jump to navigation

Strange Fairy Encounter, Co Limerick 1939 August 25, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback

fairies skipping

This story comes from an Australian newspaper though it relates to distant Ireland, September 1938. The nature of newspaper digitization is that the nineteenth century is now far better covered than the twentieth century and so all too often getting the right source can prove a problem. Anyway what was going on in Ireland as the world moved closer and closer to conflagaration? Well according to the Australian newspaper report, which had a London byline:

While people all over the world have been thinking and talking of wars and rumors of wars the inhabitants of certain villages in West Limerick have been chiefly occupied in watching for fairies, according to reports from Dublin.

Limerick, of course, is deep in fairy Munster: Munster was the part of the island where changeling belief survived the longest. It goes without saying that rather than Melbourne or London it would be good to get a description from Limerick or failing that from the Irish Times: any volunteers, drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Beach will do all the typing…

Crowds are assembling in the evening at cross-roads hoping to catch a glimpse of the ‘good little people’; boys and men have chased the fairies, while a youth named Keely says he actually held a leprechaun by the hand. Old people shaking their heads said it was a ‘bad omen’ to see so many of the ‘little people’ at one time and in broad daylight, as well as in the evenings. Many people— especially girls— are afraid to go out after dark according to the story.

There are hints here of two British cases where kids went mad about supposed sightings of fairies, one from Bangor and one from Liverpool. Note particularly the word ‘Leprechaun’ here. ‘Leprechaun’ makes sense in some ways: you do chase leprechauns to get their money; and yet, by the nineteenth century, never mind the twentieth, you didn’t see leprechauns in groups, they were ‘solitary fairies’. Or is leprechaun just a throwaway word, a synonym for fairy?

Describing the strange occurrences an Irish newspaper says: ‘John Keely a schoolboy, seeing a fairy alone, ran and told the Mulqueens about It. They sent him back to interrogate the little visitor, who admitted to Keely that he ‘was from the mountains and it is all equal to you what my business is.’ Next day two fairies appeared at the cross-roads between Ballingarry and Kilfinney, six miles from Rathkeale, In daylight, with skipping ropes, and ‘they could leap the height of a man’ according to Robert and John Mulligan and other eye-witnesses. The little people allowed Keely to approach them and he actually took one of them by the hand and ‘set off along the road with him’ he said.

The paper now seems to skip part of the narrative but we gather that the local kids had set up an ambush. The uncharacteristic aggression towards the fairies makes Beach think again that these were ‘leprechauns’ and had to be caught for the sake of their treasure.

When the fairies spotted the others lying in wait in the nearby bushes, they took fright and ‘away they went like the wind,’ with the Mulqueens, Keely and others in hot pursuit. Describing the unearthly witnesses stated that the leprechaun were about 2 feet in height and had ‘hard, hairy faces like men and no ears.’ They were dressed in red, and one of them wore a white cape, and they wore knee-breeches and ‘vamps’ instead of shoes. Several who claim to have chased the ‘little people’ say that ‘though they passed through hedges, ditches, and marshes they appeared clean and neat all the time’.

Jerome Clark in his Unexplained states that ‘If this incident had occurred a decade later and been reported from somewhere other than Ireland, it probably would have been treated as an encounter with UFO occupants’ (424). There is certainly something a bit frenetic about the account.