Monday 13 April 2020

An Irish Easter Legend.

An Irish Easter Legend.

Being in the north-west of Ireland last summer, on the borders of Sligo and Donegal, I chanced upon a famous Shanachie, or story-teller, an Irish-speaking peasant, who possessed an almost inexhaustible fund of traditional, historical, and legendary lore, and whose manner of relating his stories was so graphic that each scene seemed to pass before his own and his listeners' eyes. Amongst the legends he told was one which is now very rare, being, as far as I am aware, known only to Irish-speaking people, and even to few amongst these, though the sculptured tomb bearing the pictured representation of the story being found in Kilree churchyard, almost in the extreme farthest part of Ireland from Donegal, would seem to show that in olden times the legend was popular throughout Ireland.

The old story represented by “a cock in a pot, crowing," was told me by the Shanachie as follows :

" It was at the time when our Saviour was in the grave, and that the soldiers who were set to watch the tomb were sitting round a fire they had lighted. They had killed a cock and put it in a pot on the fire to boil for their supper; and, as they sat around, they spoke together of the story that was told how He that was in the tomb they were guarding had prophesied that before three days were passed He would rise again from the dead. And one of the men said, in mockery: He will rise as sure as the cock that is in that boiling pot will crow again."

No sooner were the words spoken than the lid of the pot burst open, the cock flew on to the edge, flapped his wings, sprinkling the soldiers with the boiling water, then crowed three times, and what he said each time was:

' Moc an o-o-o-ye, slaun !
Moc an o-o-o-ye, slaun !'

That is,' Son of the Virgin, Hail!' [Mac an Oige, slan] and ever since that hour this is what the cock crows: this is what we hear him say, and if you listen you, too, can hear the very words :

' Moc an o-o-o-ye, slaun !' '

I spell the sound of the Irish phonetically to try and imitate the peculiar softening of the words as an Irish speaker softens them, the prolonging out of the o-o-o sounding almost precisely like the bird's crow heard from a distance. At least so it has always sounded in my ears since I heard this beautiful legend. M. B.

Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Volume 27 (1897), 193-194.

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