Sean Sgéal:

A Smart Answer

The teller of this sean sgéal (old story) was John Costello who lived in the village of Cliffoney in Co. Sligo.  He was 60 years old at the time of telling in 1938. The story goes like this:
   “One day Paddy Cullen was digging potatoes out there in his field.  The parish priest was walking along the road and didn’t he come in to the field and ask Paddy  what potatoes he had.  Meaning of course were they Aran Banners or Kerrs Pinks.  A priest wouldn’t know about such things.
   ‘Raw ones,’ says Paddy
   The priest wasn’t used to smart answers and wasn’t at all pleased with this reply.
   ‘I wonder do you know your catechism as well,’ was his sarcastic response.
   ‘Try me,’ says Paddy.
   ‘Right then,’ says the priest: ‘What is Baptism?’
Well, Father’ Paddy replied, ‘it was two shillings and sixpence in me father’s time, but it’s five shillings now since you came to the parish!’
The priest shook his head and walked away in disgust.”



The Fairy Stones

This story was told by Pat Clancy, also from Cliffoney, who was 64 years old in 1938:

After the ambush at Moneygold, English soldiers, known as the Black and Tans, burned a house in Cliffoney owned by the McCannon family.  The father and son were caught and lodged in Derry jail; the other three sons had to leave home and go on the run. 
   One of the sons, Denis, took a chance and stayed at home.  The mother and he went to live in a cottage in the townland of Ballinfull near Cliffoney.  Their own home place that was burned down was in the townland of Cartron.  Their farm, comprised of a few small fields, lay to the rear of their dwelling house.  The entrance to their new temporary home in the cottage was a very soft and boggy path.

Stones from the Fairy Fort
   The men who were on the run used often at dead of night and in terror of their lives come back to visit their mother and brother.  The Tans meanwhile were very active and paid many a trip to the cottage in order to arrest the other sons.  Denis Mc Cannon decided to make a rough path to the cottage so that no boot marks could be seen; once the stones were laid there would be no clue to the Tans about who was visiting the house.
   Helped by his uncle, Pat Clancy, he removed some stones from an old fairy fort on the land at Cartron.  They broke up the stones and so laid a good solid path to the house.  The day after the work was completed Denis had to go to a fair; this would necessitate his being away two nights in order to complete his business.

A Sleepless Night
   The first night the old mother was all alone and, as she often told afterwards, an uneasy night she spent!  About midnight she heard a terrible noise around the house as if there was a great commotion and argument going on.  Thinking it was the fellows on the run who had some trouble among themselves she did not open the door for a considerable time.  Then, anxious to know what was happening and wondering why they did not knock and come in she opened the door and went outside.  To her amazement there was no one or nothing to be seen.
   Returning to the house she went to bed but didn’t sleep all that night.  Next day she informed her brother, Pat Clancy.  He said he would keep her company that night.  He did so, and such a night!  The running of people around the house, the arguments, the shouting and screeching of people — as they perceived — were terrible to listen to.

Peace Once More
   The next day Pat Clancy told his nephew, Denis, to leave the stones, although now broken up into small pieces, back at the fairy fort again.  Together they gathered up the pieces of broken stone and carried them back to the fort.  From that time forth Mr’s Mc Cannon and her son had no trouble or disturbance at night — apart from visits from the Black and Tans















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