Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, March 28, 2023


 "Cloonaturk" by Mervyn Wall (firxt published in Argosy [UK], December 1947; reprinted in Wall's collections A Flutter of Wings (1974) and The Demon Angler & One Other (2015), in Weird Tales, Winter 1989/1990, and in Shadow Voices:  300 Years of Irish Genre Fiction:  A History in Stories, edited by John Connolly, 2021)

You're not likely to find Cloonaturk on any Irish map.  It's just thirty scattered cottages on a lonely Irish coast, inhabited by dour men who prefer to be left alone.  There are no women in Cloonaturk, no children.  (There's a rumor there once was, but that they've all gone to America.)  Since the sixteenth century, the men of the village have sustained themselved on a diet of poteen and potatoes.  And, since the sixteenth century, the men of /Cloonaturk have frustrated the police and the excise officers by having successfully hidden their stills.

One day, Pat's Tommy heard the postman approach his cottage.  Upon the knock on the door, Pat's Tommy immediately barricaded the door with a table, and was about to add a dresser to the barricade when the postmen walked away.  But Pat's Tommy had been outwitted:  the postman had slid a long envelope under the door.  Pat's Tommy stared at the envelope for a day. then picked it up and placed it -- unopened -- on the dresser.  After considering things for some four days, Pat's Tommy took the unopened envelope and tossed it onto the peat fire.

And all was well for about a week, then another envelope was slid under his door.  This, too, went into the fire, unopened.  When the third envelope came, it was stamped "Final Notice."  Pat's Tommy considered this throughout the night (and throughout a bottle of poteen, and halfway through another one); then he opened the envelope.  It was a demand for seven shillings and sixpence for a Dog License.  So Pat's Tommy hung himself. ( Of course, he finished the second bottle of poteen first.)

(You have to understand that, when any of the men of Cloonaturk received such a notice, they would automatically hang their dog.  But since Pat's Tommy was really fond of his dog, there was nothing other to do than to hang himself.

Since the men of Cloonaturk often stayed away from their fellow villagers for a week or so at a timje, no realized that Pat' Tommy was dead for days.  They did what wqs expected. They had a wake.  A powerful wake.  Then they trudged the five miles to the nearest church and buried Pat's Tommy.  Then they continued with the wake for another four days.  Around the fourth day, Long John Flaherty accidently was locked out of the wake and, tripping, slide a dozen or feet in the mud.  So it was time to go home.  On the way he met Pat's Tommy and the two eschanged greetings.  When he got home, he realized that Pat's Tommy was supposed to be dead.

Dead or not, Pat's Tommy began to haunt the village.  At first it was all friendly like, with Pat's Tommy sharing the villagers' poteen.  After a while, though, Pat's Tommy became rather nasty -- entering a house uninvited and knocking a drink out of one's hand, grabbing Long John by the throat and trying to toss him in the river, and hiding the villagers' store of liquor.  The last was the final straw.  The villagers went to the local priest and told him what was happenig, asking for his help.  Father Murphy's solution was for the entire village to sign a temperance pledge.  (He really did not believe the villgarers' story, you see.)  The villagers said, thanks, but we'd rather live with Pat's Tommy's ghost.

 But Father Murphy was not done.  It was his duty to eradicate sin.  He went ot he authorities and demanded something be done.  Soon, hundreds of officers descended upon the village with shovels and dug into every square inch of the village, discovering and destroyng every still.  With the stills gone and no poteen to be had, Pat's Tommy soon faded away.

Mervyn Wall 91908-1997) was the author of one of the greatest humourous fantasie of the twentieth century, The Unfortunate Fursey, about a hapless medieval monlk who botched a rite of exorcism due to a speech impediment..  One ritic stated that it had a strong claim  to to being the single gretaest work of Irish genre literature produced in th twentieth century.  A squel, The Returnof Fursey, published to yers later was not as successful.   "Cloonaturk," although not as polished as The Unfortunate Fursey, is a great example of Wall's satirical touch and his dry wit.

The Winter 1989/1990 issue of Weird Tales is availbel at Internet Archive.


  1. I will have to check out Wervyn Wall. I just finished a collection of ARGOSY stories by W. C. Tuttle. What a wonderful magazine that was!

  2. I'm not familiar with Mervyn Wall, but this sounds just great!

  3. Looks like a nice companion piece to THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN