Joe Heaney: Joe and the Conger Eel

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  • Teideal (Title): Joe Heaney: Joe and the Conger Eel.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 863809.
  • 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, Seattle.
  • 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): Fredric Lieberman.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): unavailable.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): workshop.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Lisa Null, Almeida Riddle, Norman Kennedy, Daithí Sproule.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Joe relates how he and (presumably) his brothers were out in a currach and, upon finally gathering in their net, they discovered an enormous conger eel eight feet in length. Joe was put to the task of cutting the head off the conger ell so that the creature could be salted, dried, and used to bait lobster pots. With difficulty – and with the aid of a saw – Joe finally removes the head, which is then thrown out onto the haggard behind the house.
While the family are having dinner – with a view from the table of the haggard outside – they see a fine cockerel – a March cockerel, Joe tells us – rambling around the haggard, looking for things to eat. Unfortunately, when the bird approaches the head of the conger eel, the eel opens its mouth and downs the cockerel in one bite.

Joe swears the story is true.


A slightly different version of this story exists in Irish. In this version, the head of the conger lies on the haggard for three weeks before snapping off the head of the cockerel, which provoked the conger’s response by poking its head into the conger’s jaws in search of a morsel it saw there. This account was recorded in 2001 from the late Michael Tom Mac Con Iomaire, An Coillín, Carna, by Seán Ó Guairim, for the archives of Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, Roisín na Mainiach, Carna.