A common folk story in Europe, in North Longford it was attributed to a local blacksmith as the hero of the tale, recorded in @duchas_ie. Who was Jack Duffy? I dont know. Its a noteworthy retelling in that is shows a local application of a legend to make a story from a distant place locally relevent. I retell it here in verse!
All Irishmen they love a drink
At least so by some it is said,
Jack Duffy was an Irishman so
A man now long since dead…
They say that Banagher beat the Devil
Whether the Offaly one of the Derry one we don’t know…
But Jack Duffy of North Longford
Beat him too, its said, a long long time ago.
The drink got the better of Jack, a blacksmith
As it does of many men today never mind the past,
They say the drought and the wallet have their limits
And the wallet, with the drink, we know, doesn’t last.
Jack was pretty bad one morning,
Prayed for God or the Devil money for drink to bring…
The Devil showed up as he always does
Merry, a song to himself did sing.
Jack sat against the anvil
As the Devil walked around,
Promising great riches for seven years
After which Duffy would lie beneath the ground…
This was Jacks choice with any of his conditions
After seven years his soul was the Devils to take…
No use would a priests prayers be
Said at funeral, exorcism or wake.
Now, Jack was a clever man
He had nothing to lose…
He could accept the offer
With any geis attached he’d choose…
Now the Devil knows a lot but like an Englishman
Knows not the Gaelic tongue
Or how even through it the Bearla itself
Can be wrought to use and wrung.
“An old chair I have, and those that there sit,
Should not leave until the word I say,
A purse in my hand that here I have and what’s in it
Until I give permission from it none take or it away,
The sledge a man grips to strike the iron
Or to swing his strength to show…
It is my wish, to attach as geis,
Without my word he can not let go.”
So said Duffy to the Devil
Who smiling wryly walking back and forth stood…
“Here is your money for your seven years
Your souls mine then, you have chosen what you could.”
Duffy, playing the fool who thinks he got the deal
Went to shake the devils hand…
But Old Nick is a little distant
Demanded each maintain their stand.
All at once the Devil disappeared:
Duffy in his forge was all alone…
Told few of his fortune and meeting the Devil
But his good fortune soon was known,
Five years went by in a flash
And then as quick, another two…
A knock came on the forge door…
It was a man that Duffy knew…
“I have come for your soul, Jack Duffy
Your corpse its the priests to take
You can look upon your family and friends
As they party at your wake.”
“But I must shod this horse first” said Duffy,
“Strike it there will you with the sledge the way I show…”
The devil tried, found he was stuck to the hammer
– The geis of seven years ago!!!
“Let me go! I demand!” said the devil,
As Duffy stood by at something else toiling,
The Devil was furious and helpless!
All the while swearing with blood boiling…
Duffy by now was laughing,
From it rolled down his cheeks great big tears…
He said he’d let the devil go…
If the Devil gave him to live seven more years…
Six years went by as if but one,
As did the next years first eleven months
A familiar form then filled the door with friends
Duffy exclaimed “Ye shower of runts”
“Your second seven years is up my friend,” said the Devil
“With me and my friends you have to go…
That is the deal that you and I made
In this very forge, some fourteen years ago..”
“I have business to tidy up before I go,
So my dear mother will not want or need
I am a good son” Duffy said to the Devil
Who replied “you are a good son, indeed!”
“I don’t want you seen by customers who are coming,
Sit on that seat with your cloven feet over there…”
The devil did as he was bid…
Falling foul of the geis on the old chair!
“How can the devil be such a fool?”
Sniggered Duffy to himself with glee…
This is the second time in all of time
The trickster has been tricked by me!
The Devil blew a gasket,
Held by a rickety chair,
As if he had no strength at all
Not even a hayrope wound held him there!
“You know the score” said Duffy
“Yes”, moaned the devil, “Seven more years”
Duffy gave the word, the devil was gone
After the seven, reappears.
“Your coming this time Duffy”
The Devil, demanding, said…
“Sure, I have no issue, for my dear mother
Twelve months back, passed,” said Duffy, “is dead.”
So the pair left the forge to the village
The blacksmith locked the door
Threw the key into the quick,
Duffy said to the Devil “I wont need that no more”
They walked up to a public house,
Duffy said, “You know what, I think,
Before we both go to Hell,
Id like to treat you to a drink!”
“I have no money” said the devil
“Begod”, said Duffy, “neither do I
Turn yourself into a shilling,
And drinks for us both I’ll buy!”
So the devil changed form into a shilling
One one side was the Kings head and all, plain to see
Duffy tossed him into the purse and closed it
The devil was trapped for eternity!
Some say the purse was thrown into the Camlin
That down to the Shannon flows
More say he struck a deal till a natural death
That the Devil got his soul then… but no-one knows.
With all the evil in the world,
I doubt the Devil is still in Duffy’s purse
Since that day when those tricks Duffy did play,
The evil in the world got worse!
But of all the people of the world
It is said that Irishmen
Make the Devil uneasy
Who will never make deals for their souls again…
Banagher beat the Devil it is said,
Well, Jack Duffy, the North Longfordman did too…
So it should be a doddle for God against Gog and Magog!
Apart from the lies its said this story is true!
* Geis – a condition to a promise or curse that cant be undone, normally without invoking another as bad if not worse.