Tales of the West Highlands THE GIRL AND THE DEAD MAN
From Ann Darroch, Islay.
before now a poor woman, and she had a leash of daughters. Said the eldest
one of them to her mother, "I had better go myself and seek for fortune."
"I had better," said her mother, "bake a bannock for thee." When the
bannock was ready, her mother said to her, "Whether wouldst thou like best
the little bit and my blessing, or the big bit and my curse?" "I would
rather," said she, "the big bit and thy curse. " She went away, and when
the night was wreathing round her, she sat at the foot of a wall to eat
the bannock. There gathered the sreath chuileanach and her twelve puppies,
and the little birds of the air about her, for a part of the bannock.
"Wilt thou give us a part of the bannock," said they. "I won't give it,
you ugly brutes; I have not much for myself." "My curse will be thine, and
the curse of my twelve birds; and thy mother's curse is the worst of all."
She rose and she went away, and she had not half enough with the bit of
the bannock. She saw a little house a long way from her; and if a long way
from her, she was not long reaching it. She struck in the door. "Who's
there?" "A good maid seeking a master." "We want that," said they, and she
got in. She had now a peck of gold and a peck of silver to get; and she
was to be awake every night to watch a dead man, brother of the housewife,
who was under spells. She had besides, of nuts as she broke, of needles as
she lost, of thimbles as she pierced, of thread as she used, of candles as
she burned, a bed of green silk over her, a bed of green silk under her,
sleeping by day and watching by night. The first night when she was
watching she fell asleep; the mistress came in, she struck the magic club
on her, she fell down dead, and she threw her out at the back of the
middle one to her mother, "I had better go seek fortune and follow my
sister." Her mother baked her a bannock; and she chose the big half and
her mother's curse, as her elder sister did, and it happened to her as it
happened to her sister.
youngest one to her mother, "I had better myself go to seek fortune too,
and follow my sisters." "I had better bake a bannock," said her mother.
"Whether wouldst thou rather the little bit and my blessing, or the big
bit and my curse?" "I would rather the little bit and your blessing." She
went, and the night was wreathing round her, and she sat at the foot of a
wall to eat the bannock. There gathered the sreath chuileanach and the
twelve puppies, and the little birds of the air about her. "Wilt thou give
us gome of that?" "I will give, you pretty creatures, if you will keep me
company." She gave them some of the bannock; they ate and they had plenty,
and she had enough. They clapped their wings about her till she was snug
with the warmth. She went, she saw a little bouse a long way from her; and
if it was a long way from her, she was not long reaching it. She struck in
the door. "Who's there?" ,"A good maid seeking a master." "We have need of
that." The wages she had were a peck of gold and a peck of silver; of nuts
as the broke, of needles as she lost, of thimbles as she pierced, of
thread as she used, of candles as she burned, a bed of the green silk over
her, and a bed of the green silk under her. She sat to watch the dead man,
and she was sewing; on the middle of night he rose up, and screwed up a
grin. "If thou dost not lie down properly, I give thee the one leathering
with a stick." He lay down. At the end of a while, he rose on one elbow,
and screwed up a grin; and the third time he rose and screwed up a grin.
When he rose the third time, she struck him a lounder of the stick; the
stick stuck to the dead man, and the hand stuck to the stick; and out they
were. They went forward till they were going through a wood; when it was
low for her it was high for him; and when it was high for him it was low
for her. The nuts were knocking their eyes out, and the sloes taking their
ears off, till they got through the wood. After going through the wood
they returned home. She got a peck of gold and a peck of silver, and the
vessel of cordial. She rubbed the vessel of cordial to her two sisters,
and brought them alive. They returned home; they left me sitting here, and
if they were well, 'tis well; and if they were not, let them be.
AGUS AN DUINE MARBH
bhochd ann roimhe so, 's bha triủir nighean aice. Thuirt an té bu shine
dhiu r'a màthair, " 'S fheàrra dhomh fhéin dol a dh iarraidh an fhortain."
" 'S fheàrra dhòmhs," ursa a màthair, "bonnach a dheasachadh dhuit." Nur a
bha 'm bonnach réidh thuirt a mathair rithe, cò ca 's fheàrr leat a'
bhlaidh bheag 's mo bheannachd na 'bhlaidh mhor 's mo mhollachd." " 'S
fheàrr leam," urs' ise, "a' bhlaidh mhòr 's do mhollachd." Dh' fholbh i.
Nur a bha 'n oidhche 'casadh urra shuidh i 'chois gàrraidh a dh' itheadh
a' bhonnaich. Nur a shuidh I 'dh' itheadh a' bhonnaich chruinnich an t-sreath
chuileanach, 's a da chuilean deug, 's eòin bheag an athar timchioll urra
airson pàirt de 'n bhonnach. "An d' thoir thu dhuinne pàirt de 'n bhonnach,"
urs' iadsan. "Cha d' thobhair a bheathaichean grànnda; cha mhòr a th' agam
dhomh féin. "Biodh mo mhollachds' agadsa, 's mollachd mo dha eun deug, 's
e mollachd do mhàthar is measa dhuit air fad."
Dh' érich i
's dh' fholbh i, 's cha robh leith a leoir 's a' bhlaidh bhonnaich.
Chunnaic i tigh beag fada uaithe, 's ma b fhada uaithe cha b fhada bha
ise 'ga ruigheachd. Bhuail isan dorusd. "Co tha siod?" "Searbhantha math
aig iarraidh maighstir." "Tha sin a dhith oirnne," urs' iadsan, 's fhuair
i stigh. Bha peic òir is peic airgid aice r'a fhaotainn, 's i ri
aithreachach a' h-uile h-oidhch' a' faire duine marbh, bràthair do bhean
an tighe 'bha fo gheasan. Bha aice cuideachd de chnuthan mar a bhrisdeadh
i; de shnàthadan mar a chailleadh i; 's do mheurain mar a tholladh i; de
shnàth mar a chosdadh i; de choinnlean mar a loisgeadh i; leaba do n t-siòd'
uaine thairte; leaba de 'n t-sioda uaine fòiche; codal 'san latha, s
aithreachadh 'san oidhche.
oidhche, nur a bha i faire, thuit i 'na cadal. Thàinig a banamhaighstir a
stigh; bhuail i 'n slachdan draoidheachd urra; thuit i siòs marbh; 's
thilg i mach củl an dủnain i.
Thuirt an té
mheadhonach r'a màthair, " 'S fhearra domh dol a dh' iarraidh an fhortain,
's mo phuithar a leantainn. " Dheasaich a màthair bonnach, 's roighnich
ise an leith mhòr is mollachd a màthar, mar a rinn a piuthar a bu shine.
Thachair dhi mar a thachair d'a piuthar.
Thuirt an té
b' òige r'a màthair, 'S fheàrra dhomh féin dol a dh' iarraidh an fhortain
cuideachd, 's mo pheathraichean a leantainn. " " 'S fheàrr dhòmhsa bormach
a dheasachadh," urs' a màthair. "Cò'ca 's fheàrr leata a' bhlaidh bheag 's
mo bheannachd, na bhlaidh mhòr 's mo mhollachd." `S fheàrr leam a bhlaidh
bheag s bhur beannachd." Dh' fholbh i. Bha 'n oidhche 'casadh urra, 's
shuidh i 'chois gàrraidh a dh' itheadh a bhonnaich. Chruinnich an t-sreath
chuileanach, s an da chuilean deug, s eòin bheag an athar timchoill urra.
"An d' thobhair thu dhuinne rud dheth sin?" Bheithir a bheathaichean
bòidheach, ma ni sibh comaith riurn féin. Thug i dhaibh rud de n
bhonnach; dh' ith iad e; s bha na leoir acasan s na leòir aice féin.
Chlap iad an sgiathan timchioll urra, s bha i 'na falas leis a' bhlàthas.
Dh fholbh i.
Chunnaic i tigh beag fada uaithe, 's ma b fhada uaithe cha b fhada 'bha
ise 'ga 'ruigheachd. Bhuail i 'san dorusd. Co siod?" "Searbhanta math aig
iarraidh maighstir." "Tha sin a dhìth òirnne." Se n tuarasdal a bh' aice
peic òir is peic airgid; de chnuthan mar a bhrisdeadh i; de shnàthadan mar
a chailleadh i; de mheurain mar a tholladh i; de shnàth mar a chosdadh i;
de choinnlean mar a loisgeadh i; leaba de n t-sìod' uaine thairte, s
leaba de n t-sìod uaine fòiche.
faire an duine mhairbh, s bha i fuaghal. Air a' mheadon oidhche dh'
éirich esan, s chas e braoisg air. "Mar an laidh thu sìos mar a th' agad
bheir mise aon straoileadh dhuit de bhata. Laidh e sìos. Ann ceann tacan
beag a rithisd dh' éirich e air a leith-uil'inn, s chas e braoisg air, s
an treas uair dh' éirich e s chas e braoisg air!!" Nur a dh' éirich e n
treas uair bhuail i stroileadh de n bhat' air. Lean am bata ris an duine
mharbh; lean an lamh ris a' bhata! s a mach a bha iad. Ghabh iad air an
aghaidh gus an robh iad a' dol romh choille. Mar a b' iseal dise b' àrd
dhàsan e, s mar a b' àrd dhàsan e b' iseal dise e. Bha na cnuthan a'
toirt nan sủl asda, s na h-àirnean a' toirt nan cluas dhiutha, gus an d'
fhuair iad romh n choille. An déigh dol romh n choille thill iad dachidh.
Fhuair i peic òir is peic airgid, 'sam ballan iochlaint. Rub i m ballan
ìocshlaint r'a da phiuthar, s thug i beò iad. Thill iad dhachaidh. Dh
fhàg iad mise a'm 'shuidhe so, 's ma bha iad gu math s math, s mar an
robh leigear dhaibh.
has some relation to "The man who travelled to learn what fear was;" but I
know nothing quite like it in Gaelic, or in any other language. Ann
Darroch, who told it to Hector MacLean in 1859, learned it from an old
woman, Margaret Conal, of whom
"I have some
recollection of her myself; she was wont to repeat numerous 'ursgeuln'
(tales). Her favourite resorts were the kilns, where the people were kiln
drying their corn; and where she was frequently rewarded, for amusing them
in this manner, by supplies of meal. She was paralytic; her head shook
like an aspen leaf, and whenever she repeated anything that was very
exciting, her head shook more rapidly; which impressed children with great
Some of the
phrases are evidently remembered, and said by heart; the maid's wages, for
instance; and the creatures that came to the wandering daughters. The
vessel of Balsam occurs often in Gaelic stories, and 1 cannot make out
what it really means. BALLAN IOCSHLAINT, teat, of ichor, of health. seems
to be the meaning of the words.
days the kilns were not always used for drying corn. It is related that
one of the first excisemen who went to the West, found and caught a large
party of men kiln drying malt. He made a seizure of course, and was not a
little surprised when he was seized himself, and his arms tied fast behind
him. His eyes were bound also; and then he was led to the kiln and set
down near the fire; and they gave him the malt to smell and taste; and
then they told him it was to be used in making whiskey; and then they gave
him a drop, and then a dram, till the gauger was so drunk that they left
him there, and departed with their malt kiln-dried and ground.
This I have
heard told of the very place which Margaret Conal used to haunt, and of a
time when she might have been a little girl; I cannot vouch for the truth
of my story, but the kiln and the men about it may be seen now; and such
scenes may well account for the preservation of wild stories. A child
would not easily forget a story learned amongst a lot of rough farmers,
seated at night round a blazing fire, listening to an old crone with
palsied head and hands; and accordingly, I have repeatedly heard that the
mill, and the kiln, were the places where my informants learned their
There is a
word in this tale which the narrator, the translator, the transcriber, the
dictionary, and the "old men," have failed to explain.
SOIGH, a bitch (Ross shire, etc.) CHUILEANACH means some kind of bird, and
she has twelve "puppies," DA CHUILEAN DEUG. The narrator maintains that
the words are right as she heard them.
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