Scéul Bráthair Fith-innis – The Story of Brother Fith-innis

Here is a transcription and translation of the story that appears here. There are some comments at the bottom, along with a vocabulary. I have not changed anything from the original in the transcription, so any potential spelling errors will remain.

Scéul Bráthair Fith-innis.

Do bhí beirt bhan na gcómhnuidhe treasna’n bhóthar ón a chéile sa t-sean-shaoghal. Bhí duine aca chómh bocht dealbh agus d’fhéudfadh saoí a bheith agus bhí an saoghal ar a toil ag an mnaoi eile. Ní raibh aon uisce ar thalamh na mná saidhbhre agus chaitheadh saoí dul amach nach aon lá ag iarraidh uisge sa tobar a bhí ag ceann tighe na mná boichte.

Bhí lán tighe de chúram ag an mnaoi saidhbhir leis agus ní raibh aon chlann ag an mnaoi bhoicht. Ní bhíodh aon lá na go spídeadh an bhean saidhbhir an bhean bhocht síos go talamh agus go ciúis na mara. Sclábhuidhe a beadh fear na mná boichte seo. Lá dá raibh an bhean saidhbhir mar sin ag spídeadh is ag maoidheamh do gaibh bacach társa agus agus chuaidh sé isteach i dtig na mná saidhbhire. D’iarr sé déirc agus má iarr ní bhfuair sé ach an t-eiteachas tairciusneach. Tháinig sé amach agus d’iarr déirc ar an mnaoí boicht. Má iarr fuair go fáilteach agus go fial. Annsan chuaidh sé isteach ag triall ar bhean an t-saidhbhris arís agus seo mar a dubhairt:

“Eist-se a bhean an mhórtais,

As do mhór chuid ná bí teann

Ar eagla d’úrlar-sa bheith scuabhtha,

Ná úrlár na mnaoi úd thall.”

Bliadhain ó’n lá san do ghaibh sé an bóthar arís, agus ní raibh i dtig na mná saidhbhre ach croídhtín gan díon gan cómhla. Chuaidh sé isteach sa tig eile agus bhí leanbh sa chliabhán agus crut an t-sonais ar an dtig. D’iarr sé ar bhean a’tighe cad d’imtig ar muinntir a tighe eile.

“Tháinig ár orra”, ar sise. “Beul”, arsan fear, “is mise Bráthair Fith-innis, agus is le Dia an leanbh san agus caithfidh sé gabháil le teagasg an chreidimh.

The Story of Brother Fith-innis

There were two women living across the road from each other in the old days. One of them was as poor and destitute as she could be and the other one could spend her life as she pleased. There was no water on the rich woman’s land and she used to have to go out every day seeking water from the well that that was by the wall of the poor woman’s house.

The rich woman had a full house to care for too and the poor woman had no children. Not a day went by that the rich woman didn’t insult the poor woman down to ground and to the edge of the sea. The husband of this poor woman was a slave. One day when the rich woman was slandering and boasting in that manner an old beggar was passing by and went into the house of the rich woman. He asked for alms and though he asked he didn’t receive anything but a scornful refusal. He came out and he asked for charity from the poor woman. Having asked, he received it gladly and generously. Then he went in to the rich woman again and this is what he said:

“Listen, boastful woman,

don’t rely too much on your wealth,

on the fear of your floor being swept,

or the floor of the woman over yonder.”

A year from that day he came upon the road again, and the house of the rich woman was nothing but a little outhouse without a roof or door. He went into the other house and there was a baby in the crib and the household seemed happy. He asked the woman of the house what happened to the family of the other house.

“Destruction came upon them”, said she. “Well”, said the man, “I am Brother Fith-innis, and that child belongs to God and he has to go and teach religion.”


  • Ná úrlár na mnaoi úd thall – I am not sure why it’s mnaoi (dat. sing) here instead of na mná (gen. sing.).
  • do ghaibh bacach társa – I believe “társa” should be “thársa” and we’re seeing a dialectical form of “gabh thar”, to “pass by”.
  • treasna’n bhóthar – across the road. “Treasna” (“trasna” in the C.O.) takes the genitive so I would expect “bhóthair” here.
  • D’iarr – normally this is used when making a request, rather than asking for information
  • The name Fith-innis might be something like “feith” + “inis” – “watch over” + “tell” (or even “island”) and have some relevance to the story, but I don’t know.


I have indicated dialectical spelling with (dial.) and pre-spelling reform spellings with (pre.)

a beadh (ab ea) – was/would be (pre.)
ag triail ar – lit. “trying on”. Can be used to mean “going to” a place.
ár – destruction, havoc, slaughter
ar a toil – lit. “on her will”. This is used to say someone can do something “as they please”.
beirt bhan – two women. Beirt is used for counting people and is followed by the genitive plural traditionally. Nowadays it is often followed by the nominative singular, but the genitive plural is always used in the case of “two women”.
ciúis na mara (cois na mara) – (at) the edge of the sea, beside the sea (dial.)
croídhtín (cróitín) – small outhouse (dial.)
crut (creat) – shape, appearance (dial.)
dealbh – destitute
déirc – charity, alms
díon – roof
eiteachas – refusal
imtig ar (imigh ar) – happen to. There may be an h missing after the t. (dial.)
lá dá raibh – one day/once/one time/in days gone by
maoidheamh (maíomh) – boasting, begrudging (pre.)
nach aon lá – gach aon lá (dial.)
orra – orthu – on them (dial.)
sclábhuidhe – slave, labourer (pre.)
spídeadh (spídiú) – insulting, reviling, slandering (dial.)
tairciusneach (tarcaisneach) – scornful (dial.)
tig (teach) – house. The Munster pronunciation of “tigh”, the traditional dative form of the word “teach”, which is used in the nominative in Munster. Compare Scottish Gaelic “taigh”.
treasna (trasna) – across (dial.)

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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