Jack Murphy lived in the townland of Leod, near Hilltown. You can see Fitzpatricks’ Quarry buildings rise up about a mile away to your left after you pass the Seven Sisters. That’s Leod.
Jack was married but had no family. He was a rich man and had no need to work for a living. So he lay in bed for most of the day and rambled the country at night. [This was in the days before radio and TV – not to mention computers and internet!]
There wasn’t a dance in the half county that he didn’t attend, alone, despite the fact that he was married. And on his rambles he always took the bye-paths and near-cuts across fields and over ditches. Not that he had any particular reason for avoiding the main roads, but just because he liked to shorten his journey whenever he could. Few they were who knew their way about better than Jack! Indeed it was said that he knew every lane and every footway between Hilltown and Banbridge.
One night he was going to a dance somewhere beyond Maherel. As usual his way led through fields and over ditches. And just as he was passing along the foot of a field close to the back of a house not very far from Maherel Chapel, here were the fairies handing a baby through the back window of the home, to take it away.
The bold Jack reached up his hand to the window, took the baby in his arms and carried it home to his wife. Did he stop to check with the woman of the house before doing this? Not Jack !
He told his wife all about how and where he got the baby and between them they decided to keep it and rear it for themselves! The wife didn’t ask either after the mother of the baby !
As it happened Jack found himself on his way to a dance in the same part of the country before many weeks had passed. Going along by the same path as before he came to the back of the self-same house where he had found the fairies in the act of stealing the baby. Just out of curiosity he decided to go in for a moment and see what he could see.
As he stepped through the doorway he caught sight of a woman sitting crying by the fireside. Beside her chair was a cradle and in the cradle was an ugly-looking brat of a child roaring and crying for all it was worth.
‘What am I to do with this baby at all ?’ exclaimed the woman through her tears. She went on to say that it was only a few weeks old but it had big teeth like any man and it was so bad-tempered and wicked that it bit her breast every time she tried to feed it.
Jack explained to the lady that the baby in the cradle wasn’t her own at all, at all. It was, he said, a changeling left there by the fairies on the night that they stole her child and carried it out through the back window.
He explained his own part in the thing: and funny enough, she didn’t chastise him for taking her baby away, without calling at the door ! She listened to him …
… more later …