Sometime before or after the famine years there lived in Cloonkeen in the parish of Kilkerrin a notorious character known as “liam na gCleas”. This liam seemed to be gifted in mischief and at last anything that was done mischievously Liam’s name was attached to it. At wakes in those times many tricks used to be played and liam was the inventor of many of them. The priest heard about it and he tried to stop him. He allowed nobody to a wake outside a second cousin and in many cases there would be only two or three in the house where the remains would be owing to the priest’s order. At this time an old person died in the village and there were only three people at the wake which lasted two nights. Liam knew that these people would be weary after being awake two nights in succession. He secured a habit similar to the one on the corpse and took the corpse off the table and hid it in an outhouse and put on the habit and lied on the table. It was the custom then to cry the corpse after twelve o’clock at night. When the three people awoke they began to cry and to their horror the corpse got off the table and walked out the door. The following Sunday the priest had a sermon and denounced this act but mentioned nobody’s name but everybody suspected liam.
He stole the priest’s watch
A man going home from Mass saw liam in a field near-by and he had just killed a hare. The man spoke to him and said “God help you the priest cursed you from the altar.” Nonsense said liam making a bet of five shillings that he would get a glass of whisky from the priest next day. This was agreed to and liam went to the priest’s house the next day when he thought the priest would be having his breakfast and walked into the kitchen. He asked the servant where the priest was as he wanted to see him about lost money. The servant went upstairs and told the priest what liam wanted. Soon after the priest came down and took with him a glass of whiskey as he was wont to do. Then he asked liam what he could do for him. Liam asked the priest what should a person do with money he found lost. The priest said the proper thing to do was to try and find the owner and failing that he should give it to the priest. “Thanks” said Liam walking out. “I’ll know what to do with it when I find it.” He had his bet won. After this the priest advised the people of the village to teach Catechism to liam and to get him to go to Confession. The priest also became very friendly with him. He learned the Catechism quickly and one day he went to Confession. He stole the priest’s watch and then told the priest that he had stolen a watch. The priest asked him if he knew who he stole the watch from and he said he did. The priest told him to give the watch back to the owner. “I would rather give it to you” said Liam. “You are bound to give it back to the owner when you know him” said the priest. Liam said I offered it to him and he would not take it.” “Well, in that case” said the priest, you can keep it.”
The next time the Bible Reader came
When Confession was over liam was at the chapel gate with the watch and chain across his breast, but he gave it to the priest afterwards.
Sometime after this a Bible Reader came to the district. He went from house to house and also visited Liam’s residence.
At visiting houses the people were discussing the best means of putting a stop to him. Liam asked them to leave him to himself and the people agreed. The next time the Bible Reader came to Liam’s house liam became very friendly with him and promised to have a crowd gathered for him on a certain day for him to preach to them.
A certain place near Liam’s house was selected as the place of assemblage. A path led from the public road to this site. On the day before the meeting was to take place, liam spent the whole day making trap holes four of which he made close together being about four feet deep. He filled them with mud and water and covered them with twigs and moss. Liam said to the people to come to the place by another way and promised them some fun. The Bible Reader came at the appointed hour. As he was coming along the path he stepped into one of the trap holes and when he tried to get out he was on top of his head into another. However when the was clear of the trap holes he took his departure and was never seen there again.
Collector: Evelyn McLoughlin, Tullaghaun, Co. Galway
Informant: Michael Mc Loughlin, Tullaghaun, Co. Galway
Place: Kilkerrin, Co. Galway
Footnote: Duchas, http://www.duchas.ie