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Fairy tales: Finding fairy bushes across Northern Ireland

Fairy tales: Finding fairy bushes across Northern Ireland 1

It’s not a normal task to be set when arriving in the newsroom. Go and find out what you can about fairies and Fairy Thorns – of course it’s Friday 13th. Throughout the countryside there are thorn bushes growing all alone in the middle of fields Some people believe that the bushes are the homes of the fairies, and, if anyone tries to cut them down or damage them, it is likely they will die young, or become seriously ill. Earlier we published our archive report from 1964 about the local people in Downpatrick talking about the fate that will befall those who have disrespected fairy traditions by cutting down Fairy Thorns.

Fairy
Fairies are said to live in fairy thorns and in fairy trees

So where does an incredibly sceptic journalist go to be convinced about fairies? Well my granny Evelyn of course – as I remember her telling about fairies at Matties Rock in Bushmills when we were growing up. She told me everyone in Bushmills knew about the fairies on the rock and that her brothers and sisters were actually a bit scared of them. Our archive report promoted a lots of readers to get in touch with their stories.

Fairy Thorn
The fairy thorn at Ormeau Golf Club has been on the course for over 120 years

One listener got in touch with BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster programme to let us know about a fairy thorn that was growing at Ormeau Golf Club. Denis McKnight, who is the secretary of the club, said it has been there longer than anyone can remember. “The club was opened in 1893 so it’s at least 122 years old and goes right back,” he said. “None of our green keepers will touch it or cut it down. They won’t even trim it ‘Bad game’ Mr McKnight said that balls had been lost in the tree and never seen again. “If you hit the tree and don’t apologise you’re guaranteed to have a bad game,” he said. “When people visit the club we have to warn them about the fairy thorn. We tell them to nod to it as they go past and they have to apologise if they hit it.” Although Denis is not aware of any members seeing any actual fairies, even after coming out of the clubhouse after a late night. He said the club used the thorn on their logo for a while and that they will never cut it down.

Fairies
Fairies are said to live in the trees and come out at night

“It’s far too important to us now to try and cut it down,” he said. Anne got in touch to say that her grandmother-in-law had planted a red thorn tree on their land and then planners would not let her take it down when they were building their new house. “Obviously it’s not just superstitious farmers who are scared of fairies,” she said. Anne now lives beside the fairy thorn and would not dream of cutting it down. ‘Make a wish’ One of the slip roads off the motorway from Ballymena to Antrim at Saucers Hill was built around a fairy thorn as locals didn’t want to see it cut down. Maria McCann got in touch to say there is a fairy thorn on Gilford Road and Lurgan and that she makes a wish every time she goes past. One reader even suggested that the ill-fated DeLorean factory may have had an encounter with some bitter fairies and their tree. “Contractors building the DeLorean car plant at Dunmurry are said to have cut one down,” they said. So the lesson on Friday 13th is – if you find a fairy thorn. Leave it be.

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Stories about fairies in Northern Ireland have been passed down through generations

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