Farbreaga

Two men, in 1913, were out ferreting rabbits on the mountain. They should not have been doing so for the rabbits belonged to someone else, or at least to a landowner who would have a claim on them before anyone else.

They were working away by encouraging the ferret into the rabbit holes. The ferret most used in Ireland then was descended from the European polecat.

The ferret chased the rabbit from a hole into a trap or net spread by the human trapper and the rabbit was taken either for personal use, or, for sale to a local butcher.

There was not much of a mist that night; but it was dark, now and again, from the clouds scudding across the moonlit sky. There was just enough light for one of the men to get a start when he straightened up from setting a trap.

For there on a rock above them on the slope of the hill he saw a man standing looking down at them.

There might have been nothing unusual about that except the same man was dead, twenty years since.

They remembered being at his wake as young lads gadding about the kitchen trying to steal pipes of tobacco.

He was dressed the same way as he had been that night when he was laid out on the way to the grave.

He wore corduroy trousers and a white flannel jacket and his whiskers were shaved off. A youngish man then, he was father to the man who now owned the mountain, and kept sheep on it.

There was no doubt of who it was in their minds and, truth to tell, they were poachers, technically, if the matter was to go to the Petty Sessions in Rathdrum.

A man named Michael Doyle from this townland had appeared there in June 1879 charged with being drunk while in charge of a horse and cart at Aughrim, though it is not recorded what caused him to take to heavy drinking in the first place.

The poachers had no desire to see the inside of the courthouse in the matter of rabbits and the appearance of a fear bréige.

Whatever about arguing with the living man on the rights or wrongs of what they were about, neither of them had any interest in discussing the issue with a man from the other world.

They ran as fast as their slithering feet would carry them on the sheep tracks of the hill.

Both rabbit traps and ferret were left to their own devices. The running men did not reach their homes until day caught up with them.

One took to the bed for three days and would not stir, no matter what was said to him, or what cajoling was put to him or what was offered to him.

His accomplice was made of sterner stuff in daylight and since it was the man in the bed that saw the figure on the hill in the first place the other man felt emboldened to return the next day to retrieve the tools of their nocturnal trade.

He did so, and returned home with no further incident to report, for his was a daylight task.

For safety sake, they moved away in their hunt for rabbits, for it was an onerous enough task without having to engage with ghosts on the hill.

 Extract from An Army of Stones



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