The badgers bring out their bed out o' their burrow, an' you can be sure the weather is going to be fine when the badger has his bed out. He'll bring it out to dry it, an' then take it back again. 'Tis made out o' moss.
The fox is another smart animal, maybe the smartest of all of 'em. 'Twas said that the Danes brought the fox to Ireland as their dog, an' they brought the weasel - the stoat - as their cat.
There used to be a man coming from Connemara one time to Ennis with fish, an' he used to be short o' fish every day he'd get to the market. But he had a young lad with him this day an' didn't a fox jump up on the car at Ballyline, an' he was throwing down the fish, an' when he had enough down he went back an' carried 'em. The man had to bring the young boy with him always after that, to stay up behind in the car.
An' 'tis said that foxes gather when some families are going to have a death. Sure that has been proved with a family that's in Dublin. I can't think o' the name now, but when one of 'em is about to die the foxes come down from the hill, bark around the house.
Some priest went out to get the truth of it, an' he said that it did happen.
An' the old people could tell the weather by the barking of a fox. If 'twasn't the mating season if a fox barked at night 'twas a sign o' fine weather. O' course, at the mating-season a fox could bark any time. But if 'twas outside that they'd tell by the length that the fox held barking whether the weather was going to be fine or not.
Hedgehogs? I never heard anyone to have a bad word to say about 'em, except maybe the man with an orchard. They carry away a lot of apples, you know. They're very fond of apples. 'Twas said that they used to mount the tree an' shake the branch an' then come down an' collect. He'd carry 'em away then on his bristles, whether that's true or not.
'Twas unlucky to meet a hare, an' I'll tell you why. A hare was looked upon more as a spirit than an animal with most people. I heard that 'twas a very unlucky thing for a woman that was pregnant to meet a hare. Her child could be born with a hare-lip.
There was a case down there somewhere - in Tipperary I think 'twas - where a man killed a girl. He was one o' the aristocrats. She was a peasant girl an' they were going out together for a while. But he murdered her an' he buried her under an oak tree. 'Tis so he stuck her with his dinner-knife. An' some time later there was a hunt there, an' the hare disappeared under that particular tree. An' all they could do was put the hounds away. An' the gentlemen all gathered round, an' they got picks an' spades, an' they dug the ground an' there they found the missing remains.
Your man confessed his guilt an' was hanged for it.
An' another thing, 'twas said that women could turn themselves into hares on certain occasions, women that were well up in piseogs. They'd do it for sucking their neighbours' cows an' carrying their butter for that year. That was well known.
I heard a story about a man that was out with his gun on May Eve, an' he saw this hare sucking one o' his cows. The hare ran an' he fired an' wounded it in the leg. So he followed the drops o' blood an' they led him to this oul' neighbouring woman's house, a woman that was known for the piseogs. He looked in the window an' there she was inside at the fire an' her leg all blood. He knew then that 'twas no hare was sucking the cow only herself.
Oh, yes.If you study animals closely they'll teach you an awful lot about the world we're living in. That's why the old people had so many stories about 'em, I s'pose.
Eddie has been collecting folklore in Co. Clare and further afield for nearly 40 years. Here, Eddie shares some of the stories he has collected on his travels. Print copies of each story appear in his long-running "Folklore Corner" in the Clare County Express.