Emerald Isle

Hudden Dudden and Donal O Leary

Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales tales of Ireland

Murder and mysterious company!

Long ago in Ireland, although not so long that a wide oak might not remember, there lived in county Roscommon a farmer by the name of Donal O’Leary. Now Donal was known far and wide as a crafty fellow, or cute as we say in Ireland, and a skilled hand with the cards to boot, but he made one mistake – he played cards with the two farmers who lived on either side of him and won half their land!

In those days a bet was a bet and people kept their word, but the two farmers, whose names were Hudden and Dudden, were furious and plotted to kill Donal as he slept.

So one dark night not long after that fateful game, Hudden and Dudden crept into the farm, up the old stone stairs and into the big bedroom, where they strangled the person they found asleep.

Unfortunately for their scheme, little did they know that Donal’s habit was to sleep in the barn, and they had accidentally strangled his poor ould mother!

Well Donal was distraught and beside himself the next morning but not knowing much of the ways of murder he thought she had passed away naturally. He was bringing her down to the graveyard when a fierce thirst came on him so he propped her up beside the well and went into a nearby house for a taste of water.

They had none handy so they sent the little girl down to the well to fill a jug. Thinking on his feet, Donal told the girl to shake his mother in case she had fallen asleep, but when she did, what happened but his mother’s body toppled over and fell into the well!

Donal feigned great outrage and said he was going to the constabulary, but the father of the house told him he would pay a hundred pounds and bury his mother themselves, so Donal took the money and went on his way.

On the way back, who should he run into but that very same Hudden and Dudden, and he boasted that he had been paid a hundred pounds for the body of his mother, which he had spent on a great bag of snuff tobacco.

The two looked at each other and raced back to their own farms, where they promptly killed their own mothers and dragged the bodies into town, propping them up and proclaiming

“Who will buy the bodies of these old women for a hundred pounds, so that we can buy snuff?”

They were quickly collared by the police but made a great struggle and escaped, for although they were not the brightest of candles the weren’t short of brawn!

Now even angrier, that night they went again to the O’Leary farm and killed all his cattle. Having taken up residence in the now-empty bed in the big room, Donal didn’t hear a thing, and was terribly upset to find all his cattle dead in the morning!

Not to be undone, he got an old cow hide and stitched little pockets on the inside, filling them with golden coins, and went to a commonly trodden path. There he hung the hide from a tree branch and began beating it, letting the little coins fall like golden rain.

A wealthy fellow who lived nearby was passing, and he asked Donal how much he would take for this golden hide. Not a penny less then a thousand pounds, said the bould Donal, and a thousand pounds he got.

Back he went, whistling a tune, and who should he meet along the road but the very same pair again, Hudden and Dudden. He tipped them a wink and a sly smile and boasted that he had just sold a cow hide for a thousand pounds, and the rich man had begged him for it in the end.

Well not to miss a trick, Hudden and Dudden went home as quick as they could and killed and skinned their own cows. They took the hides out to the pathway and started beating them and shouting, but the rich man had since discovered the deception, and got a good group of his bully boys and farm labourers to violently beat the pair!

Having had enough, aching with bruises and now short a few teeth, Hudden and Dudden decided they would be done with O’Leary once and for all, so they said that drowning him in the well would be a fitting end. They hastened to his house without waiting for the night to fall and swept a great bag over his head, dragging him towards the well.

Along the way, for it was a hot day, they stepped into another public house for a quick pint – murdering is thirsty work! They left Donal in the bag outside, and who should come along but a local shepherd with two dozen sheep.

Noticing the wriggling bag, the shepherd asked what was the matter, to which Donal replied mournfully

“I’m going to Heaven, you see...”

The shepherd fell to his knees and asked if he could come too, and Donal said he could, if he let him out of the sack and gave him the sheep. Agreeing to these terms, the shepherd went away happy  and Donal went away many sheep the richer, leaving only one sheep behind him, in the bag.

Hudden and Dudden staggered out, three sheets to the wind, and dragged the bag to the well, where they unceremoniously dropped it over the edge, listening to the deep splash it made with satisfaction.

Certain of a job well done, they were on their way home when they happened to pass Donal’s farm, complete with Donal counting his sheep in the field!

Dumbfounded, they looked at one another and gulped, asking where he had gotten the sheep. He told them it was at the bottom of the well where he met a man with sheep and cattle, and this man had said he could pick the best of them.

The pair started fighting each other to see who could go down the well first, but Hudden landed a swift right hook and belted Dudden off his feet before leaping headfirst into the well.

As he sank into the deep waters, bubbles arose bearing indistinct words, and Dudden looked at O'Leary, asking what he was saying.

“Hurry up and give me and hand with them!” said Donal, and Dudden leaped to his doom right after Hudden.

And that was that.

Donal O’Leary may have lived near the spot marked on the map below!

Further Folk and Faerie Tales of Ireland

If you'd like to leave a tip, just click here!

Archaeological information is licensed for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence from the National Monuments Service - Archaeological Survey of Ireland.

Note that this license DOES NOT EXTEND to folkloric, mythological and related information on the site. That data remains under full private copyright protection