The Misfortunes of Barrett the Piper

Patrick Kennedy
1891 (2nd Edition)

An ancient Ossianic story is the original on which Carroll O'Daly or Hugh Duff O'Reilly founded the tale of the "Son of Evil Counsel." Such legends passed from the mouths of the professed bards and story-tellers to those of a lower rank and less talent; and again descended from their keeping to the care of uneducated peasants. We cite the last degraded form of this old fiction, as told by a scealuidhe of the lowest rank.


Barrett the Piper, you see, lost his skill, and was advised to go to the Black North to recover it (Barrett was a Munster man). Well, he took his little boy with him and they walked and they walked till the dark came, and they went into a cabin by the roadside to look for lodging. "God save all here!" says they. "Save you kindly!" says the man of the house, but he left out the HOLY NAME. "How are you, Jack Barrett?" "Musha, pure and hearty, sir; many thanks for the axing, but how did you know me?" "Och, I knew you before you were weaned. Sit down and make yourself at home; here you stay till morning." Well, faith, they got a good supper of pytatees and milk, and a good bed of straw was made for them by the wall up near the fire, and they lay down quite comfortable to get a good sleep. But some bad thoughts came over Jack Barrett in the dead of the night, and he got up and went out of the bed, and it's in the fields he found himself, and a couple of mad dogs running after him. There was a big tree near him with ever so many crows' nests in the top, and he run and climbed up in it from the dogs, and if he missed the dogs he found the crows, and didn't they fall on him to tear his eyes out! He bawled, and he roared, and the man of the house came into the kitchen, and stirred the fire, and there was Jack Barrett on the hen-roost, and the cocks and hens cackling about him. "Musha, the sorra's on you for a Jack Barrett! How did you get up there among the fowl?" "The goodness knows; it's not their company I want. Will you help me down, honest man?"

Well, he got into bed again, and if he did he was not long there when a bad thought come into his head, and up he got. He was going into the next room, when where did he find himself but by the bank of a big river, and the same two dogs tearing along like vengeance to make gibbets of him. There was a tree there, and its boughs were out over the river. Up climbs Jack, and up after him with the dogs; and to get out of their clutches he scrambled out on a long bough. The dogs were soon feeling after him, and he going out farther and farther, till he was afraid it would break. At last he felt it cracking, and he gave a roar out of him that you'd hear a mile off, and the man of the house came into the kitchen, and stirred the fire, and there was Jack sthraddle-leg on the pot-rack. "Musha, Jack, but you're the devil's quare youth at your time o' life to be makin' a horse of my pot-rack. Come down, you onshuch, and go to bed."

Well, the third time, where did the divel guide him but to a bed in the next room, and when he flopped into it, he let such a yowl out of him that you'd think it was heaven and earth was coming together. "What's in the win' now, Jack?" says the man o' the house. "Oh, it's in the pains of labour I am," says the unfortunate piper. "Will we send for the midwife for you?" says the other. "Oh, the curse o' Cromwell on yourself an' the midwife!" says the poor man; "it wasn't God had a hand in us the hour we darkened your door. Oh, tattheration to you, you ould thief! won't you give us some aise?" "Father honey," says the boy, "it's pishrogues is an you. A drop of holy water wall do you more good nor the master o' the house, God bless him!"

"I'll tear you limb from limb," says the ould villain when he heard the HOLY NAME, "if you say that again." "Well, anyhow," says the boy, "make the sign of the cross on yourself, father, and say the Lord's Prayer." The poor ould piper did so, and at the blessed words and the sign, his pains left him. There was no sight of the man of the house on the spot then; maybe he was in the lower room.

When the piper and his son woke next morning, they were lying in the dry moat of an ould rath that lay by the high road.

End of this Story