Seeing is Believing: A Folktale of Grenagh, Ireland

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Pinpoint Location: Grenagh, County Cork / Map data ©2016 Google

This folktale from Grenagh tells the tale of Moirna Hogaune, who caught a Cluricaune and asked for its gold.

Some people pretend to disbelieve what, in their hearts, they believe and are afraid of. Felix O’Driscoll was one of these people. He was also a rattling, rollicking, harum-scarum, devil may-care sort of fellow.

Felix was always talking nonsense. Among the rest of his foolery, he pretended not to believe in the fairies, the cluricaunes, and the phoocas. Sometimes he even had the impudence to doubt the existence of ghosts. But it was well known that Felix was very shy of passing the crossing of Ahnamoe after nightfall, and that whenever he was riding past the old church of Grenaugh in the dark, he made his horse trot a little faster.

One night there was a group of people sitting, drinking, and talking together at Larry Reilly’s public house, and Felix was among them. He was blathering about the fairies, and swearing that he did not believe there were any living things, barring men and beasts, and birds and fish.

An old woman named Moirna Hogaune, who had been sitting in the chimney corner smoking her pipe without taking part in the conversation, took the pipe out of her mouth, threw the ashes out of it, spit in the fire, and, turning round, looked straight at Felix.

“You don’t believe there are such things as Cluricaunes?” she said.

Felix looked rather daunted, but he said nothing.

“It’s just like you to pretend not to believe what your father and your father’s father, and his father before him, never doubted! But seeing is believing, they say; and I saw one of the Cluricaunes myself.”

All the people in the room crowded up to the fireplace to listen to her.

“I remember it well,” she said, “I was sitting in our garden with my knitting. It was a sunny day about the middle of June, and the bees were humming and flying backwards and forwards from their hives, and the birds were chirping and hopping on the bushes, and the butterflies were flying about and sitting on the flowers, and everything smelt so fresh, and so sweet, and I felt so happy, that I hardly knew where I was.

“All of a sudden I heard, among some rows of beans in a corner of the garden, a noise that went tick-tack, tick-tack, as if a shoe-maker was putting on the heel of a pump. I laid down my knitting, and got up and stole softly over to the beans. Sitting there before me, in the middle of them, was an old man not a quarter so big as a newborn child, with a little cocked hat on his head, and a dudeen in his mouth smoking away. He wore a plain, old fashioned, and drab-coloured coat with big buttons, and a pair of silver buckles in his shoes, that were so big that they almost covered his feet.

“He was working as hard as he could, heeling a little pair of brogues. As soon as I saw him, I knew him to be a Cluricaune. I was bold and foolhardy, and said ‘That’s hard work you’re at this hot day.’ He looked up at my face quite vexed, so I caught a hold of him in my hand, and asked him where his purse of gold was. ‘Gold? Where would a poor little creature like me get gold?’ he answered.”

Even Felix was now entranced.

“I did not believe him of course. ‘None of your tricks, everybody know that Cluricaunes are as rich as the devil himself!’ I said, as I pulled out a knife I had in my pocket, and put on as wicked a face as I could — and swore if he didn’t instantly give me his purse, or show me a pot of gold, I’d cut the nose off his face. The little man looked so frightened that I almost pitied it. ‘Then,’ he said, ‘I’ll show you where I keep my gold.’

“All of a sudden I heard a whiz-z behind me. He cried: ‘Your bees are all swarming off.’ Like a fool, I turned my head. When I looked back at the Cluricaune, I found nothing at all at all in my hand; he had slipped out of my hand as if he was made of fog or smoke, and he never came near my garden again.”

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