Evidence From Kilmessan, Near Tara

[Note: This is taken from W.Y. Evans Wentz's The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries.]


John Boylin, born in County Meath about sixty years ago, will be our witness from Kilmessan, a village about two miles from Tara; and he, being one of the men of the vicinity best informed about its folk-lore, is able to offer testimony of very great value : -

The Fairy Tribes.-‘

There is said to be a whole tribe of little red men living in Glen Odder, between Ringlestown and Tara; and on long evenings in June they have been heard. There are other breeds or castes of fairies; and it seems to me, when I recall our ancient traditions, that some of these fairies are of the Fir Bolgs, some of the Tuatha De Danann, and some of the Milesians. All of them have been seen serenading round the western slope of Tara, dressed in ancient Irish costumes. Unlike the little red men, these fairy races are warlike and given to making invasions. Long processions of them have been seen going round the King’s Chair (an earthwork on which the Kings of Tara are said to have been crowned); and they then would appear like soldiers of ancient Ireland in review.’

The Fairy Procession. - ‘

We were told as children, that, as soon as night fell, the fairies from Rath Ringlestown would form in a procession, across Tara road, pass round certain bushes which have not been disturbed for ages, and join the gangkena (?) or host of industrious folk, the red fairies. We were afraid, and our nurses always brought us home before the advent of the fairy procession. One of the passes used by this procession happened to be between two mud-wall houses; and it is said that a man went out of one of these houses at the wrong time, for when found he was dead: the fairies had taken him because he interfered with their procession.’

Death through Cutting Fairy-Bushes. - ‘

A man named Caffney cut as fuel to boil his pot of potatoes some of these undisturbed bushes round which the fairies pass. When he put the wood under the pot, though it spat fire, and lire-sparkles would come out of it, it would not burn. The man pined away gradually. In six months after cutting the fairy-bushes, he was dead. Just before he died, he told his experiences with the wood to his brother, and his brother told me.’

The Fairies are the Dead. - ‘

According to the local belief, fairies are the spirits of the departed. Tradition says that Hugh O’Neil in the sixteenth century, after his march to the south, encamped his army on the Rath or Fort of Ringlestown, to be assisted by the spirits of the mighty dead who dwelt within this rath. And it is believed that Gerald Fitzgerald has been seen coming out of the Hill of Mollyellen, down in County Louth, leading his horse and dressed in the old Irish costume, with breastplate, spear, and war outfit.’

Fairy Possession.-‘

Rose Carroll was possessed by a fairy-spirit. It is known that her father held communion with evil spirits, and it appears that they often assisted him. The Carrolls’ house was built at the end of a fairy fort, and part of it. was scooped out of this fort. Rose grew so peculiar that her folks locked her up. After two years she was able to shake off the fairy possession by being taken to Father Robinson’s sisters, and then to an old witch-woman in Drogheda.’






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