It is customary, I believe, in many parts of Ireland, when a grave is opened, to place the shovel and spade in the form of a cross over the open grave, and leave it thus until the funeral services.
Recently, I heard a legendary explanation of this custom in the Geevagh district, in the south-east of Sligo. When St Patrick was working in Tir Amhaighaidh, Co. Mayo, he had a servant lad called Domhall. It was one of Domhall's many duties to collect fire-wood every day in the neighbouring forest. One day, when so engaged, he had his bundle of fire-wood collected, and tied, but when he tried to lift it on this back he found that the bundle was fastened firmly to the ground. He tugged and pulled, but it was of no avail. Hearing a kind of smothered laugh behind him he looked around and saw a little fairy man watching him amusedly. The fairy asked what was his trouble, and the boy replied that he could not lift the load of fire-wood. The fairy offered to lift it if the boy in return did him a small favour. The boy consented. The fairy lifted the load on to the boy's shoulders, and then told him what he required done. "To-morrow morning," he said "when you are serving Mass for Patrick, ask him, precisely at the elevation of the Host, what will become of the Sidh or fairy folk on the last Day." The boy promised to do so, and at the precise moment the following morning, he asked the Saint as directed. "They'll be all lost!" laconically replied St Patrick. When the mass was finished Patrick turned to the lad:—"Why did you ask me that question during Mass? inquired the Saint. "Because," replied the lad, "I promised a fairy man to do so."
"O wretched creature!" exclaimed Patrick, "when you tell them my answer they'll tear you limb from limb."
Domhall on hearing this was sorely afflicted, and begged the Saint to tell