‘The Prattling Old Wife’

27 Jan

Many years ago, there lived in Kildavee, Cantire, a Chailleach bhearo,1 or prattling old wife, who possessed wonderful gifts. She had discovered a medicinal well, to which she repaired every seventh year, in order that she might get her youth renewed; and many a time search has been made for this well, but it has not yet been discovered. But this might arise from the circumstance, that, whenever the old Wife paid her visit to the well for the purpose of renewing her youth, she was very careful not to meet with any person on the road: for, if she did, it would deprive the waters of the well of their medicinal charm.

She managed this very well for a length of years; until one day, when she was going to the well, she accidentally met with a man; and although she went on and tried the well, yet its virtues had ceased, and its waters did not bring back her youth. This made her say—

Chairich mi m’fhear, is mo sheac mic,
Fo aon lie an Cildaibhi;
Ach cham e sin areinn mo creach,
‘Se neach, a dh’aimish orm an de.

“I buried my husband and my seven sons under a flag-stone in Kildavee; but that was not so much my loss as the man I met with yesterday.”

This prattling old Wife had a son called Doirbhain, or “the Turbulent,” because he was bad-natured and disobedient to her; which made her swear that she would never show her face at his door. But when Doirbhain saw his mother out in the field, quite destitute, he went to her and led her backwards to his house, so that her oath was not violated. And he took care of her as long as she lived.

The people did not forget this; and whenever they saw a cross child they used to say, ” Maybe he is like Doirbhain, and will make the best of the whole family!”

Source: The White Wife; with other stories, Supernatural, Romantic and Legendary collected and illustrated by Cuthbert Bede – Edward Bradley, 1865.


1 Probably a corruption of Cailleach Bheur.

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Posted by on January 27, 2012 in Cailleach Bhearo, Renewal, Silence, Tales, Wells


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