Seers and Healers ~ Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland
Seers and Healers
In talking to the people I often heard the name of Biddy Early, and I began to gather many stories of her, some calling her a healer and some a witch. Some said she had died a long time ago, and some that she was still living. I was sure after a while that she was dead, but was told that her house was still standing, and was on the other side of Slieve Echtge, between Feakie and Tulla. So one day I set out and drove Shamrock, my pony, to a shooting lodge built by my grandfather in a fold of the mountains, and where I had sometimes, when a young girl, stayed with my brothers when they were shooting the wild deer that came and sheltered in the woods. It had like other places on our estate a border name brought over from Northumberland, but though we called it Chevy Chase the people spoke of its woods and outskirts as Daire-caol, the Narrow Oak Wood, and Daroda, the Two Roads, and Druim-da-Rod, their Ridge. I stayed tile night in the low thatched house, setting out next day for Feakle “eight strong miles over the mountain.” It was a wild road, and the pony had to splash his way through two unbridged rivers, swollen with the summer rains. The red mud of the road, the purple heather and foxglove, the brown bogs were a contrast to the grey rocks and walls of Burren and Aidline, and there were many low hills, brown when near, misty blue in the distance; then the Golden Mountain, Slieve nan-Or, “where the last great battle will be fought before the end of the world.” Then I was out of Connacht into Clare, the brown turning to green pasture as I drove by Raftery’s Lough Greine.
I put up my pony at a little inn. There were portraits of John Dillon and Michael Davitt hanging in the parlour, and the landlady told me Parnell’s likeness had been with them, until the priest had told her he didn’t think well of her hanging it there. There was also on the wall, in a frame, a warrant for the arrest of one of her sons, signed by, I think, Lord Cowper, in the days of the Land War. “He got half a year in gaol the same year Parnell did. He got sick there, and though he lived for some years the doctor said when he died the illness he got in gaol had to do with his death.”
I had been told how to find Biddy Early’s house “beyond the little hum py bridge,” and I walked on till I came to it, a poor cottage enough, high up on a mass of rock by the roadside. There was only a little girl in the house, but her mother came in afterwards and told me that Biddy Early had died about twenty years before, and that after they had come to live in the house they had been “annoyed for a while” by people coming to look for her. She had sent them away, telling them Biddy Early was dead, though a friendly priest had said to her, “Why didn’t you let on you were her and make something out of them?” She told me some of the stories I give below, and showed me the shed where the healer had consulted with her invisible friends. I had already been given by an old patient of hers a “bottle” prepared for the cure, but which she had been afraid to use. It lies still unopened on a shelf in my storeroom. When I got back at nzght fall to the lodge in the woods I found many of the neighbours gathered there, wanting to hear news of “the Tulla Woman” and to know for certain if she was dead. I think as time goes on her fame will grow and some of the myths that always hang in the air will gather round her, for I think the first thing I was told of her was, “There used surely to be enchanters in the old time, magicians and freemasons. Old Biddy Early’s power came from the same thing.” 
An Old Woman in the Lodge Kitchen says:
Do you remember the time John Kevin beyond went to see Biddy Early, for his wife, she was sick at the time. And Biddy Early knew everything, and that there was a forth behind her house, and she said, “Your wife is too fond of going out late at night.”
I was told by a Gate-keeper:
There was a man at Cranagh had one of his sheep shorn in the night, and all the wool taken. And he got on his horse and went to Feakie and Biddy Early, and she told him the name of the man that did it, and where it was hidden, and so he got it back again.
There was a man went to Biddy Early, and she told him that the woman he’d marry would have had her husband killed by his brother. And so it happened, for the woman he married was sitting by the fire with her husband, and the brother came in, having a drop of drink taken, and threw a pint pot at him that hit him on the head and killed him. It was the man that married her that told me this.
Did I know any one that was taken by them? Well, I never knew one that was brought back again. Himself went one time to Biddy Early for his uncle, Donohue, that was sick, and he found her there and her fingers all covered with big gold rings, and she gave him a bottle, and she said: “Go in no house on your way home, or stop nowhere, or you’ll lose it.” But going home he had a thirst on him and he came to a public-house, and he wouldn’t go in, but he stopped and bid the boy bring him out a drink. But a little farther on the road the horse got a fall, and the bottle was broke.
It’s I was with this woman here to Biddy Early. And when she saw me, she knew it was for my husband I came, and she looked in her bottle and she said, “It’s nothing put upon him by my people that’s wrong with him.” And she bid me give him cold oranges and some other things-herbs. He got better after.
Did I ever hear of Biddy Early? There’s not a man in this countryside over forty year old that hasn’t been with her some time or other. There’s a man living in that house over there was sick on time, and he went to her, and she cured him, but says she, “You’ll have to lose something, and don’t fret after it.” So he had a grey mare and she was going to foal, and one morning when he went out he saw that the foal was born, and was lying dead by the side of the wall. So he remembered what she said to him and he didn’t fret.
There was one Dillane in Kinvara, Sir William knew him well, and he went to her one time for a cure. And Father Andrew came to the house and was mad with him for going, and says he, “You take the cure out of the hands of God.” And Mrs. Dillane said, “Your Reverence, none of us can do that.” “Well,” says Father Andrew, “then I’ll see what the devil can do and I’ll send my horse tomorrow, that has a sore in his leg this long time, and try will she be able to cure him.”
So next day he sent a man with his horse, and when he got to Biddy Early’s house she came out, and she told him every word that Father Andrew had said, and she cured the sore. So after that, he left the people alone; but before it, he’d be dressed in a frieze coat and a riding whip in his hand, driving away the people from going to her.
She had four or five husbands, and they all died of drink one after another. Maybe twenty or thirty people would be there in the day looking for cures, and every one of them would bring a bottle of whiskey. Wild cards they all were, or they wouldn’t have married her. She’d help too to bring the butter back. Always on the first of May, it used to be taken, and maybe what would be taken from one man would be conveyed to another.
Biddy Early? Not far from this she lived, above at Feakle. I got cured by her myself one time. Look at this thumb–I got it hurted one time, and I went out into the field after and was ploughing all the day, I was that greedy for work. And when I went in I had to lie on the bed with the pain of it, and it swelled and the arm with it, to the size of a horse’s thigh. I stopped two or three days in the bed with the pain of it, and then my wife went to see Biddy Early and told her about it, and she came home and the next day it burst, and you never seen anything like all the stuff that came away from it. A good bit after I went to her myself, where it wasn’t quite healed, and she said, “You’d have lost it altogether if your wife hadn’t been so quick to come.” She brought me into a small room, and said holy words and sprinkled holy water and told me to believe. The priests were against her, but they were wrong. How could that be evil doing that was all charity and kindness and healing?
She was a decent looking woman, no different from any other woman of the country. The boy she was married to at the time was lying drunk in the bed. There were side-cars and common cars and gentry and country people at the door, just like Gort market, and dinner for all that came, and everyone would bring her something, but she didn’t care what it was. Rich farmers would bring her the whole side of a pig. Myself, I brought a bottle of whiskey and a shilling’s worth of bread, and a quarter of sugar and a quarter pound of tea. She was very rich, for there wasn’t a farmer but would give her the grass of a couple of bullocks or a filly. She had the full of a field of fillies if they’d all been gathered together. She left no children, and there’s no doubt at all that the reason of her being able to do cures was that she was away seven years. She didn’t tell me about it but she spoke of it to others.
When I was coming away I met a party of country people on a cart from Limerick, and they asked where was her house, and I told them: “Go on to the cross, and turn to the left, and follow the straight road till you come to the little humpy bridge, and soon after that you’ll come to the house.”
But the priests would be mad if they knew that I told anyone the way.
She died about twelve year ago; I didn’t go to the wake my-self, or the funeral, but I heard that her death was natural.
No, Mrs. Early is no relation to Biddy Early–the nuns asked her the same thing when she was married. A cousin of hers had her hand cut with a jug that was broke, and she went up to her and when she got there, Biddy Early said “It’s a thing you never should do, to beat a child that breaks a cup or a jug.” And sure enough it was a child that broke it, and she beat her for doing it. But cures she did sure enough.
There was a neighbour of my own, Andrew Dennehy:
I was knocked up by him one night to go to the house, because he said they were calling to him. But when they got there, there was nothing to be found. But some see these things, and some can’t. It’s against our creed to believe in them. And the priests won’t let on that they believe in them themselves, but they are more in dread of going about at night than any of us. They were against Biddy Early too. There was a man I knew living near the sea, and he set out to go to her one time. And on his way he went into his brother-in-law’s house, and the priest came in there, and bid him not to go on. “Well, Father,” says he, “cure me yourself if you won’t let me go to her to be cured.” And when the priest wouldn’t do that (for the priests can do many cures if they like to), he went on to her. And the minute he came in, “Well,” says she, “you made a great fight for me on the way.” For though it’s against our creed to believe it, she could hear any earthly thing that was said in every part, miles off. But she had two red eyes, and some used to say, “If she can cure so much, why can’t she cure her own eyes?”
No, she wasn’t away herself. It is said it was from a son of her own she got the knowledge, a little chap that was astray. And one day when he was lying sick in the bed he said: “There’s such and such a woman has a hen down in the pot, and if I had the soup of the hen, I think it would cure me.” So the mother went to the house, and when she got there, sure enough, there was a hen in the pot on the fire. But she was ashamed to tell what she came for, and she let on to have only come for a visit, and so she sat down. But presently in the heat of the talking she told what the little chap had said. “Well,” says the woman, “take the soup and welcome, and the hen too if it will do him any good.” So she brought them with her, and when the boy saw the soup, “It can t cure me,” says he, “for no earthly thing can do that. But since I see how kind and how willing you are, and did your best for me, I’ll leave you a way of living.” And so he did, and taught her all she knew. That’s what’s said at any rate.
Well, that’s what’s believed, that it’s from her son Biddy Early got it. After his death always lamenting for him she was, till he came back, and gave her the gift of curing.
She had no red eyes, but was a fresh clean-looking woman, sure any one might have red eyes when they’d got a cold.
She wouldn’t refuse even a person that would come from the very bottom of the black North.
I was with Biddy Early myself one time, and got a cure from her for my little girl that was sick. A bottle of whiskey I brought her, and the first thing she did was to open it and to give me a glass out of it. “For,” says she, “you’ll maybe want it my poor man.” But I had plenty of courage in those days.
The priests were against her; often Father Boyle would speak of her in his sermons. They can all do those cures themselves, but that’s a thing it’s not right to be talking about.
The Little Girl of Biddy Early’s House:
The people do be full of stories of all the cures she did. Once after we came to live here a carload of people came, and asked was Biddy Early here, and my mother said she was dead. When she told the priest he said she had a right to shake a bottle and say she was her, and get something from them. It was by the bottle she did all, to shake it, and she’d see everything when she looked in it. Sometimes she’d give a bottle of some cure to people that came, but if she’d say to them, “You’ll never bring it home,” break it they should on the way home, with all the care they’d take of it.
She was as good, and better, to the poor as to the rich. Any poor person passing the road, she’d call in and give a cup of tea or a glass of whiskey to, and bread and what they wanted.
She had a big chest within in that room, and it full of pounds of tea and bottles of wine and of whiskey and of claret, and all things in the world. One time she called in a man that was passing and gave him a glass of whiskey, and then she said to him., “The road you were going home by, don’t go by it.” So he asked why not, and she took the bottle–a long shaped bottle it was–and looked into it, holding it up, and then she bid him look through it, and he’d see what would happen him. But her husband said, “Don’t show it to him, it might give him a fright he wouldn’t get over.” So she only said, “Well, go home by another road.” And so he did and got home safe, for in the bottle she had seen a party of men that wouldn’t have let him pass alive. She got the rites of the Church when she died, but first she had to break the bottle.
It was from her brother that she got the power, when she had to go to the workhouse, and he came back, and gave her the way of doing the cures.
The Blacksmith I met near Tulla:
I know you to be a respectable lady and an honourable one because I know your brothers, meeting them as I do at the fair of Scariff. No fair it would be if they weren’t there. I knew Biddy Early well, a nice fresh-looking woman she was. It’s to her the people used to be flocking, to the door and even to the window, and if they’d come late in the day, they’d have no chance of getting to her, they’d have to take lodgings for the night in the town. She was a great woman. If any of the men that came into the house had a drop too much drink taken, she’d turn them out if they said an unruly word. And if any of them were fighting or disputing or going to law, she’d say, “Be at one, and ye can rule the world.” The priests were against her and used to be taking the cloaks and the baskets from the country people to keep them back from going to her.
I never went to her myself–for you should know that no ill or harm ever comes to a blacksmith.
An Old Midwife:
Tell me now is there anything wrong about you or your son that you went to that house? I went there but once myself, when my little girl that was married was bad, after her second baby being born. I went to the house and told her about it, and she took the bottle and shook it and looked in it, and then she turned and said something to himself [her husband] that I didn’t hear–and she just waved her hand to me like that, and bid me go home, for she would take nothing from me. But himself came out and told that what she was after seeing in the bottle was my little girl, and the coffin standing beside her. So I went home, and sure enough on the tenth day after, she was dead.
The lodge people came rushing out to see the picture of Biddy Early’s house and ask, “Did she leave the power to any one else?” and I told of the broken bottle. But Mr. McCabe said, “She only had the power for her own term, and no one else could get it from her.”
I asked old Mr. McCabe if he had lost anything when she cured him, and he said: “Not at that time, but sometimes I thought afterwards it came on my family when I lost so many of my children. A grand stout girl went from me, stout and broad, what would ail her to go?”
I was told by Mat King:
Biddy Early surely did thousands of cures. Out in the stable she used to go, where herfriends met her, and they told her all things. There was a little priest long ago used to do cures–Soggarthin Mina, they used to call him–and once he came in this house he looked up and said, “There–it’s full of them–there they are.”
There was a man, one Flaherty, came to his brother-in-law’s house one day to borrow a horse. And the next day the horse was sent back, but he didn’t come himself. And after a few days more they went to ask for him, but he had never come back at all. So the brother-in-law went to Biddy Early’s and she and some others were drinking whiskey, and they were sorry that they were near at the bottom of the bottle And she said: “That’s no matter, there’s a man on his way now, there’ll soon be more.” And sure enough there was, for he brought a bottle with him. So when he came in, he told her about Flaherty having disappeared. And she described to him a corner of a garden at the back of a house and she said, “Go look and you’ll find him there,” and so they did, dead and buried.
Another time a man’s cattle was dying, and he went to her and she said, “Is there such a place as Benburb, having a forth up on the hill beyond there? for it’s there they’re gone.” And sure enough, it was towards that forth they were straying before they died.
An Old Man on the Beach:
The priests were greatly against Biddy Early. And there’s no doubt it was from the faeries she got the knowledge. But who wouldn’t go to hell for a cure if one of his own was sick? And the priests don’t like to be doing cures themselves. Father Flynn said to me (rather incoherent in the high wind), if I do them, I let the devil into me. But there was Father Carey used to do them, but he went wrong, with the people bringing too much whiskey to pay him–and Father Mahony has him stopped now.
Maher of SIeve Echtge:
I knew a man went to Biddy Early, and while she was in the other room he made the tongs red hot and laid them down, and when she came back she took them up and burned herself. And he said, if she had known anything she’d have known not to touch it, that it was red hot. So he walked off and asked for no cure.
Biddy Early was a witch, wherever she got it. There was a priest at Feakle spoke against her one time, and soon after he was passing near her house and she put something on the horse so that he made a bolt into the river and stopped there in the middle, and wouldn’t go back or forward. Some people from the neighbourhood went to her, and she told them all about the whole place, and that one time there was a great battle about the castle, and that there is a passage going from here to the forth beyond on Dromore Hill, and to another place that’s near Maher’s house. And she said that there is a cure for all sicknesses hidden between the two wheels of Ballylee mill. And how did she know that there was a mill here at all? Witchcraft wherever she got it; away she may have been in a trance. She had a son, and one time he went to the hurling beyond at some place in Tipperary, and none could stand against him; he was like a deer.
I went to Biddy Early one time myself, about my little boy that’s now in America that was lying sick in the house. But on the way to her I met a sergeant of police and he asked where was I going, and when I told him, he said, to joke with me, “Biddy Early’s dead.” “May the devil die with her,” says I. Well, when I got to the house, what do you think, if she didn’t know that, and what I said. And she was vexed and at the first, she would do nothing for me. I had a pound for her here in my bosom. But when I held it out she wouldn’t take it, but she turned the rings on her fingers, for she had a ring for every one, and she said, “A shilling for this one, sixpence for another one.” But all she told me was that the boy was nervous, and so he was, she was right in that, and that he’d get well, and so he did.
There was a man beyond in Cloon, was walking near the gate the same day and his little boy with him, and he turned his foot and hurt it, and she knew that. She told me she slept in Ballylee mill last night, and that there was a cure for all things in the world between the two wheels there. Surely she was away herself, and as to her son, she brought him back with her, and for eight or nine year he lay in the bed in the house. And he’d never stir so long as she was in it, but no sooner was she gone away anywhere than he’d be out down the village among the people, and then back again before she’d get to the house.
She had three husbands, I saw one of them when I was there, but I knew by the look of him he wouldn’t live long. One man I know went to her and she sent him on to a woman at Kilrush–one of her own sort, and they helped one another. She said to some woman I knew: “If you have a bowl broke or a plate throw it out of the door, and don’t make any attempt to mend it, it vexes them.”
Our religion doesn’t allow us to go to fortune tellers. They don’t get the knowledge from God, and so it must be from demons.
The priests took the bottle from Biddy Early before she died, and they found black things in it.
I never went to Biddy Early myself. I think there was a good deal of devilment in the things she did. The priests can do cures as well as she did, but they don’t like to do them, unless they’re curates that like to get the money.
There was a man in Cloughareeva and his wife was that bad she would go out in her shift at night into the field. And he went to Biddy Early and she said, “Within three days a disgraced priest will come to you and will cure her.”
And after three days the disgraced priest that had been put out for drink came bowling into the house, and they reached down from the shelf a bottle of whiskey. Father Boyle was mad when he heard of it, but he cured her all the same.
There was a man on this estate, and he sixty years, and he took to the bed, and his wife went to Biddy Early and she said, “It can’t be by them he’s taken, what use would it be to them, he being so old.” And Biddy Early is the one that should surely know. I went to her myself one time, to get a cure for myself when I fell coming down that hill up there, and got a hurt on my knee. And she gave me one and she told me all about the whole place, and that there was a bowl broken in the house, and so there was. The priests can do cures by the same power that she had, but those that have much stock don’t like to be doing them, for they’re sure to lose all.
I knew one went to Biddy Early about his wife, and as soon as she saw him, she said, “On the fourth day a discarded priest will call in and cure your wife”; and so he did–one Father James.
The old man here that lost his hair went to Biddy Early but he didn’t want to go, and we forced him and persuaded him. And when he got to the house she said, “It wasn’t of your own free will you came here,” and she wouldn’t do anything for him.
She didn’t like either for you to go too late. Dolan’s sister was sick a long time, and when the brother went at the last to Biddy Early she gave him a bottle with a cure. But on the way home the bottle was broke, and the car, and the horse got a fright and ran away. She said to him then, “Why did you go to cut down the bush of white thorn you see out of the window?” And then she told him an old woman in the village had overlooked him–Murphy’s sister–and she gave him a bottle to sprinkle about her house. I suppose she didn’t like that bush being interfered with, she had too much charms.
And when Doctor Folan was sent for to see her he was led astray, and it is beyond Ballylee he found himself. And surely she was taken if ever any one was.
An Old Woman:
I went up to Biddy Early’s one time with another woman. A fine stout woman she was, sitting straight up on her chair. She looked at me and she told me that my son was worse than what I was, and for myself she bid me to take what I was taking before, and that’s dandelions. Five leaves she bid me pick and lay them out on the table with three pinches of salt on the three middle ones. As to my son, she gave me a bottle for him but he wouldn’t take it and he got better without.
The priests were against her, but there was one of them passed near her house one day, and his horse fell forward. And he sent his boy to her and she said, “Tell him to spit on the horse and to say, “God bless it,’” and he did and it rose again. He had looked at it proud-like without saying “God bless it” in his heart.
It was all you could do to get to Biddy Early with your skin whole, the priests were so set against her. I went to her one time myself, and it was hard when you got near to know the way, for all the people were afraid to tell it.
It was about a little chap of my own I went, that some strange thing had been put upon. When I got to her house there were about fifty to be attended to before me, and when my turn came she looked in the bottle, a sort of a common greenish one that seemed to have nothing in it. And she told me where I came from, and the shape of the house and the appearance of it, and of the lake you see there, and everything round about. And she told me of a lime-kiln that was near, and then she said, “The harm that came to him came from the forth beyond that.” And I never knew of there being a forth there, but after I came home I went to Jook, and there sure enough it was.
And she told me how it had come on him, and bid me remember a day that a certain gentleman stopped and spoke to me when I was out working in the hayfield, and the child with me playing about. And I remembered it well, it was old James Hill of Creen, that was riding past, and stopped and talked and was praising the child. And it was close by that forth beyond that lames Hill was born.
It was soon after that day that the mother and I went to Loughrea, and when we came back, the child had slipped on the threshold of the house and got a fall, and he was screeching and calling out that his knee was hurt, and from that time he did no good, and pined away and had the pain in the knee always.
And Biddy Early said, “While you’re talking to me now the child lies dying,” and that was at twelve o’clock in the day. And she made up a bottle for me, herbs I believe it was made of, and she said, “Take care of it going home, and whatever may happen, don’t drop it”; and she wrapped it in all the folds of my handkerchief. So when I was coming home and got near Tillyra I heard voices over the wall talking, and when I got to the Roxborough gate there were many people talking and coming to where we were. I could hear them and see them, and the man that was with me. But when I heard them I remembered what she said, and I took the bottle in my two hands and held it, and so I brought it home safely. And when I got home they told me the child was worse, and that at twelve o’clock the day before he lay as they thought dying. And when I brought the bottle to him, he pulled the bed-clothes up over his head, and we had the work of the world to make him taste it. But from the time he took it, the pain in the knee left him and he began to get better, and Biddy Early had told me not to let many days pass without coming to her again, when she gave me the bottle. But seeing him so well, I thought it no use to go again, and it was not on May Day, but it was during the month of May he died. He took to the bed before that, and he’d be always calling to me to come inside the bed where he was and if I went in, he’d hardly let me go. But I got afraid, and I didn’t like to be too much with him.
He was but eight years old when he died, but Ned Cahel that used to live beyond there then told me privately that when I’d be out of the house and he’d come in, the little chap would ask for the pipe, and take it and smoke it, but he’d never let me see him doing it. And he was old-fashioned in all his ways.
Another thing Biddy Early told me to do was to go out before sunrise to where there’d be a boundary wall between two or three estates, and to bring a bottle, and lay it in the grass and gather the dew into it. But there were hundreds of people she turned away, because she’d say, “What’s wrong with you has nothing to do with my business.”
There was a Clare woman with me when I went there, and she told me there was a boy from a village near her was brought tied in a cart to Biddy Early, and she said, “If I cure you, will you be willing to marry me?” And he said he would. So she cured him and married him. I saw him there at her house. It might be that she had the illness put upon him first.
The priests don’t do cures by the same means, and they don’t like to do them at all. It was in my house that you see that Father Gregan did one on Mr. Phayre. And he cured a girl up in the mountains after, and where is he now but in a madhouse. They are afraid of the power they do them by, that it will be too strong for them. Some say the bishops don’t like them to do cures because the whiskey they drink to give them courage before they do them is very apt to make drunkards of them. It’s not out of the prayer-book they read, but out of the Roman ritual, and that’s a book you can read evil out of as well as good.
There was a boy of the Saggartons in the house went to Biddy Early and she told him the house of his bachelor [the girl he would marry] and he did marry her after. And she cured him of a weakness he had and cured many, but it was seldom the bottle she’d give could be brought home without being spilled. I wonder did she go to them when she died. She got the cure among them anyway.
My mother got crippled in her bed one night-God save the hearers–and it was a long time before she could walk again with the pain in her back. And my father was always telling her to go to Biddy Early, and so at last she went. But she could do nothing for her, for she said, “What ails you has nothing to do with my business.” And she said, “You have lost three, and one was a grand little fair-haired one, and if you’d like to see her again, I’ll show her to you.” And when she said that, my mother had no courage to look and to see the child she lost, but fainted then and there. And then she said, “There’s a field of corn beyond your house and a field with hay, and it’s not long since that the little fellow that wears a Llanberis cap fell asleep there on a cock of hay. And before the stooks of corn are in stacks he’ll be taken from you, but I’ll save him if I can.” And it was true enough what she said, my little brother that was wearing a Llanberis cap had gone to the field, and had fallen asleep on the hay a few days before. But no harm happened him, and he’s all the brother I have living now. Out in the stable she used to go to meet her people.
It was my son was thatching Heniff’s house when he got the touch, and he came back with a pain in his back and in his shoulders, and took to the bed. And a few nights after that I was asleep, and the little girl came and woke me and said, “There’s none of us can sleep, with all the cars and carriages rattling round the house.” But though I woke and heard her say that, I fell into a sound sleep again and never woke till morning. And one night there came two taps at the window, one after another, and we all heard it and no one there. And at last I sent the eldest boy to Biddy Early and he found her in the house. She was then married to her fourth man. And she said he came a day too soon and would do nothing for him. And he had to walk away in the rain. And the next day he went back and she said, “Three days later and you’d have been too late.” And she gave him two bottles, the one he was to bring to a boundary water and to fill it up, and that was to be rubbed to the back, and the other was to drink. And the minute he got them he began to get well, and he left the bed and could walk, but he was always delicate. When we rubbed his back we saw a black mark, like the bite of a dog, and as to his face, it was as white as a sheet.
I have the bottle here yet, though it’s thirty year ago I got it. She bid the boy to bring whatever was left of it to a river, and to pour it away with the running water. But when he got well I did nothing with it, and said nothing about it-and here it is now for you to see. I never let on to Father Folan that I went to her, but one time the Bishop came, Maclnerny. I knew he was a rough man, and I went to him and made my confession, and I said, “Do what you like with me, but I’d walk the world for my son when he was sick.” And all he said was, “It would have been no wonder if the two feet had been cut off from the messenger.” And he said no more and put nothing on me.
There was a boy I saw went to Biddy Early, and she gave him a bottle and told him to mind he did not lose it in the crossing of some road. And when he came to the place it was broke.
Often I heard of Biddy Early, and I knew of a little girl was sick and the brother went to Biddy Early to ask would she get well. And she said, “They have a place ready for her, room for her they have.” So he knew she would die, and so she did.
The priests can do things too, the same way as she could, for there was one Mr. Lyne was dying, a Protestant, and the priest went in and baptized him a Catholic before he died, and he said to the people after, “He’s all right now, in another world.” And it was more than the baptizing made him sure of that.
Mrs. Brennan, in the house beyond, went one time to Biddy Early, where the old man was losing his health. And all she told him was to bid him give over drinking so much whiskey. So after she said that, he used only to be drinking gin.
There was a boy went to Biddy Ear]y for his father, and she said, “It’s not any of my business that’s on him, but it’s good for yourself that you came to me. Weren’t you sowing potatoes in such a field one day and didn’t you find a bottle of whiskey, and bring it away and drink what was in it?” And that was true and it must have been a bottle they brought out of some cellar and dropped there, for they can bring everything away, and put in its place what will look like it.
There was a boy near Feakle got the touch in three places, and he got a great desire to go out night-walking, and he got sick. And they asked Biddy Early and she said, “Watch the hens when they come in to roost at night, and catch a hold of the last one that comes.” So the mother caught it, and then she thought she’d like to see what would Biddy Early do with it. So she brought it up to her house and laid it on the floor, and it began to rustle its wings, and it lay over and died. It was from her brother Biddy Early got the cure. He was sick a long time, and there was a whitethorn tree out in the field, and he’d go and lie under it for shade from the sun. Anf after he died, every day for a year she’d cry her fill. And then he brought her under and gave her the cure. It was after that she was in service beyond Kinvara. She did her first cure on a boy, after the doctors gave him up.
An Old Man from Kinvara:
My wife is paralysed these thirty-six years, and the neighbours said she’d get well if the child died, for she got it after her confinement, all in a minute. But the child died in a year and eleven months, and she got no better. And then they said she’d get taken after twenty-one years, but that passed, and she’s just the same way. And she’s as good a Christian as any all the time.
I went to Biddy Early one time about her. She was a very old woman, all shaky, and the crankiest woman I ever saw. And the husband was a fine young man, and he lying in the bed. It was a man from Kinvara half-paralysed I brought with me, and she would do nothing for him at first, and then the husband bid her do what she could. So she took the bottle and shook it and looked in it, and she said what was in him was none of her business. And I had work to get him a lodging that night in Feakle, for the priests had all the people warned against letting any one in that had been to her. She wouldn’t take the whiskey I brought, but the husband and myself, we opened it and drank it between us.
She gave me a bottle for my wife, but when I got to the workhouse, where I had to put her in the hospital, they wouldn’t let me through the gate for they heard where I had been. So I had to hide the bottle for a night by a wall, on the grass, and I sent my brother’s wife to find it, and to bring it to her in the morning into the workhouse. But it did her no good, and Biddy Early told her after it was because I didn’t bring it straight to her, but had left it on the ground for the night.
Biddy Early beat all women. No one could touch her. I knew a girl, a friend of my own, at Burren and she was sick a long while and the doctors could do nothing for her, and the priests read over her but they could do nothing. And at last the husband went to Biddy Early and she said, “I can’t cure her, and the woman that can cure her lives in the village with her.” So he went home and told this and the women of the village came into the house and said, “God bless her,” all except one, and nothing would make her come into the house. But they watched her, and one night when a lot of them were sitting round the fire smoking, she let a spit fall on the floor. So they gathered that up (with respects to you), and brought it in to the sick woman and rubbed it to her, and she got well. It might have done as well if they brought a bit of her petticoat and burned it and rubbed the ashes on her. But there’s something strange about spits, and if you spit on a child or a beast it’s as good as if you’d say, “God bless it.”
I was with Biddy Early one time for my brother. She was out away in Ennis when we got to the house, and her husband that she called Tommy. And the kitchen was full of people waiting for her to come in. So then she came, and the day was rainy, and she was wet, and she went over to the fire, and began to take off her clothes, and to dry them, and then she said to her husband: “Tommy, get the bottle and give them all a drop.” So he got the bottle and gave a drink to everyone. But my brother was in behind the door, and he missed him and when he came back to the fire she said: “You have missed out the man that has the best heart of them all, and there he is behind the door.” And when my brother came out she said, “Give us a verse of a song,” and he said, “I’m no songster,” but she said, “I know well that you are, and a good dancer as well.” She cured him and his wife after.
There was a neighbour of mine went to her too, and she said:
“The first time you got the touch was the day you had brought a cart of turf from that bog at Ballinabucky to Scahanagh. And when you were in the road you got it, and you had to lie down on the creel of turf till you got to the public road.” And she told him that he had a pane of glass broke in his window and that was true enough. She must have been away walking with the faeries every night or how did she know that, or where the village of Scahanagh was?
Mrs. Kenny has been twice to Biddy Early. Once for her brother who was ill, and light-headed and sent to Galway. And Biddy Early shook the bottle twice, and she said, “It is none of my business, and it’s a heavy cold that settled in his head.” And she would not take the shilling. A red, red woman she was.
I am a Clare woman, but the last fifty years I spent in Connacht. Near Feakle I lived, but I only saw Biddy Early once, the time she was brought to the committee and to the courthouse. She lived in a little house near Feakle that time, and her landlord was Dr. Murphy in Limerick, and he sent men to evict her and to pull the house down, and she held them in the door and said: “Whoever will be the first to put a bar to the house, he’ll remember it.” And then a man put his bar in between two stones, and if he did, he turned and got a fall some-way and he broke the thigh. After that Dr. Murphy brought her to the court, “Faeries and all,” he said, for he brought the bottle along with her. So she was put out, but Murphy had cause to remember it, for he was living in a house by himself, and one night it caught fire and was burned down, and all that was left of him was one foot that was found in a corner of the walls. She had four husbands, and the priests wouldn’t marry her to the last one, and it was by the teacher that she was married. She was a good-looking woman, but like another, the day I saw her. My husband went to her the time Johnny, my little boy, was dying. lie had a great pain in his temple, and she said: “He has enough in him to kill a hundred; but if he lives till Monday, come and tell me.” But he was dead before that. And she said, “if you came to me before this, I’d not have let you stop in that house you’re in.” But Johnny died; and there was a blush over his face when he was going, and after that I couldn’t look at him, but those that saw him said that hewasn’t in it. I never saw him since, but often and often the father would go out thinking he might see him. But I know well he wouldn’t like to come back and to see me fretting for him.
We left the house after that and came here. A travelling woman that came in to see me one time in that house said, “This is a fine airy house,” and she said that three times, and then she said, “But in that corner of it you’ll lose your son,” and so it happened, and I wish now that I had minded what she said. A man and his family went into that house after, and the first summer they were in it, he and his sons were putting up a stack of bay in the field with pitchforks, and the pitchfork in his hand turned some way into his stomach and he died.
It is Biddy Early had the great name, but the priests were against her. There went a priest one time to stop her, and when he came near the door the horse fell that was in his car. Biddy Early came out then and bid him to give three spits on the horse, and he did that, and it rose up then and there. It was himself had put the evil eye on it. “It was yourself did it, you bodach,” she said to the priest. And he said, “You may do what you like from this out, and I will not meddle with you again.”
I was myself digging potatoes out in that field beyond, and a woman passed by the road, but I heard her say nothing, but a pain came on my head and I fell down, and I had to go to my bed for three weeks. My mother went then to Biddy Early. Did you ever hear of her? And she looked in the blue bottle she had, and she said my name. And she saw me standing before her, and knew all about me and said, “Your daughter was digging potatoes with her husband in the field, and a woman passed by and she said, ‘It is as good herself is with a spade as the man,’ ” for I was a young woman at the time. She gave my mother a bottle for me, and I took three drinks of it in the bed, and then I got up as well as I was before.
Biddy Early said to a man that I met in America and that went to her one time, that this place between Finevara and Aughanish is the most haunted place in all Ireland.
Surely Biddy Early was away herself. That’s what I always heard. And I hear that at a hurling near Feakle the other day there was a small little man, and they say he was a friend of hers and has got her gift.
MRS. SHERIDAN, as I call her, was wrinkled and half blind, and had gone barefoot through her lifetime. She was old, for she had once met Raftery, the Gaelic poet, at a dance, and he died before the famine of ’47. She must have been comely then, for he had said to her: “Well planed you are; the carpenter that planed you knew his trade”; and she was ready of reply and answered him back, “Better than you know yours,” for his fiddle had two or three broken strings. And then he had spoken of a neighbour in some way that vexed her father, and he would let him speak no more with her. And she had carried a regret for this through her long life, for she said: “If it wasn’t for him speaking as he did, and my father getting vexed, he might have made words about me like he did for Mary Hynes and for Mary Brown.” She had never been to school she told me, because her father could not pay the penny a week it would have cost. She had never travelled many miles from the parish of her birth, and I am sure had never seen pictures except the sacred ones on chapel walls; and yet she could tell of a Cromwellian castle built up and of a drawbridge and of long-faced, fair-haired women, and of the yet earlier round house and saffron dress of the heroic times, I do not know whether by direct vision, or whether as Myers wrote: “It may even be that a World-soul is personally conscious of all its past, and that individual souls, as they enter into deeper consciousness enter into something which is at once reminiscence and actuality. . . . Past facts were known to men on earth, not from memory only but by written record; and these may be records, of what kind we know not, which persist in the spiritual world. Our retro cognitions seem often a recovery of isolated fragments of thought and feeling, pebbles still hard and rounded amid the indecipherable sands over which the mighty waters are ‘rolling evermore.’
She had never heard of the great mystic Jacob Behman, and yet when an unearthly visitor told her the country of youth is not far from the place where we live, she had come near to his root idea that “the world standeth in Heaven and Heaven in the World, and are in one another as day and night.”
I was told by Mrs. Sheridan:
There was a woman, Mrs. Keevan, killed near the big tree at Raheen, and her husband was after that with Biddy Early, and she said it was not the woman that had died at all, but a cow that died and was put in her place. All my life I’ve seen them and enough of them. One day I was with Tom Mannion by the big hole near his house, and we saw a man and a woman come from it, and a great troop of children, little boys they seemed to be, and they went through the gate into Coole, and there we could see them running and running along the wall. And I said to Tom Mannion, “It may be a call for one of us.” And he said, “Maybe it’s for some other one it is.” But on that day week he was dead.
One time I saw the old Colonel standing near the road, I know well it was him. But while I was looking at him, he was changed into the likeness of an ass.
I was led astray myself one day in Coole when I went to gather sticks for the fire. I was making a bundle of them, and I saw a boy beside me, and a little grey dogeen with him, and at first I thought it was William Hanlon, and then I saw it was not. And he walked along with me, and I asked him did he want any of the sticks and he said he did not, and he seemed as we were walking to grow bigger and bigger. And when he came to where the caves go underground he stopped, and I asked him his name, and he said, “You should know me, for you’ve seen me often enough.” And then he was gone, and I know that he was no living thing.
There was a child I had, and he a year and a half old, and he got a quinsy and a choking in the throat and I was holding him in my arms beside the fire, and all in a minute he died. And the men were working down by the river, washing sheep, and they heard the crying of a child from over there in the air, and they said, “That’s Sheridan’s child.” So I knew sure enough that he was taken.
Come here close and I’ll tell you what I saw at the old castle there below (Ballinamantane). I was passing there in the evening and I saw a great house and a grand one with screens (clumps of trees) at the ends of it, and the windows open-Coole house is nothing like what it was for size or grandeur. And there were people inside and ladies walking about, and a bridge across the river. For they can build up such things all in a minute. And two coaches came driving up and across the bridge to the castle, and in one of them I saw two gentlemen, and I knew them well and both of them had died long before. As to the coaches and the horses I didn’t take much notice of them for I was too much taken up with looking at the two gentlemen. And a man came and called out and asked me would I come across the bridge, and I said I would not. And he said, “It would be better for you if you did, you’d go back heavier than you came.” I suppose they would have given me some good thing. And then two men took up the bridge and laid it against the wall. Twice I’ve seen that same thing, the house and the coaches and the bridge, and I know well I’ll see it a third time before I die .
One time when I was living at Ballymacduff there was two little boys drowned in the river there, one was eight years old and the other eleven years. And I was out in the fields, and the people looking in the river for their bodies, and I saw a man coming away from it, and the two boys with him, he holding a hand of each and leading them away. And he saw me stop and look at them and he said, “Take care would you bring them from me, for you have only one in your own house, and if you take these from me, she’ll never come home to you again. And one of the little chaps broke from his hand and ran to me, and the other cried out to him, “Oh, Pat, would you leave me!” So then he went back and the man led them away. And then I saw another man, very tall he was, and crooked, and watching me like this with his head down and he was leading two dogs the other way, and I knew well where he was going and what he was going to do with them.
And when I heard the bodies were laid out, I went to the house to have a look at them, and those were never the two boys that were lying there, but the two dogs that were put in their places. I knew this by a sort of stripes on the bodies such as you’d see in the covering of a mattress; and I knew the boys couldn’t be in it, after me seeing them led away.
And it was at that time I lost my eye, something came on it, and I never got the sight again. All my life I’ve seen them and enough of them. One time I saw one of the fields below full of them, some were picking up stones and some were ploughing it up. But the next time I went by there was no sign of it being ploughed at all. They can do nothing without some live person is looking at them, that’s why they were always so much after me. Even when I was a child I could see them, and once they took my walk from me, and gave me a bad foot, and my father cured me, and if he did, in five days after he died.
But there’s no harm at all in them, not much harm.
There was a woman lived near me at Ballymacduff, and she used to go about to attend women; Sarah Redington was her name. And she was brought away one time by a man that came for her into a hill, through a door, but she didn’t know where the hill was. And there were people in it, and cradles and a woman in labour, and she helped her and the baby was born, and the woman told her it was only that night she was brought away. And the man led her out again and put her in the road near her home and he gave her something rolled in a bag, and he bid her not to look at it till she’d get home, and to throw the first handful of it away from her. But she wouldn’t wait to get home to look at it, and she took it off her back and opened it, and there was nothing in it but cowdung. And the man came to her and said, “You have us near destroyed looking in that, and we’ll never bring you in again among us.”
There was a man I know well was away with them, often and often, and he was passing one day by the big tree and they came about him and he had a new pair of breeches on, and one of them came and made a slit in them, and another tore a little bit out, and they all came running and tearing little bits till he hadn’t a rag left. Just to be humbugging him they did that. And they gave him good help, for he had but an acre of land, and he had as much on it as another would have on a big farm. But his wife didn’t like him to be going and some one told her of a cure for him, and she said she’d try it and if she did, within two hours after she was dead; killed they had her before she’d try it. He used to say that where he was brought was into a round very big house, and Cairns that went with them told me the same .
Three times when I went for water to the well, the water spilled over me, and I told Bridget after that they must bring the water themselves, I’d go for it no more. And the third time it was done there was a boy, one of the Heniffs, was near, and when he heard what happened me he said, “It must have been the woman that was at the well along with you that did that.” And I said there was no woman at the well along with me. “There was,” said he; “I saw her there beside you, and the two little tins in her hand.”
One day after I came to live here at Coole, a strange woman came into the house, and I asked what was her name and she said, “I was in it before ever you were in it,” and she went into the room inside and I saw her no more.
But Bridget and Peter saw her coming in, and they asked me who she was, for they never saw her before. And in the night when I was sleeping at the foot of the bed, she came and threw me out on the floor, that the joint of my arm has a mark in it yet. And every night she came, and she’d spite me or annoy me in some way. And at last we got Father Nolan to come and to drive her out. And as soon as he began to read, there went out of the house a great blast, and there was a sound as loud as thunder. And Father Nolan said, “It’s well for you she didn’t have you killed before she went.”
There’s something that’s not right about an old cat and it’s well not to–annoy them. I was in the house one night, and one came in, and he tried to bring away the candle that was lighted in the candlestick, and it standing on the table. And I had a little rod beside me, and I made a hit at him with it, and with that he dropped the candle and made at me as if to tear me. And I went on my knees and asked his pardon three times, and when I asked it the third time he got quiet all of a minute, and went out at the door.
And as to hares–bid Master Robert never to shoot a hare, for you wouldn’t know what might be in it. There were two women I knew, mother and daughter, and they died. And one day I was out by the wood, and I saw two hares sitting by the wall, and the minute I saw them I knew well who they were. And the mother made as though she’d kill me, but the daughter stopped her. Bad they must have been to have been put into that shape, and indeed I know that they weren’t too good. I saw the mother another time come up near the door as if to see me, and when she got near, she turned herself into a red hare.
The priests can do cures out of their book, and the time the cure is done is when they turn the second leaf. There was a boy near Kinvara got a hurt and he was brought into a house and Father Grogan was got to do a cure on him. And he did it, and within two days the priest’s brother was made a fool of, and is locked up in a madhouse ever since, and it near seven years ago .
There was a boy of the Nally’s died near a year ago; and when I heard he was dead I went down to the house, and there I saw him outside and two men bringing him away, and one of them said to me, “We couldn’t do this but for you being there watching us.” That’s the last time I saw any of them.
There was a boy got a fall from a cart near the house beyond, and he was brought in to Mrs. Raynor’s and laid in the bed and I went in to see him. And he said what he saw was a little boy run across the road before the cart, and the horse took fright and ran away and threw him from it. And he asked to be brought to my house, for he wouldn’t stop where he was; “for” says he, “the woman of this house gave me no drink and showed me no kindness, and she’ll be repaid for that.” And sure enough within the year she got the dropsy and died. And he was carried out of the door backwards, but the mother brought him to her own house and wouldn’t let him come to mine, and ’twas as well, for I wouldn’t refuse him, but I don’t want to be annoyed with them any more than I am.
Did you know Mrs. Byrne that lived in Doolin? Swept she was after her child was born. And near a year after I saw her coming down the road near the old castle. “Is that you, Mary?” I said to her, “and is it to see me you are coming?” But she went on. It was in May when they are all changing . There was a priest, Father Waters, told me one time that he was after burying a boy, one Fahy, in Kilbecanty churchyard. And he was passing by the place again in the evening, and there he saw a great fire burning, but whether it was of turf or of sticks he couldn’t tell, and there was the boy he had buried sitting in the middle of it.
I know that I used to be away among them myself, but how they brought me I don’t know, but when I’d come back, I’d be cross with the husband and with all. I believe when I was with them I was cross that they wouldn’t let me go, and that’s why they didn’t keep me altogether; they didn’t like cross people to be with them. The husband would ask me where I was, and why I stopped so long away, but I think he knew I wastaken and it fretted him, but he never spoke much about it. But my mother knew it well, but she’d try to hide it. The neighbours would come in and ask where was I, and she’d say I was sick in the bed-for whatever was put there in place of me would have the head in under the bed-clothes. And when a neighbour would bring me in a drink of milk, my mother would put it by and say, “Leave her now, maybe she’ll drink it tomorrbw.” And maybe in a day or two I’d meet someone and he’d say, “Why wouldn’t you speak to me when I went into the house to see you?” And I was a young fresh woman at that time. Where they brought me to I don’t know, or how I got there, but I’d be in a very big house, and it round, the walls far away that you’d hardly see them, and a great many people all round about. I saw there neighbours and friends that I knew, and they in their own clothing and with their own appearance, but they wouldn’t speak to me nor I to them, and when I’d met them again I’d never say to them that I saw them there. But the others had striped clothes of all colours, and long faces, and they’d be talking and laughing and moving about. What language had they? Irish of course, what else would they talk?
And there was one woman of them, very tall and with a long face, standing in the middle, taller than any one you ever saw in this wor]d, and a tail stick in her hand; she was the mistress. She had a high yellow thing on her head, not hair, her hair was turned back under it, and she had a long yellow cloak down to her feet and hanging down behind. Had she anything like that in the picture in her hand? [a crown of gold balls or apples.] It was not on her head, it was lower down here about the body, and shining, and a thing [a brooch] like that in the picture, but down hanging low like the other. And that picture you have there in your hand, I saw no one like it, but I saw a picture like it hanging on the wall . It was a very big place and very grand, and a long table set out, but I didn’t want to stop there and I began crying to go home. And she touched me here in the breast with her stick, she was vexed to see me wanting to go away. They never brought me away since. Grand food they’d offer me and wine, but I never would touch it, and sometimes I’d have to give the breast to a child.
Himself died, but it was they took him from me. It was in the night and he lying beside me, and I woke and heard him move, and I thought I heard some one with him. And I put out my hand and what I touched was an iron hand, like knitting needles it felt. And I heard the bones of his neck crack, and he gave a sort of a choked laugh, and I got out of the bed and struck a light and I saw nothing, but I thought I saw some one go through the door. And I called to Bridget and she didn’t come, and I called again and she came and she said she struck a light when she heard the noise and was coming, and someone came and struck the light from her hand. And when we looked in the bed, himself was lying dead and not a mark on him.
There was a woman, Mrs. Leary, had something wrong with her, and she went to Biddy Early. And nothing would do her but to bring my son along with her, and I was vexed. What call had she to bring him with her? And when Biddy Early saw him she said, “You’ll travel far, but wherever you go you’ll not escape them.” The woman he went up with died about six months after, but he went to America, and he wasn’t long there when what was said came true, and he died. They followed him as far as he went.
And one day since then I was on the road to Gort, and Madden said to me, “Your son’s on the road before you.” And I said, “How could that be, and he dead?” But still I hurried on. And at Coole gate I met a little boy and I asked did he see any one and he said, “You know well who I saw.” But I got no sight of him at all myself.
I saw the coach one night near Kiltartan Chapel. Long it was and black, and I saw no one in it. But I saw who was sitting up driving it, and I knew it to be one of the Miskells that was taken before that .
One day I was following the goat to get a sup of milk from her, and she turned into the field and up into the castle of Lydican and went up from step to step up the stairs to the top, and I followed and on the stairs a woman passed me, and I knew her to be Colum’s wife. And when we got to the room at the top, I looked up, and there standing on the wall was a woman looking down at me, long-faced and tall and with grand clothes, and on her head something yellow and slippery, not hair but like marble . And I called out to ask her wasn’t she afraid to be up there, and she said she was not. And a shepherd that used to live below in the castle saw the same woman one night he went up to the top, and a room and a fire and she sitting by it, but when he went there again there was no sign of her nor of the room, nothing but the stones as before.
I never saw them on horses; but when I came to live at Peter Mahony’s he used to bring in those red flowers [ragweed] that grow by the railway, when their stalks were withered, to make the fire. And one day I was out in the road, and two men came over to me and one was wearing a long grey dress. And he said to me, “We have no horses to ride on and have to go on foot, because you have too much fire.” So then I knew it was their horses we were burning .
I know the cure for anything they can do to you, but it’s few I’d tell it to. It was a strange woman came m and told it to me, and I never saw her again. She bid me spit and use the spittle, or to take a graineen of dust from the navel, and that’s what you should do if any one you care for gets a cold or a shivering, or they put anything upon him.
One time I went up to a forth beyond Raheen to pick up a few sticks, and I was beating one of the sticks on the ground to break it, and a voice said from below, “Is it to break down the house you want?” And a thing appeared that was like a cat, but bigger than any cat ever was. And another time in a forth a man said, “Here’s gold for you, but don’t look at it till you go home.” And I looked and I saw horse-dung and I said, “Keep it yourself, much good may it do you.” They never gave me anything did me good, but a good deal of torment I had from them. And they’re often walking the road, and if you met them you wouldn’t know them from any other person; but I’d know them well enough, but I’d say nothing-and that’s a grand bush we’re passing by-whether it belongs to them I don’t know, but wherever they get shelter, there they might be-but anyway it’s a very fine bush–God bless it.
And when you speak of them you should always say the day of the week. Maybe you didn’t notice that I said, “This is Friday” just when we were hardly in at the gate.
It’s very weak I am, and took to my bed since yesterday. They’ve changed now out of where they were near the castle, and it’s inside Coole demesne they are. It was an old man told me that, I met him on the road there below. First I thought he was a young man, and then I saw he was not, and he grew very nice-looking after, and he had plaid clothes. “We’re moved out of that now,” he said, “and it’s strangers will be coming in it. And you ought to know me,” he said. And when I looked at him I thought I did.
And one day I was down in Coole I saw their house, more like a big dairy, with red tiles and a high chimney and a lot of smoke out of it, and there was a woman at the door and two or three outside. But they’ll do you no harm, for the man told me so. “They needn’t be afraid,” he said, “we’re good neighbors, but let them not say too much if the milk might go from the cows now and again.”
I was over beyond Raheen one time, and I saw a woman milking and she at the wrong side of the cow. And when she saw me she got up, and she had a bucket that was like a plate, and it full of milk and she gave it to a man that was waiting there, that I thought first was one of the O’Heas, and they went away. And the cow was a grand fine one, but who it belonged to I didn’t know-maybe to themselves.
It’s about a week ago one night some one came into the room in the dark, and I saw it was my son that I lost-he that went to America–James. He didn’t die, he was whipped away-I knew he wasn’t dead, for I saw him one day on the road to Gort on a coach, and he looked down and he said, “That’s my poor mother.” And when he came in here, I couldn’t see him, but I knew him by his talk. And he said, “It’s asleep she is,” and he put his two hands on my face and I never stirred. And he said, “I’m not far from you now.” For he is with the others inside Coole near where the river goes down the swallow hole. To see me he came, and I think he’ll be apt to come again before long. And last night there was a light about my head all the night and no candle in the room at all.
Yes, the Sidhe sing, and they have pipers among them, a bag on each side and a pipe to the mouth, I think I never told you of one I saw.
I was passing a field near Kiltartan one time when I was a girl, where there was a little lisheen, and a field of wheat, and when I was passing I heard a piper beginning to play, and I couldn’t but begin to dance, it was such a good tune; and there was a boy standing there, and he began to dance too. And then my father came by, and he asked why were we dancing, and no one playing for us. And I said there was, and I began to search through the wheat for the piper, but I couldn’t find him, and I heard a voice saying, “You’ll see me yet, and it will be in a town.” Well, one Christmas eve I was in Gort and my husband with me, and that night at Gort I heard the same tune beginning again–the grandest I ever heard-and I couldn’t but begin to dance. And Glynn the chair-maker heard it too, and he began to dance with me in the street, and my man thought I had gone mad, and the people gathered round us, for they could see or hear nothing. But I saw the piper well, and he had plaid clothes, blue and white, and he said, “Didn’t I tell you that when I saw you again it would be in a town?”
I never saw fire go up in the air, but in the wood beyond the tree at Raheen I used often to see like a door open at night, and the light shining through it, just as it might shine through the house door, with the candle and the fire inside, if it would be left open.
Many of them I have seen-they are like ourselves only wearing bracket clothes , and their bodies are not so strong or so thick as ours, and their eyes are more shining than our eyes. I don’t see many of them here, but Coole is alive with them, as plenty as grass; I often go awhile and Sit inside the gate there. I saw them make up a house one time near the natural bridge, and I saw them coming over the gap twice near the chapel, a lot of little boys, and two men and a woman, and they had old talk and young talk. One of them came m here twice, and I gave him a bit of bread, but he said, “There’s salt in it” and he put it away .
When Annie Rivers died the other day, there were two funerals in it, a big funeral with a new coffin and another that was in front of them, men walking, the handsomest I ever saw, and they with black clothes about their body. I was out there looking at them, and there was a cow in the road, and I said, “Take care would you drive away the cow.” And one of them said, “No fear of that, we have plenty of cows on the other side of the wall.”But no one could see them but myself. I often saw them and it was they took the sight of my eyes from me. And Annie Rivers was not in the grand coffin, she was with them a good while before the funeral.
That time I saw the two funerals at Rivers’s that I was telling you about, I heard Annie call to those that were with her, “You might as well let me have Bartley; it would be better for the two castles to meet.” And since then the mother is uneasy about Bartley, and he fell on the floor one day and I know well he is gone since the day Annie was buried. And I saw others at the funeral, and some that you knew well among them. And look now, you should send a coat to some poor person, and your own friends among the dead will be covered, for you could see the skin here. [She made a gesture passing her hand down each arm, exactly the same gesture as old Mary Glynn of Slieve Echtge had made yesterday when she said, “Have you a coat you could send me, for my arms are bare.” and I had promised her one.]
* * *
Would I have gone among them if I had died last month? I think not. I think that I have lived my time out, since my father was taken.
He was a young man at that time, and one time I was out in the field, and I got a knock on the foot, and a lump rose; there is the mark of it yet. It was after that I was on the road with my father, near Kinvara, and a man came and began to beat him. And I thought that he was going to beat me, and I got in near the wall and my father said, “Spare the girl!” “I will do that, I will spare her,” said the man. He went away then, and within a week my father was dead.
And my mother told me that before the burying, she saw the corpse on the bed, sitting on the side of the bed, and his feet hanging down. I saw my father often since then, but not this good while now. He had always a young appearance when I saw him.
A big woman came to the window and looked in at me, the time I was on the bed lately. “Rise up out of that,” she said. I saw her another time on the road, and the wind blew her dress open, and I could see that she had nothing at all on underneath it.
In May they are as thick everywhere as the grass, but there’s no fear at all for you or for Master Robert. I know that, for one told it to me.
“Tir-nan-og” that is not far from us. One time I was in the chapel at Labane, and there was a tall man sitting next me, and he dressed in grey, and after the Mass I asked him where he came from. “From Tir-na- nog,” says he. “And where is that?” I asked him. “It’s not far from you,” he said; “it’s near the place where you live.” I remember well the look of him and him telling me that. The priest was looking at us while we were talking together .”
She died some years ago and I am told.
“There is a ghost in Mrs. Sheridan’s house. They got a priest to say Mass there, but with all that there is not one in it has leave to lay a head on the pillow till such time as the cock crows.
I was told one day by our doctor, a good fowler and physician, now, alas, passed away, of an old man in Glare who had knowledge of “the Others,” and 1 took Mr. Yeats to see him.
We found him in his hayfield, and he took us to his thatched lime-white house and told us many things. A little later we went there again to verify what I had put down. I remember him as very gentle and courteous, and that a cloth was spread and tea made for us by his daughters, he himself sitting at the head of the table.
Mr. Yeats at that time wore black clothes and a soft black hat, but gave them up later, because he was so often saluted as a priest. But this time another view was taken, and I was told after a while that the curate of the Glare parish had written to the curate of a Gonnacht parish that Lady Gregory had come over the border with “a Scripture Reader” to try and buy children for proselytising purposes. But the Connacht curate had written back to the Glare curate that he had always thought him a fool, and now he was sure of it.
The old man I have called Mr. Saggarton said:
Our family dimimshed vcry much till at last there were but three brothers left, and they separated. One went to Ennis and another came here and the other to your own place beyond. It was a long time before they could make one another out again. It was my uncle used to go away among them.When I was a young chap, I’d go out in the field working with him, and he’d bid me go away on some message, and when I’d come back it might be in a faint I’d find him. It was he himself was taken; it was but his shadow or some thing in his likeness was left behind. He was a very strong man. You might remember Ger Kelly what a strong man he was, and Stout, and six feet two inches in height. Well, he and my uncle had a dispute one time, and he made as if to strike at him, and my uncle, without so much as taking off his coat, gave one blow that stretched him on the floor. And at the barn at Bunahowe he and my father could throw a hundred weight over the collar beam, what no other could do . My father had no notion at all of managing things. He lived to be eighty years, and all his life he looked as innocent as that little chap turning the hay. My uncle had the same innocent look; I think they died quite happy.
One time the wife got a touch, and she got it again, and the third time she got up in the morning and went out of the house and never said where she was going. But I had her watched, and I told the boy to follow her and never to lose sight of her, and I gave him the sign to make if he’d meet any bad thing. So he followed her, and she kept before him, and while he was going along the road something was up on top of the wall with one leap a red-haired man it was, with no legs and with a thin face . But the boy made the sign and got hold of him and carried him till he got to the bridge. At the first he could not lift the man, but after he made the sign he was quite light. And the woman turned home again, and never had a touch after. It’s a good job the boy had been taught the sign. Make that sign with your thumbs if ever when you’re walking out you feel a sort of a shivering in the skin, for that shows there’s some bad thing near, but if you hold your hands like that, if you went into a forth itself, it couldn’t harm you. And if you should any time feel a sort of a pain in your little finger, the surest thing is to touch it with human dung. Don’t neglect that, for if they’re glad to get one of us, they’d be seven times better pleased to get the like of you.
Youngsters they take mostly to do work for them, and they are death on handsome people, for they are handsome themselves. To all sorts of work they put them, and digging potatoes and the like, and they have wine from foreign parts, and cargoes of gold coming in to them. Their houses are ten times more beautiful and ten times grander than any house in this world. And they could build one of them up in that field in ten minutes. Clothes of all colours they wear, and crowns like that one in the picture, and of other shapes . They have different queens, not always the same. The people they bring away must die some day; as to themselves, they were living from past ages, and they can never die till the time when God has His mind made up to redeem them.
And those they bring away are always glad to be brought back again. If you were to bring a heifer from those mountains beyond and to put it into a meadow, it would be glad to get back again to the mountain, because it is the place it knows.
Coaches they make up when they want to go driving, with wheels and all, but they want no horses. There might be twenty of them going out together sometimes, and all full of them. They are everywhere around us, and may be within a yard of us now in the grass. But if I ask you, “What day is tomorrow,” and you said, “Thursday,” they wouldn’t be able to overhear us. They have the power to go in every place, even on to the hook the priest is using.
There was one John Curran lived over there towards Bunahowe, and he had a cow that died, and they were striving to rear the calf-boiled hay they were giving it, the juice the hay was boiled in. And you never saw anything to thrive as it did. And one day some man was looking at it and he said, “You may be sure the mother comes back and gives it milk.” And John Curran said, “How can that be, and she dead?” But the man said, “She’s not dead, she’s in the forth beyond. And if you go towards it half an hour before sunrise you’ll find her, and you should catch a hold of her and bring her home and milk her, and when she makes to go away again, take a hold of her tail and follow her.” So he went out next morning, half an hour before sunrise, up toward the forth, and brought her home and milked her, and when the milking was done she started to go away and he caught a hold of the tail and was carried along with her. And she brought him into the forth, through a door. And behind the door stood a barrel, and what was in the barrel is what they put their finger in, and touch their forehead with when they go out,for if they didn’t do that all people would be able to see them. And as soon as he got in, there were voices from all sides. “Welcome, John Curran, welcome, John Curran.” And he said: “The devil take you, how well you know my name; it’s not a welcome I want, it’s my cow to bring home again.” So in the end he got the cow and brought her home. And he saw there a woman that had died out of the village about ten years before, and she suckling a child .
Surely I knew Biddy Early, and my uncle was a friend of hers. It was from the same power they got the cures. My uncle left me the power, and I was well able to do them and did many, hut my stock was all dying and what could I do? So I gave a part of the power to Mrs. Tohin that lives in Gort and she can cure a good many things. Biddy Early told me herself that where she got it was when she was a servant girl in a house, there was a baby lying in the cradle, and he went on living for a few years. But he was friendlv to her and used to play tunes for her and when he went away he gave her the bottle and the power.
She had but to look in it and she’d see all that had happened and all that was going to happen. But he made her make a promise never to take more than a shilling for any cure she did, and she would not have taken fifty pounds if you offered it to her, though she might take presents of bread and wine and such things.
The cure for all things in the world? Surely she had it and knew where it was. And I knew it myself too–but I could not tell you of it. Seven parts I used to make it with, and one of them is a thing that’s in every house.
There’s a lake beyond there, and my uncle one day told us by name of a man that would be drowned there at twelve o’clock that day. And so it happened.
One time I was walking on the road to Galway, near the sea, and another man along with me. And I saw in a field beside the road a very small woman walking down towards us, and she smiling and carrying a can of water in her hand, and she was dressed in a blue spencer. So I asked the other man did he see her, and he said he did not, and when I came up to the wall she was gone.
One time myself when I went to look for a wife, I went to the house, and there was a hen and some chickens before the door. Well, after I went home one of the chickens died. And what do you think they said, but that it was I overlooked it.
They hate me because I do cures, and they hated Biddy Early too. The priests do them but not in the same way–they do them by the power of Almighty God.
My wife got a touch from them, and they have a watch on her ever since. It was the day after I married and I weht to the fair at Clarenbridge. And when I came back the house was full of smoke, but there was nothing on the hearth but cinders, and the smoke was more like the smoke of a forge. And she was within lying on the bed, and her brother was sitting outside the door crying. So I went to the mother and asked her to come in, and she was crying too. And she knew well what had happened, but she didn’t tell me, but she sent for the priest. And when he came he sent me for Geoghegan and that was only an excuse to get me away, and what he and the mother tried to bring her to do was to face death, and they knew I wouldn’t allow that if I was there. But the wife was very stout and she wouldn’t give in to them. So the priest read more, and he asked would I be willing to lose something, and I said, so far as a cow or a calf I wouldn’t mind losing that. Well, she partly recovered, but from that day, no year went by but I lost ten lambs maybe or other things. And twice they took my children out of the bed, two of them I have lost. And the others they gave a touch to. That girl there–see the way she is, and can’t walk. In one minute it came on her out in the field, with the fall of a wall .
It was one among them that wanted the wife. A woman and a boy we often saw come to the door, and she was the matchmaker. And when we would go out, they would have vanished.
Biddy Early’s cure that you heard of, it was the moss on the water of the mill-stream between the two wheels of Ballylee. It can cure all things brought about by them, but not any common ailment. But there is no cure for the stroke given by a queen or a fool. There is a queen in every house or regiment of them. It is of those they steal away they make queens for as long as they live or that they are satisfied with them.
There were two women fighting at a spring of water, and one hit the other on the head with a can and killed her. And after that her children began to die. And the husband went to Biddy Early and as soon as she saw him she said, “There’s nothing I can do for you, your wife was a wicked woman, and the one she hit is a queen among them, and she is taking your children one by one and you must suffer till twenty-one years are up.” And so he did.
The stroke of a fool, there’s no cure for either. There are many fools among them dressed in strange clothes like one of the mummers that used to be going through the country. But it might be the fools are the wisest after all. There are two classes, the Dundonians that are like ourselves, and another race, more wicked and more spiteful. Very small they are and wide, and their belly sticks out in front, so that what they carry they don’t carry it on the back, but in front, on the belly in a bag .
They were fighting when Johnny Casey died; that’s what often happens. Everyone has friends among them, and the friends would be trying to save you when the others would be trying to bring you away. Youngsters they pick up here and there, to help them in their fights and in their work. They have cattle and horses, but all of them have only three legs.
They don’t have children themselves, only the women that are brought away among them, they have children, but they don’t live for ever) like the Dundonians.
The handsome they like, and the good dancers. And if they get a boy amongst them, the first to touch him, he belongs to her.
There was a boy was a splendid dancer, and straight and firm, for they don’t like those that go to right or left as they walk. Well, one night he was going to a house where there was a dance, and when he was about half-way to it, he came to another house, where there was music and dancing going on. So he turned in, and there was a room all done up with curtains and with screens, and a room inside where the people were sitting, and it was only those that were dancing sets that came to the outside room.
As to their treasure, it’s best to be without it. There was a man living by a forth, and where his house touched the forth, he built a little room and left it for them, clean and in good order, the way they’d like it. And whenever he’d want money, for a fair or the like, he’d find it laid on the table in the morning. And when he had it again, he’d leave it there, and it would be taken away in the night. But after that going on for a time he lost his son.
There was a room at Crags where things used to be thrown about, and everyone could hear the noises there. They had a right to clear it out and settle it the way they’d like it. You should do that in your own big house. Set a little room for them–with spring water in it always-and wine you might leave–no, not flowers–they wouldn’t want so much as that–but just what would show your good will.
Now I have told you more than I told my wife.
“A GREAT WARRIOR IN THE BUSINESS”
It was on the bounds of Connemara I heard of this healer, and went to see his wife in her little rockbuilt cabin among the boulders, to ask if a cure could be done for Mr. Yeats, who was staying at a friend’s house near, and who was at that time troubled by uncertain eyesight.
One evening later we walked beside the sea to the cottage where we were to meet the healer; a storm was blowing and we were glad when the door was opened and we found a bright turf fire.
He was short and broad, with regular features, and his hair was thick and dark, though he was an old man. He Wore a flannel-sleeved waistcoat, and his trousers were much patched on the knees. He sat on a low bench in the wide chimney nook, holding a soft hat in his hands which kept nervously moving. The woman of the house came over now and then to look at the iron tripod on the hearth. She, like the healer, spoke only Irish. The man of the house sat between us and interpreted, holding a dip candle in his hands. A dog growled without ceasing at one side of the hearth, a reddish cat sat at the other. The woman seemed frightened and angry at times as the old man spoke, and clutched the baby to her breast.
I was told by the man of the house, Coneely:
There’s a man beyond is a great warrior in this business, and no man within miles of the place will build a house or a cabin or any other thing without him going there to say if it’s in a right place.
It was Fagan cured me of a pain I had in my arm, I couldn’t get rid of. He gave me a something to drink, and he bid me go to a quarry and to touch some of the stones that were lying outside it and not to touch others of them. Anyway I got well.
And one time down by the hill we were gathering in the red seaweed, and there was a boy there that was leading a young horse, the same way he’d been leading him a year or more. But this day of a sudden he made a snap to bite him, and secondly he reared as if to jump on top of him, and thirdly turned around and made at him with the hoofs. And the boy threw himself to one side and escaped, but with the fright he got he went into his bed and stopped there. And the next day Fagan came and told him everything that had happened, and he said, “I saw thousands on the strand near where it was last night.”
Pagan’s wife said to me in her house:
Are you right? You are? Then you’re my friend. Come here close and tell me is there anything himself can do for you?
I do the fortunes no more since I got great abuse from the priest for it. Himself got great abuse from the priest too–Father Haverty–and he gave him plaster of Paris–I mean by that he spoke soft and blathered him, but he does them all the same, and Father Kilroy gave him leave when he was here.
It was from his sister he got the cure. Taken she was when her baby was born. She died in the morning and the baby at night. We didn’t tell John of it for a month after, where he was away, caring horses. But he knew of it before he came home, for she followed him there one day he was out in the field, and when he didn’t know her she said, “I’m your sister Kate.” And she said, “I bring you a cure that you may cure both yourself and others.” And she told him of the herb and the field he’d find it growing, and that he must choose a plant with seven branches, the half of them above the clay and the half of them covered up. And she told him how to use it.
Twenty years she’s gone, but she’s not dead yet, but the last time he saw her he said that she was getting grey. Every May and November he sees her, he’ll be seeing her soon now. When her time comes to die, she’ll be put in the place of some other one that’s taken, and so she’ll get absolution .
He has cured many. But sometimes they are vexed with him, for some cure he has done, when he interferes with some person they’re meaning to bring away. And many’s the good beating they gave him out in the fields for doing that.
Myself they gave a touch to, here in the thigh, so that I lost my walk; vexed with me they are for giving up the throwing of the cup.
A nurse she’s been all the time among them. And don’t believe those that say they have no children. A boy among them is as clever as any boy here, but he must be matched with a woman from earth. And the same way with their women, they must get a husband here. And they never can give the breast to a child, but must get a nurse from here.
One time I saw them myself, in a field and they hurling. Bracket caps they wore and bracket clothes that were of all colours.
Some were the same size as ourselves and some looked like gossoons that didn’t grow well. But himself has the second sight and can see them in every place.
There’s as many of them in the sea as on the land, and some-times they fly like birds across the bay.
The first time he did a cure it was on some poor person like ourselves, and he took nothing for it, and in the night the sister came and bid him not to do it any more without a fee. And that time we lost a fine boy.
They’ll all be watching round when a person is dying; and suppose it was myself, there’d be my own friends crying, crying, and themselves would be laughing and jesting, and glad I’d go .
There is always a mistress among them. When one of us goes among them they would all be laughing and jesting, but when that tall mistress you heard of would tip her stick on the ground, they’d all draw to silence.
Tell me the Christian name of your friend you want the cure for. “William Butler,” I’ll keep that . And when himself gathers the herb, if it’s for a man, he must call on the name of some other man, and call him a king–Righ–and if it’s for a woman he must call on the name of some other woman and call her a queen that is calling on the king or the queen of the plant.
Pagan said to W. B. Yeats and to me:
It’s not from them the harm came to your eyes. I see them in all places–and there’s no man mowing a meadow that doesn’t see them at some time or other. As to what they look like, they’ll change colour and shape and clothes while you look round. Bracket caps they always wear. There is a king and a queen and a fool in each house of them, that is true enough-but they would do you no harm. The king and the queen are kind and gentle, and whatever you’ll ask them for they’ll give it. They’ll do no harm at all if you don’t injure them. You might speak to them if you’d meet them on the road, and they’d answer you, if you’d speak civil and quiet and show respect, and not be laughing or humbugging-they wouldn’t like that. One night I was in bed with the wife beside me, and the child near me, near the fire. And I turned and saw a woman sitting by the fire, and she made a snap at the child, and I was too quick for her and got hold of it, and she was at the door and out of it in one minute, before I could get to her.
Another time in the field a woman came beside me, and I went on to a gap in the wall and she was in it before me. And then she stopped me and she said: “I’m your sister that was taken; and don’t you remember how I got the fever first and you tended me, and then you got it yourself, and one had to be taken and I was the one.” And she taught me the cure, and the way to use it. And she told me that she was in the best of places, and told me many things that she bound me not to tell. And I asked was it here she was kept ever since, and she said it was, but she said, “In six months I’ll have to move to another place, and others will come where I am now, and it would be better for you if we stopped here, for the most of us here now are your neighbours and your friends.” And it was she gave me the second sight ..
Last year I was digging potatoes and a man came by, one of them, and one that I knew well before. And he said, “You have them this year, and we’ll have them the next two years.” And you know the potatoes were good last year and you see that they are bad now, and have been made away with . And the sister told me that half the food in Ireland goes to them, but that if they like they can make out of cow-dung all they want, and they can come into a house and use what they like and it will never be missed in the morning.
The old man suddenly stooped and took a handful of hot ashes in his hand, and put them my his pocket. And presently he said he’d be afraid tonight going home the road. When we asked him why, he said he’d have to tell what errand he had been on.
He said one eye of W. B. Y.’s was worse than the other, and asked if he had ever slept out at nights. We asked if he goes to enquire of them (the Others) what is wrong with those who came to him and he said, “Yes, when it has to do with their business–but in this case it has nothing to do with it .”
Coneely said next day:
I walked home with the old man last night, he was afraid to go by himself. He pointed out to me on the way a graveyard where he had got a great beating from them one night. He had a drop too much taken after being at a funeral, and he went there and gathered the plant wrong. And they came and punished him, that his head is not the better of it ever since.
He told me the way he knows in the gathering of the plant what is wrong with the person that is looking for a cure. He has to go on his knees and say a prayer to the king and the queen and the gentle and the simple among them, and then he gathers it, and if there are black leaves about it, or white ones, but chiefly a black leaf folded down, he knows the illness is some of their business; but for this young man the plant came fresh and green and clean. He has been among them and has seen the king and the queen, and he says that they are no bigger than the others, but the queen wears a wide cap, and the others have bracket caps.
He never would allow me to build a shed there beside the house, though I never saw anything there myself.
OLD DERUANE lived in the middle island of Aran, Inish-maan, where I have stayed more than once. He was one of the evening visitors to the cottage I stayed in, when the fishers had come home and had eaten, and the fire was stirred and flashed on the dried mackerel and con ger eels hanging over the wide hearth, and the little vessel of cod oil had a fresh wick put in it and lighted. The men would sit in a half-circle on the floor, passing the lighted pipe from one to another; the women would find some work with yarn or wheel. The talk often turned on the fallen angels or the dead, for the dwellers in those islands have not been moulded in that dogma which while making belief in the after-life an essential, makes belief in the shadow–visit of a spirit yearning after those it loved a vanity, a failing of the great essential, common sense, and sets down one who believes in such things as what Burton calls in his Anatomy “a melancholy dizzard.”
I was told by Old Deruane:
I was born and bred in the North Island, and ten old fathers mine are buried there.
I can speak English, because I went to earn in England in the hard times, and I was for five quarters in a country town called Manchester; and I have threescore and fifteen years.
I knew two fine young women were brought away after childbirth, and they were seen after in the North Island going about with them. One of them I saw myself there, one time I was out late at night going to the east village. I saw her pattern walking on the north side of the wall, on the road near me, but she said nothing. And my body began to shake, and I was going to get to the south side of the wall, to put it between us; but then I said, “Where is God?” and I walked on and passed her, and she looked aside at me but she didn’t speak. And I heard her after me for a good while, but I never looked back, for it’s best not to look back at them.
And there was another woman had died, and one evening late I was coming from the schoolmaster, for he and I are up to one another, and he often gives me charity. And then I saw her or her pattern walking along that field of rock you passed by just now. But I stopped and I didn’t speak to her, and she went on down the road, and when she was about forty fathoms below me I could hear her abusing some one, but no one there. I thought maybe it was that she was vexed at me that I didn’t question her. She was a young woman too. I’ll go bail they never take an old man or woman-what would they do with them? If by chance they’d come among them they’d throw them out again.
Another night I was out and the moon shining, I knew by the look of it the night was near wore away. And when I came to the corner of the road beyond, my flesh began to shake and my hair rose up, and every hair was as stiff as that stick. So I knew that some evil thing was near, and I got home again. This island is as thick as grass with them, or as sand; but good neighbours make good neighbours, and no woman minding a house but should put a couple of the first of the potatoes aside on the dresser, for there’s no house but they’ll visit it some time or other. Myself, I always brush out my little tent clean of a night before I lie down, and the night I’d do it most would be a rough night. How do we know what poor soul might want to come in?
I saw them playing ball one day when the slip you landed at was being made, and I went down to watch the work. There were hundreds of them in the field at the top of it, about three feet tall, and little caps on them; but the men that were working there, they couldn’t see them . And one morning I went down to the well to leave my pampooties in it to soak-it was a Sabbath morning and I was going to Mass-and the pampooties were hard and wore away my feet, and I left them there. And when I came back in a few minutes they were gone, and I looked in every cleft, but I couldn’t find them. And when I was going away, I felt them about me, and coming between my two sticks that I was walking with. And I stopped and looked down and said, “I know you’re there,” and then I said, “Gentlemen, I know you’re here about me,” and when I said that word they went away. Was it they took my pampooties? Not at all-what would they want with such a thing as pampooties? It was some children must have taken them, and I never saw them since.
One time I wanted to settle myself clean, and I brought down my waistcoat and a few little things I have, to give them a rinse in the sea-water, and I laid them out on a stone to dry, and I left one of my sticks on them. And when I came back after leaving them for a little time, the stick was gone. And I was vexed at first to be without it, but I knew that they had taken it to be humbugging me, or maybe for their own use in fighting. Por there is nothing there is more fighting among than them. So I said, “Welcome to it,Gentlemen, may it bring you luck; maybe you’ll make more use of it than ever I did myself.”
One night when I was sleeping in my little tent, I heard a great noise of fighting, and I thought it was down at Mrs. Jordan’s house, and that maybe the children were troublesome in the bed, she having a great many of them. And in the morning as I passed the house I said to her, “What was on you in the night?” And she said there was nothing happened there, and that she heard no noise. So I said nothing but went on; and when I came to the flag-stones beyond her house, they were covered with great splashes and drops of blood. So I said nothing of that either, but went on. What time of the year? Wait till I think, it was this very same time of the year, the month of May.
One time I was out putting seed in the ground, and the ridges all ready and the seaweed spread in them; and it was a fine day, but I heard a storm in the air, and then I knew by signs that it was they were coming. And they came into the field and tossed the seaweed and the seed about, and I spoke to them civil and then they went into a neighbour’s field and from that down to the sea, and there they turned into a ship, the grandest that ever I saw.
There was a man was passing by that Sheogney place below, fishing in his curragh, and when they were about a mile out they saw a ship coming towards them, and when they looked again, instead of having three masts she had none, and just when they were going to take up the curragh to bring it ashore, a great wave came and turned it upside down. And the man that owned her got such a fright that he couldn’t walk, and the other two had to hold him under the arms to bring him home. And he went to his bed, and within a week after, he was dead.
One night I heard a crying down the road, and the next day, there was a child of Tom Regan’s dead. And it was a few months after that, that I heard a crying again. And the next day another of his children was gone.
There was a fine young man was buried in the graveyard below, and a good time after that, there was work being done in it, and they came on his coffin, and the mother made them open it, and there was nothing in it at all but a broom, and it tied up with a bit of a rope.
There was a man was passing by that Sheogney place below, “Breagh” we call it. And he saw a man come riding out of it on a white horse. And when he got home that night there was nothing for him or for any of them to eat, for the potatoes were not in yet. And in the morning he asked the wife was there anything to eat, and she said a neighbour had sent in a pan of meal. So she made that into stirabout, and he took but a small bit of it out of her hand to leave more for the rest. And then he took a sheet, and bid her make a bag of it, and he got a horse and rode to the place where he saw the man ride out, for he knew he was the master of them. And he asked for the full of the bag of meal, and said he’d bring it back again, when he had it. And the man brought the bag in, and filled it for him and brought it out again. And when the oats were ripe, the first he cut, he got ground at the mill and brought it to the place and gave it in. And the man came out and took it, and said whatever he’d want at any time, to come to him and he’d get it.
In a bad year they say they bring away the potatoes and that may be so. They want provision, and they must get them at one place or another.
Mr. McArdle joins in and says:
This I can tell you and be certain of, and I remember well that the man in the third house to this died after being sick a long time. And the wife died after, and she was to be buried in the same place, and when they came to the husband’s coffin they opened it, and there was nothing in it at all, neither brooms nor anything else.
There’s a boy, I know him well, that was up at that forth above the house one day, and a blast of wind came and blew the hat off him. And when he saw it going off in the air he cried out, “Do whatever is pleasing to you, but give me back my cap!” And in the moment it was settled back again on to his head.
Old Deruane goes on:
There are many can do cures, because they have something walking with them, what one may call a ghost from among the Sheogue. A few cures I can do myself, and this is how I got them. I told you that I was for five quarters in Manchester, and where I lodged were two old women in the house, from the farthest end of Mayo, for they were running from Mayo at the time because of the hunger. And I knew that they were likely to have a cure, for St. Patrick blessed the places he was not in more than the places he was in, and with the cure he left and the fallen angels, there are many in Mayo can do them.
Now it’s the custom in England never to clean the table but once in the week and that on a Saturday night. And on that night all is set out clean, and all the crutches of bread and bits of meat and the like are gathered together in a tin can, and thrown out in the street, and women that have no other way of living come round then with a bag that would hold two stone, and they pick up all that’s thrown out in the street, and live on it for a week. And often I didn’t eat the half of what was before me, and I wouldn’t throw it out, but I’d bring it to the two old women that were in the house, so they grew very fond of me.
Well, when the time came that I thought to draw towards home, I brought them one day to a public-house and made a drop of punch for them, and then I picked the cure out of them, for I was wise in those days.
Those that get a touch I could save from being brought away, but I couldn’t bring back a man that’s away, for it’s only those that have been living among them for a while that can do that. There was a neighbour’s child was sick, and I got word of it, and I went to the house, for the woman there had showed me kindness. And I went in to the cradle and I lifted the quilt off the child’s face and you could see by it, and I knew the sign, that there was some of their work there. And I said, “You are not likely to have the child long with you, Ma’am.” And she said, “Indeed I know I won’t have him long.” So I said nothing but I went out, and whatever I did, and whatever I got there, I brought it again and gave it to the child, and he began to get better. And the next day I brought the same thing again, and gave it the child, and I looked at it and I said to the mother, “He’ll live to comb his hair grey.” And from that time he got better, and now there’s no stronger child in the island, and he the youngest in the house.
After that the husband got sick, and the woman said to me one day, “If there’s anything you can do to cure him, have pity on me and on my children, and I’ll give you what you’ll wish.” But I said, “I’ll do what I can for you, but I’ll take nothing from you except maybe a grain of tea or a glass of porter, for I wouldn’t take money for this, and I refused £2 one time for a cure I did.” So I went and I brought back the cure, and I mixed it with flour and made it into three little pills that it couldn’t be lost, and gave them to him, and from that time he got well.
There’s a woman lived down the road there, and one day I went in to the house, when she was after coming from Galway town, and I asked charity of her. And it was in the month of August when the bream fishing was going on, and she said, “There’s no one need be in want now, with fresh fish in the sea and potatoes in the gardens”; and gave me nothing. But when I was out the door she said, “Well, come back here.” And I said, “If you were to offer me all you brought from Galway, I wouldn’t take it from you now.”
And from that time she began to pine and to wear away and to lose her health, and at the end of three years, she walked outside her house one day, and when she was two yards from her own threshold she fell on the ground, and the neighbour’s came and lifted her up on a door and brought her into the house, and she died.
I think I could have saved her then–I think I could, when I saw her lying there. But I remembered that day, and I didn’t stretch out a hand and I spoke no word.
I’m going to rise out of the cures and not to do much more of them, for they have given me a touch here in the right leg, so that it’s the same as dead. And a woman of my village that does cures, she is after being struck with a pain in the hand.
Down by the path at the top of the slip from there to the hill, that’s the way they go most nights, hundreds and thousands of them. There are two old men in the island got a beating from them; one of them told me himself and brought me out on the ground, that I’d see where it was. He was out in a small field, and was after binding up the grass, and the sky got very black over him and very dark. And he was thrown down on the ground, and got a great beating, but he could see nothing at all. He had done nothing to vex them, just minding his business in the field.
And the other was an old man too, and he was out on the roads, and they threw him there and beat him that he was out of his mind for a time.
One night sleeping in that little cabin of mine, I heard them ride past, and I could hear by the feet of the horses that there was a long line of them.
This is a story was going about twenty years ago. There was a curate in the island, and one day he got a call to the other island for the next day. And in the evening he told the servant maid that attended him to clean his boots good and very good, for he’d be meeting good people where he was going. And she said, “I will, Holy Father, and if you’ll give me your hand and word to marry me for nothing, I’ll clean them grand.” And he said “I will; whenever you get a comrade I’ll marry you for nothing, I give you my hand and word.” So she had the boots grand for him in the morning. Well, she got a sickness after, and after seven months going by, she was buried. And six months after that, the curate was in his parlour one night and the moon shining, and he saw a boy and a girl outside the house, and they came to the window, and he knew it was the servant girl that was buried. And she said, “I have a comrade now, and I came for you to marry us as you gave your word.” And he said, “I’ll hold to my word since I gave it,” and he married them then and there, and they went away again.