Is the aul’ hen dead?

There was a beggar woman of old of these parts who had lost her arms in a flax-beetling mill accident.  (Beetling was a process where large and heavy wooden paddles were made to batter the linen cloth to smooth and shine it).  There were no compensation laws then.  Tramping the countryside she would have eaten haws from the hedge as she went along, being able to pull them off with her mouth.  She was heart-scared of dogs, being unable to protect herself from them.
Charitable people would take her in, feed, clothe and bathe her.
Other tramps were Red Margaret, Praying Biddy, Susie the Shoot and The Green Shawl Woman.  Mary Kelly was a tiny, old woman who wore a black cape.   Like Biddy Ardee they had bags and pockets to carry their little ‘charities’.  Soncy Mary dealt in cures especially for animals. 
Tramps at the door then might ask for money or a ‘grain of meal’.   A penny was enough to satisfy them, or bread or sugar or meal.   This went into their bag.  People kept a little ‘yalla male’ or maize (that ‘pigeon grain’ imported cheaply from America during the Famine) for this purpose.  
Daniel Murnaghan was noted for repeating The Lord’s Prayer as he tramped along.  Jack the Flute did this also.  He was called for the instrument he was heard to play.  He was known to run a piece, then stand and look around the countryside talking to himself.  
An old tramp was taken in to a big house once where he’d occasionally get a ‘piece’ and a mug of tea.  He was brought to the scullery of course and when seated in the charge of the sarvant girl, the lady of the house went off about her business.  There had been a ‘party’ entertained there the night before and the tramp was astonished to find a chicken leg between the boords of his ‘piece’.  Suspicious at such unknown largesse, he beckoned the girl to him and asked a whispered question:
‘Tell me Biddie’, says he, ‘whatever happened to the oul’ hen?’

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