Saturday, 16 May 2015

The Fairy Thorn - a new painting & the fairy thorn that stopped a road.

This is my painting of a Fairy Thorn, a whitethorn, sceach heal, which stands on the Connemara coast.
I have painted this image several times but my previous attempts did not capture the liminal aspect of these lonely trees which feature frequently in Irish landscape and mythology.

To my eye this painting of a wind torn tree goes some way towards illustrating the otherworldliness
and sense of the Aos Sí, the People of the Mounds, I feel when I visit such places.

The lone Fairy Thorn on the coast of Connemara.
It is believed that these special trees are connected to the Good People and are thought to be meeting places where they gather to roam the countryside especially during the months of May, Bealtaine and November, Samhain.
For this reason to cut down or maim a fairy tree is to invite their displeasure and eventual misfortune will fall upon those who do so.

One such tree, a fairy thorn in Latoon, Co. Clare became famous in 1999 when the route of a new motorway meant that the tree was ear-marked for destruction.
Now this particular tree had a great deal of folklore attached to it as it was here that the Kerry fairies were said to rest on their way northwards to fight the fairies of Connaught.
It was felt by those who remember fairy lore that destroying the thorn would result in road accidents and fatalities.

The Storyteller, Eddie Lenihan, publicised the plight of the tree and the story spread through the media in Ireland and abroad. The result of this publicity was that Clare County Council and the National Roads Authority met to find a way in which their motorway could incorporate the fairy thorn.
Finally a compromise was found which benefitted both mortals and those of the Otherworld:
a section of the field in which the bush stood would form part of the motorway but the bush itself would be spared, with a special fence built around it to ensure that the Sídhe could still rest there.

The fairy bush & fence beside the new road.

Sadly, in 2002, someone took a chainsaw and cut off the branches one night, leaving the trunk bare.
It is not known what befell the person who did this, though the Good People do not take this sort of destruction lightly and many believe that he will have been punished accordingly.
However, the celebrated fairy tree confounded all expectations eight months later by sprouting
new leaves and flourishing once more.

Image: ©

You can learn more about Irish Fairy Beliefs by listening to this interview with Dr Jenny Butler:


  1. ...which reminds me of the lone tree in Walter Macken's Rain On The Wind that I've just re-read! a fine picture there

  2. Thank you Dru -I know that book well & enjoy Walter Macken too.


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