From James MacLachlan, servant, Islay.
THERE was before a regiment in Dublin in Erin, and it was going a long journey. There was a sergeant, a corporal, and a single soldier, who had sweethearts in the town. They went to see them on the day that they were to go, and they stayed too long, and the regiment left them; they followed it, and they were going and going till the night came on them. They saw a light a long way from them; and if it was a long way from them, it was not long they were in reaching it. They went in, the floor was ready swept, and a fire on it, and no one in; they sat at the fire toasting themselves; they were not, long there when the single soldier rose, to whom was the name of John, to look what was in the chamber, because there was a light in it. There was there a board covered with every sort of meat, and a lighted candle on it; he went up, he began to eat, and the rest began to hinder him, for that he had no business with it. When they saw that he did not stop, they went up and they began themselves. There were three beds in the chamber, and one of them went to lie in each bed; they had not laid long when three great red girls came in, and one of them stretched herself near each one of the beds; and when they saw the time fitting
in the morning, they rose and went away. When the girls rose, it could not be known that a bit had ever come off the board. They sat and they took their meat. The sergeant said that they had better follow the regiment; and John said that they should not follow it; as long as he could get meat and rest that he would not go. When dinner time came they sat and they took their dinner. The sergeant said they had better go; and John said that they should not go. When supper time came they sat and they took their supper; after supping they went to lie down, each one to his own bed. The girls came this night too, and went to lie down as before. In the morning when they saw the time fitting, they rose and they went away. When the lads rose the board was covered, and it could not be known that a bit had ever come off it. They sat and they took their meat; and when they took their meat, the sergeant said that they would go at all events. John said that they should not go. They took their dinner and their supper as they used; they went to lie down; the girls came and they lay down after them. In the morning the eldest gave the sergeant a purse, and every time he would unloose it, it would be full of gold and silver.
She said to the middle one, "What wilt thou give to thine?" "I will give him a towel, and every time he spreads it it will be full of every sort of meat." She gave the towel to the corporal; and she said to the youngest, "What wilt thou give to thine own?" "I will give him a whistle, and every time he plays it he will be in the very middle of the regiment." She gave him the whistle; they left their blessing with them, and they went away. "I won't let it rest here," said John; "I will know who they are before
[paragraph continues] I go further forward." He followed them, and he saw them going down a glen; and when he was about to be down, they came to meet him, crying. "What is the matter with you! says he. "Much is the matter with us," said they, that we are under charms, till we find three lads who will spend three nights with us without putting a question to us; and if thou hadst stayed without following us we were free." "Is there any way that you can get free but that!" said he. "There is," said they. "There is a tree at the end of the house, and if you come at the end of a day and year and pluck up the tree, we were free." John turned back where the rest were, and he told them how it happened to him; and they gave this advice to each other that they should return back to Dublin again, because it was not worth their while to follow the regiment. They returned back to Dublin.
That night John said,--"I had better go to see the king's daughter to-night." "Thou had'st better stay in the house," said the rest, "than go there."
"I will go there, at all events," says he. He went and he reached the king's house; he struck at the door, one of the gentlewomen asked him what he wanted; and he said that he wished to be speaking to the king's daughter. The king's daughter came where he was, and she asked what business he had with her. "I will give thee a whistle," said he, "and when thou playest it thou wilt be in the middle of such a regiment." When she got the whistle she drove him down stairs, and she shut the door on him. 'How went it with thee?' said they. "She wheedled the whistle from me," said he. He did not stop till he had beguiled a loan of the purse from the
sergeant. "I had better," said he, "go to see the king's daughter again." He went away and he reached the house; he saw the king's daughter; she wheedled the purse from him, and drove him down stairs, as she did before; and he turned back. He did not stop till he beguiled a loan of the towel from the corporal. He went again where the king's daughter was. "What wilt thou give me this journey?" said she. "A towel, and when it is opened it will be full of every sort of meat." "Let me see it," said she. "We will spread it out," said he. He spread it out, and there was a corner that would not lie right. He said to her to stand on the corner; she stood on it; he stood himself on another corner, and he wished to be in the uttermost isle of the deep; and himself and the king's daughter, and the towel, were in it in five minutes. There was the very prettiest island that man ever saw, and nothing in it but trees and fruits. There they were, going through the island backwards and forwards, and sleep came on him. They came to a pretty little hollow, and he laid his head in her lap; and he took a death grip of her apron, in order that she should not get away without his perceiving her. When he slept she loosed the apron; she left him there; she took the towel with her; she stood on it; she wished herself to be in her father's house, and she was in it. When he awoke he had nothing to get, he had nothing to see but trees and birds; he was then keeping himself alive with the fruits of the island, and hit upon apples; and when he would eat one sort of them they would put a deer's head on him; and when he would eat another sort of them, they would put it off him.
One day he gathered a great many of the apples,
and he put the one sort in the one end of the pock, and the other sort in the other end. He saw a vessel going past, he waved to her; a boat came to shore, and they took him on board. The captain took him down to meat, and he left the pock above. The sailors opened the pock to see what was in it; when they saw that apples were in it, they began to eat them. They ate the sort that would put deers' horns on them, and they began fighting till they were like to break the vessel. When the captain heard the row, he came up; and when he saw them, he said, "Thou bad man, what hast thou done to my men now?" "What," said John, "made thy men so impudent that they would go and look into any man's pock?" "What wilt thou give me," said John, "if I leave them as they were before?" The skipper took fright, and he said that he would give him the vessel and cargo at the first port they reached. Here he opened the pock, and he gave them the other sort, and the horns fell off them. It was a cargo of gold was on the ship, and it was to Dublin she vas going. When they arrived the captain said to him to be taking care of the vessel and cargo, that he was done with it. "Be patient," said John, "till we see how it goes with us at the end of a few days." He went away on the morrow to sell the apples about the town with nothing on but torn clothes. He went up through the town, and he came opposite the king's house, and he saw the king's daughter with her head out of the window. She asked that a pound of the apples should be sent up to her. He said she should try how they would agree with her first. He threw up an apple to her of the sort that would put a deer's head on her; when she ate the apple there came a deer's head and horns on
her. The king sent forth word, that if any man whatsoever could be found, who would heal his daughter, that he should get a peck of gold, and a peck of silver, and herself to marry. She was thus many days and no man coming that could do any good at all. John came to the door with the torn clothes, asking to get in; and when they saw his like, they would not let him in; but she had a little brother who saw them keeping him out, and he told it to his father; and his father said, "Though it were the beggar of the green!" Word went after him that he should return, and he returned. The king said to him, "Could he heal his daughter?" and he said "that he would try it." They took him up to the chamber where she was. He sat, and he took a book out of his pocket, with nothing in it, pretending that he was reading it. "Didst thou," said he, "wheedle a whistle from a poor soldier; when he would play it, it would take him to the middle of the regiment?" "I wheedled," said she. "If that is not found," said he, "I cannot heal thee." "It is," says she. They brought the whistle to him. When he got the whistle he gave her a piece of apple, and one of the horns fell off her. "I can't," said he, "do more to-day, but I will come here to-morrow. Then he went out, and his old comrades met him. The trade they had was to be slaking lime and drawing water for stone masons. He knew them, but they did not know him; he noticed nothing at all, but he gave them ten shillings, and he said to them, "Drink the health of the man who gave them." He left them there and he returned to the ship. On the morrow he went where the king's daughter was; he took out the book, and he said to her, "Didst thou wheedle a purse from a poor soldier, that would be full of gold and
silver every time it was opened?" "I wheedled," said she. "If that is not found," said he, "I cannot heal thee." "It is," said she; and they gave him the purse. When he got the purse he gave her a piece of the apple, and another horn fell off her. "I can do no more to-day," said he, "but I will come the next night." He went where his old comrades were, and he gave them other ten shillings, and he said to them, "To drink the health of the man who gave them." Then he returned to the vessel. The captain said to him, "Was he going to take charge of the vessel now?" Said he, "Catch patience till the end of a day or two, till we see how it goes with us." He returned the next night to see the king's daughter. He gave a pull at the book as he used to do,--"Didst thou wheedle," said he, "a towel from a poor soldier, that would be full of every kind of meat every time it was undone?" "I wheedled," said she. "If that towel is not to be found, I cannot cure thee," says he. "It is," says she. They gave it to him; as quick as he got it, he gave her a whole apple; and when she ate it she was as she was before. Here he got a peck of gold and a peck of silver; and they said to him that he would get herself to marry. "I will come to-morrow," said he. He went the way of his old comrades this time too; he gave them ten shillings, and he said to them, "To drink the health of the man who gave them." Said they, "It would be pleasing to us to know what kind friend is giving us the like of this every night." "Have you mind," said he, "when we were in such a place, and that we promised to the three girls that we would go there again a year from the time." Then they knew him. "That time has gone past long ago," said they. "It is not gone," said he
"next night is the night." He returned where the captain was; he said to him that himself and his cargo might be off; that he would not be troubling him; that he had enough. On the morrow he went past the king's house, and the king's daughter said to him, "Art thou going to marry me to-day?" "No, nor to-morrow," said he. He returned where the rest were, and he began to set them in order for going where they promised. He gave the purse to the sergeant, the towel to the corporal, and the whistle he kept himself. He bought three horses, and they went riding with great haste to the place to which they had promised to go. When they reached the house they caught the tree, and it came with them at the first pull. The three girls came so white and smiling where they were, and they were free from the spells. Every man of them took his own with him; they came back to Dublin, and they married.
Got this tale from a young lad of the name of James M'Lachlin, who is at present in my own employment. I have had the
preceding tale from him also. He has had them from an old woman that lives somewhere up the way of Portaskaig, who, he says, can repeat several more, and to whom I intend immediately to apply.
May 27, 1860--After speaking to the old woman MacKerrol, I find that, from age and loss of memory, she is unable now to tell any of the tales she was wont to repeat.
Another version of this has been sent by Mr. Osgood Mackenzie from Gairloch. It was recited by HECTOR MACKENZIE at Dibaig, who learned it some years ago from KENNETH MACKENZIE at Dibaig; and it was written by ANGUS MACRAE at Dibaig. This Dibaig version tells how--
1. There was a soldier, by name Coinneach Buidhe, Kenneth the Yellow, in the army of old, and he belonged to Alba. He deserted, and his master sent a "corpaileir" after him; but the corporal deserted too; and so did a third. They went on till they reached the "yearly wood," in America. After a time, they saw on a certain night, a light which led them to a large house; they found meat and drink, and all that they could desire. They saw no one for a year and a day, except three maidens, who never spoke, but called in at odd times; and as they did not speak, the soldiers were silent.
At the end of the year the maidens spoke, and praised them for their politeness, explained that they were under spells, and for their kindness, gave to the first a cup that would be ever full, and a lamp of light; to the second, a table-cover on which meat was ever; and to the third, a bed in which there would ever be rest for them at any time they chose; and besides, the "TIADHLAICEAN" would make any one who had them get anything he wished. They reached a certain king, whose only daughter pretended to be fond of Kenneth the Yellow, and wheedled him till he gave her the TIADHLAICEAN, when she ordered him to be put in an island in the ocean. When there alone he grew hungry, and ate "abhlan," and a wood like thatch grew through his head, and there remained till he ate "ABHLAN" of another kind, when the wood vanished. He got off in a ship with "ABHLAN" of each sort, and reached the big town of the king where he had been before, where he set up a booth. On a certain day a fair lad came in to sell ABHLAN, and through him the other kind were
sold to the king's daughter, and a wood grew on her head. Kenneth the Yellow got back the TIADHLAICEAN, and found his two companions AGUS BHA IAD UILE TUILLEADH ANN AM MEAS AGUS SOIRBHEACHADH GUS A CHRIOCH. And they were all after in worship and prosperousness till the end.
This is manifestly the same story shortened, and made reasonable. It is very well written and spelt according to rule.
3. I have another version of this told by Hector Boyd, fisherman, Castle Bay, Barra, who says he learned it from John MacNeill, who has left the island; and from Neill MacKinnon, Ruagh Lias. In this the three soldiers are English, Scotch, and Irish. The two last desert; and the first, a sergeant, is sent after them. They persuade him to desert also, and they come to a castle. The Irishman acts the part of John in the Islay version; and the first night they eat and go to sleep, and find dresses when they wake. In the morning they get up and put on their dresses; and the board was set over with meat and with drink, and they took their TRATH MADAIN, breakfast. They went to take a walk without. The Englishman had a gun, and he saw three swans swimming on a loch, and he began to put a charge in his gun. The swans perceived him, and they cried to him, and they were sure he was going to shoot at them. They came on shore and became three women. "How are these dresses pleasing you?" said they. "The like will be yours every day in the year, and your meat as good as you got; but that you should neither think or order one of us to be with you in lying down or rising up." And so they remained for a year in the castle. One night the Irishman thought of the swans, and in the morning they had nothing but their old dresses.
They went to the loch; the swans came on shore, became women, and gave a purse that would always be full of gold and jewels, to the Englishman; a knife to the Scotchman, and whenever it was opened he would be wherever he wished; and to the Irishman a horn, and when he blew in the small end there would be a thousand soldiers before him; and when he blew in the big end none of them would be seen.
They go to a big town, and build a house on a green hill with money from the purse; and when the house was built, one about went to the town to buy meat. The Irishman fell in love with the king's daughter, and was cheated out of his magic horn; borrowed the purse, and lost that; and then, by the help of the
knife, transported himself and the king's daughter to an island which could hardly be seen in the far ocean. And there they were, and there they stayed for seventeen days, eating fruits. One day he slept with his head on her knee, and she looked at her hands and saw how long the nails had grown; so she put her hand in his pocket and took out the knife to pare them. "Oh," said she, "that I were where the nails grew on me," and she was in her father's house. Then he found red apples and grey apples; and no sooner had he eaten some of the red apples than his head was down, and his heels were up, from the weight of the deer's horns that grew on his head. Then he bethought him that one of the grey apples might heal him; and he stretched himself out with his head downwards, and kicked down one of the apples with his feet, and ate it, and the horns fell off him. Then he made baskets, and filled them with the apples; climbed a tree, saw a ship, tore his shirt and waved it on a stick, and was seen.
The skipper was under an oath that he would never leave a man in extremity. They came on shore for him, and were terrified at his beard, thinking that he was the evil spirit. When he got on board, a razor was got, and (as the narrator said) SHEUBHAIG E he was shaved. The ship sailed straight to the king's house. The lady looked out of a window. He sold her a red apple for a guinea. She ate it, the horns grew, and there were not alive those who could take her from that. They thought of saws, and they sent for doctors; and he came, and then there is a scene in which he pretends to read a divining book, and tries saws on the horns, and frightens the lady and recovers the lost gifts. Then he went to his friends, and they went to the swans; and the spells went off them, and they married them.
The story is very well told, especially the last scene; but it is too like the Islay version to make it worth translating at full length.
4. I have another story, from a Ross-shire man, now in Glasgow, which begins in the same manner, but the incidents are very different.
This story has a counterpart in German, Der Krautesel; and it has a very long pedigree in Grimm's third volume. It seems to be very widely spread, and very old, and to belong to many languages; many versions are given. In one a soldier, one of three, eats apples in a forest, and his nose grows right through the forest, and sixty miles beyond it; and the king's daughter's
nose is made to grow, exactly as horns are made to grow on the princess in the Highlands; and she is forced to give up the things which she had got from the soldiers; and which are a purse, a mantle, and a horn of magic power.
In another version, it is a young huntsman who changes a witch and her daughter into donkeys, by giving them magic cabbages, which had previously transformed him.
The swans in the third version seem to belong to Sanscrit, as well as to Norse and other languages. In "Comparative Mythology," by Max Muller, Oxford Essays, 1856, a story is given from the Brâhmana of the Yagurveda, in which this passage occurs--"Then he bewailed his vanished love in bitter grief; and went near Kurukshetra. There is a lake there called Anyatahplaksha, full of lotus flowers; and while the king walked along its border, the fairies were playing there in the water in the shape of birds; and Urvasi discovered him, and said, 'That is the man with whom I dwelt so long.' Then her friends said, 'Let us appear to him,'" etc., etc.
The rest of the Eastern story has many Western counterparts, such as "Peter Wilkins and the Flying Ladies," and a story which I have from Islay. The incident of birds which turn out to be enchanted women, occurs in a great many other Gaelic stories; and is in Mr. Peter Buchan's "Green Sleeves" (see introduction); and, as I am told, in the Edda.
BAILECLIATH is Dublin, and takes its Gaelic name from a legend. The name should be Baile àth Cliath, the town of Wattle Ford; either from wattled boats, or a bridge of hurdles; and as it appears, there was a weaver, or tailor, residing at Ath Cliath, Wattle Ford, who got his living by making creels or hurdles, CLIATHAN, for crossing the river. There was a fluent, gabby old man, who was a friend of his; and from his having such a tongue, the maker of the creels advised him to become a beggar, as he was sure to succeed. He began, and got plenty of money. He wore a cap or currachd, and all the coin he got he buried under a stone, at the end of the wattle bridge. The bridge maker died; the beggar got ill and kept his cap on, and never took it off; and when he was dying he asked his wife to bury him in it; and he was buried with his cap on. The widow's son found out about the buried treasure, and dug it up; but the beggar's ghost so tormented the boy, that he had to go to the minister, who advised them to build a bridge with the money;
so they built DROCHAID ATH CLIATH, and there it is to this very day.
I do not know which of the Dublin bridges is meant, but the story was got from a woman at Kilmeny in Islay, and this is a mere outline of it. It is known as the story of the red-haired beggar, Am Bochd Ruagh.
Bailecliath is a great place in Gaelic songs.
The story of the Three Soldiers is one of which I remember to have heard a part in my childhood. I perfectly remember contriving with a companion how we would have given the cruel princess bits of different kinds of apples, mixed together, so as to make the horns grow, and fall off time about; but I cannot remember who told me the story. The version I have given is the most complete, but the language of the Barra version is better.
There are two or three inconsistencies. They travel on the towel which had the commissariat, and do not use the locomotive whistle at all. But there are touches of nature. The mason's labourers thought the time had passed, but the adventurer did not find time so long; and he alone remembered the day.