The Irish Man and His Three Sons: The Priest, Doctor and Lawyer

The informant is my mother who is Irish. Her grandparents were both from County Clare Ireland, which at the time was a town of only around 50,000 people. They had not met until they both immigrated to New York. My mother spent a lot of time with her grandparents when she was growing up in Buffalo New York and this is a story of an Irish folktale they used to tell her.


“A poor man had three sons and he wanted to make sure his sons were successful and had money. So the father decides to sell himself to the devil to get money for his children to go to school.  The Devil gave him the money to pay for their education and one child was to become a priest, the other a doctor and the third one a lawyer.


After the children finished their education the devil came to take the father to hell. When the devil arrived, one of the father’s sons was there with him. It was the priest. The priest began to pray in hopes that the Devil would spare his father, and in the end, the Devil gave in and gave the old father a few years more to live.


Eventually the Devil came again, but this time the doctor was there and he appealed to the Devil to spare the old man, and to everyone’s surprise, the Devil gave him a few more years to live.


Finally, the Devil came the third time to claim the old man, the lawyer was there. The lawyer says to the Devil: “You have spared my father two times already, and I do not expect you to do it again. But will you let him live until that candle has burnt down?” He gestured to the burning candle that was burning on the table. The Devil agreed because it was nearly burnt to the end and he knew the candle would burn down soon.


Once the Devil agreed the lawyer picked up the candle butt, blew it out and put it in his pocket. And stuck to his word, the devil left emptyhanded.”


This story to me tells me a lot about my great grandparents and what Ireland’s worldview is. It shows that being a lawyer is better respected than even a priest and it also shows the fear of the devil. My mother is now a lawyer and I think that this is very interesting because clearly being a lawyer is seen as something very important.