By Steven Gerard Farrell
He was a big man who could move quickly for one off his immense size.
He was an Irishman with bulging muscles, reddish hair and a gold chain
with an amulet of his god Lugh around his nick that symbolized that he
was a Celt of high birth. He was able to get his legs walking rapidly more
than most men, especially when he was in a hurry to get somewhere. On this
occasion, on the road leading away from Jerusalem, he was making tracks
No, he wasn't in trouble with the Roman legion who occupied the city
in the name of Tiberius Caesar, and he hadn't upset any of the local authorities
as well. He wasn't even running away from a bad gambling debt, or the arms
of a too willing young damsel.
Jerusalem had depressed him. Land of milk and honey or not, the city
was a depressing speck on the face of a dismal desert as fear as Fearghal
Scotus was concerned. It was a place he vowed he would never go back to
even if there was Roman money to be spent to witness his prowess as a wrestler
in the Pit of the Gladiators in the Greek sporting stadium. He would
always follow the promise of gold to Gaul, Syria or Egypt but never again
would his shadow darken the gates of the sacred city of the nation of Israel.
Fearghal was no politician, or colonist or a thief. He was a honest
man plying his trade wherever there were crowds that appreciated the ancient
art of self-defense thrown in with large doses of Germanic brute force
and Celtic mayhem. He didn't care if the natives liked him or not, but
this lot was one that needed sorting out for their sour demeanor and their
disdain for the outsider from the western fringes of the known world.
Adding insult to injury somehow they pulled him into their world of
injured pride, rebellion and messiahs written about in their ancient Hebrew
language. It was all well and good but he had his own demons to wrestle
with. Wasn't he on the run after getting chased out of Ireland by a land
greedy relative who happened to have more clan members on his side than
on he was able to muster?
He hadn't liked the first of this tribe that he had met on the road
from Nazareth to Jerusalem. He happened to be at a rest stop where he realized
he had plenty of wine but not enough bread. A group of unfriendly travelers
had stopped near him and gabbed away in the tongue of their King David
while they ignored his presence. Outright hunger made him approach where
he was clearly unwanted.
"I'll exchange wine for bread," he said three times: once in Latin,
once in Greek and once in the argot of the region. He gestured and pointed
to indicate his desire. He received only odd looks for his efforts.
"Do you mean you would like to trade?" asked a handsome young man with
very light features and almost blond hair. He was the first Jew to ever
smile at him. His Greek was understandable and crisper than his own.
"I am happy I can understand you," said the Celt.
"Please join our fire and our repast."
His companions were not pleased with the offer but the Irishman decided
to accept just to irritate them. Besides, there was something pleasing
and gentle about this man that made him take a shine to him immediately.
Fearghal remained silent as he followed the others in their eating rituals.
He listened to words he could not understand but he was impressed by the
passionate manner of his new friend in his chanting. He accepted the broken
bread and the goblet of wine that made the way around their circle. The
dusk began to settle in and he got up to move. He was beckoned by a big
man who spoke to him in the messy lingo of the region.
"The Master bides you to stay in our camp as it will mean more protection
for you against lions and bandits."
The young man bide the Celt to unroll his blanket close to him.
"You're not a Roman or a Greek," he prodded gently.
"Master, surely you can see he's a barbarian German from beyond the
Rhine. Ask the Caesars what their opinion is of his race," said a tiny
dark man with shifty eyes.
"I'm from Scoti as it is labeled in Latin. We call it Eire, or Ireland.
I am from the clan of Fearghal. It means 'men of valor' in my tongue."
"Relatives of mine operate a tin mine in Cornwall."
"Aye, a stone throw away from us. They are Celts too."
"My mother was born there to a Jewish father and a Ö."
"Master, it is late."
So that explained his fair skin and his light hair.
"I have an uncle there by the name of Stephen," said the young man.
"In my tongue the Greek name of Stephen is rendered as Stiofan. My name
is Stiofan Fearghal," proclaimed the foreigner in a boasting mannerism
that was common among his people.
"It is a fine name, Stiofan Fearghal."
n the morning they all marched together into Jerusalem where Fearghal
parted company to find the quarters of Longinus and the other Celts in
the pay of Caesar for the protection of Pontius Pilate, the hack who ruled
Palestine in the name of the Empire. He was more than a little sad to wave
his farewells to the half-Cornish wanderer.
There is no written record of how many matches Fearghal won or lost
during his stay in Jerusalem to entertain the Roman centurions who patrolled
Palestine for pay, room and board. There is a good chance that he had more
than a few friends who wore the gold plated armor and wore the red capes
of Rome were Celtic Irishmen or British: one of them was Longinus, a captain
of the guard. Oral legend has it that whatever winnings Fearghal had raked
in he immediately lost to wine drinking, as well as to the curious dice
game known as knuckle bones. It was reverses in gambling that wound up
with the Irish wanderer carrying the tool box of a one of the carpenters
on the Friday that three Jewish outlaws were to be crucified on Calvary,
the 'Hill of the Skulls', the location set aside for public executions.
Fearghal was in the middle of the procession that weaved its way through
the city. His throbbing head and the growing heat of the day made him indifference
to those who struggled with their own wooden crosses, the soldiers who
whipped and prodded, or the crowd of natives who lined the pathway and
heckled at all in the procession with equal venom. It was only when the
peak of the hill was reached and crosses, ropes and nails were spread out
upon the ground for the victims that the grossness of the occasion began
to dawn upon the wrestler.
"Fetch me my hammer, Fearghal Scotus!"
"Be quick there, my Celtic cousin!" joined in Longinus, all business
He approached the cross on the ground he recognized the man spread out
for his punishment. The man, beaten and bloodied, looked up into his face.
"Why is it you, my friend."
Stiofan Fearghal?" the woeful man whispered for his ears only.
He turned his back from the outrage and faced the mighty crowd that
attempted to surge past the Roman shields and spears to get a better look
at the torture of this one man. Their energy was wasted as his companion
of the road was lifted high in the air for all to see. He was soon joined
by another suffering prisoner on each side of him. Conversation was carried
on between the crucified but he could not hear the words for the braying
of the crowd and the crude jokes of the Romans.
"Get on the action over here, Fearghal!" Longinus shouted to me at the
pierced feet of my friend. "Maybe your luck will change with this roll
of knuckle bones."
He was not sure how it transpired but he was the winner who took all
and walked away with the robe that had been stripped from my man's body.
It would be the only wages he would walk away with in his sojourn in Jerusalem.
Before he moved away he looked up at his friend with pity and compassion.
The look was returned with the same level of grief. The wanderer was almost
relieved when Longinus approached the cross and pierced the man with his
"It is high time to bring this to an end, me bhoy!"
Fearghal wanted to help take the man off of the cross but he was discouraged
by his fellow Celts who said that the Jewish friends of the man would view
it as an act of pollution. The body would be attended to in the strictest
of privacy and in accordance of their religious laws.
Fearghal slept in the barracks of his friends that night as a huge thunderstorm
crashed in the sky above and pelted the parched earth below with rain and
hail. It was remarked upon how none of the seasoned veterans had ever witnessed
such an upheaval in nature in all of their long years of service in the
Orient. The Irishman was too numb and confused to pay much heed to the
uproar all around him. However, he was relieved to find that the morning
was fresh, clean and sunny. He made haste from the city with the intention
of reaching a friendlier place like Lebanon or Syria.
There are several written accounts of how wanderers upon the road outside
of Jerusalem encountered a man who they recognized as an old friend and
teacher only after seeing the damage that had been done to his hands and
feet. Fearghal Scotus never came across these accepted by church authorities
as testimonies of proof. He wanted no more to do with the place or the
people. He only stopped his walk northward to rest for the night and to
build a fire for his lonely repast.
He was looking off into the sunset when he felt a presence behind him.
He jumped to his feet and pulled out his long knife. However, it was only
the visitation of another lonely wanderer. Fearghal pointed to the cooking
fish on the fire and waved his visitor over. The man was mostly silent
except for some softly spoken prayer as he and Fearghal passed the meal
and wine back and forth. On the last pass of the wine the man let his hand
linger long enough in the flare of the fire for the Irishman to see the
"You poor fellow," said Fearghal, immediately making a connection between
his guest and his recently executed friend.
The Celts have always been a people wide open for miracles and myths.
"Stiofan, you have something of mine."
Fearghal was confused until the man nodded toward his pack. The first
thing that was rummaged out was the robe of the crucified man. The visitor
calmly put his hand out and the wrestler handed the cloth to him.
"I was holding it for you, my friend."
"I knew you would preserve it for me." Curiously the recovering man
reached over and kissed Fearghal. Then he lightly touched the golden chain
wrapped around the wrestler's bull neck. "When you arrive back to your
fair Ireland in the west tell them about me."
The next thing Stiofan Fearghal Scotus was aware of was that the sunrise
had replaced the sunset and that his fire had gone out. His friend had
vanished without leaving behind a trace or a track. He immediately checked
his luggage for the robe but it was gone to verify that he hadn't been
dreaming or drunk. If he needed any final proof of identity of the rambler
Fearghal found the amulet of his foreign god Lugh had been replaced by
a figure that resembled a cross.
Like the Odyssey of the Greek Homer, the mostly forgotten book
of The Annals Of Annally testify that Fearghal Scotus voyage homeward
took him many years and rewarded him with many adventures. He was an older
man of almost sixty when he was granted permission to return to Ireland
by the High King of Tara. He built himself a home on the moist and rich
soil of his ancestors almost exactly in the center of Ireland in what is
now known as the County Longford.
The rumor was hot and heavy that the drifter had returned with pouches
full of silver and gold coins. However, it was the returnee's tales that
attracted more attention than his alleged treasure. The Celts are a race
enchanted by stories, and Fearghal was chocked full of them. There was
one glorious story, in particular, that became the most popular of all
of his yarns: it included a stranger met on the road, a crucifixion, a
toss of knuckle bones and the return of a robe.
"Let this serve as proof!" he would conclude his story as he held up
the golden cross.
Editorís note: Author Steven G. Farrell lives and writes
in Greenville, S.C.