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Songs of the Stone: Bristle and Grunt…


HM15 712


Said Keiron-the-Holy to the Ogham Stone of Fergus…

 “A question, O Fergus Mc Roy, what was the cause of, ‘The Ulster Raid’.

Some say it was the curse of two friends deprived

of their friendship by the wiles of a kingdom?”


Said the Ogham Stone of Fergus Mc Roy…

“There is truth in that saying, it happened in this way…”


This is the story of two bulls:

one was black and the other was white,

and of the way it was with those two,

for they were not right bulls,

there was enchantment on them…



There was bad blood between Bove Derrig and Och Ochone for one was the head of Munster Fair Mound while the other was the head of Leinster…

Yet their hog-guards, Bristle and Grunt, who were also famed men of art, happened to be the very best of friends.

So friendly were Bristle and Grunt that when there was mast of oak and beech-nuts in Munster, Grunt would bring his pigs down from the Plains of the North, and his friend Bristle would make him and his pigs most welcome.

Similarly, when the mast fell in Leinster, Bristle would take his pigs from the Plains of the South, and be made equally welcome by Grunt.

But there were some who did not like that.

They tried to make trouble between the two friends.

The Leinster men said that Bristle was the craftier hog-guard. The Munster men said that Grunt was the craftiest.

A great mast fell in Leinster one year.

So Bristle went North with his pigs.

“Men here say your craft is stronger than mine,” said Grunt to Bristle.

“Well, my craft may or may not be stronger,” said Bristle to Grunt, “but, at any rate it is certainly not weaker.”

“Now there’s a thing we we can test,” said Grunt to Bristle.

“Why, that we can,” agreed Bristle, raising a palm to his eye, and a heel to his buttock,  then he said, “a spell on your pigs cast, no fat on them though they eat this mast.”

And when Bristle went back to Munster, Grunt’s pigs were left lean and wretched.

The Leinster men laughed at Grunt because of the state of his pigs, and his master, Och Ochone, put him out of the place on account of it.

“A bad day the day Bristle set out,” said the Leinster men to Grunt, “your friend’s art is the stronger.”

“Och, nothing proven,” said Grunt, “Bristle’s turn for mast will come and when it does I’ll play him the same trick.”

Now Bristle’s turn for mast did indeed come and, true to his word, Grunt played the same trick on him.

Then Bove Derrig put Bristle out of his place for keeping withered pigs, and so the two hog-guards, both powerful, crafty men, were now at odds with each other and, what is more, were free to walk the length and breadth of the wide world…


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