Posts Tagged ‘Ulster’

Irish Docker Is Buried Alive in a Fairy Fort to Prove There Are No Fairies

June 7, 2021

I found this remarkable piece of news film on the channel CR’s Video Vaults on YouTube. It’s from 1966, and is about a dock worker, Tim Hayes, from Wexford, who spent 101 hours underground in a fairy fort to disprove the existence of the wee folk. His stunt was to open the village fete at Ballymore, but the other villagers didn’t want to dig his grave. The video begins with an old man telling the interviewer that he would definitely not wish to dig into or disturb a fairy fort, and he would be greatly upset if anyone else were to do so, or disturb the field in which it’s situated.

Then it goes to the docker himself at his work place, who explains he’s determined to show that there are no such things as fairies. He describes as ‘a yarn’ a letter he received from a woman in Douglas, who said she saw a fairy 30 years ago and hasn’t had any luck since. He was buried underground in a coffin with a ventilation tube to allow him to breathe, as well as telephone to speak to people outside. He also took a couple of books down there to read, one of which was Dracula. He also tells the interviewer that he’s spent much of his time thinking about people who’ve died – well, you would, wouldn’t you? – and when asked about toilet facilities, states that there’s no problem at all in that department. The film also shows him being dug up, and the men rescuing him putting warm woollies on to protect him from the colder air above ground.

His mother is one of the onlookers. When asked how she feels about her son, she tells the interviewer that she’s ‘died a thousand deaths since he went into the ground’ but that ‘he’s marvelous’ and she’s very proud of him.

When asked if he’s worried about others trying to outdo him, he has the attitude that they can try and last 100 hours underground and that he’ll come back and do it again.

I think this comes from a time when these kinds of endurance feats were all the rage. There have been Indian yogis, who’ve had themselves buried alive. I think one lasted for two weeks underground – an impressive feat, if true. Back in the late 1970s-early 80s the Fortean Times reported crowds gathering in one of the African countries after the return of an African holy man from a sojourn buried alive. He did so to prove the truth of indigenous African religion, and the crowd believed he had actually returned from the dead. More recently, in calls to mind the antics of David Blaine in the 90s, which was sent up on Jonathan Creek. In that episode, Klaus, Creek’s slimey partner, has himself buried alive. But there’s a passage down to a glass plate in the coffin so that people can see him. Unfortunately, Klaus has to be dug up and face the beak because the vibrations from the underground trains cause him to judder and twitch himself. Two women visitors saw him do this, and have accused him of, er, pleasuring himself.

Belief in the fairies always has been strong amongst the Irish and the other Celtic peoples. A century ago the American anthropologist and Theosophist, Evans-Wentz, wrote his classic study, The Fairy Faith in the Celtic Countries. Although Ireland is now as rationalist and secular as any other western country, or almost so, the fairy faith still remains strong amongst some Irish people. Way back in the 1980s, when DeLorean wanted to open a car factory in Northern Ireland, they wanted to pull down a fairy tree growing on the site. The workers refused and threatened to go on strike if the tree or bush was disturbed. The company had to back down.

A decade later in the 1990s one of the British papers – I think it must have been the Daily Heil – reported that a Sinn Fein councillor in one of the Ulster villages had asked an archaeologist if he could investigate the local fairy fort, as some of his constituents had seen things.

I read years ago that the fairy forts are in reality early medieval Danish forts left over from the period of the Viking invasions. However, the word rath means an ancient enclosed farmstead. These commonly consist of a circular raised bank, which have held a fence or palisade, inside which were the houses and other buildings of the occupier. They can date from as far back as the Bronze Age, but most date from the early Christian period 300 AD to 1100. They’re not scheduled, as there are about 30 – 40,000 of them in the island of Ireland.

I do wonder how delicately the archaeologist phrased his reply. Archaeology as a science can’t prove the supernatural, though I don’t believe it’s within its competence to disprove it either. All it can do is uncover the remains of past ritual and religious belief, which may include magical objects and practises. See books such as The Materiality of Magic, edited by Ceri Houlbrook and Natalie Armitage (Oxford: Oxbow 2015). I wonder how the archaeologist told the good councillor that if he did excavate – which could be illegal if it was scheduled ancient monument – all he would be able to say was that it was a monument of a particular type, probably dating from such and such a period, and that he probably wouldn’t find any trace of the Little People.

It also struck me that if this had happened over this side of the Irish Sea, it would have been excellent material for the type of comedies Ealing was pumping out at the time. These were about small communities faced with some kind of bizarre threat or other event, frequently at odds with modernity. Or later in the 1980s with the great Scots film, Local Hero. Perhaps here’s a suitable subject for the Irish film industry. It would make a break from all the episodes over here of Mrs Brown’s Boys.

Clannad: Caisleain Oir

May 28, 2021

Here’s another bit of folk music I really like. Back in the 1990s I was into the Irish folk/folk rock group Clannad. They come from Gweedore (Gaoth Dobhair) in Donegal in Eire. They first came to prominence over this side of the Irish Sea in the 1980s with the haunting theme for the ITV drama, Harry’s Game, about a British secret agent who infiltrates the IRA in Ulster. They then followed this up with the theme and incidental music for another ITV series, Robin of Sherwood. This was a pagan reworking of the Robin Hood legend, with Robin and his outlaws worshipping an ancient woodland spirit, Herne the Hunter. The programme starred Michael Praed and then Jason Connery as Robin, and was hit Saturday evening TV. Even now, nearly 40 years later, I think it’s better than the later versions that came after it, even if it did mess with the legend by introducing the pagan mysticism.

The song’s in a mixture of English and Gaelic, and apparently the band have also sung in Latin and Mohican. Despite trying to teach myself the language back in the 1990s, I can’t speak Gaelic at all and really don’t know what the Gaelic lyrics means. I just like it because it’s a beautiful, haunting piece of music. ITV or Channel 4 also made a documentary about them back in the 1990s. This revealed that they’d got the nickname ‘the Gaeltacht hippies’, which sort of boggles the mind. Surely, hippiedom can’t be that unique in Irish Gaelic culture!

I found the video over on An Ghaoth Anair’s channel on YouTube, who also provides a bit more information about the band.

Disgusted at Tory Simon Hoare Abstaining on Internal Markets Bill and Threat to Peace in Ulster

September 29, 2020

I’ve got no new information to add to this. Mike and the peeps on Twitter have said it all very eloquently and cogently. But I felt I had to add my voice to theirs condemning Simon Hoare, the Tory chairman of the Northern Ireland Select Committee and his disgusting announcement that he is going to abstain on the government’s Internal Market Bill. This is the piece of legislation that will break international law by contradicting our treaties and agreements with the EU. And it’s a real threat to peace in Northern Ireland because it imposes a hard border between the Six Counties and the Republic. But it was an essential part of the Good Friday Agreement that the border would remain open.

The Americans have already warned the Tories that if th20 years e Bill gets passed, any future agreement with Britain is gone. That means that all Johnson’s rubbish and guff about getting a good deal with America is just null and void, bluff, bluster, propaganda and lies.

But the real harm could be to the people of Ulster. Those of us of a certain age can remember the horrors of the twenty years or so of terrorism in Northern Ireland and the IRA’s bombing campaign on the mainland. I don’t know how many people were killed, maimed and injured. I do remember the day the IRA bombed Magg’s department store in Bristol. Fortunately no-one was hurt. It wasn’t just the IRA – Loyalist paramilitaries also carried out their atrocities, and there is more than ample evidence that British armed forces, which were originally sent into Ulster to keep the peace impartially, actively colluded with them, as well as the infamous Bloody Sunday Massacre.

The Daily Heil has been fiercely critical of the NI peace agreement, claiming that contrary to all the publicity the paramilitaries are still active. Well, I think one of its editors, David English, was a member of the Loyal Orange Order. Their anti-Catholic activities resulted in a concerned British government launching an investigation into them in the late 19th century, as I found out while working in the archives of the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum. I dare say they are. But the violence seems to be very, very much less than I remember and there does seem to be, or at least was, a real atmosphere of positivity and optimism. The great people of Ulster really did seem at last able to live in peace with the hope that tomorrow would be better. Ordinary, innocent people didn’t have to live in the fear that they were going to be shot or bombed in their homes, pubs or work.

Too many people from both the Nationalist and Loyalist communities and politicians of goodwill from Britain, Ulster and Eire and worked too hard and risked and sacrificed too much for this fragile peace to be put in jeopardy. I know personally people from both communities in Northern Ireland, who hate the bigotry and violence.

No-one should die or live in fear simply because Boris and the Brexiteers – surely the name of a really grotty pop band – want to stick two fingers up to the European Union. Abstention isn’t an option: this is just Pilate washing his hands at Christ’s crucifixion again. Hoare might have eased his conscience, but it’s a weak gesture simply so that he hangs on to his job.

You can’t abstain. Not when people’s lives and the political stability of an entire province hangs in the balance. He should do the decent thing and vote against.

Just as Starmer had no business ordering the Labour Party to abstain but not to vote against more Tory legislation granting British forces immunity from prosecution for war crimes.

This could all blow back in Tories’ faces. A majority of Ulster Protestants also want to keep the border open. The province voted to remain in the EU, and some political commenters have argued that this leaves the way open for Eire winning them over and so creating a united Ireland. I think this is far too optimistic, but who knows? If all the people of Ulster want to join Eire rather than have their trade and personal contacts disrupted by a harder border, than there honestly can be no argument. Not if it was the result of a genuinely democratic campaign free of intimidation from the men of violence.

There’d be a united Ireland, and Cameron and Boris would have succeeded in breaking the Union of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. And when Blair made peace in partnership with Eire and the Americans, some people claimed that he had betrayed his people.

No: he and his partners gave them peace. A peace that Boris is set to destroy and Hoare is doing nothing to preserve.

The Tories are a disgrace. A murderous disgrace. The people of Ireland and Britain deserve better. And the Tories deserve nothing but our hatred and contempt for their willingness to risk more violence.

As I said, disgusted.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/09/29/tory-hoare-branded-a-coward-for-plan-to-abstain-on-bill-that-threatens-peace-in-northern-ireland/