St Johnston and Carrigans Donegal



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This ballad embodies an actual legend attached to a lonely
spot on the border of the county of Donegal. The language of
the ballad is the peculiar semi-Scottish dialect spoken in the
north of Ireland.

HEARD ye no' tell of the Stumpie's Brae?
Sit down, sit down, young friend,
I'll make your flesh to creep to-day,
And your hair to stan' on end.

Young man, it's hard to strive wi' sin,
And the hardest strife of a',
Is where the greed o' gain creeps in,
And drives God's grace awa'.

Oh, it's quick to do, but it's lang to rue,
When the punishment comes at last,
And we would give the world to undo
The deed thats done and past.

Over yon strip of meadow land,
And over the burnie bright,
Dinna ye mark the fir-trees stand,
Around yon gable white?

I mind it weel, in my younger days
The story yet was rife:
There dwelt within that lonely place
A farmer man and his wife.

They sat together, all alone,
One blessed Autumn night,
When the trees without, and hedge, and stone,
Were white in the sweet moonlight.

The boys and girls were gone down all
A wee to the blacksmith's wake;
There pass'd ane on by the window small,
And guv the door a shake.

The man he up and open'd the door-
When he had spoken a bit,
A pedlar man stepp'd into the floor,
Down he tumbled the pack he bore,
Right heavy pack was it.

'Gude save us a" says the wife, wi' a smile,
"But yours is a thrivin' trade." —
"Ay, ay, I've wander'd mony a mile,
And plenty have I made."

The man sat on by the dull fire flame,
When the pedlar went to rest;
Close to his ear the Devil came,
And slipp'd intil his breast.

He look'd at his wife by the dim fire light,
And she was as bad as he —
"Could we no' murder thon man the night?"-
"Ay could we, ready," quo' she.

He took the pickaxe without a word,
Whence it stood, ahint the door;
As he pass'd in, the sleeper stirr'd.
That never waken'd more.

"He's dead!" says the auld man, coming back-
"What o' the corp, my dear?"
"We'll bury him snug in his ain bit pack,
Never ye mind for the loss of the sack,
I've ta'en out a' the gear."

"The pack's owre short by twa gude span,
What 'll we do?" quo' he—
"Ou, you're a doited, unthoughtfu' man,
We'll cut him off at the knee."

They shorten'd the corp, and they pack'd him tight,
Wi' his legs in a pickle hay;
Over the burn, in the sweet moonlight,
They carried him till this brae.

They shovell'd a hole right speedily,
They laid him in on his back —
"A right pair are ye," quo' the PEDLAR, quo' he,
Sitting bolt upright in the pack.

"Ye think ye've laid me snugly here,
And none shall know my station;
But I'll hant ye far, and I'll hant ye near,
Father and son, wi' terror and fear,
To the nineteenth generation."

The twa were sittin' the vera next night,
When the dog began to cower,
And they knew, by the pale blue fire light,
That the Evil One had power.

It had stricken nine, just nine o' the clock —
The hour when the man lay dead;
There came to the outer door a knock,
And a heavy, heavy tread.

The old man's head swam round and round,
The woman's blood 'gan freeze,
For it was not like a natural sound,
But like some one stumping o'er the ground
On the banes of his twa bare knees.

And through the door, like a sough of air,
And stump, stump, round the twa,
Wi' his bloody head, and his knee banes bare —
They'd maist ha'e died of awe!

The wife's black locks ere morn grew white.
They say, as the mountain snaws;
The man was as straight as a staff that night,
But he stoop'd when the morning rose.

Still, year and day, as the clock struck NINE,
The hour when they did the sin,
The wee bit dog began to whine,
And the ghaist came clattering in.

Ae night there was a fearful flood-
Three days the skies had pour'd;
And white wi' foam, and black wi' mud,
The burn in fury roar'd.

Quo' she — " Gude man, ye need na turn
Sae pale in the dim fire light;
The Stumpie canna cross the burn,
He'll no' be here the night.

" For it's o'er the bank, and it's o'er the linn,
And it's up to the meadow ridge — "
" Ay," quo' the Stumpie hirpling in,
And he gied the wife a slap on the chin,
" But I cam' round by the bridge!"

And stump, stump, stump, to his plays again,
And o'er the stools and chairs;
Ye'd surely hae thought ten women and men
Were dancing there in pairs.

They sold their gear, and over the sea
To a foreign land they went,
Over the sea — but wha can flee
His appointed punishment?

The ship swam over the water clear,
Wi' the help o' the eastern breeze;
But the vera first sound in guilty fear,
O'er the wide, smooth deck, that fell on their ear
Was the tapping o' them twa knees.

In the woods of wild America
Their weary feet they set;
But Stumpie was there the first, they say,
And he haunted them on to their dying day,
And he follows their children yet.

I haud ye, never the voice of blood
Call'd from the earth in vain;
And never has crime won worldly good,
But it brought its after-pain.

This is the story o' Stumpie's Brae,
And the murderers' fearfu' fate:
Young man, your face is turn'd that way,
Ye'll be ganging the night that gate.

Ye'll ken it weel, through the few fir trees,
The house where they wont to dwell;
Gin ye meet ane there, as daylight flees,
Stumping about on the banes of his knees,
It'll jist be Stumpie himsel'.