How the ‘Race of the Black Pig’ got it’s name!

by mariocorrigan on January 9, 2007

Leinster Leader 24/12/1910, p. 7.
 
Our Christmas Story.
 
The Black Pig’s Run.
 
A Story Of Christmastide
And The Curragh.
 
By Dick Doyle.
 
It was a blue evening in October when we stood on Walsh’s Hill and gazed on the dreary plain around. The wind had the bite of approaching winter in it, and the sheep were glad of the shelter afforded by the numerous furze bushes. We were on the point of separating for our homes, when a voice behind us remarked: “Its’ a cool evening, boys,” and on looking around we beheld Darby Corrigan, the shepherd. We agreed with Darby regarding the weather and turning up the collars of our coats we lingered for further char, and from talking about the weather we came to talk about the Curragh.
Yes’ remarked Darby, “the Curragh is a quare place, an quare stories could be tould about it. I suppose everyone of ye heard the story of the Black Pig’s Run”.
“Oh never”, we answered in chorus.
“Then come down here to the shelter of the bunch of furze and I’ll tell yez the quarest fine story yez ever heard in all your born days.
We followed Darby to the friendly shelter, and taking a long pull at his pipe he began:–
“Well boys a few days before Christmas —– Bartle Dunnigan (God rest him!) came up here to the very spot we’re standin’ one evening to look after his sheep, as it was severe weather with nearly three foot of snow on the ground. Bartle was meditatin on bygone times, when he hears his dog givin a sharp bark some little distance away. That’s one of the sheep stuck in the snow, sez he to himself and I’ll have to go an’ release him.’ When he came to where the dog was barkin’ however instead of a sheep he sees a little fellow standin’ on his head on a great mound of snow an kickin’ right an’ left for all he was worth. Dunnigan looked at him for some time in silence an’ then remarked. Well now, aren’t you the divil’s quare fellow to be goin’ on with these antics an the life nearly freezed out of man an’ baste!’
The little man at once jumped down an commenced to mop his face with a red handkerchief. That’s hot work I was at says he seatin’ himself on the snowdrift. ‘Musha Bartle Dunnigan where were ye this month of Sundays an I strainin’ me eyes in all directions looking out for ye?’ Bartle rubbed his eyes an stared the little man straight in the face. “I think me gay fellow sez he you’re makin a bit of a mistake, as I never set eyes on ye before.” ‘I know that replied the stranger init all the same I had dalins with people of yours an I have very important business with you now.’
All manner of things began to pass through Dunnigan’s mind an’ he was puzzled to make out what business on earth the little fellow could have with him. The stranger was the first to break the silence that followed his last remark. ‘Dunnigan,’ sez he, the same as if he knew him all the days of his life, ‘before I tell ye my business give me a blast out of your pipe, for its fifty years since I got a pull.’ Dunnigan gave him the pipe, an I tell ye it wasn’t long till the little bloke emptied it. That’s good tobacco Bartle sez he handing back the pipe. ‘God be with ould times,’ he went on, ‘when a fellow could sit in peace an comfort on Walsh’s Hill an’ enjoy a good smoke—aye, an back the winner of the Scurrys or Derby too. God be with the ould times, I say again.’ ‘Musha,’ says he, suddenly changing the conversation, ‘did Billy Finnegan get married that time to ould Fogarty’s daughter?’ Dunnigan just remembered the people he mentioned, so he says, ‘Bedad, you’re hard on me, neighbour, as I was only a slip of a gossoon the time you mention, an’ just barely remember them people.’ ‘That’ll do ye,” replied the little fellow, ‘tell that to someone else. Weren’t you spooney yourselfon the Fogarty girl? Phsat man alive, there’s no use hiding things on me, for I could tell ye everything that happened about these parts years ago.’ Then he grew very serious, an goin closer to Bartle said, ‘Bartle, you found me standin on my head a few minutes ago, an’ that’s my penance for a wrong I done when in this life; an’ unless you come across me this evenin’ I’d have to stand on my head for five hours every three days before Christmas until the last trumpet sounded.’ When Dunnigan heard him sayin this he moved back a step or two an’ crossed himself devoutly. ‘Glory be to God,’ he exclaimed, ‘but ye must have been an awful sinner in your time.’ The little man made no answer but kept rubbin’ his chin an lookin’ at the ground. After some time he looked up. ‘Dunnigan,’ says he, ‘its’ little ye know the penances that has to be performed in the other world by the people that was looked upon as saints in this life. I may have been a terrible sinner in my time; it doesn’t matter a bullrush to anyone but myself. What good I done life I’m getting credit for it, an’ what bad I done I’m sufferin for it an that’s the short an’ the long of it. But tell me,’ he went on, ‘waving his arm, what sort of a life must ould Jack Brannigan have led, when he has to rub his nose for two hours an’ a half against a nettle every fair of French Furze, an’ that till the end of time? Why has Coogan, the gombeen man, to walk stark naked around the Curragh while there’s a dust of snow on the ground until he finds a thousand pounds? Why has ould Darby Dudkins, that everyone thought was a saint, to balance himself on the horns of a puckawn the first Wednesday in every month-eh? Pshat, man alive, I could relate stories that would make your flesh creep, but I won’t. My penance is for a wrong I done your great grandfather an’ what is it, d’ye think?’ ‘Musha,’ then answered, Bartle, ‘I haven’t the laist idea.’ ‘Well I bought a suckin’ pig from him one fair day,’ replied the stranger, ‘an’ while he was in havin’ a drop to keep out the cowld, I went off with the pig an never paid for it from that day to this. Everyone belongin’ to him is dead now but yourself, so it’s to you that I must make reparation.’
“Bedad, boys, when Dunnigan heard this he says to himself it’s not every day that I’ll come across this playboy, so I may as well knock as much out of him as I can, an’ besides I think that he’s a clever boyo.’ ‘Begorra, then honest man,’ says Bartle ‘in that case you’ll have to be giving me a gay penny for the sucks is now sellin’ like blazes. Why, the Widow Brogan, I’m tould got twenty-five apiece for the two ruts of the clutch an’ Slobbers Deegan refused thirty-two an’ six for ones not much bigger than your brogue. Besides if the pig you bought was fed on till now what would it be worth? That’s the way to look at it.’ The little fellow smiled at these remarks, an’ then said, ‘Money I can’t give ye, for it’s not in circulation in the country I come from, but I can give ye back the pig the very same as the day that I took it out of your great-grandfather’s creel. To-morrow come to that clump of furze you see beyant there, poke them with your stick, an’ the pig will walk out; then you an’ me is quits, and my penance comes to an end. But listen here, Dunnigan,’ says he, taking him by the collar of the coat, ‘if ye ever tell a human bein’ except your wife of yer chat with me or how ye came by the pig, by the mortial frost I’ll make hawk o’ meat of ye the first time I see ye up here again.’ An’ shakin’ his clenched fist the little fellow disappeared.
Well the next morning bright an’ early Bartle sails up to the clump of furze before there’d be anyone about, with the ass’s spancil in his hand to put on the pig’s leg, an begins poking for all he was worth, but dickens a sign of a pig was there. He was about givin’ up in despair when he thought that he heard a rustle in the middle of the clump, an’ getting down on his knees he called in a sootherin’ voice. ‘Suckie, suckie, suckie; dockie, dockie, dockie.’ Sure enough the pig answered by givin’ three grunts as if he was after wakenin’ out of a sleep. For ever so long Dunnigan stopped there coaxin’ an enticin,’ but all the wit in his head couldn’t get him out of the furze. ‘I must go home for the dogs,’ says he aloud, ‘an’ them is the boys that will soon bowlt him.’ ‘What is it that you want to bowlt?’ says a voice at his elbow, an’ lookin’ round he sees Jack Joyce, a scamp of a lad he didn’t much care about. ‘Oh nothin,’ replied Dunnigan, quite civilly, afraid of givin’ the game away. ‘I was just sayin that it would be hard to bowlt if he was in it, a rabbit or a hare.’ ‘An’ what were you proddin the furze for the last hour for?’ asks Joyce. This was a hobbler for Bartle, so after a little consideration he says quite careless. ‘Well to tell you the truth, I thought that I ketched sight of a weasel runnin’ into to them, and I was tryin’ to frighten him out.’ With this the pig gives three tremendous grunts an’ Joyce looking suspiciously at Dunnigan says, ‘That must be a quare weasel, eh?’ ‘It might be a hedgehog for all I know that I saw glidin’ in,’ replied Bartle, still tryin’ to throw Joyce off the scent. ‘Well, rabbit or weasel, or hedgehog let him take this,’ says Joyce, lightin’ a match agin’ his thigh an stickin’ it in the furze. Off they went in blazes while you’d be sayin’ trapstick, an’ it wasn’t many seconds until a fine slip of a black pig bowlts out at the far end.
Then the sport commenced. Both the lads made a rush to seize it. Dunnigan just had its hind leg when he fell over a bunch of thistles; then Joyce was certain of becomin’ its owner but missed his grab. ‘Ye couldn’t have better luck,’ says Dunnigan, getting’ on his feet agin. ‘Ye ould schemer,’ shouts back Joyce, wid yer weasel an’ yer hedghog-bad luck to ye.’ Away went the pig, an’ away raced the two lads after it; now one had it, now the other had it; in through furze an’ out through them, an’ the curses of Joyce would light candles. ‘Well boys, after close on an hour’s chasin’ the two lads began to tire an’ the pig began to gain on them an’ as much as they could do was to keep in sight of it makin’ like hell in the direction of Pollardstown. All of a sudden the pig stopped an’ commenced to turn up the ground with its nose. ‘Take it aisy now an’ we have a chance,’ says Dunnigan but Joyce paid no attention to this only kept racin’ on, so when they were within a few yards off goes the pig agin, an’ straight through Con Donegan’s yard an’ into an empty stable. Dan’s missus happened to be in the yard at the time an’ she shut the door an’ turned the key in the lock. It wasn’t very long till the two lads came puffin’ and blowin’ into the yard. “Where’s my pig?’ demanded Joyce. ‘He’s not yours, he’s mine,’ says Dunnigan. ‘You’re a liar, he’s not,’ answers Joyce. ‘Oh, the breedin’ is brakin’ out in ye,’ says Bartle. There they kept arguin’ an’ fightin’ until Mrs. Donegan interfered. ‘The pig is in the house,’ says she, ‘an’ the key is in my pocket an out it wont get until the rightful owner is found.’ ‘An’ here,’ she went on, looking out at the gate, ‘is two polismen, as luck has it, so we’ll soon know who’s tellin’ the truth.’
“One of the polismen, boys, happened to be a sargint, so when he hears the story, he says to the woman of the house, ‘Give me the key of the door,’ and then turnin’ to his companion he says, ‘You stay here on guard. Don’t let man or mortial open that door until we return.’ Then he says to Joyce and Dunnigan, “Come on with me now, for this is a case that requires to be settled immediately. An’ says he to the woman of the house, ‘you’ll be paid for your trouble.’ The Assizes happened to be goin’ on at the time, so the sargint took the two lads to the court an ups an’ tells the whole case to the judge. ‘It’s a bit late in the evening to take up the case now,’ remarked the judge, ‘but we’ll tackle it first thing in the mornin.’ ‘In the meantime, sargint, put four more constables on duty around the house where the pig is, an’ keep them there night an’ day if necessary until this court gives its verdict.’ The news spread like wildfire through the country durin’ the night an’ that the case was to be heard the first thing in the mornin.’ Everyone was askin’ everyone, ‘Who’ll win in the morning’?’ an’ when the judge took his seat on the bench next day, the court was packed to the door. Dunnigan was beginnin’ to get a bit shaky about winnin’ for he remembered the little man’s warnin’ to say nothing about his chat with him; an’ to say the pig was in the furze would be to acknowledge Joyce’s right to him as much as his own. Besides, he knew Joyce would swear a hole through an iron pot, so I can tell ye poor Bartle was in a tight corner.
Well after the jury was sworn, the judge addressin’ Bartle says, ‘Dunnigan you claim this pig as your’s?’ ‘I do,’ says Bartle. ‘Have you any witnesses to corroborate that statement?’ asked the judge. ‘No, my lord,’ answered Bartle, ‘for I got the pig from a man I never seen since or before, an’ I don’t know from Adam where he is now or where he was bred, born, or reared.’ ‘That’s a bit strange,’ remarked the judge. ‘Well, Joyce,’ says he, ‘would you state briefly to the bench an’ jury your right an’ title to the pig.’ ‘Well, my lord and gentlemen of the jury,’ began Joyce, who was a divil with the tongue, ‘I’m not much good at spakin’ when gentlemen is present, ‘but havin’ right on my side today I feel that I could go on talking forever.’ There was a bit of a laugh at these remarks, an’ the judge looked sour but said nothin.’ ‘I claim the pig,’ went on Joyce in a loud voice, ‘because I bought it honest an’ fair from a widow woman after one of the hardest bargains, an’- ‘Wait a moment,’ interrupted the judge, ‘if you can produce this widow woman there is no necessity for makin’ a speech an’ it will save the time of the court.’ ‘I can’t do that, my lord,’ answers Joyce, ‘for the widow woman has since gone to Australia. She was an orphan, too, my lord, an’ there’s neither chic or child alive belongin’ to her. Her husband was killed by a thunderbowlt. Her brother was carried off by a tiger that got out of a menagerie; her sister was gored to death by a mad bull, her uncle died of the yalla janders; and her first cousin was-’ ‘Stop,’ shouted the judge, ‘we have enough of this woman’s family history. You have no witness then to produce?’ ‘No, my lord,’ replied Joyce. The judge rubbed his chin an’ looked perplexed. ‘This,’ he says, ‘is the most remarkable case that has come before a court of justice for a great number of years. I feel oppressed by the weight of the task imposed upon me an’ you, gentlemen of the jury, I know feel the same. The court now adjourns for luncheon an’ when we resume I hope the case may become clearer.’
“By the tare of fortune, boys there was the divil’s excitement an’ speculation durin’ the luncheon hour among the hundreds of people in an’ around the court as to which of them would win the case.” ‘Dunnigan will be bet as sure as there’s cotton in Cork,’ says one. ‘The divil nor Docthor Foster could tell which of them owns the pig,’ says another. Bedad when the judge took his seat again on the bench, I tell ye that he was in a tearin’ bad humour for news was after reachin’ him that Captain Sharpshot that he thought was dyin’ after Johanna, his eldest daughter, had thrown her up; an as he had four more on the market, the news wasn’t of a very nourishin’ description. ‘I was thinking over this case,’ says he putting on his specs, ‘durin’ luncheon time (this was a lie for it was about the Captain an’ Johanna he was thinkin’) an’ if no fresh evidence is forthcoming I think that I must advise the jury to act as Solomon was about to act in the case of the two mothers an the child–find a verdict that the pig be cut in halves an’ one half given to Joyce an’ the other to Dunnigan.’ At these remarks there was an awful scream in court an’ an old lady fainted. When she come to she screeches out, ‘Oh, if any in-human monster does that, I’ll have him tried for his life—oh, what is the world comin’ to at all?’ She was pacified after some time, an’ it was found out that she belonged to the Society for the prevention of cruelty to children. It was drawin’ near evenin,’ all the law books had been looked through an’ the case was no nearer to bein’ decided, an’ the jury was becoming impatient. One juryman said he had to go home to fodder a few cattle; an’ another said his daughter was getting married in the morning.’ This reference to marriage nettled the judge, for he thought it was givin’ him a snig. I tell you, boys, with an’ angry judge an’ an impatient jury the atmosphere of the court wasn’t very pleasant.
“All of a sudden the judge stands up an’ says in a loud voice, ‘Put Dunnigan out of court.’ Everyone began to wonder at this an’ took it for a sign that Joyce had won. When Bartle was outside the judge says to Joyce, ‘Now, on the virtue of your oath, what gender was this pig that you claim as your property?’ Everyone then saw the judge’s point, an’ Joyce seein’ he had to say something, answers, ‘Feminine gender–a sow, my lord. ‘Shure, it’s for breed I wanted her, an’ a rattlin’ one she’d make, for the widow woman tould me that her dam took first prize at a horse show an’– ‘That’s sufficient, you’ve said enough,’ says the judge waving his arm, ‘an’ now bring in Dunnigan.’ ‘Bartle was scarcely in on the floor when the judge snaps out the same question to him. ‘Dunnigan, what gender was the pig you claim as yours?’ Poor Bartle was thunderstruck at the question. He didn’t know the divil what to say, so to gain time to consider he pretended not to understand the question, an’ says, ‘My lord, ‘twas as black as the ace of spades.’ ‘Come, come,’ shouts the judge, givin’ the desk a terrific blow of his clenched fist, ‘don’t be triflin’ with this court. Answer the question at one.’ Short as the time was to consider Dunnigan run the whole thing over in his mind, and came to the conclusion that the little bloke took the best pig in the car when he got the chance, an’ wasn’t likely to choose a sow. ‘Oh, forgive me my lord,’ he says, ‘I didn’t properly understand the question at first. My pig was a hog–a darlin fine hog. Sure, the ould woman would have nothing else about the place. I bought a sow once from a dalin’ man an’ after feedin’ her for five months I sold–’ “Stop,’ says the judge interrupting him, ‘you’ve said enough, an’ the court has enough of speech-makin.’ ‘This remarkable case is now drawing to a close. Joyce has said that his pig was a sow an’ you have declared that yours was a hog. Myself an’ the gentlemen of the jury will now repair to the house where the pig is, an’ have the case decided there an’ then. But listen here,’ says he in a voice of thunder risin’ from his seat, it is plain there has been wilful an’ corrupt perjury in this case; the court has been trifled with, an’ whoever is found in the wrong,’ says he, thumping the desk before him, ‘will have cause to remember this day.’
So away goes the judge, surrounded by the jurymen an’ they guarded by polismen, afraid anyone would tamper with them, an’ the whole countryside on foot an’ horseback after them. Boy, oh boys, it was a quare sight. Divil such a crowd was seen together since the risin’ in ’98. Well when they arrived at the house where the pig was, there was full as big a crowd there that took a short cut across the fields an’ the polis with drawn swords keeping them back. A space was cleared before the door when the judge and jury arrived; those in the back stood on their tippy toes, an’ the youngsters climbed the trees to see what was going on. The woman of the house brought out a sup of skim milk in a pan, an’ remarked to the judge that it would be wise to let her bring it in, as the pig was sure to be wild in a strange place. The judge thanked her, an’ said it was very thoughtful; an’ then turning to the sargint who had the key, said, ‘In the name of the majesty of the law, I command you to open the door. Wait a moment,’ he added, ‘let Dunnigan an’ Joyce enter directly after myself an’ the jury.’ Poor Bartle elbowed his way to the front, tremblin’ in his breeches, an’ just as he passed his friend Kithogue Doolan he whispered, ‘Kithogue, if I’m hung or transported over this case, remember it’s the branded heifer Biddy is to get for her fortune.’ When everythin’ was in order the sargint opened the door, but divil a haporth was in the house but ould Betty Connolly’s black tom cat sittin’ on the manger rubbin’ his whiskers! There’s where it took place. There was silence like the grave for a few moments, then the judge went frantic, an’ the jurymen swore like troopers. One of the Allen boys struck a Brownstown lad for laughin’ an’ for a time it looked as if there was goin’ to be one of the biggest faction fights ever known. The polis charged the crowd, however, an’ the priest happenin’ to arrive, order was restored. Then the judge had the two lads arrested, an was on the point of transportin’ them for ten years to the Cannibal Islands for contempt of court, when the woman of the house declared she saw the pig goin’ in the evenin’ before with her own eyes, an one of the polismen on guard said he could swear he heard the pig gruntin’ several times durin’ the night. This calmed the temper of the judge a bit, so he let them out under the First Offenders Act to come up for judgement when called upon.
“Well, when all was over Bartle was makin’ the best of his way home across the Curragh, wonderin’ at all that had happened an’ the close shave he had of bein’ transported. When within a few hundred yards of his own house he heard a whistle to his right, an’ lookin’ he sees the little boyo that tould him about the pig the evening before, an’ he singin’ like a mayboy. Bartle’s temper was up at the sight of him, an’ no wonder, so he gripped his stick an determined if he got the chance to give him a wallopin.’ The little bloke came over an’ when within speakin’ distance shouts out,  ‘Arrah, Bartle, me sound man, are you getting home?’ Dunnigan for reply made a wipe of the stick at him, but he dodged it, an’ when out of danger says, ‘Oho, is that the game yer up to! Bow, wow. Now, I want to have a straight chat with ye,’ he went on, edgin’ nearer to Bartle. ‘I wanted to do ye a good turn–to give back what didn’t belong to me, an that’s more nor many in this world is inclined to do. I towld ye to keep yer mouth shut, but instead of doin’ that you have the whole country in an uproar, so take that, ye infernal ould prate-box.’ An he hits Dunnigan a welt of a snowball right between the two eyes an’ knocked him senseless. When Bartle came to his senses he crawled home as best he could, an after getting’ a hot drink or two, he ups and tells the wife all he had gone through, but she only smiled and turned her head away. It’s the divil boys to convince some women. There was a hollow next day where the pig went an ever since its know as ‘The Black Pig’s Run.’
“They say,” concluded our storyteller, “that every seven years since that day, on the Wednesday night before Christmas, on the stroke of twelve, the black pig can be seen racin’ along an’ the little boyo on his back, ridin for all he’s worth.”
 

One interpretation of how ‘The Race of the Black Pig’ or ‘The Black Pig’s Run,’ on the Curragh of Kildare got it’s name.

 

[compiled and edited by Mario Corrigan; typed by Breid and Maria; all original spellings and grammar retained]

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