Old Grandmothers’ Tales


Old grandmothers’ tales, say the wise and the clever,
A tissue of lies about happenings that never
Took place on this island or anywhere else;
It’s all been imagined and all of it false.

There’s never been fairies and never been charms,
And never a phynodderee to work at the farms.
And as for bugganes, tarroo ushteys, and such –
You might as well talk to the rooks Double Dutch!

But people when old like to look back and think
Of the time they were young when they sat on a bink
And listened to their grandmother spinning stories
Of witches and potions, and Lhiannan-shees.

But I can remember that night by the river,
When walking from Peel, and we stopped with a shiver.
The smell that assailed us was sudden and strong;
It pulled us up short, and silenced our song.

“Now that was a fairy smell” grandmother said.
I venture to suggest it was something long dead.
“Could you pass it?” she asked. I replied we could not.
“There you are” she said proudly, “you were stuck to the spot!”

“If you’d tried to force past you’d have felt in your liver
“A pain agonising from Themselves of the river;
“But when the smell went you’d be able to go”.
I had to admit that this really was so.

For the terrible stench faded into the shadows,
And sweet came the scent of the hay in the meadows.
We finished out journey, now quiet and silent,
For none of us wanted to risk an end violent.

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