Woman Who Outwitted the Magistrate, The

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  • Teideal (Title): Woman Who Outwitted the Magistrate, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781512.
  • 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): Cynthia Thiessen.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 01/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Fredric Lieberman.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

A woman used to sell poitín   the real mountain dew. The police   the peelers, as they called them   knew she sold it; so did the parish priest. But nobody could ever prove it.

One day a neighbour tells her she has heard that the peelers are to come to search her house the next day. So she takes a bottle, filled it up with urine   ‘master’ as she calls it   puts a cork in it, and leaves it on a dresser in her house where she knows the peelers can’t miss it.

Sure enough, they come the next day, see the bottle, and don’t even bother to uncork it, but take it with them to lodge as evidence against her.

When she is summoned to court, she makes a great show of being lame. When the magistrate passes her on the stairs, she limps extravagantly to be sure he’ll notice. And when she is called to account for the possession of poitín, she points out that the bottle only contains máistir that she uses to ease the pain of her rheumatism.

The court has the bottle uncorked, and after taking a whiff of the contents, the judge not only dismisses the charge against her, but also awards her a hundred pounds for defamation of character, and transfers the policeman who arrested her to another parish.


Joe starts this segment by mentioning wool, specifically the weaving of bréidín (tweed) and the fact that they used to put something through it to make it strong and waterproof.

Although he doesn’t go into any detail, his train of thought possibly includes a traditional use of máistir (master, but used here, possibly euphemistically, to mean urine) for strengthening the homespun wool cloth. The traditional soaking and fulling of homespun cloth is well-attested in Ireland as well as in Scotland; but unlike the Scots, the Irish have no body of waulking songs specifically associated with this task.

See the account (in Irish) of tweed manufacture — including fulling — in Hans Hartmann, Tomás de Bhaldraithe and Ruairí Ó hUiginn (eds.), Airneán: Ein Sammlung von Texten aus Carna, Co. na Gaillimhe (Niemeyer Verlag, Tubingen, 1996), vol. 1, pp. 1-17; a summary in English is provided in vol. 2, pp. 97-99.