National Folklore Collection
The story on this page has been taken from the Dúchas web site, page http://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/5082122/5037927 and pages following. An image of the original manuscript can be viewed on the Dúchas page as well as more detailed information about the informant and recorder of the story.
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There lived in a lonesome part of Ireland a man and his wife. They were called Gilbert and Shiela. They did not agree very well sometimes but all the same they were fond of each other. Shiela
was hot-tempered but was easily reconciled when her anger cooled down. When Gilbert did anything wrong as often he did the people called him the softy and they said he had no '' cutting '' in him which meant he was easy going and not sharp and indeed they said the truth. He had a piece of land and two cows and a few goats. They grew as much corn as did themselves with care. There were no mills near them so they had to thresh their corn while it was blazing and then it was put in a big stone bowl and rumbled with a beetle to '' shell '' it. Then it was cleaned by an invention of his own.
He got a '' four square '' stick and pegged four pieces of rough boards that he hewed with a flint hatchet.
Then there were two brackets fastened each side of the room door and the fan was dropped into brackets and a cord or rope made of rush peelings. This rope was wound round each end of the fan in opposition to each other. One of the children was in the room and one in the kitchen. They had a '' wite ''
made of sheepskin and a loop with this '' wite '', the corn was trickled down in front of the fan. When the boy in the room pulled the rope the fan spun and blew the chaff off the oats and when one rope was run out the other boy pulled in the opposite way and so on till the corn was ready for the querns and the meal was ready for making into bread and dumplings. That was the way they lived, but one time the corn was nearly out and Shiela says '' Gilbert the corn is nearly out what are we to do for bread and stirabout for the children '' ?
'' Begorra '' says Gilbert '' we'll have to sell one of the cows '' '' That's hard '' says Shiela '' but I suppose it can't be helped. Bring her to Glin and get the best price you can for her ''
So Gilbert started the next morning with the cow that had a white stripe all along her back-bone. He was only a few miles from home when he met a little man with a green jacket knee breeches top boots and a cocked hat. '' Where are you going with the cow ? ''
I’m going to sell her. '' What do you want for her ? '' What will you give me ? '' '' I'll give you a bottle, '' says the little man. '' A bottle ! '' says Gilbert in surprise. '' Yes, there it is; look at it well. ''
'' I never saw the like of that before and you call that a bottle '' Sure that's that's what it is '' '' Well I never saw the like of that before '' '' Will you take it ? '' said the little man. '' What good is a bottle to me and my family that's nearly starving '' '' Take the bottle for the cow and they'll not starve long. '' '' All right, '' says Gilbert so he took the bottle and stuffed it into one save pocket he had in his old '' setoo '' and went home. Sheila met him. '' Well you weren't long away. Did you sell the cow since '' '' I did '' '' and what did you get for her '' '' I got a bottle '', '' and what use is a bottle? '' And she threw up her hands in despair '' We'll starve this day. Oh did anyone ever see such amadan to take a bottle for the cow '' '' Wait a minute Don't say anything to me until
we see what the bottle will do '' '' Arah don't be a common idiot. What can the bottle do? For three pins I'd throw it in the Lough where you should be pitched too for you should have been drowned long ago '' Gilbert paid not the least attention to this harangue but quietly took the bottle from his pocket and put it on the table.
Then he said as instructed by the little man. '' Bottle do you duty and on the moment out flew out a roast of beef puddings and pies which they never saw before and which they hardly knew. Shiela stood with her hands under he apron and the eyes were fairly bulging out of her head with astonishment. When she recovered a little she put her arms around Gilbert '' Oh Gilbert you are the best of men. Then they all sat down and had a great dinner. The plates and dishes remained on the table and never went back into the bottle again so of course a good many of them
were broken and and the children had a great time building baby-houses with the broken '' chaney '' as they were called, outside the house in the face of a ditch or anywhere they might fancy. After this things went on well and they lived on the best of everything in fact they did better than the chiefs who ruled the clans, but it happened that one day a chief on a hunting expedition came by that way and saw all the '' baby-houses '' and the children admiring them and he was surprised to see each beautiful delph smashed to pieces. '' Oh children '' says he '' where did you get these pieces of delph '' ? '' We got them them out of the bottle '' said they '' what bottle ? '' '' The bottle my father has '' said one of them. '' Where is your father '' said he '' At the back of the house said the children '' So the chief went round and met Gilbert '' You have a great bottle '' said he.'' Who told you that ? '' said Gilbert '' The children said the chief. '' Would
you let me see what it can do ? '' So Gilbert got the bottle and showed it to him and the chief was delighted '' Will you sell it '' say he to Gilbert '' No '' says Gilbert at first but when the chief took out 20 pieces of gold and offered them to him he changed his mind for he had never before seen such a great deal of money and thought it could never be spent. So the chief got the bottle and Gilbert got the gold, and for a good while everything went well. At last, however, the money was all spent, and then they were worse off than ever. Shiela began to afraid Gilbert for having sold the bottle, though she had been just as delighted as he with the twenty gold pieces when he got them. '' Well '' says Gilbert, '' I'll take the other cow to the fair and sell her. Who knows but I might meet the little man again and get another bottle and if I do, I'll go bail I won't let it go so easily this time. '' So Gilbert set off with his cow and in the very same place he met the little man again. '' Well Gilbert ''
says he, so you are going to sell your last cow.''
''Aye indeed I am,''
"Well what do you want for her?"
"A bottle'' says Gilbert ''
"All right '' says the little man, ''you must get one. Here you are ''
" Is it as good as the last one '' ?
" It is, and a far better one ''
'Oh begorra, if that's the case the old woman will be be out of her wits with joy. '' So he set off for home in great spirits. Shiela met him a long way from the house.
''Well '' says she did you get a bottle like the last one?"
'' Aye '' says he '' a far better one, '' the man said, '' and we'll soon know for I'm hungry. ''
'' And so am I '' she said. She had the house cleaned up for the feast".
"Hurry Gilbert '' says she, "for I'm longing to get a taste of the good things again.''
Gilbert put down the bottle saying '' Bottle do your duty ''
At the words out jumped a little man with a staff and he falls to the beating of Shila till she roared out '
"Murder ! Murder ! stop him Gilbert, what are you doing ? ''
Gilbert was so surprised that he was standing in a maze with the mouth
and eyes wide open, not knowing what to do.
At last he pulled himself together, and shouted
'' That will do ''
into your bottle, and in a thrice all was over.
Shiela was rubbing her arms and shoulders that were blue and black, and she was in a fury with poor Gilbert,
'' you blockhead '' she cried,
The next time that you go from this house you may never come back
you are the greatest amadan in Ireland What are you going to do with the children now '' ?
'' Never mind Shila I have a plan in my head. you have fool's brains in your head. ''
But Gilbert without waiting to reply took up the bottle and went off to the chief's house.
He got in at the door and said
I came to see which of us has the better bottle.''
'' Why have you another one '' ?
'' Yes '' says Gilbert.
The chief was thinking to himself that he would make another great purchase from Gilbert
'' All right show what your bottle can
Bottle do your duty '' says Gilbert
out hopped the little man with his staff and began to thump and beat the chief, till he roared out in pain and terror.
Take him off, take him off cried the chief
'' No not till you give me back the other bottle '' says Gilbert.
The beating and flaking was going on all the time.
'' Take your bottle and get away out of this, - you and the little man or he'll kill me. ''
So Gilbert lifted the bottle called the little man away, and set out for home, while the chief was left dressing his wounds.
As soon as he arrived home he put the bottle on the table and said
'' Bottle do your duty ''
Sheila rushed for the door in fear, but when she saw the fine meal laid out on the table, she came back in great joy and put her arms around Gilbert's neck.
'' Oh, '' she said
'' You are the cleverest man in Ireland.
Then all sat down to the food and Gilbert promised he would never sell the bottle again, no matter how much he was offered for it.
They had two
boys and three girls. Con, the eldest was a big strong fellow, and would like to see more of the world so he says I think I will go and push my fortune. ''
' Haven't you a fortune good enough at home '' says his mother. '' Oh well, I'd like to see more of the country. I'll go a few days journey from home, and then I'll hire with some man. '' Oh, all right but you'll be glad to get back again before long. '' '' Oh let him go. It will put the foolish notions out of his head. So Con set out the next day. He hadn't gone far when he met the little man with the green jacket '' Well Con so you are going to push your fortune '' '' I am '' says Con. '' Come on with me '' says the little man. They went on a short distance till they came to a spanking long house. The little man mounted the bay horse and told Con to get up behind him. Con never was on a horse before and he was very awkward about getting up and he was barely in his place when away darts the horse like the wind. Con's eyes filled with tears so
that he had to shut them and could not see where they were going till they arrived at a great mansion so high that Con thought it touched the clouds The little man told him to get down and then got down himself and entered the mansion and the doors all opened for him of their own accord Con went in too and then the doors shut again. They went into a big room where everything was shining.
'' By this and by that the little man is the king '' '' Well Con '' says the little man '' you are hired with me. Do you agree? '' Sure I might as well be hired with you as with any other man and maybe better ''
'' Yes better '' says the little man. '' We'll go down to the kitchen. '' When they went down the old dame was sitting in a chair at a big fire. The little man sat down and says pointing to his stockings
'' What are these '' your stockings ''. '' Those are my stridleens.'' He pointed to his breeches '' What are these ''. '' They are your breeches''. '' No those are my sturdeens '' He pointed at a sofa
'' what's that ? '' '' Oh it's a bed '' '' That's my dolphin. He pointed
to his wife. '' Who's that ? '' '' The mistress '' That's my wife Dame Paradise. Just then a girl came in with a bucket of water. '' Who's that '' '' The daughter of the house I suppose '' That's my daughter Straid away '' '' What is that pointing to a heap of flax. '' Thats's flax '' '' That's the Clence of Clearance. And that'' '' Oh that's water '' '' no that's Dorman clear '' The cat was sitting at the fire
'' What is that '' '' It's the cat'' '' That's Cissley Bunty '' And pointing to the stairs '' What's that '' '' The stairs '' '' No that's the Steps of Fountain and that .'' '' The loft I suppose '' no that's Mount Ego. '' What is that he says pointing at the fire. Why that's the fire That is the hell of vengance. '' Well what is this that we are in. '' '' The house '' says Con. '' That's Bendover ''.
'' Now '' says the little man if you don't have all all those names for me in the morning I will pull every tooth out of your head and send you home a gummy. You'll not be able to eat a bit without your teeth and if you have your task off I will make a great man of you and now it is bed-time here and you may stay up as long as you like to get off your task '' says Con
but in his own mind it was all wrong with himself for he did not remember one of the things that the little man had told but he stayed up in hopes that they would come back to him. He was striding about the floor and he eyed the cat sitting at the fire '' Bad luck to you '' he said there was something about you, hitting the cat a kick and knocked her into the fire. The cat jumped out of the fire and into the flax and then ran up the stairs all on fire. Con was roused from his stupidity and he shouted. '' Master master get up off your dolphin button your sturdeens pull on your green stridleens. Call your wife Dame Paradise and your daughter Straidaway, for Sissley Bunty has gone into the hell of vengance out of that into the Clence of Clearance up the steps of fountain up to Mount Ego
Call your wife, Dame Paradise and your daughter Straidaway and hurry and hurry yourslef with clear or Bendover is lost and all that is here. The whole castle was roused and Con was walloping the flax to put it out but was only helping it to burn. When there came a splash of water
from the girl that he called Straidaway and quenched the blaze. The little man didn't think of blaming Con altogether. It was he himself was the cause of all now. Says the little man '' Con you had the task off well and you are a smart fellow and I'll make a man of you. I will give you my daughter in marriage and I'll bring your father and mother here and all the family and you will never want for anything. '' So they were brought to the castle and were astonished at the grandeur of the place. They had nothing to do but walk through beautiful flowers gardens and green parks and enjoy the shade of great oak trees and the perfume of flowers and Shiela and Gilbert never had a quarrel so they ate and drank everything that was good and if they didn't live happy I don't know how we could.
Informant: B. O' Grady
Teacher: T. O Grady
Thanks to Bernadette McGovern who transcribed this and a great many other pages of the The Schools' Collection, from the National Folklore Collection Archives.
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