Now, if my opinion was sought on this topic, I would have said that this rather mercenary figment receives quite enough air-time on and around St. Patrick's day...but I wasn't and so we had better just get on with the tale before I really jinx myself...
The first recorded instance of the word, with another way of spelling, is in the English language was in Dekker's comedy "The Honest Whore", Part 2 (1604):
"As for your Irish lubrican, that spirit
Whom by preposterous charms thy lust hath rais'd
In a wrong circle."
The earliest known reference to the leprechaun appears in the medieval tale known as the Echtra Fergus mac Léti (Adventure of Fergus son of Léti). The text contains an episode in which Fergus mac Léti, King of Ulster, falls asleep on the beach and wakes to find himself being dragged into the sea by three lúchorpáin. He captures his abductors, who grant him three wishes in exchange for release. That is one of the popular charms of a leprechaun, that they can grant a captor three wishes...what child does not dream, at some stage of their development, in finding a genie, or some other benevolent sprite, to grant them such a delightful outcome. When I was very small, I always intended, should this prospect ever be offered to me, to ensure that my first wish would be that I could always have as many wishes as I wanted for my whole life...what a greedy child I must have been! Sadly, it never eventuated...although I have to say I never really had a lot of faith in these creatures. Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy had a much higher level of credibility...the benefits they delivered were tangible...no one I ever discussed a Leprechaun with could give me any faith in benefits they conferred. Especially when I learned that the gold they so reluctantly distributed was merely fools gold, disappearing without trace once freed by their captor...Besides, the whole aspect of only gaining preference from these fairies through duress left a bit of a nasty taste in my childish mouth. Surely fairies should be more generous hearted beings, and not require coercion and tricksy subterfuge?
The leprechaun is said to be a solitary creature, whose principal occupation is making and mending shoes, and who enjoys practical jokes, not something one normally equates with such a reclusive solitary personality.
According to William Butler Yeats, the great wealth of these fairies comes from the "treasure-crocks, buried of old in war-time", which they have uncovered and appropriated.
According to David Russell McAnally, the leprechaun is the son of an "evil spirit" and a "degenerate fairy" and is "not wholly good nor wholly evil". So, like most of us then...
The eighteenth century Irish poet William Allingham described the appearance of the leprechaun in a poem entitled "The Lepracaun; or, Fairy Shoemaker" as
...A wrinkled, wizen'd, and bearded Elf, Spectacles stuck on his pointed nose,
Silver buckles to his hose,
Leather apron — shoe in his lap...
The modern image of the leprechaun sitting on a toadstool, having a red beard and green hat, is a modern invention maybe borrowed from other strands of European folklore.
In thinking about my inchie image for this week, I decided quite quickly to utilise a early engraved image of a leprechaun from the 19th century. It depicts a wizened, elderly little fellow rather wistfully counting out a pile of money, (I'm sure he wishes it was more), while wearing a pointed cap and sitting on a stone. It seems to me in keeping with William Allingham's thoughts on the creature.
The matting layer is from a map of Ireland...it seemed appropriate.
We traveled to Bruny Island (my favourite place in the world), via the ferry from Kettering where we got stuck into the hodgeheg slice I had made to take along...we didn't broach the thermos and the ginger tea as the trip is simply too short to bother with thermos flasks and hot drinks nowadays!
We then drove to the southern part of the island, for a lovely fish and chips lunch at the Pennicott Seafood Restaurant in East Cove, where we enjoyed a glass of Janz on the large patio over looking the bay, as the sun was very obliging just at that point. It was so nice to simply sit and listen to the waves breaking on the beach, a sound from childhood.
Many years ago my dad, and mum, had built a cottage about fifty meters away from where the restaurant now stands, so this environment, although vastly changed nowadays, was where I spent so much of a very happy childhood. The shack, originally called Four Winds, was where almost every childhood holiday was passed in boating, beachy splendor. The cottage, long ago sold, is once again for sale, but I would not want to have access to it again, despite the memories, as tourism has made this once very isolated place extremely busy.
We finally drove back towards the Roberts Point ferry terminal, stopping at the Bruny Island Cheese Company, makers of some of my favourite cheeses, where we shared a cheese platter, some lovely Simple cider and finished with a hot mocha - we obviously needed more sustenance to get us home safely, one doesn't ever want to risk malnutrition when travelling, does one?
We did not have to wait very long for a ferry to arrive and trundle us back across to the mainland, and so home.
I had a lovely day out and thank the girls for their kindness in taking the time for our trip, they are both so busy these days.
Some images from the day that was...