Fairies, ghosts and wandering souls

Far 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 were you?".
"Away with the fairies," I replied, "And that's the gospel truth".

The Changeling
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
can understand.

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