Editor’s Note: This story is a Suffolk classic. Here is possibly the earliest recorded version from 1877. The contributor writes ‘I have great pleasure in sending you the ‘legend’ ” on which I founded the story of ‘Brother Mike.’ I believe that my rendering of the dialect is perfectly correct, and may be depended upon, at least for the district round Bury St. Edmunds.’
There wus a farmer, right a long time ago, that wus, an he had a lot o’ wate, a good tidy lot o’ wate he had. An he huld all his wate in a barn, of a hape he did! but that hape that got lesser and lesser, an he kount sar how that kum no how. But at last he thout he’d go and see if he kount see suffun. So off of his bed he got, one moanlight night, an he hid hiself hind the oud lanetew, where he could see that’s barn’s doors; an when the clock struck twelve, if he dint see right a lot of little tiddy frairies. lork! how they did run — they was little bits o’ things, as big as mice; an they had little blue caoots and yaller breeches an little red caps on thar hids with long tassels hangin down behind. An they run right up to that barn’s door. An if that door dint open right wide of that self. An lopperty lop! over the throssold they all hulled themselves. Well, when the farmer see they wus all in, he kum nigher an nigher, an he looked inter the bam he did. An he see all they little frairies; they danced round an round, an then they all ketched up an air o’ wate, an kept it over their little shouders, they did. But at the last there come right a dear little frairie that wus soo small that could hardly lift that air o’ wate, and that kep saying as that walked —
Oh, how I du twait,
A carrying o’ this air o’ wate.
An when that kum to the throssold, that konnt git over no how, an that farmer he retched out his hand an he caught a houd o’ that poooare thing, an that shruck out, ‘Brother Mike! Brother Mike!’ as loud as that could. But the farmer he kopt that inter his hat, an he took that home for his children; he tied that to the kitchen winder. But that poooare little thing, that, wont ate nothin, an that poyned away and died. Cambridge. ‘Brother Mike.’ ‘Suffolk Notes and Queries,’ Ipswich Journal, 1877 [Gurdon Suffolk 34,35]