[From Manx Quarterly #17 - Oct 1916]


[By Geo. Quarrie, New York.]

A long time ago, when, with good old Lezayre
No spot under heaven could ever compare,
For sweet sylvan beauty and rural delights
The balm of its mornings, the bliss of its nights —
When fairies still skipped in the woods of Glentrammon
And waysides had witches and Sulby had salmon;
When rooks in their millions came home on the breeze
To Baillakillingan's ancestral old trees,
Their " caws," like the calin singing sea on the coast,
Delighting and soothing the pride of their host —
A pride as each Manxman would quickly agree
Was modestly just and a pleasure to see;
For all loved the polished patrician, E. C.

One day when the summer was pretty welt gore,
Though cushags still swaggered with yellow caps on,
The grass e'en of meadows all dropped pretty bare;
In colour resembling the back of a hare,
Excepting in hollows which needed a drain,
The ground being athirst for a long-needed rain;
Toward evening I lolled in a field called the "Lawn,"
Now scheming, now dreaming some fool thing upon,
The Sulby hard by with its summery sound,
Now gurgling, now swishing, a earner crept round,
Where deep down a hole by its waters washed out
Long yielded the angler the best of his trout;
And now finny beauties so frequently " plumped."
I longed for my rod and my heart even thumped.

As backward and forward, with eyes on the ground,
I sauntered in reverie, doubtless profound,
I suddenly spied in the fine tawny sward
Three rings, of diameter quite a good yard ;
Each formed of a belt. like round Saturn is seen,
Of grass. short and crisp and of emerald green.
How circles so perfect in contour and line
Were limned there in grass. it was had to define;
Some witchery wisdom I must have on this,
And that was to say, I must see Nell A'Vris.

" Aw, shee Yee dy ma rhym," said Nell with a sigh, "
The thing that yer tellin' me's makin' me cry;
Them three fairey rings in a row, nors an' sous —
As there as the gospel — from pazzon's own mous —
Manes murrain an' plague, a;w, the dreadfullest jeel
To cattle that et of the grass of that fiel'.
Aw, Lord help the masther; of throubles he's loads;
Run, Boolyagh's wife, do, ya, an' sweep the cross roads,
An' bring us a Oeugh in yer brat. ya, of dus' ;
For shake it all round that thie-nuathey I mus' !"

Ah. dear old comely sun-bonneted Nell,
With big, honest eyes, I remember thee well.
Thy humorous face, when in gravity set,
And fine mother-wisdom, I'll never forget.

'` What nonsense'. how silly'." the wiseacres said.
"Time will put such foolishness out od her head;
Such rank superstition. — that rings in the grass
Foretell that disasters will soon come to pass —
It's past all belief, Nell. a woman like you — "

" Aw masther. don't blame me," cried Nell, " if 'is thrue!"
" To think. Nell. a sensible woman like you — — ."
" Dear masther." cried Nell, " Aw forgive me, now, do;
No use for to min' an owl rangan like me;
But good huh or bad luck. what's comin' we'll see."

Three weeks after this, when the evenings grew chill,
And flocks oar the mountains came " crazing" down hill,
And pigs to ent round whining their querulous cries,
With mouthfuls of straw to make beds in their sties;
The cows pleading hunger, with long-winded bawls,
All crowding the gate that was nearest their stalls,
Till thrown a. few turnips their loud mouths to stop,
(With mustardy flavour of new turnip crop).
And though the cow claanor would thereupon cease.
The noise is most ably sustained by the geese,
Who argue and threaten and lecture the cows,
Demanding their share with the shrillest of rows.

.One night at the milking. when things settled down.
Jane looked in her milk-can and said with a frown
" As thrue as 'am born in this worl'. Maary Ann,
My Spottie is butched ; for. theer's blood in this can!"

Ah, that was the signal. and " Masther come quick,
Come on to the cow house. for Spottie is sick."
But carefullest nursing and everything tried,
Defying the wisdom of " Vets." Spottie died.
Thus started a. tragicall herd decimation,
One following another in deadly rotation.
Until, of a herd. once a pleasure to see.
Now, twenty remained mit of thirty and three.
The " Vet." on the verge of e'en tearing his hair.
Stood baffled completely and owned his despair ;
And all this time, death claiming cow after cow,
With Nell begging harder and harder, as now,
To " jus' lemme go to owl Nan for a charm —
To Nan of the curraghs : it won't do no harm
Theer's Murley now took — goin' to die like the res'
Aw faith is clane hreakin' the heart in me breas'!
A dozen is watchin' the poor crather dyin'
An' all of them helpless an' some of them cryin'.
This falla from Douglas tbe:r callin' the 'Vet.'
S'norra screwnyee of good; he ses he is bet.
Now, is'n that throe. now? Aw, masther. take wis,
Jus' this once take a'vice of owl Nell A'Vris!"

" All right, Nell, I will, for I'm at my wits' end,
To-morrow, when Chris comes, to Nan we will send."
" Ta-morrer!" cried Nell, with a cry of delight,
" This minad ya mane! an' is me tha'll go sthright !"
She dashed for the stable, and all now ran out
To see what the splutter and noise was about.
" Barck, Boxer; barck, bhoy ! an' here, Jem, a leg on!"
And Nell, like a flash, through the darkness was gone.
Full gallop, bareback, dawn the Loughmollow road,
Intent upon Nan of the Curraghs' abode.

The watchers sat waiting — the writer was one —
All anxious to witness some witch-charming done;
The cow-patient showin, as symptoms portended,
Her trouble ere long by her death would be ended.
As midnight, approached, with our nerves on the rack,
All painfully list'ning for Nell's coming back
Expecting to hear first the tramp of her horse,
As mounted she'd left, she'd return soy of course;
But suddenly, there, in that silence profound,
Stood Nell in the door, as if raised from the ground.
But nobody knew her! " My Lord, Maary Ann !"
Jane whispered in terror, as backward they ran.
" Aw faith, a bogane ye may think me, an' run;
But, no time for take. for ther's work to be done";
Said Nell, all besmeared with a horrible lacquer
Of mud from a turf-pit — and pitch is no blacker —
And wet through and through to her skin, every stitch,
As if newly rescued from some curragh ditch.
She pulled from her bosom what she called her wallad,
And poured from it herbs, all chopped up like a salad.
" Put these in a buckad ; now bring it up close
To the poor crat'her's head.," she said, " undher her note.
Tha's it. Now leis watch, if what Nan said is thrue;
She Cowl me azacly how Murley would do.
She solid that the ease would jus snuff it at fus,
Then turn an' look grouw•. like the smell. made her wus ;
An' then, of a suddhn. she'll smell it again;
Then ate it, an' snick every scorriek up clone.
" Now, that's precisely what that animal did;
As if she exactly dial what she was bid.
And more; as with others, I gazed with some awe,
A wonderful change in that patient we saw.
In less than an hour, as our eyes opened wide,
That cow had got up and was licking her hide.
And that means, as all know, we hard1v need tell,
The turn of the tide, and the cow•will get well.
And that's what she did, with so little delay.
It filled all who saw it with perfect dismay.
And, ever to Nan of the Curraghs' renown,

Not one other cow in the sickness came down.
This story is true. And, as tame as it looks_,
It shows that all wisdom's not printed in books.
For you who would have confirmation of this,
Take the Lough Mollow road, and see Nelll A'Vris.



Back index next

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received MNB Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2002