Granda’s Riddle

My Grandfather, Richard Davis left behind an unsolved riddle, the answer to which should uncover the 18th century roots of his family. Before the advent of radio and TV, riddles were a popular source of entertainment. I have included one told in the Davis household of that time.

A group including my mother, then Ena Davis, centre right, likely taken by her sister Phyllis aroung 1945.

Elward Burnside, a Canadian cousin, was working on a Davis family genealogy when he met my grandfather in the 1950s.  Richard became one of his primary sources. Years later when Elward heard that I had an interest in the family’s past he sent me part of his original material, including some handwritten notes, wherein lies the riddle.

Elward’s brief notes are from an undated interview with Richard and include the lines:

“Grandfather John Davis born about 1803 had brothers Abraham and Robert

Richard named after a brother of his father Richard Abraham

Had lots of property in Northern Ireland, Antrim


Father could have fought for the property but stood to lose everything. Grand uncle pulled yoke? out of sled to keep from partner”

While some of this is consistent with fact, most of it is obscure. There are, however, some intriguing resonances with another Davis family living in the north Leitrim area at that time.

In his final document Elward did not include or comment on the potential import of “illegitimate” or “could have fought for property”. However, here surely are the bones of a story of sex, money and power in the late 1700s.  With some more research and a little luck, hopefully the riddle will be solved.

Richard Davis circa 1960.

Here is a simpler riddle taken from the Davis contribution to The Schools Collection, 1937:

In comes two legs carrying the one leg

Lays it down on three legs

In runs four legs snatches up the one leg

Back comes two legs snatches up the three legs

Throws it after four legs to get back the one leg. 

What is it?

Answer. A man comes into his house with a leg of mutton and lays on a three-legged stool. A dog runs in and steals the leg of mutton. The man returns, picks up the stool and throws it at the dog, to get back the leg of mutton.


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