From John Dewar, April 1860.
THERE was (at) some time a tenant, and he was right bad to his servants, and there was a pranky man who was called Gille Neumh Mac-a-Rusgaich (holy lad son of Skinner), and he heard tell of him, and he went to the fair, and he took a straw in his mouth, to shew that he was for taking service.
The dour tenant came the way, and he asked Mac-a-Rusgaich if he would take service; and Mac-a-Rusgaich said that he would take it if he could find a good master; and Mac-a-Rusgaich said,
"What shall I have to do if I take with thee?"
And the dour tenant said, "Thou wilt have to herd the mountain moor."
And Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "I will do that."
And the tenant said, "And thou wilt have to hold the plough." 1
And Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "I will do that."
"And thou wilt have ever so many other matters to do."
And Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "Will these matters be hard to do?"
And the other said, "They will not be (so), I will
but ask thee to do the thing that thou art able to do but I will put into the covenant that if thou dost not answer, thou must pay me two wages." 1
And Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "I will put into the covenant, if thou askest me to do anything but the thing which I am able to do, thou must give me two wages."
And they agreed about that.
And the dour tenant said, "I am putting it into the covenant that if either one of us takes the rue, that a thong shall be taken out of his skin, from the back of his head to his heel."
And Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "Mind that thou hast said that, old carle."
And he took service with the hard tenant, and he went home to him.
The first work that Mac-a-Rusgaich was bidden to do, was to go to the moss to cast peats, and Mac-a-Rusgaich asked for his morning meal before he should
go, so that he need not come for it, and he got as much meat as they used to allow the servants at one meal, and he ate that; and he asked for his dinner, so that he need no stop at mid-day, and he got the allowance which there was for dinner, and he ate that; and he asked for his supper, so that he need not come home at night, and they gave him that, and he ate that; and he went where his master was, and he asked him,
"What are thy servants wont to do after their supper?"
And his master said to him, "It is their wont to put off their clothes and go to lie down."
And Mac-a-Rusgaich went where his bed was, and he put off his clothes, and he went to lie down.
The mistress went where the man of the town (the master) was and she asked him, "What sort of a servant he had got there, that he had eaten three meals at one meal, and had gone to lie down?" And the master went where Mac-a-Rusgaich was, and he said to him,
"Why art thou not at work?"
And Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "It is that thou thyself saidst to me that it was thy servants' wont, when they had got their supper, to put off their clothes and go to lie down."
And the master said, "And why didst thou eat the three meals together?"
And Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "It is that the three meals were little enough to make a man content."
And the master said, "Get up and go to thy work."
And Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "I will get up, but I must get meat as I need, or my work will accord. I am but to do as I am able. See! art thou taking the rue, old carle?"
"I am not, I am not," said the carle, and Mac-a-Rusgaich got his meat better after that.
And there was another day and the carle asked Mac-a-Rusgaich to go to hold the plough in a dale that was down from the house, and Mac-a-Rusgaich went away, and he reached (the place) where the plough was, and he caught the stilts in his hands and there he stood.
And his master came where he was, and his master said to him.
"Why art thou not making the red land?" 1 And Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "It is not my bargain to make a thraive, but to hold the plough; and thou seest that I am not letting her go away."
And his master said, "Adversity and calamities be upon thee!"
And Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "Adversity and calamities be on thyself, old carle! Art thou taking the rue of the bargain that thou madest?"
Oh! I am not, I am not," said the old carle.
"But if thou wilt give me another reward for it, I will make a ploughing," said Mac-a-Rusgaich.
"Oh, I will give, I will give it!" said the carle; and they made a bargain about the thraive.
And there was a day, and the hard tenant asked Mac-a-Rusgaich to go to the mountain moor to look if he could see anything wrong, and Mac-a-Rusgaich went up to the mountain. 1 And when he saw his own time he came home, and his master asked him,
"Was each thing right in the mountain?" and Mac-a-Rusgaich said,
"The mountain himself was all right."
And the hard tenant said, "That is not what I am asking; but were the neighbours' cattle on their own side?"
And Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "If they were they were, and if they were, not let-a-be. It is my bargain to herd the mountain, and I will keep the mountain where it is."
And the carle said, "Adversity and calamities be upon thee, thou boy!"
And he said, "Adversity and calamities be on thyself, old carle! Art thou taking the rue that thou hast made such a bargain?"
"I am not, I am not!" said the dour tenant; "I will give thee another reward for herding the cattle."
And Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "If I get another reward, I will take in hand if I see the neighbours' cattle on thy ground that I will turn them back, and if I see thy cattle on the neighbours' ground I will turn them back to thine own ground; but though some of them should be lost, I will not take in hand to find them; but if thou
askest me to go to seek them, I will go, and if I get them I will bring them home."
And the dour tenant had for it but to agree with Mac-a-Rusgaich, and to give Mac-a-Rusgaich another reward for herding his cattle.
Next day the carle himself went to the hill, and he could not see his heifers; he sought for them, but could not find them. He went home, and be said to Mac-a-Rusgaich,
"Thou must go thyself to search for the heifers, Mac-a-Rusgaich, I could not find them this day; and go thou to search for them, and search for them until thou find them?"
And Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "And where shall I go to seek them?"
The old carle said, "Go and search for them in the places where thou thinkest that they are; and search for them in places where thou dost not suppose them to be."
Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "Well, then, I will do that."
The old carte went into the house; and Mac-a-Rusgaich got a ladder, and set it up against the house; he went up upon the house, and he began at pulling the thatch off the house, and throwing it down. And before the carle came out again, the thatch was about to be all but a very little off the house, and the rafters bare; and Mac-a-Rusgaich was pulling the rest and throwing it down.
The old carle said, "Adversity and calamity be upon thee, boy; what made thee take the thatch off the louse in that way?"
Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "It is because that I am searching for the heifers in the thatch of the house."
The old carle said, "How art thou seeking the heifers
in the thatch of the house, where thou art sure that they are not."
Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "Because thou thyself saidst to me to search for them in places where I thought that they were; and also in places where I did not suppose them to be; and there is no place where I have less notion that they might be in than in the thatch of the house."
And the carle said, "Adversity and calamity be upon thee, lad."
Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "Adversity and calamity be upon thyself, old carle; art thou taking the rue that thou desiredst me to search for the heifers in places where I did not suppose them to be?"
"I am not, I am not," said the carle. "Go now and seek them in places where it is likely that they may be."
"I will do so," said Mac-a-Rusgaich; and Mac-a-Rusgaich went to seek the heifers, and he found them, and brought them home.
Then his master desired Mac-a-Rusgaich to go to put the thatch on the house, and to make the house as water-tight to keep out rain as he was able. Mac-a-Rusgaich did so, and they were pleasant for a while after that.
The dour tenant was going to a wedding, and he asked Mac-a-Rusgaich when the evening should come, to put a saddle on the horse, and to go to the house of the wedding to take him home; and he said to him
"When it is near the twelfth hour, cast an ox eye on the side where I am, and I will know that it is near the time to go home." 1
"I will do that," said Mac-a-Rusgaich.
When the tenant went to the wedding, Mac-a-Rusgaich went to put the stots into the fang, and he took a knife and took their eyes out, and he put the eyes in his pocket: and when the night came, Mac-a-Rusgaich put the saddle on the horse, and he went to the wedding house to seek his master, and he reached the wedding house, and he went into the company, and he sat till it was near upon the twelfth hour.
And then he began at throwing the eye of a stot at the carle at the end of each while, and at last the old carle noticed him, and he said to him,
"What art thou doing?"
And Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "I am casting an ox-eye on the side that thou art, for that it is now near upon the twelfth hour."
And the old carle said, "Dost thou think thyself that thou hast gone to take the eyes out of the stots?"
And Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "It is not thinking it I am at all; I am sure of it. Thou didst ask me thyself to cast an ox eye the side thou mightest be when it was near upon the twelfth hour, and how could I do that unless I should have taken the eyes out of the stots?"
And the tenant said, "Adversity and calamities be upon thee, thou boy."
And Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "Adversity and calamities on thyself, old carle! Art thou taking the rue that thou didst ask me to do it?
"I am not, I am not!" said the carle; and they went home together, and there was no more about it that night.
And the end of a day or two after, his master asked Mac-a-Rusgaich to go up to the gates at the top and make a sheep footpath. 1
"I will do that," said Mac-a-Rusgaich; and he went, and he put the sheep into the fang, and he cut their feet off, and he made a stair with the sheeps' legs, and he went back where his master was, and his master said to him,
"Didst thou that?"
And Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "I did. Thou mayest go thyself and see."
And the master went to see the sheep footpath that Mac-a-Rusgaich had made, and when he arrived and saw the sheeps' legs in the path, he went into a rage, and he said, "Adversity and calamities be upon thee, boy; what made thee cut the legs off the sheep?"
And Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "Didst thou not ask me thyself to make a sheep footpath; and how should I make a sheep footpath unless I should cut the legs of the sheep? See! Art thou taking the rue that thou didst ask me to do it, old carle?"
"I am not, I am not!" said his master.
"What have I to do again?" said Mac-a-Rusgaich.
"It is," said his master, "to clean and to wash the horses and the stable, both without and within."
And Mac-a-Rusgaich went and he cleaned out the stable, and he washed the walls on the outside, and he washed the stable on the inside; he washed the horses, and he killed them, and he took their insides out of them, and he washed their insides, and he went where his master was, and he asked him what he was to do again; and his master said to him to put the horses in what concerned them (harness) in the plough, and to take a while at ploughing.
Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "The horses won't answer me."
"What ails them?" said his master.
"They won't walk for me," said Mac-a-Rusgaich.
"Go and try 1 them," said his master.
And Mac-a-Rusgaich went where the horses were, and he put a morsel of one of them into his mouth, and he went back where his master was, and he said, "They have but a bad taste."
"What art thou saying?" said his master.
The master went where his horses were, and when he saw them, and the inside taken out of them, and washed and cleaned, he said, "What is the reason of this?"
"It is," said Mac-a-Rusgaich, "that thou thyself didst ask me to clean and to wash both the horses and
"The stable both without and within, and I did that. Art thou taking the rue?" said Mac-a-Rusgaich.
"I had rather that I had never seen thee," said the master.
"Well, then," said Mac-a-Rusgaich "thou must give me three wages, or else a thong of thy skin shall be taken from the back of thy head down to thy heel."
The dour tenant said that he had rather the thong
to be taken out of his skin, from the back of his head to his heel, than give the money to a filthy clown like Mac-a-Rusgaich.
And according to law the dour tenant was tied, and a broad thong taken from the back of his head down his back. And he cried out that he had rather give even the money away than that the thong should be cut any longer; and he paid the money, and he was forced to be a while under the leeches, and he was a dour man no longer.
After that Mac-a-Rusgaich was set to be a servant to a giant that was bad to his servants.
Mac-a-Rusgaich reached the giant, and he said, "Thy servant is come."
The giant said, "If thou be servant to me, thou must keep even work with me, or else I will break thy bones as fine as meal." 1
Said Mac-a-Rusgaich, "What if I beat thee?"
"If thou beatest me," said the giant, "thou shalt have like wages."
"What are we going to do, then?" said Mac-a-Rusgaich.
"It is (this)," said the giant; "we will go to bring home faggots."
And they went and they reached the wood, and the giant began to gather every root that was thicker than the rest, and Mac-a-Rusgaich began to gather every top that was slenderer than the others.
The giant looked and he said,
"What art thou doing so?"
And Mac-a-Rusgaich said, "I am for that we should
take the whole wood with us instead of leaving a part of it useless behind us."
Said the giant, "We are long enough at this work; we will take home these burdens, but we will get other work again."
The next work they went to was to cut a swathe; and the giant asked Mac-a-Rusgaich to go first. Mac-a-Rusgaich would mow the swathe, and he began and he went round about short on the inner side, and the giant had to go a longer round on the outside of him.
"What art thou doing so?" said the giant.
"I," said Mac-a-Rusgaich, "am for that we should mow the park at one cut instead of turning back every time we cut the swathe, and we shall have no time lost at all."
The giant saw that his cut would be much longer than the cut of Mac-a-Rusgaich, and he said, "We are long enough at this work, we will go to another work. We will go and we will thresh the corn."
And they went to thresh the corn, and they got the flails, and they began to work. And when the giant would strike the sheaf, he would make it spring over the baulk (rafter), and when Mac-a-Rusgaich would strike it it would lie down on the floor.
He would strike, and Mac-a-Rusgaich would say to the giant,
"Thou art not half hitting it. Wilt thou not make it crouch as I am doing?"
But the stronger the giant struck, the higher leaped the sheaf, and Mac-a-Rusgaich was laughing at him; and the giant said,
"We are long enough at this work; I will try thee in another way. We will go and try which of us can
cast a stone strongest in the face of a crag that is beyond the fall."
"I am willing," said Mac-a-Rusgaich; and the giant went and he gathered the hardest stones he could find. And Mac-a-Rusgaich went and he got clay, and he rolled it into little round balls, and they went to the side of the fall.
The giant threw a stone at the face of the crag, and the stone went in splinters, and he said to Mac-a-Rusgaich,
"Do that, boy."
Mac-a-Rusgaich threw a dudan, lump of the clay, and it stuck in the face of the crag, and he said to the giant,
"Do that, old carl."
And the giant would throw as strongly as he could, but the more pith the giant would send with the stone he would throw, the smaller it would break. And Mac-a-Rusgaich would throw another little ball of the clay, and he would say,
"Thou art not half throwing it. Wilt thou not make the stone stick in the crag as I am doing?"
And the giant said, "We are long enough at this work; we will go and take our dinner, and then we will see which of us can best throw the stone of force (putting stone)."
"I am willing," said Mac-a-Rusgaich, and they went home.
They began at their dinner, and the giant said to Mac-a-Rusgaich,
"Unless thou eatest of bread and cheese as much as I eat, a thong shall be taken out of thy skin, from the back of thy head to thy heel."
"Make seven of it," said Mac-a-Rusgaich, "on covenant that seven thongs shall be taken out of thy
skin, from the back of thy head to thy heel, unless thou eatest as much as I eat."
"Try thee, then," said the giant.
"Stop then till I get a drink," said Mac-a-Rusgaich and he went out to get a drink, and he got a leathern bag, and he put the bag between his shirt and his skin, and he went in where the giant was, and he said to the giant, "Try thee now."
The two began to eat the bread and the cheese, and Mac-a-Rusgaich was putting the bread and the cheese into the bag that he had in under his shirt, but at last the giant said,
"It is better to cease than burst."
"It is better even to burst than to leave good meat," said Mac-a-Rusgaich.
"I will cease," said the giant.
"The seven thongs shall be taken from the back of thy head to thy heel," said Mac-a-Rusgaich.
"I will try thee yet," said the giant.
"Thou hast thy two choices," said Mac-a-Rusgaich.
The giant got curds and cream, and he filled a cup for himself and another cup for Mac-a-Rusgaich.
"Let's try who of us is best now," said the giant.
"It's not long till that is seen," said Mac-a-Rusgaich. "Let's try who can soonest drink what is in the cup."
And Mac-a-Rusgaich drank his fill, and he put the, rest in the bag, and he was done before the giant.
And he said to the giant, "Thou art behind."
The giant looked at him, and he said, "Ceasing is better than bursting."
"Better is bursting itself than to leave good meat," said Mac-a-Rusgaich.
We will go out and try which of us can throw the
stone of force the furthest, before we do more," said the giant.
"I am willing," said Mac-a-Rusgaich. And they went out where the stone was, but the giant was so full that he could not stoop to lift it.
"Lift that stone and throw it," said the giant.
"The honour of beginning the beginning is to be thine own," said Mac-a-Rusgaich.
The giant tried to lift the stone, but he could not stoop. Mac-a-Rusgaich tried to stoop, and he said,
"Such a belly as this shall not be hindering me," and he drew a knife from a sheath that was at his side, and he put the knife in the bag that was in front of him, and he let out all that was within, and he said, "There is more room without than within," and he lifted the stone and threw it, and he said to the giant, "Do that."
"Canst thou not throw it further than that?" said the giant.
"Thou has not thrown it as far as that same," said Mac-a-Rusgaich.
"Over here thy knife!" said the giant.
Mac-a-Rusgaich reached his knife to the giant. The giant took the knife, and he stabbed the knife into his belly, and he let out the meat; and the giant fell to earth, and Mac-a-Rusgaich laughed at him, and the giant found death.
Mac-a-Rusgaich went in to the giant's house, and he got his gold and silver, then he was rich, and then he went home fully pleased.
GILLE, the servant of. NEUMH, a holy man, a saint. MAC, the son of. RUSGAICH, the peeler, or a rough man, a ruffler.
Gille Neumh is a name usually translated in English, NIVEN.
The whole might be rendered " The story of Saint's servant, Mac Skinner."
Mr. Dewar writes:--"Tradition says that Gille Neumh Mae Rusgaich disguised himself in woman's apparel, went to Iona, passed for a nun, and caused some of the sisters to become frail sisters. There is a long tale about him and his sister. She would get into service to attend ladies, and Mac-a-Rusgaich would disguise himself in his sister's clothes--but that part of the sgeulachd was so unbecoming that I did not write it. I heard the part which I did write as early as 1810, from an old man of the name of Alexander Dewar in Arrochar."
The story of MacRuslaig, as it is sometimes called, is very widely spread, and, as Dewar says, part of it is "unbecoming." I believe it is printed in Gaelic, but I have been unable hitherto to see the book.--J. F. C.
A very similar story is known in Sutherland.
2. The Erse version of Jack the Giant Killer.
"The opening of the tale, and the deaths of Cormoran and Blunderbore, as told in our children's books, are unknown here; and the whole thing, as found in Sutherland, more nearly resembles the Scandinavian story of the Giant and the Herd Boy, given in Thorpe's Yule-tide stories. (Bohn's Lib. edit.) I cannot get it in Gaelic (that is to say, written down in Gaelic); but am told that it happened in this wise:--
"The giant appeared to the little herd boy and threatened to kill him; but the boy gave him to understand that he had better not try, as he was very strong, though small; and that he was an enchanter, and that if the giant ate him he would make him very ill.
"The giant did not quite believe him; and taking up a stone, he ground it to powder by closing his hand over it, and bid the herd do the same, or he would make short work with him.
"The lad had a lump of curds in his pocket, which he contrived to roll in the dust till it looked like a stone, then pressing it between his fingers, a stream of whey ran through them, and the giant could not do that.
"The next trial was with the heavy hammer; the giant threw to a great distance, telling the would-be-enchanter that unless he could match that he would knock his brains out.
"'I suppose,' said the boy, 'you have no regard for the hammer, and don't care whether you ever see it again or not?'
"'What do you mean?' growled the giant.
"'I mean, that if I take up the hammer, it goes out of sight in the twinkling of an eye, and into the sea.'
"'I beg you will let the hammer alone, then, for it was my great-grandfather's hammer,' replied the giant; and they were both well pleased with the bargain.
"'Then followed the hasty-pudding feat, called brose or brochan here; and the experiment with the black pudding which the boy had in his jacket, and which ran blood when he pierced it. The giant, trying to imitate him, plunged a knife into himself and died, as may be seen in all carefully compiled books for the use of young persons."--C. D.
318:1 Crann, a tree.
319:1 The following was omitted by the collector, and inserted by him in his revise of the Gaelic:--"There was (at) some time a tenant, and he was right bad to his servants; and when the time of service was nearly ended, he used to fix a pretext for quarrelling with them. He would cast out with them and send them away without their wages. And be sent away many of his servants in this way. And there was a pranky man whose name was Saints servant, son of the fleecer (Gilleneaomh Mac-a-Rusgaich), and he said that he would take service with the dour tenant, and that he would give him trick about, * that he would be as far north as the dour tenant might be south, Mac-a-Rusgaich went to the fair of Peevish fair, and he took a straw in his month, to shew that he was for taking service."
319:* The original meaning of the Gaelic phrase is to take a turn out of a man,--untwist his turns. The expression then conveys the idea of a man winding coils about another; and one with more craft unwinding them; and the next phrase is as metaphorical.
321:1 Another way of telling this part:--Thainig an tuathanach do iounsaidh, 's dh' fharraid e deth cia air-son nach eil thu a deanamh an deargadh: Agus Thubhairt Mac-a-Rusgaich ris, cha n è mo bhargansa deargadh a dheanamh, ach an crann a chumail, 's tha thu a faicinn nach eil mi e leigidh leatha falbh; na 'm bithinn a deargadh an talamh, cha b' ann a cu mail a chroinn a bhithinn.
The farmer came to him and asked him, why art thou not making the red land? And Mac-a-Rusgaich said, it was not my bargain to do the reddening, but to hold the plough; and thou seest that I am not letting her go away. If I were reddening the land, it would not be holding the plough that I would be.
In some districts, the farmers call the ploughed land the red land, and the unploughed land white land.
322:1 Against, or at the mountain.
324:1 Damh shuil--an ox eye. To cast an ox eye at any one means, according to Dewar, to look with a wry face, and open p. 325 the eyes wide, and stare at a person--as a signal. The idiom, to cast an eye, is common to Gaelic and English; and so is the expression, to cast a sheep's eye.
326:1 STAIR, a path or causeway in a wet bog.
CHASA, for the feet, or of the feet. CHAORACH, of sheep.
According to Dewar, a path made over a bog, when a gate happens to be where the ground is soft, or where peat moss is. If sheep be often driven through such a gate, the pathway soon gets soft, so that the sheep sink in it. It is repaired by cutting brushwood or heather, and laying it on the soft place with a covering of gravel, and is called "Stair chasa caorach."
I know the kind of road meant, but I never heard the name.--J. F. C.
327:1 Feuch, is either taste or try in the Gaelic.
328:1 PRONNOIN, coarse, unsifted oatmeal; poundings.