Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Away with the fairies

There are many ancient tales in Scotland and Ireland of the Daoine Sìth (pronounced "doonya shee", and known as the "aos sí" in Irish Gaelic), the mythical supernatural race of fairy folk said to live underground in fairymounds, who some believe to be descendants of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the Tribe of the Goddess Danu. To this day people who seem a little strange are often referred to as being "away with the fairies", and indeed there may well be some truth to it - the following photo shows me quite literally away with the fairies in Donegal about ten years ago...

Belief in the Sìth was extremely common in Highland Scotland, much to the disgust of the Kirk. The Kirk represented truth, as opposed to the paganism of such beliefs, and many ministers ranted against the nonsense of such tales.

Well, most of them did! The following is a recollection of an event in the Dumfriesshire parish of Kirkmichael from the First Statistical Account of Scotland (1791-1799 Vol xii. p.461), as recorded by the Reverend Dr. John Burgess M.A., and said to have happened half a century before:

"About fifty years ago, a clergyman in the neighbourhood, whose faith was more regulated by the scepticism of Philosophy than the credulity of Superstition, could not be prevailed upon to yield his assent to the opinion of the times. At length, however, he felt from experience, that he doubted what he ought to have believed. One night as he was returning home, at a late hour, from a presbytery, he was seized by the fairies, and carried aloft into the air. Through fields of aether and fleecy clouds he journeyed many a mile, descrying, like Sancho Panza on his Clavileno, the earth far distant below him, and no bigger than a nut-shell. Being thus sufficiently convinced of the reality of their existence, they let him down at the door of his own house, where he afterward often recited to the wondering circle the marvellous tale of his adventure."

(A fuller account can be found at

So next time you feel like you're about to go away with the fairies, be assured the church has already confirmed their existence on your behalf!


  1. Dear Chris,

    I have nominated you for the Ancestor Approved Award.

    You can find out more about it here

    I enjoy reading both your blogs.
    Ruth Blair

  2. Blair Archival Research beat me to it! I have also nominated this blog for the Ancestor Approved Award.