The Goban Saor: 'The Ugly Defendant'

Once it was the Goban's turn to act as Breitheamh (judge) in the village court.

Before him was a well-known horse-thief and practised liar, a member of Na Tinceiri, an indigenous gypsy-like tribe.

There were more than enough witnesses, but all were fearful of the vengeance of the ferocious tribesmen. Besides, it was as notoriously difficult to prove the identity of a stolen horse as it was to prove the original ownership.

Knowing that the Goban had to be seen to be a strict upholder of the Brehon Code - the Celtic legal system - and that he hadn't a chance of proving that a crime had taken place - the horse-thief stood grinning insolently, waiting to be dismissed.

The Goban glared at him and scratched his beard, fully aware that the entire community was awaiting his verdict.

At last he was ready to deliver it and the gleeful murmurs of anticipation died down:

"..If there was such a law anywhere ..in the entire canon of the Brehon Code", announced the Goban ponderously, directing his gaze on the horse-thief, "..which would permit me to do so ..then I'd use it to have you jailed ..just for being so ugly!"

The court broke up in laughter, and the glowering horse-thief slunk away, his armour of insolence somewhat dented .