Monday, 31 December 2018

A Ghost, a Memory and a Welch Mortgage

I am moved to revisit my last posted poem, "Abandoned by the Dead," to include a phrase that was used in the dream state from which it sprang, but omitted in my initial recollection, the words "Let it Be," uttered by a ghost that I had heard of.

Much, (some say all), of what dreams throw up is "noise" from the recent activities of our mind. In the case of this poem, it follows from my commencing the reading a book on bereavement, The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. In my dream world, the book caused the revival of memories of my own bereavements and memories of people who have passed over. The phrases "Devil the hair I care," and "Sorrow the one of them," are phrases, deriving indirectly from the Irish language, used by the old people, that are seldom heard now. "Devil the one," and "Sorrow the one," both mean "Not one."

Here is a recent ghost story, awakened in this dream activity. I have changed the names, because nothing is added by recounting the true names.

Paddy married Nellie, who owned a house and a small piece of land. They lived happily for several years on the land, but had no children. When Nellie died, she left the house and land to Paddy for his life and after his death to her nephew. Paddy grew old and feeble. One year, his cow died and then his donkey. Instead of  re-stocking, he allowed his nephew, Jack, to amalgamate the land with Jack's own farm, and was supplied with his food and necessities by Jack.

Paddy always dressed very well, and, when he died, it was found that he had been supplied with suits and clothes on tick for many years by a shop in town. Welch mortgages have been a feature of farming life in Ireland. When a farmer was unable to pay his debt to the shopkeeper, the shopkeeper would get a court order for the recovery of the money owed. If the money was not paid, the shopkeeper would take possession of the house and land. This device was used widely by shopkeepers to extend their own land-holdings, particularly in dealing with old people. To avoid the shopkeeper taking the land, Jack paid off his uncle's debt. He also paid his funeral expenses, which are a considerable burden on a small holding.

Next, Nellie's nephew, who was legally entitled to the house and land on the death of Paddy, returned and took possession of the land. Jack thought he had some claim to the property, because he had looked after Paddy in his feeble years and had paid off his debts and funeral expenses. However, one day, as he was going past the  house, his dog took fright, and, looking up, he saw Paddy's ghost, neatly dressed as ever. The ghost said "Let it Be," and then disappeared. Jack understood the ghost to mean that he should not raise a dispute with Nellie's nephew, the new owner.

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