Sea Stories ~ Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland.
Lady Gregory’s Works:
“The Celtic Twilight” was the first book of Mr. Yeats’s that I read, and even before I met him, a little time later, I had begun looking for news of the invisible world; for his stories were of Sligo and I felt jealous for Galway. This beginning of knowledge was a great excitement to me, for though I had heard all my life some talk of the faeries and the banshee (have indeed reason to believe in this last), I had never thought of giving heed to what I, in common with my class, looked on as fancy or superstition. It was certainly because of this unbelief that I had been told so little about them. Even when I began to gather these stories, I eared less for the evidence given in them than for the beautiful rhythmic sentences in which they were told. I had no theories, no case to prove, I but “held up a clean mirror to tradition.”
It is hard to tell sometimes what has been a real vision and what is tradition, a legend hanging in the air, a “vanity” as our people call it, made use of by a story-teller here and there, or impressing itself as a real experience on some sensitive and imaginative mind. For tradition has a large place in “the Rook of the People” showing a sowing and re-sowing, a continuity and rebirth as in nature. “Those,” “The Others,” “The Fallen Angels” have some of the attributes of the gods of ancient Ireland; we may even go back yet farther to the early days of the world when the Sons of God mated with the Daughters of Men. I believe that if Christianity could be blotted out and forgotten tomorrow, our people would not be moved at all from the belief in a spiritual world and an unending life; it has been with them since the Druids taught what Lucan called “the happy error of the immortality of the soul” I think we found nothing so trivial in our search but it may have been worth the lifting; a clue, a thread, leading through the maze to that mountain top where things visible and invisible meet.
To gather folk-lore one needs, I think, leisure, patience, reverence, and a good memory. I tried not to change or alter anything, but to write down the very words in which the story had been told. Sometimes Mr. Yeats was with me at the telling; or I would take him to hear for himself something I had been told, that he might be sure I had missed or added nothing. I filled many copybooks, and came to have a very faithful memory for all sides of folk-lore, stories of saints, of heroes, of giants and enchanters, as well as for these visions. For this I have had to “pay the penalty” by losing in some measure that useful and practical side of memory that is concerned with names and dates and the multiplication table, and the numbers on friends’ houses in a street.
It was on the coast I began to gather these stories, and l went after a while to the islands Inishmor, Inishmaan, Inisheer, and so I give the sea-stories first.
I was told by:
A Man on the Height near Dun Conor:
It’s said there’s everything in the sea the same as on the land, and we know there’s horses in it. This boy here saw a horse one time out in the sea, a grey one, swimming about. And there were three men from the north island caught a horse in their nets one night when they were fishing for mackerel, but they let it go; it would have broke the boat to bits if they had brought it in, and anyhow they thought it was best to leave it. One year at Kinvara, the people were missing their oats that was eaten in the fields, and they watched one night and it was five or six of the sea-horses they saw eating the oats, but they could not take them, they made off to the sea.
And there was a man on the north island fishing on the rocks one time, and a mermaid came up before him, and was partly like a fish and the rest like a woman. But he called to her in the name of God to be off, and she went and left him.
There was a boy was sent over here one morning early by a friend of mine on the other side of the island, to bring over some cattle that were in a field he had here, and it was before daylight, and he came to the door crying, and said he heard thirty horses or more galloping over the roads there, where you’d think no horse could go.
Surely those things are on the sea as well as on the land. My father was out fishing one night off Tyrone and something came beside the boat, that had eyes shining like candles. And then a wave came in, and a storm rose of a moment, and whatever was in the wave, the weight of it had like to sink the boat. And then they saw that it was a woman in the sea that had the shining eyes. So my father went to the priest, and he bid him always to take a drop of holy water and a pinch of salt out in the boat with him, and nothing would harm him.
A Galway Bay Lobster-Seller:
They are on the sea as well as on the land, and their boats are often to be seen on the bay sailing boats and others. They look like our own, but when you come near them they are gone in an instant .
My mother one time thought she saw our own boat come in to the pier with my father and two other men in it, and she got the supper ready, but when she went down to the pier and called them there was nothing there, and the boat didn’t come in till two hours after.
There were three or four men went out one day to fish, and it was a dead calm; but all of a sudden they heard a blast and they looked, and within about three mile of the boat they saw twelve men from the waist, the rest of them was under water. And they had sticks in their hands and were striking one another. And where they were, and the blast, it was rough, but smooth and calm on each side.
There’s a sort of a light on the sea sometimes; some call it a “Jack O’Lantern” and some say it is sent by them to mislead them.
There’s many of them out in the sea, and often they pull the boats down. It’s about two years since four fishermen went out from Aran, two fathers and two sons, where they saw a big ship corning in and flying the flag for a pilot, and they thought she wanted to be brought in to Galway. And when they got near the ship, it faded away to nothing and the boat turned over and they were all four drowned.
There were two brothers of my own went to fish for the herrings, and what they brought up was like the print of a cat, and it turned with the inside of the skin outside, and no hair. So they pulled up the nets, and fished no more that day. There was one of them lying on the strand here, and some of the men of the village came down of a sudden and surprised him. And when he saw he was taken he began a great crying. But they only lifted him down to the sea and put him back into it. Just like a man they said he was. And a little way out there was another just like him, and when he saw that they treated the one on shore so kindly, he bowed his head as if to thank them.
Whatever’s on the land, there’s the same in the sea, and between the islands of Aran they can often see the horses galloping about at the bottom.
There was a sort of a big eel used to be in Tully churchyard, used to come and to root up the bodies, but I didn’t hear of him of late–he may be done away with now.
There was one Curran told me one night he went down to the strand where he used to be watching for timber thrown up and the like. And on the strand, on the dry sands, he saw a boat, a grand one with sails spread and all, and it up farther than any tide had ever reached. And he saw a great many people round about it, and it was all lighted up with lights. And he got afraid and went away. And four hours after, after sunrise, he went there again to look at it, and there was no sign of it, or of any fire, or of any other thing. The Mara-warra (mermaid) was seen on the shore not long ago, combing out her hair. She had no fish’s tail, but was like another woman.
There is no luck if you meet a mermaid and you out at sea, but storms will come, or some ill will happen.
There was a ship on the way to America, and a mermaid was seen following it, and the bad weather began to come. And the captain said, “It must be some man in the ship she’s following, and if we knew which one it was, we’d put him out to her and save ourselves.” So they drew lots, and the lot fell on one man, and then the captain was sorry for him, and said he’d give him a chance till tomorrow. And the next day she was following them still, and they drew lots again, and the lot fell on the same man. But the captain said he’d give him a third chance, but the third day the lot fell on him again. And when they were going to throw him out he said, “Let me alone for a while.” And he went to the end of the ship and he began to sing a song in Irish, and when he sang, the mermaid began to be quiet and to rock like as if she was asleep. So he went on singing till they came to America, and just as they got to the land the ship was thrown up into the air, and came down on the water again. There’s a man told me that was surely true.
And there was a boy saw a mermaid down by Spiddal not long ago, but he saw her before she saw him, so she did him no harm. But if she’d seen him first, she’d have brought him away and drowned him.
Sometimes a light will come on the sea before the boats to guide them to the land. And my own brother told me one day he was out and a storm came on of a sudden, and the sail of the boat was let down as quick and as well as if two men were in it. Some neighbour or friend it must have been that did that for him. Those that go down to the sea after the tide going out, to cut the weed, often hear under the sand the sound of the milk being churned. There’s some didn’t believe that till they heard it themselves.
A Man from Roundstone:
One night I was out on the boat with another man, and we saw a big ship near us with about twenty lights. She was as close to us as that rock (about thirty yards), but we saw no one on board. And she was like some of the French ships that sometimes come to Galway. She went on near us for a while, and then she turned towards the shore and then we knew that she was not a right ship. And she went straight on to the land, and when she touched it, the lights went out and we saw her no more.
There was a comrade of mine was out one night, and a ship came after him, with lights, and she full of people. And as they drew near the land, he heard them shouting at him and he got afraid, and he went down and got a coal of fire and threw it at the ship, and in a minute it was gone.
A boy told me last night of two men that went with poteen to the Island of Aran. And when they were on the shore they saw a ship coming as if to land, and they said, “We’ll have the bottle ready for those that are coming.” But when the ship came close to the land, it vanished. And presently they got their boat ready and put to sea. And a sudden blast came and swept one of them off. And the other saw him come up again, and put out the oar across his breast for him to take hold of it. But he would not take it but said, “I’m all right again now,” and sank down again and was never seen no more.
For one there’s on the land there’s ten on the sea. When I lived at Ardfry there was never a night but there was a voice heard crying and roaring, by them that were out in the bay. A baker he was from Loughrea, used to give short weight and measure, and so he was put there for a punishment.
I saw a ship that was having a race with another go suddenly down into the sea, and no one could tell why. And afterwards one of the Government divers was sent down to look for her, and he told me he’d never as long as he’d live go down again, for there at the bottom he found her, and the captain and the saloon passengers, and all sitting at the table and eating their dinner, just as they did before.
A Little Girl:
One time a woman followed a boat from Galway twenty miles out, and when they saw that she was some bad thing, wanting some of them, they drowned her.
I was at home and I got some stories from a man I had suspected of having newses. And he told me that when he was a youngster he was at a height where there used to be a great many of them. And all of a sudden he saw them fly out to where a boat was coming from Duras with seaweed. And they went in two flights, and so fast that they swept the water away from each side the boat, and it was left on the sand, and this they did over and over, just to be humbugging the man in the boat, and he was kept there a long time. When they first rose up, they were like clouds of dust, but with all sorts of colours, and then he saw their faces turned, but they kept changing colour every minute. Laughing and humbugging they seemed to be.
My uncle that used to go out fishing for mackerel told me that one night some sort of a monster came under the boat and it wasn’t a fish, and it had them near upset
At an evening gathering in Inishmaan, by a Son of the House:
There was a man on this island was down on the beach one evening with his dog, and some black thing came up out of the sea, and the dog made for it and began to fight it. And the man began to run home and he called the dog, and it followed him, but every now and again it would stop and begin to fight again. And when he got to the house he called the dog in and shut the door, and whatever was outside began hitting against the door but it didn’t get in. But the dog went in under the bed in the room, and before morning it was dead.
The Man of the House:
A horse I’ve seen myself on the sea and on the rocks–a brown one, just like another. And I threw a stone at it, and it was gone in a minute. We often heard there was fighting amongst these. And one morning before daybreak I went down to the strand with some others, and the whole of the strand, and it low tide, was covered with blood.
I knew a woman on this island and she and her daughter went down to the strand one morning to pick weed, and a wave came and took the daughter away. And a week after that, the mother saw her coming to the house, but she didn’t speak to her.
There was a man coming from Galway here and he had no boatman. And on the way he saw a man that was behind him in the boat, that was putting up the sail and taking the management of everything, and he spoke no word. And he was with him all the way, but when the boat came to land, he was gone, and the man isn’t sure, but he thinks it was his brother.
You see that sand below on the south side. When the men are out with the mackerel boats at early morning, they often see those sands covered with boys and girls.
There were some men out fishing in the bay one time, and a man came and held on to the boat, and wanted them to make room for him to get in, and after a time he left them. He was one of those. And there was another of them came up on the rocks one day, and called out to Martin Flaherty that was going out and asked what was his name.
There’s said to be another island out there that’s enchanted, and there are some that see it. And it’s said that a fisherman landed on it one time, and he saw a little house, and he went in, and a very nice-looking young woman came out and said, “What will you say to me?” and he said, “You are a very nice lady.” And a second came and asked him the same thing and a third, and he made the same answer. And after that they said, “You’d best run of your life,” and so he did, and his curragh was floating along and he had but just time to get into it, and the island was gone. But if he had said “God bless you,” the island would have been saved.
A Fisherman on Kilronan Pier:
I don’t give in to these things myself, but they’d make you believe them in the middle island. Mangan, that I lodged with there, told me of seeing a ship when he was out with two other men, that followed them and vanished. And he said one of the men took to his bed from that time and died. And Doran told me about the horse he saw, that was in every way like a horse you’d see on land. And a man on the south island told me how he saw a calf one morning on the strand, and he thought it belonged to a neighbour, and was going to drive it up to his field, when its mother appeared on the sea, and it went off to her.
They are in the sea as well as on the land. That is well known by those that are out fishing by the coast. When the weather is calm, they can look down sometimes and see cattle and pigs and all such things as we have ourselves. And at nights their boats come out and they can be seen fishing, but they never last out after one o’clock.
The cock always crows on the first of March every year at one o’clock. And there was a man brought a cock out with him in his boat to try them. And the first time when it crowed they all vanished. That is how they were detected.
There are more of them in the sea than on the land, and they sometimes try to come over the side of the boat in the form of fishes, for they can take their choice shape.
There was two fine young women–red-haired women–died in my village about six months ago. And I believe they’re living yet. And there are some have seen them appear. All I ever saw myself was one day I was out fishing with two others, and we saw a canoe coming near us, and we were afraid it would come near enough to take away our fish. And as we looked it turned into a three-masted ship, and people in it. I could see them well, dark-coloured and dressed like sailors. But it went away and did us no harm.
One night I was going down to the curragh, and it was a night in harvest, and the stars shining, and I saw a ship fully rigged going towards the coast of Clare where no ship could go. And when I looked again, she was gone.
And one morning early, I and other men that were with me, and one of them a friend of the man here, saw a ship coming to the island, and he thought she wanted a pilot, and put out in the curragh. But when we got to where she was, there was no sign of her, but where she was the water was covered with black gulls, and I never saw a black gull before, thousands and crowds of them, and not one white bird among them. And one of the boys that was with me took a tarpin and threw it at one of the gulls and hit it on the head, and when he did, the curragh went down to the rowlocks in the water-up to that-and it’s nothing but a miracle she ever came up again, but we got back to land. I never went to a ship again, for the people said it was on account of me helping in the Preventive Service it happened, and that if I’d hit at one of the gulls myself, there would have been a bad chance for us. But those were no right gulls, and the ship was no living ship.
The Old Man in the Kitchen:
It’s in the middle island the most of them are, and I’ll tell you a thing that I know of myself that happened not long ago. There was a young girl, and one evening she was missing, and they made search for her everywhere and they thought that she was drowned or that she had gone away with some man. And in the evening of the next day there was a boy out in a curragh, and as he passed by a rock that is out in the sea there was the girl on it, and he brought her off. And surely she could not go there by herself. I suppose she wasn’t able to give much account of it, and now she’s after going to America.
And in Aran there were three boys and their uncle went out to a ship they saw coming, to pilot her into the bay. But when they got to where she was, there was no ship, and a sea broke over the canoe, and they were drowned, all fine strong men. But a man they had with them that was no use or of no account, he came safe to land. And I know a man in this island saw curraghs and curraghs full of people about the island of a Sunday morning early, but I never saw them myself. And one Sunday morning in my time there were scores and scores lying their length by the sea on the sand below, and they saw a woman in the sea, up to her waist, and she racking her hair and settling herself and as clean and as nice as if she was on land. Scores of them saw that.
There’s a house up there where the family have to leave a plate of potatoes ready every night, and all’s gone in the morning.
They are said to have all things the same as ourselves under the sea, and one day a cow was seen swimming as if for the headland, but before she got to it she turned another way and went down. And one time I got a small muc-warra (porpoise) and I went to cut it up to get what was good of it, for it had about two inches of fat, and when I cut it open the heart and the liver and every bit of it were for all the world like a pig you would cut up on land.
There’s a house in the village close by this that’s haunted. My sister was sitting near it one day, and it empty and locked, and some other little girls, and they heard a noise in it, and at the same time the flags they were sitting on grew red-hot, that they had to leave them. And another time the woman of the house was sick, and a little girl that was sitting by the fire in the kitchen saw standing in the door the sister of the woman that was sick, and she a good while dead, and she put up her arm, as if to tell her not to notice her. And the poor woman of that house, she had no luck, nothing but miscarriages or dead babies. And one child lived to be nine months old, and there was less flesh on it at the end of the nine months than there was the day it was born. She has a little girl now that’s near a year old, but her arm isn’t the size of that, and she’s crabbed and not like a child as she should be. Many a one that’s long married without having a child goes to the fortune-teller in Galway, and those that think anything of themselves go to Roundstone.
A Man near Loughmore:
I know a woman was washed and laid out, and it went so far that two half-penny candles were burned over her. And then she sat up, came back again, and spoke to her husband, and told him how to divide his property, and to manage the children well. And her step-son began to question her, and he might have got a lot out of her but her own son stopped him and said to let her alone. And then she turned over on her side and died. She was not to say an old woman. It’s not often the old are taken. What use would there be for them? But a woman to be taken young, you know there’s demand for her. It’s the people in the middle island know about these things. There were three boys from there lost in a curragh at the point near the lighthouse, and for long after their friends were tormented when they came there fishing, and they would see ships there when the people of this island that were out at the same time couldn’t see them. There were three or four out in a curragh near the lighthouse, and a conger-eel came and upset it, and they were all saved but one, but he was brought down and for the whole day they could hear him crying and screeching under the sea. And they were not the only ones, but a fisherman that was there from Galway had to go away and leave it, because of the screeching.
There was a coast-guard’s wife there was all but gone, but she was saved after. And there’s a boy here now was for a long time that they’d give the world he was gone altogether, with the state he was in, and now he’s as strong as any boy in the island; and if ever any one was away and came back again, it was him. Children used often to be taken, but there’s a great many charms in use in these days that saves them. A big sewing-needle you’ll see the woman looking for to put back again into the world before they die in the place of some young person. And even a beast of any consequence if anything happens to it, no one in the island would taste it; there might be something in it, some old woman or the like.
There were a few young men from here were kept in Galway for a day, and they went to a woman there that works the cards. And she told them of deaths that would come in certain families. And it wasn’t a fortnight after that five boys were out there, just where you see the curragh now, and they were upset and every one drowned, and they were of the families that she had named on the cards.
My uncle told me that one night they were all up at that house up the road, making a match for his sister, and they stopped till near morning, and when they went out, they all had a drop taken. And he was going along home with two or three others and one of them, Michael Flaherty, said he saw people on the shore. And another of them said that there were not, and my uncle said, “If Flaherty said that and it not true, we have a right to bite the ear off him, and it would be no harm.” And then they parted, and my uncle had to pass by the beach, and then he saw whole companies of people coming up from the sea, that he didn’t know how he’d get through them, but they opened before him and let him pass.
There were men going to Galway with cattle one morning from the beach down there, and they saw a man up to his middle in the sea-all of them saw it.
There was a man was down early for lobsters on the shore at the middle island, and he saw a horse up to its middle in the sea, and bowing its head down as if to drink. And after he had watched it awhile it disappeared.
There was a woman walking over by the north shore-God have mercy on her-she’s dead since-and she looked out and saw an island in the sea, and she was a long time looking at it. It’s known to be there, and to be enchanted, but only few can see it.
There was a man had his horse drawing seaweed up there on the rocks, the way you see them drawing it every day, in a basket on the mare’s back. And on this day every time he put the load on, the mare would let its leg slip and it would come down again, and he was vexed and he bad a stick in his hand and he gave the mare a heavy blow. And that night she had a foal that was dead, not come to its full growth, and it had spots over it, and every spot was of a different colour. And there was no sire on the island at that time, so whatever was the sire must have come up from the sea.
A Man Watching the Weed-gatherers:
There’s no doubt at all about the sea-horses. There was a man out at the other side of the island, and he saw one standing on the rocks and he threw a stone at it and it went off in the sea. He said it was grand to see it swimming, and the mane and the tail floating on the top of the water.
A Woman from the Connemara Side:
I was told there was a mare that had a foal, and it had never had a horse. And one day the mare and foal were down by the sea, and a horse put up its head and neighed, and away went the foal to it and came back no more.
And there was a man on this island watched his field one night where he thought the neighbours’ cattle were eating his grass, and what he saw was horses and foals coming up from the sea. And he caught a foal and kept it, and set it racing, and no horse or no pony could ever come near it, till one day the race was on the strand, and away with it into the sea, and the jockey along with it, and they never were seen again.
Mrs O’Dea and Mrs. Daly:
There was a cow seen come up out of the sea one day and it walked across the strand, and its udder like as if it had been lately milked. And Tommy Donohue was running up to tell his father to come down and see it, and when he looked back it was gone out to sea again.
There was a man here was going to build a new house, and he brought a wise woman to see would it be in the right place. And she made five heaps of stones in five places, and said, “Whatever heap isn’t knocked in the night, build it there.” And in the morning all the heaps were knocked but one, and so he built it there .
One time I was out over by that island with another man, and we saw three women standing by the shore, beating clothes with a beetle. And while we looked, they vanished, and then we heard the cry of a child passing over our heads twenty feet in the air.
I know they go out fishing like ourselves, for Father Mahony told me so; and one night I was out myself with my brother, beyond where that ship is, and we heard talk going on, so we knew that a boat was near, and we called out to let them know we heard them, and then we saw the boat and it was just like any other one, and the talk went on, but we couldn’t understand what they were saying. And then I turned to light my pipe, and while I lighted it, the boat and all in it were gone.
I got a story from an old man down by the sea at Tyrone. He says there was a man went down one night to move his boat from the shore where it was to the pier. And when he had put out, he found it was going out to sea, instead of to touch the pier, and he felt it very heavy in the water, and he looked behind him and there on the back of the boat were six men in shiny black clothes like sailors, and there was one like a harvest-man dressed in white flannel with a belt round his waist. And he asked what they were doing, and the man in white said he had brought the others out to make away with them there, and he took and cut their bodies in two and threw them one by one over the boat, and then he threw himself after them into the sea. And the boat went under water too, and the poor man himself lost his wits, but it came up again and he said he had never seen as many people as he did in that minute under the water. And then he got home and left the boat, and in the morning he came down to it, and there was blood in it; and first he washed it and then he painted it, but for all he could do, he couldn’t get rid of the blood.
There was a woman, a friend of this man’s, living out in the middle island, and one day she came down to where a man of this island was putting out his curragh to come back, and she said, “I just saw a great crowd of them–that’s the Sheogue–going over to your island like a cloud.” And when he got home he went up to a house there beyond, where the old woman used to be selling poteen on the sly. And while he was there her little boy came running in and cried, “Hide away the poteen, for the police are on the island! Such a man called to me from his curragh to give warning, for he saw the road full of them with the crowd of them and they with their guns and cutlasses and all the rest.” But the man was in the house first knew well what it was, after what he heard from the woman on the other island, and that they were no right police, and sure enough no other one ever saw them. And that same day, my mother had put out wool to dry in front of where that house is with the three chimneys, near the Chapel. And I was there talking to some man, one on each side of the yard, and the wall between us. And the day was as fine as this day is and finer, and not a breath of air stirring. And a woman that lived near by had her wool out drying too. And the wool that was in my mother’s yard began to rise up, as if something was under it, and I called to the other man to help me to hold it down, but for all we could do it went up in the air, a hundred feet and more, till we could see it no more. And after a couple of hours it began to drop again) like snow, some on the thatch and some on the rocks and some in the gardens. And I think it was a fortnight before my mother had done gathering it. And one day she was spinning it, I don’t know what put it in my mind, but I asked her did she lose much of that wool. And what she said was, “If I didn’t get more than my own, I didn’t get less.” That’s true and no lie, for I never told a lie in my life-I think. But the wool belonging to the neighbouring woman was never stirred at all.
And the woman that had the wool that wasn’t stirred, she is the woman I married after, and that’s now my wife.
There was a man, one Power, died in this island, and one night that was bright there was a friend of his going out for mackerel, and he saw these sands full of people hurling, and he well knew Power’s voice that he heard among them.
There was a cousin of my own built a new house, and when they were first in it and sitting round the fire, the woman of the house that was singing for them saw a great blot of blood come down the chimney on to the floor, and they thought there would be no luck in the house and that it was a wrong place. But they had nothing but good luck ever after.
There was a man that died in the middle island, that had two wives. And one day he was out in the curragh he saw the first wife appear. And after that one time the son of the second wife was sick, and the little girl, the first wife’s daughter, was out tending cattle, and a can of water with her and she had a waistcoat of her father’s put about her body, where it was cold. And her mother appeared to her in the form of a sheep, and spoke to her, and told her what herbs to find, to cure the step-brother, and sure enough they cured him. And she bid her leave the waistcoat there and the can, and she did. And in the morning the waistcoat was folded there, and the can standing on it. And she appeared to her in her own shape another time, after that. Why she came like a sheep the first time was that she wouldn’t be frightened. The girl is in America now, and so is the stepbrother got well .
A Galway Woman:
One time myself, I was up at the well beyond, and looking into it, a very fine day, and no breath of air stirring, and the stooks were ripe standing about me. And all in a minute a noise began in them, and they were like as if knocking at each other and fighting like soldiers all about me.
There was a girl here that had been to America and came back, and one day she was coming over from Liscannor in a curragh, and she looked back and there behind the curragh was the “Gan ceann” the headless one. And he followed the boat a great way, but she said nothing. But a gold pin that was in her hair fell out, and into the sea, that she had brought from America, and then it disappeared. And her sister was always asking her where was the pin she brought from America, and she was afraid to say. But at last she told her, and the sister said, “It’s well for you it fell out, for what was following you would never have left you, till you threw it a ring or something made of gold.” It was the sister herself that told me this.
Up in the village beyond they think a great deal of these things and they won’t part with a drop of milk on May Eve, and last Saturday week that was May Eve there was a poor woman dying up there, and she had no milk of her own, and as is the custom, she went out to get a drop from one or other of the neighbours. But not one would give it because it was May Eve. I declare I cried when I heard it, for the poor woman died on the second day after.
And when my sister was going to America she went on the first of May and we had a farewell party the night before, and in the night a little girl that was there saw a woman from that village go out, and she watched her, and saw her walk round a neighbour’s house, and pick some straw from the roof.
And she told of it, and it happened a child had died in that house and the father said the woman must have had a hand in it, and there was no good feeling to her for a long while. Her own husband is lying sick now, so I hear.