Friday, 31 October 2014


For Pauline...

E'en as the ray that decks the lucid tear,
Which, in the summer's morn, bedews each tree;
My little girl -- as sweet, as mild, as dear --
The smiles of innocence we owe to thee:
May they adorn thee when thy childhood's past --
Thy loving parents pride and hope, to see,
And that those smiles we gaze on then may last,
Are all, sweet little one, we wish for thee.

Text: The Dublin Penny Journal 28 Feb 1835.
Image: Angel painting by Joyce Birkenstock.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Tale of Teeling's Ghost

It was the night of the festival of All Hallows, when every peasant implicitly believes that the fairies and other supernatural beings have double power over the destinies of mortals; I had been out shooting during the day, and was invited by a small farmer, whose cabin was situated near the top of the long mountain at Glen Cullen, to "cum up in the evenin' an' look at the boys an colleens divartin' themselves;" and of course accepted of his invitation. The principal room, which usually served as kitchen, was the spot where the fun was held; and as I entered, a fine handsome-looking youth, with strong athletic limbs, and a good-humoured blue-eyed girl were dancing away on the door, which was taken off the hinges, and elevated on four sods of turf, as a place "fur footin' id:" all round the room were seats of various kinds, from the high-backed chair of the grandfather, to the three-legged stool of the youngest son; and many "a dacint boy" was seated on the bare earth beside the boss occupied by his "own little colleen," rather than by accepting of a seat be removed to a distance from her, "an' he not knowin' what design the fairies might have on her." -- Large jugs of "raal mountain dew," mixed into punch for the ladies, stood smoking on a table at one extremity, and at the other was the peat fire, blazing brightly, assisted by an occasional poke of granny's crutch, who quietly sucked her "ould pipe," and looked on with much good humour at the pranks of the youngsters. Beside her was seated a thin, pale girl, whose black hair was combed completely back, and fastened with a piece of ribband, and whose brilliant eyes were intently watching two nuts that she had placed in the fire, to burn, as she said, "just for the sake ov thryin' iv her sweetheart id lave her or not." A fair-haired, healthy-looking youth, who was crouched behind her so that she was unaware of bis presence, tried in vain to suppress a laugh, as he saw the motionless eagerness with which she watched their blazing; and when the stiffed "ha, ha, ha," made his presence known, she turned round and laughed too, while a crimson blush, that was doubly vivid from her paleness of feature, mantled o'er her face and neck. When the couple who were dancing on my entrance grew tired, these two took their places, and though I have often seen the jig danced, never did I see any thing like their style: ease, and grace, and activity, all were united and combined in their movements, and the shouts of applause -- the "bravo Larry" -- success, Peggy, asthore -- it's yerself that can do id," that burst from ail those who were standing round, spoke well for the judgment of the lookers-on. By degrees they began to droop, and their place was not taken by another couple when they at length ceased, for the boys then began to help the apples and nuts, with the squares of sweet oaten cake, and the glasses of hot punch, and a cheerful, good-humoured contest took place to determine from whom Peggy, the belle of the room, should take the first apple: but it was soon ended -- for Larry, the handsome youth with whom she had been dancing, was the successful aspirant, and the sweetness with which she received it, and the good-natured smile that sat upon her lips, made her look, as one of those present declared, "as purty, ay an purthier, nor the queen o' beauty."

"Shure, then, Peggy, avourneen," said the aged host, who was father to the youth called Larry, and a famous story-teller, "bud id's yerself needn't be ashamed of showin' thim little pins ov your's on any boord in this counthry side, anyhow; a if I think, whin yer one ov us, between yerself an' Larry, an' the sisthers, they'll want a fine back that 'ill bate us at the dancin'."

Peggy blushed at his allusion to her approaching union with his son, and smiled when she felt her hand softly pressed by his as he sat at her side.

"She's the purthiest heel an' toe step I ever seen wid any one, barrin' Biddy Daly beyant in the glin," quietly remarked an old man, who was sitting by the fire; upon which Larry, fancying this deteriorated from her merit, hastily exclaimed --

"Shure enough, thin, Misthur Cullen, I'll back Peggy any day to tire down an' bate out a dozen Biddy Daly's."

A smile mantled on the father's features at the son's warmth; and, plucking his pipe from his mouth, and depositing it carefully in his waistcoat pocket, he exclaimed,

"Why, thin, Larry, agra, bud I believe you have a dhrop ov the ould hot blood in you afther all. I myself was just such another at the time I met with Teeling's ghost below at the river."

"Whin was that -- tell us about, Sur -- do Misthur Mullen," here simultaneously exclaimed all, both boys and girls, and the aged host drew closer to the fire, and every one having given their seat a chuck in, after the fashion of playing the interesting game of cutchecutchoo, he laid his brawny hands on his knees, and looking complacently on his circle of listeners, commenced.

"Yez must know, boys and girls, that ould Teeling had possession of this house an' bit o' land afore I cum to take id, an' it was said that he berred money some where hereabouts, bud that's more nor I believe; fur why id a man die as he did in this very room (many a head here looked suspiciously round; and they closed in with one accord to a smaller circle) athout lavin' not only as much as id give him a dacint berrin, an all that, bud also what id get a few pipes an a taste o' whiskey, wid a thrifle of baccy, an' so forth, for his sorrowing neighbours. -- Well, whin I cum to take the land, be shure I was tould on all sides that the house wasn't quiet, bud sorra bit of me ever seen a ghost since I cum to the place."

"Did you ever see one before in the house, daddy?" interrupted an inquisitive scion of the house of Mullen, greatly to his father's annoyance, as he was trying to gloss over that part, as if there was foundation in the report: however this was a poser, so he answered --

"Why no, Tom, a hagur, I can't say exactly that I did, bud they spoke ov id anyhow, an' it was generally believed; bud that's naither here nor there as far as is consarnin' the present story. One evenin' about dusk I was lavin' the fair ov Rafarnam, intendin' to walk home quietly through the mountains, whin I met a frind who insisted on my goen in to take a sup wid him afore I'd start. -- Well, sorra one of my whole breed, seed, or gineration evir had the black drop in thim, in the regard o' the licker, an so be coorse I couldn't refuse, an' I went in, an' we had a naggin -- quiet; you young rascal -- don't be pullin' your brother's hair;" this last order was addressed to the same snub nosed urchin who had a moment before been so inquisitive, and who was now industriously employed in chucking single hairs out of his brother's head, who lay asleep in his mother's lap. Well, where was I?" continued the veracious narrator -- "oh, ay, we finished our dhrop, an' parted wid a warm shake of the hand; fur he was a chap I had a regard for; his sowl's in glory now I hope; an' off I sets by myself, wid the moon shinin' brightly on the path, and the stars twinklin' an brilliant as diamonds. It's no thrifle of a step, as yez all know, from the fair green to where you enthir on the path through the valley, near where you go up to Misthur White's, an' besides it's all up hill, bud I was young an' active thin, an' didn't mind it, no more nor iv id had been only a couple o' parches. I was whistling cheerily as I wint along beside ov the little throut-strame, an' saw nothin' fur a man to dhread till I cum betune the two great hills where the goiants used to be playin' quoits long ago (They show a spot on the mountain top here, where they say the giants used to play quoits to the opposite hill) thin it grew mighty dark all ov a suddent, fur a big, ugly black cloud slipped across the moon, an' hid her silver face, an' it was only be the light of the stars I was guided, an' that was no great shakes; an' jist as I was steppin' across an ould wall, what did I see on the other side bud the ghost of ould Teeling, wid a face like milk, an two blazin' eyes, and a horrid grinnin' mouth -- "

"Mercy on us," shudderingly exclaimed one or two of his auditors, while the others listened without daring to breathe.

"He was mounted on his ould black mare, that died long afore him, an' the baste didn't look like the ghost of itself at all at all, fur its skip was smooth, an' it was fatther nor evir. Well, I didn't know what to say or do, fur the tongue o' me stuck to my cheek, and my heart kep' rappin' an hammerin' away as iv id wanted to brake out, bud at last I plucked up courage, an', sis I, --

"Thin you spoke to id, did you?" interrupted his son.

"Yis, indeed, Larry a hagur, there was no manner of use in standin' there, glowerin' at him, fur bad cess to the taste of a step he seemed inclined to stir, an' so I made bould, an', sis I,

"'Misthur Teelin', sis I, 'iv you'd be plazed to let me pass,' sis I, 'I'd feel particularly obleeged to you.' sis I.

"Wid that, Sur, he gives the ould mare a skelp ov his naked fist, an' id rattled like a hape of bones, an' up she jumps, an' stands on the side ov the hill, tin feet above the path.

"'Thank you, Sur,' sis I, well pleased at seein' him so condiscindin', bud wondherin', at the same time, that he didn't spake to me at all, an' thin turnin' round, an' takin' off me hat, I made a low bow, an', sis I.

"'Good night, Misthur Teelin', an' safe home to you, Sur,' sis I, an' set off as fast as my two good legs could carry, an' as the crooked, dangerous road id suffer. Well, all was right till I got within about fifty yards ov me own house, whin I dunna what prompted me to turn round, bud, anyhow, I did so, an' there, close behind me, was ould Teelin' again, an' his mare, who was followin' me all the way, though I nevir heerd the fall ov her hoofs. Sorra a use there was in any further parley thin, fur I seen he was about somethin' that wasn't good; so seein' I was so near home, though my heart was all thrimblin' like a lafe in a high wind, I makes a sudden dart off, wishin' sweet bad luck to his dirty ould bones, that wouldn't rest quietly in the grave, bud should be comin' up agin to plague an' tormint honest people, who did him no manner ov harm. At this the baste let a murdherin' big shout or screech out of her, the like ov which I nevir heerd before fur curdlin' the blood, an' though I couldn't hear her runnin' I knew she was afther me like the wind. Every step I tuk was twist as long as I could at any other time; but, howsomdever, jist as I got to my own doore, I feels the cowld hand ov the ghost grippin' me by the neck, an' he lifted me up as iv I wor a child, an flung me down on my face, an' vanished in a flash of lightning. Afther this I was so stunned an' stupified wid fear that I lost all recollection, an' whin I woke there was no mare, nor sign ov one present, an' the sun was shinin' like goold upon the glin, an' me ould dog here lickin' my face; bud the wondher-fullest thing of all was that me ould woman here never heerd the noise, an' thought I had stopped at the fair all the night."

When Mullen had concluded his story, he looked complacently round, as much as to say, "had any o' yez an adventure to bate out that:" and took the various shrugs or wonder with the air of a man who feels certain that he has deserved applause. His pipe was also a second time replenished, and he puffed away with much self-satisfaction, amid the wondering and fearful looks of the superstitious persons who surrounded him.

"Well, Peggy, my darlin'," said his son Larry to the pretty girl at his side, "in all your born days did you evir hear the aquil ov that?"

"Never, indeed, Larry," was the answer; "bud maybe it's not all thrue."

"Not thrue," reiterated his father, getting angry at having his veracity for an instant doubted; "it's as thrue as yer sittin' beside ache other this blessed minute; fur didn't I go in the mornin' to the spot where I furst seen thim, an' climb up to the place where the mare jumped whin I civilly axed him to lave the way, an wasn't the grass all scorched an' withered up, let alone bein' thrampled; an' can't I show yez it any time at all, as id never grew green from that day to this, an' its twenty-five good years sence, an' more, an' iv that's not a convincin' proof, an' you refuse to believe id, why put me down as bein' dotin', that's all."

If there were any persons in the group that had an instant's doubt, this positive proof soon banished it, and the aged hero of the tale was viewed with double respect and awe.

By and by various harmless tricks were played off at each other's expense; all the innocent spells too were put into requisition, and the kale stalks were pulled, and much laughter caused by those who were so unfortunate as to get a crooked one.

When the plates containing salt and sand, and pure water, and one a ring, were brought out, much bustle and mystery took place. The maidens tried to find the ring, but did not succeed; and the youths tried sedulously to avoid the sand or earth, as if their lives really depended on it. When it came to Peggy's turn, her hand, as if by some spell, went straight into the plate that contained the ring; and oh Larry also advancing, his did the same. -- This was instantly prophesied into their being united before the year would be out, and displayed considerable foresight, and prophetic powers on the part of the soothsayers, as the day had been already appointed, and was not more than three weeks oft.

None of those charms which are wrought in the name of the Devil were attempted, for though they are often spoken of as being effected, I think they are seldom tried, as the majority of the Irish peasantry have an awe of those conjurations, which nothing can remove. It was morning ere we parted, and the genuine "good wishes" which followed me on my retirement, came more gratefully to my heart than all the courtly phrases that politeness has invented to take place of sincerity; The pleasure was considerably enhanced from having, thus had an opportunity of witnessing the manner in which an evening, pregnant with so much of merriment and sport in the "Land of Cakes," is spent by the Irish peasant.


The text of this article was originally published under the title of 'The Irish Peasants: Halloween' in the Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 3, No. 121 (Oct. 25, 1834), pp. 129-131.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Fairy Annals of Ulster -- No 2 (pt 2)

THE following Annals were compiled in the summer of 1857, during a brief residence in the vicinity of Glenariff, the most beautiful of the glens of Antrim.

Thackeray, in his Irish tour, says of this glen -- "Every such scene of beauty and magnificence seems to warn us that it is not made to talk about, but to think of, and love, and be thankful for."

In "The Lady's Dream," in Household Words for July, 1858, some such scene must have been pictured on the mind of the writer, who thus describes it --
Ah me! I said, how beautiful and glad,
This sylvan scene might be,
Peopled with shapes too holy to be sad.
Shapes lovely as the fabled fore world had.
When Fancy yet was free. 
Some pastoral quaint of ancient Greece were fit
To be enacted here;
Or haply here the Fairy Court may sit,
Or Fairy children flowery garlands knit.
To lead the silk-neck'd steer.
On making the usual inquiries about the "Gentle People" from a poor but respectable-looking old woman, who resides in the vicinity of Cushendall, she first gave a sketch of her own history, to the effect "that she had attended one of the best schools in the country for long enough, and when she grew up a little, she went to service in Shane's Castle, just at the time Lord O'Neill was killed in the Rebellion. Lord O'Neill was warned not to go out the day he met his death; some of the family believed in these warnings, but some disbelieved, and that lord was one. Nothing ever happened in the way of death or misfortune in the O'Neill family that the Banshee was not heard bewailing before it took place." "What is the Banshee?" I asked, "and what is it like?" "It's a warnin' spirit that follows the O'Neills and other ancient Irish families; it is like an aged woman, short in stature, with a mournful cry always when it is heard; the one at Shane's Castle is called Nein Roe, her hair is red -- the hair of all the Banshees is of that colour. One of the old lords of Shane's Castle went to Bath at one time on account of his health, and took no servant but his own gentleman with him; he took a fine house for the season in Bath, and a garden belonging to it, with a draw-well of the purest water in the middle of it, walled in. The gentleman went one day, shortly after they arrived, to draw some water for his lordship, but he couldn't get near the well for an old woman sittin' beside it crying bitterly, and tearing her hair like as if in despair. The gentleman asked what ailed her, but got no answer: he offered her any help she stood in need of, if she would leave that; but she kept on lamentin' and never spoke. The gentleman got frightened, and went away without the water, and told Lord O'Neill what he had seen. 'We must leave Bath at once,' said his lordship, 'and get home to Shane's Castle without delay; it's the warning.' And so it was: he died on the journey home, and was greatly lamented, for he was one of the best of the O'Neills."d

"There was one of the lords in the old times that married a beautiful lady abroad, when he was on his travels, and brought her to Shane's Castle. Every one that saw her knew she wasn't of this world; she never smiled, but pined from ever she came, though she had no cause for that, for Lord O'Neill loved the ground she walked on: she was more like a spirit than a mortal, and wasn't made for this world at any rate, for she died, it was said -- but if she did, no human eyes ever saw the corp'; there was a grand funeral -- the O'Neill's always had that -- but the lady wasn't in it: her own Gentle people took her to themselves, and had her in their own dominions before that, as every one in the castle knew well enough at the time.

"The late Lord O'Neill had the castle burnt to the ground through his own fault. He had bought a state-bed of the grandest sort, and nothing would do him but to put it in Nein Roe's room, the room in the castle that she always fancied. The state-bed was put up, and everything left in order for any company to use it; but that wasn't allowed: the flames broke out in that same room the very night it was fixed, and Lord O'Neill had his castle in ashes before mornin'. The housemaid, when I lived there, was more careful about Nein Roe's room than any she had charge of; it would have been well for Lord O'Neill if he hadn't disregarded the Banshee, and meddled with her room the way he did.

"Before I went to service in Shane's Castle, we lived in Kilmore, where we had some land, and a garden at the end of the house. I had a sister Mary, the best-lookin' of any of us, she was about thirteen years old at the time I speak of, and one very warm day in summer she crept under some bucky briars ia a corner of the garden, to be out of the heat, and fell asleep. That was the beginning of our troubles. When she wakened, the whole town couldn't command her -- she was past the management of any of us: her senses had left her entirely; we sent for the priest, and he gev a Gospel to put round her neck, but it wouldn't do; we fetched the doctor, and he ordered bottle after bottle -- no use, for she got the longer the worse; the priest renewed the Gospel, but that brought no sense to Mary. She wrought on for two years the same way, and then got a stroke -- she lost the use of her limbs, but then her head got settled, and she lingered on for five years more and died. She had intruded that day on "the Quality's" ground to sleep; the bushes was gentle bushes that she got under to be out of the sun; and may the holy saints keep us from harm, that's what cum of doing what she did." --

"What do you think the Fairies are," I asked. "They are the fallen angels that was transported out of Heaven for disobeyin' the Most High. They have habitations under the earth, and above ground, and can take to the air or the water as they please. They had power in Heaven before they were banished, and they have it yet for good or evil, as it falls out; there's enough of them to overrun the country and overcome us, but they hope for salvation when the great judgment comes, and the fear of lossin' that keeps them down. The blessed Saviour preached to them in their prisons, and ever since that, the Gospel is too strong for them; " but it will save them yet, all in God's good time. --

"There was a blacksmith lived in the Glens, a covenanter, and that's the sort of people that keeps the Sabbath rightly. He was sittin' readin' one Sunday evening at his door, when a gentleman dressed in green, and ridin' on a beautiful grey baste,f rode up and asked for his horse to be shod. The blacksmith said he would break the Sabbath for no man livin'. 'You must shoe my horse,' says the gentleman, 'at any cost.' 'I can't work on the Sabbath, cost or no cost,' says the blacksmith. 'I must be in Scotland this night before twelve o'clock,' says the gentleman, 'on business that consarns you more than myself; so, if you plase, shoe my horse at once't.' The smith considered there was something on hand past common, and at long and last, he shod the horse. The gentleman mounted, and, as he was riding off, says he to the smith, 'I won't pay you till I come back.' 'All the better,' says the smith, 'for I could take no money, at any rate, for Sunday work;' so the green gentleman went out of sight.

"That day seven weeks he rode up to the blacksmith's door again, and says he, 'I have done the job I had in han', and now, for seven years to come, there will be no scarcity in this country, and here's payment for your trouble. The smith scrupled at takin' so much money, but the gentleman insisted, and at last he did; 'besides that,' says the gentleman, 'I wish you to buy all the bastes of the same colour as the one I'm ridin', that you can happen on, and I'll pay you your price.' 'Very good,' says the smith, 'I can do that, if I knew where to take them.' 'Fetch them to the Mouth of Kilrea,' says the gentleman, 'and I'll be sure to be there.' So accordingly, the smith bought all the grey horses that came his road, and took them to the open of Kilrea, as he was directed, and was paid his price, fair and honest, by the gentleman. At last, one time, the gentleman says to him, 'Come in' says he, 'and I'll show you the use I have for the horses you're bringin' me.' The smith followed the gentleman into an open in the side of the hills of Kilrea, and he saw rigiment on the top of rigiment of the warriors of the Gentry lying sound asleep with all their accoutrements beside them, and their grey horses lying fornenst them, saddled and bridled, ready for action, but all sleeping, the same as the Gentry. 'Don't lay a finger on one of these rigiments,' says the gentleman, 'nor touch a horse for your life, for it wouldn't be aisy to put them in the same way again.' As soon as the gentleman turned his back, the smith catched one of the little warriors by the arm, and wakened him, when up they all started till their feet, thousands upon thousands of them, all shoutin' 'where's the battle -- where are we to fight,' all makin' for their horses. 'What's this you have done, after me forbiddin' you,' says the gentleman to the smith. 'I touched only the one nixt me,' says the smith, 'without thinking, and they all riz, horse and foot.' 'You can be of no sarvice to me in settlin' this commotion, so be aff, while the life's left in you,' says the gentleman, 'and niver do the like again.' 'No more I will,' says the smith; and while the gentleman was goin' up and down the ranks, pacifying his men, the smith made aff full speed, niver lookin' behind him till he got to his own forge, and then layin' a bar of iron across the door, red-hot, as soon as he got in. Iron's lucky at all times, and when it's red, nothing can cross it to harm you.

"The gentleman in green had took all his forces to Scotland on that occasion, to war with the Gentry of that country: they want to get the upper han' in Ireland, if they can, and still did, and to rule the markets before all; but -- glory be to God -- we bate them in general, and they find us too many for them every seven years, when the battle takes place. Sometimes they come over to fight our Quality on their own ground. Not long ago, my brother saw their ships one day as he was sittin' on the ould castle hill at Red Bay, sailin' in the air, and some on the sea with sails set, and thousands of the Gentry, visible at times and then disappearing, on the decks and about the masts and rigging'.g He watched them comin' nearder and nearder, till they sailed in at the far side of Red Bay, past Galbally Point, and then the mist came on, and they wint up Glenariff in it; so, whiles he saw them and whiles he didn't, till he lost sight of them entirely. May the saints be good to us if there wasn't fightin' in Glenariff and through Glen Dun that night -- the scrog in places was all levelled, trees broke and left without a branch on them, the ground in some places ploughed up like with artillery, and the sward tramped till there wasn't a green blade to be seen. For all that, they had the worst of it; they are mostly bate in any great engagement, both in this country and their own. --

"When I was a lump of a girl, I was sent to school for longer than any of the neighbours' childer. My father was set on giving us all the teachin' he could, and we had a right master at the time in Kilmore, far before any of the 'nationals' that's goin' at present; troth he had wit enough for a college, and nothing cum wrong to him. I was playin', away a good piece from the school one Saturday, whin we got lave early, among the ould walls of an ancient building in the grave-yard, that was there before the ouldest in the town was born, and I spies a book lyin' on the sill of the place where there had been a window at one time. I lifted the book, proud enough at findin' it, and consaited at the notion of shewin' it to the scholars, but I darn't take it home for fear of gettin' a cuttin' from my mother for liftin' what didn't belong to me, I took it to Glenariff the next day, and show'd it to two or three knowledgeable men comin' home from chapel, but they could make nothing of it. The letters was red, and a different shape from ours, and there was like bits of gold on the outside. I kep' it hid for a time, and then gev it to the master, tellin' him all about it. It bate him, as well as the rest; he studied to make it out, but he could make neither top nor tail of it. 'It's in a forrin tongue, Peggy,' says he, 'and you'd best lave it where you got it.' I had no courage to go back by myself, and a boy in the school went with me to the walls, and I put it down in its own place, trimlin' with fear. The boy and me went a piece off to watch if any body would lift it: we watched on till it was near dark, and when we looked if it was there, it was away.h

It was Nein Roe's book; she had been seen frequentin' the walls in my day, and before I was born, and she's there yet. She haunts all the ould castles and ruins in Antrim, and is heard about many a house lamentin' and moanin' before a death takes place. She's the Warnin' Spirit, and different from the Gentle People -- they play tricks and mischief for sport, but the Banshee is ever mournin' and cryin'. --


                    "The night it is gude Hallowe'en,
                      When Fairy-folk will ride." -- Scott.

"There was no sport in what happened to a brother I had, that's dead and in Heaven I trust. He was comin' home from Cushendall one Holly-eve night, and he hears a sound behind him of people travellin' with great speed, and sure enough he sees troops upon troops of the Quality ricin'i on all sorts, some double, some single, bound for Tieveboulia and Tiverah, to keep the night: that and midsummer night is the times they enjoy the greatest liberty. The hindmost rider says to him, 'Go home and fetch the dress I was to be married in, and come after us to Tieveboulia, and you'll see me.' He thought he knew the voice, but he couldn't see the face, it was so dark. My eldest sister was engaged to be married about two years before that time to a boy from Glenarm, but he deceived her, and went off to Scotland with another girl. She disappeared, and we searched and inquired after her far and near, but all in vain, we never saw her more; the neighbour's thought she had followed the boy to Scotland, but nobody knew for certain. She took nothing with her but the clothes she had on; and a grieved heart we all had about her for many a day. She was a good quiet girl, everybody liked her. My brother scrupled in his mind when he cum home about what he heard on the road, but he made no mention of it to any of us, and at long and last took the gown from the chist and wint aff with it to Tieveboulia. When he got there, he saw a light on the slope of the hill next Glen Dun, and made for it at once: he was at no short for courage, he was fit to face anything, and was a brave, bould boy, any way, at all times.

"When he cum up to the light, he sees a great party of the Gentry playin' at all sorts of games: there was great dancin', and elegant music; but before all there was cookin' goin' on, at the lower end of the slope, and who did he see but his sister, helpin' to make ready the mate. He took the gown from under his coat, and slopin' aff from where the dancin' was goin' on, he got round to his sister, and says he, 'Mary, was it you bid me bring you the gown.' 'It was, Jemmy dear,' says she, 'and if you had'nt fetched it, you couldn't have seen me;' so she was lookin' sorrowfully at the gown, when she says, 'Jemmy, for your life, take nothin' that's offered to you in regard of mate or drink, or you're sould to them that gives it, and don't let on that you know I'm here." So Jemmy watched the divarsion that was goin' on, and listened to the music, that was far before any ever he heard, but between all he lost sight of Mary, and niver saw her again. So up comes a party of the Gentry, and insisted on his atin' with them, and takin' share of what was goin'. Jemmy thanked the Quality for their kindness, and said he had got his supper before he cum, and had no occasion; they insisted, but Jemmy refused on and on, and said he must be goin', as it was gettin' late. 'Well,' says the Gentry, 'we'll not part good company that way, and we'll convoy you home.' So a party, with the music headin' it, and lights shinin' as bright as day, set aff with Jemmy to see him home. A forby journey he had that blissed Holly-eve night: he was over every ditch and hedge, and in every bog and shugh and mire between Kilmore and Tieveboulia, and kilt out when he cum home; but nothin' mislists the gentle people: they were playin' their music and goin' on with their antics, niver mindin' Jemmy, till they disappeared all at once in the loanin' leadin' up to the house, puttin' out the light, but playin' the music till he cum in. Jemmy minded that night the longest day he lived."j


                    ----------- "A fairy thee unwecting reft,
                    There as thou slept in tender swadling band,
                    And her base elfin brood there for thee left:
                    Such men do changelings call, so changed by Fairies' theft."
Spenser's Faery Queene, Book i., canto 10.

"The Fairies doesn't attend now in these parts as they used to do," said an old woman, whom we asked if she knew anything about the Gentle people; "they wint aff from the Glens in great numbers to Scotland, on account of their bushes being cut down one year, when the people couldn't help it, for there was no firin' to be had for love or money; and the meal and potatoes both malted on account of the constant wet: but before they wint, I'll tell you what happened to a tailor, in my mother's time. He was makin' a suit of clothes for a neighbour man, and the woman of the house told the tailor she had no life with the child, for the cry of it never ceased, and it wint on whingin' night and day, till her heart was broke with it; a better nor a quieter child the sun niver shined on than it was at first, but all of a suddent it grew fractious, and she didn't know what to do with it.

"She wint out, lavin' the tailor workin' sittin' on his boord, and the child in the cradle, whin the thing spoke out and axed the tailor 'if the ould hag was from about the place,' and the tailor spoke it fair, and said 'she was.' The thing began to fistle among the straw in the cradle, and pulled out a set of little pipes, and commenced playin' music. The mother came back before it had done, and wint up to it and says: 'Now, I know what you are, and I'll have my revenge.' 'Very well,' says the thing, 'take your remedy.' With that she lifted it out of the cradle, and carried it to the river, intinding to try if she could drown it; but in place of that, in she wint herself, and was drownded dead, and the thing made aff, laughin'. --

Though the Gentle people's seldom seen here at present, there's plinty of people knows how they work. They seldom harm any one that doesn't harm them. One night, many a long year ago, two of my brothers wint to a house at the foot of Lurig [Lurgeadon], where there was some divarsion goin' on, and as they cum home late they saw a great blaze beside the pad they had to travel; sometimes they saw the blaze risin' up high, then it would get low, and they saw a space, black like, in the middle, and a party of Gintry sportin' on it, and dancin' all sorts.k They watched thim till they got feared, and wint aff without spakin.' The next mornin' one of the boys went in that direction to see about a young mare we had grazin', with the fetters on, and when he cum to the field, he saw her on the top of the big rock you may see as you come across from Lurig, standin' by itself in the middle of the field. How she got up no mortial could tell; all the men in Cushendall could'nt have put her there nor brought her down and the fetters still on: so my brother says to himself, 'them that put her there can bring her aff,' and cum home, niver lettin' on. The nixt day the mare was grazin' as usual in the field, and nothin' wrong with her: so he knew by that, his brother and him had done right not to spake when they saw the Gintry in the fire; if they had, the mare wouldn't have been long to the fore: but they had owed them a grudge for standin' lookin' at them as they did." --

To be continued...

[d] Connected with the Irish "Banshee," is the belief of the people that spirits, in their middle state, preparatory to their entrance into Heaven, are still visitants of this earth.
One of the most beautiful of Moore's Melodies* celebrates this remnant of the elder creed of all lands; and the poet adds in a note -- "Paul Zealand mentions that there is a mountain in some part of Iceland where the ghosts of persons who have died in foreign lands walk about and converse with those they meet, like living people. If asked why they do not return to their houses, they say they are obliged to go to Mount Hecla, and disappear immediately." -- [Occult Sciences, article "Banshees."]

* The following are the lines of Moore referred to:--

Oh ye dead! oh ye dead! whom we know by the light you give
From your cold gleaming eyes, though you move like men who live,
Why leave you thus your graves
In far off fields and waves, o'er,
Where the worm and the sea-bird only know your bed,
To haunt the spot where all
Whose eyes that wept your fall,
And the hearts that wailed you, like your own, lie dead?

It is true, it is true, we are shadows cold and wan,
And the fair and the brave whom we loved on earth are gone;
But still thus ev'n in death,
So sweet the living breath
Of the fields and the flowers in our youth we wandered
That ere condemned we go
To freeze 'mid Hecla's snow,
We would taste it a while, and think we live once more."

[e] "The Church of Rome once deserved the homage of humanity as the conservator of the little knowledge that burnt feebly as an expiring torch, around whose dim and flickering light the darkness seemed to press; for she tempered by superior wisdom the brutality of barbarian conquerors, and at last reduced them to spiritual vassalage, by boldly preaching a religion which proved too strong alike for the wild mythology of the northern Valhalla and for the Greek divinities which had been worshipped at nobler shrines than have yet been consecrated to a holier faith." -- Westminster Review: article on "the Catholic Church," July, 1858.

[f] Like the " field-elfen" of the Saxons, the usual dress of the Fairies is green. They often ride in invisible procession, when their presence is discovered by the shrill ringing of their bridles. Sometimes they borrow mortal steeds; and when such are found panting and fatigued in their stalls, the grooms find this a convenient excuse for their situation. According to Waldron, the Fairies sometimes take more legitimate modes of procuring horses. A person of the utmost integrity informed him that, having occasion to sell a horse, he was accosted among the mountains by a little gentleman, plainly dressed, who priced his horse, cheapened him, and after some chaffering, finally purchased him. No sooner had the buyer mounted and paid the price, than he sank through the earth, horse and man, to the astonishment and terror of the seller, who, however, experienced no inconvenience from dealing with so extraordinary a purchaser. -- Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, vol. ii.

[g] In the Autumn of 1857, the writer was so fortunate to see the mirage, or "Fata Morgana," off Galbally Point, in the vicinity of Red Bay (Co. Antrim), similar in some respects to that described in the story. There had been a thunderstorm during the day, which ceased about four o'clock in the afternoon, at which time seven yachts, masts, and white sails, with what appeared to be a confused mass of other vessels behind them, became suddenly and distinctly visible off the point above mentioned. So perfect was the appearance, that the writer asked a person who happened to be near, if as there was a regatta at Larne or Glenarm: he went into his house for a telescope, but before he returned, yachts and all had disappeared; a heavy mass of black clouds on the verge of the horizon had in the meantime assumed the appearance of stupendous ruins, irregular in outline, but the angles of the walls sharp and clearly defined: this also melted away, leaving a blue and cloudless sky, and not a vessel in sight on the calm sea beneath, The aerial warlike "gentry" seen by the "brother," on the decks and about the masts and riggin' of the vessels he saw, might not have been accompaniments created solely by the "faith that was in him," as a sceptic might affirm. It is recorded that "a gentleman of undoubted veracity, the commander of a corps of yeomanry, being at some distance from the shore with a party in his pleasure boat, distinctly saw a body of armed men going through their exercises on the beach on the Antrim coast; and so complete was the deception that he supposed it had been a field day which he had forgotten." [Notes to Drummond's Giants' Causeway].

[h] On reading a work a few weeks since, entitled "Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland, or the Traditional History of Cromarty, by Hugh Miller," I was surprised to find that the author had heard, from a very old woman, an account of a volume identical in some respects with that which is described in our story as belonging to the Banshee. The coincidence is strange, and difficult to be accounted for. I am inclined to place confidence in the old woman of Glenariff, much of whose personal natural history, as told by herself, was corroborated by one of the most respectable inhabitants of Cushendall, who had known her long and intimately. The story is told by Miller as follows: "The least dilapidated of the chapels was dedicated to St. Regulus, and there is a tradition that at the Reformation, a valuable historical record belonging to it, the work probably of some literary monk or hermit, was carried away to France by priest. I remember a very old woman, who used to relate that when a little girl, she chanced, when playing one day among the ruins with a boy a few years older than herself, to discover a small square recess in the wall, in which there was a book; she had only time to remark that the volume was a tattered one, and apparently very old, and that there were beautiful red letters in it, when the boy, laying claim to it, forced it from her. What became of it afterwards she did not know, and, unconscious of the interest which might have attached to it, never thought of making inquiries." (K.)

[i] Reginald Scott, in his "Discovery of Witchcraft" 1665, has left us as luminous an account of the fairies as can anywhere be found:-- "They do principally inhabit the mountains and caverns of the earth; their nature is to make strange apparitions on the earth, in meadows, and in mountains, being like men and women, souldiers, kings, and ladyes, children and horsemen, clothed in green, to which purpose they do in the night steal hempen stalks from the fields where they grow, to convert them into horses, as the story goes."

[j] "The fairies of French, Spanish, and Italian romance are inferior spirits, in a beautiful female form, possessing many of the qualities of the Oriental Peri, even if not derived from them.* Among ourselves, and especially in Scotland, this spiritual race has sometimes been less fortunate. From the Gothic elves the British fairies have borrowed a diminutive size, and not unfrequently many mischievous attributes. -- "The Occult Sciences, article "Fairies," page 20.

* The Spaniards derived their fairy lore from the Moors, with whose beautiful legends were mingled the tales of the Visigoths, settled in that country. This national faith was, probably, at a later period imparted to the Irish, who had considerable intercourse with the Spaniards. As a general rule, the primitive fairy traditions were modified both by the character of the people and the romance peculiar to each district in which they were received.

[k] The Scottish fairies are represented by Sir Walter Scott as still retaining much that is harsh and terrific in their character; and, notwithstanding their Highland name, "Daoine Shie" (men of peace), they are, after all, but peevish and envious beings. As they are always invisibly present, it is not wise to speak of them otherwise than with respect. As for speaking to them, woe to the silly wight who makes such venture, especially on Fridays, on which days their influence is most powerful. Falstaff, indeed says, even of the gentler Southern fairies, that "he that speaks to them shall die."
Their form is diminutive; they inhabit the interior of green hills, called in Gaelic sighan, on the surface of which the rings which mark their moonlight dances may be traced. They dress in green, in heath brown, or grey. They are particularly fond of horse exercise, and their invisible steeds may be discovered by the ringing of their bridles. Now and then, however, especially during the night, they borrow horses of flesh and blood, whose speed they are known not to spare. Their movements are sometimes accompanied by huge eddies of sand, and a cry of "horse and hattock" may be heard at the same time. Aubrey (Miscellanies, 200) recounts, on the authority of a learned friend ia Scotland whose letter to him is dated March 25, 1695, that an ancestor of the noble house of Duffus, once walking in the fields, and hearing this shout, had the hardihood to join in it. He had the good luck to be transported by the fairies into no worse place than the royal cellar in Paris; where, having drank to his heart's content, he was found on the following morning with a silver cup in his hand, with which the King, on hearing his marvellous narrative, presented him!!
The existing Lord Duffus acknowledged the genuineness of this tradition, but thought that the circumstances to which it related were fabulous, notwithstanding that among the family plate was an ancient silver cup called the Fairy Cup.
The munificence of the Scotch fairies calls for further observation, as well as their supposed skill in the fabrication of arms, and the cheerful accounts we have of their cavalcades and hunting excursions. They were also able to surround themselves with illusory splendour, and so enchant the eyes of mortals whom they wished to deceive, that their gloomy haunts and personal deformity were concealed until their purpose was accomplished. Their object in these deceptions was to recruit their failing numbers from the ranks of mortals, for which purpose also they stole the children of earthly parents. This kind of necessity is assigned as the reason for their frequenting streams and fountains, by Fletcher, whose words are cited by Scott in his introduction to "Tamlane" --
  "A virtuous well, about whose flowery banks
The nimble-footed fairies dance their rounds.
By the pale moonshine, dipping oftentimes
Their stolen children, so to make them free
From dying flesh and dull mortality."
    This is beautifully imagined.

The above article is reproduced from the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, vol. 7, 1859.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Fairy Annals of Ulster -- No 2

"There is in all literature, nothing that can be produced which shall represent the essential spirit of a man or of a people so completely as a legend or a fairy tale." -- Household Words.

"I confess I have but a limited interest in the discoveries of antiquarians; for the best mines of antiquities are not the ruins of buried cities, but the minds of living populations." -- Ibid.


The following Annals, which terminate those collected at the Giant's Causeway, were communicated by an old man and woman, descendants of "Adam Morning," whose melancholy story is told by Hamilton in his Letters concerning the Northern Coast of Co. Antrim. To judge by outward appearance, the family circumstances are not in a more flourishing condition than they were when first noticed by Hamilton in 1784. But the realities of life, adverse as they may have been, have left the romantic element unsubdued in those ancient Mornings of the Causeway, who smiled scorn fully at the legends of the guides, as gigantic fictions, but whose faith in "Grogans" and "Fairies" was firm and undoubting.


"In troth we all know there's plenty of Fairies, as you call them, but not just about the Causeway; but there's great haunts of them between this and Knocklayde, and Carrick-a-rede. There was a man of the name of Jack McBurney that lived at the foot of Knocklayde some years ago, and one of the Gintry sent him word to change the door of his barn that faced the south to the other side, as the noise and the stour perplexed him at times. Jack changed the door; and from that out, every thing prospered with him, and there was no end to the property he left when he died.a

"There was a strange ould woman, low set, with a red cloak round her head, kem into my grandmother's one day, and says she, 'Molly, will you lind me the loan of three quarts of meal?' 'I can badly spare it,' says my grandmother, 'but here it's for you.' 'I can set no time,' says the ould woman, 'but I'll pay you when I can.' ' Very well,' says my grandmother, 'you're intirely welcome.' There was a scarcity of meal a while after that, and it was hard enough for the neighbours to get what they wanted; when in kem the little ancient woman one ev'nin', and says she, 'I'm come to pay the meal you lint me.' 'Troth an' I was'nt thinkin' about it,' says my grandmother. 'I know that,' says the little woman, 'but here its back to you, lucky.' 'There's too much, intirely,' says my grandmother, 'and far over what I gev you.' 'No matter for that,' says the ancient woman, 'I did'nt intind you to want meal till the harvest, and mind, Molly, what I'm telUn' you, its made of our top pickle, and it wont fail you;' and no more it did, we had neither to by nor borrow from that day till long after the harvest was settled.

"The top pickle of all grain belongs to the Gintry; sometimes they claim it, and sometimes not, accordin' as it's required. When it falls of itself, or in a shako by the wind, it's never left on the ground to go to loss. People should give or lind when they have it; a stingy man or woman never thrives with what they keep, and nobody knows who they're refusin' -- God save us from harm.

"I had an aunt that was taken away by the Gintry different times whin she was an infant, but they always brought her back before day-break; when she was just born, they wanted to take both mother and child, but were privinted. The husband happened to be late out in the fields one evenin', and was sittin' restin' himself, and he hears some talk near him, and what was it but a small troop of Gintry plannin' what they were goin' to do. He listened, and heard them sayin', 'We'll go to such a house (his own), and carry off the woman, and lave a black stick in her place;' thin they began to prepare double horses, two to every rag-weed, and off they wint. 'I'll go there too,' says the man to himself, 'and may-be be there before you.' He mounted his horse, that was grazin' beside him with the halter on, and takin' a near cut, was at the house first, and the wife was safe for that time. My aunt grew up very good lookin', and married a boy that was a weaver by trade; the father and mother did'nt like the match too well, for they thought him hard and selfish; and sure enough, before ever she wint home to him, he asked her to spin him a web's yarn. The mother thought he was early settin' her to work; but the girl wished to plaze him, and comminced spinnin' early and late, but there was hardly a day that something did'nt go wrong with the wheel, and nobody could mend it right. This vexed my aunt sorely, for she wished to have the yarn ready at the time her husband mentioned. One day, the spool having gone to smash, she was sittin' sorrowful, while her father was tryin' to mend it, when something that she could'nt see whispered to her to look in the blind window beside the fire place; so she wint to the window, and under some chaff that happened to be in it, she found a heap of silver. She called to her father never to mind botherin' himself mendin' the broken spool any more, as she had found as much money as would buy all the yarn she wanted. 'Let it stand till I see it,' says her father; but as true as the sun is shinin', not a fraction of the silver was in the blind window when he came.b My aunt was wrong intirely to let on about the silver; it was a gift from the Gintle people, and she should'nt have mentioned it to man or mortial."


"I don't know much about the Fairies, or 'Gintle people,' as we call them, barrin' that if they don't do us any good these times, they niver did us any harm that ever I heard tell of.

"The Grogans used to give great help to them they took a fancy to. They are little men, about two feet high or so, stout built, broad-shouldered, and as strong as any twelve men. One of them gev great help to my grandfather, time after time, at the harvest, and would have left a rood of oats cut and stooked neater than any man livin' could do. But the Grogan gev the most help in the winter at the thrashin'; many a sack of oats he thrashed for my grandfather, leavin' the straw bottled, and the corn neatly sorted up in the corner of the barn; he always took the flail away with him, not wishin' any one to handle it after him.

"There was something past common in the way of meat at one time in the house during the winter, and my grandfather thought he would give the Grogan share, so he left it in the barn ready for him; but from that out, he forsook the place intirely, takin' affront because my grandfather thought he wanted meat, or would work for the like. They are no ways rivingeful; but it is best not to cross them, but let them take their own way in every respect, and to offer them nothin'. They are often heard in the night, workin' for themselves, or the owner of the place, if they like him. They have no fancy for a man that's stingy in his ways or ill-tempered; but they work hard for a man that has a spirit and is good-humoured.c It is easy knowing when a Grogan is at work by the noise he makes in the night-time. They are greatly out of date by what they were in my grandfather's time; but there's plenty of them to the fore, both in this country and in Scotland, no doubt, if they were inquired after."

To be continued...

[a] The Scottish fairies sometimes reside in subterranean abodes, in the vicinity of human habitations -- or, according to the popular phrase, under the "door stane," or thresh hold, in which situation they sometimes establish an intercourse with men by borrowing and lending, and other kindly offices. In this capacity they are termed "good neighbours," from supplying privately the wants of their friends, and assisting them in all their transactions, while their favours are concealed. Of this the traditionary story of Sir Godfrey Maculloch forms a curious example. As this Gallovidian gentleman was taking the air on horseback, near his own house, he was suddenly accosted by a little old man, arrayed in green, and mounted on a white palfrey. After mutual salutation, the old man gave Sir Godfrey to understand that he resided under his habitation, and that he had great reason to complain of the direction of a drain, or common sewer, which emptied itself directly into his chamber of dais.* Sir Godfrey Maculloch was a good deal startled at this extraordinary complaint; but, guessing the nature of the being he had to deal with, he assured the old man, with the greatest courtesy, that the direction of the drain should be altered, which was done accordingly. Many years afterwards, Sir Godfrey had the misfortune to kill, in a fray, a gentleman of the neighbourhood. He was apprehended, tried, and condemned: † the scaffold upon which his head was to have been struck off was erected on the Castle-hill of Edinburgh; but hardly had he reached the fatal spot, when the old man, upon his white palfrey, pressed through the crowd with the rapidity of lightning. Sir Godfrey, at his command, sprang on behind him; the "good neighbour" spurred his horse down the steep bank, and neither he nor the criminal was ever again seen.
Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, vol. 2.

* The best chamber was thus currently denominated in Scotland, from the French dais, signifying that part of the ancient halls elevated above the rest, covered with a canopy. The turf seats which occupy the sunny side of a cottage wall are also termed the dais.
† In this particular the tradition coincides with the real fact -- the trial took place in 1697.

[b] "Like fairy gifts, fading away." -- Moore.

[c] If it be true "that primitive fairy traditions are modified both by the character of the people and the romance peculiar to each district in which they are received," his country confers on the Irish Grogan or Goblin a moral superiority which his English relative, immortalized in Milton's L'Allegro, might envy, could he be supposed capable of appreciating it.
The Saxon Goblin drudges and sweats, and plies his shadowy flail solely for the sake of the "cream-bowl duly set," and flings out of doors, crop full, before cock-crow, leaving his character of a selfish, sensual, lubbar-fiend, behind him.
The Irish Goblin works for love, and for those who deserve his love; and is mortally offended at the bare idea of a recompense in any shape. It is true he takes the flail away; but, used by him, it had become the implement of a gentleman, never afterwards to be soiled by vulgar handling.

The above article is reproduced from the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, vol. 7, 1859.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

To the Living among the Dead

Go and seek the flowering blooms
Blossoming round the silent tombs,
While the pale moonlight doth fall
Softly o'er the churchyard wall.

Let only sacred thoughts pervade
Our hearts, while where our friends are laid
We wander, and still the heartache so fierce.
While sorrow our bosom doth keenly pierce.

Softly tread among the dead,
Let them rest in their earthly bed,
While the moon doth hallow the sacred ground,
Softly casting its light around.

Cast away all thoughts of woe.
Let sin and suffering from us go,
And as a mantle clothes us round,
This holy spell wraps us -- deep, profound.

An organ near doth sweetly flow
With sounds, now dulcet, soft, and low,
Now thundering forth its deep applause --
E'en forming a ladder from earth to God.

Oh! beauteous night of calm and peace,
That, from the day's hard toil released
Soft issues, while the zephyr's blow
The star shine on night's brow doth glow.

Then happy they whose thoughts commune
With those who, from the cold grey tomb,
Have upwards fled, and now sublime,
Aloft in heaven, they glorious shine.

Why mourn, then, for the happy dead,
Whose race is run, whose sorrows fled?
But with our purpose nobler planned,
May'st then our life in God command.

So that when earth has passed away,
Our sunset gone, our life now in decay,
Our star, more golden, more divine,
May in heaven's firmament more lustrous shine.

A. M.

Reprinted from The Witness of 16th October 1914

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Fairy Annals of Ulster -- No 1 (pt 2)

"FAREWELL rewards and Fairies,
Good housewives now may say;
For now foule sluts in dairies
Doe fare as well as they.
And though they swepe their hearths no less
Than mayds were wont to doe;
Yet who of late, for cleanlynesse,
Finds sixpence in her shoe?"
            DR. CORBET, 1635.

The following Annals, redolent of the County Donegal, are given, as nearly as possible, in the words of the narrator, an elderly woman, of the Roman Catholic persuasion, born and bred in Innishowen, but settled down in the vicinity of Bushmills, in the Co. Antrim.

As might be expected from her antecedents, she was a sincere professor of the Fairy faith, one who loved and feared the Gentle People, and an honest chronicler of their sayings and doings.


Are there any Fairies about the Giants' Causeway? "Oh no," she replied, "but they say there's some above Bushmills, up the Bush river, at the Ness Rocks, and such like places; but there's far more, aye, plinty of them, in Innishowen, where I came from; and the rayson of that is, there's few churches there. The Gintry don't like to live near churches, or ugly Meetin'-houses; they like a scroggery, where there be's heaps of gentle bushes, and to be about the walls of ould castles that was destroyed at the time of the disolation of Ireland."

"They were the only Gintry in the world at one time, but a bigger people took place, and things changed by degrees; they were put down, and they live underground ever since.e If they are molested in their habitations, and they warn you about it, take the warning, or be sure it will be worse for you. My mother tould us when we were near Gintle bushes, or the green rings that the little Gintry makes, to spake them fair and mannerly, and to say -- 'Come when you will, and go when you will, but your heels to me;' and we never forgot that. The childer used to be far more mannerly and gentler like then nor they are now, because they don't hear about the Gintle People as they did in my time. They were kinder in their behaviour to ould people, and liked to sweep up the floor before they wint to their beds, thinkin' the Gintle People might be on it before mornin': they don't think that way now, move's the pity, for they're far rougher in their ways, and uncivil like.

"My grandfather lived in Innishowen, and took a sore leg, and wrought with the doctors for many a day, and had to sell one of the cows to pay them; but no matter for that, the leg grew the longer the worse: so he got up one night before day-break, for he could'nt lie with the pain of it, and he went a piece along the road on the crutches. It was summer, and the road was dusty, and the times bad, and markets high. All at once he heard a sound as if somebody was batin' the dust off the boots or shoes; and he sees a little Gintleman, dressed in green, with beautiful top-boots, ridin' on somethin', and batin' the dust off his boots with an elegant cuttin' whip he had in his hand. 'Good mornin', good man,' says the little Gintleman. 'God save your Honour,' says my grandfather. 'What's the matter with you?' says the little Gintleman; 'you look but poorly.' 'It's a leg I have, please your Honour, that's killin' me outright.' 'Well,' says the little Gintleman, 'work no more with the doctors these times when money's scarce and markets high, but make a salve of herbs, after my directions, and you'll do.' So he tould my grandfather what herbs he was to gather, and thin he put his hand in his pocket, and gev him the full of it of silver.

'Who am I to thank for this kindness?' says my grandfather. 'I am the Commander of the small Gintry of Ireland,' says the little Gintleman, 'goin to war with the officers of the little Gintry of Scotland, on account of them raisin' the markets in that country, till the meal is seven thirteens a score.'

'God prosper your Honour,' says my grandfather, 'but when you're fightin', how am I to know who wins the battle?'

'I'll tell you what you'll do,' says the Commander, 'go up to the fort to-morrow evenin', and sit down under the Gintle bush that's growin' beside it, and put your car to the ground, and listen, and you'll hear music. It will be loud and bould at first, and as long as you hear that, I'm bate; listen on, and when you hear music sweet and gentle, I'm winnin'.'

"So the Commander disappeared, and my grandfather wint accordin' to direction, the next evenin', to the Gentle bush, beside the fort; and he listened and heard music, loud and impident like, for a long time, and his heart failed, for he knew our side was a batin'; but after a while he hears the sweet, low music beginnin', and it put the other out entirely, and thin my grandfather clapped his hands, and shouted 'We've won!' and, sure enough, the markets fell, and the meal come down to three thirteens the score."

"Was the loud and impudent music the Bagpipes?" said I, "To be sure it was," was the reply, "and the sweet music was the harp all out. -----

"My grandmother used to sweep up the hearth, and put on a fire, and set a creepy beside it for any of the little Gintry, or any friend (God knows) belongin' to her who was under the ground, that might like to come and sit at it in the night time. A little Gintlewoman, dressed in green, used to come, night after night, and sit, mournful like, by the fire; and my grandmother used to watch her goin' to the childer's beds, and happin' them if the clothes went aft' them.

"One night my grandmother took it into her head, that may-be the little Gintlewoman might be hungry, and she got ready some tay, and put it on the dresser, to be waitin' for her: so, when the little Gintlewoman went down to the room, as usual, to see the childer, when she came up, my grandmother asked her, might she make so free as to requist her to take some refrishment. The Gintlewoman never spoke a word, but laid her hand on my grandmother's shoulder, and looked in her face, not angry, but stedfast, and grieved like, and went out, and never came back. It affronts the Gintry if you offer them meat, as if it was for the sake of that, or any lucre, that they do you a good turn; they have plinty of victuals in their own habitations underground, and they dont like any of ours to be evened to them.

"If any of their Gintle bushes happens to be cut down, the Gintry is sure to revinge it some way or an other. There was a boy in Innishowen that wanted a stick to mend his boat, and he set himself to cut a bush belonging to the Gintry. My grandfather warned him not to do it, but the boy was rash, and needed the stick, so he cut the bush, and repaired his boat. He went out in it to fish, and got three other boys to go with him, and my grandfather was in his own boat, fishin', not far from them. The day was fine, and the sea as smooth as a pan of milk; but he saw the boat with the boys in it tossin' and swayin', and pitchin' at a fearful rate, and them pullin' for the bare life to get her ashore; and they did, with enough to do, for they were within an ace of being drownded. After some time, the boy took out his boat again to the fishin', and got another buy to go with him; but, as true as we have all to meet death, they were both drownded, and the boat drifted ashore, and lay for years on the strand, nobody touchin' her.

"At last, when the matter was mostly out of people's minds, a bad year of firin' came on, and one of the neighbours thought he might make use of the ould boat; so he broke it up, and carried part of it home to help the fire. When it was put on, it crackled, and spit, and flashed, and flamed up to the roof-tree, and it was as much as they could do to prev hit the house being burnt to the ground; so the neighbours gathered, and buried the rest of the boat, and thin there was pace with it."

[e] "Our Celtic and Gothic ancestors, whether Germans, Scandinavians, or Gauls, imagining there was something magical and beyond the reach of man in "mechanic" skill and industry, could scarcely believe that an able artist was one of their own species, or descended from the same common origin. This, it must be granted, was a very foolish conceit. These conceit, but let us consider what might facilitate the entrance of it into their minds. There was, perhaps, some neighbouring people which bordered upon some Celtic or Gothic tribe, which, though less warlike than themselves, and much inferior in strength and stature, might yet excel them in dexterity, and, addicting themselves to manful arts, might carry on a commerce with them sufficiently extensive to have the fame of it spread pretty far.
"These circumstances agree with the Laplanders, who are still as famous for their magic as remarkable for the [--?--] of their stature; pacific, even to a degree of cowardice, but of a mechanic industry which must have appeared very considerable. The stories that were invented of this people, passing through the mouths of so many ignorant relators, would soon acquire all the degrees of the marvellous of which they were susceptible.
"As the dwarfs were feeble and of small courage, they were supposed to be crafty, full of artifice and fancies, having received the seal of time and universal consent, it was the business of the poets to assign a fit origin for such ungracious beings; this was done in their pretended rise from the dead carcase of a great giant. Maggots at first, afterwards God bestowed upon them understanding and cunning, By this fiction, the Northern warriors justified their contempt of them, and, at the same time, accounted for their small stature, their industry, and their supposed propensity for inhabiting caves and clefts of the rocks.
"After all, the notion is not every where exploded, that there are, in the bowels of the earth, "Fairies,* or a kind of dwarfish and tiny beings, of human shape, remarkable for their riches, their activity, and malevolence. In many countries of the North, the people are still firmly persuaded of their existence. In Iceland, at this day, the good folks shew the very rocks and hills in which they maintain that there are swarms of these subterraneous men, of the most tiny size, hut most delicate figures." Mallet's Northern Antiquities.
* "I have, in this one place of the translation, applied the word "Fairies" in our common English notion of it; but our author generally uses the French word Fees (or fairies) to signify, not the little imaginary dwarfish beings to which we appropriate the to the words, but to express the Fates or Destinies, or these inferior female Divinities who are supposed to watch over the lives and fortunes of individuals. In this, he seems to have had an eye Oriental fables, rather than to those of genuine Gothic origin: the dut vol' translator requiring me to follow him, I beg to apprize the reader of our author's application of the word." -- Translator.

The above article is reproduced from the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, vol. 6, 1858.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Fairy Annals of Ulster -- No 1

In the old days of the King Artour

•      •      •      •      •      •      •

All was this londe ful filled of faerie;
The elf-quene, with her joly compagnie
Danced ful oft in many a grene mede,
This was the old opinion, as I rede;
I speke of many hundred yeres ago;
But now can no man see none elves mo.
              CHAUCER. -- Wife of Bath's Tale.

"BUT lost -- for ever lost to me those joys,
Which reason scatters, and which time destroys.
Too dearly bought, maturer judgment calls
My busied mind from tales and madrigals;
My doughty giants, all are slain or fled,
And all my knights -- blue, green, and yellow -- dead!
No more the midnight fairy tribe I view,
All in the merry moonshine, tippling dew;
Ev'n the last lingering fiction of the brain,
The churchyard ghost, is now at rest again.
Enchantment bows to wisdom's serious plan,
And pain and prudence mar and make the man.


The following legends or "Fairy Annals" were collected during a residence, in the summer of 1857, in the vicinity of the Giants' Causeway, and in that of 1858, in the neighbourhood of Cushendall (Co. Antrim), at the request of the Editor of this Journal, who wished to ascertain to what extent the belief in the supernatural, in its various manifestations, still existed in our northern province. The conditions favourable to the success of an investigation of this nature were wanting, apparently at least, in the locality first mentioned. The scenery of the coast, magnificent as it is, was not "Fairy" scenery. The land, though well cultivated, possessed but little sylvan beauty; and was inhabited chiefly by a sober, industrious, Presbyterian community, working hard for daily bread, diligent in attendance at their Calvinistic places of worship, and in whom the "romantic element," had it ever existed, might have been supposed to be -- if not preached outa -- at least ground out, under the pressure of high rents. But the land though not picturesque, had a few green spots, still believed to be the haunts of the "Gentle People;" and a friendly intercourse established with its kind-hearted and simple inhabitants, sufficiently proved that the profession of a stern and gloomy mode of faith was not incompatible with this element, and that the pressure from without had not altogether extinguished it.

In Dunluce Castle, Mave Roe, the Banshee or Warning Spirit of the MacDonnells, was believed to rest occasionally from her wanderings, in one of the desolate chambers of those magnificent ruins, remarkable for its cleanliness; but, beyond the silent awe with which her apartment was regarded, little seemed to be felt or known respecting the mournful spirit.

What visitor to the "Causeway" has not heard some of the thousand-and-one tales of its Giant artificers -- Fin Mac Cool and his legions -- of whose work the world has seen no second copy? But these local tales (ingenious and humorous as many of them are) are no longer believed even by their probable authors -- the "Causeway Guides." Science has almost smiled them down; and, in their stead, we must now be content to listen to a dry chapter of Geology, illustrated by a box of specimens of the unvarying model adopted by these learned Thebans, whose "doughty giants" are alas! "all slain or fled."

Powerful in utterly demolishing the strongholds of the Giants, the torch of science must "pale its ineffectual fires" beneath the lights from Fairy-land. We have yet to learn why those lights, still brightly shining among ourselves, should have also illumined the popular mind in all countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and, as has been recently shown, have shed their rays in the far West, amidst our brethren, the Red Indians of the American prairies.b

It is more than poetically true that the belief in Fairies is not a mere "mid-summer night's dream." We have them in Ulster, in this nineteenth century, in all the "pomp, pride, and circumstance" with which they are invested in the ancient mythology of Iceland. They are with us (as is clearly demonstrated in these Annals) to improve our morals and our habits, to reward and punish, to delight and terrify, to torment and amuse, and even to combat in serried legions for our material interests; while, unlike some spirits of modern times, they come without "rapping."

Dr. Dryasdust, the sage philosopher, who probably presides over this and other similar Journals, may, if he can, in the plenitude of his wisdom, discredit the universal testimony of mankind as to the reality of these spiritual existences. The annalist of the Fairies of Ulster bows in modest silence before it; and, to sanction the introduction of their "Annals" into pages so erudite, pleads the words of Charles Dickens, who assures us that "There is in all literature nothing that can be produced which shall represent the essential spirit of a man, or of a people, so completely as a legend, or a Fairy-tale. The wild freaks of fancy reveal more of the real inner life of man than the well-trimmed ideas of the judicious thinker." K.

The adventures recorded in the two following Annals were communicated by a respectable farmer, far advanced in years (now no more), who resided in a well-known hamlet or "town," consisting of six houses only, situated at the confluence of the river Bush with the sea, and from that circumstance deriving its name, Bush-foot. This river, celebrated for its salmon-fishing, attracts, as might be expected, the lovers of "the gentle craft," in great numbers, each season to its banks; some of whom, with occasionally a few families of the so-called better classes, prefer the accommodations the "town" affords, to those of watering-places of greater size and pretension, on account of its vicinity to the Giant's Causeway, and other portions of the magnificent scenery of the Antrim coast; and who, at times, gladly avail themselves of the companionship of its singularly unsophisticated, quiet, and intelligent inhabitants. This companionship has insensibly refined the manners and language of the villagers, and accounts, in some measure, for the style in which our old friend the farmer told his tale. In him, the belief in Fairies and other supernatural beings was not a superstition, but a faith; and in all earnestness and sincerity he commenced his narrative, as follows:


"I was tradin' at one time, back and forward on the coast of Scotland, in a smack belongin' to a merchant in Greenock; our cargo was sometimes fish, but mostly oil of different kinds, that we took from one port to another. I never can forget what happened to me one winter, many years ago.

We were off the west coast, and the weather was rough and stormy; it blew so hard one day that we had to run for it, and took shelter in a small bay in Islay, along with eight or ten fishing boats, driven in by the gale to the same place. There were three men besides myself on board the smack. We got the oil-casks ashore, and hauled the smack up as far as 'we could on the beach, and kept her up with a leg on each side; and the three hands went to spend the remainder of the day and night with some acquaintances they had on the island, leavin' me in charge of the smack.

I amused myself watchin' the fishermen settlin' their nets and sortin' their fish, for they had caught plenty before the wind got up; and when it grew dark I went below, took my supper, and got into my berth for the night. I can't say how long I slept, until I was awoke by a noise on deck like people dancin'; and nice music, softer and sweeter than any ever I heard before, playin' at a little distance: at times I took it for the pipes, but no pipes ever came up to it for sweetness. After listenin' for a while, I got up and looked out; there was nothin' to be seen on deck, and the music sounded as if it was a mile off, and at last died away.

I went below, greatly surprised at what had happened, and was soon asleep once more in my berth. Again I was awoke by the dancin' over my head, and the music, that sounded louder than at first. I lay for some time listenin', and expectin' it would stop, but no such thing: at last I got up and called out, crossly enough, for them to leave that, whoever they were, or it would be worse for them. I had a pair of pistols in the cabin, and takin' one of them in my hand, I went up a second time; but nothin' was to be seen, and the music soundin' as before, at a great distance, soit as ever. I began to think it was some of the fishermen that were playin' these tricks on me, so I says, "Boys, there has been enough of this; mind your own business, and let me alone from this out, or maybe you'll get the like of this about your ears;" and with that, I fired off the pistol, but no one spoke: all was quiet, except the music far away.

I lay down, and after a time fell asleep, but once more I was startled worse than ever; for I heard the oil-casks scringin' on the beach -- which was shingly -- as if they were goin' to be staved, rollin' backwards and forwards at a fearful rate. I charged the pistols, and takin' one in each hand, I went up, determined, whoever it was, to make them pay dearly for that sort of fun; but I declare I was scared when I saw nobody on, or in sight of the smack, and the barrels lyin' as we left them on the beach; but the music had stopped, and instead of it, I heard a noise like children laughin' and talkin' far off in the distance. All I could do was to rage and swear that I would shoot whoever made any more disturbance, and down I went to ray berth; but there was no sleep for me the remainder of the night: sometimes the dancin' would begin, and the music; then that would stop, and the casks would begin scringin' over the shingles; then I would hear scrapin' and borin', as if they were makin' holes in the sides of the smack. Day broke at last, and when I looked out I saw some of the fishermen coming down the country to their boats. 'Well,' said they to me, 'you had pleasant company last night.' 'I had plenty of noise,' says I, 'but no company that I saw.' 'Well, we saw plenty of good company on and about the smack; but we left the place entirely to them and you, thinkin' it safest not to stay when we wer'nt wanted.' They saw the Gentle People dancin' on the deck to the music, and sportin' about the smack, and they went off, leaving their boats and the fish lyin' about."

"And you really think, Mr. H. it was the Fairies all the time?" I asked.

"To be sure it was," he replied; "and I would have seen them as well as the fishermen did, if I had'nt sworn and spoke so cross at the start. People should speak civilly to the Gentle People, or else say nothin'; for if you provoke them they will have their revenge, one way or other.

I was comin' home from Coleraine one night long ago, with my wife and the schoolmaster on the car. I was sittin' on one side, and they on the other. We saw a great light shinin' on the road a good way on before us. When we came up to it I saw nothin' on my side but the bright light: it was at a new road that had been made, where a hill had been levelled through an old fort that was there at that time. My wife and the schoolmaster saw a company of small ladies and gentlemen in a large room, blazin' with light, in the bank under where the fort was, some walkin', some sittin', but all talkin' and laughin'. None of us spoke, for fear, as we drove past; but the schoolmaster, to the day of his death, never forgot the sight he saw of the beautiful company in that blazin' room, and many a time spoke to my wife about it."

"Where do you think the Fairies came from?" I asked.

"Many of them have been in this country from the earliest time," he replied. "Fleets of them came over from Orkney and Norway, sailing in egg-shells; and it is a fashion still among the country-people to teach their children, after they have eaten an egg, to run their spoon through the end of the shell, to prevent the Gentle People using them again for boats to sail away from us."c

"Where do you think they live now?" I inquired.

"Mostly in their underground habitations; but since the gospel was preached in this country, it was too strong for them, and they are greatly dispersed; some say they have taken to the air, but God only knows.


"One mornin', some years ago, in hind-harvest, before day-break, Jemmy Thompson and I got up to look about some young cattle we had grazin' near the Bush; there had been a great deal of rain, and there was the largest flood in the river that any of us had seen; it was over the Cutts entirely when we went down. It was one of the spring-tides at the fall of the moon, at the time, and a westerly wind blowin' in pretty strong. I never saw a greater commotion at the mouth of the Bush than there was that mornin', -- between the breakers as they came foamin' up, and the flood in the river. We stood lookin' at the wild picture before us, when all at once we saw a tall figure of a man standin' on one of the pillars in the middle of the Bush, with a long, loose grey cloak on him, his face turned next the strand, so that we could not see it. We were scared at first -- Jemmy worse than I was -- when we saw the man (as we took him to be) in such a place, where nobody could have got to him, even in a boat, in such a surge of water. Scared as I was, I hailed him, and asked how he got there. There was no answer. I hailed a second time, and asked could we help him: after a little he moved himself, but did not speak or turn his face to us. 'Come away, Alick,' says Jemmy, 'we're too long here:' and indeed by that time I was ready enough to go, for I was weak at the heart with fear, and Jemmy was worse. We turned home, never looking back. Jemmy went to his bed, but I did'nt; and when the family got up, and the breakfast over, I went in to see Jemmy. I found him in bed, and it shakin' under him, he trembled at such a rate, and the perspiration hailin' off him with the fright he got!"

"What do you think the figure was?" I asked.

"It was the Grey Man" he replied, "he has been often seen along this coast; there is a path called after him 'the Grey Man's path,' at Fair Head, as every body knows."

"Who or what is the Grey Man?

"I know very well what he was," replied he; "it was clear enough that mornin' for us to see the colour of the cloak he had on, and we could have seen his cloven foot, only he was standin' in the water that was over the pillar at the time!"d

The foregoing startling incident forms a striking contrast, in its details, to the former "Gentle" experience of our friend, the farmer. If, as the poet informs us,
"From his brimstone bed, at break of day,
A-walking the Devil had gone,"
the intense realism of his appearance to the two awe-struck and terrified spectators proves the fact, that a belief in this living and terrible personage still exists in the Church of which they were members.

To be continued...

[a] "The Kirk was the agent in suppressing the romantic element in Scotland; and this explains the fact that so many Scotch literati have been Episcopalians." Athenaeum, May, 1858.

[b] Far and wide among the nations
      Spread the name and fame of Kwasind;
      No man dar'd to strive with Kwasind,
      But the mischievous Puk-Wudjies,
      They the envious little people,
      They the fairies and the pygmies,
      Plotted and conspired against him.
                           LONGFELLOW'S Hiawatha.

[c] Reginald Scott, in his Discovery of Witchcraft (1584), says it was believed that witches could sail in an egg-shell, a cockle, or a muscle shell, through and under the tempestuous seas. -- Stevens, Notes on Macbeth.

[d] The ghastly humour with which the "Deil" was associated in the popular Scottish mind, was, perhaps, more terrible than the awe which he inspired. Inexplicable as many of the phenomena of witchcraft scorn to be, the key to the whole belief is the intense realism with which our ancestors thought of the "Enemy." He was not a principle of evil only, but a real, living, terrible personage, who could manifest himself in the flesh whensoever he pleased. In fact, he was "a familiar terror, and might pass out of the invisible into the visible world any moment." Chambers.

The above article is reproduced from the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, vol. 6, 1858.