The Mayo Leprechaun

One beautiful June evening, after a hard day’s work turning a large field of hay, my friend and neighbour Joe Blewitt asked me would I go over to Tully’s for a pint. He didn’t have to ask me the second time because we had worked up a huge thirst over the course of the day. There was a large crowd in Tully’s that night, and all the events of the day were discussed at some length. It was the night before the Connacht final between Mayo and Galway and it was really the topic of the day. Who was going to win? There is always tremendous confidence in Mayo, and most people there that night thought Mayo would win; some of the older people issued a note of caution and said that there was no such thing as a bad Galway team and cited some examples of years gone by when Mayo were raging hot favourites only to come a cropper to an unfancied Galway team.

The night wore on and it didn’t seem long before the barman was calling last orders and a sing-song was just after breaking out.  Mike Huane sang “The Boys of Wexford”, Joe sang “The Whistling Gypsy”, and Paddy Pender sang “The Green and Red of Mayo”.  Just as Walter Boyce was about to sing “The Boys from the County Mayo” somebody shouted that the guards were outside. The barman Padraig Tully ushered us into a small room at the back of the house and it wasn’t long before the brown bread and tea were flowing.  Padraig began carting in drink to us, there was a lovely fire on and we drank there to our hearts' content.

The guards soon departed when they thought there was nobody there as we had our bicycles parked at the back of the pub. The sing-song soon broke out again and we had a better time there than when we were in the pub. The night flew by and it didn’t seem long before somebody noticed the daylight coming through the curtains. “Ye better get out or we won’t be able to get up for first Mass in Belclare,” shouted Padraig. At this everybody jumped up and finished their drink and made a bolt for the door. Some people were very drunk at this stage and couldn’t get up on their bicycles, and decided to walk with them. Others had no bicycles with them, and weren’t they glad.

As Joe and I were climbing the hill after leaving Tully’s, Joe continued on with the sing-song. He sang “The Bold Fenian Men” and then he said to me “I’ll just have time to say a few verses of “The Leprechaun” before I arrive at the house”.  Off he went with the first verse: "In a shady nook one moonlight, A leprechaun I spied, With scarlet cap and coat of green, A cruiskeen by his side."

He was just about to start the second verse when I heard this tap-tap-tapping coming from inside the wall of Packie Horkan’s field.  “What was that?” I shouted over to Joe.  “What was what?” he replied.  “I didn’t hear anything; are you sure you hadn’t too much to drink?”  “Stop walking and come over here and listen,” I said angrily at his insinuation that I couldn’t hold my drink.

We stopped and listened intensely and sure enough the tap-tapping was getting louder. We peeped in over the wall and what a sight met our eyes. There was a leprechaun sitting under a large mushroom and putting the finishing touches to a brogue. There weren’t many clouds, but the sun was just rising and there was a large rainbow in the sky and finishing just over his head.  “Grab him and we’ll have a pot of gold and all our troubles will be over,” shouted Joe. “We’ll make a fortune with all the American tourists coming over to see him,” I said to Joe. I always doubted there were leprechauns around here with all those fairy forts, and the name of the townland is Fortbawn.  

Almost like the gun at the start of the 100 metres in the Olympics, Joe and I simultaneously jumped over the wall and grabbed at the leprechaun. “Where’s the pot of gold?” I shouted. “It’s under this weed,” said the leprechaun, “but it’s a long way down, you’ll need a spade to dig it up.” “And how will I know where to dig?” said Joe.  “I’ll tie a green and red ribbon around it,” he grinned. We didn’t know whether to believe him or not but we decided to let him go. Just as he wriggled free I thought of the last two lines of the second verse of the poem: “And I laughed to think of a pot of gold, but the fairy was laughing too”. But why was he laughing?  We continued on our weary way and got in just in time before the cock began to crow; or maybe we woke him up. We couldn’t sleep all night thinking about the pot of gold and were up again before anybody in the house.

Joe arrived for early Mass and we decided to dig for the pot of gold after Mass. We had awful headaches after the late night and decided to go into Christy Galligans for two pints after mass, for “the cure”.  We decided not to tell anybody in case they would think we were out of our minds with drink. After the dinner Joe landed with the spade. “Come on,” he shouted, “let’s get our hands on this gold.”  We arrived at the place where we caught the leprechaun and looked in over the wall. What a sight met our eyes?  Sure enough he had tied a green and red ribbon around the weed alright, but he also tied a green and red ribbon around every weed in the field, which amounted to about ten thousand. Joe thought about the poem he was reciting when we saw the leprechaun first and remembered the last line: “Oh, I laughed to think what a fool I’d been and the fairy was laughing too.” 

Joe and I went over to Tully’s again that night to drown our sorrows. There was a great atmosphere there that night after Mayo’s brilliant victory in the Connaught Final, but it was little consolation to us as we sat there nursing our two pints in the corner. Nobody could understand what was wrong with us and we couldn’t tell anybody.  I think from now on we’ll be going home at closing time.

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