Sacred Texts  Legends and Sagas  Celtic  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book on Kindle

Legends and Stories of Ireland, by Samuel Lover, [1831, 1834], at

New Potatoes

In the merry month of June, or thereabouts, the aforesaid melody may be heard, in all the wailing intonation of its minor third, through every street of Dublin.

We Irish are conversational, the lower orders particularly so, and the hawkers who frequent the streets often fill the lapses that occur between their cries by a current conversation with some passing friend, occasionally broken by the deponent "labouring in her calling" and yelling out: "Brave lemons" or "Green pays," in some awkward interval, frequently productive of very ludicrous effects.

Such was the case, as I happened to overhear a conversation between Katty, a black-eyed dealer in "New pittayatees!" and her friend Sally, who had "Fine fresh Dublin Bay herrings!" to dispose of. Sally, to do her justice, was a very patient hearer, and did not interrupt her friend with her own cry in the least; whether it was from being interested in her friend's little misfortunes, or that Katty was one of those "out-and-outers" in storytelling, who, when once they begin, will never leave off; nor even allow another to edge in a word as "thin as a aixpence," I will not pretend to say; but certain it is, Katty, in the course of her history, had it all her own way, like "a bull in a chaynee-shop," as she would have said herself.

Such is the manner in which the following sketch from Nature came into my possession. That it is altogether slang, I premise; and give all fastidious persons fair warning, that if a picture from low life be not according to their taste, they can leave it unread, rather than blame me for too much fidelity in my outline. So here goes at a scena, as the Italians say.




Enter Katty, with a grey cloak, a dirty cap, and a black eye; a sieve of potatoes on her head, and a "trifle o' sper'ts" in it. Katty meanders down Patrick Street.

KATTY--"My new Pittayatees!--My-a-new Pittayatees!--My new--"--(Meeting a friend.)--Sally darlin', is that you?
SALLY--Throth, it's myself; and what's the matther wid you, Katty?
KAT.--'Deed, my heart bruk oryin'--" New pittayatees "--cryin' afther that vagabone.
SAL.--Is it Mike?
KAT.--Throth, it's himself indeed.
SAL.--And what is it be done?
KAT.--Och he ruined me with his--" New pittayatees "--with his goin's-an--the ould thing, my dear.
SAL.--Throwin' up his little finger, I suppose?
KAT.--Yis, my darlint; he kem home th' other night, blazin' blind dhrunk, cryrn' out--" New pittayatees! "--roarin' and bawlin', that you'd think he' rise the roof aff o' the house.

"Bad luck attend you; bad cess to you, you pot-walloppin' varmint," says he (maynin' me, i' you plaze)--"wait till I ketch you, you sthrap, and it's I'll give you your fill iv"--' New pittayatees! '--"your fill iv a licking, if ever you got it," says he.

So, with that, I knew the villian was mulvathered; let alone the heavy fut o' the miscrayint an the stairs, that a child might know he was done for--"My new pittayatees!"--Throth, he was done to a turn, like a mutton-kidney.

SAL.--Musha! God help you, Katty.
KAT.--Oh, wait till you hear the ind o' my--"New pittayatees!"--O' my throubles, and it's then you'll open your eyes--" My new pittayatees!"
SAL.--Oh, bud I pity you.
KAT.--Oh, wait - wait, my jewel--wait till you hear what became o'--" My new pittayatees!"--wait till I tell you the ind of it. Where did I lave aff? Oh, ay, at the stairs.

Well, as he was comin' upstairs (knowin' 'how it 'd be), I thought it best to take care o' my--" New pittayatees! "--to take care o' myself; so with that I put the bowlt an the door, betune me and danger, and kep' listenin' at the key-hole; and sure enough, what should I hear but,--" New pittayatees! "--but the vagabone gropin' his way round the cruked turn In the stair, 'and tumblin' afther into the hole in the flure an the landin', and whin he come to himself, he gev a thunderin' thump at the door. "Who's there?" says I. Says he--" New pittayatees!"--" Let me in," says he, "you vagabone (swarin' by what I wouldn't mintion), or by this and that, I'll massacray you," says he, "within an inch o'--'New pittayatees!'--within an inch o' your life," says he. "Mikee darlint," says I, sootherin' him.

SAL.--Why would you call such a 'tarnal vagabone darllnt?
KAT.--My jew'l, didn't I tell you I thought it best to soother him with--" New pittayatees! "--with a tindher word; so, says I, "Mikee, you villian, you're disguised," says I; "you're disguised, dear."

"You lie," says he, "you impident sthrap, I'm not disguised; but, if I'm disguised itself," says he, "I'll make you know the differ," says he.

Oh! I thought the life id lave me, when I heerd him say the word; and with that I put my hand an--"My new pittayatees!"--an the latch o' the door, to purvint it from slippin'; and he ups and he gives a wicked kick at the door, and says he: " If you don't let me in this minit," says he, "I'll be the death o' your--'New pittayatees! '--o' yourself and your dirty breed," says he. Think o' that, Sally dear, to abuse my relations.

SAL.--Oh, the ruffin.
KAT.--Dirty breed, indeed! By my sowkins, they're as good as his any day in the year, and was never behoulden to--" New pittayatees! "--to go a-beggin' to the mendicity for their dirty--"New pittayatees! "--their dirty washin's o' pots, and sarvints' lavin's, and dogs' bones, all as one as that cruk'd disciple of his mother's cousin's sisther, the ould dhrunken asperseand, as she is.
SAL.--No, in throth, Katty dear.
KAT.--Well, where was I? Oh, ay, I left off at--" New pittayatees! "--I left off at my dirty breed. Well, at the word "dirty breed," I knew full well the bad dhrop was up in him--and faith, it's soon and suddint he made me sinsible av it, for the first word he said was--" New pittayatees! "--the first word he said was to put his shouldher to the door, and In he bursted the door, fallin' down in the middle o', the flure crylin' out--" New pittayatees! "--cryin' out. "Bad luck attind you," says he. "How dar you refuse to lit me into my own house, you sthrap," says he, "agin the law o' the land," says he, scramblin' up on his pins agin, as well as he could; and as he was risin', says I--" New pittayatees! "--says I to him (screeching out loud, that the neighbours in the flure below might hear me), "Mikee, my darlint," says I.

"Keep the pace, you vagabone," says he; and with that he hits me a lick av a--" New pittayatees!"--a lick iv a stick he had in his hand, and down. I feIl (and small blame to me), down I fell an the flure cryin'--" New pittayatees! "--cryin' out: "Murther! Murther!"

SAL.--Oh, the hangin' bone villain!
KAT.--Oh, that's not all! As I was riisin', my jew'l, he was goin' to sthrek me agin; and with that I cried out--"New pittayatees! "--I cried out: "Fair-play, Mikee," says I; "don't sthrek a man down;" but he wouldn't listen to raison, and was goin' to hit me agin, whin I put up the child that was in my arms betune me and harm. "Look at your babby, Mikee," says I.

"How do I know that, you flag-hoppin' jade," says he. (Think o' that, Sally jew'l - misdoubtin' my vartue, and I an honest woman, as l am. God help me!!!)

SAL.--Oh! but you're to be pitied, Katty dear.
KAT.--Well, puttin' up the child betune me and harm, as he was risin' his hand--" Oh I" says I, "Mikee darlint, don't sthrek the babby;" but, my dear, before the word was out o' my mouth, he sthruk the babby. (I thought the life id lave me.) And iv coorse, the poor babby, that never spuk a word, began to cry--"New pittayatees! "--began to cry and roar and bawl, and no wondher.
SAL.--Oh, the haythen, to go sthrek the child.
KAT.--And, my jew'l, the neighbours in the flure below, hearin' the skrimmage, kem runnin' up the stairs, cryin' out--" New pittayatees "--cryin' out: "Watch, watch, Mike M'Evoy," says they. "Would you murther your wife, you villain?" "What's that to you?" says he. "Isn't she my own?" says he, "and if I plans to make her feel the weight o' my--' New pittayatees! '--the weight o' my fist, what's that to you?" says he. "It's none o' your business, anyhow, so keep your tongue in your jaw, and your toe in your pump, and 'twill be betther for your--' New pittayatees '--'twill be betther for your health, I'm thinkin',", says he; and with that he looked cruked at thim, and squared up to one o' thim--a poor defincelees craythur--a tailor.

"Would you fight your match?" says the poor innocent man.

"Lave my sight," says Mike, "or by jingo, I'll put a stitch in your side, my jolly tailor," says he.

"Yiv put a stitch in your wig already," says the tailor, "and that'll do for the present writin'."

And with that, Mike. was goin' to hit him with a--" New pittayatees "--a lift-hander; but be was cotch howld iv before he could let go his blow; and who should stand up forninst him, but--" My new pittayatees "--but the tailor's wile (and by my sowl, it's she that's the sthrapper, and more's the pity she's, thrown away upon one o' the sort); and says she: "Let me at him," says she, "it's I that's used to give a man a lickin' every day in the week; you're bowld an the head now, you vagabone," says she; "but if I had you alone," says she, "no matther if I wouldn't take the consait out o' your--' New pittayatees ' - out o' your braggin' heart;" and that's the way she wint an ballyraggin' him; and by gor, they all tuk patthern afther her, and abused him, my dear, to that degree, that I vow to the Lord, the very dogs in the sthreet wouldn't lick his blood.

SAL.--Oh, my blissin' on thim.
KAT.--And with that, one and all, they begun to cry--" New pittayatees! "--they began to cry him down; and, at last, they all swore out: "Hell's bell attind your berrin," says they, "you vagabone," as they just tuk him up by the scruff o' the neck, and threw him down the stairs; every step he'd take, you'd think he'd brake his neck (Glory be to God!), and so I got rid o' the ruffin; and then they left me cryin'--" New pittayatees! "--cryin' afther the vagabone--though the angels knows well he wasn't desarvin' o' one precious dhrop that fell from my two good-lookin' eyes--and oh! but the condition he left me in.
SAL.--Lord look down an you!
KAT.--And a purty sight it id be, if you could see how I was lyin' in the middle o' the flure cryin'--New pittayatees! "--cryin' and roarin', and the poor child, with his eye knocked out, in the corner, cryin'--" New pittayatees! "--and indeed, everyone in the place was cryin'--" New pittayatees! "--was cryin' murther.
SAL.--And no wondher, Katty dear.
KAT.--Oh, bud that's not all. If you seen the condition the place was in afther it; it was turned upside down, like a beggar's breeches. Throth, I'd rather be at a bull-bait than at it--enough to make an honest woman cry--" New pittayatees! "--to see the daycent room rack'd and ruin'd, and my cap tore off my head into tatthers--throth, you might riddle bulldogs through it; and bad luck to the hap'orth he left me, but a few--"New pittayatees!"--a few coppers; for the morodin' thief spint all his--" New pittayatees! "--all his wages o' the whole week in makin' a baste iv himself; and God knows but that comes aisy to him! and divil a thing had l to put inside my face, nor dhrop to dhrlnk, berrin' a few--" New pittayatees!"--a few grains o' tay, and the ind iv a quarther o' sugar, and my eyes as big as your fist, and as black as the pot (savin' your presence), and a beautiful dish iv--" New pittayatees! "--dish iv, delf, that I bought only last week in Temple Bar, bruk in three halves in the middle o' the ruction--and the rint o' the room not ped--and I dipindin' only an--" New pittayatees! "--an cryin' a sieve-full o' praties, or schreechin' a lock o' savoys, or the like.

But I'll not brake your heart any more, Sally dear. God's good, and never opens one door but he shuts another, and that's the way iv it; and strinthins the wake with--" New pittayatees!"--with His purtection---and may the widdy and the orphin's bleesin' be an His name, I pray!--and my thrust is in Divine Providence, that was always good to me--and sure, I don't despair; but not a night that I kneel down to say my prayers, that I don't pray for - " New pittayatees! "--for all manner o' bad luck to attind that vagabone, Mikee M'Evoy. My curse light an him this blessed minit; and--

[A voice at a distance call, "'Potatoes."]

KAT.--Who calls? (Perceives, her customer.) Here, ma'am! Good-bye, Sally darlint--good-bye! "New pittayatees.!"

[Exit Katty by the Cross Poddle.]

Next: Paddy the Sport