Saturday, 17 October 2015

Otherworld shenanigans: The Fairy Wife.

It was around this time of year when Jim and I were chatting that I asked if he'd ever seen the
Good People himself.
" No, but my mother told me about the Fairy Wife " he replied.

Back then in the summer months many families spent their days outdoors on the land, taking their
meals in the open air and only going inside to sleep.

Jim's mother would have a fire in the yard where she cooked and when she was alone there one evening she heard a commotion.

Harvesting by hand.

Looking across into the field, she saw the neighbours had stopped working and were shouting.
A women, her hair loose, was running across the field making for Lough Duff below.

The lough was still there in those days, deep and dark, with the island in the centre.

The 1829 Ordanance Survey Map of the area showing Lough Dubh, the island and the fairy thorn.

"Everyone knew the fairies lived there and no one would set foot on it." Jim explained.

Jim's mother hurried over and recognised the woman as the wife of a local man.
It was clear that she was going to throw herself into the lake so the men left their work and went
to save her.

Lough Doire Bhile, Glengoole. The island on Lough Duff  may have looked like this.

As she reached the water's edge the woman stopped and a strange thing happened.
Voices rose from the lough saying:

" Welcome home milé mór, so long as you 
didn't tell the verge about the egg water. " *

It was the Good People greeting her.
A moment later she had disappeared into the depths never to be seen again.


I asked Jim what the fairies'  words meant, he didn't know, so we puzzled over them for a while.
Maybe they were originally as Gaeilge or had been misremembered in the telling?
Or perhaps they were words that are no longer used?

Jim shook his head, we drank some more tea and sat in silence.
" All those years and that man never knew he was married to a fairy " Jim finally said.

The Lough Field today where Lough Duff once lay. 

As the year turns towards Samhain and the Good People will leave their home in the Lough Field,
I look out and imagine that the Fairy Wife travels with them, reunited with her kin.

* I'm still baffled by the phrase spoken by the Good People and have searched for possible meanings:
- Míle Mór refers to a 'thousand, great' welcomes.
- The 'verge' could be a verger, a church official who acted as a caretaker.
-  'Egg water' may allude to isinglass, a type of gelatine made from fish, used to preserve eggs
before we had refrigeration.

- Or perhaps it was the practice of drinking the water in which eggs were boiled to provide
Vitamin D3? We will never know.

You can read more of Jim's tales by clicking on the titles below:
 Digging for Gold / Ballygillaheen / The Fairy Path

The 'Otherworld Shenanigans' posts are based upon the tales and reminiscences of my elderly neighbour, Jim, 
who lived his life in the same house he was born in. 
Jim died several years ago and is remembered as a great character by those who knew him.


  1. Fabulous Jane <3 really loved this. Margaret xxxx

  2. Glad you enjoyed it Margaret - thank you!

  3. A lovely post, Jane. I really enjoy these glimpses into the old ways!

  4. Many thanks Val - glad you enjoyed it!


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