THE STORY OF THE SCULLOGE'S SON FROM MUSKERRY

From Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts by Patrick Kennedy

« Previous Page | Book Contents | Sculloge's Son from Muskerry (cont.) »

But for fear of being detected, we should willingly claim this as an original Celtic legend. But alas! the learned in classic mythology would soon humble our national vanity by quoting that troublesome old Midas of Asia Minor, renowned for the fatal pair of ass's ears bestowed on him by Apollo, the secret told to the reeds, the minstrel fashioning a Pandean pipe out of these reeds, and the treacherous miniature organ squeaking out, "King Midas has the ears of an ass!"

THE STORY OF THE SCULLOGE'S SON FROM MUSKERRY [1]

A long time ago, before the Danes came into Ireland, or made beer of the heath flowers, a rich man, though he was but a sculloge, lived in Muskerry, in the south, and he died there too, rolling in riches, for he was a saving man. It is not often that a very thrifty and hardworking man has a son of the same character to step into his shoes, and the Muskerry sculloge was no worse off than many of his neighbours. When the young sculloge came to own the chests and the stockings full of gold, said he to himself, "How shall I ever be able to spend all this money?" Little he thought of adding anything to it. So he began to go to fairs and markets, not to make anything by buying and selling, but to meet young buckeens like himself, and drink with them, and gamble, and talk about hunters and hounds.

So he drank, and he gambled, and he rode races, and he followed the hounds, till there were very few of the guineas left in the chests or the stockings; and then he began to grope among the thatch, and in corners and old cupboards, and he found some more, and with this he went on a little farther. Then he borrowed some money on his farm, and when that was gone, he bethought him of a mill that used to earn a great deal of money, and that stood by the river at the very bounds of his land. He was never minded to keep it at work while the money lasted. When he came near it he found the dam broken, and scarcely a thimbleful of water in the mill-race, and the wheel rotten, and the thatch of the house and the wood-work all gone, and the upper millstone lying flat on the lower one, and a coat of dust and mould over everything. Well, he went about in a very disconsolate way, and at last sat down for grief and weariness on a seat fastened to the wall, where he often saw his father sitting when he was alive. While he was ready to cry in his desolation, he recollected seeing his father once working at a stone that was in the wall just over the seat, and wondering what he wanted with it. He put his fingers at each side, and by stirring it backwards and forwards he got it out, and there behind in a nook he found a bag holding fifty guineas. "Oh ho!" said he, "maybe these will win back all I lost." So instead of repairing his mill, and beginning the world in a right way, he gambled, and lost, and then drank to get rid of his sorrow. "Well," said he, "I'll reform. I'll borrow a horse, and follow the hunt to-morrow, and the day after will be a new day."

Well, he rode after the hounds, and the stag led him a fine piece away; and late in the evening, as he was returning home through a lonely glen, what should he see there but a foolish-looking old man, sitting at a table, with a backgammon-board, and dice, and box, and the taplaigh (bag for holding all) lying by him on the grass. There he was, shouting, and crying, and cursing, just as if it was a drinking-house, and a dozen of men gambling. Sculloge stopped his horse when he was near the table, and found out by the talk of the man that his right hand was playing against his left, and he was favouring one of them. One game was over, and then he began to lay out the terms of the next. "Now, my darling little left," said he, "if you lose you must build a large mill there below for the right; and you, you bosthoon!" said he to the right, "if you lose, but I know you won't, you thief, you must make a castle, and a beautiful garden, and pleasure-grounds spring up on that hill for the entertainment of your brother. I know I'll lose, but still I'll bet for the left: what will you venture?" said he to the young Sculloge. "Faith," said the other, "I have only a testher (sixpence) in the world, so, if you choose, I'll lay that on the right." "Done!" said he, "and if you win I'll give you a hundred pounds. I have no luck, to be sure, but I'll stick to my dear little left hand for all that. Here goes!"

Then he went throwing right and left, cheering whenever the left hand gave a good throw, and roaring and cursing at the other when two sixes or two fives turned up. All his fury was useless; the right won; and after the old fool had uttered a groan that was strong enough to move a rock, he put his left hand in on his naked breast under his coat, muttered some words that the Sculloge did not understand, and at the moment a great crash was heard down the river, as if some rocks were bursting. They looked down, and there was plain in sight a mill, with the water tumbling over the wheels, and the usual sounds coming from within. "There is your wager," said he to the right hand; "much good do you with it. Here, honest man, is your hundred guineas. D------ run to Lusk [2] with you and them."

Strange to say, Sculloge did not find himself so eager for the bottle, nor the cards and dice next day. The hundred pounds did not turn out to be withered leaves, and he began to pay the poor people about him the debts he owed, and to make his house and place look snug as it used to do. However, he did not lose his love of hunting; and on that very day week he was coming home through the same valley in the evening, and there, sure enough, was the foolish old man again, sitting at his table, but saying nothing.

"If I knew your name," said Sculloge, "I would wish you the compliments of the evening, for I think it is lucky to meet you." "I don't care for your compliments," said the other, "but I am not ashamed of my name. I am the Sighe-Draoi (Fairy Druid), Lassa Buaicht, and my stars decreed at my birth that I should be cursed from my boyhood with a rage for gambling, though I should never win a single game. I am killed all out, betting on my poor left hand all day, and losing. So if you wish to show your gratitude get down and join me. If I win, which I won't, you are to do whatever I tell you. You may say now what is to be yours if you win, and that you are sure to do."

« Previous Page | Book Contents | Sculloge's Son from Muskerry (cont.) »


NOTES

[1] Sceal Vhic Scoloige O'Muscridhe. Scolog means either a small farmer, or a generous, hospitable person.

[2] The original MS. being here injured, and the best lenses found ineffective, the translator of the story was at a sore nonplus, being ignorant of the locality to which Cork and Kerry people are in the habit of consigning their ill-wishers. People of Wexford, certainly, and those of Wicklow and Carlow, probably, have established the town mentioned as their social Norfolk Island; so he has ventured on the substitution. He has questioned sundry archaeologists on the reason of this undesirable distinction being conferred on the little Fingallian burgh, but to no sure result, the causes assigned delightfully contradicting each other.



Library Ireland Facebook