Wise Women of Mungret

John Johnson Marshall
Chapter X (4) - Start of Chapter

“As wise as the women of Mungret,” is a proverbial saying in County Limerick. There was a monastic foundation and school at Mungret and once upon a time there was a deputation sent from the college at Cashel to try their skill in the languages, in order to decide which was the more learned community. The Mungret scholars having fears that they might be unable to hold their own against their rivals had recourse to stratagem. A number of them dressed as women, and going to the place where the stream crossed the highway by which the visitors were to approach, they began to wash clothes. When the Cashel professors approached and asked any questions about the distance to Mungret, or the time of day, the visitors were answered in excellent Greek or Latin, which filled them with astonishment, and when they enquired how they learned the ancient languages were answered—“Oh, every one about Mungret speaks Latin and Greek: that is nothing at all, mere crumbs from the monks’ table—would you like to talk philosophy or theology with us?” This caused the strangers to hold a conference at which they determined to return home so as not to expose themselves at a place where every woman spoke Greek and Latin, thus leaving the victory to “the wise women of Mungret.”