Fionn MacCumhail and the Princess by
Patrick J. McCall
From “The Shamrock.”
(In Wexford Folk Speech.)
Wance upon a time, when things was a great’le betther
in Ireland than they are at present, when a rale king
ruled over the counthry wid four others undher him
to look afther the craps an’ other indhustries, there lived
a young chief called Fan MaCool.
Now, this was long afore we gev up bowin’ and scrapin’
to the sun an’ moon an’ sich like raumash (nonsense);
an’ signs an it, there was a powerful lot ov witches an’
Druids, an’ enchanted min an’ wimen goin’ about, that
med things quare enough betimes for iverywan.
Well, Fan, as I sed afore, was a young man when he
kem to the command, an’ a purty likely lookin’ boy,
too—there was nothin’ too hot or too heavy for him;
an’ so ye needn’t be a bit surprised if I tell ye he was the
mischief entirely wid the colleens. Nothin’ delighted
him more than to disguise himself wid an ould coatamore
(overcoat) threwn over his showlder, a lump ov
a kippeen (stick) in his fist and he mayanderin’ about
unknownst, rings around the counthry, lookin’ for fun
an’ foosther (diversion) ov all kinds.
Well, one fine mornin’, whin he was on the shaughraun,
he was waumasin’ (strolling) about through Leinster,
an’ near the royal palace ov Glendalough he seen a
mighty throng ov grand lords and ladies, an’, my dear,
they all dressed up to the nines, wid their jewels shinin’
like dewdrops ov a May mornin’, and laughin’ like the
tinkle ov a deeshy (small) mountain strame over the
white rocks. So he cocked his beaver, an’ stole over
to see what was the matther.
Lo an’ behould ye, what were they at but houldin’
a race-meetin’ or faysh (festival)—somethin’ like what
the quality calls ataleticks now! There they were,
jumpin’, and runnin’, and coorsin’, an’ all soorts ov
fun, enough to make the trouts—an’ they’re mighty
fine leppers enough—die wid envy in the river benaith
The fun wint on fast an’ furious, an’ Fan, consaled
betune the trumauns an’ brushna (elder bushes and
furze) could hardly keep himself quiet, seein’ the thricks
they wor at. Peepin’ out, he seen, jist forninst him
on the other bank, the prencess herself, betune the
high-up ladies ov the coort. She was a fine, bouncin’
geersha (girl) with gold hair like the furze an’ cheeks
like an apple blossom, an’ she brakin’ her heart laughin’
an’ clappin’ her hands an’ turnin her head this a-way
an’ that a-way, jokin’ wid this wan an’ that wan, an’
commiseratin’, moryah! (forsooth) the poor gossoons that
failed in their leps. Fan liked the looks ov her well, an’
whin the boys had run in undher a bame up to their
knees an’ jumped up over another wan as high as their
chins, the great trial ov all kem on. Maybe you’d
guess what that was? But I’m afeerd you won’t
if I gev you a hundhred guesses! It was to lep the
strame, forty foot wide!
List’nin’ to them whisperin’ to wan another, Fan
heerd them tellin’ that whichever ov them could manage
it wud be med a great man intirely ov; he wud get the
Prencess Maynish in marriage, an’ ov coorse, would
be med king ov Leinster when the ould king, Garry,
her father, cocked his toes an’ looked up through the
butts ov the daisies at the shky. Well, whin Fan h’ard
this, he was put to a nonplush to know what to do!
With his ould duds on him, he was ashamed ov his
life to go out into the open, to have the eyes ov the whole
wurruld on him, an’ his heart wint down to his big toe
as he watched the boys makin’ their offers at the lep.
But no one of them was soople enough for the job, an’
they kep on tumblin’, wan afther the other, into the
strame; so that the poor prencess began to look sorryful
whin her favourite, a big hayro wid a colyeen (curls)
a yard long—an’ more betoken he was a boy o’ the Byrnes
from Imayle—jist tipped the bank forninst her wid
his right fut, an’ then twistin’, like a crow in the air
scratchin’ her head with her claw, he spraddled wide
open in the wather, and splashed about like a hake in
a mudbank! Well, me dear, Fan forgot himself, an’
gev a screech like an aigle; an’ wid that, the ould king
started, the ladies all screamed, an’ Fan was surrounded.
In less than a minnit an’ a half they dragged me bould
Fan be the collar ov his coat right straight around to
the king himself.
“What ould geochagh (beggar) have we now?” sez
the king, lookin’ very hard at Fan.
“I’m Fan MaCool!” sez the thief ov the wurruld,
as cool as a frog.
“Well, Fan MaCool or not,” sez the king, mockin’
him, “ye’ll have to jump the sthrame yander for
freckenin’ the lives clane out ov me ladies,” sez he,
“an’ for disturbin’ our spoort ginerally,” sez he.
“An’ what’ll I get for that same?” sez Fan, lettin’
on (pretending) he was afeered.
“Me daughter, Maynish,” sez the king, wid a laugh;
for he thought, ye see, Fan would be drowned.
“Me hand on the bargain,” sez Fan; but the owld
chap gev him a rap on the knuckles wid his specktre
(sceptre) an’ towld him to hurry up, or he’d get the
ollaves (judges) to put him in the Black Dog pres’n or
the Marshals—I forgets which—it’s so long gone by!
Well, Fan peeled off his coatamore, an’ threw away his
bottheen ov a stick, an’ the prencess seein’ his big
body an’ his long arums an’ legs like an oak tree, couldn’t
help remarkin’ to her comrade, the craythur—
“Bedad, Cauth (Kate),” sez she, “but this beggarman
is a fine bit of a bouchal (boy),” sez she; “it’s in the
arumy (army) he ought to be,” sez she, lookin’ at him
agen, an’ admirin’ him, like.
So, Fan, purtendin’ to be fixin’ his shoes be the bank,
jist pulled two lusmores (fox-gloves) an’ put them
anunder his heels; for thim wor the fairies’ own
flowers that works all soort ov inchantment, an’ he, ov
coorse, knew all about it; for he got the wrinkle from an
ould lenaun (fairy guardian) named Cleena, that nursed
him when he was a little stand-a-loney.
Well, me dear, ye’d think it was on’y over a little
creepie (three-legged) stool he was leppin’ whin he
landed like a thrish jist at the fut ov the prencess; an’
his father’s son he was, that put his two arums around
her, an’ gev her a kiss—haith, ye’d hear the smack
ov it at the Castle o’ Dublin. The ould king groaned
like a corncrake, an’ pulled out his hair in hatfuls, an’
at last he ordhered the bowld beggarman off to be
kilt; but, begorrah, when they tuck off weskit an’
seen the collar ov goold around Fan’s neck the ould
chap became delighted, for he knew thin he had the
commandher ov Airyun (Erin) for a son-in-law.
“Hello!” sez the king, “who have we now?” sez
he, seein’ the collar. “Begonny’s,” sez he, “you’re
no boccagh (beggar) anyways!”
“I’m Fan MaCool,” sez the other, as impident as
a cocksparra’; “have you anything to say agen me?”
for his name wasn’t up, at that time, like afther.
“Ay lots to say agen you. How dar’ you be comin’
round this a-way, dressed like a playacthor, takin’
us in?” sez the king, lettin’ on to be vexed; “an’
now,” sez he, “to annoy you, you’ll have to go an’
jump back agen afore you gets me daughter for puttin’
on (deceiving) us in such a manner.”
“Your will is my pleasure,” sez Fan; “but I must
have a word or two with the girl first,” sez he, an’ up
he goes an’ commences talkin’ soft to her, an’ the king
got as mad as a hatther at the way the two were croosheenin’
an’ colloguin’ (whispering and talking), an’
not mindin’ him no more than if he was the man in the
moon, when who comes up but the Prence of Imayle,
afther dryin’ himself, to put his pike in the hay too.
“Well, avochal (my boy),” sez Fan, “are you dry
yet?” an’ the Prencess laughed like a bell round a
“You think yourself a smart lad, I suppose,” sez
the other; “but there’s one thing you can’t do wid
all your prate!”
“What’s that?” sez Fan. “Maybe not” sez he.
“You couldn’t whistle and chaw oatenmale,” sez
the Prence ov Imayle, in a pucker. “Are you any
good at throwin’ a stone?” sez he, then.
“The best!” sez Fan, an’ all the coort gother round
like to a cock-fight. “Where’ll we throw to?” sez he.
“In to’ards Dublin,” sez the Prence ov Imayle;
an’ be all accounts he was a great hand at cruistin
“Here goes pink,” sez he, an’ he ups with a stone,
as big as a castle, an’ sends it flyin’ in the air like a cannon
ball, and it never stopped till it landed on top ov the Three
“I’m your masther!” sez Fan, pickin’ up another
clochaun (stone) an’ sendin’ it a few perch beyant the
“That you’re not,” sez the Prence ov Imayle, an’
he done his best, an’ managed to send another finger
stone beyant Fan’s throw; an’ sure, the three stones
are to be seen, be all the world, to this very day.
“Well, me lad,” says Fan, stoopin’ for another as
big as a hill, “I’m sorry I have to bate you; but I can’t
help it,” sez he, lookin’ over at the Prencess Maynish,
an’ she as mute as a mouse watchin’ the two big men,
an’ the ould king showin’ fair play, as delighted as a
child. “Watch this,” sez he, whirlin’ his arm like
a windmill, “and now put on your spectacles,”
sez he; and away he sends the stone, buzzin’ through
the air like a peggin’-top, over the other three clochauns,
and then across Dublin Bay, an’ scrapin’ the nose off
ov Howth, it landed with a swish in the say beyant it.
That’s the rock they calls Ireland’s Eye now!
“Be the so an’ so!” sez the king, “I don’t know
where that went to, at all, at all! what direct did you
send it?” sez he to Fan. “I had it in view, till it
went over the say,” sez he.
“I’m bet!” sez the Prence ov Imayle. “I couldn’t
pass that, for I can’t see where you put it, even—good-bye
to yous,” sez he, turnin’ on his heel an’ makin’
off; “an’ may yous two be as happy as I can wish you!”
An’ back he went to the butt ov Lugnaquilla, an’ took to
fret, an I understand shortly afther he died ov a broken
heart; an’ they put a turtle-dove on his tombstone to
signify that he died for love; but I think he overstrained
himself, throwin’, though that’s nayther here nor there
with me story!
“Are you goin’ to lep back agen?” sez ould King
Garry, wantin’ to see more sport; for he tuk as much
delight in seein’ the like as if he was a lad ov twenty.
“To be shure I will!” sez Fan, ready enough,
“but I’ll have to take the girl over with me this time!”
“Oh, no, Fan!” sez Maynish, afeered ov her life
he might stumble an’ that he’d fall in with her; an’ then
she’d have to fall out with him—“take me father with
you,” sez she; an’ egonnys, the ould king thought
more about himself than any ov them, an’ sed he’d take
the will for the deed, like the lawyers. So the weddin’
went on; an’ maybe that wasn’t the grand blow-out.
But I can’t stay to tell yous all the fun they had for a
fortnit; on’y, me dear, they all went into kinks ov
laughin’, when the ould king, who tuk more than was
good for him, stood up to drink Fan’s health, an’ forgot
“Here’s to’ards your good health, Fan MaCool!”
sez he, as grand as you like—“an’ a long life to you, an’
a happy wife to you—an’ a great many ov them!” sez
he, like he’d forgot somethin’.
Well, me dear, every one was splittin’ their sides
like the p’yates, unless the prencess, an’ she got as red
in the face as if she was churnin’ in the winther an’ the
frost keepin’ the crame from crackin’; but she got
over it like the maisles.
But I suppose you can guess the remainder, an’ as
the evenin’s gettin’ forrard I’ll stop; so put down the
kittle an’ make tay, an’ if Fan and the Prencess Maynish
didn’t live happy together—that we may!