The Priest Christens his own Child first

AuthorJohn Johnson Marshall
SourcePopular Rhymes and Sayings of Ireland
Section Chapter IX (4) - Start of Chapter

“The priest christens his own child first.” A poor man’s wife had seven children at a birth, and as he had no means to rear them he was carrying them to the river to drown them, when he was met by an angel who assumed the appearance of a little old man, who asked him what he had in his coat. “Puppies,” replied the man. “Oh,” says the old man, “I want a dog, give me one.” The man, after a time, had to tell the truth, when the little man said he must get them christened first. He brought him to a priest, whom he told to choose one, and send the others to six different priests, when the priest said “oh, I must christen my own child first.” Of course the seven children became seven bishops and when they died were buried at Treanstown, County Kilkenny. It seems a pity to disturb the legend but in Westcote’s View of Devon, published in 1630, the same story is to be found slightly varied to suit the locality. In it the poor man’s wife has seven, and being unable to rear, is on his way to drown them, when he meets the Countess of Devon who saves them in the regulation fashion. Westcote proceeds to quote Camerarius, who gives a similar origin to the noble race of Whelfes (Guelphs, whelps).

A more ancient version occurs in Paul Warnefred, De Gestre’s Langobardum lib. I. C. 15. Thus the story is thrown back to the earliest times; for the legends which Warnefred has inserted in the history belong unquestionably to the original “folk lore” of the Lombards and have been treated so by Grimm.

“Going out of Ireland to live in the Roer.” This is a district of Kilkenny, in the north of the barony of Ida, not far from Ferry Mountgarrett. Consequential Wexford folk regarded it in matters of learning and politeness much as the Athenians did the Boetians in ancient times. A very similar expression is also used in many parts of Ulster to denote what one might call “the back of beyond,” such as—“leave Ireland and go to the Moy,” or as an old lady who had lived all her life in the vicinity of Belfast used to remark—“It’s out of the world and into Holywood” (County Down).

The County of Tipperary has the saying—“light of foot as a Tipperary ragman,” or perhaps other countries say it for Tipperary. There are also “the Tipperary stone throwers.”

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Contents Popular Rhymes and Sayings of Ireland
CategorySocial History

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