my way and I gave a blow at him and said, “Get out of that, Neddy.” And he moved off only to come across me again, and to stop me from going in. And so he did all the way, till as I was going by a bit of wood I heard come out of it two of the clearest laughs that ever you heard, and then two sorts of shouts. So I knew that it was having fun with me they were, and that it was not Neddy was there, but his likeness.
I knew a priest was stopped on the road one night by something in the shape of a big dog, and he couldn’t make the horse pass it.
One night I saw the dog myself, in the boreen near my house. And that was a bad bit of road, two or three were killed there.
And one night I was between Kiltartan Chapel and Nolan’s gate where I had some sheep to look after for the priest. And the dog I had with me ran out into the middle of the road, and there he began to yelp and to fight. I stood and watched him for a while, and surely he was fighting with another dog, but there was nothing to be seen.
And in the same part of the road one night I heard horses galloping, galloping past me. I could hear their hoofs, and they shod, on the stones of the road. But though I stood aside and looked-and it was bright moonlight-there were no horses to be seen. But they were there, and believe me they were not without riders.
Well, myself I once slept in a house with some strange thing. I had my aunt then, Mrs. Leary, living near, and I but a small little girl at the time. And one day she came to our house and asked would I go sleep with her, and I said I would if she’d give me a ride on her back, and so she did. And for many a night after that she brought me to sleep with her, and my mother used to be asking why, and she’d give no reason.
Well, the cause of her wanting me was this. Every night so sure as she put the candle out, itwould come and lie upon her fret and across her body and near smother her, and she could feel it breathing but could see nothing. I never felt anything at all myself, I being sound asleep before she quenched the light. At last she went to Father Smith–God rest his soul!–and he gave her a prayer to say at the moment of the Elevation of the Mass. So the next time she attended Mass she used it, and that night it was wickeder than ever it had been.
So after that she wrote to her son in America to buy a ticket for her, and she went out to him and remained some years. And it was only after she came back she told me and my mother what used to happen on those nights, and the reason she wanted me to be beside her.
There was never any one saw so many of those things as Johnny Hardiman’s father on this estate, and now he’s old and got silly, and can’t tell about them any more. One time he was walking into Gort along the Kiltartan road, and he saw one of them before him in the form of a tub, and it rolling along.
Another time he was coming home from Kinvara, and a black and white dog came out against him from the wall, but he took no notice of it. But when he got near his own house it came out against him again and bit him in the leg, and he got hold of it and lifted it up and took it by the throat and choked it; and when he was sure it was dead he threw it by the roadside. But in the morning he went out first thing early to look at the body, and there was no sign at all of it there.
So I believe indeed that old Michael Barrett hears them and sees them. But they do him no mischief nor harm at all. They wouldn’t, and he such an old resident. But there’s many wouldn’t believe he sees anything because they never seen them themselves.
I never did but once, when I was a slip of a girl beyond at Lissatiraheely, and one time I went across to the big forth to get a can of water. And when I got near to it I heard voices, and when I came to where the water runs out they were getting louder and louder. And I stopped and looked down, and there in the passage where the water comes I seen a dog within, and there was a great noise-working I suppose they were. And I threw down the can and turned and ran, and never went back for it again. But here since I lived in Coole I never seen any-thing and never was afeared of anything except one time only in the evening, when I was walking down the little by-lane that leads to Ballinamantane. And there standing in the path before me I seen the very same dog that was in the old forth before. And I believe I leaped the wall to get away into the high-road. And what day was that but the very same day that Sir William–the Lord be with his soul!–was returned a Member of Parliament, and a great night it was in Kiltartan.
But I’m noways afeared of anything and I give you my word I’d walk in the dead of night in the nut-wood or any other place-except only the cross beyond Inchy, I’d sooner not go by there. There’s two or three has their life lost there–Heffernan of Kildesert, one of your ladyship’s own tenants, he was one. He was at a fair, and there was a horse another man wanted, but he got inside him and got the horse. And when he was riding home, when he came to that spot it reared back and threw him, and he was taken up dead. And another man–one Gallagher–fell off the top of a creel of turf in the same place and lost his life. And there was a woman hurted some way another time. What’s that you’re saying, John–that Gallagher had a drop too much taken? That might be so indeed; and what call has a man that laas drink taken to go travel upon top of a creel of turf?
That dog I met in the boreen at Ballinamantane, he was the size of a calf, and black, and his paws the size of I don’t know what. I was sitting in the house one day, and he came in and sat down by the dresser and looked at me. And I didn’t like the look of him when I saw the big eyes of him, and the size of his legs. And just then a man came in that used to make his living by making mats, and he used to lodge with me for a night now and again. And he went out to bring his cart away where he was afraid it’d be knocked about by the people going to the big bonfire at Kiltartan cross-roads. And when he went out I looked out the door, and there was the dog sitting under the cart. So be made a hit at it with a stick, and it was in the stones the stick stuck, and there was the dog sitting at the other side of him. So he came in and gave me abuse and said I must be a strange woman to have such things about me. And he never would come to lodge with me again. But didn’t the dog behave well not to do him an injury after he hitting it? It was surely some man that was in that dog, some soul in trouble.
Beasts will sometimes see more than a man will. There were three young chaps I know went up near Ballyturn to hunt coneens (young rabbits) and they threw the dog over the wall. And when he was in the field he gave a yelp and drew back as if something had struck him on the head. And with all they could do, and the rabbits and the coneens running about the field, they couldn’t get him to stir from that and they had to come home with no rabbits.
One time I was helping Sully, the butcher in Loughrea, and I had to go to a country house to bring in a measly pig the people had) and that he was to allow them something for. So I got there late and had to stop the night. And in the morning at daylight I looked from the window and saw a cow eating the potatoes, so I went down to drive him off. And in the kitchen there was lying by the hearth a dog, a speckled one, with spots of black and white and yellow. And when he saw me he got up and went over to the door and went out through it. And then I saw that the door was shut and locked. So I went back again and told the people of the house what I saw and they were frightened and made me stop the next night. And in the night the clothes were taken off me and a heavy blow struck me in the chest, and the feel of it was like the feel of ice. So I covered myself up again and put my hand under the bedclothes, and I never came to that house again.
I never seen anything myself, but I remember well that when I was a young chap there was a black dog between Coole gate-house and Gort for many a year, and many met him there. Tom Miller came running into our house one time when he was after seeing him, and at first sight he thought he was a man, where he was standing with his paws up upon the wall, and then he vanished out of sight. But there never was any common dog the size of him, and it’s many a one saw him, and it was Father Boyle that banished him out of it at last.
Except that thing at Inchy Weir, I never saw anything my-self. But one evening I parted from Larry Cuniffe in the yard, and he went away through the path in Shanwalla and bid me goodnight. But two hours after, there he was back again in the yard, and bid me light a candle was in the stable. And he told me that when he got into Shanwalla a little chap about as high as his knee, but having a head as big as a man’s body, came beside him and led him out of the path and round about, and at last it brought him to the limekiln, and there left him.
There is a dog now at Lismara, black and bigger than a natural dog, is about the roads at night. He wouldn’t be there so long if any one had the courage to question him.
Stephen O’Donnell in Connemara told me that one time he shot a hare, and it turned into a woman, a neighbour of his own. And she had his butter taken for the last two years, but she begged and prayed for life on her knees, so he spared her, and she gave him back his butter after that, a double yield.
There was a woman at Glenlough when I was young could change herself into an eel. It was in Galway Workhouse Hospital she got the knowledge. A woman that had the knowledge of doing it by witchcraft asked her would she like to learn, and she said that she would, for she didn’t know what it would bring on her. For every time she did it, she’d be in bed a fortnight after with all she’d go through. Sir Martin O’Neill when he was a young lad heard of it, and he got her into a room, and made her do it for him, and when he saw her change to an eel he got frightened and tried to get away, but she got between him and the door, and showed her teeth at him and growled. She wasn’t the better of that for a fortnight after.
Indeed the porter did me great good, a good that I’d hardly like to tell you, not to make a scandal. Did I drink too much of it? Not at all, I have no fancy for it, but the nights seemed to be long But this long time I am feeling a worm in my side that is as big as an eel, and there’s more of them in it than that, and I was told to put sea-grass to it, and I put it to the side the other day, and whether it was that or the porter I don’t know, but there’s some of them gone out of it, and I think it’s the porter.
I knew a woman near Clough was out milking her cow, and when she got up to go away she saw one of those worms coming after her, and it eight feet long, and it made a jump about eight yards after her. And I heard of a man went asleep by a wall one time, and one of them went down his throat and he never could get rid of it till a woman from the North came. And what she bade him do was to get a bit of old crock butter and to make a big fire on the hearth, and to put the butter in a half round on the hearth, and to get two men to hold him over it. And when the worms got the smell of the butter they jumped out of his mouth, seven or eight one after another, and it was in the fire they fell and they were burned, and that was an end of them.
As to hares, there’s something queer about them, and there’s some that it’s dangerous to meddle with, and that can go into any form where they like. Sure, Mrs. Madden is after having a young son, and it has a harelip. But she says that she doesn’t remember that ever she met a hare or looked at one. But if she did, she had a right to rip a small bit of the seam of her dress or her petticoat, and then it would have no power to hurt her at all.
Doran the herd says, he wouldn’t himself eat the flesh of a hare. There’s something unnatural about it. But as to them being unlucky, that may be all talk. But there’s no doubt at all that a cow is found sometimes to be run dry, and the hare to be seen coming away from her.
One time when we lived just behind Gort my father was going to a fair. And it was the custom in those days to set out a great deal earlier than what it is now. So it was not much past mid-night when he got up and went out the door, and the moon shining bright. And then he saw a hare walk in from the street and turn down by the garden, and another after it, and another and another till he counted twelve. And they all went straight one after another and vanished. And my father came in and shut the door, and never went out again till it was broad day-light.
There was a man watching the fire where two hares were cooking and he heard them whistling in the pot. And when the people of the house came home they were afraid to touch them, but the man that heard the whistling ate a good meal of them and was none the worse.
There was an uncle of my own lived over near Garryland. And one day himself and another man were going through the field, and they saw a hare, and the hound that was with them gave chase, and they followed.
And the hound was gaining on the hare and it made for I house, where the half-door was open. And the hound made a snap at it and touched it as it leaped the half-door. And when my uncle and the others came up, they could find no hare, but only an old woman in the house–and she bleeding. So there’s no doubt at all but it was she took the form of a hare. My uncle spent too much money after, and gave up his land and went to America.
As to hares, there was a man out with his greyhound and it gave chase to a hare. And it made for a house, and went in at the window, and the hound just touched the leg. And when the man came up, he found an old woman in the house, and he asked leave to search the house and so he did in every place, but there was no bare to be seen. But when he came in she was putting a pot on the fire, so he said that he must look in the pot, and he took the cover off, and it was full of blood. And before the hound gave chase, he had seen the hare sucking the milk from a cow.
As to hares, there’s no doubt at all there’s some that’s not natural. One night I was making pot-whiskey up in that hill beyond. Yes indeed, for three year, I did little but run to and fro to the still, and one December, I was making it for the Christmas and I was taken and got nine weeks in gaol for it–and £16 worth of whiskey spilled that night. But there’s mean people in the world; and he did it for half a sovereign, and had to leave the country after and go to England. Well, one night, I was watching by the fire where it was too fierce, and it would have burned the oats. And over the hill and down the path came two hares and walked on and into the wood. And two more after that, and then by fours they came, and by sixes, and I’d want a slate and a pencil to count all I saw, and it just at sunrise. And some of them were as thin as thin. And there’s no doubt at all that those were not haresI saw that night.
As to hares, they’re the biggest fairies of all. Last year the boys had one caught, and I put it in the pot to wash it and it after being skinned, and I heard a noise come from the pot–grr-grr–and nothing but cold water in it. And I ran to save my life, and I told the boys to have nothing to do with it, but they wouldn’t mind me. And when they tried to eat it, and it boiled, they couldn’t get their teeth into the flesh of it, and as for the soup, it was no different from potato-water.
The village of Lissavohalane has a great name for such things. And it’s certain that once one night every year, in the month of November, all the cats of the whole country round gather together there and fight. My own two cats were nearly dead for days after it last year, and the neighbours told me the same of theirs.
There was a woman had a cat and she would feed it at the table before any other one; and if it did not get the first meat that was cooked, the hair would rise up as high as that. Well, there were priests came to dinner one day, and when they were helped the first, the hair rose up on the cat’s back. And one of them said to the woman it was a queer thing to give in to a cat the way she did, and that it was a foolish thing to be giving it the first of the food. So when it heard that, it walked out of the house, and never came into it again.
There’s something not right about cats. Steve Smith says he knew a keeper that shot one, and it went into a sort of a heap, and when he came near, it spoke, and he found it was some person, and it said it had to walk its seven acres. And there’s some have heard them together at night talking Irish.
There was a hole over the door of the house that I used to live in, where Murphy’s house is now, to let the smoke out, for there was no chimney. And one day a black cat jumped in at the hole, and stopped in the house and never left us for a year. But on the day year he came he jumped out again at the same hole and didn’t go out of the door that was standing open. There was no mistake about it, it was the day year.
As to cats, they’re a class in themselves. They’re good to catch mice and rats, but just let them come in and out of the house for that; they’re about their own business all the time. And in the old times they could talk. And it’s said that the cats gave a shilling for what they have; fourpence that the housekeeper might be careless and leave the milk about that they’d get at it; and fourpence that they’d tread so light that no one would hear them, and fourpence that they’d be able to see in the dark. And I might as well throw out that drop of tea I left on the dresser to cool, for the cat is after that. There might be a hair in it, and the hair of a cat is poison.
There was a man had a house full of children, and one day he was taking their measure for boots. And the cat that was sitting on the hearth said, “Take my measure for a pair of boots along with the rest.” So the man did, and when he went to the shoemaker he told him of what the cat had said. And there was a man in the shop at the time, and he having two greyhounds with him, and one of them all black without a single white hair. And he said, “Bring the cat here tomorrow. You can tell it that the boots can’t be made without it coming for its measure.” So the next day he brought the cat in a bag, and when he got to his shop the man was there with his greyhounds, and he let the cat out, and it praying him not to loosen the bag. And it made away through the fields and the hounds after it, and whether it killed one of them I don’t know, but anyhow the black hound killed it, the one that had not a white hair on its body.
You should never be too attentive to a cat, but just to be civil and to give it its share.
Cats were serpents, and they were made into cats at the time, I suppose, of some change in the world. That’s why they’re hard to kill and why it’s dangerous to meddle with them. If you annoy a cat it might claw you or bite you in a way that would put poison in you, and that would be the serpent’s tooth.
There was an uncle of mine near Galway, and one night his wife was very sick, and he had to go to the village to get some-thing for her. And it’s a very lonely road, and as he was going what should he see but a great number of cats, walking along the road, and they were carrying a young cat, and crying it.
And when he was on his way home again from the village he met them again, and one of the cats turned and spoke to him like a person would, and said, “Bid Lady Betty to come to the funeral or she’ll be late.” So he ran on home in a great fright, and he couldn’t speak for some time after getting back to the house, but sat there by the fire in a chair. And at last lie began to tell his wife what had happened. And when he said that he had met a cat’s funeral, his own cat that was sleeping by the hearth began to stir her tail, and looked up at him, affectionate like. But when he got to where he was bid send Lady Betty to the funeral, she made one dash at his face and scraped it, she was so mad that she wasn’t told at once. And then she began to tear at the door, that they had to let her out.
For cats is faeries, and every night they’re obliged to travel over seven acres; that’s why you hear them crying about the country. It was an old woman at the strand told me that, and she should know, for she lived to a hundred years of age.
I saw three young weasels out in the sea, squealing, squealing, for they couldn’t get to land, and I put out a bunch of seaweed and brought them to the land, and they went away after. I did that for them. Weasels are not right, no more than cats; and I’m not sure about foxes.
Rats are very bad, because a rat if one got the chance would do his best to bite you, and I wouldn’t like at all to get the bite of a rat. But weasels are serpents, and if they would spit at any part of your body it would fester, and you would get blood poisoning within two hours.
I knew an old doctor–Antony Coppinger at Clifden–and he told me that if the weasels had the power of other beasts they would not have a human living in the world. And he said the wild wide wilderness of the sea was full of beasts mostly the same as on earth, like bonavs and like cattle, and they lying at the bottom of the sea as quiet as cows in a field.
It is wrong to insult a weasel, and if you pelt them or shoot them they will watch for you forever to ruin you. For they are enchanted and understand all things.
There is Mrs. Coneely that lives up the road, she had a clutch of young geese on the floor, and a weasel walked in and brought away one of them, but she said nothing to that.
But it came in again, and took a hold of another of the geese and Mrs. Coneely said, “Oh, I’m not begrudging you what you have taken, but leave these to me for it is hard I earned them, and it is great trouble I had rearing them. But go,” she said, ‘to the shoemaker’s home beyond, where they have a clutch, and let you spare mine. And that I may never sin,” she said, “but it walked out, for they can understand everything, and it did not leave one of the clutch that was at the shoemaker’s.”
It is why I called to you now when I saw you sitting there so near to the sea; I thought the tide might steal up on you, or a weasel might chance to come up with a fish in its mouth, and to give you a start. It’s best if you see one to speak nice to it, and to say, “I wouldn’t be begrudging you a pair of boots or of shoes if I had them.” If you treat them well they will treat you well.
And to see a weasel passing the road before you, there’s nothing in the world like that to bring you all sorts of good luck.
I was out in the field one time tilling potatoes, and two or three more along with me, and a weasel put its head out of the wall–a double stone wall it was–and one of the lads fired a stone at it. Well, within a minute there wasn’t a hole of the wall but a weasel had put its head out of it, about a thousand of them, I saw that myself. Very spiteful they are. I wouldn’t like them.
The weasels, the poor creatures, they will do nothing at all on you if you behave well to them and let them alone, but if you do not, they will not leave a chicken in the yard. And magpies, let you do nothing on them, or they will suck every egg and leave nothing in the garden; but if you leave them to themselves they will do nothing but to come into the street to pick a bit with the birds.
The granyog (hedgehog) will do no harm to chickens or the like; but if he will get into an orchard he will stick an apple on every thorn, and away with him to a scalp with them to be eating through the winter.
I met with a granyog one day on the mountain, and that I may never sin, he was running up the side of it as fast as a race-horse.
There is not much luck in killing a seal. There was a man in these parts was very fond of shooting and killing them. And seals have claws the same as cats, and he had two daughters, and when they were born, they had claws the same as seals. I believe there is one of them living yet.
But the thing it is not right to touch is the ron (seal) for they are in the Sheogue. It is often I see them on the strand, sitting there and wiping themselves on the rocks. And they have a hand with five fingers, like any Christian. I seen six of them, coming in a boat one time with a man from Connemara, that is the time I saw they had the five fingers.
There was a man killed one of them over there near the point. And he came to the shore and it was night, and he was near dead with the want of a blast of a pipe, and he saw a light from a house on the side of a mountain, and he went in to ask a coal of fire to kindle the pipe. And when he went in, there was a woman, and she called out to a man that was lying stretched on the bed in the room, and she said, “Look till you see who this man is. And the man that was on the bed says, “I know you, for I have the sign of your hand on me. And let you get out of this now,” he said, “as fast as you can, and it will be best for you.” And the daughter said to him, “I wonder you to let him go as easy as that.” And you may be sure that man made off and made no delay. It was a Sheogue house that was; and the man on the bed was the ron he had killed, but he was not dead, being of the Sheogues.