Daniel O’Connell and the Cow

Taken from Folktales of the Irish Countryside
By Kevin Danaher

Stories from Dick Denihan


It was always said that there was no fear of you in the court of law if you could get Daniel O’Connell to defend you. There was a story about a man that was brought up for stealing a cow, and at that time you could be hanged for stealing, or if you weren’t hanged you’d be transport ed for the rest of your natural life. And the man that was bringing the case against the poor man was Counsellor Goold, the same man who was the landlord of this parish And he was good friends with Daniel O’Connell, but they were always trying to get the better of each other in the court.

Well, the case came up, and Goold led off, accusing the poor man of the theft of the cow. ‘What age was the cow?’ says O’Connell. ‘It was a three year old,’ says Goold. ‘How would you know the like of that?’ says O’Connell. ‘Aren’t you just after buying a big estate of land of the Earl of Devon, and isn’t it land so bad that if you put a three year old beast on it, the poor creature would come out of it after a year only the size of a yearling, but with horns on her like a deer from the hills of Kerry! ‘Tis all nonsense, my lord,’ says he to the judge. ‘My friend, Mr Goold is a good and honest man, but he knows nothing about cattle. The case should be dismissed!’ And Goold got so flustered with all the fun and laughing in the court that he got all mixed up, and the judge dismissed the case.

They were going out of the court, and the poor man came up to O’Connell. And Goold was there, too, talking to O’Connell. And the poor man was full of thanks and praise for the man that saved him, and all excuses that he was so poor that he had nothing to offer O’Connell for getting him off free. ‘Of course you are innocent, you haven’t even the cow?’ says O’ConnelL He swore by this and by that that he hadn’t the cow and that he didn’t know anything about it. ‘Well,’ says O’Connell, ‘I’ll forgive you the costs of the case this time, for I can well understand how poor and how honest you are. But tell me this, now, especially when my good friend Mr Goold here knows so little about cattle. Suppose that myself or my friend Mr Goold wanted to steal a good cow, and we saw a big herd of them in a field on a winter’s night like last night. How would we know the best one?’ ‘Easy enough, sir,’ says the man, ‘all you have to do is to pick out the one that is the farthest out in the field from the hedge. Because that is the one that is the fattest and with the best condition. There’s no bother to it at all, then, only to drive her away, but of course you’ll have to have the arrangements made to sell her to a butcher before the daylight,’ says he. He was so delighted at the Counsellors talking to him that he gave himself away completely. But O’Connell and Goold only laughed. ‘There now, Thomas, my friend,’ says O’Connell, ‘is a man that could teach us both about cattle.’ ‘Every man to his trade,’ s