Category Archives: Children’s stories

These tales are partly traditional Irish stories but some are entirely invented. I hope they are not too dry nor written in too much of a factual manner.

Happy the Dog.

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Once upon a time there lived a little girl named Zaza. Zaza was a rumbunctious six year old with blonde hair and a gappy smile. She lived with her mom, dad and baby sister Cahalta. Zaza had a life of fun and friendship but the one thing she lacked was a pet. After a little pleading her mum and dad decided to grant Zaza her wish and buy her a dog.

Many little girls like dogs that are pretty but pretty dogs tend to be haughty. Such dogs have fancy documents called pedigrees showing who their parents and grandparents are. This proves their ancestry all the way back to Queen Victoria. Some snooty little girls go for poodles that are crimped and shampooed till they smell like air stewards. These little girls are in a hurry to be stuck up grannies who lunch in restaurants daily and speak through their noses. Zaza was not like this. She was bursting with life and did not pretend to be a princess. She was the sort of girl who would go for day long rambles through the wild countryside with her boys cousins Birney and Denis – clambering over dry stone walls and squeezing past brambles to have a picnic in a cows’ field.

Not all dogs are lucky enough to have a loving home. In fact some are abandoned by their human families. Some live wild with their doggy parents but sadly some doggy dads and mums die while their puppies are yet young.

Most dogs are kind to humans. After all we all know a dog is man’s best friend. Just as there are a few nasty humans so too some dogs are mean. There can be vicious dogs who snarl and bite. That is why we do not let dogs roam around town. Dogs who are found wandering about town on their own are scooped up by the dog catcher. He will look for a collar. The collar will tell the dog catcher which family to return the pooch to. Those doggies with no home to go to are taken to the dogs’ home. The dogs are kept there for a week and fed. Adults have to pay money to the government called tax. Some of this tax money is used to pay for the dogs’ food in the dogs’ home. Grownups do not like paying tax so the government has to take as little of their grownups’ money as possible. This means the dogs in the dogs’ home cannot be fed forever. After a week in the dogs’ home are sent to the great big dogs’ home in the sky.

Zaza’s parents thought they should take a dog from the dogs’ home. These poor dogs have no human family and no doggy parents of their own.

Zaza and her parents arrived at the dogs’ home. They had left Zaza’s baby sister Cahalta with the grandparents. A cheery chap greeted them at the gate and ushered them in. His name was Seamus and he had a head of black curls and a braying laugh. Seamus wore a blue uniform of a dog catcher. They could tell that Seamus really cared for the dogs and only took them off the streets to save them from being knocked down by cars.

Zaza’s dad told Seamus what they wanted. ”We would like nice dog with good character – one who will be good with my daughters.”

”Does the dog have to look like model?” asked Seamus chuckling.

”Ah no,” said the dad, ”the dog must just be well-behaved and playful.”

”Are you looking for a boy dog or a girl dog?” asked Seamus.

”We do not want a boy dog or a girl dog – just a nice one, either girl or boy.” said dad sincerely. ”It is just like having a baby.”

Seamus reacted with peals of laughter. ”Come with me”, he said, his eyes were gleaming. Zara held her mum’s hand. Zara was skipping with excitement as Seamus opened a door and led them down a corridor.

On either side of the corridor were several cages each holding a dozen or so dogs. They came in all shapes, sizes, colours and ages. The dogs behaved in all different ways. Some were sociable and some were loners. Some were angry and others were calm. A few scampered about and others lay down asleep.

Zara ran up and down the corridor. She was overcome with excitement. The dogs sensed her mood and they barked eagerly- their tails wagging frenetically.

Zara saw a small yappy yellow dog. ”I want that one, I want that one!” she yelled. Her parents were not so sure. Zara grabbed her dad’s hand and led him to look into the cage where this dog stood barking.

Dad looked and mum and mum looked at dad. They could read each others’ minds. They both shook their heads. This dog did not seem to have a good nature. It was barking aggressively but this dog was so small that the bark did not seem angry to Zaza who was too young to understand such thing.

Seamus saw what the parents were thinking. ”Um maybe you should take a look at another dog.”

The parents nodded silently. Zaza began to lose interest in the yappy dog was now growling. All three followed Seamus towards the far end of the corridor. They walked right to the end – there was a door with the words ”end of the line”. They could see Seamus’ beaming face fall when he set his eyes on the words on the door. Then he looked to the left of the door. There was the last cage. In it was just one dog. This dog was a black and white border colley. The dog’s long coat shone with health and vitality. The dog barked a polite greeting to Zaza and her parents.

”This is the kindest dog you will ever meet”, said Seamus. ”I would love to have him for my own children. I have been working with dogs for 20 years and so I would know a good dog from a bad one. I would bring this fellow home but I already have five dogs and five children. I cannot afford any more. They do not pay us much in this job you know. I do it for the love of the dogs not for the money.”

The mum and dad nodded wisely. ”Yes, we can tell this one is best”, said mum.

”Well we said we would give Zaza the choice and she wanted the other one”, said dad. He was plainly unsure what to do. Should he let Zaza have her way even if she was making a big mistake.

”The thing is,” said Seamus uncomfortably,”this is this dog’s last day. If he is here tomorrow morning he is going through that door and never coming back.”

Mum’s face turned pale. Zaza suddenly realised the seriousness of the situation. ”I want this one”, said Zara definitely – she pointed straight at the black and white border colley and she danced gleefully.

”That’s done then. We’ll take this one please!” the dad was as pleased as punch.

The adults had to sign some papers and pay some money to help the dogs’ home care for the dogs. They promised to take the dog to the vet for his injections and buy all the things the dog needed. ”Do you promise to take good care of the dog now Zaza?” asked Seamus. ”I do – I do promise!” she said loudly and nodded her head strongly.

”Now what’ll we call him?”, said mum.

”We’ll call him Happy!” cried Zara joyfully.

”Ok it’ll be Happy”. said mum.

”There was no dog born with a better name for him,” laughed Seamus.

”By the way we have all been calling this dog ‘he’ = this is a boy isn’t it?” asked dad.

”Yes, he’s a boy all right” answered Seamus.

Happy was a little nervous getting into the car. He had never been in one before. But because of his easy nature he did not bark much. Before long they were at granny’s house and Happy was sniffing at the baby Cahalta.

They took Happy home that afternoon. Happy had a couple of accidents on the carpet before he was house trained.

Happy became more confident around the family. He was taken for faily walks and was always good to his human family. Zaza was clumsy occasion and stuck her finger in Happy’s eye. Happy was forgiving and never snapped at her. The family and Happy grew to love each other ever more.

After a year or so a baby brother arrived name Liam. Liam was not much fun at first. All he did was cry and fill nappies. Some dogs are jealous of such babies but Happy was so kind hearted that he did not resent the baby or run away.

A year after that the family decided to move to a far away country called Libya. They could not take Happy with them because Libya does not allow dogs from other countries to come in because some dogs have a disease called rabies. Dad tried telling the Libyans that Irish dogs do not have rabies but they would not trust him.

It was about a week till they were to move away. Zaza was upset at having to leave Happy behind. The parents told her they would give Happy to her cousins Birney and Denis. They would come back and visit Happy twice a year. Cahalta had grown up a lot and she too was a little down hearted that the world’s loveliest dog was to be left behind.

Happy was a brainy dog. He must have realised something was not quite right. A few days before the family were going to hand him over to Birney, Denis and their parents something happened. Happy was sitting happily in the garden when mum hung the washing out to dry. Then she went in to do more housework. She came back an hour later and Happy was gone.

”Happy, Happy where are you?” shouted mum. She was getting a little distressed. Then she noticed by the garden gate a large hole had been dug under the gate. Happy had dug his way out. Mum was worried for Happy. How was she going to tell the children?

When Cahalta and Zaza got home from school they were very upset to hear about Happy going away. ”Um, well, he has probably gone to find his friends”, said mum, trying to make the situation seem not so bad.

In every free moment dad had he drove around the area looking for Happy. He went to the park where they used to take him for a walk but no sign of him. They were giving up hope.

One evening on the way home from work dad saw a group of teenage boys waling by the road. They had Happy. His car screeched to a halt. The boys looked around when they heard the sharp noise. Happy looked around too. He barked gladly. The boys had Happy on a rope around his neck instead of a lead. Happy strained at his rope and panted towards dad. ”Hello sir, what do ye want?” said one of the boys suspiciously.

”Ah well lads the thing is that’s my dog you have.”

”Ah no tis not sir. Tis our dog now. His name is Prince.”

”Well when did you find him?”

”About five days ago – down at the park.”

”That’s when he ran away from us.” said Dad.

”’Ah well his name is not Happy – tis Prince. Isn’t that right Prince?” Happy barked in a way that seemed to say no.

”No, your name is Happy!” said Dad. When the dog heard the name Happy he almost jumped in through the car window. Happy barked keenly and panted with enthusiasm.

”We are travellers, like” said the leader of the boys. ”We have a right to a dog the same as anyboyd else.”

”You do of course. I will tell you what. If I give you 50 pounds could I have the dog and you can go and buy another?”

”Ok you can have him.”

Dad got out and opened his wallet. He handed over the 50 pounds. The boys took the rope off Happy.
”Welcome back Happy!” said Dad. Happy jumped up and gave dad a slobbery lick.

”His name’s Prince” said the boy anrgily. ”All right Prince” replied dad.

In a flash dad had put Happy into his car and waved the boys goodbye. Then dad called Happy by his real name all the way home.

Happy bounded into the house and almost knocked Zaza over when he jumped into her arms. She cried for joy.

The next day they had to give Happy to Birney, Denis and their parents. Zaza and her family all kissed Happy a tearful goodbye before they drove to the airport.

They came back to Ireland to visit Happy twice a year. Birney, Denis and their parens looked after Happy splendidly. He had a wonderful life on a farm. He rounded up cows and climbed hay bails. He had many play fights with other dogs and he had many doggy girlfriends. He became the father of a few pupppies. He had a very full and fun life. After many, many years it came time for Happy to go to the Great Big Dogs’ Home in the Sky. His spirit lives up their with all good dogs and his black and white coat lie beneath a large rock in front of Birney and Denis’ house.

There never was a dog with a better name than Happy.

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The tale of St Bridget.

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St Bridget was born into a noble family in County Kildare. This county is just to the east of Dublin. She was staunch in her faith and unfailing in her observances. She felt called by God to be a nun. She became a postulant in a convent and after a time took simple vows. In time her vocation had been tested and she took solemn vows and was a fully fledged nun.

The convent she lived in was poor owning precious little farmland. It was overcrowded with nuns but they could not afford to expand it. The nuns worked on their far to provide food for themselves and the orphans and old folk whom they looked after. This farm work was besides the nuns religious duties of praying together seven time a day and ministering to the needs of the community and teaching the children. Bridget approached the Mother Superior with an idea.

”We need more land for the convent. We hardly have enough food. We often have to go hungry so that the orphans can eat. Can’t we ask the King of Kildare for land?”

”My child”, said the kindly Mother Superior, ”as you know the king is not a good or holy man. He cares only for himself. We have asked him before. He only ever refuses and does so rudely.”

”But surely I can make him see that with a little more land we can grow more food or rent out the land and get more money to care for the money and the old people”  pleaded Bridget.

”I know, I know. If not for the love of God could the king not find it in his heart to have a little of his estate to care for the neediest of his subjects? We ave asked before but he will let us have nothing.”

”Please may I ask him? I shall be very polite. I am sure I can persuade him and make him see that just a few more hectares would help us so much.”

”All right. I will let you ask him but make sure that whatever you do ou do not offend him. Remember to praise him to the moon. But if he refuses, however rudely accept it the first time. DO not go on at him. We asked him a few times already and if we upset him he will kick us out of the kingdom.”

”He wouldn’t do that.”

”Sister Bridget – he would. He is a very mean man.”

The next day young Bridget set off in a freshly washed habit for the king’s court. After several hour walking she came to the court. She explained her errand to the guard at the gate who laughed, ”Good luck –  you’ll need it!”

A servant passed on the message that a nun was there to see the king. The king was busy counting his money and Bridget had to wait in the courtyard in the cold. After a while Bridget heard music  –  the king was listening to some minstrels. She asked the servant if inquire if His Majesty could spare her minute now. The servant came back later to say that the king was too busy enjoying a few fine airs on the lute. LaTER THE KING COULD BE HEARD OrDerING HIS SErvANTS ABOUT, THEW ERE DRESSES AS CHESS pieces. Bridget COULD SEE In through A WINDOW. THE KING WaS using them to play chess on a giant board.

Again Bridget asked of the king could give her a moment for an audience. The answer came back via the much put upon servant. No was the anser. The King considered this chess game to be of far higher importance.

”Why are there no other petitioners here?” asked Bridget.

”Because there’d be no point. They know the king never grants any favours. He only does a thing for other kings and even then only because they bribe or bully him. Whatever it is you want to had better have some very special gift for him.”’

”I have a basket of our orchard’s finest apples.”

”Unless they are made of pure gold you do not stand a chance.”

At long last she was ushered into the royal presence. The hall was very long. The fat, slothful king sat sprawled on his gorgeously caparisoned throne. His crown was askew and his munching a deer’s hind leg in his great fat fist, the grease from the animal fat slowly dribbling over his tight clenched hairy knuckles. His flesh flecked bushy grey beard bounced merrily as the monarch chewed. A few tightly rope bound criminals lay trembling on the floor awaiting His Majesty’s judgment.

”They were condemned to death. They stole a chicken from the king’s barns to feed their children” the servant grimaced.

It seed like a very long time that it took to walk up to the Throne in that ill-lit hall. The king’s beady eye following her suspiciously all the while.

”What do you want young nun?” bellowed the king.

”Just to make a humble request Your Majesty.” bleated Bridget.

”Oh yeah? Well you have better give me a fine present”, spat his wine stained lips.

”I have all that our convent can afford. A basket of our best apples.”

”Ha! You call that a present?” issued the retort from beneath that mouldy beard. ”What  kind of generosity is that? Apples fit for a king? Is that loyalty to your sovereign lord? Well that is not even enough for the privilege of my setting eyes on my royal personage. Well now you are here, ‘et’s hear it. What is your request? I feel like a laugh.”

”Your Most Gracious Majesty” said Bridget courtseying, ”I have walked through the rain for many hour to present these gifts to you.” She laid the wicker basket at feet. ”Our convent is overcrowded and we do not have enough farmland to produce sufficient food for all who live there. We have many orphans, disabled people, the old and the destitute living with us. We call on Your Majesty’s greatness and generosity. Please allows us a few more fields so that we can nourish those whom we care for.”

”Ha ha –  fat chance of hast! Why should I give you anything? Your offer of a present if more of an insult to a man of my status.”

”I beg Your Majesty . Your people will love you all the more for your compassion and liberality. you ill gain the blessing s of a hundred people.,”

”Don’t you pray for me anyway?”

”Yes Your Majesty day and night. We pray for God to guide you aright.”

”What then what is in it for me? Nothing. Why should I pay for something I am getting for free anyway? That is the first rule of business.”

”Your Majesty please be so good as to give us something. Even one field from your estate. It won’t make a big difference ti you but it will make a huge different to us, Your Majesty. If you could see the hungry children you would agree. nothing would be too small.”

”Very well nun. I will not wast my time learning your name. You ma ave as much land as you cloak will, cover. If I break my pledge I call upon God to strike me dead. Don’t say I am not generous” The king chortled sarcastically.

”Thank you your Majesty. I shall go outside the court and claim the land right away,”

She hurried out fo the cast and tos on the grass by the gate, She took off her cloak and whirled it around in the air.

By a miracle when it settled on the ground it had instantly grown so big that it covered the whole of Kildare. In an instant Bridget pulled it back up and it reverted to its original size.

The king was staring out of the window his mouth agape.

”It covered the whole of your kingdom.”

”It DID” the king blurted out meekly.

”You swore to give me all the land covered by my cloak to me.”

”Er, well, I, I don’t mean …” he sputtered.

”Remember you vow? God will strike you down if you do not honour it. You ASKED HIM TO.”

”I did.” the king whimpered.

The convent then took possession of the whole of Kildare. They rented the land back it occupants at a fair rate. They used the money toi care of all who needed it, They let the greedy king keep his castle in return for sparing the lives of those who stole the chicken.

Cucuhlain gets his name. (Incomplete)

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Cucuhlain

 Once upon a time, a long, long time ago there lived a boy named Setanta. He was a boy of exceptional talent and courage. He excelled at hurling, an Irish sport roughly similar to field hockey that exists even today.

One bright summer’s evening the boys of Setanta’s village had finished their days labour on their family farms. They headed home dribs and drabs. They had been sure to save enough energy for the real highlight of the day –  a hurling match. He was playing hurling against a few other boys on a verdant meadow. This was a field where they usually played hurling and so everyone left their hurleys in a nearby disused byre. There was very little crime in those days so nobody worried that the hurleys might be stolen.

Setanta’s speedy, nimble style allowed him to wrongfoot the others time and again. He weaved his way through the others and goals scored and scored. Every goal earned three points – every score over the crossbar earnt one point. There were no refrees in hurling back then and everyone played out of love for the game. Their strict code on honour kept them from cheating.

Occasionally Setanta’s opponents got possession and would attack his half. He was a formidable in defence as he was ferocious in attack. As his opponents ran towards his goal he would bear down on them ad when it came to shooting they could never quite strike true.

The other boys  were playing their hearts out but they could not outsmart him. Setanta’s opponents had to admit that he was winning fair and square. They saw a group of boys who happened to be passing by, ‘ Come and play with us, help us – see if we can beat Setanta’.  The new players grabbed a stick each from the byre and rushed out onto the field to take on the mighty Setanta.

 

Setanta was now playing against ten others and he was all on his own. Yet again Setanta was able to get possession and sidestep the other team, to pace it outpace them and score.  He dribbled the ball, flicked it up and carried it in his hand for three paces, threw it into the air and volleyed it over the cross bar for a point as is allowed in hurling.

 

Another few boys happened to be strolling home, past that grassy field. The players called out to them, ‘Come and join us, see if we can beat Setanta together.’ This lot of boys again went to the byre and helped themselves to a hurley each and raced onto the pitch to bully off with Setanta. Have

 

‘Don’t you think it’s a tad unfair – now you two dozen players against me?’

 

‘You shouldn’t be allowed to play at all – you’re too good!’, quipped one of the players.

 

These players were no slouches but despite giving it their all Setanta could flick the ball over them, even bounce it off their sticks and catch the ball again. Time after time he sent the leathery orb whistling into the gaping goalmouth.

 

To their credit, Setanta’s opponents did not heart. They called for reinforcement’s every time they saw another knots of lads walking home along the country lane by the hurling pitch. Yet the result was always the same, Setanta was so skilful, so swift and keen eyed that he could outfox them at every turn; leaving the others tripping over themselves as they turned this way and that as he made mazey charges deep into their territory.

 

Even a few dads joined in the game. And yet the all-conquering Setanta surged past the growing horde of opposition players. They barely could get a stick to the ball before Setanta retrieved possession of it.

 

‘You have fifty against one now – can’t you beat me still?’ Setanta taunted with a smirk.

 

‘You’re advantage is your talent – ours is our numbers; so maybe we’ll get even!’ said one of the dads good naturedly.

 

And so it continued with Setanta’s passionate attacks and lightning like strikes and the ball bursting into the back of the neck more times than anyone cared to remember.  Setanta’s opponents’ numbers were swelling all the while. And yet this superabundance of players redounded but to their disadvantage. They blocked each other by accident, ran into each other and tripped over each other.

 

They tried to barricade their own goal by sheer numbers. Setanta virtually laid siege to their goal, whacking the ball again and again. Often was obstructed by the stick or even the body of an unfortunate youth and the ball would bounce pack to Setanta but eventually he would find his mark.

 

King Conchubar was passing by and he watched from a distance behind an arbutus hedge. He was deeply impressed by Setanta’s extraordinary prowess.

 

Setanta’s opponents were drenched in perspiration, half of them had thrown their shirts to the ground, they were so hot.  The field had been so chewed up by a hundred and one pairs of running feet that it had been reduced to a veritable quagmire.

 

After one final goal King Conchubar stepped forward and proclaimed at regal volume, ‘Who are you that has bested a hundred sportsman? I have counted them all. Never before in all my life have I heard of a boy beating a hundred others at hurling?’

 

‘My name is Setanta, your Majesty’, he said, bowing graciously. The panting players also inclined their heads to their monarch.

 

‘Very well, Setanta, I dine at the house of Culann the smith tonight. The sun is setting and I am on my way now. I summon you to dine with us tonight.’

 

‘Yes certainly your Majesty. I am honoured. But please allow me to go home and wash and change my clothes.’ Setanta had broken a sweat after several hours of struggle.

‘But of course my boy’. With that the king continued on his way.

 

The others summoned their last reserves of energy to give Setanta three ringing cheers and carried him shoulder high from that muddy field of glory – an unprecedented accolade to be so honored by one’s opponents in sport.

The Liger

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The Liger

 

“The circus is in town!’ everybody shouted with glee.

There was a bustle of excitement in Dublin. It was the most thrilling day of the year. Huge numbers of people jostled to buy a ticket.

The eager crowds flooded into the Big Top as a band struck up a merry circus tune. There were side shows and smaller tents too but the word on the street was that the lion tamer at the Big Top was something else.

Who cares about the bearded lady, the man juggling flaming chainsaws, the haunted house, the fortune telling gypsy and her crystal ball or the crocodile with two tails? They wanted to see the lion tamer.

There were warm-up acts with red-nosed clowns and a high wire trapeze artist, a woman who stood on galloping horses’ backs and jumped from one to another. There was a magician putting a woman in a box and sawing it in two. He put the box back together and out stepped the lady – in one piece. There were acrobats forming a human pyramid of 30 people.

But the people were still hungry for the lion tamer.

Then the lights went out. A bewildered gasp went up from the audience.

A spotlight opened up on the ring master and his beautiful assistant. She was a glamorous young brunette in an evening dress.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys – now is the moment you have all been waiting for. For your viewing pleasure we have a show that is world renowned. From deepest Africa he comes, Mamadou, a lion tamer the like of which you have never seen. He tames wild beasts so huge, so ferocious that they have other lion tamers crying for their mummies.  We have the biggest of big cats – lions, they are not. They are ligers. Their father is a lion and their mother is a tigress. They are three meters long and they can swallow a man in a single gulp. If you are nervous or have a heart condition we advise you to leave now! This show is so terrifying that you should not stay. We have brought Mamadou the lion tamer all the way from the Ivory Coast. He is a man utterly without fear. The bravest of them all. Ladies and gentlemen put your hands together for the great, the legendary, the one and only – MAMADOU!”

There was a burst of wild applause and the lights went up.

The huge cage had now been assembled. Mamadou stood smiling broadly wearing a bright red jump suit encrusted with sequins. He was a muscular man of average height with jet black hair and a confident smile. His arms were folded and he held a whip in one hand. There was a metal chair in front of him. Behind him was a cage tunnel leading out of the tent.

When the clapping died down Mamadou spoke into the microphone attached to his collar. ‘These ligers have not been fed for a week – so excuse their bad manners!’

With that he turned and faced the cage tunnel and shouted, ‘Ha!’ and cracked his whip.

Suddenly an enormous liger came trotting out looking around, scowling, growling angrily. He was sandy brown with faint stripes and subtle spots. His mane was thin.

‘Get up onto the stool boy.’

The liger snarled.

‘Get onto the stool I said!’

The liger growled and then stopped dead. The audience held its breath. Then Mamadou cracked the whip and the liger slowly turned and then hopped onto the stool.

Then a second liger trotted out.

‘Hey girl – get onto the stool.’ The liger slowed down and walked right up to Mamadou.

‘Get onto the stool.’ The liger came within a centimetre of Mamadou.

‘Get up there or I will bite you!’ The audience fell about laughing. The liger did not see it that way. She growled and purred with menace.

‘Do you want some of this?’ He brandished his whip. The female liger slunk away and climbed onto her stool.

Then a third liger came out not trotting but running. The liger hurtled straight for Mamadou.

‘Stop right there boy!’ The liger took no notice and ran straight into Mamadou. Poor Madamdou fell back and the liger stood over him licking his lips.

‘Oh God!’, cried the audience. Children buried their heads in their mothers’ chests.

Mamdou got to his feet – ‘what do you think you are doing? You don’t frighten me? You bad boy’ He slapped the liger on the snout. ‘Get out of here – get on your stool!’

The liger meekly retreated and as he went Mamadou gave him a lash on the rump.

Then a fourth liger, the biggest of all, came trotting out of the tunnel. The liger slowed down and crept right up to Mamadou. The liger slowly opened his huge jaws and let out a blood curdling roar so loud that the tents poles shook.

Shrieks went up from the audience. One man ran out!

‘What kind of way is that to say hello? I will teach you some manners.’ Mamadou stepped back and lashed the liger across the face. The immense liger seemed not to feel a thing – he only roared louder, bearing his gleaming razor sharp fangs for all to see.

More screams rent the air.

‘Get back – get back!’ Mamadou whipped the animal. Then the liger walked forward – Mamadou picked up his metal chair and held it in front of him. The liger bit on a chair leg – it snapped in an instant and the liger swallowed the chair leg whole.

‘Pathetic!’ said Mamadou – his back was against the cage wall now. He punched the liger full on the nose.

The liger whimpered and sauntered off to its stool.

The others occasionally growled or beared their claws. The female got down and approached Mamadou but a good crack of the whip and she withdrew.

Mamadou put the exotic felines through their paces. He had them run around in circles, jump through hoops, roll over, play dead and even clap their paws.

‘Now everybody I am going to show you a trick that you will never have seen before and you may never see again. I am going to put my head in the biggest, nastiest liger’s mouth.’

‘Don’t do it you can die I read it in a book!’ a man shouted – his voice trembling.

‘Die? – only if they dare bite me. Remember they are just cats – no matter how big. The biggest one – his name is Barry. Right, Barry come here.’

Barry just growled sourly.

‘Come here I said.’ Barry did not budge.

‘Didn’t you hear? You cheeky cat.’ Mamadou raised his whip. ‘Are you going to be nice or do I have to teach you a lesson?’

The liger raised himself onto his hind legs and leg out a deep almighty roar. The audience yelled in fear.

‘Get down? Do you want a taste of the lash?’ Mamadou whipped the cat across its belly. The liger grabbed the whip its gigantic paws and tore it clean out of Mamadou’s hands and flung it away.

Barry leapt up over Mamadou. Mamadou tried to step aside but was knocked to the floor. The liger’s whole weight did not land on him. Mamdoud picked himself up.

‘Right Barry, I will show you who is boss around here.’ He slapped Barry’s face.

Barry sobbed.

‘Ok, ok, I feel guilty now.’ Mamadou walked forward and kissed Barry on the nose. Barry made quiet growl of affection.

‘You are just a naughty boy. Right now open up’

Barry slowly opened his mighty jaws –  both decks of enormous teeth shone brightly.

‘Drum roll please!’ The drums began to roll as commanded.

At the crescendo Mamadou leant into the liger’s massive maw and put his head down till his hair touched its tonsils.

The audience gasped in terror, some fell over, fainting.

Mamadou pulled his head out. There was some of the liger’s saliva on his face and hair, he had to wipe it off with a handkerchief from his breast pocket.

‘I wouldn’t like to be your dentist! What did I tell you about brushing your teeth? You breath smells Barry. Well you are just a cute little kitten aren’t you?’ The audience chuckled from relief as much as amusement.

Turning to the audience Mamadou said, ‘Right – a 1 000 Euro to anybody who will do the same.’  Not a soul stirred.

‘Is this the Dublin I heard so much about? 2 000 Euros.’ Again not a hand went up. Nobody made a peep lest it be thought that they were volunteering.

‘Where is your courage? Men of Ireland – are you not ashamed? 5 000 euros to anyone man enough to do that.’ No response.

‘Ok maybe you don’t believe me. Let the beautiful assistant show I speak the truth.’

The beautiful assistant stepped forward. She held open a brief case – laid across her forearms. It was stacked with wads of 50 Euros notes. She was smiling rather falsely.

‘Ok I’ll do it’ shouted young man standing up. There were gasps of disbelief.

‘Let’s hear it for a man with more courage than sense!’ said Mamadou.

‘Hurray!’ everyone cheered.

The man stepped down to the cage and Mamadou opened the door and let him in.

They walked towards Barry.

‘Are you sure you want to do this – to put your head into the jaws of death?’ asked Mamadou.

‘I need the money. I can’t afford the operation to give my baby daughter her sight’

‘Don’t do it’, cried an old woman in the audience. ‘You’ll be no good to her when you are dead.’

‘I can do it’ said the young man. ‘Anything a foreigner can do an Irishman can do better!’

‘Ok Barry open up – let’s see those gnashers of yours’, Said Mamadou.

Barry growled angrily but slowly opened his cavernous mouth to full gape.

‘Are you ready sir?’

‘oh yes!’

‘Right then’ said Mamadou, ‘do it!’

‘But hey.’

‘What?’ said Mamdou.

‘My head is too big to fit in your mouth Mamadou.’

He didn’t get the 5 000 Euros in the end.

The mischievous leprechaun

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The mischievous  Leprechaun

 

Leprechauns have lived in Ireland for centuries. They never grow more than 3 feet tall.  Their name in Irish means ”half bodied.” Nobody  knows where they came from or how they came to be. They don’t seem to want to move to any other country, unlike everybody else in Ireland!

About a hundred years ago there lived an Irish boy named David. He was a lazy dislikeable boy; ungrateful to his parents, rude to his teachers, cruel to smaller children, dishonest, unhygienic, greedy, selfish and without good reason, vain (he had nothing to be vain about).

One day he was walking a country lane, back from school. He had been sent home early for saying to a perfectly sweet smelling little girl, ‘you stink’. He was happy to admit to this because he knew he would be sent home. His parents were at their wit’s end. How could they put manners on their horrid son? They had been kind to him, too kind. But nothing was good enough for him. He was unappreciative and insulting to them. They tried reasoning with him and praising him but it did not work.

David was smiling to himself, it was a good day’s work. He had paid no attention to the lessons, even though he was fairly smart. He had stolen another boy’s sweets and now he was getting more free time.

Just then he espied a tall, broad green hat with a buckle peeping up from behind a dry stone wall. David thought he knew what this meant. He threw off his school bag and ran towards the low wall and peered over it.

‘I see you leprechaun!’

‘Damn!’ yelled the leprechaun in frustration, and he stamped on the ground. The leprechaun was caught. A leprechaun cannot run away so long as you keep your eye on him. The moment you take your eye off him – he disappears.

 The leprechaun stood up to his full height of about 80cm. He had a red beard although his upper lip was carefully shaven. He had a long pointy nose; sharp, yellowing, widely gapped, bucked teeth. His ears were oversized and his lips were fat. His lined face showed that he would have been fifty years old if he were a human.  He wore a green frock coat and a low slung double-breasted black waistcoat over a white shirt. He wore dark green knee breeches and thick woolen socks up to his knees. He had on black hobnailed brogue boots. He smoked a long brown wooden pipe between his prominent teeth and he carried a knobbly shillelagh hewn from a blackthorn tree. He cut a most curious figure and looked comically ugly.

‘‘Haha – I thought it would be a leprechaun by your hat. I have you now. You must grant me three wishes.’

Three wishes I give to great and small/ Make a fourth wish and you lose them all. What is your first wish David?’

‘How do you know my name?’

‘We know the names of all the children around here. We are always watching you. It is not often that you big galoots see us Little People. What you did at school today was appalling.’

‘Shut up will you – you ugly little freak!’ sneered David. ‘Ok you deformed little thing. Now first wish –  lead me to your crock of gold.’

‘Now you know it is at the end of the rainbow, don’t you?’

And so they walked along following the rainbow. They walked past boulders over uneven ground, by gorse bushes and on damp, soft ground as is common in the Irish countryside. It was impossible to keep one’s feet dry. It was a very long walk. David was careful not to let the leprechaun out of his site.

‘Tell me leprechaun – why is it that there are only men leprechauns? Why are there no lady leprechauns?’ said David.

‘That’s a very good question. If only you could ask intelligent questions like that in school.’

‘Don’t give me that boring teacher talk stuff. Are you like them? Boring, bad hair, bad breath, dandruff. Just answer the question leprechaun or I’ll kick you in the arse.’

‘I will only answer it if it is the second wish to answer that question’, said the leprechaun with a sly twinkle in his eye.

David considered this for a second – should he waste a precious wish just to find out the answer to the question? But he was a curious, impetuous boy and couldn’t help but say:

‘Ok, ok you annoying little toe rag – that’s my second wish.’

‘Well you know we collect gold?’

‘Yes of course I do – I am not stupid like you, big nose!’

‘No need to get personal! This is one of our secrets – this is why we don’t need female leprechauns. Anyway, when we have a pile of gold as big as a leprechaun we build a big, big bonfire deep in the woods in the middle of the night. We out the gold in the middle and we pour on coal and we heap on woods and we pour on whiskey and the fire gets hotter and hotter until the gold burns.’

‘How hot does it have to be for the gold to burn?’

‘As hot as the sun! And when the gold burns  –  out jumps a fully grown leprechaun!’

‘So you are made of gold?’ asked David.

‘And we are made of whiskey. Gold is used to make us but once we become a leprechaun we are flesh and blood just like you – only we have magical powers.’ 

‘Is that so –amazing. But it’s a bit mean of you to say that you don’t need girl leprechauns because you make yourselves out of burning gold. Don’t you miss not having mummies?’

‘You are turning a bit soft and sentimental for a school bully.’

‘Shut up ! – I was only joking about missing a mum.’ David was clearly embarrassed. 

‘Well in answer to your soppy question the leprechauns who light the fire are then the brothers of the new leprechaun.’ 

‘And you come out fully grown?’ David still couldn’t get his head around this.

‘That’s it – born aged 40, if born is the word. Ok, we never get to be children but we never grow older than 40, although we live for centuries. Don’t you humanoids say: ,Life begins at 40?’’

They had been trudging the sludge of the Irish bogs for half an hour.

‘I am tired.’ How far is it to this damn crock of gold anyway? ‘, whined David. 

‘A long way. Why, don’t you want it after all?’, asked the leprechaun with a cheeky smile. ‘

‘Oh no, I am still getting that crock of gold, no matter what. Don’t’ you try discouraging me’, said David, the thought of losing all that gold giving him instant strength.

‘Have you ever walked to the end of the rainbow before?’, asked the leprechaun.

 ‘No I haven’t. I tried but it was always too far.’

‘You see it is always a very, very long way.’

‘I wish I had a big black stallion in full tack to ride – well trained, healthy and obedient’, said David in a weak, tired voice.

‘Is that your third wish?’, asked the leprechaun. 

‘It is.’

Then, in a puff of smoke, a black stallion appeared – just to David’s specifications.

‘Well, will you look at the size of the thing? Now that is a fine animal.’ David stood with his mouth agape for a minute. He then led the horse by the rain to the nearest boulder and with some difficulty clambered into the saddle.

‘I feel like a king in command up here’, David crowed, ‘I have got a giant’s eye view!’ 

And on they went for another while.

After another hour at long last they came to a crock of gold nestled inside a bush. David jumped off his horse, being careful not to let the leprechaun out of his sight.

David put both hands on the crock.

‘I’m rich – rich beyond my wildest dreams. I can buy a whole shed full of sweets! No more school for me – I can buy the damn school and pay to knock it down.’

David grabbed the crock and tried to pick it up. He pulled at it, he grasped it from underneath and lifted, or tried to. He could not get the mighty weight of solid gold to budge an inch.

‘I can’t lift the bloody gold.’

Excited at the prospect of such richness and angry because he couldn’t move it, a distracted David climbed back onto his horse with the aid of a bank of earth. He commanded the leprechaun in a cocky tone, full of impatience:

‘Leprechaun – put that gold into saddlebags on my stallion right away.’

‘Is that another wish?’

‘It is.’

Suddenly David found himself sitting on the ground, he was soaked through on the wet moss. His stallion and the crock of gold had disappeared. Where was the leprechaun? Nowhere to be seen. Had he dreamt all that? He head the wind blow quietly around him. He could not for the life of him think how leprechauns lived from one generation to the next with no mummy leprechauns.

As a response to that he heard an unseen leprechaun chant with a menacing cackle:

‘Haha- Three wishes I grant to great and small/ Make a fourth wish and you lose them all’.

The Giant

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The Giant’s Causeway

Many thousands of years ago there live an Irish giant named Finn McCool. His surname was McCool because he was cool.

Finn McCool had a row with the Scottish giant Bendonner. Finn decided to throw a lump of clay at Bendonner. Finn scooped up a lump of earth and threw it at Bendonner but he missed badly. The lump of earth landed in the Irish Sea and that is how the Isle of Man came to be. The place where he had scooped out a fistful of earth is Lough Neagh which is 50km long. A pebble had gone spinning off the lump of clay as Finn had chucked it. This pebble became Rockall –  a tiny islet in the Atlantic –  due north of Ireland.  It gives you some idea of how big he was.

Finn decided to build a causeway across to Scotland so he could fight that cheeky Scots giant. Finn worked hard collecting huge stones and fitting them together. He started his causeway from Ulster – the northern province of Ireland which is close to Scotland.

After a few days work he had finally built his causeway. The causeway connected to Scotland at Fingal’s Cave. He was very tired, building causeways is like that.

He decided to go home and have a sleep. He needed to regain his strength to fight Bendonner. Finn got back to Ireland and went to sleep in the cave where he lived.

Bendonner saw the causeway and he realized what was happening. So Bendonner grabbed his war club and raced across the causeway to give Finn am big whack on the head.

Sadbh, Finn’s wife, saw Bendonner coming from a long way off.

‘Wake up, wake up Finn! Bendonner’s coming!’

‘What, what?’ said Finn woozily.

‘Bendonner’s coming – get ready to fight.

Finn then saw Bendonner running.

‘Oh my god – he is much bigger than me. I am never going to win a fight against a giant of that size. I tell you what – dress me up as a baby.’

‘What?’

‘That’s right  – you heard me –  dress me up as a baby.’

Sadbh did as she was told –  wrapping Finn in a blanket and putting a dummy in his mouth.

In a couple of minutes Bendonner turned up at the mouth of the cave.

‘Where’s Finn? I am going to show him who is boss of the giants.’

‘Oh he will be back in a minute. He was bored so he just went to play football –  he his going to kick the moon around for a while. Then he will be back and you two can have your fight,’ said Sadbh cheerily.

‘Kick around the moon?’ confirmed Bendonner nervously.

‘Oh yes – he loves it. He gets a terrible appetite after it. He said he will need to eat a Scots giant afterwards.’

Bendonner was beginning to sweat.

‘Who is that?’ said Bendonner pointing to Finn.

‘Oh that’s our tiny baby –  he was born yesterday.’

‘Oh my god –  if that is the size of the baby I’d hate to see how big the dad is. I am out of here!’ The colour drained from Bendonner’s face and he ran like hell for the causeway.

‘Won’t you stay?’ shouted Sadbh, sounding flustered, ‘Finn wants you to stay for his dinner.’

Bendonner did not reply or turn his head, he only ran even faster. He began to tear up the causeway behind him.

Finn and Bendonner never met.

There remains a section of the beginning of the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. This explains why there are lots of tall stones that look like organ pipes on the coast of Antrim.

St Patrick’s mission

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St Patrick’s mission

 

“Ireland?”, said the other priest, “you must be crazy. Why would you want to go back there? Those people are all pagans. Missionaries there have tried and fail many times before. You will never convert those heathen in Ireland. Even the Romans could not conquer those benighted people. These are the people who enslaved you Patrick. You owe them nothing. Stay well out of it. They will kill you. Don’t go.”

“I asked the Pope to send me to Ireland. I feel I have a special mission to convert them. I must go. I forgive the people who enslaved me. I had a vision. I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: “The Voice of the Irish”. As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us .”

It was many years after Patrick’s escape from Ireland. He had got to France and then Wales. He had studied for the priesthood and been ordained. He had served as a priest in France and become a bishop. Now he had been authorized by the Pope to return to Ireland and to evangelize there.

Patrick sailed to Ulster, the northern province of Ireland where he had spent his time as a slave. With great courage he approached people and gently introduced them to Christianity. Gradually he won a few converts. Naturally this inspired anger and jealousy in the druids, priests of the pagan religion. The druids said that Patrick was a dangerous, suspicious foreign who was importing a sinister foreign cult and that he was a scout for an invading foreign army. Besides, a faith preached by a runaway slave could not be respectable for a warrior race.

Patrick traveled the length and breadth of Ireland, visiting every province. He spent time in between journeys in Armagh, a small city. He later built a church there. Armagh is now considered the religious capital of Ireland by Christians of all denominations.

Patrick used the shamrock to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity. His listeners were puzzled by this bizarre notion that God was three persons and yet one God. How could this possibly work? Patrick explained that if one removed on of the three leaves from the shamrock the other two would die. This instantly struck a chord. The shamrock analogy made Christianity seem not so alien after all.

Patrick founded his first church at Downpatrick – meaning in Irish ‘the place of Patrick’.

Some those who did not believe in Patrick’s message felt admiration and curiosity for him. Surely this must be a fine faith that it made him plucky enough to return the place of his captivity and preach among hostile people. A few petty kings invited him to their courts to hear the Gospel and in time they became Christians too.

Those petty kings who were baptized often offered him lavish gifts as was the custom of the time in Ireland. But Patrick always courteously declined such gifts. He stressed that he was there only because it was his religious duty and not for material gain. When he baptized people or ordained men as priests they often gave him a stipend but the always returned it to them.

Some petty kings proposed to him that he should become their subject and to be under their protection. Patrick again politely said no. If he was the subject of one petty king then he might be considered the enemy of another petty king.

On one occasion Patrick grew despondent because of the doubts of the wouldbe converts. They wanted some proof of the Purgatory that he said lay beyond death. He went to an island on Lough Derg. There he had a vision of Purgatory – seeing a hole open up in the ground and he saw terrible torments there. He went and vividly described this to those who had questioned him. They were impressed and converted at once.

St Patrick did his best to stamp out idolatry and immoral practices. He founded convents and some wealthy women became nuns there. Their families often opposed this and loathe Patrick of encouraging their daughters to follow this lifestyle of chastity and contemplation.

Patrick was occasionally set upon by those who hated him for his beliefs and severely beaten up. He was also attacked by armed bandits and robbed of everything that he had. He refused to carry a weapon and never gave up or cursed his attackers.

He was riding a horse-drawn cart around Ireland. He had a driver who held the horse’s rein. One day the driver asked Patrick if he would take the reins so that the driver could sit on the passenger seat and take a rest for a while. Patrick readily agreed, he was not too proud to do such work. As they slowed to round a bend a man jumped out from behind a boulder and thrust a javelin right into the driver’s chest. The driver keeled over and died on the spot. The assassin ran off laughing, “I have killed Patrick!” Then Patrick realized – the driver must have known that there was an assassination attempt afoot – he swapped places with me so that he would be in danger not me.

Patrick was deeply saddened by the death of his driver – his faithful companion on many a dangerous journey. St Patrick climbed a mountain Mayo, in the very west of Ireland. He was seeking communion with God and the strength to carry on his mission. There he decided to imitate Jesus and he fasted and prayed for 40 days and 40 nights. At the end of his fast Patrick threw his silver bell into the sky and it struck Cora, the she demon and was no more. He then used the power God had given him to drive all the snakes from Ireland. As he stood on the summit of the mountain he saw all the snakes slithering as fast as they could to the sea below him and drowning. From then on the people of Ireland have been safe from snakes. Snakes do not live in Ireland in the wild, they only live there when people have brought them in to zoos or as pets.

Later Patrick led his acolytes to build a church on the top of the 700 m mountain. It has come to be known as Croagh Patrick, meaning Patrick’s mountain. Every year on the last Sunday in July thousands of pilgrims from all countries of the world climb Croagh Patrick in memory of Patrick’s fast there. Some of them climb barefoot as a penance. Some men climb without shirts.

Patrick had grown in popularity but the druids and their pagan followers were even more bitter against him. Patrick decided that he must take paganism head on. He traveled down to near Tara Hill – the seat of the High King’s of Ireland. The druids lit a fire to worship their pagan pantheon. On the next hill St Patrick lit a fire to compete against them and show that lighting a fire was no sign of divine favour.

Patrick visited Dublin which was then only a village and not considered an important place at all. He miraculously found a spring. This is now called Patrick’s spring and centuries later St Patrick’s Cathedral was built beside it.

Patrick was growing old and had to carry a walking stick of ash wood. When he stopped in a village to speak the word of God to the people there he would plant his walking stick in the earth upright. If the people had accepted his message by the time he left then the walking stick would take root and grow. That is how the ash tree grew all over Ireland.

Patrick was a man of great learning. He was fluent in Irish and Latin as well as his native language. He founded schools, convents, monasteries and churches wherever he went. He composed many hymns the most famous of which is St. Patrick’s breastplate.

Patrick finally died on 17 March 493. He is buried in front of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Downpatrick. He had spent 30 years on his mission in Ireland without once going home to Wales. This day is commemorated in Ireland and by Irishmen all over the world and indeed by many who are not Irish. This day is as St Patrick’s Day and it is a celebration of all things Irish.

There are St Patrick’s cathedrals all over the world from New York to Australia to Pakistan. Patrick is perhaps the most popular man in Ireland to have come from Great Britain. There is a widespread misapprehension that he was Irish. He was not, he was Welsh. He originated somewhere on the west coast of Great Britain, approximately Wales and hailed from the people who developed into being the Welsh. He only spent most of his adult life in Ireland.