The Field of Boliauns: A Folktale of Ballincollig, Ireland

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

This folktale from Ballincollig tells the tale of Tom Fitzpatrick, who caught a Cluricaune and demanded its gold.

Tom Fitzpatrick, the eldest son of a wealthy farmer who lived at Ballincollig, had just turned twenty-nine, and he was as clever, good-looking a boy as any in the whole county Cork.

One fine day in harvest, Tom went strolling along the sunny side of a hedge. All of a sudden he heard a clacking noise in the hedge before him. Tom tiptoed on, trying to see what was making the noise.

The noise stopped, but as Tom looked through the bushes, he saw a pitcher that might hold about a gallon and a half of liquor. By its side sat a little old man, with a little cocked hat stuck upon the top of his head, and a leather apron hanging before him.

The little man pulled out a little wooden stool, dipped a little piggin into the pitcher, took it back out, and put it beside the stool. He then sat down under the pitcher, and began putting a heel-piece on a tiny shoe.

“Amazing!” said Tom to himself, “This must be a Cluricaune; I’m a rich man. But they say you must never take your eyes off them, or they’ll escape.”

Tom moved a little closer, with his eye fixed on the little man. He got quite close to him, and said: “God bless your work, neighbour.”

“Thank you kindly.”

“What you’ve got in the pitcher?” Tom said.

“It’s good beer,” the Cluricaune replied.

“Would you give me a taste?”

“You should be looking after your father’s property instead of bothering decent, quiet people with your foolish questions. While you’re idling away your time here, the cows have broke into the oats, and are knocking the corn all about.”

Tom was taken by surprise, and just about to turn around when he recollected himself. Afraid that he might be tricked again, he caught the Cluricaune in his hand. In his hurry he knocked over the pitcher, spilling all the beer, so that he could not get a taste of it.

Tom threatened the little man, demanding to know where his gold was. He looked so wicked that the little man was quite frightened.

“My pot of gold is hidden only a couple of fields off.”

Tom held the Cluricaune fast in his hand, and never took his eyes off him, though they had to cross hedges, and ditches, and a crooked bit of bog. The Cluricaune seemed, out of pure mischief, to pick out the hardest way, but at last they came to a field full of boliaun.

The Cluricaune pointed to a big boliaun, and said: “Dig under that boliaun, and you’ll find a great pot filled with guineas.”

Tom hadn’t brought a spade, so he took off one of his red garters and tied it around the boliaun, so that he could find the place again later.

“You’ve no further need of me?” the Cluricaune said.

“You may go,” Tom said, releasing his grip.

“Goodbye, Tom Fitzpatrick, may what you find do you much good.”

Tom ran home, got a spade, and then ran back to the field of boliauns. When he got there, every boliaun in the field had a red garter, identical to his own, tied around it.

Digging up the whole field would have been nonsense; it was forty good Irish acres. So Tom walked home with his spade on his shoulder. Many a hearty curse he gave the Cluricaune every time he thought of the trick that had been played on him.

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