The stories told on these pages are from  a collection of folklore compiled by schoolchildren in Ireland in the 1930s. 
The children recorded (over&nbsp740,000 handwritten pages) of this material from their parents, grandparents and neighbours.

These are their stories in their own words.

Reid generally known as “Ball-off” – a funny story

SCHOOL: Ballyhale | ADDRESS: Ballyhale, Co. Kilkenny

Ireland History - Collecting Grass from the Graveyard
Digging Grass Sods in The Old Graveyard

This division of our folk-lore study brought no stories of length or interest. The following was told by nearly all the pupils – in fact all had heard it at some time or other – A very well known character named Reid generally known as “Ball-off” was the rogue of the story and as a matter of fact he comes in to many local stories where he nearly always succeed in ‘doing’ some one – getting drinks etc for nothing.

The most of the houses in Ballyhale in old times had a piece of land for tillage purposes in the division to the east of the village or at the north side at “Scarrow”. Perhaps on this account as ass was considered a necessity by many and as the piece of land at their disposal did not suffice to give potatoes etc & support the ass they were forced to feed the animals on “The Long farm” as the roadside was usually called or else to cut ‘soil’ in local graveyards &c where they were allowed to cut it.

One sultry day “Balloff” went to Derrymahinch old churchyard to cut a “gawail” of sod for the ass. The day was very warm & when he got there he sat down for a rest. Soon he heard some one coming along and looking out he saw a man named Barron coming along towards the churchyard.

He knew that Barron was on the same errand as himself & quickly decided to get his grass cut. He hid himself in the ivy which grew very thickly on the gables of the old church & watched the cutting of the grass.

Barron had his load cut & was proceeding to fasten the rope firmly around it when he was startled by a deep & as he thought ghostly voice commanding him to leave that there “L’ave that there” was the order and so startled was he that the rope dropped from his hand. However he took courage and again tried to fasten the rope but again came the command. “L’ave that there”

More frightened than before he looked all round but of course could see no sign of anyone & again tried to fasten the rope and had almost succeeded when the voice again this time angrily, L’ave that there and go your way”

Full of terror he dropped the bundle and started off for the village running “Balloff” gave him a good start & then coming down from his perch in the gable hoisted the bundle of soil on his back and started off for home well pleased with his cleverness in getting the cutting done for him.

In the meantime Barron had told his story of the ghost which would not let him take the grass off its grave & many were at first ready to believe him for sixty or seventy years ago it seems the belief in ghosts was pretty general around here.

However “Balloff” had to boast of how cleverly he had tricked the other & the story became common property in the district.

Barron in the story emigrated to Australia while a young man & Reid migrated to the next parish where he died about 15 years ago.


The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0848, Page 009” by Dúchas © National Folklore Collection, UCD is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

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