Category Archives: Faerie attached to Families

The Night Visitor

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Bridget McManus was my Mother and it must be said, was as sensible as the day is long. She told me this Tale not long before she passed in 1962.

In around 1920, my parents, Donal and Bridget McManus, were both in their early twenties and not long married.

Donal had an uncle, his Mother’s brother, there in Chicago who promised him work and a place to stay until they got theirselves settled and, I suppose, it seemed a grand offer.

Donal and Bridget bid a warm farewell to both their families and emigrated from Kilkenny, Ireland to Chicago, America in search of prosperity and adventure. And so it was, adventure they found, only not in the shape they had dreamed of.

This Tale finds them only weeks after arriving in Chicago. Donal and Bridget were asleep in the attic room of Uncle’s house, enjoying the deep sleep reserved for those with a clear conscience.

Bridget woke first. She heard 3 knocks at the Attic window. An impossibility sure, and yet she swore it were true. So, Bridget heard 3 knocks and sat up to see her there. Sat at the end of their bed, smiling silently was Donal’s own Mother, Orla.

There was nothing unnatural to her appearance, she looked altogether familiar: her Sunday shawl wrapped around her shoulders, her hair curled and her hands resting softly in her lap.

Bridget shook Donal to wake and they both sat up and looked upon the vision of Orla: sitting with the grace of her renown, and smiling, just smiling.

Donal spoke and this is what he said: “Mother dear, why have you come? What have you to tell me dearest?” But his Orla did not answer. She tilted her head a little and smiled warmly then disappeared from before their eyes. Donal and Bridget both swear they felt a weight lift from the bed as she disappeared.

There was no more sleep to be had that night and no drop of whiskey or pot of tea could settle their helpless agitation. Donal and Bridget dressed and waited, pacing the floor or gazing out the attic window.

When dawn arrived, Donal told his uncle of the apparition. As Donal spoke, the breath in Uncle’s chest tightened and he fell pale. “Tis the Good People” he said, “they have followed our kin across the western sea. Didn’t the very same thing happen to my cousin, there in Boston… I am afraid dear Donal, dire news is upon the wind”.

Donal hurried to the Church Rectory for to ask a kindness. Very few people had a telephone of their own in the day so, as was the way of things, he turned to the Church for help. Donal used the church telephone to call the telephone in the Church at Kilkenny, and heard the news he had dreaded.

Donal’s Mother had passed on only hours before. It was sudden and, they said, painless. She had been strong as an ox until the minute she died.

Donal was terribly shaken. He returned to Uncle’s house wearing the face  of a Motherless son. “She came for to say goodbye” is all he said.

Emigration may have promised Donal and Bridget a heavy purse but aren’t some things more important anyway?

That very day, they left Chicago for New York and the first voyage home

Joe McManus

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Her Fairy Garden

When my sister and I were kids, I’m a few years older than her anyway, she had one half of the back garden set up like a fairy wonderland.

My Ma and Dad helped her. Dad built a little fairy house, so small ‘only fairies could fit inside’ and a little pond next to it with frogs and fish and special plants that attracted birds.

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Ma gave her potted plants to decorate and hung tiny lights up between trees. My sister would also string up those little crisp packets. This was the early 80’s and everyone was doing it. You’d stick your empty crisp packets in the oven until they shrink to a tiny size. Well, she’d do this, then string the tiny colourful crisp packs up on the lower branches of bushes near the fairy house. She said the fairies loved them.

Anyway, she’d be out there all hours, her feet and fingernails always covered in dirt. I was only allowed to kick my football on the other side of the garden and woe me if it ventured onto her side (as it did from time to time…).

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I remember my mates and me watching her tend to the plants, sweeping leaves from around the fairy house and piling them up to make her own fairy fort, all the while talking to the fairies. We just laughed, thought she was mad.

When I got jack of her and her fairies taking up half the garden, Ma would always tell me they made her happy, and she made them happy. “They favour her”, she would say, “and don’t say a word against it… or them!”

This went on for years, well into her late teen years when she moved away to study. The fairy house and pond are long gone, but when she comes back to visit Ma and Dad, she still goes out and tidies the leaves and hangs a few ribbons or bells off the trees or plants a flower, then she’ll sit on the bench and talk to her ‘fairies’. After all this time, it is still really important to her.

Anyway, I recently got to thinking, my sister has what most would call a ‘charmed life’. She’s the kind of person whose toast lands butter side up if you get my meaning. Her life isn’t perfect but she is lucky. If she buys a raffle ticket, she wins. When she goes for job, she gets it. She’s always been lucky. Not long after getting her first car, the brakes failed and she ran off the road at speed, the car rolled and was a write-off, but she didn’t have a scratch on her. No word of a lie, not a scratch.

My sister is the sweetest person I’ve ever known, honestly, to know her is to love her. She always wears this look, like a crooked smile, as though she has a secret, that people find so charming. And I don’t know what I’m saying, but after all this time, now I’m older, I wonder if she has always had a secret.

Name withheld at request – Dublin.

The May Magpie

I have enjoyed reading about other people’s experiences with fairy of Ireland and wanted to share my story too, although it’s not really about me at all.

In May 1992, I stayed 4 weeks at a Bed & Breakfast in far north Donegal. I won’t trouble you with the reason for my extended stay, suffice to say I departed a better man than had arrived.

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I want to tell you about Nora, my host at the B&B. She has been in my thoughts lately, as I have come to realize she probably saved my life.

Nora ran her house with the routine of a drill sergeant and expected absolute courtesy from her guests. She fed me three times a day, insisted I hike at least once a day (regardless of the weather) and dragged more ‘pleases’ and ‘thankyous’ from me in those 4 weeks than my Mom had managed in 20 years! But she was by no means a hard woman. She had a soft spot for troubled souls like me and… she believed in fairies.

I arrived in Donegal in early May. The one month in the year so Nora told me, you are most likely to be stolen or attacked by a fairy. Though I never (knowingly) saw one myself, according to Nora her garden was teeming with them.

She spoke to them, and about them, politely, as though they were distant relations but there was one that caused her constant worry. The May Magpie.magpie-1332420 (2).jpg

According to Nora, a lone magpie in May is a disagreeable fairy in disguise with a mind to cause you harm.

And she had one in her garden.

There it is as every year before,” she said as she set breakfast to the table in the sunroom (which overlooked the garden), “come to test me. I’ll be keeping the cat inside til June now, hope you’re not allergic”.

She had a tight smile on her lips and a keen eye on the magpie as she spoke. “If you slight the May magpie, it will bring a world of trouble to your door the likes you had never known”.

I had to stifle my young self from laughing as Nora assured me she could handle the fairies and knew how to appease the May magpie.

And so, for the next 4 weeks I watched. Every morning, after serving my breakfast, Nora ventured into the garden to greet the waiting May magpie.

She bowed her head in greeting and spoke a familiar word or two.

Good day to you, and isn’t it a fine one?” or “You are looking well yourself” she would say.

And every day after serving my lunch, she would venture back into the garden, make a little small talk and leave a bowl of Guinness for it to drink.

They say there’s a change coming from the West now”.

And would never think of hitting the sack without checking in… “I’m off out after tea, so I’ll bid you goodnight” she once hollered from the backdoor.

One day I even heard her give the May magpie the time, “It’s a quarter past the midday now” she said as she pinned washing on the line.

That lone May magpie, at least for the month of May, was treated as Nora’s most revered and dare I say, feared, guest. I can only wonder what might have happened if Nora had displeased the May magpie for no matter how I tried, she would never venture into that conversation.

I have seen and done many things in my life that are best forgotten, but memories of Nora and her May magpie have never left me. In fact, the words Nora told me back then, ring just as true today.

A kind word goes a long way” she said, “it just wants you to acknowledge it. To say I see you. You have no need to harm me nor I you. Let us live byside each other in peace.That is all we need tell any of the fairies”.

Even now, after all these years, I still think about the fairies in Ireland and still nod my regards to a lone magpie.

Just in case.

Daniel – Philadelphia

The Treehouse

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When I was about 10, my dad decided to build me a treehouse over the 4th July holidays.

Our backyard was fantastic, it was more like a meadow, with rolling grass, flowers growing wild along the fences, iron gates and unruly trees of amazing colours. A great garden for a kid to explore.

Dad was a carpenter and knew how to build, he was no hack, he knew wood, he knew trees and had the best tools, but no matter what he did, he could not keep this treehouse together.

He chose an old oak tree which stood right in the middle of the yard and began by setting the supporting beams in the ground with cement. He had no problems with that but when he moved on to the braces and platform, that’s when the trouble started.

The next morning he went outside to find the braces and platform on the ground and the screws (stainless steel) he had inserted in the tree pulled out and the threads flattened and un-useable.

He thought it was stupid kids messing around and vowed to finish the tree that very day. He worked all day and into the evening and, apart from the rails, got the basic treehouse built.

Next morning, same thing, only this time all the treehouse, except the supporting beams, was in a heap on the ground. Dad was seething. We couldn’t talk to him all day he was so angry. He rebuilt the whole thing again and this time, at nightfall, stayed up in the treehouse with a torch and waited to see if the kids returned.

Next morning, I came downstairs to find Dad sitting in at the kitchen table, face pale and hands clasped around a glass of Mum’s brandy. Mum sat next to him with her hand on his shoulder and shook her head at me as if to say ‘don’t ask’.

So I walked over and looked out the window at the backyard and there, all over the ground, were scattered the various pieces of the treehouse. The only thing standing were the supporting beams.

Not a word was said, but later that day Dad took the chainsaw to the beams and cut them off at ground level and stored the wood neatly under the house. All plans for a treehouse were abandoned.

Fast forward 6 years, at my sister’s wedding, Dad got rolling drunk and I asked him what happened that night in the treehouse. He told me that he had been visited, not by neighbourhood kids, but by 3 creatures.

They came at him not from the ground below but scurried across from the branches of other trees. They were covered in green fur and their eyes were big as plates. He said he shone his torch at them and they growled and banged their fists into the wood of the treehouse.

Dad was terrified and tried to grab the ladder to get down when they started tearing the treehouse apart, only not with their hands, but seemingly with their eyes. He said they stared at the joins and the screws and seconds later they just separated and fell to the ground.

Dad jumped to the grass below and stood watching the demolition in astonishment but not fear. He said, once he was on the ground, he felt no fear of them.

When they had finished, the 3 creatures lay their hands on the wounded parts of the tree and mumbled like some sort of ritual. Then they were gone. Dad didn’t see where they went, they were just gone from sight and his treehouse building days were behind him.

Dad grabbed me by the lapel of my tux and said “That old oak was a Fairy Tree, we got off light. Never touch a Fairy Tree”.

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And the tree? well, Dad built a (metal) fence around the tree so no-one can climb it or even touch it.

Sean – Pennsylvania