ghosts and wandering souls
over the hills,
In the valley so green
The buachalan bui
In its glory is seen
Some call it a weed,
And a weed it may be
But not for the fairies,
The buachalan bui.
Where have all the fairies, ghosts an wandering souls of
some of the dear departed gone? Did they disappear with
the paraffin oil lamp, the carbide lamp and candle light?
Well Tim Quinn, God rest him, if he were alive today wouldn't
believe a word of that. Many a time he related his personal
story about them ...
"I had two half ones in Donnelly's pub, and just about
to go home, when me cousin, Joe Moran, came in with two
fiddle players and a flute player from Sligo; "these
fellow are good", he whispered to me, and he ups and
stands me a half one, and so as not to offend him, I stayed
on, drank slowly, and listened to the music; The Sligo boys
were good; I'd have loved to stay and listen to them all
night' I had to tear myself away.
It was black dark when I climbed in to the cart; the
mare set off out the Ballinamore road for home as soon as
I lifted the reins. Fortunately for me, she knows the way
well, as you all know and just as well as I couldn't see
a thing. We were reaching the cross below when I heard music
ahead of me; the moon appeared from behind a cloud and suddenly
it was as bright as day. As I neared the cross I saw a large
crowd dancing to the music of a fiddler and a melodeon player
seated on the bridge; it was right lively stuff; all merry
with the odd cheer and whoop as the dancers circled round.
They stopped as I approached and some of them came towards
me saying "Hello Tim! what kept ya; come on, join us
for a while; leave the mare and cart by the tree there,"
some of them looked a bit familiar but I couldn't place
them; I thought they might be cousins of the Heaneys I let
camp on the waste ground whenever they're passing. "I
didn't know ye were having a bit of a dance here to night."
I said as I jumped down of the cart saying "I can't
stay long." Since they knew my name, I decided I should
know them. Yes! - many of them looked familiar, like some
folk in the parish.
"We pass here often" one of them said. "We
known you well" said another. "And you're a decent
man and a good dancer" With that, the music started
up again and before I knew what I was doing - I was dancing
the Walls of Limerick with the lot of them. The merriment
was great; mingling, laughing and cheering, dancing and
swinging. By Jaysus! But could they dance! - Not a wrong
step outa any of them; the music was intoxicating; wherever
the hell they got the musicians, I tell you, they could
play; they had a style I last heard by two well dressed
tinkers, a black sleekly haired man and a golden haired
woman, sitting on the high street wall outside Donnelly's
when I was a young lad. They went from one reel into another
non-stop; up and down we danced, in and out, and roundabout;
I tell you this - I never seen nor heard the like of it
before - we must have been at it for a good two hours when
it stopped. "Tim," they said to me, "We have
to go now; we're due at another crossroads dance near Drumahair;
it's not far from here; come with us and enjoy the night".
"Ah now" I replied, "How would I get there?"
"We have fast horses and we have a spare one for you;
one of our lads will leave your mare and cart in your yard,
sure it's only up the road."
"Ok" I said, and before I knew it, I was on the
back of a fine racehorse; they all saddled up and off we
set for Drumahair cross. Soon we were travelling very fast;
like the wind we were going; I looked down at the ground
and what did I see but my own farm away down below me and
Jesus Christ - I realised we were riding a mile up in the
air; "Glory be to God", I said, "Jesus, Mary
and Saint Joseph help me!" and with that I found myself
falling, falling through the air, and, thankfully, me and
the horse landed on boggy ground. When I got over the shock
of it all and looked at the horse to see if the poor animal
was all right, I got at a terrible fright; its long black
ears had turned into horns and its black coat was red and
woolly, At that very moment, I realised I was sitting on
the back of my own prize bull in me own bog land".
Well! When I walked in home, my wife, Lissie asked, "Where
in god's name were you; I heard the mare and cart come in
to the yard two hours ago; heard you open and close the
gate and the clop of the horse and rattle of the cart; I
was worried when you didn't come in; what happened; where
"Away with the fairies," I replied, "And
that's the gospel truth".
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a fairy, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you
In the old days when the personality of a baby or a small
child suddenly changed, it was suspected that the fairies
had stolen or borrowed the child and put an identical looking
one, perhaps a fairy, (A changeling) in its place. Many
of the ancient forts scattered around the countryside were
called "fairy forts" because it was believed the
fairies dwelt in and around them.
Willie Harkness who lived from time to time in the early
1940's with his nephew Tommy Chambers on the Bailieboro
road told this story -
A newly wed couple built a house near a fairy fort. Their
first child, a baby boy, slept quietly, was always very
happy, always laughing and smiling and a great joy to both
of them. When he was about 10 months old, a great change
came over him; he seldom slept; was always crying, never
smiled, and was impossible to please. One day, the father
saw smoke drifting past their kitchen window and on looking
out; he saw the fairy fort on fire.
He shouted to his wife; "The fort is on fire! The fort
is on fire!", immediately the cranky child jumped out
of his cot and ran out the door; they were amazed; they
ran out after him and were astonished to see him change
into a small man as he ran towards the fort shouting, "My
bellow'es will be burned."
When they returned indoors, they were delighted to be greeted
by their own happy baby smiling at them through the bars
of the cot.
By Brendan Murray