Gather 'round the campfire: November is Ireland's Month of the Dead


Two weeks after that the woman had twin boys and, the Lord between us and all harm, didn't both of them have 10 fingers on each hand. And they both died inside five weeks!

A lot of the stories were like that. They were parables of their era.

The tradition does continue, but it is a lot less strong nowadays. But even since I came down to Clare I've encountered the famous fairy tree at Lattoon on the Limerick-Galway road that made international headlines by being spared when they were building the new motorway there.

And I have been shown empty houses allegedly built on fairy highways which no human family have ever been able to occupy. And I've seen a tomb on the Clare/Galway border that they have never been able to seal because of the alleged unhappy spirit within.

And I know a certain pub which has always been dogged by bad luck up to modern times because it is said a priest with a drink problem was once deliberately led astray there in a shameful way, being supplied with drink if he took off his clothes and danced on a table. And one of his colleagues cursed the house after.

But the best I've heard in Clare in recent years in a rare story session was the grisly tale of a farmer from the south of the county who went to the Limerick Market with his horse and cart to buy a sow. He bought a mighty big young sow for the right price late in the evening and was delighted with himself.

He set off back for home, in the parish of Tulla, a good long drive, and when he got close to home he stopped at a well-known public house (still trading away healthily) and consumed a fair quantity of porter.

That, though, was no problem because his old horse knew her way home by herself. It had happened before. So when the farmer passed out asleep on the front of the cart the old mare kept going all the way home to the front street.

In the morning, though, the horrified family discovered that the sow (by then sleeping away happily!) had devoured holus-polus all the upper half of him!

And the storyteller said that any of us who did not believe the story could go to Tulla graveyard and see the proof there on an old headstone. There was no name on it, he said, but there was clearly outlined the profile of a pig.

That stone is still there and the man told the truth!