Bailiff and the Amadán, The

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  • Teideal (Title): Bailiff and the Amadán, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 841418.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): story.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Joan Rabinowitz.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 10/06/1983.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bainbridge Island, University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Part 1

A farmer has a slow-witted son whose job is to collect milk from the local dairy; but one day the son breaks the jug, and collects the milk in his hat – one of those fedoras with a crease along the crown. Because all the milk won’t fit inside the hat, the son turns the hat over and the dairy man pours the rest of the milk in the crease. When he gets home, his father asks where the rest of the milk is; the fool then turns the hat over again to show his dad. (Joe illustrates this story with a hat.)

Part 2

Next day, the bailiff is coming to throw them off the farm. The father, mother and daughter leave the amadán by himself in the house to deal with the bailiff. When the bailiff arrives, he asks the amadán where his father is, and the boy replies, ‘Tá m’athair ag déanamh sonas gan donas’ – which means ‘he is making the best of a bad job.’ ‘Cá bhuil do mháthair?’ – ‘Where’s your mother?’ ‘Tá mo mháthair ag iasgach. An breac a mharaíonn sí, caitheann sí uaithi é, agus an breac nach maraíonn, tugann sí abhaile é.’ – ‘My mother is fishing. The fish she catches, she throws away, and those she doesn’t, she brings home.’ ‘Cá bhfuil do dheirfiúr?’ – ‘Where’s your sister?’ ‘Tá mo dheirfiúr ag caoineadh an gháire mhór a rinne sí anuraidh.’ – ‘She’s crying over the smile she had on her face nine months ago.’ The bailiff promises the amadán that his family can have the land rent-free for a year if the amadán will explain the riddles to him; but when he hears the answers, he breaks his word, and says that the family will have to vacate the farm the next morning.

Part 3

That night the father and the daughter take to the roads to avoid the bailiff’s return, leaving the mother and son to face the official. Overnight they make up their minds to kill the bailiff; and the following morning the son murders the bailiff and is beginning to bury him in a hole next to the stump of a tree. The mother, fearing that her simple-minded son will tell people what they’ve done, makes a big pot of stirabout – a kind of corn-meal porridge; and as the son is digging the hole she stands on the tree-stump and flings spoonfulls of stirabout down into the hole on top of him. The bailiff is safely buried; but that night the mother moves the body and replaces it with a dead billy-goat. The next day a couple of peelers turn up making enquiries. As the mother feared, the amadán blabs that they have killed the bailiff and buried him under the tree-stump; but when the police dig, all they find is the dead goat. They ask the amadán, ‘When did you actually bury the bailiff?’ and he replies, ‘The day it was raining stirabout’.


Aarne-Thompson tale-types AT 1600, ‘The Fool as Murderer’ and AT 1381B, ‘Sausage Rain,’ both relate to Part 3 of this story.

This was one of the stories Joe told most frequently. Sometimes he only told Part 3.

It’s likely that he has combined three ‘foolish Jack’-type stories together to produce this performance.