Sacred Texts  Legends & Sagas  Celtic  Index  Previous  Next 

p. 304



From John Dewar.

THERE were at some time ere now bad times, and there were many servants seeking places, and there were not many places for them.

There was a farmer there, and he would not take any servant but one who would stay with him till the end of seven years, and who would not ask for wages, but what he could catch in his mouth of the seed corn, when he should be thrashing corn in the barn.

None were taking (service) with him. At last he said that he would let them plant their seed in the best ground that he might have, and they should get his own horses and plough to make the thraive, and his own horses to harrow it.

There was a young lad there, and he said, "I will take wages with thee," and the farmer set wages on that lad, and the bargain that they made was that the wages which the lad was to have were to be as many grains of seed as he could catch in his mouth when they were beating sheaves in the barn, and he was to get (leave) to plant that seed in the best land that the farmer had, and he was to keep as much as grew on that seed, and to put with it what seed soever he might catch in his mouth when he was thrashing the corn, and to plant that in the best land which the farmer had on the next year. He was to have horses, and plough, or any other "gairios" 1 he might want for planting or reaping from

p. 305

his master, and so on to the end of the seven years. That he should have seen winters in the barn thrashing, seven springs to plant, seven summers of growth for the crop, and seven autumns of reaping, and whatsoever were the outcoming that might be in the lad's seed, that was the wage that he was to have when he should go away.

The lad went home to his master, and always when he was thrashing in the barn his master was thrashing with him, and he caught but three grains of seed in his mouth on that winter; and he kept these carefully till the spring came, and he planted them in the best land the carle had.

There grew out of these three ears, and there were on each ear threescore good grains of seed.

The lad kept these carefully, and what grains soever he caught be put them together with them.

He planted these again in the spring, and in the autumn again he had as good as he had the year before that.

The lad put his seed bye carefully, and anything he caught in his mouth when he was thrashing in the next winter he put it with the other lot; and so with the lad from year to year, till at last, to make a long story short, the lad planted on the last year every (bit of) ploughing land that the carle had, and he had more seed to set, and the carle was almost harried. He had to pay rent to the farmer who was nearest to him, for land in which the lad might set the excess of seed which he had, and to sell part of his cattle for want of ground on which they might browse, and he would not make a bargain in the same way with a servant for ever after.


p. 306

This story only wants a moral to be a regular fable, and the meaning is so clear that to express it by a moral would be waste of words. Scotchmen, all over, the world, are noted for frugality, and here is the lesson taught by a Celtic peasant to his son. I suspect there has been a numerical puzzle upon the numbers 3, 7, and 20, which is lost. Words relating to agriculture are interesting, and this gives a number of them. I subjoin an attempt at phonetic spelling.

Siol, sheel; seed, the young of fish, oats, etc. etc.

Crann, krAn; a tree, a plough, a mast, etc., etc.

Cliathadh, KleeAug; harrowing, from cliath, basket work of any kind, a bush harrow, from which it follows that ploughs and harrows were made of wood.

Treabh, Treo; to till, plough, probably from troimh, through a thraive, a furrow. Sanscrit root, TRA, an instrument of any kind, a plough.

Biceannan, Beeganan; grains, beating, small, diminutive, Bigan.

Bualadh, BooAlug; thrashing beating, striking, hitting.

Sabhal, SAvul or SA-ul; a barn.

Arbhar, ArAr; corn as reaped, standing corn. Sanscrit root, AR, to plough, to cut open; to plough the sea. Gaelic, Eithir, a boat.

Ire, Eere; land, also produce. Sanscrit, IRA, earth.

Earrach, Yarach; spring, caring time.

Cur, Coor; to plant, to put, to set.

Cinneas, Keenyas; growth, also kin.

Bar, BAr; top, point, crop.

Buain, Booain; to gather, pluck, reap.

Toradh, Tawrug; increase, probably from tor, a heap, a heaping.

Màl, MA1; mail, rent.

Tuathanach TooAnAch; a farmer.

p. 307

Gaelic omitted


p. 308



From my father more than forty years ago.---JOHN DEWAR.


304:1 Apparatus; also spelt goireas and gairaois.

Next: LXXIX. The Praise of Goll