"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Monday, June 5, 2023

Dr. Moore and the Fairies

"Fairy Banquet," Arthur Rackham

As I believe I’ve mentioned before, when you come across an old pamphlet with those enticing words, “strange and wonderful news” in the title (and, boy howdy, were there plenty of those,) you’re about to embark on quite a wild ride.  The following tale is no exception:

Strange and Wonderful News from the county of Wicklow in Ireland, or, a Full and True Relation of what happened to one Dr. Moore (late Schoolmaster in London). How he was taken invisibly from his Friends, what happened to him in his absence, and how and by what means he was found, and brought back to the same Place. (With Allowance) London, printed for T. K., 1678.

Dr. Moore having lately purchased an estate in the county of Wicklow, did (together with Mr. Richard Uniack, and one Mr. Laughlin Moore), about three weeks since, go down to view his concerns there: And being come to their Inne at a place called Dromgreagh near Baltinglass, where they intended to lodge that night, the Doctor began a discourse of several things that happened to him in his childhood near that place, and that it was about thirty-four years since he had been in that country: That he had been often told by his mother, and several others of his relations, of spirits which they call'd Fairies, who used frequently to carry him away, and continue him with them for some time, without doing him the least prejudice: but his mother being very much frighted and concern'd thereat, did, as often as he was missing, send to a certain old woman, her neighbour in the country, who, by repeating some spells or exorcisms, would suddenly cause his return. Mr. Uniack used several arguments to disswade the doctor from the belief of so idle and improbable a story; but notwithstanding what was said to the contrary, the Doctor did positively affirm the truth thereof. And during the dispute, the Doctor on a sudden starting up, told them he must leave their company, for he was called away. Mr. Uniack perceiving him to be raised off from the ground, catches fast hold of his arm with one hand, and intwined his arm within the doctor's arm, and with his other hand grasped the Doctor's shoulder; Laughlin Moore likewise held him on the other side: but the Doctor (maugre their strength) was lifted off the ground. Laughlin Moore's fear caused him presently to let go; but Mr. Uniack continued his hold, and was carried above a yard from the ground, and then by some extraordinary unperceived force was compelled to quit. The Doctor was hurried immediately out of the room, but whether conveyed through the window, or out at the door, they, being so affrighted, none of them could declare.

The two gentlemen being greatly surprised at the strangeness of the accident, and troubled for the loss of their friend, call'd for the innkeeper, to whom they related what had befallen their companion. He seem'd not to be much terrified thereat, as if such disasters were common thereabouts; but told them, that within a quarter of a mile there lived a woman, who by the neighbourhood was call'd a wise woman, and who did usually give intelligence of several things that had been lost, and of cattel that were gone astray, and he doubted not but if the woman were sent for, she could resolve them where their friend was, and by what means conveyed away. They forthwith sent a messenger for the woman, who being come, Mr. Uniack demanded if she could give them any account of a gentleman, one Dr. Moore, that had been spirited out of their company about an hour before. The woman told him she could, and that he was then in a wood about a mile distant, preparing to take horse; that in one hand he had a glass of wine, in the other a piece of bread; that he was very much courted to eat and drink, but if he did either, he should never be free from a consumption, and pine away to death. Mr. Uniack gave the woman a cobb, [an irregularly shaped type of coin] and desired her to use some means for preventing his eating and drinking. She answered, He should neither eat nor drink with them: and then struck down her hand, as if she were snatching at something. When she had thus done, she often repeated a spell or charm in Irish, the substance whereof was; First she runs his pedigree back four generations, and calls his ancestors by their several names: then summons him from the East, the West, the North, and the South, from troops and regiments, especially from the governour mounted on the sorrel horse, &c. And after having repeated the charm, she gave them an account of the several places the doctor should be carried unto that night.

At first, from the wood to a Danes Fort about seven miles distant, where there should be great revelling and dancing, together with a variety of meats and liquors, to the eating and drinking whereof he should be very much importuned, but promised she would prevent his doing either. And from that fort he was to be carried twenty miles farther, where there would likewise be great merriment, and then to the Seven Churches; and towards daybreak should be returned safe to the company of his friends, without any damage or mischief whatsoever and so took leave of Mr. Uniack and Mr. Moore.

About six o'clock the next morning, Dr. Moore knocked at the door, and being let in, desired meat and drink might be provided for him, for that he was both hungry and thirsty, having been hurried from place to place all that night and after having refreshed himself, discours'd of the manner of his being taken away; that it seem'd to him there came into the room about twenty men, some mounted on horseback, others on foot, and laid hold on him that he was sensible of Mr. Uniack's and Mr. Moore's endeavours to have kept him, and of the force they used; but it was all to no purpose, for had there been fourty more they would have signified nothing; that from the house he was carried to a wood, about a mile distant, where was a fine horse prepared, and as he was about to mount, a glass of wine was given him and a crust of bread, but when he offered to eat and drink, they were both struck out of his hand. That from thence he went in the same company that had taken him away, to a Danes Fort about seven miles from the wood; that he imagined himself to be mounted on a white horse, whose motion was exceeding swift, and when they came to the fort, their company multiplied to about three hundred large and well-proportioned men and women; he who seem'd to be chief was mounted on a sorrel horse; that they all dismounted and fell to dancing, and that it came to the doctor's turn to lead a dance, which he did remember the tune he danced unto.

That after the dancing there appear'd a most sumptuous banquet, and the governour took him by the hand and desired him to eat; which he several times attempted, but was prevented by something that still struck the meat out of his hand: and so gives an account how from thence he was carried to the several places the old woman had mentioned the night before; and that about break of day, he found himself alone within sight of the inne.

Mr. Uniack was so curious as to go seven miles out of his way to see the Danes Fort, and the doctor was his guide; who traced the path he had travelled the night before so exactly, that if his horse went but a yard out of the track, he would presently turn him into it again; and that upon view of the fort, he found the grass so trodden down, and the ground beaten, as if five hundred men had been there.

This was related by Mr. Uniack in the presence of one Dr. Murphy, a civilian, Dr. Moore himself, and Mr. Ludlow, one of the six clerks of the high court of chancery, November 18, 1678.

For satisfaction of the licenser, I certifie this following relation was sent to me from Dublin, by a person whom I credit, and recommended in a letter bearing date the 23rd of November last, as true news much spoken of there.

Just another day in the 17th century Irish neighborhood, I guess

1 comment:

  1. The old lady was pretty sharp at making sure the doctor wouldn't eat any fairy-food. The fairies must have been flummoxed - or angry.


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