Paddy Welsh and the Gold

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This is an extract from Sir William Wilde’s Superstitions of Ireland. For those who don’t know Sir William Wilde was the father of Oscar Wilde – Oscar Wilde achieved his own notoriety as an author, poet, playwrite and character of some eccentricity. Sir William, his father was a doctor, an antiquarian and another eccentric character or so it is said, Oscar’s mother was known as ‘Speranza who also was a writer, poet – I’ve read that on the day that Thomas Davis was being buried, Miss Jane Francesca Elgee (from Wexford (Lady Wilde to be)) was in Dublin and as the funeral cortege passed she did not know whose it was and made enquiries – wondering then about a person whose death could cause such sorrow to so many, she took to reading the articles in the ‘Nation’ newspaper and then began contributing as ‘Speranza. Sir William Wilde is one of the mourners named as standing around that grave on the day that Thomas Davis was buried.

It was said he had found a crook of gold in one of the towers of the old barns of Ballintober, which was not more than a mile and a half distant from his cabin, and where Paddy and his son were often seen in the twilight, looking, they said, for moths and wall-flies among the old ivy, or bats and starlings to manufacture fishing materials; at least, so they said, but the people thought otherwise. We often endeavoured to worm the story out of the cunning angler, but, drunk or sober, he was always on his guard, and generally passed it off with a joke, or –

“Sure, Master Willie, you don’t give into the likes -’tis only ould women’s; talk. It’s myself that would be glad to own to it if I got the goold, and not be slaying myself, summer and winter, by the river’s brink, as I am.”

“Yes; but, Paddy, they say you made the attempt, at all events. Cannot you tell us what happened to you ?”

“Oh, then, it’s only all gollymoschought. But that’s mighty fine parlimint* your honour has in the little flask; ’tis a pity it doesn’t hould more, and the devil a tail we are rising to keep up our spirits.”

“Come now, Paddy, since you know very well it will be quite too bright and dull these two hours to stir even a roach, lot alone a trout – don’t you perceive there isn’t a cloud in the sky, and I can see the bottom as plain as my hand: look, even the cows have left off feeding, and are standing in the ford switching their tails to keep of the clags? – just stick the rods, and lie on your face in the grass there, and tell me all about the night you went to look after the money in the old bawne. Do, and you’ll see I’ll squeeze another mouthful out of the cruiskeen.”

“Well, but you’re mighty ‘cute and disquisitive after ould stories and pishogues. I suppose I may as well be after telling it to you while the breeze is getting up; but keep an eye to the river, avourneen, and try could you see e’er a rise; and be sure you don’t miss a gray coughlin or a merrow, if e’er a one flies past you; we’ll want them coming on evening. But don’t be tellin’ on me, nor let on at the big house* that I told you the likes at all. Sure the mistress ‘ud never forgive me for putting such things in your head; and maybe it’s Father Crump she’d be after repatein’ it to the next Sunday he dines; in Dundearmot; and if she did, troth I wouldn’t face him for a month of Sundays. Maybe it’s to St. Ball or to St. John’s Well he’d send me for my night walkin’.”

“Oh, never fear, I’ll keep your secret.”

“Well, then, avourneen, to make a long story short, I dhramed one night that I was walking about in the bawne, when I looked into the old tower that’s in the left hand corner, after you pass the gate, and there I saw, sure enough, a little crook, about the bigness of the bottom of a pitcher, and it full up of all kinds of money, goold, silver, and brass. When I woke next morning, I said nothin’ about it, but in a few nights after I had the same dhrame over agin, ony I thought I was lookin’ down from the top of the tower, and that all the flures were taken away. Peggy knew be me that I had a dhrame, for I wasn’t quite asey in myself; so I ups and tells her the whole of it, when the childer had gone out.

“Well, Paddy,” says she, “who knows but it would come thrue, and be the making of us yet; but you must wait till the dhrame comes afore you the third time, and then, sure, it can do no harm to try, anyways.”

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