Emerald Isle

The Flying Butler

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

It does not do to get carried away

It took the fancy of one of the gentry, who lived near to the Earl of Orrery’s seat, to play cards with his friends one day, so he sent his butler to purchase a new deck of cards. However as the man passed an old mound he paused in surprise, for what was waiting for him but a table loaded with good cheer and a fine company making merry!

Curiosity overcame him and he made his way closer, upon which they stood and invited him to join them. Just as he was about to take a seat, one of them stooped and whispered in his ear that he should do nothing they asked him to.

Thinking these to be words of wisdom, the butler declined their invitation, and the table vanished in a wink, to be replaced by music and dancing. Again, they asked him to join them and again he refused, so their whirling jigs were replaced by pot scrubbing and sweeping up after themselves!

Making every sign of being exhausted, they beseeched his help, but for a third time he refused, and they vanished entirely, leaving behind only angry cries and scornful echoes.

Well he was fair stirred up in his mind I can tell you, so he made his way home, and no sooner was he in the door than he fainted clean away. Upon awakening he told everyone present of his strange experience, but his adventures weren't over yet, for the very next night he woke to find one of the mysterious company standing by his bedside!

He was warned that if he left the house between dawn and sunset the next day, he would be taken, and none would ever hear of him again. Having heeded the first warning, he was resolved to heed the second as well, but it happened that he had to answer a call of nature late the following afternoon.

He didn't go incautiously, bringing with him several other members of the household to guard him, but for all that, the moment he stepped outside, a rope dropped from above and wrapped around his waist, dragging him off with great swiftness!

The others raced after him but had no chance of keeping up, but luckily they saw a horseman approaching and shouted at him to grab the butler. The man saw both ends of the rope flying through the air with nobody pulling them, so he grabbed one end, which caused the other to whip him smartly across the arm! He held fast however and managed to get the butler home.

The Earl himself heard tell of these strange events, not surprisingly since they were the talk of the whole county, and he called for the butler. The servant mournfully told him that he'd been visited again, and that his doom was upon him for certain this time, since he was to be taken later in the day and nobody could do anything about it!

The Earl could hardly credit it, so he put the butler in the middle of a large room surrounded by many people, including two bishops and the famous healer, or stroker, whose name was Valentine Greatrakes. All was well until the clock chimed four in the afternoon, whereupon the butler floated up into the air!

Several of the men present tried to pull him down, but he escaped their grip and continued to float over the company towards the window, while they slowed his progress by casting cloths and weights over him. When he eventually fell to the ground, they caught hm so he suffered no further injury.

They thought that would be the end of it, but the Earl sent two of his men to sit with the butler that night, just to be sure. As wise a precaution as it was, it availed him little, for the next morning the butler came to the Earl and told him he'd been visited by the phantom again, and no efforts could awaken his protectors.

The spirit explained that he was the man in the mound who cautioned him against the feasters and dancers, saving the butler from being entirely under their power. Happily there would be no further attempts to abduct him, but the spirit mentioned he had heard the butler was troubled with two sorts of sad fits.

He gave the butler a wooden bowl filled with some sort of grey liquor as a cure, but the butler refused, which seemed to anger the spirit.

At last the shade asked of the butler knew who he was, but the butler replied that he did not.

“I have been dead seven years, and you know that I lived a loose life. And ever since have I been hurried up and down in a restless condition with the company you saw, and shall be to the day of judgment.”

The spirit also said that if he had obeyed God he wouldn't be in such a bad fix, adding “you never prayed to God that day before you met with this company in the field, and also was then going about an unlawful business,” before vanishing forever!

The old Seat of Orrery is marked on the map below!

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