Millions of people throughout the world have heard of the Irish Leprechaun, but to me that little man with his Elfin features and distinct green jacket was never more than a figment of one’s imagination. That was
until I met grown up Seamus McCullogh, who amazed me with a story from his youth. His total belief in his experience then was evident.
Seamus and his younger sister Niamh had been born and brought up in Cork, but his parents Sara and Mick had recently moved to a lovely stone bungalow in the country, surrounded by woodland.
The day after they moved in, Mrs. Flaherty, their nearest neighbour, came across to welcome them and they all went for a stroll in the lovely spring sunshine. As they came to the wooded area, Seamus ran ahead, but after a couple of yards he stopped to examine what appeared to be a huge hole in an ancient oak tree, its branches reaching up to the blue sky above. His eyes were as big as saucers as he looked at the huge arch-shaped hole, almost up to his waist, and with a moss-covered floor. As the two ladies and his young sister Niamh caught up with him, Mrs. Flaherty was heard to tell her new neighbour “that’s where the Leprechaun lives, but you can only see him at night and only if you’re VERY lucky, and remember” she added, “Leprechauns can be quite mischievous, so do be careful.”
They all waited with baited breath as, with a twinkle in her eye she continued. “The lady who lived here before you, got up one morning to find a bunch of flowers on her door step. They were from her own
garden. Now, who d’you think could have left them there?”
When his Dad came home from work later that day, Seamus and little sister dragged him down the path to see the big tree and to tell him the story. The tree looked to Mick as if it may have been damaged at some time and that rot had set in, enlarging the hole, but as he ran his hands over the walls inside there was no sign of dampness.
“Dad” interrupted Seamus, “that poor Leprechaun must get very cold at night. Can’t you put a door on for him?”
Finally Mick gave in, measured the space in the tree and made a door to fit, complete with little hinges to one side and a latch at the other. Then he stained it a dark black/brown to blend in with the tree bark. The children watched excitedly. “Oh thank you” grinned Seamus, giving his Dad a big hug. “Now the Leprechaun will be nice and cozy at night, like we are.”
However, that night Seamus had difficulty sleeping. Eventually he did manage to drop off, but woke again suddenly as he thought he heard music and wondered where it was coming from. The sound seemed to be coming from the woodland, so he quietly crept downstairs and went outside to investigate. The first signs of dawn were appearing in the skies as he made his way across the lawn towards the trees, his bare feet silent on the grass. Suddenly he stopped, hardly able to breathe.
The door his Dad had made for that special tree was wide open, and beside it sat a little man cross-legged on a large toadstool, a fiddle in his hands, playing the beautiful soft haunting music Seamus had heard from his bedroom. He was wearing a tall green hat with a black band and shiny buckle that matched the belt on his green coat. His pants were black as were his unusual shoes with their turned-up pointed toes.
“That must be the Leprechaun we heard about” thought Seamus. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and peeped out from
behind a nearby copper beech, afraid to let himself be seen lest the little man took fright, but when he looked again the Leprechaun was still there, though not alone — three tiny girls were with him, dancing to the music, bare footed on a clover-leaf carpet. They looked so fragile in their delicate thin dresses of pale gold, pink and blue. “Who are they?” he wondered.
“They look like little angels, but they haven’t any wings. Perhaps they’re fairies” he thought.
The next thing Seamus knew was hearing his mother call to him from the open kitchen door. He couldn’t wait to tell her what he had seen.
“You’ve been dreaming and sleep walking” she said.
He knew she didn’t believe him. He later went outside and looked for the toys he had left on the porch the night before. He searched everywhere but couldn’t find them, then he heard a bird screech in the sky high above and automatically looked up. His eyes caught sight of something in the lilac tree beside him. Standing in line along the branches were all his toy cars and trucks, as if they were on the road waiting for the traffic lights. Seamus laughed and ran inside to get his Mum. She followed his gaze.
“Who could have done that?” she breathed, shaking her head, but in their hearts they both knew.Yes, that little Leprechaun had been up to his mischief again!
Seamus, now an adult, claimed that if he never saw them again, to his dying day he would always remember the Leprechaun, his extraordinary music, and the beautiful fairies who had danced to it that night.
Marie McDevitt of Penticton is married to Irish author Russ McDevitt. Visit: www.russmcdevitt.com