Fann Mac Cuil and the Scotch Giant

Patrick Kennedy
1891 (2nd Edition)

The great Irish joiant, Fann Mac Cuil, lived to be a middle-aged man, without ever meeting his match, and so he was as proud as a paycock. He had a great fort in the Bog of Allen, and there himself and his warriors would be playing soord and pot-lid, or shootin' bow-arras, or pitchin' big stones twenty or thirty miles off, to make a quay for the harbour of Dublin. One day he was quite down in the mouth, for his men were scattered here and there, and he had no one to wrestle or hurl, or go hunt along with him. So he was walking about very lonesome, when he sees a foot-messenger he had, coming hot-foot across the bog. "What's in the win' (wind)?" says he. "It's the great Scotch giant, Far Rua, that's in it," says the other. "He's coming over the big stepping stones that lead from Ireland to Scotland,[1] and you will have him here in less than no time. He heard of the great Fann Mac Cuil, and he wants to see which is the best man." "Oh, ho!" says Fann, "I hear that the Far Rua is three foot taller nor me, and I'm three foot taller nor the tallest man in Ireland. I must speak to Grainne about it."

Well, it wasn't long till the terrible Scotch fellow was getting along the stony road that led across the bog, with a sword as big as three scythe blades, and a spear the lenth of the house. "Is the great Irish giant at home?" says he. "He is not," says Fann's messenger: "he is huntin' stags at Killarney; but the vanithee is within, and will be glad to see you, Follow me if you please." In the hall they see a long deal (fir) tree, with an iron head on it, and a round block of wood, with an iron rim, as big as four cart wheels. "Them is the shield and spear of Fann," says the messenger. "Ubbabow!" says the giant to himself.

"You're welcome, Far Rua," says Grainne, as mild as the moon. "Sit down, and take such fare as God sends." So she put before him a great big griddle cake, with the griddle itself inside, that had a round piece cut out at one part of the rim; and for a beefsteak, she gave him a piece of a red deal plank, with a skrimshin of hard meat outside. The first bite the giant give at the cake, he broke three of his teeth; and when he tried the beef the other ones stuck so fast in the deal, he could not draw them out. "By me soord, ma'am," says he, "this is hard diet you give your company." "Oh, Lord love you!" says she, "the children here think nothing of it. Let us see if the infant would object." So she takes the cake over where Fann was lying in the cradle, and offers him the part where the piece was taken out of the griddle. Well, he bit off the bread with the greatest ease, chawed it, and swallyed it, and smacked his lips after it, and then he winked one eye at Far Rua. "Be the laws!" says the Scotchman to himself, "these is wonderful people."

Well, they didn't stent him in the drink any way. The jug of beer they laid before him would hold four gallons, and he emptied it out of spite at one offer, as he didn't get fair play at the bread and mate. "I think," says he, after his drink, "I'd like to see how Fann and his men amuses themselves after dinner." "You must see that," says the messenger. "Step out into the bawn, if it is agreeable to you." Well, when they wor outside, the messenger pointed to four or five stones, the size and shape of a gate post. "Them is their finger stones, that they do be casting to see who'll throw them farthest. It is a good throw when one of them reaches Dublin. But Fann does mooroon (more than enough) sometimes; and you'll see some of them sticking up out o' the say where they light after a great fling. Maybe you'd like to try your hand." He did try his hand, and after winding it round and round his head he let fly, and it went half a mile whistling through the air, and broke in a hundred smithereens on a big stone in the bog. "You'll do well," says the boy, when you come to your full growth, and get a year's practice or so with Fann." "To the d——— I pitch Fann and his finger stones!" says the big Red Man to himself.

"Well, is there any other way they divart themselves? " says the stranger. " Oh, yes," says the boy. "Fann and his men does be throwing that handball (the ball was a round stone that 'ud fill this hearth up to the mantel beam) from the bawn here over the house, and running round and catching it before it comes to the ground. Every miss counts one lost." "Wonderful quare people is the Irish," said the big man. "Maybe if it wouldn't go over with me at the first offer, it might break down the roof, and that 'ud annoy the vanithee. I'll pitch it up in the air here, and you can mark." So he gave a heave. "How high is it gone?" "Up to the window sill." "Now?" "Up to the eaves." "Dickens take it! Now where is it!" "Oh, sir, it is on your head." And indeed so it was, and levelled him also, and only he had a reasonable hard noggin of his own, it would be cracked in two with the souse the big stone gave it again' the ground.

He got up, and rubbed his poor skull, and looked very cross. "I suppose Fann won't be home to-night." "Sir, he's not expected for a week." "Well, give the vanithee my compliments, and tell her I must go back without bidding her good bye, for fear the tide would overtake me crossing the Causeway."

End of this Story


[1] The Giant's Causeway, of which there are now visible only some slices at the two extremities. Those trustworthy chroniclers, the ancient bards, affirm that it is the work of the ancient Irish and Scotch men of might, laid down to facilitate their mutual visits.