Yeats' FAIRY AND FOLK
TALES OF THE IRISH PEASANTRY
Tom Moor was a linen draper in
Sackville Street. His father, when he died,
left him an affluent fortune, and a shop of excellent trade.
As he was standing at his door one day a countryman came up to him with a
nest of jackdaws, and accosting him, says, "Master, will you buy a nest of
daws?" "No, I don't want any." "Master," replied the man, "I will sell them all
cheap; you shall have the whole nest for ninepence." "I don't want them,"
answered Tom Moor, "so go about your business."
As the man was walking away one of the daws popped out his head, and cried,
"Mawk, mawk." "Damn it," says Tom Moor, "that bird knows my name; halloo, countryman, what will you take
for the bird?" "Why, you shall have him for threepence." Tom Moor bought him,
had a cage made, and hung him up in the shop.
The journeymen took much notice of the bird, and would frequently tap at the
bottom of the cage, and say, "Who are you? who are you? Tom Moor of Sackville
In a short time the jackdaw learned these words, and if he wanted victuals or
water, would strike his bill against the cage, turn up the white of his eyes,
cock his head and cry, "Who are you? who are you? Tom Moor of Sackville
Tom Moor was fond of gaming, and often lost large sums of money; finding his
business neglected in his absence, he had a small hazard table set up in one
corner of his dining-room, and invited a party of friends to play at it.
The jackdaw had by this time become familiar; his cage was left open, and he
hopped into every part of the house; some times he got into the dining-room,
where the gentlemen were at play, and one of them being a constant winner, the
others would say, "Damn it, how he nicks them." The bird learned these words
also, and adding them to the former, would call, "Who are you? who are you? Tom
Moor of Sackville Street. Damn it, how he nicks them."
Tom Moor, from repeated losses and neglect of business failed in trade, and
became a prisoner in the Fleet; he took his bird with him, and lived on the
master's side, supported by friends, in a decent manner. They would sometimes
ask what brought you here? when he used to lift up his hands and answer, "Bad
company, by G--." The bird learned these likewise, and at the end of the former
words, would say, "What brought you here? Bad company by G--."
Some of Tom Moor's friends died, others went abroad, and by degrees he was
totally deserted, and removed to the common side of the prison, where the jail
distemper soon attacked him; and in the last stage of life, lying on a straw bed; the poor bird had been for two days without food or water, came to his
feet, and striking his bill on the floor, calls out, "Who are you? Tom Moor of
Sackville Street; damn it, how he nicks them. What brought you here? bad
company, by G--, bad company, by G--."
Tom Moor, who had attended to the bird, was struck with his words, and
reflecting on himself, cried out, "Good God, to what a situation am I reduced!
my father, when he died, left me a good fortune and an established trade. I have
spent my fortune, ruined my business, and am now dying in a loathsome jail; and
to complete all, keeping that poor thing confined without support. I will
endeavour to do one piece of justice before I die, by setting him at
He made a struggle to crawl from his straw bed, opened the casement, and out
flew the bird. A flight of jackdaws from the Temple were going over the jail,
and Tom Moor's bird mixed among them. The gardener was then laying the plats of
the Temple gardens, and as often as he placed them in the day the jackdaws
pulled them up by night. They got a gun and attempted to shoot some of them,
but, being cunning birds, they always placed one as a watch in the stump of a
hollow tree; who, as soon as the gun was levelled cried "Mawk", and away they
The gardeners were advised to get a net, and the first night it was spread
they caught fifteen; Tom Moor's bird was amongst them. One of the men took the
net into a garret of an uninhabited house, fastens the doors and windows, and
turns the birds loose. "Now," said he, "you black rascals, I will be revenged of
you." Taking hold of the first at hand, he twists her neck, and throwing him
down, cries, "There goes one." Tom Moor's bird, who had hopped up to a beam at
one comer of the room unobserved, as the man lays hold of the second, calls out,
"Damn it, how he nicks them." The man alarmed, cries, "Sure I heard a voice, but
the house is uninhabited, and the door is fast; it could only be imagination."
On laying hold of the third, and twisting his neck, Tom's bird again says, "Damn it, how he
nicks them." The man dropped the bird in his hand, and turning to where the
voice came from, seeing the other with his mouth open, cries out, "Who are you?"
to which the bird answered, "Tom Moor of Sackville Street, Tom Moor of Sackville
Street." "The devil you are; and what brought you here." Tom Moor's bird,
lifting up his pinions, answered, "Bad company, by G--, bad company by G--." The
fellow, frightened almost out of his wits, opened the door, ran down stairs, and
out of the house, followed by all the birds, who by this means regained their