Picture of George Borrow

George Borrow

places mentioned

Neath and Merthyr

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Leave Swansea - The Pandemonium - Neath Abbey - Varied Scenery.

IT was about two o'clock of a dull and gloomy afternoon when I started from Abertawy or Swansea, intending to stop at Neath, some eight miles distant. As I passed again through the suburbs I was struck with their length and the evidences of enterprise which they exhibited - enterprise, however, evidently chiefly connected with iron and coal, for almost every object looked awfully grimy. Crossing a bridge I proceeded to the east up a broad and spacious valley, the eastern side of which was formed by russet-coloured hills, through a vista of which I could descry a range of tall blue mountains. As I proceeded I sometimes passed pleasant groves and hedgerows, sometimes huge works; in this valley there was a singular mixture of nature and art, of the voices of birds and the clanking of chains, of the mists of heaven and the smoke of furnaces.

I reached Llan- , a small village half-way between Swansea and Neath, and without stopping continued my course, walking very fast. I had surmounted a hill, and had nearly descended that side of it which looked towards the east, having on my left, that is to the north, a wooded height, when an extraordinary scene presented itself to my eyes. Somewhat to the south rose immense stacks of chimneys surrounded by grimy diabolical-looking buildings, in the neighbourhood of which were huge heaps of cinders and black rubbish. From the chimneys, notwithstanding it was Sunday, smoke was proceeding in volumes, choking the atmosphere all around. From this pandemonium, at the distance of about a quarter of a mile to the south-west, upon a green meadow, stood, looking darkly grey, a ruin of vast size with window holes, towers, spires, and arches. Between it and the accursed pandemonium, lay a horrid filthy place, part of which was swamp and part pool: the pool black as soot, and the swamp of a disgusting leaden colour. Across this place of filth stretched a tramway leading seemingly from the abominable mansions to the ruin. So strange a scene I had never beheld in nature. Had it been on canvas, with the addition of a number of Diabolical figures, proceeding along the tramway, it might have stood for Sabbath in Hell - devils proceeding to afternoon worship, and would have formed a picture worthy of the powerful but insane painter, Jerome Bos.

After standing for a considerable time staring at the strange spectacle I proceeded. Presently meeting a lad, I asked him what was the name of the ruin.

"The Abbey," he replied.

"Neath Abbey?" said I.


Having often heard of this abbey, which in its day was one of the most famous in Wales, I determined to go and inspect it. It was with some difficulty that I found my way to it. It stood, as I have already observed, in a meadow, and was on almost every side surrounded by majestic hills. To give any clear description of this ruined pile would be impossible, the dilapidation is so great, dilapidation evidently less the effect of time than of awful violence, perhaps that of gunpowder. The southern is by far the most perfect portion of the building; there you see not only walls but roofs. Fronting you full south, is a mass of masonry with two immense arches, other arches behind them: entering, you find yourself beneath a vaulted roof, and passing on you come to an oblong square which may have been a church; an iron-barred window on your right enables you to look into a mighty vault, the roof of which is supported by beautiful pillars. Then - but I forbear to say more respecting these remains, for fear of stating what is incorrect, my stay amongst them having been exceedingly short.

The Abbey of Glen Neath was founded in the twelfth century by Richard Grenfield, one of the followers of Robert Fitzhamon, who subjugated Glamorgan. Neath Abbey was a very wealthy one, the founder having endowed it with extensive tracts of fertile land along the banks of the rivers Neath and Tawy. In it the unfortunate Edward of Carnarvon sought a refuge for a few days from the rage of his revolted barons, whilst his favourite, the equally unfortunate Spencer, endeavoured to find a covert amidst the thickets of the wood-covered hill to the north. When Richmond landed at Milford Haven to dispute the crown with Richard the Second, the then Abbot of Neath repaired to him and gave him his benediction, in requital for which the adventurer gave him his promise that in the event of his obtaining the crown, he would found a college in Glen Neath, which promise, however, after he had won the crown, he forgot to perform.20 The wily abbot, when he hastened to pay worship to what he justly conceived to be the rising sun, little dreamt that he was about to bless the future father of the terrible man doomed by Providence to plant the abomination of desolation in Neath Abbey and in all the other nests of monkery throughout the land.

Leaving the ruins I proceeded towards Neath. The scenery soon became very beautiful; not that I had left machinery altogether behind, for I presently came to a place where huge wheels were turning, and there was smoke and blast, but there was much that was rural and beautiful to be seen, something like park scenery, and then there were the mountains near and in the distance. I reached Neath at about half-past four, and took up my quarters at an inn which had been recommended to me by my friend the boots at Swansea.


Town of Neath - Hounds and Huntsman - Spectral Chapel - The Glowing Mountain

NEATH is a place of some antiquity, for it can boast of the remains of a castle and is a corporate town. There is but little Welsh spoken in it. It is situated on the Neath, and exports vast quantities of coal and iron, of both of which there are rich mines in the neighbourhood. It derives its name from the river Nedd or Neth, on which it stands. Nedd or Neth is the same word as Nith, the name of a river in Scotland, and is in some degree connected with Nidda, the name of one in Germany. Nedd in Welsh signifies a dingle, and the word in its various forms has always something to do with lowness or inferiority of position. Amongst its forms are Nether and Nieder. The term is well applied to the Glamorganshire river, which runs through dingles and under mountains.

The Neath has its source in the mountains of Brecon, and enters the sea some little way below the town of Neath.

On the Monday morning I resumed my journey, directing my course up the vale of Neath towards Merthyr Tydvil, distant about four-and- twenty miles. The weather was at first rainy, misty and miserable, but improved by degrees. I passed through a village which I was told was called Llanagos; close to it were immense establishments of some kind. The scenery soon became exceedingly beautiful; hills covered with wood to the tops were on either side of the dale. I passed an avenue leading somewhere through groves, and was presently overtaken and passed by hounds and a respectable-looking old huntsman on a black horse; a minute afterwards I caught a glimpse of an old red-brick mansion nearly embosomed in groves, from which proceeded a mighty cawing. Probably it belonged to the proprietor of the dogs, and certainly looked a very fit mansion for a Glamorganshire squire, justice of the peace and keeper of a pack of hounds.

I went on, the vale increasing in beauty; there was a considerable drawback, however: one of those detestable contrivances, a railroad, was on the farther side - along which trains were passing, rumbling and screaming.

I saw a bridge on my right hand with five or six low arches over the river, which was here full of shoals. Asked a woman the name of the bridge.

"PONT FAWR ei galw, sir."

I was again amongst the real Welsh - this woman had no English.

I passed by several remarkable mountains, both on the south and northern side of the vale. Late in the afternoon I came to the eastern extremity of the vale and ascended a height. Shortly afterwards I reached Rhigos, a small village.

Entering a public-house I called for ale and sat down amidst some grimy fellows, who said nothing to me and to whom I said nothing - their discourse was in Welsh and English. Of their Welsh I understood but little, for it was a strange corrupt jargon. In about half-an-hour after leaving this place I came to the beginning of a vast moor. It was now growing rather dusk, and I could see blazes here and there; occasionally I heard horrid sounds. Came to Irvan, an enormous mining-place with a spectral-looking chapel, doubtless a Methodist one. The street was crowded with rough, savage-looking men. "Is this the way to Merthyr Tydvil?" said I to one.

"Yes!" bawled the fellow at the utmost stretch of his voice.

"Thank you!" said I, taking off my hat and passing on.

Forward I went, up hill and down dale. Night now set in. I passed a grove of trees and presently came to a collection of small houses at the bottom of a little hollow. Hearing a step near me I stopped and said in Welsh: "How far to Merthyr Tydvil?"

"Dim Cumrag, sir!" said a voice, seemingly that of a man.

"Good night!" said I, and without staying to put the question in English, I pushed on up an ascent, and was presently amongst trees. Heard for a long time the hooting of an owl or rather the frantic hollo. Appeared to pass by where the bird had its station. Toiled up an acclivity and when on the top stood still and looked around me. There was a glow on all sides in the heaven, except in the north-east quarter. Striding on I saw a cottage on my left hand, and standing at the door the figure of a woman. "How far to Merthyr?" said I in Welsh.

"Tair milltir - three miles, sir."

Turning round a corner at the top of a hill I saw blazes here and there, and what appeared to be a glowing mountain in the south- east. I went towards it down a descent which continued for a long, long way; so great was the light cast by the blazes and that wonderful glowing object, that I could distinctly see the little stones upon the road. After walking about half-an-hour, always going downwards, I saw a house on my left hand and heard a noise of water opposite to it. It was a pistyll. I went to it, drank greedily, and then hurried on. More and more blazes, and the glowing object looking more terrible than ever. It was now above me at some distance to the left, and I could see that it was an immense quantity of heated matter like lava, occupying the upper and middle parts of a hill, and descending here and there almost to the bottom in a zigzag and tortuous manner. Between me and the hill of the burning object lay a deep ravine. After a time I came to a house, against the door of which a man was leaning. "What is all that burning stuff above, my friend?"

"Dross from the iron forges, sir!"

I now perceived a valley below me full of lights, and descending reached houses and a tramway. I had blazes now all around me. I went through a filthy slough, over a bridge, and up a street, from which dirty lanes branched off on either side, passed throngs of savage-looking people talking clamorously, shrank from addressing any of them, and finally, undirected, found myself before the Castle Inn at Merthyr Tydvil.


Iron and Coal - The Martyred Princess - Cyfartha Fawr - Diabolical Structure.

MERTHYR TYDVIL is situated in a broad valley through which roll the waters of the Taf. It was till late an inconsiderable village, but is at present the greatest mining place in Britain, and may be called with much propriety the capital of the iron and coal.

It bears the name of Merthyr Tydvil, which signifies the Martyr Tydvil, because in the old time a Christian British princess was slain in the locality which it occupies. Tydvil was the daughter of Brychan, Prince of Brecon, surnamed Brycheiniawg, or the Breconian, who flourished in the fifth century and was a contemporary of Hengist. He was a man full of Christian zeal, and a great preacher of the Gospel, and gave his children, of which he had many, both male and female, by various wives, an education which he hoped would not only make them Christians, but enable them to preach the Gospel to their countrymen. They proved themselves worthy of his care, all of them without one exception becoming exemplary Christians, and useful preachers. In his latter days he retired to a hermitage in Glamorganshire near the Taf, and passed his time in devotion, receiving occasionally visits from his children. Once, when he and several of them, amongst whom was Tydvil, were engaged in prayer, a band of heathen Saxons rushed in upon them and slew Tydvil with three of her brothers. Ever since that time the place has borne the name of Martyr Tydvil.21

The Taf, which runs to the south of Merthyr, comes down from Breconshire, and enters the Bristol Channel at Cardiff, a place the name of which in English is the city on the Taf. It is one of the most beautiful of rivers, but is not navigable on account of its numerous shallows. The only service which it renders to commerce is feeding a canal which extends from Merthyr to Cardiff. It is surprising how similar many of the Welsh rivers are in name: Taf, Tawey, Towey, Teivi, and Duffy differ but very little in sound. Taf and Teivi have both the same meaning, namely a tendency to spread out. The other names, though probably expressive of the properties or peculiarities of the streams to which they respectively belong, I know not how to translate.

The morning of the fourteenth was very fine. After breakfast I went to see the Cyfartha Fawr iron works, generally considered to be the great wonder of the place. After some slight demur I obtained permission from the superintendent to inspect them. I was attended by an intelligent mechanic. What shall I say about the Cyfartha Fawr? I had best say but very little. I saw enormous furnaces. I saw streams of molten metal. I saw a long ductile piece of red-hot iron being operated upon. I saw millions of sparks flying about. I saw an immense wheel impelled round with frightful velocity by a steam-engine of two hundred and forty horse power. I heard all kinds of dreadful sounds. The general effect was stunning. These works belong to the Crawshays, a family distinguished by a strange kind of eccentricity, but also by genius and enterprising spirit, and by such a strict feeling of honour that it is a common saying that the word of any one of them is as good as the bond of other people.

After seeing the Cyfartha I roamed about, making general observations. The mountain of dross which had startled me on the preceding night with its terrific glare, and which stands to the north-west of the town, looked now nothing more than an immense dark heap of cinders. It is only when the shades of night have settled down that the fire within manifests itself, making the hill appear an immense glowing mass. All the hills around the town, some of which are very high, have a scorched and blackened look. An old Anglesea bard, rather given to bombast, wishing to extol the abundant cheer of his native isle said: "The hills of Ireland are blackened by the smoke from the kitchens of Mona." With much more propriety might a bard of the banks of the Taf, who should wish to apologise for the rather smutty appearance of his native vale exclaim: "The hills around the Taf once so green are blackened by the smoke from the chimneys of Merthyr." The town is large and populous. The inhabitants for the most part are Welsh, and Welsh is the language generally spoken, though all have some knowledge of English. The houses are in general low and mean, and built of rough grey stone. Merthyr, however, can show several remarkable edifices, though of a gloomy horrid Satanic character. There is the hall of the Iron, with its arches, from whence proceeds incessantly a thundering noise of hammers. Then there is an edifice at the foot of a mountain, half way up the side of which is a blasted forest and on the top an enormous crag. A truly wonderful edifice it is, such as Bos would have imagined had he wanted to paint the palace of Satan. There it stands: a house of reddish brick with a slate roof - four horrid black towers behind, two of them belching forth smoke and flame from their tops - holes like pigeon holes here and there - two immense white chimneys standing by themselves. What edifice can that be of such strange mad details? I ought to have put that question to some one in Tydvil, but did not, though I stood staring at the diabolical structure with my mouth open. It is of no use putting the question to myself here.

After strolling about for some two hours with my hands in my pockets, I returned to my inn, called for a glass of ale, paid my reckoning, flung my satchel over my shoulder, and departed.


Start for Caerfili - Johanna Colgan - Alms-Giving - The Monstrous Female - The Evil Prayer - The Next Day - The Aifrionn - Unclean Spirits - Expectation - Wreaking Vengeance - A decent Alms.

I LEFT Merthyr about twelve o'clock for Caerfili. My course lay along the valley to the south-east. I passed a large village called Troed y Rhiw, or the foot of the slope, from its being at the foot of a lofty elevation, which stands on the left-hand side of the road, and was speeding onward fast, with the Taf at some distance on my right, when I saw a strange-looking woman advancing towards me. She seemed between forty and fifty, was bare-footed and bare-headed, with grizzled hair hanging in elf locks, and was dressed in rags and tatters. When about ten yards from me, she pitched forward, gave three or four grotesque tumbles, heels over head, then standing bolt upright, about a yard before me, raised her right arm, and shouted in a most discordant voice - "Give me an alms, for the glory of God!"

I stood still, quite confounded. Presently, however, recovering myself, I said:- "Really, I don't think it would be for the glory of God to give you alms."

"Ye don't! Then, Biadh an taifrionn - however, I'll give ye a chance yet. Am I to get my alms or not?"

"Before I give you alms I must know something about you. Who are you?"

"Who am I? Who should I be but Johanna Colgan, a bedivilled woman from the county of Limerick?"

"And how did you become bedevilled?"

"Because a woman something like myself said an evil prayer over me for not giving her an alms, which prayer I have at my tongue's end, and unless I get my alms will say over you. So for your own sake, honey, give me my alms, and let me go on my way."

"Oh, I am not to be frightened by evil prayers! I shall give you nothing till I hear all about you."

"If I tell ye all about me will ye give me an alms?"

"Well, I have no objection to give you something if you tell me your story."

"Will ye give me a dacent alms?"

"Oh, you must leave the amount to my free will and pleasure. I shall give you what I think fit."

"Well, so ye shall, honey; and I make no doubt ye will give me a dacent alms, for I like the look of ye, and knew ye to be an Irishman half a mile off. Only four years ago, instead of being a bedivilled woman, tumbling about the world, I was as quiet and respectable a widow as could be found in the county of Limerick. I had a nice little farm at an aisy rint, horses, cows, pigs, and servants, and, what was better than all, a couple of fine sons, who were a help and comfort to me. But my black day was not far off. I was a mighty charitable woman, and always willing to give to the bacahs and other beggars that came about. Every morning, before I opened my door, I got ready the alms which I intended to give away in the course of the day to those that should ask for them, and I made so good a preparation that, though plenty of cripples and other unfortunates wandering through the world came to me every day, part of the alms was sure to remain upon my hands every night when I closed my door. The alms which I gave away consisted of meal; and I had always a number of small measures of meal standing ready on a board, one of which I used to empty into the poke of every bacah or other unfortunate who used to place himself at the side of my door and cry out 'Ave Maria!' or 'In the name of God!' Well, one morning I sat within my door spinning, with a little bit of colleen beside me who waited upon me as servant. My measures of meal were all ready for the unfortunates who should come, filled with all the meal in the house; for there was no meal in the house save what was in those measures - divil a particle, the whole stock being exhausted; though by evening I expected plenty more, my two sons being gone to the ballybetagh, which was seven miles distant, for a fresh supply, and for other things. Well, I sat within my door, spinning, with my servant by my side to wait upon me, and my measures of meal ready for the unfortunates who might come to ask for alms. There I sat, quite proud, and more happy than I had ever felt in my life before; and the unfortunates began to make their appearance. First came a bacah on crutches; then came a woman with a white swelling; then came an individual who had nothing at all the matter with him, and was only a poor unfortunate, wandering about the world; then came a far cake,22 a dark man, who was led about by a gossoon; after him a simpley, and after the simpleton somebody else as much or more unfortunate. And as the afflicted people arrived and placed themselves by the side of the door and said 'Ave Mary,' or 'In the name of God,' or crossed their arms, or looked down upon the ground, each according to his practice, I got up and emptied my measure of meal into his poke, or whatever he carried about with him for receiving the alms which might be given to him; and my measures of meal began to be emptied fast, for it seemed that upon that day, when I happened to be particularly short of meal, all the unfortunates in the county of Limerick had conspired together to come to ask me for alms. At last every measure of meal was emptied, and there I sat in my house with nothing to give away provided an unfortunate should come. Says I to the colleen: 'What shall I do provided any more come, for all the meal is gone, and there will be no more before the boys come home at night from the ballybetagh.' Says the colleen: 'If any more come, can't ye give them something else?' Says I: 'It has always been my practice to give in meal, and loth should I be to alter it; for if once I begin to give away other things, I may give away all I have.' Says the colleen: 'Let's hope no one else will come: there have been thirteen of them already.' Scarcely had she said these words, when a monstrous woman, half-naked, and with a long staff in her hand, on the top of which was a cross, made her appearance; and placing herself right before the door, cried out so that you might have heard her for a mile, 'Give me an alms for the glory of God!' 'Good woman,' says I to her, 'you will be kind enough to excuse me: all the preparation I had made for alms has been given away, for I have relieved thirteen unfortunates this blessed morning - so may the Virgin help ye, good woman!' 'Give me an alms,' said the Beanvore, with a louder voice than before, 'or it will be worse for you.' 'You must excuse me, good mistress,' says I, 'but I have no more meal in the house. Those thirteen measures which you see there empty were full this morning, for what was in them I have given away to unfortunates. So the Virgin and Child help you.' 'Do you choose to give me an alms?' she shrieked, so that you might have heard her to Londonderry. 'If ye have no meal give me something else.' 'You must excuse me, good lady,' says I: 'it is my custom to give alms in meal, and in nothing else. I have none in the house now; but if ye come on the morrow ye shall have a triple measure. In the meanwhile may the Virgin, Child, and the Holy Trinity assist ye!' Thereupon she looked at me fixedly for a moment, and then said, not in a loud voice, but in a low, half-whispered way, which was ten times more deadly:-

"'Biaidh an taifrionn gan sholas duit a bhean shilach!'

Then turning from the door she went away with long strides. Now, honey, can ye tell me the meaning of those words?"

"They mean," said I, "unless I am much mistaken: 'May the Mass never comfort ye, you dirty queen!'"

"Ochone! that's the maning of them, sure enough. They are cramped words, but I guessed that was the meaning, or something of the kind. Well, after hearing the evil prayer, I sat for a minute or two quite stunned; at length recovering myself a bit I said to the colleen: 'Get up, and run after the woman and tell her to come back and cross the prayer.' I meant by crossing that she should call it back or do something that would take the venom out of it. Well, the colleen was rather loth to go, for she was a bit scared herself, but on my beseeching her, she got up and ran after the woman, and being rather swift of foot, at last, though with much difficulty, overtook her, and begged her to come back and cross the prayer, but the divil of a woman would do no such thing, and when the colleen persisted she told her that if she didn't go back, she would say an evil prayer over her too. So the colleen left her, and came back, crying and frighted. All the rest of the day I remained sitting on the stool speechless, thinking of the prayer which the woman had said, and wishing I had given her everything I had in the world, rather than she should have said it. At night came home the boys, and found their mother sitting on the stool, like one stupefied. 'What's the matter with you, mother?' they said. 'Get up and help us to unpack. We have brought home plenty of things on the car, and amongst others a whole boll of meal.' 'You might as well have left it behind you,' said I; 'this morning a single measure of meal would have been to me of all the assistance in the world, but I question now if I shall ever want meal again.' They asked me what had happened to me, and after some time I told them how a monstrous woman had been to me, and had said an evil prayer over me, because having no meal in the house I had not given her an alms. 'Come, mother,' said they, 'get up and help us to unload! never mind the prayer of the monstrous woman - it is all nonsense.' Well, I got up and helped them to unload, and cooked them a bit, and sat down with them, and tried to be merry, but felt that I was no longer the woman that I was. The next day I didn't seem to care what became of me, or how matters went on, and though there was now plenty of meal in the house, not a measure did I fill with it to give away in the shape of alms; and when the bacahs and the liprous women, and the dark men, and the other unfortunates placed themselves at the side of the door, and gave me to understand that they wanted alms, each in his or her particular manner, divil an alms did I give them, but let them stand and took no heed of them, so that at last they took themselves off, grumbling and cursing. And little did I care for their grumblings and cursings. Two days before I wouldn't have had an unfortunate grumble at me, or curse me, for all the riches below the sun; but now their grumblings and curses didn't give me the slightest unasiness, for I had an evil prayer spoken against me in the Shanna Gailey by the monstrous woman, and I knew that I was blighted in this world and the next. In a little time I ceased to pay any heed to the farming business, or to the affairs of the house, so that my sons had no comfort in their home. And I took to drink and induced my eldest son to take to drink too - my youngest son, however, did not take to drink, but conducted himself well, and toiled and laboured like a horse and often begged me and his brother to consider what we were about, and not to go on in a way which would bring us all to ruin, but I paid no regard to what he said, and his brother followed my example, so that at last seeing things were getting worse every day, and that we should soon be turned out of house and home, for no rint was paid, every penny that could be got being consumed in waste, he bade us farewell and went and listed for a sodger. But if matters were bad enough before he went away, they became much worse after; for now when the unfortunates came to the door for alms, instead of letting them stand in pace till they were tired, and took themselves off, I would mock them and point at them, and twit them with their sores and other misfortunes, and not unfrequently I would fling scalding water over them, which would send them howling and honing away, till at last there was not an unfortunate but feared to come within a mile of my door. Moreover I began to misconduct myself at chapel, more especially at the Aifrionn or Mass, for no sooner was the bell rung, and the holy corpus raised, than I would shout and hoorah, and go tumbling and toppling along the floor before the holy body, as I just now tumbled along the road before you, so that the people were scandalized, and would take me by the shoulders and turn me out of doors, and began to talk of ducking me in the bog. The priest of the parish, however, took my part, saying that I ought not to be persecuted, for that I was not accountable for what I did, being a possessed person, and under the influence of divils. 'These, however,' said he, 'I'll soon cast out from her, and then the woman will be a holy cratur, much better than she ever was before.' A very learned man was Father Hogan, especially in casting out divils, and a portly, good-looking man too, only he had a large rubicon nose, which people said he got by making over free with the cratur in sacret. I had often looked at the nose, when the divil was upon me, and felt an inclination to seize hold of it, just to see how it felt. Well, he had me to his house several times, and there he put holy cloths upon me, and tied holy images to me, and read to me out of holy books, and sprinkled holy water over me, and put questions to me, and at last was so plased with the answers I gave him, that he prached a sermon about me in the chapel, in which he said that he had cast six of my divils out of me, and should cast out the seventh, which was the last, by the next Sabbath, and then should present me to the folks in the chapel as pure a vessel as the blessed Mary herself - and that I was destined to accomplish great things, and to be a mighty instrument in the hands of the Holy Church, for that he intended to write a book about me, describing the miracle he had performed in casting the seven divils out of me, which he should get printed at the printing-press of the blessed Columba, and should send me through all Ireland to sell the copies, the profits of which would go towards the support of the holy society for casting out unclane spirits, to which he himself belonged. Well, the people showed that they were plased by a loud shout, and went away longing for the next Sunday when I was to be presented to them without a divil in me. Five times the next week did I go to the priest's house, to be read to, and be sprinkled, and have cloths put upon me, in order that the work of casting out the last divil, which it seems was stronger than all the rest, might be made smooth and aisy, and on the Saturday I came to have the last divil cast out, and found his riverince in full canonicals, seated in his aisy chair. 'Daughter,' said he when he saw me, 'the work is nearly over. Now kneel down before me, and I will make the sign of the cross over your forehead, and then you will feel the last and strongest of the divils, which have so long possessed ye, go out of ye through your eyes, as I expect you will say to the people assembled in the chapel to-morrow.' So I put myself on my knees before his reverence, who after muttering something to himself, either in Latin or Shanna Gailey - I believe it was Latin, said, 'Look me in the face, daughter!' Well, I looked his reverence in the face, and there I saw his nose looking so large, red, and inviting that I could not resist the temptation, and before his reverence could make the sign of the cross, which doubtless would have driven the divil out of me, I made a spring at it, and seizing hold of it with forefinger and thumb, pulled hard at it. Hot and inctious did it feel. Oh, the yell that his reverence gave! However, I did not let go my hold, but kept pulling at the nose, till at last to avoid the torment, his reverence came tumbling down upon me, causing me by his weight to fall back upon the floor. At the yell which he gave, and at the noise of the fall, in came rushing his reverence's housekeeper and stable-boy, who seeing us down on the floor, his reverence upon me and my hand holding his reverence's nose, for I felt loth to let it go, they remained in astonishment and suspense. When his reverence, however, begged them, for the Virgin's sake, to separate him from the divil of a woman, they ran forward, and having with some difficulty freed his reverence's nose from my hand, they helped him up. The first thing that his reverence did, on being placed on his legs, was to make for a horse-whip, which stood in one corner of the room, but I guessing how he meant to use it, sprang up from the floor, and before he could make a cut at me, ran out of the room, and hasted home. The next day, when all the people for twenty miles round met in the chapel, in the expectation of seeing me presented to them a purified and holy female, and hearing from my mouth the account of the miracle which his reverence had performed, his reverence made his appearance in the pulpit with a dale of gould bater's leaf on his nose, and from the pulpit he told the people how I had used him, showing them the gould bater's leaf on his feature, as testimony of the truth of his words, finishing by saying that if at first there were seven devils, there were now seven times seven within me. Well, when the people heard the story, and saw his nose with the bater's leaf upon it, they at first began to laugh, but when he appealed to their consciences, and asked them if such was fitting tratement for a praist, they said it was not, and that if he would only but curse me, they would soon do him justice upon me. His reverence then cursed by book, bell, and candle, and the people, setting off from the chapel, came in a crowd to the house where I lived, to wrake vengeance upon me. Overtaking my son by the way, who was coming home in a state of intoxication, they bate him within an inch of his life, and left him senseless on the ground, and no doubt would have served me much worse, only seeing them coming, and guessing what they came about, though I was a bit intoxicated myself, I escaped by the back of the house out into the bog, where I hid myself amidst a copse of hazels. The people coming to the house, and not finding me there, broke and destroyed every bit of furniture, and would have pulled the house down, or set fire to it, had not an individual among them cried out that doing so would be of no use, for that the house did not belong to me, and that destroying it would merely be an injury to the next tenant. So the people, after breaking my furniture and ill-trating two or three dumb beasts, which happened not to have been made away with, went away, and in the dead of night I returned to the house, where I found my son, who had just crawled home covered wit bruises. We hadn't, however, a home long, for the agents of the landlord came to seize for rent, took all they could find, and turned us out upon the wide world. Myself and son wandered together for an hour or two, then, having a quarrel with each other, we parted, he going one way and I another. Some little time after I heard that he was transported. As for myself, I thought I might as well take a leaf out of the woman's book who had been the ruin of me. So I went about bidding people give me alms for the glory of God, and threatening those who gave me nothing that the mass should never comfort them. It's a dreadful curse that, honey; and I would advise people to avoid it even though they give away all they have. If you have no comfort in the mass, you will have comfort in nothing else. Look at me: I have no comfort in the mass, for as soon as the priest's bell rings, I shouts and hoorahs, and performs tumblings before the blessed corpus, getting myself kicked out of chapel, and as little comfort as I have in the mass have I in other things, which should be a comfort to me. I have two sons who ought to be the greatest comfort to me, but are they so? We'll see - one is transported, and of course is no comfort to me at all. The other is a sodger. Is he a comfort to me? Not a bit. A month ago when I was travelling through the black north, tumbling and toppling about, and threatening people with my prayer, unless they gave me alms, a woman, who knew me, told me that he was with his regiment at Cardiff, here in Wales, whereupon I determined to go and see him, and crossing the water got into England, from whence I walked to Cardiff asking alms of the English in the common English way, and of the Irish, and ye are the first Irish I have met, in the way in which I asked them of you. But when I got to Cardiff did I see my son? I did not, for the day before he had sailed with his regiment to a place ten thousand miles away, so I shall never see his face again nor derive comfort from him. Oh, if there's no comfort from the mass there's no comfort from anything else, and he who has the evil prayer in the Shanna Gailey breathed upon him, will have no comfort from the mass. Now, honey, ye have heard the story of Johanna Colgan, the bedivilled woman. Give her now a dacent alms and let her go!"

"Would you consider sixpence a decent alms?"

"I would. If you give me sixpence, I will not say my prayer over ye."

"Would you give me a blessing?"

"I would not. A bedivilled woman has no blessing to give."

"Surely if you are able to ask people to give you alms for the glory of God, you are able to give a blessing."

"Bodderation! are ye going to give me sixpence?"

"No! here's a shilling for you! Take it and go in peace."

"There's no pace for me," said Johanna Colgan, taking the money. "What did the monstrous female say to me? 'Biaidh an taifrionn gan sholas duit a bhean shalach.'23 This is my pace - hoorah! hoorah!" then giving two or three grotesque topples she hurried away in the direction of Merthyr Tydvil.

20 Y Greal, p. 279.

21 Hanes Crefydd Yn NGhymru.

22 Fear caoch: vir caecus.

23 Curses of this description, or evil prayers as they are called, are very common in the Irish language, and are frequently turned to terrible account by that most singular class or sect, the Irish mendicants. Several cases have occurred connected with these prayers, corresponding in many respects with the case detailed above.

George Borrow, Wild Wales: Its People, Language and Scenery (Oxford, Mississippi, 1996)

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