Would fairies sink so low to cause pot holes?

Patricia Feehily


Patricia Feehily

Would fairies sink so low to cause pot holes?

Danny Healy-Rae’s suspicion that malicious fairies might be responsible for an immovable dip in a road set the Twitterverse ablaze road in Kerry

THERE’S nothing more ridiculous in this current silly season than the sight of the Twitterati and other urban sophisticates getting their knickers in a twist over the fairies. Those tiresome pseudo oracles, with their over inflated egos, are so predictable that they make the siodh gaoith or ‘fairy wind’ feel like a breath of fresh air.

Danny Healy-Rae’s suspicion that malicious fairies might be responsible for an immovable dip in a road in Kerry seems to have sent some people into a frenzy. Surely we’re not that backward, they argue. We’ll be the laughing stock of the world if we don’t give up the auld fairies.

Well I’ve got news for them. Every country in Europe has its own fairy lore but we’re better at exploiting the collective imagination. Whether they like it or not, the leprechaun is still one of the most enduring iconic symbols of the country, just behind the harp and the shamrock, and marginally ahead of the pint of frothy Guinness.

Anyhow, it’s a great pity those outraged sophisticates weren’t around in 1938, when two leprechauns were spotted on the top of mystic Knockfierna hill near Ballingarry.

Newspaper headlines screamed ‘Fairies Appear in County Limerick’ and thousands of sightseers from all over the country flocked to Knockfierna to catch a glimpse of the little people. I don’t know if they were interfering with the roads or not, but it must have been a great boon for local tourism and maybe should be revived now. Someone at the time said it was the result of bad poteen, but nearly a decade later, the incomparable Mainchin Seoighe, referred, tongue in cheek, to the event in his column in the Limerick Leader as ‘The Last Stand of the Good People’. You’d need to be a poet to appreciate the situation, but one thing for sure; Twitter would have gone into meltdown.

Now I don’t believe in fairies myself, but I wouldn’t take them on either. I use them metaphorically all the time to explain the inexplicable, and I read fairy tales constantly to my grandchildren because I can’t stand Peppa Pig. I do believe however that there are natural forces and energies around us that we still know nothing about and if those energies are peculiar to the very spots where our Fir Bolg and Tuatha de Danaan ancestors built their homes, then maybe they knew more than we do. But it’s good to know that we’re still imaginative enough to be able to capture and accept those unseen forces without asking for a scientific explanation. At the end of the day, however, I suppose I wouldn’t really appreciate my local TD telling me that I’d be better off contacting the king of the fairies over the state of the road.

That’s not the point however. There are smart-assed people in this country now who believe in nothing but their own infallibility, even though most of them still consult their astrology signs. I’m a bit like that sometimes too, but I don’t expect everyone else to follow suit. In fact I’d prefer if they didn’t , because I’m trying to cultivate the art of the contrarian and the last thing I’d want to be is populist – until populism goes out of fashion, of course. Some of those commentators, however, are every bit as vicious and vengeful as a frustrated fairy standing amid the ruins of his bull-dozed fairy fort. Actually I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if some of those little people were behind the social media malevolence that now haunts all our lives.

The trouble with those who want us to shake off the shackles of superstition and fairy lore – and religion for that matter – is that they know it all, but they have no imagination. They talk about ‘thinking outside the box’, but they can’t even lift the lid. They should go and live amid the stunning natural beauties of Kerry for a while and see if it does anything for their sensibilities. Their know-all attitude is insufferable to those of us who think we know more, but who also suspect that even the greatest among us know very little indeed. We like to compensate for our human limitations by letting our imaginations roam over the endless possibilities. We are, after all, an imaginative race and we can’t jettison the fairies now or we’ll never again provide the world with another Yeats, who by all accounts, drew a lot of his inspiration from the little people.

Anyway, those urban wiseacres had better get used to it. Fairy lore is fast becoming one of our biggest tourist attractions, and God knows, we’ll need it if climate change isn’t reversed – of if the roads get any worse than they are. Every county in the country has its own fairy trail these days and families are flocking to them in droves, believers and non-believers alike. I just hope the fairies have a sense of humour.

Finally, Mr Healy-Rae is not alone in his surmising. There was once an obstinate pot-hole on my own road which kept opening up no matter how often it was filled in. It quickly became a source of wonder to the whole neighbourhood. Some said the council was using an inferior type of filling; others said there was a spring under the road, but I suggested that the fairies might have been at work.

Nobody laughed or derided me, except for one man who drily declared that the fairies would never ‘sink so low’. But he was the very man who left a solitary thorn tree standing alone in the middle of an otherwise spotless green field, in defiance even of the EU satellite that was monitoring every inch of his land for the Single Payment.