LARRY COTTER had a farm on one side of
Lough Gur [in the county of Limerick] and was thriving in it, for he
was an industrious proper sort of man, who would have lived quietly and
soberly to the end of his days, but for the misfortune that came upon him, and
you shall hear how that was. He had as nice a bit of meadow-land, down
by the water-side, as ever a man would wish for; but its growth was spoiled
entirely on him, and no one could tell how.
One year after the other it was all ruined
just the same way: the bounds were well made up, and not a stone of them was
disturbed; neither could his neighbours' cattle have been guilty of the
trespass, for they were spancelled [fettered]; but however it was done the
grass of the meadow was destroyed, which was a great loss to Larry.
"What in the wide world will I
do?" said Larry Cotter to his neighbour, Tom Welch, who was a very decent
sort of man himself: "that bit of meadow-land, which I am paying the
great rent for, is doing nothing at all to make it for me; and the times are
bitter bad, without the help of that to make them worse."
"'T is true for you, Larry,"
replied Welch : "the times are bitter bad - no doubt of that; but may be
if you were to watch by night, you might make out all about it: sure there's
Mick and Terry, my two boys, will watch with you; for 't is a thousand pities
any honest man like you should be ruined in such a scheming way"
Accordingly, the following night, Larry
Cotter, with Welch's two sons, took their station in a corner of the meadow.
It was just at the full of the moon, which was shining beautifully down upon
the lake, that was as calm all over as the sky itself; not a cloud was there
to be seen any where, nor a sound to be heard, but the cry of the corncreaks
answering one another across the water.
"Boys! boys!" said Larry,
"look there! look there! but for your lives don't make a bit of noise,
nor stir a step till I say the word."
They looked, and saw a great fat cow,
followed by seven milk-white heifers, moving on the smooth surface of the lake
towards the meadow.
" 'T is not Tim Dwyer the piper's
cow, any way, that danced all the flesh off her bones," whispered Mick to
"Now, boys " said Larry Cotter,
when he saw the fine cow and her seven white heifers fairly in the meadow,
"get between them and the lake if you can, and, no matter who they belong
to, we'll just: put them into' the pound."
But the cow must have overheard Larry
speaking, for down she went in a great hurry to the shore of the lake, and
into it with her, before all their eyes: away made the seven heifers after
her, but the boys got down to the hank before them, and work enough they had
to drive them up from the lake to Larry Cotter.
Larry drove the seven heifers, and.
beautiful beasts they were, to the pound; but after he had them there for
three days, and could hear of no owner, he took them out, and put them up in a
field of his own. There he kept them, and they were thriving mighty well with
him, until one night the gate of the field was left open, and in the morning
the seven heifers were gone. Larry could not get any account of them after;
and, beyond all doubt, it was back into the lake they went. Wherever they came
from, or to whatever world they belonged, Larry Cotter never had a crop of
grass off the meadow through their means. So he took to drink, fairly out of
the grief; and it was the drink that killed him, they say.
Source: Thomas Crofton
Croker - Fairy Legends and Traditions, first published 1825.
republished by: Collins Press, Cork, 1998.