An Tobac Mí-Shaoghaltha

Below is my transcription and translation of the story that can be found at, which is a wonderful collection of béaloideas (folklore).

There appear to be some spelling errors in the text, to which I have made no changes. There are some notes on word usage and explanations of meanings at the end of the post and I may come back and add pronunciations to that section as I learn the intricacies of this subdialect.

‘An Tobac Mí-shaoghaltha’

Tá suas le céud bliadhain ó shoin ó bhí seanduine ag baint phrátaí thuaidh annsan i nGort na nGrúch. Ní raibh tobac ana raidhseamhail ‘sna laetheannta san agus bhí cíocras i gcroidhe an t-sean duine seo i ngal.

D’réir mar a bhí an lá á chaitheamh do bhí a méadú ar a dhúil sa ghal. Sa deire do bhris ar an bhfoidhne aige agus do bhain sé de a chaipín agus d’iarr go dúrachtach ar Dhia, blúirín éigin tobac a seóladh* chuige. “Bheirim ón Riabhach!” ach an chéad fód eile a chaith sé amach ná go raibh píopa breagh istigh ann agus é lán go béul. Chrom sé agus thóg sé an píopa agus d’ól sé a dhóthain.

Nuair a bhí sé sásta do leag sé an píopa thairis sa chlais agus pé féuchaint a thug sé thar a ghualainn do bhí an píopa imtighthe* chomh imthighthe is da mba na raibh sé riamh ann.

‘The Otherworldly Tobacco’

It’s nearly 100 years ago since an old man was harvesting potatoes up to the north over there in Gort na nGrúch. Tobacco wasn’t very abundant in those days and there was a voracious hunger for a smoke in the heart of this old man.

As the day continued to pass his desire for a smoke increased. In the end, he lost his patience and he took off his cap and he implored God fervently to send him a small bit of tobacco. “Heaven help me!”, but when he had the next sod of earth taken out there was a lovely pipe inside it full to the brim. He bent down and took the pipe and he smoked his fill.

When he was satisfied he laid the pipe over the pit and when he looked over his shoulder the pipe was gone as though it had never been there at all.

Notes and Corrections:
There are some (potential) typos which are starred (*).

  1. seóladh – I believe this should be sheóladh (modern: sheoladh), unless it resists lenition for some reason in Cléire
  2. fód – I believe this should be “fhód”
  3. imtighthe – this should be “imthighthe”
  4. da mba na raibh – I believe we should have “dá” and “ná” here

I’m unsure as to the reason for the inconsistency in the spelling of seanduine (one word or two).

  • Bheirim ón Riabhach – Lit. “Take me from the Devil!” meaning something like “Heaven help me!” or “Lord save me!”. Bheirim is the old independent form of the verb tóg/tugaim.
  • “pé féuchaint a thug sé thar a ghualainn” – Lit. “Whatever look he gave over his shoulder”. This turn of phrase, though quite natural in Hiberno-English, may be a bit confusing to some readers. The sense is something like “However it so happened that…” or “However it came about that…” or “Whatever way it was done that…”.
  • “chomh imthighthe da mba na raibh sé riamh ann” – Lit. “as gone as if it were never there”
  • “do bhris” – In Munster the old particle “do” which is responsible for the lenition of the preterite is still found outside of verbs beginning with a vowel or an f (where it can still be seen, as “d'” in the Standard and other dialects).

This piece is written both dialectically and with spellings that predate the spelling reform. Where a word is dialectical I’ve noted it with (dial.) and where it is a pre-spelling reform form I have used (pre.). In both cases I give the standarised spelling immediately after the word.

ana (an-) – an intensifier. “very.” (dial.)
annsan (ansin) – there. This is normally rendered as “ansan” in Munster Irish nowadays. (dial., pre.)
bliadhain (bliain) – year (pre.)
breagh (breá) – lovely (pre.)
céud (céad) – one hundred (pre.)
chrom sé – he bent down/stooped over
cíocras – voracious hunger
croidhe (croí) – heart (pre.)
deire (deireadh) – end (dial.)
d’réir mar (de réir mar) – as (dial.)
dúrachtach (dúthrachtach) – fervent, zealous (dial.)
féuchaint (féachaint) – a look (pre.)
foidhne (foighne) – patience (pre.)
gal – a smoke of tobacco
ó shoin (ó shin) – ago. It seems we have a broad “sh” (orthographically) here in Cléire Irish. Peadar Ua Laoghaire (Muskerry Irish) also used this form at least once, but normally used the slender sh. I wonder if this form is more common in Cléire Irish. (dial.)
laethannta (laethanta) – days. The double n may be indicative of a different vowel quality in Cléire Irish. (dial.?)
lán go béul (lán go béal) – full to the brim [lit. “the mouth”]
mí-shaoghaltha (míshaolta) – otherworldly. In Cork Irish the t in -lt- clusters is lenited. (pre., dial.)
raidhseamhail (raidhsiúil) – abundant (pre.)
sgoláire (scoláire) – student (pre.)
sgéul (scéal) – story (pre.)
suas le – nearly (Lit. “up with”)

Comments and corrections are welcome!

I make use of this source with thanks to Dú, under the conditions of the CC BY-NC 4.0 licence.

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