The Kildare Pooka

Patrick Kennedy
1891 (2nd Edition)

The supernatural agent of the next legend will not fit comfortably in any of the divisions of the spiritual world made by Grimm, Croker, Keightley, and others. He would be the Lubber-Fiend of Milton, or the Brownie of Scotland, or the Kobold of the North, but for once having been a "christened man." Every one up to the mere alphabet of fairy lore, knows that the pooka does not condescend to household drudgery, but his townsfolk would give the sprite in question no other name; and in consequence, the present editor of the tale does not feel entitled to take any liberties with it. A girl of Kilcock thus related the story to us.


Mr. H———R———, when he was alive, used to live a good deal in Dublin, and he was once a great while out of the country on account of the " Ninety-eight " business. But the servants kept on in the big house at Rath———, all the same as if the family was at home. Well, they used to be frightened out of their lives after going to their beds, with the banging of the kitchen door and the clattering of the fire-irons, and the pots, and plates, and dishes. One evening they sat up ever so long, keeping one another in heart with telling stories about ghosts and fetches and that when—what would you have of it?—the little scullery boy that used to be sleeping over the horses, and couldn't get room at the fire, crept into the hot hearth, and when he got tired listening to the stories, sorra fear him but he fell dead asleep.

Well and good, after they were all gone, and the fire raked up, he was woke with the noise of the kitchen door opening, and the trampling of an ass on the kitchen floor. He peeped out, and what should he see but a big grey ass, sure enough, sitting on his currabingo, and yawning before the fire. After a little, he looked about him, and began scratching his ears as if he was quite tired, and says he, "I may as well begin first as last." The poor boy's teeth began to chatter in his head, for says he, "Now he's goin' to ate me;" but the fellow with the long ears and tail on him, had something else to do. He stirred up the fire, and then he brought in a pail of water from the pump, and filled a big pot, that he put on the fire before he went out. He then put in his hand—foot, I mean—into the hot hearth, and pulled out the little boy. He let a roar out of him with the fright, but the pooka only looked at him, and thrust out his lower lip to show how little he valued him, and then he pitched him into his pew again.

Well, he then lay down before the fire till he heard the boil coming on the water, and maybe there wasn't a plate, or a dish, or a spoon on the dresser, that he didn't fetch and put into the pot, and wash and dry the whole bilin' of 'em as well as e'er a kitchenmaid from that to Dublin town. He then put all of them up in their places on the shelves, and, if he didn't give a good sweepin' to the kitchen after all, leave it till again. Then he comes and sits foment the boy, let down one of his ears and cocked up the other, and gave a grin. The poor fellow strove to roar out, but not a dheeg 'ud come out of his throat. The last thing the pooka done was to rake up the fire, and walk out, giving such a slap o' the door that the boy thought the house couldn't help tumbling down.

Well, to be sure, if there wasn't a hullabulloo next morning, when the poor fellow told his story! They could talk of nothing else the whole day. One said one thing, another said another, but a fat, lazy scullery girl said the wittiest thing of all. "Musha!" says she, "if the pooka does be cleaning up everything that way when we're asleep, what should we be slaving ourselves for, doing his work?" "Sha gu dheine," says another: "them's the wisest words you ever said, Kauth: it's meself won't contradict you."

So said so done. Not a bit of a plate or dish saw a drop of water that evening, and not a besom was laid on the floor, and every one went to bed soon after sundown. Next morning everything was as fine as fire in the kitchen, and the lord mayor might eat his dinner off the flags. It was great ease to the lazy servants, you may depend, and everything went on well till a foolhardy gag of a boy said he would stay up one night and have a chat with the pooka.

He was a little daunted when the door was thrown open, and the ass marched up to the fire. He didn't open his mouth till the pot was filled, and the pooka lying snug and sausty before the fire.

"Ah then, sir!" says he, at last, picking up courage, "if it isn't taking a liberty, might I ax who you are, and why are you so kind as to do half of the day's work for the girls every night?" "No liberty at all," says the pooka, says he: "I'll tell you, and welcome. I was a servant here in the time of Squire R.'s father, and was the laziest rogue that ever was clothed and fed, and done nothing for it. When my time came for the other world, this is the punishment was laid on me—to come here, and do all this labour every night, and then go out in the cold. It isn't so bad in the fine weather, but if you only knew what it is to stand with your head between your legs, facing the storm, from midnight to sunrise on a bleak winter night!" "And could we do anything for your comfort, my poor fellow?" says the boy. "Musha, I don't know," says the pooka; "but I think a good quilted frieze coat would help to keep the life in me, them long nights." "Why then, in throth, we'd be the ungratefulest of people if we didn't feel for you."

To make a long story short, the next night but two the boy was there again; and if he didn't delight the poor pooka, holding up a fine warm coat before him, it's no matter! Betune the pooka and the man, his legs were got into the four arms of it, and it was buttoned down his breast and his belly, and he was so pleased, he walked up to the glass to see how he looked. "Well," says he, "it's a long lane that has no turning. I am much obliged to yourself and your fellow-servants. Yous have made me happy at last: good-night to you."

So he was walking out, but the other cried, "Och! sure you're going too soon: what about the washing and sweeping?" "Ah, you may tell the girls that they must now get their turn. My punishment was to last till I was thought worthy of a reward for the way I done my duty. You'll see me no more." And no more they did, and right sorry they were for being in such a hurry to reward the ungrateful pooka.

End of this Story