MYTHCONCEPTIONS

Dis­tur­bance of sa­cred fairy sites can have dire con­se­quences for Ir­ish in­fra­struc­ture projects...

Fortean Times - - Contents -

Bad luck caused by dis­turbed fairy forts has caused a dip in the N22, a ma­jor road be­tween County Kerry and County Cork, ac­cord­ing to an in­de­pen­dent TD (Ir­ish mem­ber of par­lia­ment). Danny Healy-Rae said the dip on the left-hand side of the road just be­fore the Kerry Way had been re­paired be­fore – at a cost of 40,000 eu­ros – but had mys­te­ri­ously reap­peared. “There are nu­mer­ous fairy forts in that area,” he said. “I know that they are linked. Any­one that tam­pered with them back over the years paid a high price and had bad luck.” Asked if he be­lieved in fairies, he said the lo­cal be­lief – which he shared – was that “there was some­thing in th­ese places you shouldn’t touch”. Th­ese were “sa­cred places” and fairies were be­lieved to in­habit them. “I have a ma­chine stand­ing in the yard right now,” said the TD, who owns a plant hire com­pany. “If some­one told me to go out and knock a fairy fort or touch it, I would starve first.”

In Ir­ish folk­lore, it is be­lieved that dis­turb­ing ar­eas said to have strong con­nec­tions to fairies can bring bad luck or a curse. Th­ese ar­eas in­clude fairy forts, also known as raths or lios, which are the re­mains of hill­forts or an­cient cir­cu­lar dwellings, and fairy trees or thorn bushes. Some peo­ple be­lieve that de­stroy­ing or tam­per­ing with th­ese forts,

Transport In­fra­struc­ture Ire­land say they do not have a fairy pol­icy

trees or bushes, could lead to them dy­ing young or be­com­ing se­ri­ously ill.

Mr Healy-Rae first raised the is­sue of fairies at a Kerry County Coun­cil meet­ing in Fe­bru­ary 2007 af­ter the N22, then a rel­a­tively new na­tional pri­mary road, de­vel­oped a dip near Cur­ra­glass. In a for­mal mo­tion on the cause of the hol­low, HealyRae, then a coun­cil­lor, asked: “Is it fairies at work?” The coun­cil’s road de­part­ment replied that it was due to “a deeper un­der­ly­ing sub­soil/geotech­ni­cal prob­lem”. The is­sue was again raised at a county coun­cil meet­ing in early Au­gust this year, where HealyRae’s daugh­ter Maura, who is a coun­cil­lor, said her fa­ther was con­vinced fairies were in the area. Mr Healy-Rae said the road net­work passes through an ex­ten­sive area of stand­ing stones, stone cir­cles and an­cient mon­u­ments rich in folk­lore and fairy sto­ries. He warned that the dip in the road needed to be dealt with be­fore a driver came across it sud­denly and lost con­trol. Transport In­fra­struc­ture Ire­land, a state agency re­spon­si­ble for na­tional road and pub­lic transport in­fra­struc­ture, say they do not have a fairy pol­icy, but a spokesper­son said it is al­ways wise to wish the ‘Lit­tle Peo­ple’ the best.

This isn’t the first time that the fairies have had an im­pact on ma­jor road build­ing projects in Ire­land. In 1999, as part of the up­grad­ing of the N18 be­tween Lim­er­ick and Gal­way, a £100 mil­lion plan to build a by­pass around Newmarket-on-Fer­gus, Co Clare, threat­ened a fairy thorn bush with de­struc­tion. Lo­cal folk­lorist Ed­die Leni­han iden­ti­fied the sceach as a muster point on a fairy path and warned of “ter­ri­ble con­se­quences” should it be cut down, in­clud­ing higher than usual ca­su­al­ties from fu­ture road ac­ci­dents. Luck­ily, the thorn was sur­veyed and work on the by­pass con­tin­ued around it, tak­ing care to leave the sa­cred bush un­touched ( FT128:24). In Au­gust 2003, the tree was at­tacked with a chain­saw by an un­known party who was never ap­pre­hended; per­haps he fell foul of the curse ( FT169:08). Thank­fully, the tree sur­vived the at­tack and soon showed fresh growth ( FT175:11). Re­cent on­line ref­er­ences to the thorn sug­gest that it con­tin­ues to thrive.

A couple of years ago, a lis­tener con­tacted BBC Ra­dio Ul­ster to talk about a fairy thorn grow­ing at Ormeau Golf Club. De­nis McKnight, sec­re­tary of the club, said it has been there longer than any­one could re­mem­ber. “The club was opened in 1893 so it’s at least 122 years old,” he said. “None of our green keep­ers will touch it or cut it down. They won’t even trim it.” He said that balls had been lost in the tree and never seen again. “If you hit the tree and don’t apol­o­gise you’re guar­an­teed to have a bad game,” he said. “When peo­ple visit the club we have to warn them about the fairy thorn. We tell them to nod to it as they go past and they have to apol­o­gise if they hit it.” He said the club used the thorn on their logo for a while and that they will never cut it down.

ABOVE: The N22, link­ing County Kerry and County Cork; are dips in the road caused by the dis­tur­bance of fairy forts? ABOVE RIGHT: The fairy thorn be­side the N18 in County Clare, which de­layed road build­ing and was spared de­struc­tion. BE­LOW: Danny Healy-Rae, mem­ber of par­lia­ment and firm be­liever in the ‘Lit­tle Peo­ple’.

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