Images Of Ireland

Stories

Presbyterian Cow

A weak wintry sun had just crept over the horizon as Joe and Hanna made their way up the hill to visit the returned 'Yankee'.
"First time home in twenty-five years," Joe had said the night before.
"They say she has a whole suitcase full of candy." This piece of news clinched it for Hanna. They would go the following morning and welcome the 'Yankee' back home.
"Yanks in the movies drink coffee and Martinis," Joe announced as they neared the top of the hill. "What is Martini like?"
"Poteen well, a bit like Poteen," Joe replied, his breath coming like bursts of mist in the frosty air. "Hope she doesn't offer us any then. Daddy says Poteen's only for sick cows that's why he keeps it."

The hall door was open when they reached the house. They knocked and went in. When we were introduced she stood up to greet us. She was tall and was elegantly dressed in a fawn suit; she wore red lipstick and red nail varnish. Bending down she gave each in turn a big slobbery kiss.
'YUK!' Joe said inwardly, then made to wipe his cheek. He thought of the candy and decided to wait in case he upset her.
As Anna watched her sip black coffee and listened to her strange sounding accent she wondered if she really was a movie star after all.
Then came the moment they had been waiting for. The 'Yankee' left the room and returned with the candy, lots of it in brightly coloured packets.
As they were leaving she handed each of them a small package. "Just a couple of trinkets to remember me by," she drooled, planting another kiss on each of their cheeks. This time Joe hastily wiped his sloppy kiss away on his sleeve when they were out of sight. Tearing open her small parcel Hanna uncovered a green necklace and bracelet, "Emeralds" she cried out in glee. That her emeralds were made of plastic mattered not a whit. "What did you get Joe?"
"A gun with bullets. Paper ones," he said, holding out the roll of paper caps.

They had munched their way though a pound of the 'Yankee' candy by the time they reached the home straight. Willy, their nearest neighbour was leading a red cow into the byre as they neared his farmyard. His wife Sara appeared from the back door of the cottage. "Andy's just bought another cow," she announced. They followed her into the byre, dimly lit by a hurricane lamp. "She looks a grand animal" she said, with pride. "I must bless her." She reached up to a shelf at the far corner and took down a bottle.
"Where did you buy her?" Joe inquired, as he put the last candy into his mouth.
"From Robert Johns. No, she wouldn't have had a drop of holy water on her before with that background," she added, as she liberally shook the liquid over the cow's back. Suddenly the cow began to jump, flinging her hind legs in the air.
"Hold her Willy, the Presbyterian is very strong in her," she shouted above the commotion. Retreating out of the flinging animal's way, John grabbed the bottle from his wife and headed for the open door.
"Stupid woman," he shouted, "it's caustic soda you blessed her with."

Hazel McIntyre
 

Author Hazel McIntyre had an unfair advantage over other writers in that she was born and bred in Inishowen, County Donegal,  a storytellers paradise. She grew up there in the 50's absorbing the sights and sounds of innocent Ireland. And as our country rushes economically forward we need people like Hazel to help keep our feet rooted in the past, to remind us of who we are.

It's only in this last ten years or so that Hazel started writing but already she's had 4 books published and another on the way. 

For more details please visit Hazels web-site


 

Uncle Ned, Our Christmas Turkey (A true story by Owen Brennan)

When I was about 8 years old or so and our family made a visit to my granny and granda's small farm. It was about five weeks before Christmas. My granny kept chickens and sometimes had a couple of turkeys running around. When we were about to leave she told us to take a turkey with us and it would do for the Christmas dinner. They seemed to be a bit nervous but with some difficulty we eventually caught the fattest one. Nobody had a freezer in those days so we would have to keep the turkey alive until Christmas.

The unhappy turkey was wrapped tightly in a blanket to stop it from flapping his wings. We put it in the back of the car behind the back seat. Only his head was sticking up but he was able to look out of the window and he eventually settled down and even seemed to be enjoying the journey.

When we arrived at the customs post the turkey was looking out and when the man asked us if we had anything to declare. My dad said no nothing, just a turkey. The customs man informed us that it was not permitted to take live birds over the border, I think it was something to do with spreading "foul pest". My dad explained that the turkey was a Christmas present but the man was determined. Various options were discussed, driving 15 miles back to my grannies and returning the turkey, abandoning the turkey at the border or killing the turkey there and then as the man said it was ok to take over a dead one. The turkey was starting to get a bit agitated when my dad asked the customs man if he would kill the turkey. The man said he wouldn't and my dad said he couldn't. By this time us children were almost as upset as the turkey. The customs man eventually gave in, he told us to keep the turkeys head down for a few miles and to drive on. He said he'd pretend he hadn't seen any turkey.

The rest of the journey was uneventful and we all arrived home safe and sound. Us children made a wee bed for the turkey in the corner of the coal shed and named him Uncle Ned. Uncle Ned settled in quickly an we fed him well. We made a lead for him in order to take him out walks for fresh air and to stop him running away. He became friendly and looked forward to our frequent visits to the shed. He became very popular with our cousins and neighbouring children. Uncle Ned also became very territorial and started chasing cats and things out of the garden.

A few days before Christmas we were told it was time, us children all went out to say goodbye and I think there was a wee tear in Uncle Ned's eye. My dad went out but returned quickly and said he didn't actually know how to kill a turkey and besides he didn't want to hurt the bird. Our neighbour was a man from the country and dad asked Billy to do the dastardly deed.

On Christmas Eve night the house was filled as usual with the gorgeous smell of cooking. Christmas morning came and Santa had left lots of exciting toys and gifts which occupied us for hours. Finally mum called us in for dinner. There was all the usual, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, peas , Yorkshire pudding, Ham, stuffing and.....and...... Turkey.

We all started eating our dinner and saying how nice the potatoes were, how nice the ham was etc. We were all looking at each others plates to see how everyone else was getting on but nobody seemed to be eating their turkey. "Eat up your Turkey" one of my parents said to us but they were eating their ham. I think it was my sister who said "I can't eat Uncle Ned" and I said neither can I. In fact nobody ate Uncle Ned. We gave the other half of Uncle Ned to Billy the neighbour and they said it was a very tasty.  My granny offered us another Turkey the next year but my mum refused the gift. Daddy bought a dead one locally. One that we didn't know.

 

The Love of Naisi told by Suzanne Neeley

Long ago, when the world was young there were no white flowers in Ireland because the Tuatha de Dannan had wanted to fill the Earth with as much colour as they could.

Naisi wandered the hillsides along the sea and waited for his life to begin. He had no mother and no father, and the village people said that he was strange because of his gift of speaking to horses and birds and all living things.

People came from far off places to hear Naisi speak to their animals and to watch him heal them. He was truly kissed. He grew into a man, and when that day came, he was still alone.

No friends to encourage him and no family to please. But he was lonely and he searched for a wife, but the young women wouldn't have him for his strangeness and the older women wanted more than he had to give, which was a hut, a few animals and little else, though all the women agreed that he was quite enough the most handsome of all the men they had ever seen.

Naisi grew in his loneliness. It filled him and grew outward until even the sea began to whisper to him of it. He began to go further from his home, seeking a wife. He closed the door of his hut and set out, not to return without a love to fill his heart. He travelled a long way from home, not knowing that he did not travel alone.

A raven travelled with him and thought of him and his trouble. Maaxa, who had seen warriors live and die, had tired of death and for this young man, felt some empathy in his lonely state. She considered his plight and found that she had some considerable sympathy for his heart of sorrow. So she went to the Queen of the Sidhe, and said, "Here is a young man who has never harmed man nor beast. Surely he deserves some happiness. Will you not search your garden and find a flower for him?"

The Fairy Queen was much surprised and replied, "Maaxa, you hag! Do not pretend to me, I know your ways. You are seeking to trick this fellow and you are up to no good."

Macha, being practical, was not angry but said, "I am not only a hag. I too, have known desire and I would wish to spare this one."

The Queen reluctantly agreed and set to make her bargain. "Give me the maiden's third daughter and I will do as you ask." She did not wish to be cheated out of not even one of her many admirers without recompense. Maaxa, knowing the Queen as she did, thought to herself that this was a good bargain. If the maid were sensible and pretty, he would never miss one of the many children they would have. She agreed and the bargain was made.

The Fairy Queen brought to Maaxa her prettiest and brightest maids and Maaxa, being shrewd, chose the one with the darkest hair, and the greenest eyes, for that would attract the boy, Naisi, who was fair and light with eyes of the sea.

Naisi, at this time, was walking down a road unfamiliar and marvelling at the green of the grass and the enchanting sway of the trees. They seemed to call to him and as he walked with his horse by his side, he began to grow weary and wanting of a rest.

So he took his horse, and laid down in the cool grass underneath a tree and soon he began to dream. In his dream, he saw a maiden so fair, that he lost his breath. She was small and with hair of the blackest night. When she turned toward him, he saw that she had one lock of white hair, as if she had been touched there by the goddess Maaxa, but she was young. And her eyes, of deepest green snared him.

He awoke suddenly and knew that it was not a dream, but that she sat beside him. Her name was Niav, she told him and that she had been brought to this world by the Fairy Queen. Naisi knew straight away that this woman had been sent for by the gods and so he put her upon his horse and took her home to the hut on the edge of the sea.

They were married soon after and the village people wished them every happiness. Perhaps, they thought, now that he had found his heart's desire, the strangeness would leave him.

For nine years, they lived in love together. She with her children and he with his work with the animals.

But the Queen of the Sidhe had not forgotten her bargain with Maaxa, that she would take their third daughter, who was named Aisling. The stars came with the night, and the Fairy Queen stole Aisling away to the land of faery.

Niav wept and wouldn't be consoled and Naisi searched and searched the hillsides and the shore. Niav searched while he slept and Naisi searched while she lay dreaming of her Aisling. It came about not long after, that Niav too disappeared while Naisi slept. A village man told Naisi that she had been seen walking on the shore and that a silkie had stolen her away.

Unconsolable, Naisi found homes for the children and left the village to search for her. Despair travelled with him and Maaxa also saw his sorrow. She felt that it had all been her fault, that Niav would never have gone searching for a missing child had she not made the bargain with the fairy queen. She heard Naisi cry out to the sea, "I would not live upon the earth without my Niav!"

So she cast him into the stars so that he would not live among the reminders of his lost love. And as he rose higher into the night sky, his tears fell upon Ireland, and became the sea campions. Small white flowers, white like the lock of Niav's hair, that spoke of a love that haunts the shores of Ireland today, as a reminder, that all we have is Time.

My thanks to Suzanne for remembering and sending me this story. It was told to her as a child by her grandfather. We owe much to such storytellers for keeping safe the legends of our land
You can contact Suzanne at suzanne@gbis.com

 

 

Saint Patrick

Patrick lived in the 5th Century but exactly where he was born is unknown but it is thought he came from Britain somewhere near the sea. His father Calpurnius was an important man in his area who made sure laws were kept and taxes paid. He had many servants. It was a Christian household and Patrick had a comfortable life.

Many ships crossed the Irish sea to trade and there was also pirates who raided the coast of Britain. Slaves were very valuable. Just before his 16th birthday Patrick was captured with many others, tied up and taken away to Ireland He was sold and ended up working on farms looking  after sheep. It was a hard life and quite a change from his easy childhood. In his loneliness he turned to God for comfort. He felt he had not been a good enough Christian before. He said many prayers during his times alone with the sheep.

Patrick started to have visions and felt that God had chosen him to carry out important work. One night he heard a voice saying "Your ship is ready" Although he had been in slavery for six years he had never tried to escape. But now the voice was so compelling he started on a 200 mile journey to Irelands east coast. He eventually arrived at the sea and there before him was a ship about to leave. He asked for passage but the captain refused. Patrick left the ship and began to pray. The captain began to have second thoughts thinking bad luck would befall the ship and called for Patrick to join them. The journey took three days and by the time they reached their destination they whole crew including the captain came to  admire Patrick and left with him, they had many adventures.

Eventually Patrick arrived home and his family were delighted to have him back. But Patrick was very different from the boy who had left.  He still had vivid dreams and in one a voice he knew to be the people of Ireland called "Holy boy, we ask you to come back and walk among us".  it is believed Patrick went to France for further religious training.

Ireland at that time had a population of about half a million people and had many thick forests. Ireland was ruled by about 100 chieftains and kings who were heavily influenced by druids. Patrick challenged the druids and using only the power of love he won over many of them who listened to his teaching. Thousands flocked to him during his travels throughout Ireland, they were a simple people and Patrick's simple message of Gods love won their hearts. Patrick is said to have  used the three leafed Shamrock as a way of explaining that although there was only one God there were three divine beings, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost. Croagh Patrick is one of the places he is said to have visited and spent 40 days and nights on the summit praying and fasting. It is traditional to make a pilgrimage to the top of the mountain and thousands gather every "last Sunday in July" to make the climb.

Although there were some Christians in Ireland before Patrick it was his work that eventually converted the whole island to Christianity.  It is also said he drove all the snakes form Ireland Many parts of Ireland claim Patrick as their own but he is said to have died on March 17th and is buried in Downpatrick.

Ireland has since sent many missionaries world-wide helping to further Patrick's message. Her people have helped fill the world with song, poetry, literature, dance and music and descendants. Wherever they went they celebrated the 17th of March, Saint Patrick's Day.

Much of the above information came from "The Real Story of Patrick"
Written by by George Otto Simms, former Primate of all Ireland.
Published by The O'Brien Press
ISBN: 0-86278-347-X

Of Rite and Wrong

Age wears; redemption tires.
A moment Patrick rested;
salvation nigh, he leaned on crozier
and impaled his first convert's foot.

Aengus bore the pain
as kings are wont.
No betrayal from his lips
as he joined Christ in suffering.

Still his subjects fled their bloody baptisms.

Seven more years toiled Patrick,
separating rite from wrong,
saving grace.

Christian Aengus, warrior-wasted,
fled forty fields while others raised
the purple host.

As Patrick, at last,
pierced pagan hearts
and blessed their feet,
unlucky Aengus turned the other cheek
igniting bonfires on the hills.

Copyright 1996 Betty Hufford

Betty  got the idea for this poem at the Rock of Cashel.  It took shape as she traveled throughout the country seeing artifacts (a crozier) and hearing and reading history.  She was struck by the ironies of Patrick's toils. Betty would be happy for you to contact her at  BettyHufford@aol.com   

 

 

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Owen Brennan
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Revised: March 03, 2004.