Most of the fairies lived in underground caves [souterrains] having secret entrances in the fairy forths on the hillsides round about.
One such forth remains almost intact on McGreevy’s hill in the townland of Ballywinny [‘town of the ancient tree’] in the Cabra district. It is called Doras na Bruidhne [the palace entrance] which frankly, says it all.
There was a certain aristocracy among the fairies and it was the gentry that lived in underground palaces approached by way of these souterrains of the larger forths. In popular belief the fairy world was composed of the original fairy people [the remnant of the Tuatha de Danann] together with those humans who had been carried off and retained there permanently. Still they were mainly just ‘wee people’ who seldom grew taller than three feet but otherwise they resembled ordinary human beings. Their clothing was, if anything, behind the fashions and their features were plain, rather more ugly than handsome. Except for their changelings who were even more so the former than the latter! Human babies were liable to abduction by the fairies and substitution with these same changelings. They were generally old-fashioned brats of the fairies’ own. A certain young woman who lived in Ballyvalley in the old days, who left her baby unprotected in its cradle as she went to the well for water, returned to find a ‘wee old monkey of a thing’ in its place, smoking a clay pipe. The danger of abduction was, it seems, greater when a baby was both healthy and good-looking.
The present writer would probably not be here to write these stories, had not his wise old grand-mother, who hailed from Sheetrim [‘fairy place’] been always careful when going out to the ‘street’ [what you and I now might call the ‘yard’] to fetch water from the well, to leave the iron tongs across his mother’s cradle [my mother then being her baby] for protection against the thieving fairies. For some unknown reason, the fairies were powerless against iron!
Anyway that’s the reason you’re barking up the wrong tree, if you’re expecting scepticism from this quarter over the issue of the powers of the fairies!!
Where would I be, if it wasn’t for the fairy knowledge of my grandmother?