Sacred Texts  Sagas and Legends  Celtic  Index  Previous  Next 


Barrett the Piper, you see, lost his skill, and was advised to go to the Black North to recover it (Barrett was a Munster man). Well, he took his little boy with him and they walked and they walked till the dark came, and they went into a cabin by the roadside to look for lodging. "God save all here!" says they. "Save you kindly!" says the man of the house, but he left out the HOLY NAME. "How are you, Jack Barrett?" "Musha, pure and hearty, sir; many thanks for the axing, but how did you know me?" "Och, I knew you before you were weaned. Sit down and make yourself at home; here you stay till morning." Well, faith, they got a good, supper of pytatees and milk, and a good bed of straw was made for them by the wall up near the fire, and they lay down quite comfortable to get a good sleep. But some bad thoughts came over Jack Barrett in the dead of the night, and he got up and went out of the bed, and it's in the fields he found himself, and a couple of mad dogs running after him. There was a big tree near him with ever so many crows' nests in the top, and he run and climbed up in it from the dogs, and if he missed the dogs he found the crows, and didn't they fall on him to tear his eyes out! He bawled, and he roared, and the man of the house came into the kitchen, and stirred the fire, and there was Jack Barrett on the hen-roost, and the cocks and hens cackling about him. "Musha, the sorra's on you for a Jack Barrett! How did you get up there among the fowl?" "The goodness knows; it's not their company I want. Will you help me down, honest man?"

Well, he got into bed again, and if he did he was not long there when a bad thought come into his head, and up he got. He was going into the next room, when where did he find himself but by the bank of a big river, and the same two dogs tearing along like vengeance to make gibbets of him. There was a tree there, and its boughs were out over the river. Up climbs Jack, and up after him with the dogs; and to get out of their clutches he scrambled out on a long bough. The dogs were soon feeling after him, and he going out farther and farther, till he was afraid it would break. At last he felt it cracking, and he gave a roar out of him that you'd hear a mile off, and the man of the house came into the kitchen, and stirred the fire, and there was Jack sthraddleleg on the pot-rack. "Musha, Jack, but you're the devil's quare youth at your time o' life to be makin' a horse of my pot-rack. Come down, you onshuch, and go to bed."

Well, the third time, where did the divel guide him but to a bed in the next room, and when he flopped into it, he let such a yowl out of him that you'd think it was heaven and earth was coming together. "What's in the win' now, Jack?" says the man o' the house. "Oh, it's in the pains of labour I am," says the unfortunate piper. "Will we send for the midwife for you?" says the other. "Oh, the curse o' Cromwell on yourself an' the midwife!" says the poor man; "it wasn't God had a hand in us the hour we darkened your door. Oh, tattheration to you, you ould thief! won't you give us some aise?" "Father honey," says the boy, "it's pishrogues is an you. A drop of holy water will do you more good nor the master o' the house, God bless him!"

"I'll tear you limb from limb," says the ould villain when he heard the HOLY NAME, "if you say that again." "Well, anyhow," says the boy, "make the sign of the cross on yourself, father, and say the Lord's Prayer." The poor ould piper did so, and at the blessed words and the sign, his pains left him. There was no sight of the man of the house on the spot then; maybe he was in the lower room.

When the piper and his son woke next morning, they were lying in the dry moat of an ould rath that lay by the high road.


Having never enjoyed the undesirable privilege of a foregathering with an unearthly appearance, though in our youth we had passed, many many times, at the dead hour through haunted glounthaans (glens), and across the haunted fords of Ath-na-Capail, [a] Ochnanayear, Ochayoltihachawn, and many other eery aths and thubbers (fords and wells), we yet can bring to mind many of the true narratives we have heard at rustic firesides.

Of those we are, about to relate, we are as sure of the good faith of the tellers as of any ordinary truth or fact that has occurred to us, but are yet of opinion that, could all circumstances connected with the occurrences be ascertained, everything related might probably be referred to natural causes. The narratives are not classified: we give them as they occur to memory, vouching for the thorough sincerity of the original reciters.

[a] The first of these names is pronounced by the people round Castleboro, Och-na-goppal; the others are pronounced as here phonetically spelled. The English equivalents are--the "Ford of the Horse," the "Ford of the Evil Spirits," and the "Ford of the Naked Man."

Next: The Woman in White