The Paddy o Slemish Moont’n

Author: Willie Drennan

Date: 1997

Source: Ullans: The Magazine for Ulster-Scots, Nummer 5 Simmer1997

Noo maesel, A wus born an raired nae mair nor a wee danner fae Slemish Moont’n. Slemish, tae the aist o Ulster, stans up its lane owerlukin the Braid an miles an miles o moorlan tae its bak. The moont’n can be seen fae lang wies off an the folk at leeves onywhere near han tae it wull gie ye a confidence, — that they’re gye an affen lukin up at it, in a soart o bewulderment, in reverence o its spiritual significance. An fairmers wull tell ye that they mak use o Slemish tae spey the weather. They say that when ye luk up at the moont’n — an ye can see it nae bother — that means its fer teemin, an the clearer it luks, an the nearer it appears tae the ee, the mair she wull lash doon fae the high heavens. An they say that if ye luk up at Slemish an ye cannae see it ava — it is rainin.

Shud only o yeese iver be ower visitin that pairt o the warl, A wud gar ye tak time oot tae gan an hae a guid luk at Slemish. Fer yince yer within its vicinity ye’ll shair eneuch be owercome by its big presence an by the energy emanatin fae it. Och, an ye’ll hear, maist likely, the curlews an the peeweeps an the laverocks singin an ye’ll get tae smell the whun bushes. Ay, an if ye clim up tae the top o the moont’n the view wull be terrific. Ye’ll see the hills o Antrim tae the north an sooth, the Irish Sea ower tae the aist an Lough Neagh ower the ither wie. An the ainly soons ye’ll hear fae up at the top thonner wull be the sughin o the wun.

But afore A gae ony further A shud point oot tae yeeze that there’s folk at hails fae roon the fut o that moont’n, wha wud be tellin yeeze stories. Stories o boadies at haes leeved thonnoraboots in the byegone days o yore. But sim of them folks fae roon Slemish haes it in the bluid tae mak ower muckle oot o naethin ava whun it cums tae tellin stories, an there’s them wha wud be spinnin ye oul yarns that haes nae foondation in fect ava. Sometimes its gye near impossible tae soort oot the fects fae the fiction that has been contrived fer the sowl purpose o divilment.

Hooiver, tales o a young lad kent roonaboots as The Paddy cud weel hae sim significance. The Paddy was brung tae Slemish as a slave in Fower Hunners. He luked efter sheep thonner — odd eneuch roon the time whun Saint Patrick himsel — the patron saint o a Airlan — was helt tae be daein the verra same.

The lanns roon Slemish wus even mair scarce o folks than they wud be the day. Yet, fer 20 mile roonaboots or sae — the lenth sheep micht gan fer gress — there wus a richt wheen o quair guid lukin young weemin. Rumour heth it, that during his stap at Slemish The Paddy sussed them a oot. He had winsome gates an the ability tae dwam folks lugs wae intellectual bletherin. He had the gift o the gab. But mair the thing he wus a blaa-in fae oot beyon an sae wus o great wonner amang the sing’l young lassies o the district. He wus a musician forbye intae the bargain an on a soart o wooden whussle he wud play sweet serenades fer his young weemin freens.

In parteeclar he was langlet in serious coortin wae a Maureen McAuley … a Lizzie Hannah, a Jeannie McFall, an Aggie McWhirter, a Sadie McNeilly an a Mary Morrison. Aye an there’s twaorthrey folk roon the day wae them names at coonts tharsels direct descendants o The Paddy.

Noo pictures in yer heid o young buck eejits o slaves plunnerin the kintra coortin young weemin wud shairly no fit in wae scrievit accoonts o St Patrick’s life in them days. Its reported that the saint leeved his lane in a miserable wee hut that gien him little protection fae the elements. This maybe was near eneuch richt concarnin The Paddy’s first few months at Slemish but richt soon he became acquainted wae a certain Barney Pogue an things tuk a turn fer the better. Barney Pogue was an eccentric oul boy wha had been excommunicated by his family due tae odd oul habits o his, that they jist cudnae relate tae ava. Barney, like The Paddy, leeved in a wee hut o a hoose near the fut o Slemish. But Barney’s hut was unique fer it contained a wee still. Maist likely the first whuskey distillery the warl has iver known. An Barney made the wooden whussle that The Paddy had maistered the art o playin, an larnt him a wheen o oul hameart tunes. Sae The Paddy cud be heard, as affen as no, tootin the flute fae the top o the mountain, an the melodious strains cud be heerd driftin fer miles roon. The sheep wha were apt tae be dannerin aff beyon the chieftains’ domain wud aye return fer hame whun they heard The Paddy’s whussle.

Barney was a brave oul age though, sae he got a wee call. Ay, he was sent-fer, jist like we a wull be sim day. Afore he passed on hooiver, he handed doon a wealth o knowledge tae his young freen wha had become like a sinn tae him. He larnt him life skills — whit wye tae hunt and hoo tae pick oot wile plants fit tae ate, an he gien him owre ocht wittens intae the intricacies o gettin aff wae the ither sex. But maist important abain aa he larnt him the secrets of distilation.

The Paddy got richt intae the process. First of a he wud mak a mash; pit thegither fae wile roots, berries, gress seeds, honey an flures o the whun. He wud let the mash ferment fer a week or that, an then, gye cannily he wud heat up the fermented liquid in an airn crock wi a lid. The steam wus lut oot o pipes — made oot o holla stems o the boretree bush — the pipes wud be rigged up tae a coil made oot o sheep’s gut, an the coil wud sit inside anither crock o cowl water — the cowl water wud cool the steam doon and mak wee draps o liquid agane. The daeins wus gan owre twaorthrey times an the resultin hot, vibrant, but mella distillate cum tae get ca’d poteen, wee still or the water o life.

Wee still wus gye medicinal an had the remarkable qualities o makin its consumers quair an happy nae metter whit had previously ailed them. Sim folk even had oot o boady experiences an made contact wae the ither warl. Word o the wunner liquer gat skailed aboot an characters wud appear fae a airts an pairts tae caylie wae The Paddy — tae trade fer quantities o the wee still an fer tae larn the skills fer themsels. Noo a wheen o dalers fae oot beyon — they cum fae as far awa as Dinegal an Strangord Lough — wur musically inclined jist like The Paddy, an sae there were mony’s a great hooley roon The Paddy’s ingle. There wur stringed instruments, flutes o various sorts an drums made wae goat skin. There’s them as wud say that mony o the days weel-kent traditional tunes wus first played by the musicians o Slemish Moontain.

Syne hooiver, twa jugs o the wee still got intae the hans o The Paddy’s boss — the great Chieftain, Miliuc wha leeved up tae the north — better known in the district as big Mad Miliuc — fer yin thick big man he was. Efter twaorthrey slugs o wee still Miliuc tuk a fon likin tae the stuff an then proceeded tae fire the contents o baith jugs indulgently doon his neck, afore retirin fer a lang deep sleep. When he woke he suffered a shockin sair heid at lasted a hale day an a hauf. This made big Mad Miliuc fierce angersome. He raired up somethin powerfu an demanded tae know wha had made the concoction that made his heid sae bad. He allooed that when he pit his hans on the culprit that he would mak that boady’s heid twice as sair as his ain. Like eneuch in them days a man would never recover fu fae sich a sair heid as Miliuc was referrin tae.

Sonsy eneuch hooiver, The Paddy had a wheen o richt guid freens amang the chieftains’ warriors, wha niver let on ocht as langs they cud, while yin o them tuk aff tae warn him. He foon The Paddy, of coorse, tootin his flute at the tap o the moont’n. “The Paddy, The Paddy!”, he guldered up at him. “Get yersel oot o here quick, Big Mad Miliuc’s comin fer ye. He’s lukin fer til gie ye a whalin. Rin fer yer life!”

Ower next the Skirry Hills a big clood o stoor wus formin. A wee minute later The Paddy cud mak oot the awesome profile o the big mad high heidyin wae the sair heid gettin nearer an nearer tae Slemish at a shockin rate. The Paddy was feared oot o his wuts. He tuk tae his baitors an fled tae the sooth. Miliuc in his rage went richt efter him. He was a bit o a pachle compared wae the superfit shepherd, but the sheer, thran determination that swole up the veins in his broo an brung the slabers foamin fae his big bake propelled him. Through the shoughs an ower the dykes; slae bushes, hawthorns, whuns, breers an brammles, Miliuc kept close tae the heels o The Paddy. An jist as the chieftain was aboot tae grab the houl o the wannerin, hameless and scaured shepherd, The Paddy veered aff ower Shillinavogie Bag — where like a Billy goat he skipped an danced abain the heather. The chieftain — the great big ignorant baste o a man that he was — chairged efter, plungin blindly like a bull intae the thick o the mirey bog — where he stuck an sprachled, slud an slithered, an sank tae the dire depths o dank despair.

It is richt eneuch sort o odd that Saint Patrick wasnae able tae dae ony powerful amoont o bondin wae his chieftain forby. He himsel fled an ended up back across the water where he came fae in the first place. Back amangst his Christain Kinsfolk he turned intae a strang devoot Christain an had a vision that he shud gae bak tae save the sowl’s o the wile, pagan Airish — wha, up tae thon point, reverently regarded naethin but the sin, moon an stars as things — wae nae understandin ava o holy biggins nor holy books — that were essential fer enlichtenin an hence deliverence fae damnation.

An sae he shairly did gan bak, an maist successfully spread the faith a ower the lan. Noo it is maist unlikely that Saint Patrick was in onywie connected wae The Paddy o Slemish — an even if he wur — there is nae reason fer onyboady tae houl that he was iver again involved in distilation.

Willie Drennan Ulster-Scottish Society of Canada



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